10 years later: Re-doing my crazy project to read 52 of the best business books in 52 weeks, and post a weekly review here in English!

Before elaborating on the many business books I read, I want to introduce myself to those who don’t know me: I am Olivier Roland, I’m 36, I’m French and I’ve been an entrepreneur since the age of 19. I’m currently a blogger, YouTuber, amateur archaeologist, diver, globe-trotter, and international speaker, among many other things! I am followed, all networks combined, by more than 250,000 fans!

“You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.”
– Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon), Good Will Hunting

Photo by Cassidy Kelley on Unsplash - business booksIn 2016, I finally published my book in France called “Everyone doesn’t get the chance to fail their studies” which is a book about how I failed my studies, became an entrepreneur, and learned how to be successful without a college degree. I’ve since been teaching my entrepreneurial techniques to hundreds of thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs across the French-speaking communities, all over the world.

Anyhow, in 2008, I started my crazy project to read 52 business books in a year. Are you familiar with the Personal MBA? It’s a concept created by Josh Kaufman (following an idea by Seth Godin).

Going off the assumption that business schools don’t have a monopoly on knowledge and wisdom, he suggests that every one of us passes a personal MBA by reading a selection of the best business books that exist, around 99 of the Best Business Books in 26 different categories.

Here are the 26 categories of the different business books:
  1. Business Creation
  2. Value Creation and Testing
  3. Marketing
  4. Sales
  5. Value Delivery
  6. Finance and Accounting
  7. The Human Mind
  8. Productivity and Effectiveness
  9. Problem Solving
  10. Behavioral Change
  11. Decision Making
  12. Communication
  13. Influence
  14. Negotiation
  15. Management
  16. Leadership
  17. Project Management
  18. Systems
  19. Analysis
  20. Corporate Skills
  21. Corporate Strategy
  22. Creativity and Innovation
  23. Design
  24. Consulting
  25. Personal Finance
  26. Personal Growth

So in 2008, I started my crazy project and managed to read 34 business books in a single year and blog about each one in French. While I didn’t achieve my goal of 52 books in the year, I did continue this project in the years since and there are over 300 blog posts now about many different areas of Entrepreneurship – many many many books read between then and now. I believe I’ve been successful over the last 17 years because I’ve committed to a lifetime of learning. To that end, I’m going to repeat my project from 2008 but this time in English. I’ve always wanted to be as fluent in English as French and committing to this project will help me improve my writing, reading, and speaking (YouTube!).

Olivier Roland 52-week book challenge

So why the personal MBA again, you might ask? Josh came up with the idea of acquiring the essential knowledge distilled in the MBA – that 20% of people accomplish 80% of the results – by reading a carefully chosen list of the best books covering the subject areas taught in the MBA – for less than $3,500, if you buy the books new, and even less than that if you buy the books used or borrow them. So please read The Personal MBA Manifesto which is still very relevant today.

Why am I repeating this in 2018? Here are my updated reasons:

  • To improve my English (I will only read the English versions of these books). If I spend a year reading, writing, speaking English on these topics, I hope to improve my vocabulary, my grammar, even my accent!
  • Because I am still an autodidact and I love to learn. What’s more, I love to read and I love to learn by reading clip_image001[1]. Since I built my business when I was young – 19 years old, I would be the happy owner of a degree if it weren’t for 10 or 20 missing credits, and I have learned most of what I know on the job, learning a lot from my mistakes, and also taking some classes here and there. I have also taken some night classes, but the practical application of these classes is not always apparent in my business.
  • Because I feel the need to continue to obtain more knowledge to better run my businesses and to better understand the workings of the business world in which I find myself. To be more effective in all the projects that I will take on and to get a better appreciation for the world in general. Things are moving and evolving very quickly nowadays, I intend NEVER to be left behind!
  • Because I have read many of the books listed in the PMBA already (some in French and some in English), and I found them all to be excellent, with a special mention for The 4-Hour Workweek. They all changed the perception that I had of certain things, sometimes radically. They have all changed my life on at least one level or have given me a new tool to work with. In light of the important changes that these books induced in me during 2008, I imagine repeating it in English will reinforce that knowledge and I will learn different things from some of the same books.
  • Because reading 52 books in 52 weeks, and writing a review, and posting it here without ruining my professional life and my social life represents a challenge in itself, which will call into action all my abilities for organization and self-motivation. If I procrastinate too long, if I don’t organize myself well enough, if my motivation sinks like a rock, I won’t get there. And you will be the first to know it. I will learn as much from the project itself as I will learn from the books. To see the tricks I will be using to keep myself motivated, read this from 2007!
  • To share the results of this project with others, in particular by writing clear, concise, and relevant summaries.
  • To build a bigger English audience on YouTube and this English Blog.

How shall I undertake this task? Here are the rules of the challenge:

  1. Choose 52 books from the actual list of The Personal MBA.
  2. Read once a week for 52 weeks. Write a relevant summary, that includes an overall summary as well as chapter by chapter, if the book lends itself to that.
  3. Sacrifice only what is useless. I don’t plan on giving up my other activities – my businesses, travel, my other blogs, my leisure time, my personal life. I am going to try and organize myself better and get rid of anything useless – casually surfing the web, video games, YouTube, everything that wastes precious time in general. I can’t cut out TV, since I never watch it anyway.
  4. Take action. To think without doing something is just as stupid as to do something without thinking. Thought is based both on our experience – in the field – and our knowledge – acquired from books, school, in conversation with others.

The first problem is to choose the 52 books from among the current 99 of the PMBA. This isn’t an easy task but I do feel that I should repeat a few titles I read before in 2008 to refresh myself, especially those I found so helpful 10 years ago.

Here, then, is an initial list of the first 6 books that I will read up till the end of February 2018. I will only read the versions in English.


  1. 10 Days to Faster Reading by Abby Marks-Beale (Update: read my review here!)
  2. StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Update: read my review here!)
  3. Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina
  4. Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale (Update: read my review here!)
  5. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  6. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

My project kicked off officially on February 1st (when I picked up the first book after my vacation). Let’s meet next week for the first review of the first book on this list; 10 Days to Faster Reading. And I will attempt to publish weekly thereafter.

Thanks for joining me on this new and amazing journey!

Olivier 🙂

14 thoughts on “10 years later: Re-doing my crazy project to read 52 of the best business books in 52 weeks, and post a weekly review here in English!

  1. Hi Olivier, I love the mission you’ve chosen to accept for yourself! I’m excited to experience the journey with you. I wonder if you are going to swap out some of the original 99 PMBA books from which you choose your 52 & substitute with some updated books that reflect the change in our world & the nature of business & growing movement toward digital economies & currencies that have gone on in the 10 years since you first embarked on this project.

  2. How to know list of which books you are doing weekly ?
    How to subscribe ?
    10 years later: Re-doing my crazy project to read 52 of the best business books in 52 weeks, and post a weekly review here in English!

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