How to Read 100 Books This Year

I did it, and you can, too

Daniel Malmer
The Startup

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In 2019, I read over 100 books. I’d never read anywhere near that many books in a year before. I used to love reading books, but my attention had gotten so fragmented by technology that I found it difficult to finish even one book. Here are some tips, if you’re interested in reading more books this year.

Use Goodreads

This was one of the keys for me. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Goodreads has a “Reading Challenge” feature that makes it easy to keep track of how many books you’ve read. It also tells you whether or not you’re on schedule.

Do the Math

Start with the number of books you want to read, and work backwards to figure out how much you’ll have to read each week. 100 books a year is approximately two books a week. Novels are generally around 240 pages. A typical reading speed is about one page per minute. So, it will take eight hours of reading each week to read two books. You could schedule this as an hour every day, with an extra hour on either Saturday or Sunday.

Bird by Bird

You can’t read 100 books all at once. You’re going to have to read them book by book. Or, as Anne Lamott says, “Bird by Bird.” (An excellent book, by the way.) That’s not to say that you can’t be in the middle of several books at once. As I’ll discuss later, it can sometimes be helpful to be reading a couple of books at the same time. But, don’t be intimidated by the big number. Every book you read brings you one book closer to your goal.

Create a Habit

It can be difficult to find time for reading. I found it was easiest to read before going to bed each night. Establishing a routine helped keep me on track, and reading before bed helped me relax.

Fail Fast

If you’re struggling to get through a book, maybe it’s not the right book for you. I finished almost all of the books that I started, but there were a couple that I gave up on. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re several chapters in and it’s not working for you, consider moving on.

Use Your Public Library

I love owning books, but 100 books can set you back several thousand dollars. In addition to that, they take up quite a bit of space. I got many of the books that I read from the San Francisco Public Library. The San Francisco Public Library is free, but even if your library charges a fee it’s certain to be less than the cost of owning all those books.

Patronize Independent Bookstores

When the library didn’t have a book that I wanted, I would buy it from my local independent book store. If they didn’t have the book I wanted in stock, I would have them order it for me. Books, Inc. allows you to place orders on their website. It’s true that their prices are usually higher than Amazon, but you don’t have to pay for shipping, and you’re supporting a local business.

Start With a Smaller Goal

You don’t need to read 100. In a given year, 24% of Americans read no books, and the typical American reads about five books. If you don’t want to go for 100, why not 52? Or 26? Or 12? The first goal I set for myself was a book a week. When I hit that goal by June, I decided to go for 100.

Go Easy on Yourself

You don’t have to read Moby-Dick or The Wealth of Nations. There’s nothing wrong with reading less ambitious books. Some of the books that I read were academic and difficult to get through. When I was reading a challenging book, I would pair it with an easy fiction book so that I could read a chapter from the difficult book and then reward myself with a chapter of the easier one.

Find a Good Series

Sometimes you might have trouble finding new books to read. I found it helpful to pick an author that I liked and read a number of their books. It was even better if they published a series of some kind, like Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels.

Ditch the Electronics

It’s difficult to make progress on a book if you’re getting notifications on your phone, or feel the urge to check in on what’s happening on social media. If you have to, use your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or turn it off entirely.

Don’t Quit!

Don’t quit if you’re falling off your pace or it looks like you won’t hit your goal. Even if you only read one book this year, you’re doing better than 24% of Americans. Maybe you overestimated how much time you’d be able to set aside for reading. Maybe you need to build up your attention span in order to read for extended periods. Whatever the reason, don’t give up. Nothing’s written in stone, you’re always free to adjust your goal.

Get Started!

Before you read 100 books, you have to read one. Pick a goal, even a modest one, and get started today! You’ll be surprised at how many books you can read if you put your mind to it. Good luck!

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Daniel Malmer
The Startup

PhD student researching online hate speech, extremism, and radicalization. https://www.malmer.com/