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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.
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.
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, 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.
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.”
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.
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 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?