reading“How can I read more books?” I’ve gotten this question a number of times since I’ve started posting more book reviews here on the blog. Here are some of my thoughts to this question.

This past year I have attempted to become more intentional with my reading. In previous years I have read a lot but I would not say that I read well. My reading lacked a detailed attack plan. As a result, sometimes reading happened and other times it did not. What’s more, I felt as though my reading was more chosen for me rather than me choosing it. I read what I thought I needed to read for my job. Over the last few years I have been slowly making adjustments and feel like I am in the best place that I’ve been since I first became a Christian. I am reading more and enjoying it much more. With summer here, and summer reading listing abounding, here are some personal discoveries that were helpful to me.

Pick out books for each month.

I created a simple excel spreadsheet that includes a bunch of books that I think I should read or want to read. Towards the end of each month I pick out books from the list and put them under the upcoming month. This process of assigning myself books has been very helpful for me. After ordering the list I put a (tentative) start date and due date in a column and then keep track during the month. It is important to remember that you have to be reasonable here. Since most people don’t read books as fast as Al Mohler it does not make sense to set yourself up for failure and say that you are going to read 100 books in July. Make a reasonable plan and chart the course.

Vary the book selection a bit.

This has been new for me. I used to read what I thought I needed to read to keep up with current trends or to do what I needed to do work-wise. Now I have tried to make each month have at least one biography and one fiction book to go along with the theological reading. In time I would like to add some books on history because I know this is not a particularly strong suite of mine. This variation has been surprising for me. Several years ago my wife bought me one of Marilyn Robinson’s books, Gilead. I never read it because I didn’t have time to read a book “like this”. But now with these changes I have read two books by Robinson this year (including Gilead) and have really enjoyed them. If I had not made myself read them then I would not have read them. And, if I’d not read them then I would never have found the pleasure that I found in reading them. The variation has been real good for me.

Read for pleasure.

I always thought something was wrong with me because I would hear others talk about how they loved to read. I didn’t love to read as much as I loved to get information. After reading a couple of books that pointed out how we tend to miss out on the pleasure of reading because we are hounds for information, I began to wonder if I could change this. I decided to treat the book like Jacob treated a wrestling match with the angel, “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” I’ve grabbed some books that people say are really good and, with trust in their recommendations, would read them through. Over time I’ve found that I really enjoyed the books. Reading became pleasurable. It actually worked. Now, I’m enjoying reading more and as a result, joyfully reading more books. (books on pleasure: Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, and The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our BrainsI also have found Tony Reinke’s book Lit! to be very helpful for cultivating an appetite and plan for reading.)

If you are competitive, then make it competitive.

If you are not competitive then feel free to skip this one. I am very competitive. When I set a schedule for reading it is like setting a goal for running, lifting or cycling. I set a goal for how many books I wanted to read this year. Once you figure out what you need to do per month it becomes a friendly competition with yourself. Like anything, this can be taken to extremes, but, if done right, this can be a nice way to get more reading in.

Be willing to put the book down.

I used to get discouraged when reading because I’d be in the middle of a book that was not very good but felt like I had to finish it. One day I just said, “this book stinks. I’m not reading this.” I put it away and moved on to another book. I ended that relationship quickly and painlessly. Moving on to the next book was really good for my reading.

Guard your reading time.

I schedule time for reading. Most of the time it is early in the morning and/or over the lunch hour. I rarely read in the evenings or on my days off when I am home with my kids. If you block out 45 minutes a day to read and you read 20 pages (this is an average reading speed) then you will read 600 pages a month! That’s about 3-4 books per month, and nearly 50 per year! Think about that. But, if you don’t guard this time and you do something else during that time (fill in the blank) then you will miss being shaped by these books. I try to guard my reading time with a tempered reasonableness. It’s not so important that it cannot be replaced but it cannot be replaced flippantly or easily.

Redeem time for reading.

It just makes sense to take a book with you. There are many times that we are waiting for someone or something and instead of reading headlines or social media, we could be reading a book. Throw a book in you car, purse, or backpack; you’ll be glad you did the next time you are waiting. I also have been blessed by the technological developments that allow us to read electronically. My Kindle has been a very valuable tool here. Of late I have been using my Kindle app on my iPhone to read books to me while I exercise, commute, or do menial tasks. In the video below you can get the gist of how to do this.

