How I Read 200 Books a Year

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As I’ve said before, one of the most commented on aspects of my blog is my reading habit.

And although I’ve answered this in various forms before, based on the number of times I still get asked — “How on earth do you read 200 books a year?!” — it’s high time to answer it again.

So, here’s how I do it:

1. I break my annual goal into monthly averages. 

You don’t hit a big goal by doing it all at once. You’ve just got to break it down. To read 200 books a year (here’s last year’s list of what I read), I need to read 4 books a week, or, 16 books a month. If I stick to this average, I’ve got my annual goal covered. Some months I won’t hit this, but some (like months when I go on vacation for a week and read constantly), I will exceed this.

2. I know how long my goal will take.

I know that I read about 200 words a minute, give or take. Business or health books that require highlighting or note-taking can be slower, and the rare novel can be quicker. If an average book is 50,000 words, I can read one book in a little over fours. So I need 16+ hours a week to read 4 books.

3. I read multiple books at once. 

By reading multiple books at once (my Kindle enables me to do this easily, as I share in this article on how my Kindle has changed my reading habits), I never get bored one book, and always can switch back and forth to whatever is best in a given situation. If I have 5 minutes waiting in line, it’s easier for me to read a memoir or novel than get through another page in a health or business book, for example. If I’m reading in bed late at night, I prefer non-fiction to help me fall asleep. I choose different types of books at different occasions, and I always have a book that will work in a given scenario.

4. Audiobooks are an essential part of my arsenal. 

I “read” at least 6-8 of those 16 weekly reading hours via audiobook, and at times in my life when I have had long commutes have “read” a heck of a lot more via audiobook. These days, I have an audiobook going when I exercise, commute, get ready in the morning, do chores, or am doing anything else wherein an audiobook could be great background multi-tasker. I set it on a speed slightly higher than regular talking in order for it to not be so slow (at a normal speed, an audiobook takes me longer to read than regular reading). If you haven’t yet enjoyed the joy of audiobooks, try signing up for a FREE 30-day subscription to Audible.com and you’ll be able to download one free book;)

5. I choose reading over other things. 

Taking away the audiobook time, I still need to find 8-10 hours a week to read. For me, this is about as easy as eating an entire carton of Ben and Jerry’s while watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (read: EASY). Why? Because I love reading that much. I will readily turn down a dinner invitation to read in my pajamas in bed. It’s just what I love to do. And so, by that logic, it means that I choose reading over other things. My husband and I don’t keep a full social calendar. I don’t eat out with coworkers every night. I don’t have multiple small children in the house that need my attention (although that’s definitely not by choice!).

Ultimately, reading 200 books a year is not a superhuman feat. It’s a pleasurable activity I engage in that really doesn’t “take” me much time at all when you break it down. 

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If you’re not a huge reader, you’re likely doing something else 8-10 hours a week that I’m not doing.

So what is it? What do you do 8-10 hours a week that you love? Play golf? Watch football? Eat out with friends? Does it feel hard to make the time, or does it come naturally when you love it?

 

 

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  11. This is pretty amazing and it really shows different information, i enjoyed reading this one thinking that i can do the same thing.

  12. I don’t feel bad about reading multiple books at the same time. This information is definitely good to know as I try to boost my reading.

  13. Steven Pofcher says:

    Claire – I love reading. I always have something to read with me in case I have to wait in a doctor’s office, etc. However, if you read 200 books a year / 4 books a week, how can you digest, remember and keep tack of what you read.

    Steven

  14. I too, love a great book. I even love a not so great book. I love to read. I can’t imagine standing on a long line with nothing to read. However, I can’t imagine reading 4 books a week. As I get older I find it harder to stay focused. Aside from little children reining around needing attention (I’m past those years) my husband is the neediest for attention (sigh). I could be a salesman for reading in a heartbeat and as an elementary school teacher, I often was. One of my third grade students actually took a book (by my favorite funtime author) out of the library. Although the book wasn’t actually X or R rated, it was definitely not for a third grader. I gave my student a hug, told him that this was a grownup book that he probably wouldn’t enjoy until he was older – sometimes grownups can be boring to a third grader. I praised him for paying attention to how much I loved books, wrapped the book, and put it in a manila envelope explaining the above to his mother. His mother continued to feed me that author’s books as a gift. For me, the bottom line is, when kids see your passion for reading, they try to emulate that. Now, that is a beautiful thing!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Claire,

    Though your plan seems really working out for you, I can’t imagine setting rules to my pleasures. It looks like you really really want to do, however I can’t seem to find any joy. Sorry if it sounds harsh, but it just looks like a diet/gym regime to which we want to adhere, because of the upsides, but it’s going to be tough and mundane and we HAVE TO DO IT (to fit in that dress, for example).

    rgds,
    Joanna

  16. Thanks for giving your tips and strategies for how you read Claire, I’d never considered audiobooks but may take a second look at them now. Also, I like the feel of a “real” book but kindle has been my friend too, especially when reading on a mobile device – Henare

  17. I love to read and wish I made a great money living doing book reviews for authors. No authors offer to pay me. How can I make this into a career? I am in college full time at age 47- so my reading goals are down, but that is only because of college. I can read a book a day easy!

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