How I read 47 books in 6 weeks

And the lessons they taught me about life.

Fernando Villalba
9 min readMay 24, 2021


Towards the end of February I started thinking a lot about my future and where I want to be in the next ten years and the truth is that I really have no idea, the only thing I know, is that I want to be much better off than I am now.

So I decided to write some goals, ambitious and crazy, one of them was to read 100 books this year, and since I hadn’t read any self-improvement books for a really long time, I decided to focus mostly on that to begin with. I started a book to see if I could do it in a day, then I picked up another one, and then another one, sometimes I would even do one or two books a day depending on length, and before I knew it I was on a roll. I was like Forrest Gump…

How did I do it?

Notice I said I read 47 books, but in reality I didn’t really read all those books entirely, in fact I partially read them, and I partially listened to them.

What I would do is get the book and the audiobook version and then listen to the audiobook at 1.5x to 2x the speed as I read. I did this to keep pace, because even though I can read faster than this, the audio would ensure that I wouldn’t stop. When I got tired of sitting and reading I just paced up and down the flat with my headphones listening, it’s not a bad exercise! I also listened to audiobooks when I cooked, cleaned, or did anything where I could use autopilot.

I never picked books that were too hard to read. Obviously this method of reading wouldn’t work for something like the Critique of Pure Reason by Kant. Not to say I was picking dumb romantic novels either, but if you pick good best sellers, generally they are very easy to follow along.

I also tried to avoid books longer than 300 pages, although two of them exceeded 600 pages. Obviously it would have been impossible for me to do 47 bibles in that time frame.

What was the overarching goal to read all these books?

Other than my own edification I was actually aiming to “brainwash” myself positively. Many of the books I read hammered the same point over and over, much of it was overlap, told in different ways, but it didn’t matter to me because I wanted to hear it — I needed to believe it.

What did I learn?

I learned a lot more than what I want to write on this blog, but here are some highlights that I don’t ever want to forget.

My identity defines my outcomes more than anything else

It doesn’t matter what you want to achieve, if there is no scope within your identity to believe you can achieve it, you definitely won’t. No matter how hard you try, and even if by some miracle you do achieve it, be prepared to lose it, because your feeling of inferiority will do everything in its power to sabotage you.

By identity I mean what you truly see yourself as. Arrogant and cocky people don’t have strong identities and are overcompensating; imposing their fragile egos on others to convince them and convince themselves, doing this does not yield great results for you or for others.

But if you believe firmly that you are a person who deserves and can achieve great things in life, don’t be surprised by the great results you will get. Your mind just makes things happen for you, whether good or bad, it doesn’t matter.

If you fail at everything in life, perhaps you are not as bad as you think, perhaps you are just really amazing at failing. There is a huge different between these two, because if you are really great at failing, you can just as easily be great at succeeding.

Your identity is your set of beliefs, what you believe is what you are. Choose your beliefs wisely.


My identity is under my control

Many people just accept blindly that they are who they are, and there is nothing they can do to change that, but this is not the case at all. Sure, reality can get in the way of your aspirations. Even If I saw myself as handsome as Brad Pitt, there is no way women would react to me the same way. But if you are okay-looking and you see yourself as ugly, you are going to do everything to conform to that identity and put your dates off, and vice versa.

The biggest challenge we face when shaping our own identities is that we are looking intently at the world to validate our value, badly craving for acceptance to come from others. While it is good to look at the world to benchmark our accomplishments, if we let it define us, we will never meet our wholesome, confident self.


Everything that happens to me is my responsibility

This one is a hard to stomach because we often like to blame our situation or others for our mistakes, and while it’s true that not everything that will happen to us will always be a direct cause of our actions and intentions, we are entirely responsible for how we deal with it.

If you are not happy with your situation you can do either one of two things, change your situation, or change the way you deal with it. We really underestimate how much we can really do, we continuously take for granted so many of our privileges and just demand more of them. We love being a victim because victimhood is easy, we just sit there, sulk and blame others for our issues instead of taking charge and be responsible for our own fate. Don’t be that person, get up and do something to improve your life!

Greatness is not inherited, it is achieved

Even if you won the genetic lottery, that doesn’t make you spectacular, what makes you charismatic and great is how much work you put into it and your attitude to life. If you have a growth mindset you are likely to embrace learning and work a lot more than if you have a fixed mindset, because you will know that every task you complete takes you ever closer to your goals. However if your mindset is fixed, work and learning will feel like punishment because subconsciously you will feel that you are just wasting your time, that nothing you can do will ever change your fate.

Goals are not optional

Some wise person said “If you don’t set your own goals, someone else will do it for you”. If you don’t want others to dictate your life, take you through the motions and feed you what you don’t want, you can either accept what they give you and not complain, or you can decide your own fate and plot your own course. The book Outwitting the Devil really caused a great impression on me. In it Napoleon Hill mentions how most people just drift through life, they don’t make any plans, they don’t have any goals, and as a consequence they just drift aimlessly, living a mediocre life. Successful people on the other hand have goals, few if possible, and follow them relentlessly.

