Over the last 6 years, I’ve read an average of 136 books a year. The most in one year was last year (179 books in 2020) and ever since I started counting in 2013, I’ve read exactly 941 books.
I only say this to establish credibility, not to brag. What I mean to say is that yes, you can absolutely read 1,000 books in 5 years — you just have to do things a little differently than I did.
For instance, I think it’s helpful to start off with a simple question:
Why do you want to do this?
Friedrich Nietzsche said that whoever has a strong enough “why” can bear almost any “how,” and with a massive goal like this (seriously, a thousand books is even more ambitious than it sounds like), you’re often going to be tempted to quit.
If you just want to be known as someone who reads a lot, or be able to tell people that you’ve read 1,000 books in five years, just tell them! Seriously, hardly anyone will ever call you out on it; just memorize the names of some famous books, grab some quick and dirty online summaries, memorize a few quotes and big, complicated-sounding ideas, and you’re off to the proverbial races.
I’m half kidding, of course, but I’m actually not. If your only motivation is to impress people, there are far easier ways, and 1,000 is just a number. You should always strive to be impressive to yourself, that’s my opinion.
That said, a big goal can give your entire life purpose!
I first articulated my goal of reading 1,000 books before I turned 30 (this actually happened after I turned 30, but before I turned 31, so I guess I kinda made it?) after reading an excellent book called The Happiness of Pursuit, by Chris Guillebeau.
He had a goal of visiting every single country on Earth and…he did it! I think there were like, 192 countries at that time or something? Anyway, setting this massive goal drove him forward, providing him with meaning — a “why” — and his life was never the same afterward.
For myself, reading 1,000 books changed my life in SPECTACULAR ways. It was seriously one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. But I had a why: I loved to read! I loved books, I loved learning, I loved LIFE. Love drove me forward, and as Dante said, it is Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.
So before we get into some hacks and some solid tips, I just wanted to throw those ideas out to you.
If you want to impress people, reading 1,000 books isn’t the fastest route to that goal, and if you don’t actually love it, it’s going to get real difficult, real quick.
And, I mean, if you just want to find out more about a particular topic, is reading 1,000 books really the best use of your time? Don’t just read 1,000 books about starting a company; read maybe 10 books about starting a company, and then…actually start a company!
You know what I mean.
Alright, with all that said, here are 7 ways that can help you to read 1,000 books in five short years. Lock and load…
How to Read 200 Books a Year
Below are seven of the best ways I know that will set you up for success when it comes to reading a lot of books in a short period of time. There are plenty more, and you can find my Top 20 Unconventional Reading Strategies right here for free, but this will give you a good start. The free book will help you to take things to the next level when you’re ready.
But for right now, let’s start with these:
1. Break it down into smaller goals
It’s tough to read 1,000 books. I would never lie to you about that. It’s daunting, and when you’re starting at Book #1, you can feel as though you’re never going to get there.
But breaking it down into 200 books a year, and 17 books a month, will give you a huge advantage.
17 books a month breaks down into a book every 1.76 days, so, knowing that ahead of time, you can plan accordingly. You can set a page goal per day if you know approximately how many pages the books will be that you will be reading.
If the average book is, say, 300 pages, you need to read 5,100 pages a month to hit your goal. It sounds like a lot — and it is — but that works out to 170 pages a day, which is TOTALLY doable. Find out how next.
2. Increase your reading speed
I know, I know, I make it sound so easy. It’s as helpful as saying, “Just make more money!” or “Just be better looking! It’ll solve all your problems!” Fortunately, there are concrete, actionable things you can do to increase your reading speed, and I’m going to share a few of them with you right now.
I don’t have enough space here to do them justice, but first up, try reading with a pacer. This just means taking a bookmark, a pen, your finger etc., and moving it along the page as you read, forcing you to pick up the pace.
This works by helping engage your brain more effectively, and pushing yourself to stuff more words into your eyes, which is really all that “speed reading” is.
A side benefit is that this will reduce “regression,” which basically means going back and reading words you’ve already read; that’s another thing that really slows people down. A pacer forces you to keep moving forward, preventing you from going back.
Thirdly, and again, this is quick and dirty speed reading we’re doing here: stop saying the words in your head. It’s called “sub-vocalization,” and it’s killing your gains! Your reading gains! This sounds ridiculously simple, but just chew gum while you’re reading, or count 1–2–3 over and over again in your head. It all works.
