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stackofbooks_1.jpgReading rates are down even as literacy rises. Americans can read; we just don’t.

Harry Potter has at least infused a generation of children with the joy of reading, but it is difficult to know whether that will translate into reading more serious works in future years.

Christians tend to read more than non-Christian counterparts, but a quick glance at the book selection in your local Christian bookstore will deflate your bubble of joy. Serious books for serious minds are usually relegated to the back of the bookstore (or occasionally in the bargain bin!).

I felt an odd mixture of joy and sadness at last year’s Southern Baptist Convention as I came across row after row of great books marked way below their regular price. I was happy for the great deals. I was saddened to know that the reason the greatest books were on sale was because they weren’t selling.

Several years ago, I began setting a goal of reading 100 books a year. That’s roughly two books a week. 2007 was the first year I met the quota. Since then, several people have asked about setting goals for book-reading. Others have asked, Can it really be done? Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Set a reasonable goal.
If you’re not already an avid reader, don’t try for 100. You might try for 40-50 in 2008. Let me encourage you to set the bar high. But don’t make it so high you can never make it.

2. Read everywhere.
Waiting for a haircut? Read. Waiting at the doctor’s office? Read. Going on a trip? Read. Watching TV? Read. Taking a bath? Read. Getting dressed in the morning? Listen to an Audio Book while you’re combing your hair, brushing your teeth, taking a shower. Boring sermon? Read. (Just kidding on that last one… although I will admit that as a kid I used to read Scripture if the preacher was making me sleepy.) Get in the habit of reading anywhere and everywhere.

3. Read faster.
I’ve given some tips on faster reading before on this blog, so let me just summarize them quickly. Don’t read out loud. Use your finger or a bookmark to follow the lines on the page. Pace yourself so that you are forcing your eyes to take in the lines and paragraphs faster than you normally would read. Stop reading word-for-word, and start reading line-by-line.

4. Read smarter.
If you’re reading an intellectual work, read the introduction and conclusion of the chapter first. Glance at the subtitles and get an idea for where the author is going. Then go back and read the chapter quickly. You will be able to fly through the chapter because you’ll already know what the author is saying.

5. Turn off the TV.
Start using your down time to read good magazines and good books. Don’t let entertainment rob you of your brain cells. Wake up a little earlier in the morning to get some reading in (if you can stay awake).

6. Read what you like.
Find books on topics that interest you. Read widely. Don’t get into a rut of only reading one type of book from one theological persuasion. Read some fiction. Read biographies. Read the classics. Mix it up and keep it interesting. If you start a book and don’t like it, put it down. Don’t slow yourself down by sludging through a book. Better to find another book you like more and read it.

7. Stretch yourself.
Don’t read just what you like. Push yourself to read important books and not fluff. Take a look at what great Christian thinkers are reading and read those books too. Read famous authors. Read hard books. Just make sure you read hard books in between more enjoyable books so you don’t lose your passion for reading. Who knows? You might start liking the books that stretch you.

I hope these words of advice inspire you to set a reading goal in 2010. Happy reading!

This post was adapted from an earlier post on January 1, 2008.


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21 thoughts on “Setting a Reading Goal: 100 Books in 2010”

  1. Guy Fredrick says:

    Great post! That more would grasp the concepts of what you’ve written today. As a life-long reader who’s been at the 100+ mark for over 40 years, I commend you on reaching that goal and encouraging others to do likewise!

  2. Chris Land says:

    I can read about 4 to 5 books at the same time and remember what I read. 100 books for 2010 seems like a good goal. I must admit that my son reads scripture if he is lost during the sermon.

  3. John says:

    This is an excellent and helpful post. Thanks.

    I’m reading continuously, but I don’t get close to 100 per year. I have to re-read too much. And the larger volumes–Bible included–take up much of my reading time.

    My goal for 2010 is to slow down and read fewer books but try to read them more thoroughly.

  4. mick says:

    I think it depends on where God has you in your spiritual journey or vocation. Sometimes we are being called to broaden, sometimes to deepen (not mutually exclusive). Reading is good period! In recent years, I’ve tended to read less and read more slowly, whether scripture or books. The result of this has been to be more selective of what I read, which was hard at first.

  5. Sylvia says:

    I know that I cannot tackle 100 books in a year at this time in my life. But last year, I set out to read 25 and I made it! So that is my goal this year as well. I have been mixing it up as you said…reading some novels, Christian books, the classics, biographies, etc. I am loving to read more and more! Thanks for the great post!

  6. Great tips, Trevin!

    I seem to average just over a book a week right now, plus audio books. 100 would be a bit too ambitious for me at this point, unless they were ones that were fast reads. My wife would never see me again otherwise :)

  7. Christian says:

    Trevin,

    Thanks for these tips.

    In addition to turning off the TV I’d add curtailing aimless web surfing and other unnecessary time spent online as well, whether it be Facebook, spending hours on blogs and discussion forums, and so on. This includes time spent perusing Christian sites.

