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Every so often I undertake the morbid exercise of calculating how many books I’ll read before I die. It’s impossible to know how long I have left. That key variable is only marginally under my control. I’m pushing 40 years old, so let’s say I’m roughly halfway done my reading journey. Forty years down, forty years to go.

I like to focus on what I can control. In this case, that’s how many books I read each year or, more precisely, how much time I spend reading. I read every day in 2022. At the time of writing, I have surpassed my goal and read 424 hours this year, which is an average of 70 minutes a day and 77 books. For 2023, I’m raising the bar, aiming for 500 hours, or roughly 90-100 books. No reading plan is universal, but I’ve learned a few things that help me turn the pages consistently – and might help you, too.

The best standard of measurement is the tick tock of the clock

It’s popular to set reading goals based on the number of books you’d like to get through in, say, a year, but I start by setting time goals.

Some books are long, some are short. Some books require deep focus, some can be read while ignoring an online meeting. Some books you’ll tear through, some you’ll abandon. The aim is to spend time reading. The number of books read is a function of time spent turning pages.

I didn’t read much in 2021. Something got in the way. Ah, yes. A pandemic. You’d think that would lead to more reading, but that wasn’t how it worked for me. I managed 226 hours of reading and 43 books. For 2022, I set myself a daily reading goal of 50 minutes that I could split any way I chose.

Fifty minutes of daily reading is manageable for me, especially since I split it into chunks: one in the morning and one before bed, each running for about the length of a sitcom. I figured that by reading 50 minutes a day on average – 18,250 minutes a year, or just more than 300 hours – I’d get through between 50 and 60 books at 63 pages an hour, my 2021 reading pace.

The Globe 100: The best books of 2022

Track and share your progress

Most apps are clutter for me. I download them and never use them. Some, however, change my life. It’s a cliché. It’s more than a little cringe. I don’t care. It’s true. I use Bookly to track my reading hours and books, both read and to be read. That’s how I know how many hours I read, how many books I’ve tackled, and what my pace is. I also use Goodreads because I like the social media functions of connecting with other readers and checking out reviews. They’re motivators. I highly recommend using them in tandem.

Bookly allows you to track your reading in real-time, enter the book you’re reading into a personal database, set goals, and unlock achievements. It also features the occasional readathon – or you can set up your own. You can also set reminders so that the app will nudge you to read. This helped me remember to put in at least some time each day. That time adds up. Like compound interest.

Some days, I managed a perfunctory five minutes. Most days I got close to my goal of 50 minutes. On my best day, I hit 366 minutes – just over six hours. On average, I beat my daily target.

Explore different genres

I’m motivated by goals and tracking my progress toward reaching them. I’m also motivated by variety. I mixed up genres in 2022, going so far as to adopt monthly themes, which I turned into columns in these pages. I alternated between fiction and non-fiction and covered subjects including the Cold War, dystopia, pirates, vampires, whodunnits, cyberpunk, and the medieval era. I supplemented my thematic reading with films, television programs, video games, and even food related to the theme. Some of my reads were heavy and difficult. Others were popcorn novels. The variety helped me stick to working on my goals.

Not everyone has the same amount of time, energy or access to books. Accordingly, your goals must be your own. Maybe that’s five minutes a day. Or an hour a week. Maybe you want to get through a handful of heavy reads or hefty tomes or read through as much of a single genre as possible. Hitting your reading goals requires consistent, reasonable targets that you will be motivated to hit because you enjoy the process.

Your goals are there to serve you, not the other way around. Leisure reading is meant to be leisurely. So whatever else you do, keep in mind the core imperative to a successful year of reading: commit to doing something you enjoy and make it a routine part of your life, because you deserve to be happy – and well-read.

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