How we can read more books (hint: spend less time on social media)

how many books have you readMost of us probably wish we could read more books. Or maybe not and I’m simply projecting my own desires on an implied blog reader audience. Either way, we know definitively that reading books is time well spent (for one example, The Atlantic: “More Scientific Evidence That Reading is Good For You“).

A recent article title caught my attention, via Quartz: “In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books.” It alludes to, amongst other things, Warren Buffet’s well-known reading habits of 500 pages a day. That being said, quality still counts for more than quantity — if we’re going to read more books, we should darn well enjoy them. We have to want to read more books that we think are worth reading, not just because some guy on the internet says you ‘should.’ With all of our competing distractions, reading more books is difficult — but far from impossible.

Some of the Quartz article tends to oversimplify, but the truth is that reading more books is a matter of personal choice (“We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important“).

What caught my attention is that they even did a math breakdown:

“First, let’s look at two quick statistics:

  • Simpsons read man The average American reads 200–400 words per minute (Since you’re on Medium, I’m going to assume you read 400 wpm like me)
  • Typical non-fiction books have ~50,000 words

Now, all we need are some quick calculations…

  • 200 books * 50,000 words/book = 10 million words
  • 10 million words/400 wpm = 25,000 minutes
  • 25,000 minutes/60 = 417 hours

That’s all there is to it. To read 200 books, simply spend 417 hours a year reading.”

The short answer is that with the average 608 hours we spend on social media per year, we could easily be reading more books. But knowing and doing tend to be widely different things. I do enjoy articles like this as reminders that perhaps we can tweak our daily habits to get more meaningful enjoyment out of our waking hours.

read lots of books

If you want a quick way to jumpstart your new reading habit, I recommend Zen Habits: “The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books.”

Also worth a look is this one from the Harvard Business Review, “8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year” — some of the tips are more obvious (read somewhere away from distractions like TV; use a commitment device; read physical books) than others (be ok with quitting boring books; use the 10,000 steps rule).

And lastly, if you want to feel more insecure about your own reading habits, check out this one from the Los Angeles Times book blog: “How to read 462 books in a year