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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  • Stephanie

    I recently went to a speed reading class and was able to get over 1000 wpm with 70-80% retention (on a simple read, never a textbook).

    I use the principles from the speed reading class to get through dull and tedious material because the biggest thing speed reading does is focus your eyes. By using a pointer and focusing on the first and last words in a line, I can dramatically improve my concentration for difficult material.

    I will say, however, that I don’t advocate speed reading for pleasure. Once I put my finger to a line, the enjoyable past time of reading becomes something businesslike and uncomfortable.

    Reading quickly, which is something you can do without getting dramatic and pointing at the page, you could definitely read 70 books in a year. Speed reading would just make the getting there a lot less fun.

    “I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia.”
    -Woody Allen

  • MrReader

    In step one I used tip #1, the about using your finger to guide your eyes across the page. It increased my reading speed instantly. It does take some practice to show continued improvement. I’m no where close to 70 books a year, but I’m sure I’ll get there.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • alanc230

    I have been a natural speed reader all my life. I don’t use a finger as a pointer. When I try to analyze what I do, I slow down, so I just do it and don’t worry.

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  • victoria

    Re: your point #6: I used to do the same thing to maintain my reading queue, but I ended up replacing it for that purpose with an app called Reading List. I use their notes function to put in call numbers for any books available at either of the library systems I have access to, so when I stop by the library I can grab a few books that I’ve been waiting to read rather than wandering aimlessly. (Normally I end up with about 75% books from my list and about 25% things that just caught my eye.)

    I’m not associated with the makers of the app but it’s really useful for this purpose.

  • Saurabh

    I’m curious …. what kind of book do you read in those “70+ a year”? …

  • charles

    Yes, but it’s really difficult to read 70 books a year if you read hard books that require time and strong work of the books. For example, if you have got chess books to analyse games, you need a lot of time.

  • Abhaya

    Is it possible to read the physics book which need a great deal of concept along with the numerical method solve approach. well, i am with you on the story books or so-on. But for high standard books it seems impossible

  • Rose

    Last year I read 30 books in 30 days. If I always had as much free time as I did that month (June) I could read 365 books a year. Unfortunately, exams etc. get in the way… but I can still easily get in 90. I’ve read over 1,000 pages in a day before (and written over 6,000 words).


    I actually have a blog where I review pre-release books :)

  • Allie

    My personal challenge was 50 books in a month and I succeeded, though I’ve never taken speed reading. I think that reading must be something you enjoy, rather than impose on yourself, a want rather than an obligation.

    I also don’t think the one book at a time is necessary – although what always worked for me is to carry one book around and keep another at home, for instance…

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  • Sebastian

    I’m truly inspired by this. I will start practicing those 3 things right now. I’m hungry to read more.

  • Jonathan Levi

    Great post, Scott. I included in my website link a nice coupon code for students who want to learn to speed read… Here it is again

    More important than just the speed reading element is the memory infrastructure element, which allows you to store all the new information you’ll acquire rapidly. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t covered by most “Speed reading” courses or books. Of course, we cover it very much in depth.

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  • Hailey

    I think my brain works a bit differently than yours. :) I’m a speed reader as well and can read really fast.

    Lots of good tips here, but wanted to give a different perspective on a couple of them.

    I never use my finger when I read because it just gets in my way. I read faster than my finger can move. But I can see it being a good learning tool.

    Also, I always have 2 books going at once. When I read, I can only absorb so much of one topic at a time before I need to take a breather from the book and let my brain process what I just read. If I were only reading 1, that would mean putting it down and doing something else. But with 2 books, I can just switch topics and keep reading. Doing this, I was able to read 500 pages between two books yesterday (that’s a book and a half). With 1 book, I would have only been able to do about 150 pages because of the break times and getting distracted.

    Of course, this is personal preference. Just sharing my methods. :)


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