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I want to try to read a book a week for 12 weeks beginning this summer. I have already began collecting recommendations for which books to read, and I will refine the list at some point, to get the list to 12.

My question is, how can I approach this goal so as to complete it successfully? I have a tendency to pick up books and not quite finish them for a while, so the goal is not just to strike 12 books off a list, but to try to change that habit.

Also I think its a good opportunity to get a good sense of my reading speed, what is a good way to measure this across multiple books?

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6 Answers

I'll start with reading speed. I know that for me, speed can be affected by my level of focus, distraction, and the complexity of the material I'm reading. For instance, Reading a short story by Raymond Carver, with his sparse language breezes by. However, switching to Dickens, with embellished, and sometime run-on sentences, I find myself re-reading passages just to get what's going on. There's also differences for me between reading for pleasure (novels, etc.) or reading more technical materials. I think you can get a ROUGH average, but understand that words or pages per minute may vary widely.

As to an approach, I find that the best way to change a habit is to just put the taks I want to do on a to-do list. Rather than a goal of 12 books, think of it more from the perspective of reading EVERY DAY. Don't get nuts about 12 books. If you only read 10 or 11, great. If you make it up to 15, great. Repitition is really the only way to start or change habits. Making it a regular thing to set aside some time every day to read...whatever you're comformtable with...15 minutes, a half hour, an hour...and just READING in that time is more important on the habit side of things. When changing habits, I tend to avoid setting SPECIFIC goals. For instance, if I'm picking up a book every day for a half hour, but at the end of week 2, I'm only halfway through, I'd tend to get frustrated and think "Why bother?" If I decide to go to the gym regularly, I'm going to avoid looking at a scale because I don't want to think, "This is useless! I'm not losing weight as fast as I want!" Once I've established the HABIT, that's when I start setting specific goals WITHIN that habit...and that's what I'd recommend.

The most important thing is to set aside the time, put it in a calendar or on a to-do list if that works for you, and just make sure that you do it every day. Soon it will be as natural as eating lunch, you'll have an idea of how quickly you devour books, and can figure out how to challenge yourself within that habit.

Good luck!

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Some ideas for your 12 books:

  • Choose your books carefully. Pick good books on topics you want to know about.
  • Read for enjoyment first, information second.
  • Don't get hung up on the number of books you read. Instead, focus on getting the best from each book.
  • If numbers really matter to you, choose thin books.
  • Consider whether all your books need to be finished. Sometimes I just read single chapters of technical books, because that's all I'm interested in at the time. Sometimes I abandon novels part way through, because my life's too short to read poor quality books.
  • Some books need to be read word-for-word, whereas others can be skim-read.
  • Read one book at a time. Don't start the next one until you've finished the last one. That'll help you finish books.
  • Take your current book everywhere. You never know when you'll get a couple of minutes to read.
  • Consider audio books. It takes me about half an hour to walk to work, and I've "read" numerous books and articles on my MP3 player. I used to have a player that played the book back at high speed. The reader tended to sound like Mickey Mouse, but I got through the material a lot quicker.
  • Set time aside to read. Often we try to fit it in around other things, but when life gets busy this can be hard. Scheduling reading time (and sticking to the plan) can help with this.
  • Speed-reading techniques might help you.
  • Take notes, as this can help you maximise the value you get from a book.
  • Read a variety of books - that'll help you not to get bored with reading.
  • Get fresh air and exercise. Personally, I find that I am more alert and focused when I'm not stuck indoors with a book all day, and so I read faster.
  • Read lots. No matter how fast you read, you'll begin to read faster.

A few notes on reading speed:

  • There are lots of tests of reading speed on the web. You might find these useful.
  • Reading speed can vary a lot according to the type of writing. For example, text on a familiar subject using short words and clear sentences can be read a lot more quickly than a technical tome that's badly written and full of unfamiliar jargon.
  • Reading speed can also depend on your mood and how fatigued you are.
  • It isn't always easy to count the words in a book. Do you count the title page, contents and index pages? Are on-line word-counts accurate?
  • Knowing your reading speed has some value, but it is a poor measure of the value you extract from a text. Some people can read very fast, but have little retention of the information they've read, or have little ability to integrate new information into their existing body of knowledge.
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I am 44 weeks into my year with the goal of reading 52 books in the year. I am right on pace.

The way I did it successfully was ever time I picked up a book I figured out a way to track the number of pages I needed to read in it per day to finish in 6 days (one day of wiggle room in case something weird happened). I can't tell you how great this is. Instead of just reading as much as I can/could each day - I know I have a goal (Read pages 1-60 today, 61-120 tomorrow, etc.) and it feels good to check it off my list. If I day read 80 pages today...shorter day tomorrow or I can keep ahead of the curve. Either way - the only way I've been able to stay on track is by breaking each book down into daily chunks.

Good luck!

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Interesting - do you use Excel or any other spreadsheet program to track this? –  JFW Jul 7 '13 at 9:11
    
I am actually working on a tool for things like this - www.simplist.me - it's still early on but it works well for this sort of thing. –  matthewp Jul 8 '13 at 13:03
    
Thanks! I'll have a look at it. –  JFW Jul 11 '13 at 4:04
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I'm using Goodreads to track progress, which I find really motivating!

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I have a similar reading program but with the emphasis on constancy and quality of the reading time. I find that the practice of reading every single day adds something to my life and the elegance of my thought -besides the joy factor-.

My program right now:

I choose the book and a 'draft strategy' (I decide what's going to be the unit of measure: pages, chapters)

I do a 'pilot session' to see how much I can read in a row with sustained quality -my concentration is not what it used to be, and at some point the words become blobs, etc-.

Based on that first day, I readjust and establish a realistic strategy for the book, writing the foreseen number of 'units' at the end of the week in a calendar. (For example, I'm reading a psychology book right now, hardly 120 pages but tough, a lot of abstract concepts, so my strategy is: A-Rereading the underlinings from the previous day, B-Reading and underlining at least 6 new pages.)

If by chance I don't reach the target one week, y recalculate what's missing and don't beat myself upon this. Quality reading is my main priority, even if some day I could only read one page.

But, as consistency is also important for me, I do "show up" every day. I mark the calendar with a Seinfeld Chain.

My case and my priorities are different from yours, but maybe you can get some idea out of my experiences.

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Use a site like https://www.beeminder.com/ or http://www.stickk.com/

By pre-committing to a contract, one is much more motivated to ensure that a goal is reached.

As for reading speed: one good way to go about this is to read all your books on an e-reader such as moon+ reader for android. Apps like moon+ reader automatically track your reading WPM.

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