For years, you’ve wanted to read more books.
You want to devour the thriller they’re adapting into a summer blockbuster.
You want to discover for yourself the nuggets in that bestselling business book everyone recommends.
But no matter how hard you try, reading eludes you.
Your bookshelf is littered with volumes you’ve never touched. You haven’t checked a title off your reading list in months.
High achievers ascribe their success to reading, while you wish you could do the same.
But the truth is that just about anyone can read a book a week—or even more.
We'll cover every one of the best strategies. Just read on.
Steal This Reading List
Want to read a book a week, but running short on time? You're in luck.
Grab this curated list of 52 books. Each title is a masterpiece written by an acclaimed author (Woolf, Steinbeck, Orwell, Austen and Dickens all make the list).
The best part? You can finish the whole list in a year, reading just 12 minutes per day.Give Me the Reading List!
Table of Contents
Chapter 1Rock-Solid Strategies to Read More Books
Chapter 2How to Craft Insanely Effective Reading Goals
Chapter 3Discover What to Read With 5 Little-Known Tactics
Finding time to become a prolific reader
The #1 barrier holding back most would-be readers?
A lack of time. No other problem even comes close.
Of course, you know as well as I do that we don't find time to read, we make time. But you might not know that making time is actually pretty easy.
We don’t find time to read, we make time. But it’s easier than you think.Click to Tweet
Even with a busy schedule, you probably have mountains of untapped opportunities. With a few minor tweaks, you can find hundreds of hours each year for reading. The secret is knowing where to look.
If you're like a lot of people, you grab a book and keep it on your nightstand. You might carry it with you to read during spare moments, and you probably intend on reading it at different times during the day.
But at the end of a month, you've barely made progress. What's going on?
The problem is that there are four types of reading. By recognizing and planning for them, you can easily stay on target.
You schedule time to read. It's reliable and consistent, but requires cutting time from something else.
You read while doing another activity. This requires little extra time, but might be lower in comprehension.
You read during spare moments of the day. This doesn't require changing your schedule, but won't have a lot of time or consistency.
Reading for pleasure during free time. This can provide massive amounts of time, but it can be difficult to always choose reading for fun.
If you like, you can use this calculator to find how much time you have each week.
- Enter the time you spend daily (in minutes)
- Select the days you read for each category
Calculate Your Reading Time
Scheduled reading time
Reading during another activity
Reading during spare moments
Reading for fun
Make reading your default
The absolute easiest way to read more each day? Make reading so easy you do it without thinking.
1 Have an audiobook on auto-play.
About half of the books I “read” are on audio. I keep a CD playing in my car, it plays automatically when I put my key in the ignition, and it takes zero effort to listen.
If CDs aren't an option for you, you can create a similar effect by keeping an audiobook open and paused on your phone. If you can start listening by just tapping the play button, you'll read more books overall.
2 Keep a book open
This is a crazy technique, but it's a rock-solid way to read more.
Set a book on a table or shelf, and keep the book open. Actually leave it open on a page. The book will catch your attention when you walk by, and you'll read a chapter without thinking.
I'd estimate that 99.9% of the people reading this won't ever try it, but those who do can testify to its success.
3 Keep books in a surprising place
Don't keep a book in a place where you already have a set routine. I’ve ignored books by the couch, on my nightstand, and in a myriad of other places.
The problem is that when you're there, you follow old patterns—which involve not reading. You ignore books on the shelf because they're supposed to be there, and you've grown blind to them.
If you want to read a book, put it in a place where you don't spend much time. I’ve read entire chapters because I left the book in the kitchen. While I'm waiting for rice to cook or water to boil, I'll notice the book and start reading.
To read more, keep your books in surprising places.
You grow blind to books on the shelf. If you want to read a book, put it in a place where you don’t spend much time.Click to Tweet
4 Keep reading material on your phone
I'd recommend downloading an eReader app on your phone and keeping a title or two there. If you compulsively check Facebook or email, put the eReader app in the same place. When you habitually look at your phone, click on the eReader app instead and read a page or two.
Keeping a book on my phone also makes it easier to read while waiting for an appointment or even between workout sets at the gym.
