Over the last nine years I’ve had a real desire to read and learn, something that never existed during my school years. During this time I’d got to the point where I was reading around 30-35 books a year so at the start of 2014 I thought I’d step it up and try to get through 52 books which would mean I’d average one book a week.
I managed to complete my book a week challenge with four weeks to spare and because a few people asked me what it was like I thought I’d write a short post with a few tips, what I learnt, and why I think nearly anyone could do the same.
Work your way up. If you haven’t been reading much, start reading 1 book per month or if you’ve been reading a few books maybe try 2 books per month. This helps you to get an idea of the time involved and then you can tweak how many books you think you can manage. So take your time, set a realistic target as trying to read a book a week might be a bit of a jump if you haven’t yet built a habit of reading regularly. Reading more books when you have established a habit of reading in your down time, wherever that might be.
You don’t need to be rich. Make Amazon your new best friend, I bought most of my books second-hand from them but with P&P it probably still cost around £20 per month for my four books. Another way to save money is to find out where your nearest Oxfam book shop is and get a pile of books there for about £1 each! However, if you can spare the money it’s still nice to pop in to Waterstones occasionally and pump some funds in there so all the high-street bookshops don’t close down. Or if you’re not interested about owning books you could just go to your local library.
Make the most of your commute or quiet time. When people hear that you’re trying to read a book a week most people’s first reaction is that they wouldn’t have time to do that. The truth is, that providing you can be dedicated and make the most of the time you had been using to read the paper or watch the TV for half an hour it really doesn’t make a big difference on your day to day life. In the morning my commute into central London takes me 1 hour and 10 minutes, this includes 28 minutes on the train. If I used this time to read I realized I could manage to read between 15-20 pages each journey, this meant that each day I could read between 30-40 pages x 5 (days) which equaled between 150-200 pages each week without taking up any extra time in my life!
Combined with the odd morning break or reading for half an hour one Saturday morning in bed you can easily finish a 200-300 page book within 10 days. For others without a commute it might mean reading for 20 minutes before bed or for an hour in bed on a Saturday/Sunday morning but it really doesn’t take as much time as you think, the 15 minutes here and there and after around 10 days it can be all wrapped up.
Read two books at once. Now I know not everyone will like this but I always read two books at once so I rarely actually ever finished 1 book in an actual 7 day period but after two weeks suddenly finish 2 at once. I found it helpful to use 1 book for my commute that was always in my work bag and have another book that I would read at home, it functioned as my bath book.
Don’t try and read too many big books. Unless you can read as fast as the rain man I would obviously recommend you don’t try and read 52 500+ page tombs every week, you will soon find out that you aren’t gonna average a book a week with books that size. I tried to mix it up, I read a few large books but I had to be convinced they were gonna be page turners so that I would put in the extra effort to read when I perhaps wouldn’t usually.
I decided that nothing under 100 pages would count and so most of the books I read would have between 200-300 pages which I realized was a more realistic goal. However, I did occasionally come unstuck when my ‘250’ page book turns up and has writing so small it’s really 600 pages of ‘normal’ sized text.
Read books that interest you. This one sounds obvious but it’s seriously important, reading stops being fun when you’re reading a book that sucks, reading is meant to be fun and reading a book that isn’t turns reading into monotonous unpaid work. This is even more the case when you have 52 to get through. If you’re interested in Philosophy read Philosophy, if your thing is Science read lots of Science books.
Ask friends for recommendations. Make the most of friends recommendations, chances are that if a good friend has enjoyed it and they have similar interests then you probably will too. Some of the most enjoyable books I’ve read have been recommended by friends. Another good way of finding good books is by seeing what other books people have bought on Amazon when you look at a book you have enjoyed reading, the Sunday papers also have some good book reviews for finding out about new books.
Read widely. Broaden your horizons, read around some subject areas you want to learn more about but haven’t read, investigate what books are rated as the best introductions to that area and start there. That way if you want to learn more you have a good foundation in which to build upon for further reading.
Read books by people you disagree with. As a Christian I tried to read a number of books by authors I disagreed with, such as well know atheists who had written books criticizing the Christian worldview. Try and read the best presentations of ideas that you disagree with rather than going for the easy pickings that will make you feel superior but won’t challenge you intellectually.
Top 5 books I’ve read during my book a week challenge.
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Do No Harm – Henry Marsh
Straw Dogs – John Gray
I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Zlatan Ibrahimavic &
C.S. Lewis, a Life: Eccentric genius, reluctant prophet – Alister McGrath
Breaking Bad and Philosophy – David R. Koepsell
What’s your Worldview? – James N. Anderson
Letters to a Young Progressive – Mike S. Adams
The Stem Cell Epistles – Michael A. Buratovich
Counterfeit gods – Timothy Keller
What books have you enjoyed this year? What tips would you add?