I’m not crazy about reading. Here’s what I mean. My mother was an English major in college. My sister is a librarian. My Dad read the paper (remember those?) from cover to cover every day, and filled our house with books. I have no memories of them without reading material nearby.
It’s not the books — It’s the Learning
Not me. I had other interests: football, cheerleaders, and T.V. It’s not that I never picked up a book – it’s just that I wasn’t as crazy about it as the rest of my family. I wasn’t a purist. And so, compared to them, I never fancied myself a voracious reader.
What I figured out is that I needed to reset my perspective – While I’ve never loved reading for the pure sake of reading – I do love learning. And reading is one of the most readily available avenues for learning.
I am not a voracious reader – I am a voracious learner.
Did Jesus Read?
Books were not a big thing when Jesus walked the earth. Most people were illiterate. 1 Books were rare. The only book available to most in Jesus’ world would have been the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). Most of Jesus’ friends would never even have touched a book.
Jesus, however, was probably literate (Lk. 4:16). Even so, reading was not the primary method for learning in his day. He would have learned through mentoring, lively debate, and reciting the Scriptures (basically, what we call the Old Testament). He was certainly extremely adept and learned when it came to debating the Scriptures. 2
Jesus was not a voracious reader — He was a voracious learner.
So, the first step to reading 30 books a year is to fall in love with learning.
12 Awesome Reasons to Read 30 Books a Year
Here are my 12 awesome reasons for reading as much as you can:
- It takes you places you will never be able to go.
- It opens your mind to new ideas.
- It helps you develop critical thinking skills.
- It expands your imagination.
- It improves your memory.
- It builds your vocabulary.
- It motivates and inspires you.
- It reduces stress.
- It improves your writing skills.
- It improves your communication skills.
- It expands your ability to focus and concentrate.
- It fills you with important knowledge.
Seven Strategies for Reading 30 Books a Year
According to the Pew Research Center — 33% of Americans read fewer than 5 books in a 12-month period. Only 14% have read more than 21 books in a single year.3 I may be optimistic, but I believe that there are two main reasons for these low numbers: (1) People are increasingly learning in other ways (youtube, podcasting, etc.); (2) many people who would love to read more books, don’t have a strategy for doing it.
Here are seven simple strategies I use to read 30 books per year:
1. I make my list before the year starts.
I break my list into six categories — Christian Living, Biblical Studies, Leadership, Organization/Self-Improvement, Creative Non-Fiction, and Fiction. I then select the 30 books I want to read, making sure that there is some balance between the six categories. I also select two alternate books in each category. I do this because if I don’t find a book very helpful I will toss it and pick up one of the alternates in that same category (see #4 below). This way I don’t lose time trying to decide how to replace it.
2. I get the book a week before I plan to start reading it.
I don’t want anything to slow me down. I don’t buy all the books at one time. That way, if I change my mind on a book, I haven’t wasted money buying it. But, I do want to have it on my shelf in advance of starting on it. I usually buy my books, but the library is an awesome and cost-effective way to go!
3. I schedule reading time.
What you don’t schedule won’t get done. I schedule regular reading times in the evenings and on my days off (see #5 below). Don’t skip this one. It’s probably the most important one on this list.
4. If a book isn’t working for me, I toss it and pick up another one.
One key to reading 30 books every year is to make this a guiltless process. If I find that a book is too difficult for me I realize that in most case it’s no reflection on my intellectual capabilities, it’s simply a reflection of where I am on my journey. If I find a book boring or not particularly useful — I toss it — without guilt. I move on to the next book. I look forward to replacing it with a book I do like. There are a few books that I believe to be valuable enough to work through even though the writing might be laborious. But those are few and far between. Life is too short. Don’t waste it on a book that is not engaging you.
5. I take full advantage of days-off and vacation days to catch up.
I schedule at least 2 hours of reading on my days off. I also use vacations as a time to catch up on my fiction and creative non-fiction reading. Note — I’m at a life stage where I can do this. My kids are grown up and mostly on their own. When they were little, most of my days off were spent with them. Be realistic based on the life-stage you are in. Remember, no guilt.
6. I reward myself after finishing books number 10, 20 and 30.
I find that a small reward goes a long way. Also, rewarding myself all along the way makes a big difference. Even if I don’t get to 30 — at least, I got a much-deserved reward for reading 10 and then 20 books. And that’s not bad.
7. I refuse to go on a guilt trip for not reading.
This doesn’t work if you are going to punish yourself for not reading. I might go days without reading anything on my list. That’s okay. Don’t quit or give up. I may get way behind and feel like I’m never going to make it to 30 books. That’s okay. Remember, the average American read only 6 books last year. Even if you only reach half your goal — you will already be in the top 20 percent of Americans! So, keep reading and don’t waste a single minute feeling guilty.
NEXT POST –> MY 30 BOOK READING LIST FOR 2018