How To Read 40 Books a Year (the nerdy way)

Nerdy Way to Read Books

After writing my post on “100 books every teacher should read” I received a number of emails about finding the time to read all of those books (without going broke or insane!). There is something to be said for enjoying books (I am still an English teacher at heart), but it can also be easy to slowly fade away from reading as we take on more and more responsibilities in life.

To put it into some context. I’m the proud dad of 3 kids (age 5 and under), recently stepped into a new administrative role in a different school district, actively blog, have written two books (and I’m getting ready to release a third), launching a new podcast in March, and still spend most of my time at night binge-watching Netflix with my wife!

I love creative work, and quite frankly, probably spend too much time thinking of new projects and ideas (as well as books and blog posts!). But, I’ve found that spending time reading every day has helped ground me in high-quality content and information. There is something special about a book that a blog post or article cannot replicate. Maybe everyone does not feel this way, but books (to me) are one of the purest forms of creativity and thought.

Here’s how I find the time (and money) to read 40+ books a year. I call it the “nerdy way” because it’s build on reading the most amount of books, in the shortest amount of time, for the least amount of money…can’t beat that right?

1. Make Reading a Habit

As a teenager I used to binge read books. I’d spend hours a day sometimes reading a book (or a series) and the go weeks without reading. When a book or story caught my attention, that was it…I was hooked and would not stop until I finished.

In college, I slowly started to read more non-fiction. I was interested in how the world worked and wanted more information on specific topics. Again, I would read a book start to finish in one sitting sometimes.

When my family started growing, and job responsibilities began to pile up…my binge reading quickly stopped. I’d start a book…then pick it up again in a month or two…and I remember going on vacation one week thinking, “I have six books I want to finish because I started all of them at different times in the past year!”

That’s when I decided I had to make reading a habit. Even if I read a tiny bit each day, I could make progress on the books I wanted to read, and finally finish all those great books I’d started during the past year.

Then I came across a post by habit-guru James Clear. James wrote about how he reads at least 25 pages each day. I did the math…

If an average book was 250 pages I would finish a book every 10 days by reading 25 pages a day. That 25 pages a day would lead me to read 36 books a year!

I started reading 25 pages a day as a daily habit. Two things became quickly apparent:

a) It didn’t take long to read 25 pages.

b) I usually went over the 25 page mark because I was into the book!

I read over 40 books that first year, all by using a method that I had repeatedly told my high school students to do as an English teacher (but never followed the advice myself).

2. Read With Your Ears

This year I started my administrative role on July 1st. There were a lot of changes, but maybe the biggest was going from a 5 minute commute (to my old school) to a 35 minute commute. I barely had time to listen to one song in the car…and now I had over an hour each day to do what?

Sports talk radio was sometimes good in the morning, but that faded fast. Listening to music was good for the ride home from work to unwind, but still that got old as well. I started listening to podcasts and then audiobooks…and I was hooked.

Audiobooks are one of the best ways to read during the “in-between” moments of life. This could be a long drive, waiting for a train (or on a plane), while working out, or while doing chores around the house.

I blame for my audiobook addiction. I signed-up for free and got two free audiobooks downloaded straight to my phone (Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks). Reading with my ears has only increased the number of books I’ll read this year. It’s also a different type of reading/listening experience. Often I’ll have to rewind the past minute of audio to catch a quote or insight or story that I want to remember. It’s almost a form of “close-reading” while listening.

3. Find Great Deals

I love for great Kindle book deals. Sometimes they will have free books, and usually the site features books on price for 99 cents. This is a completely free service to sign up for and then they’ll send you emails with featured books that link directly to Amazon (Kindle store). In essence, they do all the hard work in finding books that you’ll like to read…and that are cheap. BuckBooks recently came out with a new Audiobook promotion (for a dollar) each week as well and I can’t wait to check out that feature (sign-up here!).

Other ways are to borrow books from your friends and colleagues that they have recommended, go to the LIBRARY, or get ebooks from your local library. When you’ve built the habit of reading into your daily routine, you’ll have no problem finding recommendations and talking to other readers. These deals let you read without going broke (hint: that’s still my problem with Barnes & Noble).

What are you waiting for?

Find great book recommendations, make daily time to read, read with your ears, and find deals…after that they only thing left to do is spread the word on books you think others should read!

Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share with us? Leave them in the comments!

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Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Jason Hubbard says:

    Hoopla is a recent app I am loving! If your local library supports it, you can enter your local library info and download audiobooks and movies for free each month…up to 15 titles per month!!

  • BJ Neary says:

    If you blog your reviews on social media like Goodreads, FB, Twitter, you can go to NetGalley and get free ebooks before they come out! So, the authors you love…get their latest books ahead of time!

  • Angela says:

    Thank you for the post. It is very motivating. Also I just downloaded the Hoopla app. What a great resource. Thanks for sharing Jason.

  • James Dittes says:

    Last year I topped 70 books! Audible helps, but Goodreads really keeps me motivated. I always set up a Bookshelf for the current year, which helps me to keep track week-to-week on my progress. (I finished your book, Inquiry & Innovation in the Classroom, during a snow day last week, making it my 13th book of 2015. Adding me as a friend on Goodreads will let you see my review 😉

    One other suggestion: let inquiry drive reading. Last summer, I found a list of novels by authors from World Cup countries, and I read my way through the tournament. This year I’m traveling to the Republic of Georgia with Teachers for Global Classrooms, and I’ve been reading novels and travelogues about that nation.

  • Katie says:

    I really enjoyed this post! My reading habits shift quite a bit depending on what’s happening in the rest of my life, but audiobooks and the ongoing reminders that I am happier and more effective when I’m reading are certainly helpful!

    My favorite technique (and I know this doesn’t work for everyone) is that I always read at least two books at a time. I read a novel or other “fun” book and one “serious” book. Which I read at any given moment depends on my mood, but progressing through both feels good to me (and no, I don’t get confused, any more than most people get confused by following more than one TV show at a time. I’ve never understood that question!)

    Since I don’t have kids, I hit well over 40 last year, although this year is a bit slower. Here’s my list if anyone’s interested!

  • I read 150 books last year and 108 books the year before. I am not a fast reader. I wrote this post,, about making more time to read. There are a lot of ways, including those you’ve listed above. I’m glad you’re encouraging reading!

  • Laura says:

    Thanks for the tips!!! Here are 4 other great newsletters with free and discounted ebooks. I now have more books than I’ll ever be able to read!

  • […] pace yourself! How to Read 30 Books in 30 Days The 10% Rule: How to Read More Than 42+ Books a Year How to Read 40 Books a Year (the nerdy way) 16 Skills to Make Your Reading More Productive 6 important things you should know about how your […]

  • Kay says:

    I’ve always been the binge style reader that you’re talking about. There is something exciting about picking up a book and barely putting it down until it’s almost finished!

    When I started going to college it was getting more and more complicated. I’m going to try the 25 pages a day! Thanks!

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