Read 40 Books a Year

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"Hi I'm Josh, and I'm a book addict." I love books. Turn me loose in a Barnes & Noble with a $100 and I'm like a kid in a candy store. I'm convinced if I were to ever go bankrupt it would probably be because of my book addiction. You get the point. I enjoy reading. In a couple weeks I'll publish my annual best books of the year list (so keep an eye out for that!). I'm often asked about books I'm reading. It might be a colleague looking for a new leadership book or some resource to gain some insight on a particular problem they're working through, or in some cases as I'm mentoring someone they say want to grow in a particular area and ask for a recommendation. Nearly on a weekly basis I'm talking with someone about something I've read recently that impacted me. Now, I've always considered myself a reader. Maybe you're like a lot people I personally know and the last book you read was in high school English class because there was a test. You're not a reader and you don't read unless you're someone makes you. I can't relate to that, and that's okay.  

I'm a firm believer that leaders are readers. According to a recent Inc.com article on the reading habits of leaders a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts found that only 43% of adults read something that wasn't required for work or school - the lowest average in decades. The blog post goes on to say that the habits of highly successful individuals suggests that leaders are in fact, readers. Warren Buffet reads, on average, 500 pages a day! Bill Gates reads 50 books a year.

Now, I'm no Buffet or Gates, but I want to suggest to you that cultivating a reading habit isn't beyond your reach. Over the last couple of years I was reading 12-20 books a year. But at the time I'm writing this post I've already read 40 books! #personalrecord

So what changed? How did I go from reading 12 books to 40 books in a year? What advice would I give to you if you want to increase your reading capacity this coming year?

  1. Commit today to a reading goal. If you're starting from ground zero your goal may be to read one chapter of a book a day or one chapter five days a week. If you read 3 or 4 books a year, maybe your goal is to read 8-10 books. If you normally read one book a month, read 2 books a month. For 2018 my goal is to read 52 books - a book a week! This is a stretch for me, so commit to a goal that will stretch you too.
  2. Read broadly across genres. This won't be much of an issue for you if you don't consider yourself a reader. But the reality is we all have our preferences. Biographies. Poetry. Non-fiction. Science fiction. You name it. Expand your learning by reading outside what you'd normally read.
  3. Make a reading list. When you encounter a book you think you might like to read, write it down somewhere. I use the Evernote app to keep track of books I want to read and books I've read. You don't have to use an app to keep a list, but have one handy.
  4. Read multiple books at the same time. This probably sounds a little counter-intuitive, but trust me on this. If you want to read more this year you'll need more books lying around for you to read. My poor wife will tell you I keep books all around the house and in my office. In the kitchen. The living room. The bedroom. The bathroom. On my desk. In my work bag. In our cars. I was never more than a few feet away from a book I was reading. Having books scattered around took away the pressure of having to think about where I put it down. I eliminated the need to hunt the book down so I could pick it up.
  5. Carry a book with you when you leave the house. This is a biggie for me. Bring a book with you to your kids' practices and appointments. Those waiting minute really add up to valuable reading time. Take advantage of the opportunity.
  6. Purchase an audio service subscription like Audible. One credit a month will get you one book a month. Listen to a book while you drive, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, or walking through the neighborhood. Every time you get in the car for your daily commute fire up Audible and listen for 15-20 minutes. I have a friend who averages 4 audio books a month. It's a fantastic option for the price of a regular retail book.
  7. Download Hoopla (or similar) app for your mobile device. Don't have $$$ to spend on a subscription service? No problem. Check out Hoopla. It's free! Hoopla partners with local libraries to provide audio books for its patrons. Check with your library to see if they partner with Hoopla. I utilized Hoopla far more than Audible - mostly because of the cost associated with a paid service.

So, that's it! That's how I read 40 books this year. Your comments and feedback are appreciated. I'd love to hear what habits you've developed for reading. Share your thoughts with me.