Scott H Young

How to Read 70+ Books in a Year


Over the past two years I’ve read over 120 books. If you add up partial books I read for specific segments, that number would be well over 140. But only four years ago I would have read 10-12 books per year. Although reading at least seventy books a year sounds difficult, it doesn’t require a huge investment of time.

Here’s how I did it:

Step One: Learn to Speed Read

Some people see speed reading as a magical technique to ingest thousands of pages per hour. Therefore it tends to divide those people who are mystified by it and those who think it is a complete fraud. I’d like to argue that speed reading is neither. The term “speed reading” itself is a bit off.

The real idea behind speed reading is that you know how (and when) to speed up and when to slow down. With a few basic techniques you can get a sizable increase on your maximum speed. If you want to learn how to speed read start reading here: Double Your Reading Rate.

Summary tips for speed reading:

  1. Use your forefinger to follow the line on the page. This focuses your vision onto a specific part of the text.
  2. Practice read textbooks faster than you can comprehend. This isn’t actual reading but it will make you familiar with using your finger and slowly increase your maximum speed.
  3. State your purpose before starting to read. This will allow you to focus on information you need and reject information you don’t.

Step Two: Always Have a Book

This one may sound obvious, but the best way to increase the amount of books you read is to always have a book. Gaps of a few weeks without any reading material means several less books you can read each year. Worse, time spent without a book breaks down your reading habits so it can be harder to start again.

If always having a book to read sounds to constrictive, maybe you’re reading the wrong article. You need a passion for finding new ideas and learning. Outside pressure won’t help.

Step Three: One Book at a Time

I strive to never read more than one book at a time. There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. You can’t read two books simultaneously, so having two books partially completed isn’t going to accelerate the amount you are reading.
  2. Each book uses up your mental RAM, making it more likely to forget critical details when switching between books.
  3. You keep reading a bad book instead of tossing it. Either keep reading a book or get rid of it. Don’t put it on “hold” while you skim through other books.
  4. Reading one book keeps you focused.

Step Four: Fill Gap Time With Reading

Gap time is the small windows of five to ten minutes you can’t schedule activities in. This could be waiting in line at the dentist, a spare ten minutes hanging on the end of your lunch break or a fifteen minute gap between classes. Reading is the perfect filler for gap time.

Usually I can find a total of twenty to thirty minutes each day just in gap time. With that amount you can read at least forty books a year on gap time alone. That means you could get over three dozen books read annually – without investing extra time.

The only requirement to utilize gap time is that you carry a book with you.

Step Five: Cut the Television and Web-Surfing

The next way to grab a bit more reading time is to cut background noise. Background noise is the activities you do when you don’t have anything to do. Usually television or web-surfing, this often means watching programs that have zero entertainment value or rechecking your RSS feeds for the fiftieth time today.

Create the habit of reading whenever you don’t have something planned. Television and internet usage can be great, if you are watching shows you enjoy or making good use of the net. But if the shows aren’t adding anything to your day, turn them off and pick up your book.

Step Six: Keep a To-Read List

My to-read list is a perpetual Amazon shopping cart filled with books recommended to me. Motivating yourself to read a current book is as simple as having books after it to read. My to-read list motivates me to finish a current book because I’m interested in searching through the one after it.

Keeping a to-read list also takes the effort out of tracking books. I almost never need to go into the bookstore and just browse. Whenever I get a link for an interesting book, I add it to my Amazon shopping cart in advance.

Getting Started

I don’t need to tell you the benefits of reading books. As a kid you probably saw tacky motivational posters in your school informing you that, “Reading is Power!” The motivation to read seventy books a year needs to come from within. External pressures like getting good grades, pride from considering yourself more academic than your friends or hoping to find that perfect answer at the bottom of a self-help bin aren’t going to cut it.

However if you are curious about implementing these steps and trying to read more books, here are some starting points:

  • Go to Amazon right now and pick out some books. If your tighter on expenses, go to your library. But you can’t start without several books in your reading stack.
  • Get Breakthrough Rapid Reading, to work on your speed reading. Speed reading isn’t a prerequisite to reading this much, but I’ve found the techniques helpful in the same way an athlete might get help from a personal trainer. No magic, but it can install some good reading habits.
  • Set a one month reading goal. Try to read 10-30 pages a day just for the next month. Nothing too challenging, but enough to help you install the habits of regular reading.

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66 Responses to “How to Read 70+ Books in a Year”

  1. Edward Mills says:

    Hi Scott. This is a great post. I have a question/comment about step 3. I’m someone who is definitely a “synthesizer.” Some of my most important insights and “ahas” come through the interface of ideas I find in two or more books that I’m reading simultaneously. I’ve certainly had this experience with books that I have read at different times, but the most powerful ideas have come from the “coincidental” reading of multiple books at the same time. Perhaps it’s just a different style of reading. But I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

  2. Jeff Seely says:

    I have Breakthrough Rapid Reading. I also recommend it.

