How to Read One Book a Week

I taught myself to do this while holding down three jobs and now read 60 books a year.

photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

I’m asked by my subscribers all the time: How on earth do I read one book a week?

When I mention this daily habit, I think people assume I’ve carved out an eccentric little LiFesTyLe of LeiSuRE that includes 4 hour work weeks and daily lunch on the terrace at Cap Ferrat. I must be reading hours a day, stretched out in an oversized velour hammock strung between two stately Cypress trees overlooking the Mediterranean while the bills somehow take care of themselves.

Reader, this could not be further from the truth.

photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

I’ve been a self-studied, hungry-ass learner my whole life so I prioritized reading even when I was a teenager supporting myself through high school working three jobs; through all the seasons of motherhood, including having baby twins and single motherhood; and through the past 12 years of running a business. There is so much practical pay-off in reading that I want to share how I do it with you because I’m convinced your life will vastly improve if you self-care it up with continuous reading.

Wanna learn how to read 50–60 books a year? It’s really only about 25–40 pages a day (you can totally do that, right?). Here we go.

First, grab a book off your shelf that you Amazon Primed but haven’t gotten around to reading. Oh, friend, I know you’ve got some. See this bookshelf?

photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

About 40% of the books are waiting to be read. So grab your book, turn to the last page, and find how many pages there are. Let’s say there are 223 pages. At 25 pages a day, how many days will it take you to read this book?

9.

Did I need a calculator for that?

graphic: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

You bet I did.

Now grab some small post-it notes (the tiny ones will work fine) and mark each page, 25 at a time, until you get to the last section of 25.

photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)
photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

All my reading is now marked out for this book. This is how I get through my daily reading goals. If you can visually see the post-it note getting closer as you read, you’ll be less likely to “get bored” or distracted.

Let’s say you’re reading through a HUGE book like Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. Instead of choosing page-per-day goals, how about reading five interviews at a time? That keeps the messages of the interviews cohesive and it’s a nice achievement to know you’ve read the best thoughts of 5 interesting people that day.

photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

To make all your post-it edges nice and uniform, hold the post-it off the page by about 1/8″ and then press down with your thumb.

I know, I know, this kind of thing makes me feel like I have some kind of control over my life.

photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

I run into a lot of people who love the *idea* of reading books but have labeled themselves a bad reader. “I just can’t get through books,” they say. “I get distracted and never finish.” That’s because, beautiful brilliant person, your mind is EXTRA noisy. We all have noisy brains that are analyzing, conjecturing, judging, and commentating at all times, 24/7.

This happens when you read too! So there you are, reading along, and your brain is thinking OUT LOUD about everything it’s reading. Your noisy, super-smart brain is also trying to “file” what it’s reading with patterns and experiences from your past. So reading a passage about vineyard keepers in Italy who have to shade the grapes so they don’t over-ripen reminds you of that time you and Serena went to Napa and THEY SAID THAT. They have to shade the grapes! I would never want to do that job, your minds thinks. Well, I *could* do that job if it was in Spain and it gave me 4 months off a year. I would quit my job in a hot minute.

And before you know it, you’re at the end of the page and you don’t know what you just read.

Friend, this is ALL OF US. Don’t label yourself a bad reader. You have a normal condition called “brain chatter” and I have found the best way to settle my brain down and pay attention to the text is to simply acknowledge when my brain is being extra noisy and has lots to “say” about what it’s reading. I literally tell my brain to quiet down and let me read. I want to pay attention to what my mentor (the author) is saying and I look at it as a form of meditation.

This also pops up when you are under stress or dealing with an emotional situation going on in your personal life. Because your brain is trying so hard to come up with solutions to what is upsetting you it’s talking REAL LOUD. It doesn’t care what your eyes are scanning. So this would be a moment of self-care to say, “Mind, I’m going to give you a 10-minute break from obsessing over this situation and we’re going to get into someone else’s world for a minute.” And then apply your mind to what you’re reading. If it wanders, just gently bring it back.

I also like to underline interesting passages, write notes in the margins, and journal about what I’ve read.

photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

This is something you can totally do! Need some good book recommendations? I wrote about my 10 favorite books here:

Stephanie St.Claire is a writer and personal advisor based in Orange County, California. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc., Thought Catalogue, Greatist, Citizens of Culture, Mind Body Green and has been named one of Medium’s Top 100 Writers. She’s on Instagram and is the author of The SuperFoxes’ Guide to Life Planning + Organization

Visit her website: stephaniestclaire.com
Want Steph’s writing delivered straight to your inbox?
Sign up.

*This post contains a few affiliate links for my Amazon storefront where I earn a small commission if you make a purchase. :)

Writer. Reader. Lover of the Oxford comma. Writing for Medium since 2013. Find me at stephaniestclaire.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store