Sam Holstein

How to Read a Book Every Week Starting This Week

How to Read a Book Every Week Starting This Week

When I tell people I read 75 books a year, their response is usually “Wow, that a lot of books!” They tell me they’re not ‘the kind of person’ who reads that much.

That used to be me. I wasn’t ‘the kind of person’ who read much either. 75 books a year sounded like a lot of books to me too. But a few years ago I decided I wanted to be the kind of person who reads, so I became one.

And you know what? It was surprisingly easy. Reading a book a week is a cinch when you know how prolific readers do it.

At no point in this guide will I talk about reading speed. One of the smartest and most well-read people I know is a man with severe dyslexia. To read, he needs to listen to an audiobook and read the physical copy of the book at the same time. He reads upwards of 100 heavyweight paperback books a year. He is a living reminder that the only thing holding you back from being a prolific reader is your choices.

Step 1: Adopt a Reader’s Mindset

Most would-be readers have preconceived ideas about reading that keep them from actually reading the way they want to read. The first step to reading 52 books a year is to adopt the same mindset about reading that prolific readers have.

Read More than One Book at Once

Many would-be readers force themselves to read sequentially. They start reading one book, see another interesting book, and say to themselves “I want to read that new book! Oh, but I have to finish reading this book first…”

Prolific readers don’t do this to themselves. If we’re interested in reading something, we start reading it, even if we have a million unfinished books sitting on our end table.

There are many unfinished books on my end table. Sometimes I read an entire book end-to-end in one week, but sometimes I read half a book in a week and put it down, only to finish reading it two months later. Just yesterday I finished reading a book I’d read ¾ of several weeks ago. And you know what? It was just the right time to finish. I wasn’t ready for what the last quarter of the book said when I began reading it, but I was ready yesterday.

Don’t Force Yourself to Finish Books

Another thing would-be readers do is force themselves to finish books. They don’t give themselves credit for having read a book unless they read the entire thing cover to cover.

When you force yourself to finish books, you stop viewing reading as a rewarding thing you do and start viewing reading as an obligation. There is no easier way to make yourself hate reading than to make it an obligation. After all, how many of us hated reading when we were in high school because the school curriculum made reading an obligation?

Reading isn’t about racking up the highest number of books read. It’s about reading. As long as you’re getting value out of your reading, you’re doing reading right.

Many times I pick up a book and find I will only get value out of reading two or three of the chapters. I read the chapters that will bring me value and nothing else. I still consider myself to have “read” the book because I’m familiar with what it has to say.

Other times I pick up a book, read a chapter or two, and decide it’s just a bad book. I put those books down. I count myself as having “read” those books too.

To read a book a week, go easy on yourself. Don’t finish books you don’t want to finish.

Read Only What You Want to Read

In fact, don’t even read books you don’t want to read, even if you feel like you should.

Many would-be readers have a reading list full of books they feel like they should read. What they feel like they should read depends on where they find themselves in society. Entrepreneurs and business leaders often feel they should read classics like Blue Ocean Strategy and The Lean Startup, while homemakers often feel they should read the popular fiction books they see on grocery store shelves.

But like any other societal expectation, these expectations often don’t serve us as people. You may enjoy some of the books on your “should read” list, but you certainly won’t enjoy all of them — and many books that could change your life will certainly not be on these lists.

Enjoying life as an avid reader means letting go of your expectations about what you “should” be reading. Read what actually interests you.

People expect me to read the latest bestsellers in marketing, business, entrepreneurship, and self-improvement. I don’t. I’ve always read a lot about mental health, as my adult life has been one big on-and-off struggle with mental health. I also enjoy memoirs by people who have conquered mental health issues and drug addictions. I also read a lot of very specific instructional books about how to build a blogging business.

Don’t read what everyone expects you to read. Read what you want to read.

Step 2: Make Reading Easy

One of the biggest reasons people don’t meet their reading goals is they don’t make it easy on themselves. The first step in reading a book a week is to make it easy for yourself to start reading.

Download the Kindle App on Your Phone

I know physical books are more enjoyable to read than ebooks. I too prefer to read a physical copy of a book when I get the opportunity. But to meet a reading goal of 52 books a year while only reading physical books, you either need to a) spend the majority of your waking hours at home, or b) carry around a backpack with 2–5 books in it wherever you go. Most people can’t manage that. I certainly can’t. The Kindle app allows you to read on the go.

Even better, sign up for a library card with your local library and set up the free app Libby. Libby allows you to borrow ebooks from your local library and start reading them instantly. You can use Libby to read with any mobile device. You can even use it to read with a Kindle if you own one.

Pick a Reading Spot at Home

Our brains associate physical spaces with certain activities. That’s why sleep experts say you should only use your bed for sleeping. For the same reason, you should designate a particular chair or seating area in your house for reading.

A good reading spot is in a quiet area of the house, out of the way, and out of earshot from any noise pollution from the television or other occupants of the house. My reading spot is a chair in the corner of my bedroom. You can pick whatever reading spot you want as long as it works for you.

Prep your reading spot by putting the books you want to read next right near your reading spot. That way if you want to switch which book you’re reading, all the books you want to read are nearby.

Step 3: Make Time to Read

Once you know how to think about reading, you’ve got books to read, and you have set up a way to read, it’s time to actually start reading.

Pick a Time to Read Every Day

If you’re not in the habit of reading, it’s easy to forget to do so. While you’re building your new reading habit, pick a time every day to read. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to read at that time.

My reading time lately has been after I wake up. When I wake up, my head is usually already full of stressful thoughts about the day. Reading in the morning takes my mind off of what’s stressing me out, and often teaches me something about how I can handle my problems in the process.

Read on the Go

Even during the pandemic, we need to leave the house to run errands. Invariably these errands involve waiting, whether that’s waiting outside the BMV or waiting for food to be packaged or prepared or waiting for a vaccination appointment or COVID test or some other thing.

These periods of waiting are great opportunities to read. Pull out your smartphone, open your Kindle app, and use this time to your advantage.

Trade in Time-Wasting Habits

We all have some bad habits. Trade in some of those bad habits for reading time.

(To say nothing of the more pernicious bad habits people can have, like gambling or porn addictions. Giving up these bad habits will improve a lot more than building a reading habit could.)

Listen to Audiobooks

If you live in suburbia like me, you spend a lot of time driving to and from places. I used to spend this time listening to music and wandering off in my imagination, either fantasizing about what if really good things happened or dreading what if really bad things happened. My therapist tells me living in my imagination this way is a form of toxic escapism that erodes my ability to cope with my real life effectively. Now I’m spending it listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

Remember Libby? You can use Libby to listen to audiobooks as well. Search for any audiobook and check it out from your local library instantly. Libby’s integrated audiobook player is easy to use.

Summary

Being a prolific reader is really easy when you know what to do. All you have to do is learn the mindsets of prolific readers, make space in your life for reading, and make time for reading.

  1. Read more than one book at once.
  2. Don’t force yourself to finish books.
  3. Don’t read books because you feel like you should, read books because you want to read them.
  4. Use Kindle and Libby to read books on the go.
  5. Make a spot to read at home.
  6. Build the habit of using spare time to read.
  7. Give up time-wasting habits to make time to read.
  8. Build the habit of listening to audiobooks while driving.

That’s all there is to it, folks. Enjoy reading 50+ books a year.