I put off for so long making goals for myself, I always had some excuse not to do it and I think most people are the same. There is something terrifying that fills you with anxiety when it comes to write your goals down. We don’t know what we want, we don’t know how to achieve it, we don’t know if we can achieve it and when we sit down to write goals down it hurts, all the options, all the possibilities, it’s agonising. For someone who even struggles to decide an ice cream flavour, I know the feeling quite well.

What I learned here is that it is best to write some goals in different areas, even if crazy aspirational, on family, finance, travel, etc. Anything is better than nothing, having a crazy goal to go for is better than just sitting around like a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued from your mediocre life.

Good habits lead to achieving your goals

Don’t try to feel inspired before you do anything, instead build a routine and stick to it. Just like you can build bad habits, you can also build good ones. And if you stick to them you will eventually succeed in achieving whatever you want to do. The best book I read about this topic is Atomic Habits

Wealth is also part of your identity

I don’t want to fall into a debate about income inequality or how unfair our society is at distributing wealth, but what I know for certain is that the way you think will determine whether you become and stay wealthy or not. Many people who win millions at the lottery lose it all, and others who make their first million keep making more as time goes by, and it’s all down to the way they think.

Don’t fall into the victimhood trap and constantly spend all your energies whining that the world is unfair and that if you just knew such and such person, or if you had been born to rich parents you would be wealthy. Sure, all of that is a factor, and some people are born very lucky, but that doesn’t necessarily have to hurt your chances to also be wealthy. The world is filled with examples of people who had nothing and became very wealthy, all by having the right habits, right beliefs and making the right decisions.

The full list of books

Here is the full list of books I read, not all are about self-improvement, but most of them are. Most of them are very suitable to read/listen at fast speeds with a few exceptions; Mao by Jung Chang is NOT a book to speed read for example, not just because of the sheer amount of detail, but also because some parts were so shocking and infuriating that I had to stop to catch my breath. Neither is The Innovator’s Dilemma, or We Have been Harmonised. Other books in the list I didn’t love that much, I didn’t particularly love John C Maxwell books, for example, I found them too “self-helpy”, I also wasn’t that thrilled with Adam Grant books — they were entertaining to read and some of it was insightful but overall I didn’t love them as much as their popularity.

| Title | Author |
| You Were Born Rich | Bob Proctor |
| 7 Strategies for Wealth and Happiness | Jim Rohn |
| As a man Thinketh | James Allen |
| The Magic of Thinking Big | David Schwartz |
| The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership | John C Maxwell |
| Atomic Habits | James Clear |
| How Successful People Think | John C Maxwell |
| The Power of Positive Thinking | Norman Vincent Peale |
| Psycho Cybernetics | Maxwell Maltz |
| The New Psycho Cybernetics | Maxwell Maltz |
| The Power of your Subconscious Mind | Joseph Murphy |
| Mindset | Carol Dweck |
| The Six Pillar of Self-Esteem | Nathaniel Branden |
| Deep Work | Cal Newport |
| Grit | Angela Duckworth |
| The One Thing | Gary Keller |
| Outwitting the Devil | Napoleon Hill |
| Think and Grow Rich | Napoleon Hill |
| Steve Jobs | Walter Isaacson |
| The Neuropsychology of Self-discipline | youtube audiobook |
| Rich Dad and Poor Dad | Robert Kiyosaki |
| The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster | Darren Hardy |
| The Power of Habit | Charles Duhigg |
| The Checklist Manifesto | Atul Gawande |
| Originals | Adam Grant |
| Rejection Proof | Jia Jiang |
| The courage to be disliked | Ichiro Kishimi |
| Ikigai | Hector Garcia |
| A Guide to the Good Life | William B Irvine |
| Shoe Dog | Phil Knight |
| Influence | Cialdini |
| Measure what matters | John Doerr |
| The Innovator's dilemma | Clayton Christenssen |
| Power Moves: Lessons From Davos | Adam Grant |
| The Everything Store | Brad Stone |
| Contagious: Why Things Catch On | Jonah Berger |
| HBR 10 Must Reads on Managing yourself | Various Authors |
| Give and Take | Adam Grant |
| The War of Art | Steven Pressfield |
| Think Again | Adam Grant |
| Calling Bullshit | John D West |
| That will Never work | Marc Rondolph |
| Trillion Dollar Coach Bill Campbell. | Alan Eagle |
| We Have Been Harmonised | kai strittmatter |
| China's Great Wall of Debt | Dinny McMahon |
| Mao | Jung Chang |
| The Richest Man in Babylon | George Clason |