How to Read More Books In 5 Steps​

Here’s a statistic you’ve probably heard before: the average CEO reads 60 books a year.

I know it, right?

When I heard that my first thought was, “Where do they find the time to work? Or golf? Or take their weekly bath in solid-gold coins?”

In contrast, the median number of books read by Americans every year is four books.

Ten years ago, if I had read four books within the last four years, I would have felt downright scholarly. Between work, errands, chores, and my social life, I thought I had no time to give to reading. When I tried, I got bored or fell asleep. Stacks of books piled up on my shelves unread.

Then, everything changed. I set off on a journey of personal growth and learning that turned my life 180 degrees in the right direction.

Now, 60 books is a light reading year for me. If you have dreamed of expanding your horizons through the power of reading, you can accomplish the same thing!

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    Here’s a statistic you probably didn’t hear alongside the speed-reading-CEO stat—you are not a bad person or a loser because you don’t read the same number of books as those CEOs right now. You just need a plan and the right tools to get on track.

    One tool is the skill to read quickly and efficiently and retain what you read. We discuss that at length elsewhere.

    Just as important, however, is to cultivate in yourself a burning interest in reading. Reading is not chemotherapy. You have to want it. Fortunately, your reading motivation can build over time, and you don’t have to suffer while you build it.

    Here are five steps to stoke a burning passion for reading in your heart …

    1. Choose Your Books Wisely

    Not every book is worth your time. Do some reading before you start reading. Find some books that come highly recommended, then start a personal reading list.

    A good place to start would be the personal webpage or social media of someone you admire. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg regularly publish book recommendations or their reading list on their Facebook and Instagram. Why? Because one of the most common questions they get is, “What books did you read to become a billionaire?” Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but people ask and they answer. They have nothing to hide … except for the addresses of their vacation homes.

    Choose Your Books Wisely

    Keep in mind which books you might not be ready for. Many high-schoolers get assigned Moby-Dick and develop a deep hatred for the “Great American Novel” because it’s not a book for children. Penn Jillette discovered Moby-Dick in his 40s and it’s now his favorite book.

    Similarly, Deep Work by Cal Newport is on many industry leaders’ favorite lists… but reading that book is deep work. If you’re a novice reader, you’re not ready for that deep work. Give yourself a break and put that book on the back burner.

    2. Set Personal Goals

    Remember, you don’t have to read sixty books a year starting tomorrow.

    Runners, if someone told you they wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn’t tell them, “Well, sign up for one tomorrow! You’ve got a pair of legs.” You would tell them that unless they want to burn out or hurt themselves, they should train for it.

    Train yourself to be an expert reader, just the way you would train yourself to lift heavy weights or enjoy a better diet—set small, achievable personal goals to up your reading motivation.

    Set a goal to read ten pages every morning. Don’t like reading in the morning? Try the evening. Are ten pages too much? Try five pages. Five pages too much? Try for two pages. There is no wrong answer. Reading two pages a day, you will still finish three 240-page books a year. That’s three more books than you were going to read.

    Now start increasing. At three pages per day, you will surpass the national median, reading over four books per year.

    Set Personal Goals

    Whenever your personal reading goal becomes easy, crank it up a notch.

    If you get hooked on a particular section, by all means, read more than your daily page goal. But on those days where you can’t find your reading motivation and the words on the page don’t hook you, your personal goals are your guide. Power through to read your five pages, or ten pages, or however many pages!

    Habitual exercisers couldn’t imagine a day without the gym. Park the reading habit so deep, you couldn’t imagine a day without your pages.

    3. Track Your Progress

    We compared reading motivation to athletic motivation in the previous section. As any athlete will tell you, you can’t improve on what you can’t track.

    Add your personal reading goals to your to-do checklist or calendar. Note how many pages you read each day in a spreadsheet and then use the data to create a chart so you can visualize your progress. You could even create two charts—one your goal line (how much you anticipated to read, the other your actual line. As your reading motivation increases, the actual chart line might surpass the goal line.

    Track Your Progress

    When you get a new book, mark your calendar with the date by which you should finish reading it. For example, if your new book is 300 pages long and you are on a 5-page-a-day reading pace, it should take you 60 days to read that book. Mark your calendar for 60 days out. Plan a celebration! Finish the book early? Celebrate sooner!

    You can even mark the date you actually finished the book.

    If you have a list of books you want to read, plan out your whole year of reading in this way. It will only build your reading motivation if you can visualize all the great reading you can get done in a year!

    4. Make Reading Fun

    Reading doesn’t have to be a chore—or at least, not all the time. As you build your reading motivation, go easy on yourself by starting with books that fascinate you. You could get books about relationships and sex, or sports, or music, or astronauts. Choose a biography or autobiography of someone that interests you deeply or a topic you always wanted to learn about.

    Forget about whether or not this reading material is “valuable” or not. The reading motivation is the thing of value here. Believe me, those CEOs read for pleasure too.
    Don’t let the pleasure reading of high achievers dictate your reading pleasure either. Stephen King loves detective potboiler novels. Do you hate them? Even if you love Stephen King, who cares? Skip the detective potboiler novels!

    5. Read Multiple Books at a Time

    This is a tactic very few people discover and even fewer lock into, but it can upend your reading motivation for the better.

    The conventional wisdom is “finish what you start before you move on to the next thing.” In other words, don’t start a new book if you haven’t finished the last book.

    It makes sense, right? I mean, won’t reading two books just confuse you?

    Not necessarily. We multitask every day, juggling grocery lists and Facebook event invitations and traffic alerts and our co-worker’s mundane life stories. You can keep track of two books at once.

    The advantage of this tactic is that it gives you options for your daily reading, like an athlete who gets to pick between squats and kettlebell swings at the gym. Same muscles, different approach.

    If one book loses your interest, switch it up and dive into the next book. If you reach a tough point in that book, jump back to the first one. Remember, these books are here to serve you, not the other way around.

    The multi-book strategy can be a great way to read important but challenging books.
    Is there a book on your reading list you know you should read but just can’t get into? Try this … pick a book that fascinates you or covers a topic you love (sports, comedy, whatever). Put the fun book and the challenge book side by side on your reading desk or nightstand.

    Alternate days with the books. Accomplish your daily reading goal in the fun book one day, then in the challenge book the next day … or bounce back and forth between reading sessions! Do this enough, and you will eventually read both books. Mission accomplished!

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