According to the Pew Research Center, the average number of books a person reads is 4 per year. CEO’s claim to read up to 4 or 5 books per month. Audiobooks have grown substantially over the last few years with over 50% of Americans listening each year.

I love reading and find that it is a primary way in which I learn and grow. In a recent podcast, where Lewis Howes interviewed James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, Clear gave fascinating advice on how to read. He suggested 3 tips: 

  1. Start many books. Too often, I feel that if I start a book, I must finish it, or I have wasted my time. In reality, I am wasting my time by continuing to read average books.
  2. Discard books early. Hand in hand with starting many books is the decision to stop reading books soon when they are not what you imagined or wanted. I have to remind myself that how many books I read is less important than how many good books I read.
  3. Reread a few. Choose depth over breadth. Rereading is a fantastic way of letting valuable wisdom sink deeper.

In our day when books are not a major expense and digital samples are free, Clear’s advice makes total sense. I particularly like his advice to reread a few. Certain books have made a lasting impression in my life. I think of Richard Swenson’s, Margin, and Stephen Covey’s, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I loved Cal Newport’s, Deep Work, and Gary Keller’s, The One Thing. I reread Fenelon’s, The Seeking Heart, and Andrew Murray’s, Humility almost annually. 

I wonder whether the reason the average person does not read more books is that they lack a plan. Life is busy and reading is never urgent. Without a plan, reading falls victim to the never-ending lists of tasks and the weariness of overloaded days. Because I know that reading shapes who I am becoming, I want to read more, and I want to read well. To that end, I give thought to the following:

  • Decide when you read – Unless I have planned periods within the day that I naturally plan to read, I will unintentionally let reading fall by the wayside. Personally, I like to read early and late. The problem with bedtime reading is that I am too tired to read books that require too much thought. I use late reading as a way of relaxing. Early morning reading, occasional midday reading, and vacation reading form the substance of my core reading. 
  • Be thoughtful about what you read – We all have our favorites, which is great. Tailoring our reading to our energy and focus level is helpful. I also try to branch out into different genres. Like Clear suggested, I download samples liberally and always keep an ear and eye out for people’s recommendations. 
  • Internalize the best of what you read – In addition to rereading my favorite books, I copy highlights from my Kindle and outline the book as a way of letting the wisdom sink deeper. 

My purpose in writing about reading well is not to suggest my way of reading as superior but to encourage us to think through ways that we can read more, and read more effectively. As we come up with ways to read that fit our personality and interests, we create the process that feeds our minds and enables our growth.

Just curious. What’s been your favorite book this year? Comment below!

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Rachael Whitten says:

    I read and reread (often) Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. It always inspires me to put myself back “in the arena” when it’s the last thing I want to do. Great reading advice Mr. T!

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