November 24, 2019

Reading A Book A Week: Why?

For the last few years I have followed the practice of trying to read one book a week.  Sometimes life gets in the way and throws my reading schedule off, but then I climb right back on the saddle and pick up where I paused. I may have four or five books on the nightstand, but I make it a goal to start and finish one every 7 days. 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,  time management,  goal setting, oil painting for beginners, 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 over 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 13 months, 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 book 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 possibilities for new blog posts and conversation with family and friends. There is 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, was an executive in the NBA, and reads a book a day. I am guessing he has taken a speed-reading class or two in his life!

While I do listen to audio books, I am strongly in the "hold something physical in my hand" camp. I just like the feel of a book, turning the pages, and marking my place with a colorful or inspirational bookmark.

One of my daughters is mildly dyslexic, so audio books are her savior. She listens as much as 3 growing children will allow. Her kids, my grandchildren, are voracious readers, taking 50 books out of the library every three weeks, and finishing most. Few things make me happier than seeing them curled up with a book instead of an Xbox.  

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."


Set a goal for the new year to read (or listen to) a book a week. If you lifestyle makes that too big a stretch, how about a book every 2 or 3 weeks? You’ll love the results. If you'd like to recommend something you have recently read and enjoyed, please do so. I have become master of the Hold/waiting list at my library.


38 comments:

  1. Oh, Bob, you are a man after my own heart! Due to our Mom's efforts when we were young, both my brother and I are lifelong readers. I still have my Dr. Seuss and Nancy Drew collections from my childhood, as well as a complete collection of Louis L'Amour's work from my teenage years. Both my brother and I can be found with book in hand whenever we're waiting - at an appointment, for transportation, etc. I have four on my nightstand right now, and I'd be surprised if the same wasn't true for him.

    I'm an early riser, and enjoy my two cups of morning coffee while catching up on my favorite blogs and forums. And I usually read for an hour or so before turning in each night. I enjoy many of the same topics as you do - time management, productivity, self-discipline - plus travel and finance. My absolute favorites are police procedurals and murder mysteries. (Patience with our library wait list just yielded James Patterson's "19th Christmas" yesterday, in fact.) My favorite authors are Michael Connelly, Lee Child (love that Jack Reacher!), Robert Crais, Lisa Gardner, Tony Hillerman and Margaret Coel. My love of the outdoors has led me to suspense novels with protagonists like park rangers, game wardens and law enforcement officers in rural communities. My favorite authors in that line are C. J. Box, William Kent Krueger, Joseph Heywood, Nevada Barr, Dana Stabenow, Keith McCafferty, and Linda Castillo.

    I read for knowledge and I read for pleasure - reading is one of my all time favorite pastimes. There's nothing like the feel of a good book in your hand and a comfortable chair in a cozy corner. Thanks for this post, Bob - you brought back memories of my childhood Saturdays when my Dad would take me to the library and I'd come home with an armload of adventures. That wonderful feeling has not faded in the intervening decades!

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    1. We share a love for Nevada Barr. I was so sad when I finished all of her books. C.J. Box, Robert Crais, Joseph Finder, and David Baldacci also make up a favorite list. After watching the Shetland TV shows, I got hooked on Anne Cleeves.

      As a child we were not allowed comic books. I think that decision by my parents played a big part in my reading fascination.

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  2. i have always loved to read but never read a book a week, one a month or maybe two. this year i set a goal of one a week, this is week 46 and i am one book 42.

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    1. Congratulations! That is a tremendous achievement.

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  3. When I was working, I read a book every 4 to 8 weeks depending on the number of pages and whether it was Fiction or a kind of Self Improvement book. Now that I am retired, I find myself reading a book every 1 to 2 weeks, again depending on it’s size and type. I tend to get lost in Murder Mysteries and other works of fiction; sometimes I have trouble putting the books down.

    Self improvement books are much more difficult for me, I guess, because I loose interest periodically. But I do read news feed every day and research things on the internet. I also have felt to some degree, that now that I am retired, that I have made it and I don’t need to read the Self Improvement books as that can be hard work, but I know that is hogwash.

    So, I think I will start off with some Biographies and see what else my Library recommends. I only like reading one book at a time; I am afraid I won’t finish books it I start more than one. I also use the App- Libby which lets me check out digital books, magazines and audio books from the local library and read them on my i-Pad with Kindle. Thanks for this post as you have made me consider reading some non-fiction choices.

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    1. I read all three books in the Ken Follett trilogy. At 900+ pages each, I did not finish one a week! But, they were tremendous glimpses into a world I knew nothing about.

      For non-fiction I just finished "On Fire" by Naomi Klein. It is a powerful, terrifying look at what is happening around the world due to climate change. I think I finished it in 3 days; I couldn't put it down.

