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  • Henry Haney

How To Read 52 Books in a Year

Updated: Jan 17, 2019


I was first awakened to the joy of reading during the spring of 2012. Up until that point, I could have literally counted on both hands how many books I had read from cover to cover during my 33 years of life. However, like so many people I know, I had slowly accumulated a small collection of books over the years. Most of these books were gifts but a few of them I had actually purchased after succumbing to spontaneous moments of desire to become a reader. Other times it was a way to support a new ministry or friend who had just written a book. This growing collection of books eventually forced me to purchase a book case in order to organize and display, like art pieces, various book titles and names of authors whom I knew nothing about.


One day, during a particularly unfruitful songwriting session, I happened to glance at the bookcase in my office and found that a single title caught my attention; “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer. This book had been a gift from my Father shortly after graduating from high school. It had traveled with me through the years from Alaska to Texas, back to Alaska and now to California but it had never once been cracked open.


I was, at the time, walking through what I would call a spiritual desert and when the title met my eyes it sparked something in my heart. I read the first 3 chapters in one sitting, and as I did, I not only experienced a fresh rain begin to fall in my spiritual desert but I also felt a hunger awaken within me for reading. I finished the book that week and then began moving from book to book through my bookcase. I slowly discovered the authors and topics I enjoyed and which ones I didn’t care for. I got rid of several books that had traveled with me from place to place over the years and replaced them with new ones that fit my tastes and desired topics. The more I read, the more I wanted to read and as the weeks and months went by the more books I collected.


As much time as I spent reading, I was finding myself unable to keep up with my ever growing collection of new books. So, in an effort to catch up, I decided to challenge myself in 2018 to read a book a week for the whole year. Not only did I accomplish my challenge, I surpassed my goal and read 56 books for the year!


I was asked by countless friends during the challenge, and now again after completing it, if I would be willing to share some tips on how I was able to maintain such a hefty reading pace. I must admit that I am not a very fast reader. I am especially slow if what I am reading is deep, weighty or technically challenging. I definitely experienced an increase in my reading speed through the course of the 52 book challenge but it still requires a serious amount of self-discipline for me to finish any book that I start. Every single time.


If you endeavor to take the 52 book challenge or if you simply desire some tips to help you become a more consistent reader; here are some things I learned in my year journey of reading a book a week through 2018.


Know Your Limits

Learn what you are capable of reading in a week’s (ish) worth of time. It may take some experimenting but it’s worth it to find out. Throughout the challenge I tried to stick to books that were 250 pages or less. If I picked one that was longer, it was only a matter of days before I began to feel the pressure of finishing it in time. This caused my reading to speed up (sloppily) and then I retained and comprehended much less of what I was reading. Basically it defeated the purpose of reading at all.


As the year went on I was able to successfully take on a several books over 250 pages but only because I finished the previous week’s book early and had extra days to use up.


Choose Books That You Actually Want To Read

That may sound obvious but I have talked with quite a few people who claim they don’t like to read because they get bored and check out after awhile. I would like to propose to you that it may not reading they dislike but actually the book or books they have chosen. Often times people start with books they think they are supposed to like because they saw it on social media or because a minister plugged it from a pulpit. I am not trying to say that those types of books are always bad. I am however saying that if you pick up a book out of obligation rather than a genuine interest it is most likely going to be a battle to finish it. I generally don’t waste my time with a book that isn’t written on a topic that I am interested in or passionate about. I also try and make a habit of reading a chapter or two before I commit fully to a book. I find that I’m able to discover in those first couple chapters if the content and author’s writing style are for me. You will know when you have found a topic and author that you like because it will become difficult to put the book down.


Read Every Day

After I commit to a book, I discipline myself to read a minimum of one chapter every day. This keeps me moving forward and helps me to stay invested. It’s tough to set a book down for a few days and pick it back up again with the same level of interest. After a few days you forget the subject matter and you lose momentum. If you live a busy life it can be difficult to find time during the day to read. I found that early mornings helped me to get that time in for my chapter. If I had time later in the day I would add to my chapter commitment.


Take Your Book Everywhere

If I am reading a book I almost always have it with me. You just never know when you will have a spare fifteen minutes or so sitting in your car or waiting for a meeting to start. These can become great opportunities to chip away at your current chapter. My past habit has been to grab my phone and waste time on social media. I still have those moments but more often these days I reach for my book.


Sacrifice Your Netflix Time

I love movies and TV Shows; maybe too much. The sacrifice has proven to be a good trade off though. I haven’t given up TV completely (God forbid). I have however disciplined myself not turn the TV on in the evening unless I have read my daily chapter. I have actually found that often times, when it’s a book I am enjoying more than usual, I decide to read instead anyway.


Goodreads App

I know, I know. The last thing you probably want or need is another app on your phone. I didn’t either, but this app has become a great way for me to keep track of my reading progress. I especially appreciate that when I update the app with what page of the book I am currently on, it tells me what percent of the book I have read so far. That helps to motivate me and provides me a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Goodreads also allows you to see what your friends have read or are currently reading. This can be a great way to get new book recommendations.


Discuss What You Are Reading

This is a great way to help your mind retain and process what you are learning. I will warn you though, once you start to do this you may find people running from you. I am usually an introvert but if you get me talking about the book I am reading my verbal floodgates open right up. My poor wife has to hear everything about almost every book I read. Lucky for me she is a good listener.


Start Somewhere

Maybe you have a few books that you are interested in or maybe you have a stack of 50 on your night stand that haunt you every night as you attempt to fall asleep. Either way, pick a book and start. If you don’t like it, put it down and pick up a different one. A little momentum goes a long way. You will be surprised to find that it gets easier as you start to turn the pages.


Have Fun

Reading is fun! You should be enjoying it. If you aren’t enjoying it pick a different book. Maybe try a different topic or switch to fiction, or non fiction, or a biography – the options are endless. The point is, keep trying till you find something that you really enjoy.


Got any reading tips or wisdom to add?

I would love to hear!


#reading #52bookchallenge #books

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©2019 by Henry Haney.