The first book I remember reading was in the summer of 2001.
I was 20 years old, and up until that point in my life I’d felt no interest in reading.
You see, I come from a stereotypical West Virginia family, complete with a coal-miner dad and a stay-at-home mom. Apart from a few fleeting moments of academic interests, reading and education weren’t a personal interest and weren’t emphasized at home. Playing sports and having a good time with friends were all that mattered.
But things changed for me that summer. In two really big ways.
I had just met a girl (who is now my wife), and she liked to read. After our first conversation, I felt intimidated. She was intelligent, witty, and always kept up with current events. As for me, I was the proverbial meathead in college. I was playing football, and anything that whiffed of academics repulsed me.
Well, I wanted to see her again but knew I needed something intelligent to talk about the next time I saw her. So, I visited a Waldenbooks store over the weekend, browsed the aisles, and bought a copy of The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
I can’t recall why I picked up this specific book. But knowing who I was back then, I would wager it had something to do with the word war in the title.
After getting home, I sat down and read the book. While I found the writing archaic, clunky, and difficult to understand, my interest in impressing this new girl drove me to read the entire book.
I can’t say our second dinner date at Chili’s in Charleston, WV paved the way for our marriage or that my love for books radically changed after reading The Art of War. But over the next few years, my wife and I did get married and I slowly realized something else… I was reading a lot.
How to read more books (a plan anyone can use)
Today, I’m a bibliophile.
My house is filled with books. Books sit on top of my desk. Books are stacked beside my desk. Books sit on top of my nightstand. We have multiple bookcases around the house, and we have storage containers full of books.
I read constantly, listen to numerous audiobooks, and read out loud to our kids. I even work in the publishing industry. Needless to say, my life revolves around books.
Over the past few years, I’ve been able to read over 100 books per year. This includes books I read for work, books I read or listen to for myself, and chapter books I read to our kids.
Now, I don’t have a ton of spare time. I’m married, have five kids, two cats and one dog, work full-time, and my family and I are involved with a church. But, I love reading, so I’ve committed to being purposeful with my time—I follow a reading plan.
You see, our time is limited. There are millions of books in circulation and thousands more being published weekly. It’s impossible to read everything that has been or will be written. So, we have to choose wisely.
If you want to read more books, then hear me loud and clear: You can.
Below is the process I’ve been using the past several years to develop my personal reading plan. For full disclosure, there are times I follow this reading plan religiously and there are other times when I forget it even exists.
But it’s helped me read more books. If you’d like to do the same, then I encourage you to not only follow these five steps but to carve out a small part of your day to develop your reading plan.
If you’re really pressed for time, you can learn how to read a 200-page book in two hours or less.
Step #1: Clarify your reading goal
Why do you want to read more books?
Do you want to learn a new skill? Are you conducting research for a new book or project? Are you interested in reading a captivating story?
There are many reasons why you should read more books. But for the sake of making your reading plan, it’s important to clarify your reading goals before moving forward. This will not only help you build your personal reading plan, but it will help you push through, change your habits, and read more books when you feel like quitting.
For me, I read books to help me professionally; gain new insights as a husband, parent, and friend; learn about history, current events, and influential people; explore personal interests; and, seek entertainment.
Action step: Identify 1-5 reasons why you want to read more books.
Step #2: Make time to read
Reflect upon your weekly rhythms. Now, where can you fit in additional time to read?
Like anything in life, if you want to start something new and accomplish a goal, then you’ll most likely have to cut back on something else. If you’re currently not reading as many books as you like, then you’ll have to reprioritize your schedule to make it happen.
When it comes to reading more, don’t assume you can simply add a new to-do to your daily schedule and get it done. Trust me. It won’t happen.
Listen to your life. Look for ways you can make the time to read. Whether it’s taking a book with you to run errands, turning the T.V. off at night, or reading classic books with your kids, identify ways you can naturally incorporate reading into your life.
For some of you, you might be able to read one book per month. For others, you might be able to read one book per week. Regardless of your situation, it’s best to set a realistic goal for yourself.
For example, if you haven’t read a book in a while, then it’s probably not best to plan on reading 100 books this year. Instead, make a plan for how many books you will read in the next three months. This way you can get a better idea of what you’re capable of doing. I would rather see you set up to succeed than crash and burn in a fire of disappointment.
