Hardcore Writing Advice: Read 100 Books in One Year

One hundred books in one year is a lot of books to read.

Why would anyone want to do that? 

To be a better writer, that’s why.

See, one of the fastest tracks to mastering the art of compelling copy and seductive story-telling is to observe how others do it.

Observe the masters and the flops.

In fact, you could probably learn more from bad writers than you could from great writers. That is, you could learn what to do and what not to do.

Keep a list of the dos and don’ts in a notebook and keep that notebook on your desk.

But first you got to get reading.

The Mechanics of Your Reading Blitzkrieg

Let’s do the math.

One hundred divided by fifty-two [fifty-two is the number of weeks in the year for those who are curious and not too bright] equals 1.92307692 books a week.

Let’s round that up to 2.

That means you have to read 2 books a week if you want to read 100 in a year. Or about one book every 3.5 days.

Up to the challenge?

Well, if you’re like me–an incorrigible sucker for ridiculous challenges and a shameless book addict–then this is right up your alley.

But here’s the deal: You’re likely to fail.

Like me.

Two months from now you and I will be hopelessly behind and wondering what in the world we we we’re thinking.

We’re likely to shove our little challenge under the bed and pretend it never happened.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to happen. I WANT you to read 100 books in a year–and I WANT you to succeed.

So let’s add a little twist to this challenge.

Sober [or Not-So-Sober] Competition

Let’s make this challenge a competition. You know, an old-fashioned, cut-throat rivalry.

Here’s what I mean.

Choose someone you know who likes to read and invite them to join your challenge. Once you’ve got them nodding their head say, “By the way, let’s keep score.”

I’m telling you, when it comes to motivation–THIS WORKS.

For example, my wife and I are rabid readers. I tend to keep lists of books I want to read. She keeps lists of books she has read. And when I saw the list of books she had already read for 2011 [this was back in late February], I was floored.

I thought, “She’s smoking me.”

Since then I’ve streamlined my life as best as I could to make reading books my single and solitary focus. My goal is not to DEFEAT her necessarily. It’s simply to read 100 books in a year [especially if she does, too!].

Granted, two months later I’m still hopelessly behind my wife who systematically rifles through hefty books at a blistering pace…but I’ve vowed to not give up.

I’ve vowed to read…and read…and read until I see the last word on the last page of the last book for the year.

And hopefully when I do that it will be December 31, 2011 and it’ll be book number 100 that I’m closing.

You in? Let me know in the comments. And give a list of books you’re reading and recommend. [I’m always looking for new stuff.]

Want more advice like this? Here are 99 more ways to become a better writer.

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  1. says

    i like this! i’m going to take you on. plus my brother got me a eReader for my bday so i’ll have fun with that. first off, i’m going to start off finishing all the books i’ve only read halfway through. right now i’m reading: flow.
    then on my recommended list are:
    all the octavia butler books i haven’t read (highly recommend wildseed)
    a.h. almaas-pearl beyond measure
    sally hogshead-fascinate
    the tibetan book for living and dying
    the famished road-ben okri
    almanac of the dead-silko
    the hidden forces of life-sri aribindo
    the i-ching-master ni

    thanks for sharing this! i’ll be curious to hear what books other ppl recommend. what have you read that you enjoyed?

  2. says

    Great question, Ije. I’ve read a lot of books this year on productivity [Ferriss, Allen, Covey and John Maxwell] but my favorite has to be Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod [on creativity)

    I’ve always read a handful of poetry books by Pinsky and Roethke.

  3. says


    Interesting idea. I read a lot of books but I’ve never really kept track of how many. I’m bad about listing them all on Goodreads to keep count but I may take this challenge. I’m curious if you met your goal of 100 the year you posted this.

    • says

      I did not that first year (I tipped 82), but I did the following year. Didn’t even come close the year after that (54), but came close again last year.