Are you going to take the 2016 Reading Challenge this year? I talked it over with my family and we have decided to team up on it. We have the poster up, we are ready to go, and are just waiting for January 1. Whether you do it alone or with others, 100 books in a year can sound intimidating. Yet many people (myself included) regularly read at that pace. My friend Bryan DeWire wrote a little article to tell how he read 112 books in 2015, and how he wants to encourage you to try to aim for almost that many.
This past year, my goal was to finish 111 books. By God’s grace, I made it to 112. Why 111? My previous record was 110. That means, I typically aim to finish at least 2 books a week.
That might sound totally out of your reach. But you might be surprised to hear that it’s quite doable. I am not a fast reader. My strength is noticing details. I love to copyedit. That means, I read every word—and I read fairly slow. And I’m the kind of nerd who does not consider myself having read a book if I did not also read the footnotes—and all of the cover—and all of the front and back matter. Yes, even the copyright page! Bottom line: If I can do it, so can you! [Tim’s note: You do not need to read all that stuff to consider the book complete!]
Admittedly, the number of books you read is somewhat arbitrary. The main aim is to love God with all of your mind as you engage various works of theology, business, fiction, and so on (Matthew 22:37). It would be better to master fewer books than to lightly skim hundreds of books just to say that you have read them. That is not the point. But I have found that I can get a surprising amount of reading done by establishing the following three habits:
1. Have a Specific Goal in Mind
So many times, we fail to accomplish much simply because we don’t plan to do so. The principle applies to Bible reading and prayer, and it also applies to reading other books. So, here are a couple ideas:
Perhaps you can list out the top 20 books you want to read and even put them in order of your interest. Then you can commit to reading them throughout 2016. That’s not even 2 books a month.
Or perhaps you can take on The 2016 Reading Challenge from Tim Challies. Within that challenge, you can choose to read 13, 26, 52, 104, or (with extra credit) all 109 books throughout the year. That challenge is appealing to me because Tim’s plan will encourage me to read different kinds of books than I might normally read. Plus, there have already been some great discussions over at the Goodreads group, VT Reading Challenge (VT stands for Visual Theology, the series of posters that Tim posts on his site). The group has already given me accountability, recommendations, and fellowship.
Too often, when you aim at nothing, you hit the mark! So get a plan in place.
2. Write Down the Books That You Finish
While I have done this during certain seasons before, 2015 was the first year I consistently kept a list of books that I finished (which included audio books I listened to and any kids books over 100 pages). I simply kept a numbered list of titles I finished and the dates I finished them. For example, here is a screen shot of the books I read in November (my best month of the year):
Seeing this list get bigger throughout the year motivated me to press on. It’s encouraging to see what you can do when you simply stick at something consistently. Plus, if you take The 2016 Reading Challenge, it’s all the easier to track what you’ve been reading!
3. Establish Boundaries for Entertainment Use
I already said that my previous record was 110 books in a year. What I didn’t say was that I had read that many books all the way back in 2004. That’s 11 years ago! Since then, the distractions in my life have multiplied: having an iPhone, MacBook, Twitter, Facebook—and much more.
So, I realized: I can do this. I just need to be more intentional. I need to set better boundaries—and perhaps even give certain things up at least temporarily, if not for good. Here are a few changes you could consider making:
- Only check Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and email at certain times. Just don’t check them continuously! We are literally re-wiring our brains when we check these things over and over and over again.
- Only use your computer, smartphone, and TV after having your devotions—which often leads to other book reading!
- Likewise, don’t use your computer, smartphone, and TV after dinner (or 7:00 p.m. or whatever works for you).
- Resolve to only spend a certain amount of time every day on these technologies. Set a timer and follow through.
If you have forgotten what it’s like, take some steps and rediscover the joy of getting lost in a great book!
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