How to Read More Books: A Realistic Guide
You’ve probably heard this statement before: “readers and leaders”, it’s often by a flood of information for why you should read books. You then find out that almost every high-achiever on the planet is a reader (Bill gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey to name a very few).
It’s not very difficult to find the benefits for reading books (that’s probably another whole article). But you just can’t convince yourself to get going or maybe your reading is falling just a bit short.
You go to the bookstore and grab a book. Weeks later, it collects dusts on your bookshelf. Reading a book isn’t something that jumps out to most people when they do have their free time- they would rather spend time on Netflix or YouTube.
But in hindsight, these people might just wonder what they could have become if they just spent some of their time reading.
Let’s explore how you can make sure that you read more books, every year.
Ensure you have a goal
Reading is a big topic. People read for different reasons. A lot of people often read non-fiction books (e.g self-help books) which will inspire them or teach them valuable skills that they can use to change their lives for the better.
There are some readers who just read for pleasure and entertainment (these can be from reading fictional books). Sometimes, people would just read books to improve their vocabulary or maybe learn a language through reading.
You need to clarify what your goal is in order to be content with your progress. Say for example, you read self-help books to improve your lifestyle. The benefit you gain from reading will come in the form of ideas and knowledge that you must use in your daily life.
Your ‘why’ is therefore to improve your knowledge in order to live a prosperous and healthy life.
What you must do now is to get yourself a journal and write down why you want to read. You have to write down your ‘why’ because this is what’s going to motivate you. You will come back to this ‘why’ day after day to find out why you started your reading journey in the first place.
Get into a reading habit
Now this is something that is tremendously important. If you want to read a lot books, guess what? You have to read every single day!
People would often set themselves a target to read, say, 15 books in a year. When they look at that goal, they already feel unmotivated because they know it’s a stretch. It’s too far away. That’s why, we need to think about a large, yearly goal in terms of small, daily goals.
If you can just get through the daily reading goal- a few months later- you will see that you are progressing towards your big target. But remember, it’s the daily ‘wins’ that will get you to your biggest achievement. New year resolutions fail because we don’t visit our goal daily- we don’t actually know what we need to do everyday to achieve our goal.
You should set yourself a goal to read 15 pages everyday or maybe to read for 10 minutes everyday. This is is a much better goal than to read 3 books every month because a monthly goal will most likely make you put it off until it’s too late to achieve it.
How do I actually get into a reading habit?
In order to do this, you need to (absolutely need to) allot a time for yourself to read. Some people choose to read when they wake up (as part of their morning routine) or before bedtime (perhaps as part of their ‘evening ritual’).
Often the easiest way is to have a book right next to your bed. When you wake up, the first thing you should do is grab your book and start reading. When you begin this, you should read for about 2 minutes then gradually up this until perhaps 20-30 minutes.
Reading early in the morning is best because you don’t have many distractions; life won’t get into your way quite easily. As the day goes on, your ability to make good decisions deteriorates which leaves you making poor decisions (like playing video games instead of reading) later into the day.
On the contrary, reading before you sleep works because there is nothing left to distract you really and it’s super easy to get into this habit. Some people would say that reading before bed isn’t a good idea because you are sleepy and tired (so you can’t take in information) which is very true but you’ve got to start somewhere! Getting into that habit will allow you to read for longer and focus for a bit longer (hopefully) since you will be interested in what you read.
Remember, you don’t have any excuses! Because “I don’t have time…..” isn’t even true. Everyone has time. Every single human being has time. But we use that time in tasks that we prioritise. You do have time to read but you use that time doing other things (e.g surfing the internet, watching movies, editing videos).
I’m not saying you shouldn’t continue doing these activities (they could be extremely important), I just want you to know that you do have time to read.
Hold yourself accountable
The power of accountability is very strong. Some people would make deals with others for example: “If I don’t read 30 pages everyday, I will pay you $10 for each day I miss”. When you set yourself a goal of reading 30 pages everyday, there is no threat for not completing the task.
However, when there’s something on the line (e.g money) then you will get the task done. Now, this does not have to work with money (I’ve never used this method). Sometimes, it’s just the simple emotion (embarrassment or disappointment perhaps) that comes with telling another person that you failed at doing something, that will encourage you to make sure you do a task.
Try and get a friend to join you on the reading journey; you could ask them to make sure they check up on your progress. Alternatively, join a reading book club (whether online, at school, university, libraries or in a local community).
You don’t have to ‘read read’
You may know where I’m going with this; audiobooks. Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular amongst people today since people find them more convenient than the conventional style of reading books.
Audiobooks are really useful for some people when they are on commutes (sometimes people like me can’t read in the car due to feeling nauseous). The fact that you don’t have to demand so much for listening to an audiobook means that people often multi-task while listening to audio books (e.g listening while working out).
If you want to try out Audiobooks, I would recommend that you either get Scribd or Amazon audible. These are the best possible platforms for audiobooks out there (scroll down and you will find out more).
I usually adjust the speed to around 1.5 to 2 times the original speed. This will actually mean that you can get through more content. I would encourage you to listen to audiobooks at a faster speed- at first it seems that you can’t understand a word but soon enough everything makes sense.
Create your very own wishlist
It’s easier to read books when they are on topics you enjoy. Or perhaps you really just want to get your hands on a particular book. In order to keep this interest of reading going, have a book list for books that you want to read.
When you finish reading a book or are thinking about starting a new one- you won’t waste any time deciding what book you want to read because you already have a list of books to read.
Sometimes you may come to a point in a book where you no longer enjoy it or feel that you already know the stuff the author is saying, in which case feel free to move onto the next chapter. If you’re reading a fictional novel then you could either continue through the story or skip at your own risk (spoilers?).