    Reading one book at a time has its advantages. I sometimes, however, get burnt out on a specific topic and reasonably switch to another book for a while. Unfortunately, this often gets out of hand, and I think I should discipline myself to stick to one book at a time.

  3. Scott Young says:

    Ed,

    They are different styles. I prefer the one-at-a-time approach simply because it is more efficient and it allows me to focus more acutely. I find that a good book will have a lasting impression for a few weeks where it can interface with existing ideas, great books can have lasting impressions for years.

    -Scott

  4. Jan says:

    I think you can say good and bad things about speed reading. Having used to read a lot of fiction I found myself losing the ability to enjoy reading such material as I learned reading differently while studying for my masters degree.

    The amount of information that I had to and wanted to digest simply forced me to read differently and even years after I find myself speed reading novels etc. which sort of spoils the enjoyment of kicking back with a good book.

  5. Ben says:

    Hi Scott.

    This is another very useful post. A few years ago some of my work tasks gave me several ten to twenty minute gaps during the day where I had to sit around and wait for a classroom to be vacated before I had to set up audio/visual equipment.

    I decided to use this time to read and once I was in the habit of taking a book with me I rediscovered my love of reading. So I give a big thumbs up to step four. Twice a week I commute to work by bus and train and use the twenty minutes on the train to do some reading. Being a father of two under five boys means I have to be creative with my reading opoortunities. I also need something to read outside of the steady diet of Thomas the Tank Engine and other children’s books that I read to my boys every night.

    I agree that the motivation to read has to come from within. After finishing high school twenty years, where some of the reading bored me to tears, it took me about four to five years to return to reading.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  6. Ben says:

    Hi Scott,

    One of the ways I keep my reading interesting is by choosing books that aren’t my usual areas of interest.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  7. Nneka says:

    Hi Scott, this is an excellent article. I haven’t quite mastered the reading with my fingers yet, but with the other tips I’ve already tripled my reading rate.

    In Spirit,
    Nneka

  8. And then there’s the outlier like me… The last couple of years I’ve read over 200 books *per year*. Yes, I’m an addict. :)

  9. Scott Young says:

    Thomas,

    Great stuff! 200 Books a year is quite a challenge indeed.

    Ben,

    I completely agree with the reading of books outside your interest.

  10. [...] How to Read 70+ Books in a Year by Scott H Young Reading is an essential part of learning, and this article gives you some practical tips on how to read more books. My favorite tip: fill gap time with reading. [...]

  11. ameL says:

    How do you speed read Tolstoy?

  12. Scott Young says:

    ameL,

    I haven’t read Tolstoy. If his writing were difficult to understand I would have to slow down.

    -Scott

  13. I sincerely believe that speed reading can be massively overrated. I happen to be able to read at a reasonably quick pace. I think the ability to scan past information that isn’t valuable is of immense value in a world awash in information. What you give up is the processing and incubation of information that you are driving past at 350 words per minute. Especially when books today are often written in a reflective and participatory frame.

    Poetry, Tolstoy, and others all require contemplation. Reading fast to finish can often end up with less richness and context and depth.

  14. ameL says:

    hey scott,

    what kind of books do you read? I’m a slow reader so i’m having difficulties visualizing how someone can inhale a book every 4-5 days on top of everything else that’s going on :)

  15. Scott Young says:

    ameL and Nathan,

    I dislike the term “speed” in speed reading. Sure part of it involves going faster, but some of the techniques (in particular, using your finger) are more about focusing your vision.

    Right now I’m reading Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s 1000+ page novel. Fantastic stuff even if it requires frequent trips to the dictionary. Can I read it at 1000 words per minutes? No. But I still believe that the speed reading skills I learned help me focus even if I can’t burn through it.

  16. [...] Kemaren dapat artikel menarik yang berjudul “How to Read 70+ Books in A Year” oleh Scott H Young. Dia memberikan step-step berikut ini (untuk lebih lengkap silakan loncat ke blognya): [...]

  17. I’m very surprised that you only advise to go to the library if you’re “tight on expenses”. I think buying books is a huge waste of money, what other item is there in the world that you buy where the same thing is available for FREE and owning a book is useless after you’ve read it. If you spend on average $16/book and read 70 a year as you suggest that’s over a grand per year spent on books not to mention a lot more clutter in your house.

  18. Scott Young says:

    design,

    Good point. I’ve avoided the library largely because the only local library for myself is small, and lacks access to many of the new books I hear about via word of mouth.

