In 2015, I read over 100 books. Books ranging from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic to War & Peace. I read Louise Hay and Jane Austen. Business books, creativity books, a big handful of novels and even more graphic novels. I finally got caught up on Buffy. I discovered and read everything by Rainbow Rowell. (You can see all the books I read in 2015 here. Only one rule: No judgement.)
And this isn't the first time. In 2012 I read 100 books and shared my experience here.
If you've been reading my blog, this is no surprise to you. I post my reading lists every month (you can find them all here) and the question I always get is “How do you do it? How do you read so much?” So that's what I'd like to share with you today: How I read 100 books in 2015 (and how you can read more, if this is one of your New Year goals!).
Before we dive in, I don't have to convince you of the value of reading, do I?
It's not just fun and relaxing, it also teaches you a new way to look at the world and introduces you to ideas, characters, and ways of living you never would have encountered. Yes, even novels and comics.
Business and creativity books can give you insights into your own business and inspire you to grow and experiment. They can also just straight up teach you something you don't know (that's why I read a book on webinars). Fiction can open up your worldview – what do other people think? How do they live? What are you assuming is “normal”?
This helps your business too. It's easy for us to believe that everyone is like us, and therefore, the thing we do isn't special. This mistake is the #1 reason people undervalue their work. Everyone is NOT like you. Their brain works in totally different ways. They have different values. They live in different worlds. Fiction can open you up to this. (Also, and I can't stress this enough: FUN. Your business needs you to relax and refill the well of your creativity. Reading someone else's creativity is a great way to do this.)
With that in mind, here's how to read more this year:
Know your why.
Do NOT resolve to read more just because I do. Read more because you want to, because you have your own awesome reasons. Your reason can be anything, but before you pick your number, think (or write) about why you want to read more. My reasons have shifted over the years. In 2012 I wrote: “The real reason I set the goal is that I love to read. Love it! But I often tell myself not to. Instead, I should be working. Or I should be reading something better (catching up on blogs, news, the latest marketing advice). But after an intense 3 months of non-stop writing to finish the book, I decided to give myself permission to just read. As much as I wanted!”
In 2015 my reasons were a little different. I love to read (that's reason #1) and I found myself doing a lot more blog reading and Pinterest-surfing at night in bed. That just keeps me awake. Instead, I want to be reading something then (this is when I read fiction, because my brain is too tired from the day to read something think-y). And in the mornings, with my coffee, I was scrolling through Instagram, but that distracts me and gets my day focused on other people instead of my own priorities. So instead, I read (this is where the business-y, creative, and self-helpy books go).
The numbers don't matter.
Forget about the “100 books in a year” thing and focus on what YOU can do. How much did you read last year? Can you increase that by 5 books? Can you double it? (That's how I hit on 100 books – in 2011 I read 52 and I wanted to double it.)
But setting a number helps.
It doesn't matter WHAT your number is, it only matters that, if this is one of your goals, you quantify it. This will make it easier for you to celebrate your successes and make you more likely to read.
Turning simple permission (you’re allowed to read!) into a big crazy goal, lifted my passion into something important. It suddenly mattered that I get to read every day, it was a priority! If I hadn’t committed to the big number, I would have continued to question each reading session: shouldn’t I be doing something else?
Track your reading
Keep track of what you read. You'll find it comes in handy when someone asks you for a recommendation and it'll inspire you to read more. Seeing the list grow is weirdly satisfying. Also, it's the only way to know if you're meeting your goal or not! I use Goodreads for tracking my books. I only occasionally write a review or use any of the social features, I just use it to remember what I want to read (anytime I hear about a book I like, I go to GoodReads and mark it “to read”), and mark what I am reading, then move it to “read” when I finish it. And this brings us to the next tip:
Have a long To Read list.
Track what you want to read (I use GoodReads, but you could use a note on your phone or your notebook, as long as you can easily find it and add to it) and add to the list constantly. Every time you hear a great interview on a podcast, mark the book to read. Every time you hear a recommendation (next week on the podcast I'm sharing the 9 best biz books!), add it your list! Every time you come across a mention of a book in the book you're reading, at it to your list. This is why I've read so many random or woo-woo books – when more than 5 people I respect recommended a book, I read it (or at least start it). If I want to understand how smart people think, I gotta read the books they read!
(This, by the way, has led me to some really amazing insights in books with terrible titles that I wouldn't be caught dead reading. This has also led me to discover that a lot of male entrepreneurs recommend books filled with war or sports metaphors that are utter drivel.)
Have enough books
The biggest thing that slows down my reading is not having enough books in the house. It doesn't matter if I'm into what I'm reading, if I don't know what I'm reading NEXT I drag my feet. (Never mind all those books on my Kindle.) This is where the library is a beautiful thing – I take home about twice as many books as I actually read. But that gives me variety and choices.
Read short books
Ha! This isn't a real piece of advice, but it came up when I was talking to Ruth and Joeli on Twitter. Obviously, you're going to read fewer big books… but what matters is that you READ WHAT YOU WANT. If I hadn't read so many graphic novels (which take between 2-10 hours to read, depending on the book), I'm sure my numbers would be lower. That said, it's YOUR reading, it's YOUR fun. Any book you choose “counts”. If I hadn't read War & Peace and Emma, I'm sure to have read more. (I have a shelf called “comics count”, to remind myself that i'm allowed to read whatever I want. There is no reading police.)
Give yourself permission to read what you want. And stop when you want.
There are no awards for reading the right books. Or for finishing a book.
Read what you want, when you want, and quit when you want.
There’s no guilt, no pressure. Reading is something I love to do. So if I don’t love reading this book, I remember that it’s not me, it’s the book. So I stop.
This applies to everything.
These lessons aren't just for reading, they apply to every area of your business. Set goals, track them, have lots of options at the ready, and above all, give yourself permission to focus on what you enjoy and what's working, and stop doing all the stuff you think you “should” be doing.