Do you have reading habits that slow you down?
The average person can read at a speed of around 200 to 300 words per minute (wpm). A non-fictional book can be anywhere between 50,000 and 80,000 words. That means, to finish a non-fictional book, it can take 3-7 hours.
But what if you could read faster? There are proven methods that you can use to improve your reading speed (most of them are to do with eye exercises and movements). Now, when you read faster, you may feel that you loose some comprehension but that will improve as you continue to read more and practice.
What’s slowing down your reading?
There are several things that may cause your reading speed to suffer. First and foremost, is your concentration and focus. If you want to read faster then you definitely need to focus. When you read on a comfy sofa or on your bed then you may be encouraging your body and mind to drift towards ‘sleep mode’ rather than ‘read mode’- and trust me- this is a big difference.
It is best to get into an environment where you can focus. This will vary from person to person (e.g a library or a cafe). It’s also important to put away all your devices (shut them down or use an application blocker to block distracting applications and notifications). Once everything is away, you can focus all your attention towards reading.
However, there are some common mistakes we make that slows our reading down. This includes:
- Subvocalization- When you read, you may find that an inner ‘voice’ is reading to you. Your reading speed will be limited to how fast this ‘voice’ reads to you.
- Reading word for word- From a very young age, we were taught to read word for word and this habit continues to this day. If you want to read faster, you must try and read more than one word per eye fixation or ‘chunk’ words together.
- Regression- This arises due to the fear of missing out words or information. Regression is when you go back and re-read text.
- Lip reading or ‘mouthing words’- People may move their lips or ‘mouth words’ when they read and this actually slows you down because our reading speed is capped at how fast we move our lips or ‘mouth words’. We have this habit because we were taught to read out loud when at primary school
If you want to know how you can improve your reading speed and get rid of bad reading habits check out the full guide here.
Don’t stick to reading one book at a time
When it comes to reading, I believe that you shouldn’t read one book at a time. This is especially the case when you are trying to read to gather more information in a short span of time.
Reading books from different topics, areas, genres and authors can help to develop your perspective and depth of understanding in different fields. Plus, you want to ensure that you have interests in a few areas so if you don’t find a book in a particular genre, you can always switch to another series of books that you like.
Reading several books at once can help you to link ideas between the books themselves and when you can do this, you know that you’re reading is a success. Remember that it all comes down to your goal, why are you reading? If you want to gain knowledge from reading books, in all aspects of life, ensure you read about different topics.
More reading books or more knowledge gained?
In all honesty, sometimes when we read books, we find that we are not getting the information we are looking for or the author may not be getting straight to the point. Although it is highly recommended that you read through a whole book and make your own ideas/notes (so it’s personalised), sometimes you may find that book reviews or summaries are easier.
Personally, I would recommend Blinkist. Blinkist is an app available on all platforms (iOS, Android, Desktop, Kindle and tablet) which creates summaries for books in a quick and digestible way. The summaries come in the form of text and audio (so you can read or listen to them).
Whether you read summaries or read the complete book, what’s important is that you take the information you learned (perhaps memorise it) and then practice it in your daily life. Now this part is much harder and it will not be possible without taking the information down somehow.
For this exact reason, you need to get yourself a reading journal. You may decide to get yourself a separate journal for your reading notes but you can use your own personal development journal to take notes on what you have read.
When using our reading journal, we want to make sure we jot down ideas and any motivational inspiration that we gain. Then we want to take theses ideas and use them in our daily lives.
To make notes in your reading journal, it is best to have an open, blank (preferably not lined) page. You just write the title of the book down and then sketch ideas that you learn from the book. Notice how I used the word ‘sketch’. It’s there to encourage drawing really.
You want to be able to come back to the reading journal page and get a quick, brief overview of what you learned on a specific day. If you come back to a full page of an essay then it’s probably going to be difficult to take the information and apply it to the real world.
Be very brief and straight to the point when writing in your reading journal because we don’t want the information we gained from reading to just be repeated, word-for-word, inside our journal. You need to add your own insight and experience.
Through keeping a reading journal, you can track your reading habit and actually see the progression that you are making. Moreover, the journal will help you to stay motivated in your reading because you are learning so much and improving your life skills.
Best subscriptions for reading books
There are various ways that you can get your hands on a book, whether it’s borrowing from a library, buying from a bookshop or purchasing one from an online store.
Another way to get books online is through subscription platforms like Scribd and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. These subscriptions will offer you access to unlimited number of books, audiobooks and magazines from their collection.
Through getting access to a subscription plan, you have a ton of books to read from. This will ensure that you have a large reading wish-list and will allow you to read books from topics that you enjoy, at a very reasonable price.
If you don’t like reading a particular book, you can always pick a new one from the million (according to Kindle Unlimited) that are awaiting in the online library for you. This is something that you might be more comfortable with as compared to feeling that you have spent money on a book that was not up to your standard.
You can of course, download books to read offline. If you want to check out theses subscription platforms, I have more information here.
You don’t have excuses
Excuses will come at you, maybe even everyday. But you need to realize that these voices in your head aren’t the real you. These voices will turn you away from your reading habits and make you want to procrastinate.
You need to understand that setting yourself some time out to read isn’t easy. Reading books everyday isn’t easy. That’s why not a lot of people do it. But if you want to become the very best, you have to be prepared to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.
Reading is an investment. A long-term investment. You may not gain the benefits of reading immediately but the time you invest into yourself is definitely worth it. Just look at the leaders of world today and you’ll find out why”readers and leaders”.