    -Scott

  19. hasani carter says:

    great stuff Scott,

    May I suggest a Reading improvement course called:

    Institute of Reading Development!

  20. hasani carter says:

    In addition I want to suggest :

    Rapid Analytical Reading

  21. [...] i found this article basically summarises how to read 70+ books in a year. I found it really true especially step 2 and step 4 where i basically read only when i’m travelling for the 2+ hours each day. Here are the steps… [...]

  22. Mariam Fallatah says:

    Very interesting. I am reading books in English Nowadays, even though it’s not my first language. This makes my reading difficult and boring sometimes. Any tips that can help me read more books in English?

  23. Larissa says:

    Another site that helps (for those who would like books delivered to their email) is dailylit.com. It helped me get in touch with some free books that are delivered in installments of one chapter per day. There are also links in each email to get the next chapter delivered immediately, suspend delivery of that book, or purchase it via Amazon.

    I finally got to read some of the classics I’d missed… working on Anna Karenina right now. :)

  24. [...] Как прочитать более 70 книг за год [...]

  25. [...] How to Read 70+ Books in a Year – The last four months has seen my reading volume take a nosedive. I partially attribute this to taking on a far busier schedule, part of it can also be blamed on recently having read through several, dense 1000+ page books. With courses finished, I’m hoping to recapture my former book-lust. [...]

  26. [...] Young has a good post on setting a goal to read 70 books a year. He gives some suggestions on how to accomplish this and recommends using Amazon.com as a place to [...]

  27. [...] got used to buying my books instead of renting. Books might not be a big expense, but if you end up reading 50-70 books each year, the cost can quickly add [...]

  28. Dee says:

    Mr. Scott,
    Thank you for your great posts, I’ve read a post you wrote: Literary Gluttony – How to Consume More Books This Year. several months ago, a friend sent it to me after I asked him how to read more books, I wasn’t considered a reader(3 or 4 books a year), but I’ve always wanted read, after I read your post I was inspired, I followed the steps, and in 2 months I’ve read 8 books including an epic-novel. It was such a transformation for me, though English is not my mother language, and whenever I feel I’m slowing down in reading, I read the literary Gluttony post and feel inspired again.
    I thank you for changing my life.

  29. Scott Young says:

    That’s fantastic Dee! I love hearing about people who have used something they have read on the website!

  30. I’d have to disagree with step three a bit…

    Sometimes it actually helps to read multiple books at once, if they all center on the same topic, but approach it from different angles. This way, one is more likely to make a lot more interconnections between the various viewpoints. But if one isn’t necessarily looking for a more comprehensive view, one book at a time might be the best bet.

    This reminds me of an African (?) saying:
    If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

    Maybe the connection between the saying and what I just said isn’t readily apparent… but it makes sense in my head at least. :P

  31. [...] Accepting my inherent laziness made the problem much easier to solve. Instead of trying to force myself to read boring books, I would choose only to read interesting books, and have them available at all times. If a book didn’t interest me, I didn’t bother trying to finish it. This strategy allowed me to finish as many as seventy books in a year. [...]

  32. Robert Dupuy says:

    I’m learning Russian. So many of my associates have tried to learn Russian, and failed. When I ask them how many books, in Russian, they have read in the past year, the answer is inevitably “zero.”

    As the old joke goes: So you tried nothing and it didn’t work?

    I remember, when I was of school age, I was told to read 25 books per year, and that was just considered normal as you pass from one grade to the next.

    So I vowed in 2009 to read 24 books, in Russian. As we approach the end of the year, I’ve completed 3 books.

    I’m not yet fluent in Russian, it’s not quite as easy as I’d like, just yet, but even after 3 books, it’s getting easier. I did not carry a book everywhere, I did not read in all my down time. Just think, with a little more effort, I could have tripled my output!

    2010, here we come! My goal has to remain the same, 24 books!

  33. bewareorgluttony says:

    My opinion is that you can overwork your brain like a glutton and hurt yourself. So you have to give your brain a break. Any thoughts on brain recovery after overexertion of the brain because it happens I am not making this up.

  34. [...] am really searching for answers/tips for improving my reading speed. Till now I found this blog link very much relevant. Lets give a try on the techniques the guy in the link has suggested and hope [...]

  35. Murlu says:

    Hey Scott, loving the blog!

    I actually made it my goal about 2 years ago to at least read 20 books a year from now on. It’s not an extreme amount but it’s still quite a bit more than an average person would read I would say.

    You have very great tips.

    I’d like to add that reading with goals in mind is very helpful. Sometimes I get into the habit of reading learning guides. While I’m doing so, I make it a priority to implement what I’m reading which in turn pushes me forward as I become excited to learn the next part.

