July 22, 2011

Super-Charge Your Brain: Read a Book a Week

For the last few years I have followed the practice of reading one book a week (on average).  I may have four or five books on the nightstand, but I make it a goal to start and finish one every 7 days. This translates to close to 50 books a year. That’s a lot of books, especially when studies show the average person reads fewer than two books a year.

What do I read?  Books on health,  biographies, spirituality, self-discipline, relationships,  time management,  goal setting, blogging, writing, motivation, excellence, and creativity make up the bulk of my non-fiction choices. I read lots of fiction, especially espionage and murder mysteries, or those about technology crimes.

Where does all this  lead?  The real benefit comes not from what you read but rather from the habit of reading. When you read a new book every week, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas looking for new distinctions it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. With the world's known knowledge now estimated to double every 30 days, there is a lot to learn.

Reading is much like physical exercise. Reading is a workout for the brain. Author Pat Williams says, "the right books are a crowbar for the imagination." Just as toning your body requires the  habit of regular exercise, toning your mind requires the ongoing habit of reading. And just as a lack of exercise will cause your muscles to atrophy, a lack of fresh mental exercise will cause your mind to atrophy. The good news is within a few months of  working at developing the habit of  reading, it will simply become part of your life.

Reading a book a week is an enormously worthwhile habit. And it’s enjoyable too. All that’s required is to set aside 30-60 minutes each day to sit down and read. You can also read (or listen) with physical exercise. I can read 20-30 minutes while on the treadmill at the gym. When I go for a 2 mile walk around a local park I can listen to part of an audio program I borrowed from the library. That is an additional 60 minutes of absorbing new ideas.

With such a  routine, I usually have an abundance of ideas for new blog posts and conversation with family and friends. I can maintain a strong flow of interesting ideas going out because there’s a strong flow going in. Every week I’m making new distinctions as my brain integrates new knowledge with existing knowledge.

All of the above applies not just to reading of course, but to the general practice of absorbing new information, including seminars, audio programs, meaningful conversations, classes, etc. Reading articles or blog entries on line is also helpful, assuming you’re learning new ideas that challenge you and which make you think. If you forget it as soon as you read it, it won’t be of much value.

If you are looking for a book to read that helps "sell" you on the reason to read more, try Pat Williams' Read For Your Life. He presents eleven different ways for transforming your life with books. He has 19 children, is an executive in the NBA, and reads a book a day.

Author and satirist P. J. O'Rourke said, "Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it."

Mark Twain said, " a person who won't read has no advantage over a person who can't read."

Read a book a week. You’ll love the results.

Related Posts


  1. I missed you in my trip home:<( BUT I did make it to Bookmans. We trade books there every time we get into town. This time I brought four books to trade and ended up with four coming home. My daughter ended up with about 12 +children's magazines. We own a pretty extensive library after living overseas- so there is always something to trade.
    If you tire of the library---Bookmans is the place to go!
    Hope to catch you next time I am in town. Helping my mom find a good "adult residence" took over all of my up time.... Janette

  2. Hi Janette,

    I'm sorry we couldn't connect for coffee and conversation, but hopefully next time. Helping mom get settled is more important.

    There is a Bookman's just a few blocks from where my dad lives in Tempe. It is a great store.

  3. Oh, I am already a true believer in reading! I have always loved to read. In fact, after spending the earlier part of the afternoon weeding, I made some tea and headed out to the garden with a new book. This is easy advice to follow!

  4. Hi Galen,

    I have two very different books by my side right now: The new J.A.Jance mystery, and Marie Javins fascinating "Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik" about her solo trip through Africa.

    I can't head outside or I'd melt, but I understand the urge.

  5. That Mark Twain, quite a cleverly observant character. Note to Hollywood screenwriters: consider Mark Twain and o' John Muir quipping together in the same posse to develop some dialogue in your next social justice/environmental docu-comedy.

    Great encouragement and support for vigorously exercising one's brain here in your post. "Reading articles or blog entries online is also helpful ..." Thank you for yours


  6. Thanks QwkDrw,

    I haven't read any John Muir but I deeply appreciate his woods in Northern California, which speak to me as well as any book. And Mark Twain turned a phrase with the best of them.

  7. I don't always read a book a week,but I'm always reading something. I love to spend time browsing at the library and take home all different types of books-now I'm reading a collection of short stories-which is something I usually don't read.

  8. Good morning Donna,

    You do something I like to do: browse shelves at the library on subjects or types of material I don't know much about. I call it "creativity cruising" because it can stimulate my thinking and open me up to new ideas.

    The one area I have tried over and over to appreciate, and just can't, is poetry. No matter how many times I bring home a poetry book I just don't get it.

  9. Great advice! I've always been a reader: it keeps the little gray cells busy, staves off boredom, and frequently teaches me something I didn't know before.

    I don't have a Kindle, but I do have the free Kindle app on my computer. Amazon has thousands of free books on Kindle, and many, many more for 99 cents. If you can't afford to buy books, have no room to store them, or can't get to the library, it's fantastic. The freebies are mostly classics--and the not-so-classic, out of copyright--but classics are classic because they're great reads (except _Moby Dick_; I've tried three times, and I still can't get through it).

  10. TO Jean,

    Good point about the free Kindle app and free downloads. I have that app on my phone and carry about 20 of those books with me at all times. I have avoided buying a Kindle because I know I'd end up buying all sorts of stuff that I can get free at the library.

    Most libraries have book downloads, too. They operate just like a physical book...you can keep the download for 2 weeks and then it either stops working, or you are honor-bound to delete it.

  11. (Excerpt) “Here ends my forever memorable first High Sierra excursion. I have crossed the Range of Light, surely the brightest and best of all the Lord has built. And, rejoicing in its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully pray I may see it again.”
    Source: “My First Summer in the Sierra”, by John Muir, published in The Atlantic Monthly, 1911.

    One compiled list of John Muir writings (books, letters, etc.) can be easily found here:

    There are individuals with more expert knowledge of how, what, when, and why Muir wrote what has been preserved and credited to him. Our daughter, once upon a time and in partnership with others, produced a ten minute video documentary, “John Muir: Preserving the Wilderness”.

    Perhaps part of the ‘why’ he wrote may be worth noting. Apparently, it wasn’t always enjoyable for him. However, he may have understood that writing about his sometimes zealous appreciation of nature was necessary (in his time and to some extent today) to enlighten others on a large scale. A level of respect for his writing and that of others, even without complete agreement, seems appropriate. Thanks for the (surely too long) opportunity here


  12. Thanks so much for the followup on John Muir. I will certainly check out the link you provided.

    Mr. Muir makes an important point: sometimes something is written because it must be. It is our responsibility to read it and ponder its worth.

  13. Yes, yes, yes! I can't live if I am not reading at least a book a week.

  14. Hi Jasmina,

    After one develops the habit of reading a lot, it does feel uncomfortable when there aren't at least two or three books on the nightstand with bookmarks in various places.

    BTW, the photo of the tart on your "Paris" blog is making me hungry.


Inappropriate comments will be deleted