Read with others.

Maybe you are not competitive and have had trouble persevering in reading. I have seen people greatly increase their reading by being part of a group that reads books. Whether at church, work, family, or neighborhood, get some friends together to read and discuss the books. You will doubtless find yourself reading (and thinking) more in a group.

These are some random thoughts from the last year or so of trying to read more efficiently. What about you? Do you have any thoughts on what has worked well for you?

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20 thoughts on “How to Read More Books”

  1. Rosario says:

    Erik for the past couple of weeks I have been reading your posts and it hits me every time I read it. And it helped me tremendously with my walk with God. I try to keep up with the book recommendations and purchased them but they’re still sitting in my kindle waiting to be read. So this morning you answered what I’ve been wanting to know and that is – what the average number of pages I should read in a specified amount of time. 20 pages in 45 minutes is not bad. I think I have accomplished that.

    This article helps. Thank you. Now I just have to learn how to focus on what I’m reading. Maybe in the future you can also write how to focus in what you’re reading. Like how to read without thinking of what you’re going to cook for dinner or how to read without daydreaming. I would love to just get lost in the book.

    Have a great day Erik. Another great read for all of us.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      You def don’t have to read all of these books. I’ve been trying to read/review/recommend good books for years. Some of them might be helpful, others just good FYI’s.

  2. Chuckt says:

    I downloaded the Kindle app for my cell phone so when I’m waiting somewhere, I can read my books on my phone that I could be reading at home on my Kindle. I was confused at first because not all of the titles were showing up so I checked the phone app with my Kindle list and for free I re-downloaded the titles I already paid for. Also, the Blue Letter Bible app is free too.

  3. Brian says:

    I definitely need to start reading again. I always loved to read and one of the major obstacles that has hindered it is in the internet and social media. Thanks for posting this article; it makes me want to read again and rather than being on my smart phone while waiting for a friend or sitting in a doctor’s office I could read instead.

    Pastor Erik, I really enjoyed your article about the book that you read “To Kill A Mockingbird Bird” finding insights to progress your santification. I would love to read more articles like that and more insights that you take out of the books that you read.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Thanks for the feedback—will do.

  4. Alexis says:

    I absolutely love this. However, just fyi…it says “bag” instead of “book” in the paragraph right after the “Redeem Time For Reading” heading.

    But thank you so much for this. It was very helpful!

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Good catch. Thank you.

  5. Mary Gray Moser says:

    When you’re standing in line waiting to have your groceries rung up, when you’re waiting in the dr.’s office, you could read.

  6. Last year alone I read more than 200 books, but most of them I never went beyond the fourth chapter. I found some books with 180 pages could have been great if they ended on the third chapter. I love reading a lot, but I had to cut back. Today, I started reading Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts. I just finished it few hours ago. I agree with all you said, especially of dropping a book of you find it’s not going anywhere.

  7. Jeremy says:

    This was a great article. Good points and advice. A possible follow up interview with guys like Al Mohler and Mark Dever would be good to get their thoughts on how they approach book reading and what tips they give that may overlap yours or add to it.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Sounds good. Go ahead and set that up and I’ll do the interview. :)

  8. Kelty says:

    This is great. I have made lists of books I want to read but not attached a plan and due dates to them. That sounds like a good move for me. I’ve also recently upped my reading ante with audio books. I have small children and it’s not always great to read when they’re awake and when they’re not, there’s usually a myriad of things that need to be done with my hands. BUT add an audio book and all of the sudden, cleaning the kitchen after the kids go to bed is great fun. I’ve worked up to where I can listen to them at 1.5 or 2x the speed so that they move more at the pace as I would read them. There’s audible for purchase but there is also the Overdrive app where you can often check out eAudiobooks from your local library. Cheers!

  9. Mike Vincent says:

    I use to find books I might like and track the books I have read. It’s great for those who like to set goals and see what they have accomplished.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Good call–I’ll check it out.

  10. Shane Martin says:

    Hi Erik – Great article, very thankful to God for how helpful this has been. I was wondering if you might be able to post up a picture of how you set out your excel spreadsheet? I’ve been trying to make one myself but I haven’t been able to make one that really works.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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