If, like me, you use GoodReads’ annual Reading Challenge feature to track and record your reading goals, you may have noticed that many people are reading over 100 books a year.
That is very impressive and I’m more than a little envious of those numbers. The reason is that I have a substantial number of books, fiction and non fiction, that I’m hoping to get through in my lifetime.
I say lifetime because at my current rate of 25 books a year there’s no way I could get through my entire TBR list. I mentioned in a previous post – The Health Benefits of Reading – that I read every night before I go to bed. The thing is, while I read every day, it’s not long enough to achieve the kind of volume of books I’d like.
Then I found Charles Chu’s article about how to read 200 books a year. He describes how we can all read 200 books a year if we reallocated the time we spend on social media and watching TV to reading. He bases his calculations on a reading rate of 400 words per minute and the average non fiction book word count of 50 000 words.
I decided I would look into this calculation for myself to determine the veracity of his claim and get some numbers that are also relevant to fiction readers.
First, I took an online speed reading test. Chu’s article says the average American reads between 200-400 words per minute. On ReadingSoft, they describe the average reader as reading 200 wpm on screen and 240 wpm on paper with a 60% comprehension rate. They describe a good reader as reading 300 wpm on screen and 400 wpm on paper with 80% comprehension.
My result was 209 wpm on screen (25o wpm on paper) with 91% comprehension. I realised that everybody’s result will be determined by their personal reading style and the type of book they’re reading. My reading style may not be very fast compared to some but I read for full comprehension and I enjoy taking my time. Don’t worry about what the average reader is doing. This is personal so do an online test to get an idea of your own speed for your calculations.
Then I set out to find out about the word count of the average fiction and non fiction book. Chu’s article talks about 50 000 words for a non fiction book. A large number of us, though, are reading novels with around 100 000 words or more (depending on the format of the book, this would translate into a 300 page paperback book with 300 words per page).
So, what number of books is it possible to read per year? I recalculated using an average reading rate of 250 words per minute and an average book of 100 000 words.
If you dedicate a minimum of 60 minutes a day to reading for 365 days you’ll be able to read 55 books in a year.
If that doesn’t sound like much to you remember that you probably read books you’re enjoying faster than 250 wpm and there are going to be books that are both shorter and longer than 100 000 words. You might also be able to allocate more than one hour to reading per day, which means your books-per-year number could be 100 books or more.
What are your thoughts on this? With this in mind I’ve decided to allocate a time for reading in the morning in addition to before bed so that I guarantee I get at least 60 minutes of reading in a day whether I fall asleep with my book on my face or not.
At the very least, I hope this inspires you to be conscious of the amount of time you spend reading so you, too, can get to many more books than normal like all those GoodReads super heroes.