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The benefits of voracious reading come in all shapes and sizes — from improving empathy and brain functioning to reducing stress and anxiety.

Even so, according to the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of Americans didn’t read a single book in 2015. Of those surveyed, the median number of books read over the previous 12 months was just four.

That’s one book every three months.

When we look at the habits of high achievers such as CEOs, and prolific creators, however, there’s a clear tendency toward insatiable reading. Warren Buffett spends up to 80 percent of his day reading. Bill Gates reads 50 books per year. In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg read a new book every two weeks.

In light of that, “I don’t have time” ceases to be a viable excuse. It’s a matter of priority.

No More Excuses

Author and entrepreneur Ryan Holiday claims that treating reading as a necessity is what allows him to read hundreds of books per year.

According to Holiday, “the key to reading lots of books begins with stopping thinking of it as some activity that you do. Reading must become as natural as eating and breathing to you. It’s not something you do because you feel like it, but because it’s a reflex, a default.”

You should not ignore this advice if you want to devour 50+ books per year. But that doesn’t mean you need to be reading during every spare second you have.

reading
Image Credit: Sam Greenhalgh via Flickr

James Clear, for instance, developed his insatiable appetite for reading by getting through only 20 pages per day. Just like Holiday, reading for Clear became a priority. He explains, “I usually wake up, drink a glass of water, write down three things I’m grateful for, and read 20 pages of a book.”

This is the only reading habit he’s stuck to, and it sees him finish over 30 books each year.

To increase that to over 50 books per year, you’ll need to aim for 30–40 pages per day. That’s around 45–60 minutes of reading each and every day.

Author and podcaster, Darius Foroux, sticks to a similar schedule. This sees him finish over 100 books per year. To do this, he aims to read for “at least one hour per day on weekdays, and even more during the weekend and holidays.”

Let’s say you read quite slowly at 40 pages per hour. Given an average book length of 250 pages, one hour of reading per day would see you finish 58 books per year.

Catch the Reading Bug

The challenge isn’t as daunting as it once sounded, right? All you have to do is develop the habit of reading for 45–60 minutes each day. To keep up your motivation, you might even want to start a Goodreads Reading Challenge.

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Image Credit: Vladimir Pustovit via Flickr

You might take on this reading during the first hour you wake up. If that’s not possible, read on your commute. When you’re stood in line. When you’re on the toilet. When you would otherwise be watching Netflix or browsing Facebook.

Everyone can find a spare hour in their schedule Squeeze an Extra Hour out of Each Day with These 10 Quick Tips Squeeze an Extra Hour out of Each Day with These 10 Quick Tips A few simple habits can help us shed some inefficient ways and increase our reservoir of time doing the things that matter. These ideas can get you one extra productive hour every single day. Read More , even if it’s not a single block of time. Just make reading a priority over your other time-sucks.

This means always having a book close to hand. In the words of blogger Gretchen Rubin, “I never go anywhere empty handed… I’ll never be caught without something to read. It’s a great comfort.” After all, it’s too easy to get sucked into a social media vortex if you’ve left your book upstairs. Keep it with you all the time, and pull it out when you get the chance.

This Is Not About Speed Reading

When on a reading challenge, it’s important not to forget the point of reading. After all, this is not an exercise in speed reading. Nor is it an exercise in reading simply so you can say you’ve read 50 books this year.

kindle
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Holiday explains, “the purpose of reading is not just raw knowledge. It’s that it is part of the human experience. It helps you to find meaning, understand yourself, and make your life better.”

“Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others.”
— Otto von Bismarck

If you’re feeling like you’re not receiving these kind of benefits from a book, don’t be afraid to stop reading it.

Rubin agrees: “I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started. No more. Life is short. There are too many wonderful books.”

Start a Book Stash

When you do put a book down, make sure you have a plethora of other books you’re excited to get stuck into.

Foroux advises you to “pick out the books that are related to your profession or hobby. Read books about people you admire. Don’t read a book just because it’s a best-seller or a classic if it has no meaning to you.”

reading pile
Image Credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr

In other words, don’t wait until you’ve finished a book to pick the next one. Go ahead and buy books you’re interested in. The knowledge contained within makes these an investment.

