How to read a lot more books

While hopefully not as annoyingly as Aziz Ansari’s Saturday Night Live character The Bookworm, many of us would like to read more.

Two recent articles highlight how to read more. If you want all their tips, read the articles. Here, I’ll highlight those that resonate with me. In Neil Pasricha’s 8 ways to read (a lot) more books this year, he talks about going from five books a year to 50. He recommends the following steps among others; I just chose my favorites. The bolded words are his; the rest is my editorializing.

  1. Centralize reading in your home.  He suggests having a bookshelf rather than a TV at the center of your living space.
  2. Make a public commitment. Among some of my siblings, we usually run some sort of reading challenge from year to year. Sometimes it’s a bingo board where you try to reach books in a wide range of categories. This year, we’re trying to each read at least ten books by non-U.S. authors.
  3. Reapply the 10,000 steps rule. Here, he refers to the idea of walking 10,000 steps, taking advantage of every opportunity. “When do I read now? All the time. A few pages here. A few pages there. I have a book in my bag at all times.”

He shares a wonderful (undocumented) anecdote about author Stephen King:

A good friend once told me a story that really stuck with me. He said Stephen King had advised people to read something like five hours a day. My friend said, “You know, that’s baloney. Who can do that?” But then, years later, he found himself in Maine on vacation. He was waiting in line outside a movie theater with his girlfriend, and who should be waiting in front of him? Stephen King! His nose was in a book the whole time in line. When they got into the theater, Stephen King was still reading as the lights dimmed. When the lights came up, he pulled his book open right away. He even read as he was leaving.

In Charles Chu’s In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books, he talks about reading 200 books each year. One tip is to “go multi-medium.” Chu writes:

If your goal is to read more, you can’t be picky about where you read or what mediums you use. I read paper books. I read on my phone. I listen to audiobooks. And I do these things everywhere—on park benches, in buses, in the toilet… Wherever I can. Make your reading opportunistic. If you have a chance, take it. If you don’t have a chance, find one.

I’ve found this to be my single best strategy for reading a lot. Right now I’m reading an ebook on my phone, listening to an audiobook on my phone, listening to another audiobook on my swimming iPod (you know, so I can swim and listen to books at the same time), and reading one print book around the house. That way I can read anytime, anywhere.

Chu also recommends stepping away from social media and TV. In his not-at-all-judgmental way, he writes:

Here’s how much time a single American spends on social media and TV in a year: 608 hours on social media. 1642 hours on TV. Wow. That’s 2250 hours a year spent on TRASH. If those hours were spent reading instead, you could be reading over 1,000 books a year!

Unlike Mr. Chu, I enjoy my TV consumption and my social media use, and I learn from them, like this bit I learned from Joan Cusack the TV show A Series of Unfortunate Events:


That said, I’d probably be happier and wiser with a little less time on Facebook and more with my nose buried in a book. I remember visiting the wonderful Tinkertown Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over 40 years, Ross Ward carved and collected his way to an amazing museum collection of wooden figures. Near the exit, I saw this sign.

ward television


So my aspiration isn’t to carve a museum of wooden figures, but I do like reading books. Maybe I’ll read or listen to 50 this year.

Happy reading!

Bonus reading:

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