My side hustle? Reading.

As we start 2021, I’m hoping we’ll start to see the demise of hustle porn. We’ve all heard the standard rhetoric that we should have a side project or gig to “build’ something, generate extra income or impress a future employer. As such I’ve spent a large part of last year worried that I’m not building or creating or shipping or hustling or launching. What I have done, instead, is read books. If I had a “side hustle” in 2020 it was simply to read more.  This will continue to be my “hustle” in 2021.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to set myself a challenge and read 52 books. A book a week. Up from the 24 I, on average, read every year.

I closed out the challenge having read 77 books. This is what I’ve learnt that I believe has helped me read far more.

Making time

Well, I have to be honest, redundancy in March and lockdowns has meant that I have had more time. For me it was initially trying to replicate a Brighton to London commute which allowed me at least 2 hours a day to read. So I did two things, I set myself a daily reminder to simply sit down and read for 20 mins. And I started getting up 30 mins before the family woke so I had some time.  That said, if you find yourself reading a good book you will find yourself making time to read it, regardless.

Choose wisely but quit when required

I’ve learnt to both carefully choose what I’m reading  as well as learning to know when to quit a book. And I’ve certainly noticed that I was quitting fewer books as the year has progressed. I choose quite carefully which books to read as what I didn’t want to be doing was quitting a ton of books. I wanted to keep some momentum going.  My choices were a reflection of what I really wanted to read. There were occasions where I planned each month which books I’d read that month.


I’ve always have a book to hand. The format doesn’t matter. My personal preference is a physical copy. I have a kindle too. And I’ve even been listening to audiobooks. Whilst I’ve never been a fan of the format, I must admit I do like the convenience of an audiobook. I used the excellent borrowbox app which allows you to borrow audiobooks and ebooks from your local library. You can then read or listen to them via the app. I also read a couple of books using the app but I really struggle to read anything of length on a phone.


I picked up the idea of an anti-library last year from Ryan Holiday on his Read to lead course. The phrase itself was first coined by Nicholas Taleb-Nassim and it is to describe a collection of unread books. I also discovered a lovely japanese phrase ‘tsundoku’, which literally means reading pile. So besides regularly buying new releases, I would scour charity shops and pick up books left outside peoples houses. Anything that grabs my attention or looks interesting. Having an anti-library also means I will at any given time always have something to read.

tsundoku: buying books and not reading them; letting them pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands


I aim for 50 pages a day. I needed a target to work towards beyond the 20mins a day. I found that its habit forming. If i have to read 50 pages then I will find any excuse to pick up a book rather than look at twitter etc. In fact I will actually dog ear the book every 50pages to I know where I am. (Yeah, I know)

You get faster

I’m not a fan of speed reading. In fact, I can’t do it at all well. I have, however, noticed that I have become a faster reader over the course of this year. 

Alcohol vs caffeine

Quite simply if I want to read more, I stay away from the booze. Personally, I can’t read and drink at the same time. The morning after a late night, is not a good time for me to read either. Tea and coffee on the other hand works wonders. They provide focus, one less thing to be distracted by.

Improved sleep

I have no idea if there is any science behind this but the nights I read before bed, I find that I get to sleep much quicker and sleep much better.  Absolutely no idea why, I guess I’m more relaxed and no blue screens.

As I start 2021, Ive set the same challenge of 52 books. 2021 could be very different or very much the same. 77 books may well have been some freak occurrence so if I can repeat that again in 2021 then I’ll set a bigger challenge for 2022. But for now, one book and one day at a time.