      Frankly, as I age, self-improvement books play less of a part of my reading lists than they once did. This year I have done a rather in-depth study of spirituality and the role of religion in our world and my life. From nothing, to 13 books on the subject...once I get hooked on a subject it is hard to step away.

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  4. I still like to read. I read 15 to 20 books per year but numerous articles, and information on hobbies. I learned many years ago that if you pay attention you can learn something new all the time. I agree, it is great exercise for you mind. We ride bikes outside almost daily so not as much as when on a stationary bike or a treadmill.

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    1. Like your pen name, by the way. I can only watch so much TV in the evening. After a few hours I feel my brain turning to mush. So, I usually read about for an hour before bedtime. And, right now I am finding a lot on the Internet to help me with my new interest in oil painting.

      Your are right - there are so many things to learn and explore if you just make the time.

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  5. I read a lot, especially since I am deaf. �� Lately, I have been using an app that tracks my daily activity and for the past month I have read about 2 hours everyday. This includes blogs (like yours), my morning news feeds, and books. If you include CC I read twice that amount. (ha).

    We both seem to be very much elitists, and I mean that in a good sense. I would recommend the book "In Defense of Elitism" by Joel Stein if you want to have a good read and understand where I am coming from.

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    1. I will take a look at Mr. Stein's books. Thanks for your comment. For someone who is hearing impaired or deaf, I image reading can take on increased value, both for entertainment and keeping your mind active......and even closed captioning!

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  6. I completely agree with every point you make in this post! I always start out with a yearly goal of reading at least 52 books in a year and sometimes I make it, but sometimes I don't (last year I didn't get close but we were busier than usual with other things), and sometimes I go over that goal, like I will this year. I enjoy both fiction (especially thrillers and mysteries) and non-fiction, mostly history and travel/culture studies. I've already given myself a goal for 2020 of reading between six to ten books about WWI, both fiction and non-fiction - it's a period of history I know only very little about and I should know more. I also want to read all of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series - I've finished four of the 13 books in the series so far. I'm finding them all the more interesting after visiting Oxford because I can now picture many of the places he writes about. Finally, I want to reread the Harry Potter series again next year. I thoroughly enjoyed the books when they first came out and think it's time to go back once more. I'll find other good books to read in between.

    Both my husband and I pretty much only read on a Kindle now. We download books both from the library and from Amazon and can share them if we want. The biggest advantage of the Kindle for me has been the consistent print size and the backlighting - my eyes don't get as tired as they did with print books (something I didn't notice until I switched to a Kindle). Brett has some minor reading issues but has found they're less problematic with the Kindle, and he likes the dictionary feature.

    The downside to the Kindle is that photos, maps, and other illustrations in non-fiction books are small and it's difficult to go back and forth between them and where I'm reading. Overall though, our Kindles fit our current lifestyle perfectly. A (maybe) bad habit I've picked up though is snapping photos of the covers of books I might want to read whenever I get inside a book store and then downloading them later from the library (I have quite the hold list). I try to compensate by buying gift cards for others from the bookstore.

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    1. Snapping covers of interesting book covers...been there, done that.

      With the amount you and Brett travel, a Kindle would be a logical choice. Your thoughts about font size and dictionary links make sense.

      I just stumbled across Andrew Taylor. He is a British author who has written two historical fiction books about the Great London Fire of 1666. Fascinating.

      I have read 23 of J.A. Jance's crime novels. She bases the stories in Tucson, Bisbee, or Seattle. It is fun to read about settings I know.

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  7. I have rediscovered how satisfying reading a paper book is, and as a result I am reading more than I have in years. Reading e-books has proven to be too distracting in that there are too many things to divert my attention - email, social media, enews, etc.

    We have also started putting on some soft music, and reading after dinner, instead of turning on the TV. With our shorter days at this time of year, It's been a lovely!y, cozy way to slow down and spend time together.

    Currently I'm juggling a book about trash waste, and a biography about a surfing legend, for two book clubs I'm in. For myself, I'm reading 'The World That We Knew' by Alice Hoffman, with Tracey Chevalier's 'Girl With A Pearl Earring' waiting in the wings.

    Trips to the library are like taking trips to the toy store for me!

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    1. A library is my candy store...it is addictive.

      I agree with you about e-books. While they are the perfect choice for folks like Laura and Brett, I prefer seeing a stack on the table. It prompts me to pick one up and immerse myself for awhile.

      Like you and Mike, I like some forms of music on while reading. Soft classical or piano music are best. It can't contain vocals because that pulls my mind away from the words on the page. Either Spotify or my growing collection of old vinyl albums are perfect companions. If Betty wants to watch TV she uses a device that puts the sound directly into her hearing aids, or I use headphones in another room.