    I think it’s also fun to work on a series, which uses this same concept. Although it’s good to spread out what genres and authors you read, reading a series or multiple books by an author can really get you into them and help you devour them at an incredible rate.

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

  36. Bill says:

    All of the research on speed reading indicates that you if you read at, say, 200 wpm, you could potentially double your speed without a loss in comprehension using various techniques. However, anything above 500-600 wpm, you lose comprehension. So, if you are reading a novel at 800-1000 wpm, you are probably only actually _reading_ (as opposed to skimming) half of the book.

    So, call me a skeptic, but if someone says they are “reading” something at 1000 wpm, I’d like them to take a test on the material and compare that to someone who is reading at a more typical rate.

  37. [...] this website is holistic learning. This is the strategy I’ve used to ace finals without studying, read 70+ books per year and teach myself new subjects [...]

  38. Natasha says:

    This helped me a lot because my gov’t evams are coming up and I’ve noticed when you said try speed reading over textbooks actually helps a lot. Because I’ll be looking at a question and remember. I have also notice that if I have calm melo music like Bob Marley or The Beatles quite in the background while I read helps a lot too.
    Just wanted to say thank you! And I am going to try and read 50 books this summer. So far I have read The Twilight series, Angela’s Ashes, the Summer Boys series, and The Scions of Shannara 1-4. So together that would be 11, 39 more to go!

  39. Jesse says:

    Yeah I know people that read a book a day. A romance in a matter of a couple hours. Scarier still, they remember everything about the book. I read 8 books since I graduated in February and am still goin!

  40. dhruv says:

    your holistic learning techniques are good but plz could u tell me step by step on how to understand better?

  41. [...] How to Read 70+ Books a Year: Isn’t it everyone’s goal to read and learn more. Here are some great tips. [...]

  42. Dave Eaves says:

    I liked the first tip of learning to speed read. If you can do that it is a great foundation to get the most out of the rest of the tips :-)

  43. [...] 70 books in a year 27 09 2010 On StumbleUpon this week I came across a guy who had tips for how to read 70 books in a year. [...]

  44. [...] How to Read 70+ Books in a Year « Scott H Young (tags: reading productivity) [...]

  45. Karl says:

    Great post, Scott.
    To add, should you finish a [non-fiction, self-development] book that is vastly superior to your last several books, *immediately read it again* to memorise it for years.

    Better still, add little post-it notes to mark the ten or twenty paragraphs that really capture the essence of the book. This applies the “80/20 rule” that only 20% of a book typicaly convey 80% of the message
    The post-it notes will enable you to brush up on the book’s content in under half an hour, a year after first reading the book.
    This greatly aids retention in the long-term.

    Amidst the thousands of mediocre books in any particular field are a handful of exceptional ones- perhaps we should allocate our time accordingly.

  46. Hi Scott,

    Very nice post with some interesting tasks for me to implement.

    I keep track of the number of books read by year only as a general reference. There was a year when I only read “The Magic Mountain”, “Buddenbrooks”, “Rayuela” (both alternative versions made out of the same chapters arranged differently) and a couple of light fiction novels. I feel that it was my best reading year due to the quality of the books read. Last year I read 14 books, but end up feeling half that was a waste of time. Sadly, most of the time you realize that it was a bad reading just after finishing it.

    I disagree on the “One book at a time” step. An average reader can certainly read more than one book at the same time while keeping focus. It could even enhance the focus and understanding, as it varies the stimulus over time and help establish connections that are not immediately evident. Reading Tolstoy or even Drucker from start to end easily becomes tiresome and frustrating, as the material is too dense and complex. Some Dilbert in between would help a lot.

    As for the speed-reading, it works to improve the speed, but not necessary the pleasure. I enjoy reading, and to use my forefinger to follow the line on the page would make reading a chore instead of a pleasurable time with the author. The first thing you need to increase the number of books you read is to enjoy reading.

  47. Hi Scott,

    Just what you say in step five, I have found that just by not watching TV I can read tons of books. In 2010, I read 2 books per week, all year long, which really changed me in a fundamental way. I have a goal of reading ten thousand books in my lifetime, so TV was really out of the question:-)

    Thanks for an awesome post!

    Josip Barbaric

  48. [...] = {"data_track_clickback":true};It’s summer beach reading time! So, we thought we’d repost this amazing advice from Scott Young, our College Prep 360 Study Skills Coach, on how to read more [...]

  49. [...] de nombreux livres que j’avais commencé. En effet, après la lecture de ce billet de Scott H. Young, j’ai suivi certains de ses conseils, notamment de ne lire qu’un seul livre à la fois [...]

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