These Tips Will Teach You How to Finish Over 50 Books a Year
For the last ten years I’ve finished 65–80 books a year. I’m not saying that to show off, I know people who read over 100 books a year without a second thought. The fact that reading combines entertainment, education, and inspiration is just one of the reasons many successful people make it a habitual activity. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me if you read 20 or 90 books per annum as long as the books you experienced gave you a thrill. In the end, it’s not about how many books you’ve finished — there will always be someone who read more — as much as making the best of your life. Here are my tips to help you get more reading in:
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Read for a Reason
One of the joys of my life is the moment right after finishing a book. It’s that heady combination of relishing the joy of a good story (or an interesting idea) mixed with the endless potential of what to read next! Working at a library I’m surrounded by possibilities, so I have to exercise a bit of discipline.
When choosing my next book, I don’t go down a list, I follow my bliss; I think about my mood, my interests, and what else I’m reading. If my other book is an “idea book,” I’ll usually go with a novel — mixing up my reading works for me because I thrive on variety. The point is that though I love to browse, I’m usually doing so with an idea to my needs of the moment. A smidgen of forethought cuts down on dissatisfaction and false starts. By now, I’m pretty good at predicting what I’ll enjoy.
It’s Legit to Quit
Speaking of false starts, there was a time where I powered my way through every book I began. Indeed, this is an ideal way to lower your yearly reading totals. Forcing yourself to read what you dislike means you spend your time either slogging through some terrible tome, or avoiding reading altogether.
Stop worrying! If you’re not getting what you need from a book, no one will judge you if you chuck it. Having trouble finding the right book? There’s an article for that!
Note that I’m not saying don’t struggle with a difficult read just because it lowers your totals, quite the opposite. If Gadamar got you going, and you pore over Truth and Method for two months, that’s time well-spent. Heck, I spent a month reading War & Peace a few years ago and regret not a day of it. However, if you’re on chapter 3 of some pithy polemic and its potency is lost on you, do not hesitate to plunk it down!
A Heaven for the Ears
A poorly kept secret among heavy readers is that we’re often also heavy listeners. Audiobooks, I mean! At any given moment, I am usually listening my way through an audiobook and reading a regular book. Living in Los Angeles means I spend a lot of time in traffic and it is audiobooks that make my commute bearable (even pleasurable!). There are people out there who wouldn’t qualify audiobooks as reading, and technically they’re right. My criteria, however, relates more to how I experience a book. With that in mind, I’ve read and listened to the same books a number of times over the years and found that the two mediums aren’t so different when it comes to how I ingest the story or idea of a book. In fact, I’d say that the pleasure I get from hearing a top-notch narrator sometimes tops my silent reading voice.
Finding a good audiobook isn’t difficult. Most of the ones you find at the library will generally be of a high standard. If, however, you would like the very best, check out the reviews in publications like AudioFile or Booklist Online (full access requires a subscription), with special focus on selections that have won the Earphone or Audie Awards. Since this is my article, I’m also going to recommend the audiobook publisher Full Cast Audio because I’ve loved everything I’ve heard from them, and books If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline because narrators Bahni Turpin and Wil Wheaton, respectively, are absolutely outstanding!
In audiobooks, the narrator talks to you, but another way to read a lot of books is to make it a social experience! Talking to others in person or online about books is likely to get you excited about your current read, and give you ideas for what to read next. In-person or online books clubs allow you to interact with other readers, and perhaps read out of your comfort zone. Likewise, social review sites like GoodReads let you read alongside friends and strangers. If you want groups to discuss specific books or authors, Meetup.com and Facebook are decent places to find gatherings of, for example, James Joyce devotees.
Get in the Flow
Here’s a tip that’s dead simple: Read for extended periods of time. Reading that, you might exclaim, “Real funny, Oleg…You read a lot of books by reading a lot. What an insightful tip!” So I’ll elaborate: If you read in snatches of 10–20 minutes at a time, you only read a few pages per sitting and never quite catch the flow of the text; your reading is choppy and slow because every time you start, you have to get your head back into it. It’s only when you settle down, uninterrupted, for an hour or more that you can find your reading groove and pages begin to fly.
Audiobooks work similarly. Once you’re an hour or so into it, you’ll find that increasing the speed to 1.2x makes hardly a difference. Gradually, you can even get up to 1.5x or more without a problem. I know people who listen to audiobooks at 2–3x the regular speed with totally average comprehension. Me? I like to wallow in my audiobooks, so while I regularly listen to podcasts at 1.5x, I almost never speed up my books.
Just Do It
Finally, I subscribe to the butt-in-seat school of getting things done: If you want to be a writer, for example, the only way to do it is to get your butt in that seat and write! It’s the same with reading. Want to finish over 50 books a year? It’s not that hard, but it can’t be done unless you crack open a book! Some will recommend setting aside time every day, I say do what works for you. Just one caveat: Make sure to enjoy it! No one gives you a medal once you get to fifty books, so why not revel in the experience of reading them!