Action step: Determine how many books you want to read in the next quarter or year. Now, make time in your schedule to accomplish your reading goal.
Step #3: Pick categories or genres
I know you already have some books in mind you want to read. But before you finalize your choices, it’s best to think through the types of books you want to read in broad categories.
Identifying these categories will help you select specific books to fulfill your goals and ensure you maintain a well-balanced reading diet.
At the moment, I have six categories I read through:
- Best sales books
I decided on these categories based on the goals I identified above. For example, for the business category, I’ll regularly read books on marketing, publishing, and entrepreneurship. With this category, I’m constantly reading books that help sharpen me professionally.
The children’s category contains the books I read out loud to our kids. This includes some fun books and short titles, but mostly it involves classic books.
The other categories I’ve identified, such as history, theology, and culture, are areas of personal interest. Now, for fiction, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the genre, but reading in this category helps stretch me as a reader and learn storytelling from some of the best writers.
When it comes to identifying the categories you want to read, think through what will help you accomplish the goals you identified above. What types of books will most influence your life, work, hobbies, and aspirations?
If you need help with parenting, plan on reading a few parenting books. If you’re looking for new business ideas, pick up some titles on entrepreneurship. If you’re planning on starting a garden this year, then read a few books to help you get started.
Here is a short list of different genres for you to consider:
Now, categorizing your reading isn’t necessary in every season of your life. There were times in my past when I had to focus on only 1-2 categories because I was trying to learn a new skill or conduct research for a new project, like writing a book.
Action step: Pick three or more categories or genres that will help you reach your goal or 1-2 categories to help you learn a new skill or conduct research.
Step #4: Choose your titles
Here comes the fun part.
You have a reading goal. You made a plan. You know what categories you’re going to read. Now you get to pick the individual books you’re going to read.
Don’t get bogged down choosing books. The main thing is to identify enough books to read for the next 2-3 months to help you fulfill your reading goal.
If you’re having a hard time figuring out what you want to read, then pick up a book you’ve previously read (and liked) and see what the author referenced in the footnotes or index. This is a great way to discover new books.
You can also ask your friends, scan the best-sellers lists or Goodreads, read old books, explore similar titles of your favorite books, and more.
Now, these book choices are not set in stone. Feel free to rearrange the individual titles you want to read. Your goal with this step is to identify what books you’re going to read.
So, if you received a great recommendation or feel you can’t handle one more business book, then take a break. Read something else.
Action step: Make a list of 3-5 books you want to read for every category you chose.
Step #5: Complete your reading calendar
This is the final step.
The key is to not necessarily fill out the entire calendar. The goal is to know what you’re reading this month and next so that you can prepare to have what you need to read. This way you’re not waiting around gathering what you want to read when you can be reading.
My calendar is currently filled out for the next three months, and I have a laundry list of books identified that I want to read. But my list regularly changes.
Reading is a fluid activity. If you’re not enjoying a book or you already grasped what the author is trying to say in the first 50 pages, then feel free to abandon it. There’s no reason to plod through a book if you don’t want to or have to.
If you want to read more books, what’s holding you back? Is it purpose? Time? Something else?
The link to the reading log leads to an error page….
Jesse Wisnewski says
Sorry about that. But it’s working now: thecopybot.com/free-reading-log.
Great post – thank you! Unfortunately, I’m not able to download the log using the link you provided. I get an Error 404, “not found” every time I try, both from the email and directly from the blog post.
Jesse Wisnewski says
my apologies. Here you go: thecopybot.com/free-reading-log.
Lewis LaLanne says
It seems like meshing these steps together could yield some awesome results…
“I’m going to read these 5 specific books by March 3rd that I trust will contribute to me having the ability to do (insert specific outcome).”
We humans always do better when we know the reason why we’re doing something… and we put ourselves on a deadline.
Most people won’t set deadlines for achieving outcomes and so when there’s no rush, it becomes that much easier to put off what seems to be a waste of time because at the rate you’re moving, you’ll never achieve any semblance of mastery.
You can put this strategy on steroids if you’ll set up an agreement with a friend that says if you don’t hit certain milestones (preferably milestones related to you implementing what you’re learning) by specific dates, they can demand to be paid a penalty fee that really stings.
The fee could be an amount of money that would hurt to lose. Or, it could something that would be emotionally painful like you having to show up and play your pick up basketball game in lingerie or something else that makes you cringe with fear at the thought of having to do.