Pacer, no regression, no sub-vocalization, and a lot of practice, and you’ll be able to read much faster. Moving on…
3. Read shorter books
We touched on this a little bit above, but if your plan is to read 1,000 books in five years, they can’t all be 900-page monsters. A few of my favorite books — which I read during the time I averaged 136 books a year — are Infinite Jest (1,079 pages), and The Better Angels of Our Nature (832 pages), but there are some absolutely incredible books that come in at under 200 pages. I’m thinking here of Fahrenheit 451 (194 pages) and On the Shortness of Life (106 pages) specifically.
So, if, like we said above, your average book is 300 pages and you have to read 5,100 pages a month in order to hit your goal, what would happen if you dropped the average page length to 250?
That drops your average page goal per month down to 4,250, which works out to (just) 142 pages per day, as opposed to 170. Now that’s still a lot, but if you’ve been working at improving your reading speed, and you’re willing to combine all that hard work with some of my other tips here, you’re going to make it!
4. Skip or skim the sections you’re not interested in
People need to get over the idea that they haven’t “read” a book unless they’ve moved their eyes over every single word. I’m guilty of this more than anyone, because of some minor OCD (or something) that makes me seek closure, and the sense of having “completed” a book. So I usually read every word. But you don’t have to do that!
If you find a particular chapter boring, if it’s not aligned with what you wanted to get out of the book (not every chapter in, say, a self-help book will apply to you), then don’t read it!
At most, skim through it and check for yourself whether it’s for sure something that doesn’t really apply to you. If the average book you read is 250 pages and you end up skimming 50 of them, that drops your daily page goal down again to 113 pages! That’s so achievable for you!
5. Add audiobooks to your routine
A typical year will have me listening to about 5–10 books on audio, usually read by the author whenever I can manage that. This is an excellent way to drive up your total, because you can take them anywhere!
Listening to audiobooks on your commute works well, on the treadmill (not so much while lifting weights, because you want to really get that mind-muscle connection and be there while you’re lifting), or even while you’re cooking dinner or doing the dishes. The other day I was doing laundry, and I finished off How to Astronaut, by Terry Virts.
Pro-tip: Audiobook narrators often speak slower than people would in conversation, so you can speed it up to the level at which you’d normally be able to hear and follow along. This will differ depending on the book and the subject matter, but it’s a good way of cutting down the time it takes to listen to audiobook.
Most audiobooks I can listen to on 1.5x speed, but for How to Astronaut I found the ideal speed with his delivery was 1.3x speed. A book like Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld I could NOT speed up, because as a professional comedian, his timing and delivery were so damn PERFECT that even speeding it up to 1.1x speed wasn’t nearly as good.
And hey, if it’s a chapter you’re not really interested in, speeding up the narration is the same as skimming! Audible (the platform I use) goes up to 3x speed, and what you can do is set it to that speed, and once the narrator gets back into something you’re interested in, you can slow it back down.
6. Just read books you enjoy
I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but I’ll just say that if you’re reading out of some sense of misplaced obligation or duty, you’re going to get discouraged, and you’re going to have a hard time reading 1,000 books in five years.
There’s a quote that I love that goes: “Read what you love until you love to read,” and I think that’s so perfect. I’ve read 500-page books in the same time that it’s taken me to read a 200-page book, simply because the former was something that I was totally engaged with and loved.
7. Join an accountability group
I tacked this on here because staying accountable to other people besides yourself is an excellent way to make sure you stick with your goals! When I told people that I was on my way to reading 1,000 books, suddenly it was out there in the open, and lots of people would know if I gave up. I don’t like people knowing when I give up on things, so it was up to me to follow through!
As it happens, I’m starting a reading accountability group of my own in a very short while (it might already be active by the time you read this), and I’d love to have you join us!
If you think you might be interested, go to this page here to sign up to my email list, which is where I’ll let you know when the group is active. It’ll be free when I first launch it, so sign up now to get free access!
That just about does it! There are plenty of things you can do to make a goal like reading 1,000 books in five years achievable, and if you start with these, you’ll be off to a really good start.
Please let me know if you have any questions, because I LOVE helping people to read more books! Seriously, if there’s anything at all I can do to help you, don’t hesitate to ask.
WANT TO READ MORE BOOKS THIS YEAR?
If you want to learn how to read 13x more books this year, then check out my free book, The Top 20 Unconventional Reading Strategies. I used these same strategies personally to read 179 books last year.