5 Keep a book in the car
Designate a book your "waiting book," and keep it in your car. If you don't use a car, keep it in a purse or backpack you carry when you're going somewhere.
Whenever you're headed to a place that might have waiting time built in, you'll already have your reading material. You'll make slow progress on the book, but you'll read more overall.
6 Keep headphones with you
If you like listening to audiobooks, consider keeping a set of headphones with you at all time. Like the "waiting book" concept, consider buying a set of cheap headphones and keeping them in the car or backpack.
That way, you're never without a method to listen to some of your books.
Use medium to your advantage
Reading isn’t all about where you put your books. There’s a serious benefit to understanding the best type of book for the best time. You have three formatting options:
Classic and comfortable, but bulky to carry around everywhere
Portable and easy to annotate, but harder on the eyes
Easy to multitask, but requires special equipment for listening
And two basic writing choices:
Narrative writing tells the interweaving strands of a story. It includes fiction, history, and biography.
Explanatory writing explains something in discrete sections. It's almost exclusively nonfiction.
With those in mind, here are three ways to read more books, while improving your comprehension in the process. I've found productivity expert Chris Bailey's framework of time, attention, and energy makes lots of sense in this context.
1 Read based on time
The time you have should help dictate what you can read.
Figure out what reading type works best for you in short blocks. I prefer a short piece of explanatory information, but a friend of mine prefers a strand of a narrative.
Experiment with both, find your preferred style, and use it consistently.
2 Read based on energy
When you're most alert, read active exploratory texts. You'll be able to synthesize and apply the infomration better.
If you're trying to relax, however, it's best to only read narratives (hat tip to Greg Faxon for this suggestion). Narratives calm your mind down instead of reminding you of your to-do list.
When you’re relaxing, read stories. They calm your mind instead of reminding you of your to-do list.Click to Tweet
3 Read based on attention
Choose your best medium depending on the attention you have.
- Print books work well in both active and passive.
- eBooks are easy to search and bookmark, making them the top choice for active reading.
- Audiobooks lack visual focus and are best suited for passive reads.
Take a reading sprint
If you want a quick boost in your reading, try a reading sprint. While they aren't mean for the long term, sprints are great at helping you push through a slump or get a head start.
1 Challenge a friend
Setting a competition with a friend can be a huge motivator. Try a "who can read the most this month" challenge. For best results, keep each other posted when you finish a new book.
Measure the final score by word count to get a more accurate picture. It's not fair to lose because your friend plowed through 18 Little Golden Books. I cover word count in chapter two.
2 Use a spurt of interest
Every once in a while, we all hit little fads of interest. In the past six weeks, for example, I've had an intense but eventually passing fascination of:
- 80's pop hits
- Starting Strength workouts
- Spanish-language big band swing
- USDA recommended vegetable portions
- Folding bicycles
Instead of doing a few Google searches for random topics like these, consider finding a book on the subject and reading it. You'll learn something, and have renewed motivation to read.
This can add a little fuel if you're struggling to read more.
3 Go on a reading burst
Of all the strategies here, this is the one I use most frequently.
I'll challenge myself to read as much as possible in a burst of a few days. I'll hit up the library and check out a book for each day, then start at the top of the pile and read as far as I can. Even if I don't finish a book a day, I'll still make massive progress.
Opportunities for this strategy include:
- On a trip or vacation
- During a long weekend off
- When you're sick (audiobooks are awesome for this, since you can "read" with your eyes closed)
4 Set a short-term goal
If a long-term reading habit intimidates you, decide on a shorter period of time.
For example, decide to read an hour a day for just one week. Chances are, you can push through for seven days. At the end of that time, you'll have made a dent in your reading list.
Even better, you might have planted the seed for a new habit, which will help you read more books overall.
But if you want to create a huge transformation in your reading, you need to create a rock-solid goal.
We'll talk about that in the next chapter.
Here’s Your Next Step
Acclaimed authors like Herman Melville, J.K. Rowling, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Henry James didn’t spend all their time writing 500-page doorstops.
They also penned shorter works that pack a literary punch in fewer words.
You can read 52 of those books this year in just 12 minutes a day.