I thank you Jesse for making me think of a practice and set of agreements I need to put in place!
Jesse Wisnewski says
Great idea! Thanks for sharing.
Matthew Kaboomis Loomis says
I’ve loved reading my entire life.
As I got in to online entrepreneurship four years ago, much of my reading was online. Then audio files caught my fancy and I spent a lot of time with them.
Last year, I decided to make a commitment to reading books, like what you are encouraging here. Set a goal. Shoot for it. All of that.
I started using Goodreads. You can do a lot of what you suggest here on Goodreads, as far as setting goals, keeping track of books you’ve read and books you want to read, etc.
When 2016 kicked off I set a goal to read 27 books. And then I proceeded to keep up my podcast consumption and online reading, so the next thing I know its June and I haven’t started yet.
Thanks to Audible, I got serious and finished the year reading 23 books. Although I didn’t reach my original goal I was pleased with the result considering when I started.
This year I’ve started right away. I set the bar at 27 again. This time I expect to exceed that easily.
To read as many as you do, when you use Audible, do you speed up the audio? I listen a lot at 2X, so it takes half the time. I’m curious if you are able to listen at a faster rate, like 3X? I find that to be too fast for my ear to pick up the audio clearly.
Jesse Wisnewski says
Glad to hear you’re back at your reading goal! What books are you most excited about reading this year?
In regards to audio books, it depends. For business books, I listen to them at 1.25 – 1.5x. For narrative books, I can sometimes handle 2x.
Matthew Kaboomis Loomis says
What I do is put books into my Goodreads “To Read” folder and pick from there. I decided to stay flexible and not say, “I’m definitely reading these 27 books.” I have to consider my mood 6 months from now and my goals. I may need more of a certain genre at a particular time in life, and sometimes you can’t predict that. Does that make sense?
I will share some titles I am eager to read right now:
Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s Okay
The Little League That Could: a History of the American Football League
Virtual Freedom (Chris Ducker)
Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent
Brave New World
Zen in the Art of Writing
Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
What are some titles you look forward to reading this year?
So happy to get your email with your blog posts. Thanks
Tom Southern says
Reading more is always a goal for me and I always want to read more. But I don’t. It’s that I don’t want to, it’s that I struggle to read.
I would love short precis version of books complete with lovable quirks, comments or characteristics of characters, or descriptions. A sort of short versions of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books – Even More Condensed Books possibly.
I do read though because as I writer, I need to read. Audiobooks help. Also, kindle helps (surprisingly, because I find it difficult reading a lot of text on screen).
But making more time? Ah, you know what? I’ve discovered that no matter how much time you have to read, you still read the same amount.
More time is not the issue. It’s habit. You only read more if you’ve turned reading into a habit.
Thank you for the useful tips. Unfortunately, that’s not always easy to achieve. I love reading and learning new things. However, my days are usually very busy. I usually require a lot of time to dive into the book, read it properly, highlight the things that I like etc.. I might find 20 to 30mins a day but they won’t be as productive as I would like them to be. Any suggestions?
Jesse Wisnewski says
Sounds like you’re on the right track, Seif. For the 20-30 minutes you have, I would really go to great lengths to focus on only reading during that time. I think the average reading speed is 200 words per minute, which you means you could read at least one chapter of a book (average chapter length is 4,000 words).
This is a good plan. I read a lot but not as many books as I want to. Would love to start a habit of listening to audiobooks to make up for it.
Mwila Mwila says
I’m glad I stumbled upon this Blog.
I’m writing two books on Leadership and I’m researching more on that.But I’m also a Preacher of the Gospel, so I read a lot of biographies, History, Leadership, and theology. I would like to read more of other Genres, like Travel, because I really love it and now I finally have learned how… Thank you for this post.
Jesse Wisnewski says
Glad to hear that you’re encouraged in writing. Keep reading. Keep writing. You’ll finish those two books before you know it!
Wow! This is such a useful post, Jesse. I loved the classified tips you are giving us. I am a voracious reader but I have never kept a reading log as such. I am hopping on it right away 🙂
Caden Dahl says
One of the things that I struggle with is finding that extra time. As you said, you have to make the time to read as it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. I do watch a bit of tv so I could probably cut that time down and read instead!
Fazal Mayar says
thanks Jesse, I am 28 years old, and have a hard time finding interest to a read a book still.