If you’re worried about the cost of these books, many of the world’s best non-fiction Read the World's Best Books for Free With the Harvard Classics Read the World's Best Books for Free With the Harvard Classics The Harvard Classics is a multi-volume collection of the world's best books. Collated by Dr. Charles W. Eliot in the early 20th century, these can now be downloaded absolutely free of charge. Read More  and fiction books, can be downloaded free of charge. There are plenty of free audiobooks, too.

Having a list of books waiting for you like this also serves as motivation to keep going. Rubin herself says that she “reads much more when I have a pile waiting for me.”

Read Books Simultaneously

Finally, read books simultaneously. Most people will have a long list of fiction and non-fiction books How to Organize Your Out-of-Control Reading List Right Now How to Organize Your Out-of-Control Reading List Right Now A reading list serves a lot of functions -- from practical to inspirational. But it can also get out of hand. Using these tips to manage your reading hobby can do wonders for your life. Read More to read. They’ll have choices of heavy and light reading. Many voracious readers therefore choose to tackle more than one book at a time.

You may turn to a dense book in the morning, and lighter fiction before you go to bed. If you’re not feeling a book one day, there should always be another you can turn to.

There Is No Deep Secret

As you can see, there’s no deep secret here. Reading 50+ books per year sounds like a daunting challenge, but it doesn’t need to be.

It’s a matter of prioritizing reading over other things. All you have to do is make time to read for around one hour per day. Choose books that excite you. Stop reading those that bore you. Read books simultaneously.

It really can be that simple.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
— Dr. Seuss

How many books will you be trying to read this year? How will you make the time to reach that target?

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  1. Aaron
    May 10, 2017 at 1:45 am

    "Let’s say you read quite slowly at 40 pages per hour."

    I read a lot slower than that, at only about 20 pages per hour on average, so while I love reading, I only finish about a book a month. I know it's not about speeding through, but what are some good resources for increasing speed? I have usually found speed reading courses/programs to be borderline painful to deal with.

    • Rob Nightingale
      May 31, 2017 at 10:49 am

      I personally find this resource the best advice for speed reading: http://tim.blog/2009/07/30/speed-reading-and-accelerated-learning/

      Time yourself before and after trying out some of the techniques to see what difference they make. That being said, the faster you read, the less you comprehend (generally), so keep that in mind...

  2. Mark Corder
    May 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I sat my goal at 54 books this year, and I'm already halfway there. I'll probably wind up reading 60 or more - but then I don't watch TV! My recommendation? Turn yours off!

    • Rob Nightingale
      May 31, 2017 at 10:46 am

      I think TV, and any entertainment routinely seen as "mindless" is the main reason behind people not reaching their reading goals. Congrats on hitting 54 already!

      Out of interests, how long do you spend reading each day?

      • Mark Corder
        May 31, 2017 at 11:53 am

        At least two hours a day - and often I'll spend almost the entire day reading! I have to note that I'm simi-retired and work from home; have arthritis that limits my mobility; and since I don't watch TV, that leaves plenty of time for reading. I realize not everyone has this much spare time - but circumstance has given it to me and I choose to spend it with books.

        I haven't actually hit 54 yet, but I'll finish my 40th one for this year later on today. I had no idea how many books I would typically read in a year, but back on Jan. 1st I decided to do the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge and set my goal at my age : 54. That seemed about right, but now I realize that I'm going to blow past 54 long before the year is over. Of course the total number you can read depends entirely on the books you choose : I can read a title like "Island of the Blue Dolphins" in less than two hours - while it takes me over a week to get through something like Thomas Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon". But hey - it's about Quality, not Quantity!

        • Rob Nightingale
          July 7, 2017 at 12:38 pm

          It is indeed about quality not quantity, though having a goal can serve as some good motivation :)

          I, too, don't watch TV, so that's allowed me to read a lot more, and spend a lot more time on side projects. Now, after watching one hour of TV, I'm bored out of my mind!