- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

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 [1].

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: