How to Develop the Habit of Reading One Book a Week (or at least read more!)

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According to the Pew Research Center, Americans read an average of 12 books per year, which equates to one book a month.  Despite this statistic, 27% of Americans reported reading no books in the last 12 months. Reading one book a week sounds like a lot to most people. But it’s been almost two years since I first set out on my journey to read one book a week, and now I’m sharing some of the strategies I’ve learned that make it a possibility for all readers.

If you’ve been following my Gig Economy series, you already know that I am a self-proclaimed avid reader. Through onlinebookclub.org, I am reading one book a week. And I’m often reading one other eBook or physical book and listening to an audiobook. The older I get, the more interested I am in consuming all the information available. The best way of which I’ve found to do that is through books.

How I discovered one book a week

I first picked up the idea of reading one book a week from an episode of the Kwik Brain podcast with speaker and entrepreneur Jim Kwik.  Kwik suffered and recovered from a childhood brain injury. He became known during his youth as “the boy with the broken brain.” As part of his healing journey, Kwik had to re-teach himself how to learn. Ultimately, this resulted in creating methods of learning that he now teaches to others around the world.

Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes place for that.

John Green

How to start your own one book a week habit

I highly recommend listening to the podcast I reference above as Kwik has some great ideas to implement this habit. He singles out, keeping a book list, testing your reading speed, and scheduling your reading, which are all great ideas. In addition to the things he outlines, below are the methods I’ve learned that helped me to establish my habit:

  • Always have two books available. Make sure you have the book you’re reading and another on deck.  I will have a physical copy or digital copies of at least two books at all times.  This helps me in two ways.  First, I don’t need to struggle to find something new to read if I finish my current book in a hurry. And second, it allows me to context switch between books if I’m struggling through one or finding it a bit boring. Maintaining a reading list, as Kwik suggests, makes it much easier to know what’s coming next.
  • Use free resources to borrow books.  Since I was young, I have always loved trips to the library.  It was only in the past few years that I realized libraries would let you borrow books online.  I regularly download ebooks straight to my Kindle, which is a quick and easy way to lessen the friction of obtaining a new book!  Go to the OverDrive site to see if your library participates. If you’re like my husband, who prefers the feel of a book in hand, take a trip to the local library or see if friends are willing to swap some books they’ve finished.
  • Make time in your busy schedule.  Reading one book a week will require about 45 minutes of reading per day. It’s critical to find the best time based on your schedule to allocate this time. As a morning person, it’s easier for me to wake up a bit earlier to allow some extra reading.  (Check out my post on designing a morning routine for more on this.) If you’re not an early bird, head up to bed 30 minutes earlier to give yourself time to get in a few pages before lights out.
  • Always have a book with you.  We often find ourselves in situations where we are spending time waiting with a few moments freed up. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media, why not read?  I like to prepare by taking my Kindle with me if I’m going to a doctor’s appointment, the DMV, or anywhere that I may potentially face a wait. Most reading services, like Kindle, have mobile apps too in case you don’t feel like lugging around a tablet or physical book.
  • Try audiobooks.  Some people do not enjoy picking up a book and reading, but the wonderful world of audiobooks has made it so that you can experience the thrill of reading without opening a page.  Audiobooks are often easier to digest and can be a great way to multitask on your commute or daily walk. Your local library (if they take part in OverDrive) also offers audiobooks, or you can check out a subscription service like Audible or Google Audiobooks.
  • Habit stack with existing habits.  Pair your reading with something you’re already doing. If you’re not familiar with the practice, check out this post on habit stacking. I discuss how I pair 20 minutes of reading with daily oil pulling.
  • Keep notes on the books you finish.  One of my favorite things about reading is being able to reflect on the things I learned quickly. There’s no benefit in reading 52 (or more) books in a year if you don’t know what happened!  I recently started using Goodreads to keep private notes on books as I finish them.  I also keep notes in a personal journal at home since I love the feel of putting pen to paper.
  • Share with friends and family.  Once you establish yourself as a reader, it opens up opportunities for friends, family, or co-workers to ask you about your current read.  This is a great way to hold yourself accountable while also sharing what you’re learning with others.

Favorite Quick Fiction Reads

Below are some of my favorite fiction reads from the past year that took less than a week to finish.

Where the Crawdads Sing* – This book by Delia Owens has been widely publicized and highly regarded, and for a good reason. I read this story in two days and couldn’t put it down.  The raw look at a girl’s connection with nature, young love, and murder mystery blended beautifully to create a story where I truly felt invested in the narrator’s path.

Winter in Paradise* – I fell in love with Elin Hilderbrand’s relaxed Island style that gives you just enough drama to escape your daily life for a bit.  This book is the first in a trilogy where the final book will be out in Fall 2020. I have listened to 11 books of hers in the last six months.  I immediately latch onto and relate to her characters and feel through everything they do.

Everything I Never Told You* – This novel from Celeste Ng, who is well-known for her debut novel turned tv series, Little Fires Everywhere*, is the story of a family’s struggle to understand the drowning of a child.  She unfolds stories in such a delicate way that continuously leaves you page-turning to see what happens next.

Big Little Lies* – This book, now a two-season HBO series, follows the drama that unfolds between mothers in a beach town. It tackles serious issues like domestic abuse and murder in a way that feels like you could be hearing the story from the neighbor next door.  I found it so easy to get deeply invested in the characters, as with the other books I’ve read by seasoned author Liane Moriarty.

The Harry Potter Series* – At the start of the pandemic, I decided to listen to all seven books in the Harry Potter Series. I’m currently on book five, and I cannot express how much joy it has brought me to dive back into the world of Hogwarts. It’s been so many years since I read the books I feel like I’m experiencing it for the first time. Make sure if you listen to the audiobooks, you choose the ones read by Jim Dale, who, according to one of my dearest friends, is the true and rightful narrator for the series.

Favorite Quick Non-Fiction Reads

Following are some of my favorite non-fiction reads from the past year that took less than a week to finish.

Year of Yes* – I am a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes. I think she’s an absolute boss, and her shows are some of the best on television (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder). This book chronicles her mindset shift to saying yes to everything for an entire year and the life-changing impacts. It’s an inspirational read that makes you want to step out of your shell and face your fears head-on.

Educated* – This memoir by Tara Westover will leave your mouth hanging open in shock at times. Westover’s isolated upbringing was anything but typical. But even faced with violence and heartbreak, she used education as a means to a different life. Another compelling story that will leave you amazed at the human spirit.

Grit* – This book by Angela Duckworth focuses on the passion and persistence of successful people. She pours over experiments of peak performance, including the Seattle Seahawks under Coach Pete Carroll. Her book left me with the feeling that anything is possible if you are willing to put in the work.

The Year of Less* – Cait Flanders shares her story of how she transitioned to living a simpler lifestyle after realizing the unhappiness that comes with too many things. I felt at times that I could have written sections of this book. It was very approachable and thought-provoking and will undoubtedly leave you wanting to simplify your own life.

Reading is far and away one of my favorite ways to learn new things, relate to other people, and spend quiet time alone. I hope you can find a passion for the same. Do you have a secret to reading one book a week that I haven’t captured? Tell me about it in the comments.

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