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  8. I still remember the first trip to the local library when I was a young girl. It was like Christmas thinking about all the books at my disposal. I still get that feeling in the library or in a book store. I manage 1-2 books per month. One my favorite books in 2019 was "Buffy Sainte Marie - The Authorized Biography" by Andrea Warner. I have a "to read" list. Good reads get passed on among my circle of friends. I start and end my day with reading. I've always said that if you think you have nothing to do, you can go for a walk or read a good book.

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    1. I maintain a hold list at the library of 8 or 9 books, the maximum allowed. I space out the dates when I want the library to activate the holds. Occasionally that doesn't work: two weeks ago 5 books I had been waiting for all became available at once.

      I finished a large but engrossing biography of Vincent Van Gogh last month. What a troubled soul.

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  9. I read e-books only but on a kindle so no distractions. I generally average two a week with ease. I am one of those folks who does not automatically fall asleep when I read in bed.i actually read in the mornings most often in bed or after breakfast for an hour or so depending. Admittedly I both read and track quickly.

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    1. With one of my goals for 2020 to not read the front section of the morning paper, I will have an opportunity to pick up a book instead. I just receieved notice that the price of the paper is going up on January 1st. That may be the reason we cancel completely and have only what is on a smartphone and in a book to begin the day.

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  10. I'm mildly dyslexic and grew up in an era when it was called just being stupid and before books on tape were widely available. Needless to say I struggled to get through my first three years of college and I dropped out before my 3rd year because I'd saved up all the required classes that required a lot of reading. (I was an art major and I was always got A's in art and math which balanced out my grade point average.) Twenty-five years later I finished that last year but it took my two years to do it...proudest moment in my life when I got that diploma.

    I read and write daily now but still cannot sound out words and am a terrible speller but with Alexa it isn't the problem it used to be. Without going into to a lot of detail my niece, who taught and tested reading for over twenty-years, says in addition to being dyslexic is the unfortunate fact that back when I was in grade school, they taught sight-reading instead of phonetics in my district. Now I can read a book a week but a better pace for me is one every two weeks. Reading is so important and I those who do it easily take that for granted.

    Sorry for the deletes. I wish comment sections allowed us to edit our mistakes.

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    1. That is an inspiring story Misadventures and you should be proud of your accomplishment. Your determination and grit is to be admired.

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    2. I agree with David's comments. Having a reading problem can wreck havoc on a child's self esteem and school career.

      We knew our oldest daughter was dyslexic pretty early in her schooling, but, were not believed. She spent hours every night on homework....lessons that those without her condition would have likely finished in a third of that time.

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    3. I admire your perseverance. Congratulations on obtaining your college degree!

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  11. We were raised to love reading, too, and I read a lot, although I'm not sure I'm up to one/week. My TBR list is long, and I need to figure out how to stagger the books I reserve at the library, as they seem to come to me in clumps. My preference is to read physical books, but I have a Kindle and it's perfect for travel. I also find it easier on the eyes in the evening when I'm tired, and I often pick it up at 3AM if I can't sleep. Of course, that usually means I'm reading two books at once, but that's an old habit I am unlikely to break. :-)

    Novels and memoir are my two favorite genres, but I also read other types of books. Currently reading "Born a Crime" by Trevor Noah and "Olive, Again" by Elizabeth Strout ("Olive Kitteridge" was great). And I find books listening to Fresh Air, reading book reviews, or by word of mouth. "Leaving the Witness" was very good and I am also happy that Ann Patchett (a favorite) has a new novel, although I won't see it for a while given the length of the library hold list. Ha!

    I also read the NYT and the WaPo (but lately less of the headline stories - overload!) and several blogs. And I'm always trying to keep up with my print copies of The New Yorker (great joke about that on The Good Place, Season 2 - made me LOL). Quite honestly, I often feel there just aren't enough hours in the day to read everything I'd like to read. Great discussion!

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    1. The NYT is the paper we get. I think it is important to support quality journalism, though their upcoming price hike may be a problem.

      I wasn't sure if this post would generate much discussion.I am glad to be wrong! Now, I am off to read a book and the Sunday paper.

