100 books in 4 years: Tips for reading more regularly

I have always been an avid, albeit spotty, reader. I’d burn through a book one week, but then read nothing but the newspaper, an occasional magazine article, or some online fluff pieces for the next month.

A few years ago, I decided to amp up my reading practices. I wanted to see if I could form, and stick with, an everyday habit of reading more substantive literature. So beginning in 2012, I set a goal to read 100 books in four years.

I’m happy to say that on October 28, 2015, I finished my 100th book, Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson. From start to finish, it took me three years and 301 days – 1,397 days in all – to complete this goal. That’s an average of one book every two weeks, for almost four years.

Along the way, I learned some valuable strategies for how to make reading a regular part of your daily routine:

Set a goal – Create a reading goal that is clear and concrete. You should be able to measure progress towards the goal, and know when it has been completed. For example, my goal to “read 100 books in 4 years” is concrete and measurable; “read more books” is not. Check out this post for more on the power of using concrete goals.

Read every day – Set aside some quiet time each day to read. Personally, I like to read for 30-60 minutes every morning over coffee. This routine works because I was able to link a desired behaviour (reading) with an established everyday habit (my morning coffee). It helps that I have a caffeine addiction. The key lesson is this: if you want to read more regularly, try combining it with one of your existing daily habits.

Track your results – Keep an up-to-date list of the books you’ve completed. Tracking your progress will help to motivate you to read more, and give you a sense of accomplishment each time you add a just-read book to your list.

Make a list of books you want to read – Create a list of new books you want to read and keep it close at hand. I use a notebook to jot down the names of books and authors I want to check out in the future, and revise it often. Alternatively, you could create a list on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer.

Ditch the newspaper – I used to read the newspaper almost every morning. While it helped to keep me abreast of current affairs, in truth reading the daily news did not enrich my life much. The news is almost always negative (“If it bleeds, it leads”), is largely superficial in its analysis, and rarely impacts your life in a meaningful way. Rather than reading the newspaper – or online news sources – use that time to read books instead.

Borrow books – Buying new books can be expensive. To keep the costs down, borrow books from the library or from a friend. Sharing one book among many readers is better for the environment too. However, if you really want to own a copy of a book, consider picking it up from a second-hand bookstore.

Give books away – Let’s face it, most books you will never read twice. So once you’re done with a book, rather than squirreling it away on some dusty bookshelf, give it to someone else to enjoy. It’s an easy way to practice giving more regularly and will infuse a small boost of happiness into your reading regime.

In case you’re curious, here is the complete list of the 100 books that I read (those marked with an asterisk are personal favourites).

  1. Fools Rule: Inside the Failed Politics of Climate Change, by William Marsden
  2. The Third Man Factor: The Secret to Survival in Extreme Environments, by John Geiger
  3. Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, by Jeff Rubin
  4. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, by Robert Hare
  5. The Beach, by Alex Garland
  6. Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene *
  7. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
  8. Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann *
  9. The Black Swan, by Nassim Taleb
  10. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut *
  11. The Rum Diary, by Hunter S. Thompson *
  12. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
  13. The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
  14. Ace on the River, by Barry Greenstein
  15. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
  16. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller *
  17. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  18. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  19. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach
  20. The Skillful Teacher, by Stephen Brookfield
  21. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan *
  22. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson
  23. The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt *
  24. Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
  25. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
  26. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl *
  27. The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  28. Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds
  29. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie
  30. Night, by Elie Wiesel *
  31. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls *
  32. Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom *
  33. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson
  34. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway *
  35. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway *
  36. Hemingway’s Boat, by Paul Hendrickson
  37. The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe *
  38. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
  39. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood *
  40. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving *
  41. The Power of Why, by Amanda Lang
  42. A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah *
  43. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess *
  44. Leadership: 50 Points of Wisdom for Today’s Leaders, by General Rick Hillier
  45. Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen
  46. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho *
  47. Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan *
  48. Golden Vision, by Thomas Dodd
  49. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
  50. The Great Work of Your Life, by Stephen Cope *
  51. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
  52. Switch, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath *
  53. The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
  54. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
  55. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, by Robin Sharma
  56. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing *
  57. Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown *
  58. Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, by Jose Bowen
  59. The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs
  60. Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman
  61. The Positive Dog, by Jon Gordon
  62. The Optimism Bias, by Tali Sharot
  63. Positivity, by Barbara Fredrickson *
  64. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale
  65. Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman *
  66. Liar’s Poker, by Michael Lewis
  67. The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, by John Izzo
  68. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  69. One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, by Robert Maurer
  70. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy *
  71. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  72. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky *
  73. Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton
  74. The Bhagavad Gita. Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran *
  75. What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, by Tina Seelig
  76. Manuscript Found in Accra, by Paulo Coelho
  77. Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis *
  78. How To Be Interesting: (In 10 Simple Steps), by Jessica Hagy
  79. The History of the World, by Frank Welsh
  80. The Power of Giving, by Azim Jamal & Harvey McKinnon *
  81. Quiet, by Susan Cain *
  82. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
  83. How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clayton Christensen, James Allworth & Karen Dillon
  84. The Happiness of Pursuit, by Chris Guillebeau
  85. A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson *
  86. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
  87. Didn’t See It Coming, by Marc Stoiber
  88. An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, by Mahatma Gandhi *
  89. An American Dream, by Norman Mailer
  90. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut *
  91. Count Me In, by Emily White
  92. Drive, by Daniel Pink
  93. For Whom The Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
  94. The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle *
  95. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle
  96. The Pilgrimage, by Paulo Coelho
  97. The Antidote, by Oliver Burkeman *
  98. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert *
  99. In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick *
  100. Finding Your Element, by Ken Robinson