How This Successful Copywriter Reads 25 to 30 Books per Year

In an average year, I finish reading about 25-30 books. Less than 25 is a bad year; more than 30 is a good year.

This is the pace that I’ve been keeping for about 20 years now. My annual target is achievable for me but still forces me to stay focused in order to hit my goal.

What you may (or may not) know about me is that I’m married and have six kids. I run my own freelance copywriting business (and have been running it since 2005). I have no employees and my wife does not have a job or help in my business. (She does do plenty of work though… she takes care of the kids, homeschools, cooks, etc.)

Anyway, a friend and blog reader sent the following email:

Question about your reading habits: How do you manage it with little kids and your work? Do you have a set time to read? Evening, morning, during work hours? Do you read one book at a time, or multiple books at once?

Let’s handle these questions one at a time…

Do I have a set time to read?

I’m not overly strict about my reading time, but I enjoy reading early in the morning before my kids get up. I also enjoy reading at night — so long as I’m in bed before 10:30. If it’s later than that, I’ll just go to sleep.

I rarely read books during the day, although I have done some business reading on my Kindle while pedaling the stationary recumbent bike at the gym.

On the weekends, I may read for longer periods in the morning or afternoon. But this is not something I count on. Every weekend is different.

I’ve learned to tune out background noise, which helps me to read in noisy environments. This is a necessity for young kids.

I’ve also learned the importance of filling odd times with reading. So, for example, I try to read a few pages if I’m waiting for 5 or 10 or 20 minutes. I might be waiting for a car wash… an oil change… a dental appointment… or for my wife to finish getting ready for a date.

It’s easier to pull out the iPhone and play a couple games of Bejeweled Blitz (and I do that sometimes), but I get much more reading done when I use those random 5- and 10-minute chunks of time for reading instead. (By the way, having a Kindle or tablet is great for this.)

Another way I get reading done: I read aloud to my kids almost every night, from about 8:15 to 8:30 or 8:45.

When my kids were really young, I read dozens of picture books. (Those do not get counted in my annual book tally, by the way.) Now that my kids are older, I get to read young adult books that I actually want to read (these do get counted).

For example, I read the entire Bunnicula series (seven books) and I’m almost done with all the Little House books (nine books). I’ve also worked in other classics like Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.

Do I read one book at a time, or multiple books at once?

I read multiple books at once… sometimes as many as six or seven at a time.

I do this for a variety of reasons:

1. I like to start reading books when I’m feeling inspired; when a friend strongly recommends something; or when I feel a book contains information I need for a specific purpose at that exact moment in time.

2. I like to leave room for serendipity.

3. Life is too short to finish poorly written or useless books. Sometimes I’ll stop reading a book because I’ve lost interest in it. For the next couple months, I may tell myself that I’m still reading the book… but the truth is I leave some books unfinished and will probably never get back to them.

4. I like to read different kinds of books at different times of the day. I generally prefer nonfiction in the morning and fiction before bed or while on vacation.

5. When I’m feeling fatigued by one book, I like having the option of switching to another. It’s like having two horses in a race. If one is slowing down, I just hop on the other. When that one slows down, I switch back to the original horse. Both horses usually cross the finish line fairly close together.

But the two-horse race metaphor may be too simple. I actually read books a lot like I read HTML — in nested loops. So I start books 1, 2, 3, 4… then finish books 4, 3, 2, 1.

It’s something like that… with loops laying on top of other loops. (I also read magazines from the back to the front. What can I say?)

Part method, part madness…

I guess when it comes to my reading, I use equal parts method and madness.

Half of me likes the discipline of reading one book at a set time (like when I read a book to my kids at night).

The other half likes to read whatever book I want whenever I feel like it.

By blending the two, I’m somehow able to finish a couple dozen books each year — even with four young kids who occasionally make so much noise I can’t even hear myself talk.

Have any tips or suggestions for getting more reading done? Leave a comment below…

-Ryan M. Healy

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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