    I have found that this has been my greatest impediment in not reading nearly as much as I would have liked. I got much more reading done prior to having a home computer.

  8. Joanna says:

    I would add consider audiobooks. They allow you to “read” at times when a normal book is not practical (jogging, driving ect.) They can also be a good way to give your eyes a rest of all that reading while still taking in a book.

  9. JT Caldwell says:

    Perhaps one’s goal for reading in general should be one’s own guide for the amount of books he or she intends to read. For example, are you reading for information or for understanding? If for understanding, reading widely does not necessarily equate reading well. So, aim for a less amount of books.

    I don’t know whether it’s our American mindset or something deeper that motivates us to want to read more and more books, without having read very many of them well. I’m a seminary student, and this seemingly information addiction shows up in the course requirements.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love to read. But, perhaps we need to slow down our reading pace, and focus more on the quality of reading than on its quantity.

    For more on this ideal, read slowly Mortimer Adler’s “How To Read A Book.”

  10. Tory says:

    I am one that loves to read and do bring a book with me everywhere I go, if not more than one. I generally retain much of the information but some books simply need to be read more than once to fully appreciate them.

    A year and a half ago I only saw merit in reading “good” books that I agreed with but this past year I’ve been reading even books I don’t quite agree with or have an opposing view and I’ve really enjoyed them too.

    I just don’t know what my life would be like without books. I lend them out, love to see others gleaning information from them as well. I probably read about 85 books last year.

  11. Shaun Tabatt says:

    I’m able to read anywhere from 5-10 books at a time. That’s the easy part. It’s keeping up with all of the books reviews that’s a challenge. ;)

  12. Great post. I am always looking for new ways to read smarter and more widely.

  13. Laura Bush says:

    Good tips! I set a reading goal for myself this year of 10,000 pages. A page number goal is more motivating for me because I tend to enjoy long books, and longer books means fewer books. If I average 27 pages a day, I will read about 10,000 pages in 2010; so far I am averaging around 70 pages a day. I track it all in a little spreadsheet on my iPhone; tracking motivates me. Happy reading!

  14. John Gardner says:

    This is the first year I’ve ever made a reading goal like this. So far I’m right on pace for 8 books a month. The only problem is that this seems to have come at the expense of meeting my writing goals. Any tips for balancing reading/writing?

    I just received e-mail notification that my latest book order has shipped, which means that I should be receiving “Holy Subversion” tomorrow. Looking forward to digging into it!

    Incidentally, I work on staff with Robert Ward at Stevens Street Baptist in Cookeville. When I saw you’d gone to school in Oradea I figured he and Bob must know you. They said hello!

  15. john sullivan says:

    on reading faster: “it is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest christian.” ~ Thomas Brooks

  16. Travis says:

    Found your blog recently. I appreciate your thoughts here. As a pastor time is so precious and once you have read enough books you realize some books, maybe most books, that I read have one or two really good points they need to hit home and I am trying to get to those points.

    I think there are some books you pour into, but I think you do that once you practice the fast reading that you are writing about. This is what rereading is for, going through and getting the other ten points beyond the first two or three, if they really are worth getting.

    Anyways I appreciated your thoughts and enjoy your blog very much.

  17. Cho says:

    Great post!

    I have a question : what do you think about reading books in parallel?

    I have tried previously to read books together but often struggled. So now I tend to start one finish it and then move to another.

    Is it more efficient to read books in parallel?

  18. Question for all who’ve set goals: How are you doing on it? What challenges are you coming up against?

  19. Will says:

    What do you think of speed reading software? They all claim to be easy, and that you will comprehend the material you read better. I’m curious to hear what you think.

  20. Guy Fredrick says:

    I’ve enjoyed seeing some of the comments from my fellow commentators. A couple of things that I’ve done over the years:

    Read more than one book at any given time. I usually have 3-6 books working at any given time.

    Learn to retain what is read — for some, this is admittedly more difficult, depending on God’s gifting and the way the mind is trained. Re-teaching what has been read is a great way to retain more.

    I’ve not found speed-reading methods to be of much use, but I do speed read. In my case, I’ve learned to read the entire page at one time, slowing down as necessary to pursue details, arguments, etc. I’m not sure how to train someone to do what I do, but it is very effective. It starts with getting out of the habit of reading each letter or each word individually (often pronouncing it in one’s head) but rather, assimilating information directly into the mind from the page. For what it is worth, I cannot retain when I try to “speed read” in the way it is most commonly taught (skip words, run a finger along the page quickly, etc.). I have to read everything, and I do — but very quickly (about 750 words per minute with 90+ % retention for me.

    Practice makes perfect!

  21. Cho says:

    Guy Fredrick,

    I wish I can do that :)

    Thanks for your response on reading more than one book at a time. I was keen to hear what others think.

    Happy reading!

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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