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  12. Research, read, research, read. Read some more.
    My favorite line from Fiddler on the Roof is, " I'd discuss holy books with learned men seven hours every day." THAT would be my ideal "free time" in retirement. I wonder if I will ever get there? I have several girl friends from high school who are excited to get to the same stage! Reading is about learning and sharing and discussing for me.
    I did not learn how to read until third grade (which explains my poor writing skills). I was slow in progress, but picked up speed in high school where I had to read at least one book at all times. I cut my teeth on things like: " Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee", "Hawaii", "Seven Story Mountain" and "Brave New World". Some great memories and discussions in that politically charged time!
    My 20-40's were consumed with Educational Development, historical fiction and non fiction and Middle School books (if I required them to read it, I read it first!)
    My 50's brought quieter, fun books ( Tan/ Gregory/Amish stories/ Quilt series/ and such). I also trudged through the Catholic Catechism. If I was going to be Catholic, I wanted to know what it stood for.
    Now I am all over the place. Current books on my Kindle are: "Lights Out", "Rock the Road and the Rabbi", "Asperger's Children", "The Girl They Left Behind" and the newest Lee Child. I just finished "Musk" by Vance and Dana Stabenow's "Red Blood".
    My husband reads far more then me. Sometimes that is a stunning thought!

    BTW- After many years I learned that my problem with reading was that my brain had not "moved learning" to the sign/ symbol part out of the hearing learning part. That happens between 5-7 years old. I started school at 4.
    When you try to stick sign/symbol into hearing learning -the brain gets stuck.... Fascinating lecture at Harvard about 10 years ago. Thank goodness my teachers never really cared that I was a late reader.

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    1. I wonder if learning to read for whatever reason is a bigger problem than schools and teachers are equipped to diagnose and handle. Even something as simple as a decent part of glasses can make a huge difference. One of my granddaughters had troubles in school unless she sat in the first row. It turned out she needed glasses badly. When she had her exam and started wearing a new set of glasses, suddenly she started to excel in school and now reads constantly.

      The Fiddler on the Roof line reminds me of an odd interest that hit me a few weeks ago: the study of the law. At 70 I have no interest in law school, but I did purchase a few first year law student books and are finding them fascinating reading. Where is that come from? I have no idea, but that is one of the joys of reading and being open to something new.

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  13. I so agree with you about books and hubby and I have passed that on – both of our kids read constantly – and 2 out of 3 grandkids are readers – the other one is the sport in the family and I think would rather be moving than sitting still and reading – but that’s a whole other story, and his dad is working on him about that.

    The last book I finished that I did enjoy a lot was the latest Stephen King book – The Institute – and right here I have to say that I really don’t usually enjoy Stephen King books. But our daughter read it and recommended it – and I really did enjoy it. Have read a couple books since that were not as enjoyable. But I just need to have something to read laying on my table in the family room or on the bedside table. And I am like you, I read all kinds of things – articles, magazines or books.

    Let me know if you read something especially good, and I will do the same for you

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  14. I have never liked Stephen King books but I will check out The Institute. Normally, he is too dark, morbid, or gruesome for me.

    We have happy that both our daughters, and now grandkids, are readers. I cam from a family of librarians so it must be in the genes.

    Check out Andrew Taylor's historical fiction books about the London fire of 1666. They are murder mysteries set 350 years ago but so well researched that you can feel as if you are living in that time.

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  15. I read one to four books a week, depending on how heavy they are. I probably read 7 to 8 hours a day, but I'm retired and it's my favorite hobby.

    I don't mean to start any kind of group argument, really, but your mention of that man who read a book a day and yet had 19 children, absolutely horrified me. Who the heck is raising those children? Sorry, but a huge family just for the notoriety really torques my jaw.

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    1. I think a fair number of them were adopted. Still, that is a lot, even for a man as well off as the author.

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  16. I don't consciously read a book a week. But I do record the books I read, and it always seems to count up to about 50 - 55 per year. But I'm a little behind this year because I decided to tackle James Joyce's Ulysses. It's long and slow-going and like reading three or four regular books!

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    1. That is one classic I have never tackled, along with War and Peace. I will read a 900 page book if it really holds my interest, but I remember starting Ulysses and deciding rather early on, no thanks. More power to you, Tom. And, yes, I think we will all give you credit for 3 books for that one.

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    2. I read Ulysses for my senior thesis in high school, but I was young and foolish then. Once was almost too much.

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  17. I do not read books as much as I should. I spend far too much time on social media and the tv. I use to be a voracious reader as a child...riding my bike,with a big front-attached wire basket, to the library and back. Thank you for the inspiration, timely reminder, and helpful suggestions in this post.

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    1. You are welcome. If you enjoyed reading as a youngster, think of all the different types and styles of books you can sample now that you are an adult. Put down that remote and pick up a book!

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    2. I'm going to do that! Started last night by reading before going to bed. Thanks, Bob!

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  18. I read all the time, and usually have several books going at the same time. It helps to have a next door neighbor who owns a bookstore!

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    1. Yes, that would be my dream neighbor. She could recommend the best new releases and even deliver to my door, without having to use Amazon.

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