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How Many Books Should You Read In a Year?

How much does the average person read in a year? What is a realistic reading goal to set? Enable yourself to read more with top tips from this article.


Reading is an invaluable ability that people use every day. Yet it’s also one of the skills we value the least — many adults don’t read books regularly, and some don’t read any at all. With the average person spending five hours a day on their phone, it’s clear that we need to make time for books in our lives. But how many books should you read in a year?

The answer depends on several factors, but it comes down to time for many. This article will explain them in detail and provide helpful guidelines when setting personal reading goals. By the end, you’ll have the tools to decide how many books you should read in a year and how to get started.

But before we delve into how many books you should aim to read in a year, let’s look at a tool to instantly get your reading rate up. The Headway app is a great solution for people wanting to read more and improve themselves through accessible, bite-sized book summarizes. You can expand your knowledge and become a better version of yourself in just 15 minutes a day. Find the best nonfiction books available on the Headway app.

Key points:

  • Reading is an essential skill that has the power to improve personal development.

  • Not all people read at the same rate or pace.

  • Understanding your specific reading abilities is key to setting realistic goals.

  • Consider your commitments, interests, and habits when setting personal reading targets.

The value of reading regularly

The value of reading is something we’ve all had repeated to us since elementary school, yet it rarely translates into our day-to-day lives. Many people nowadays don’t make time for books, whether this is due to a lack of patience, commitment, or interest. But the benefits of reading are too great to ignore.

While we’ve largely gone tone-deaf to the advantages, regular reading can positively impact our focus, communication skills, memory, and well-being. Consider the following benefits: 

Reading strengthens the brain

The brain is made up of a deep network of circuits and pathways. Reading can help strengthen these pathways and reinforce the connections, resulting in improved cognitive functioning. We’re able to think faster and more efficiently, expanding our overall knowledge base as we do so.

Reading boosts creativity

Reading can also help us to become more creative. As we take in new information and perspectives, it helps us to think more flexibly — eventually leading to original ideas and solutions that might otherwise not have been discovered. Some of the world’s greatest minds have attributed their success to reading widely and deeply.

Reading enhances emotional intelligence

It’s simple logic that the more you’re exposed to something, the better you understand it. This is especially true when it comes to emotions. Experts believe that experiencing the intricacies of social conventions and character can help individuals improve their theory of mind.’ 

Reading improves your vocabulary

To immerse oneself in a good book is to be exposed to an array of words, descriptions, and ideas. As we come across new words, their definitions and usage become more familiar to us. This can help to expand our vocabulary and improve communication skills, creating more impactful conversations.

Reading reduces stress

Stress is a common commodity in our fast-paced world, yet something that the traditional habit of reading can help manage. According to the Telegraph, reading can reduce stress levels by as much as 68% — more than other tested methods like taking a walk, playing video games, or drinking a cup of tea.

How much does the average person read?

This is a loaded question when you consider the many factors that can determine its answer. Reading is a fundamental part of modern life, something we do every day. From street signs to posters and magazines, we learned the skill growing up and haven’t stopped using it since. Some could argue that humans read so much it’s impossible to measure — after all, who could realistically stop themselves every time they read to keep track?

According to estimates, the average person reads a few thousand words each day. This is just part of everyday life — such as casual social media usage, mail, and messages from friends. But when it comes to intentional habits like books, what most people consider ’reading’ in its most valuable form, the numbers are much more varied.

Many adults don’t read books on a regular basis. Recent survey data from Pew Research Center reports that roughly a quarter (23%) of Americans haven’t been within the space of a year. Of those who do read, about 64% say they have read at least one book in the past 12 months. The country’s national average currently sits at about 12 per person per year, although some populations exceed others.

Women, for example, read an average of 15.7 books in 2021, while men read an average of 9.5. Generally, Americans read 16.8 minutes a day, although those over 75 do so for more than twice as long at 40 minutes. Certain countries like India, Thailand, and China leave the entire United States in the dust with daily totals of over an hour.

Experts believe that these discrepancies in reading rates come down to factors like culture, lifestyle, and personal interest. Different regions around the world have their own standards, and as such, books may be more of a priority in some than others. Many connected countries have seen a decline in reading popularity as technology takes hold of citizens’ attention. The rise of social media usage in the U.S. is mostly blamed for young people’s lack of interest.

Socioeconomic elements also have an impact. Reading has long been considered a key measure of education, and although it’s estimated that more than four out of five people can read worldwide, this ratio may be lower in less advanced countries.

How to decide your annual reading goal

Hopefully, by now, you’ve come to a point where you’re no longer asking yourself ‘if’ you should be reading more and rather how.’ That in and of itself is a great first step — it shows that you’re open to self-improvement and have the potential to grow. Good work!

When trying to make reading a part of your life, it’s important to realize that not everyone should have the same goals. Sure, you could Google ‘how much should I be reading’ and get a broad number from some blog, but that wouldn’t necessarily fit your specific situation.

It’s always best to personalize your reading goal to your own lifestyle. Here are some tips for how to do so:

Measure your book reading speed

Reading speed may seem like a little thing, but it can significantly impact the number of books you can get through in a year. Often measured in schools, the rate refers to how many words a person can go through and fully understand in a minute. The average American has a reading speed of 250 w/m, although this can vary among a greater range of 200 to 300.

Measuring your reading speed is a great thing you can do to gauge a realistic yearly reading goal effectively. Many online tests let you do it for free — try a few and see how you score.

It’s important to remember that a high rate doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll finish books in less time. These tests often focus on speed alone and don’t account for the reflection or dwelling involved in reading more complex text. It’s natural to pause, flip pages, and re-read when going through a novel, whereas these tests are time-oriented.

You also don’t want to misrepresent your regular speed. Trying your absolute hardest to reach a reading rate of 300 words per minute won’t do you good if you’re only comfortable at 250. Instead, aim to generate an accurate result and go from there.

Choosing a book goal from your reading speed is pretty straightforward — multiply your rate by the time you have available. Say you’re comfortable with a 250 w/m reading speed and have an hour to spare each day. That’s 15,000 x 365 = 5,475,000 words per year. From there, you can determine how many books it equates to based on the length of each.

Get Headway

Reading more books is a great goal anyone can benefit from, but in all honesty, it isn’t something everyone can do. From personal commitments to school, work, and social gatherings, many people find life to be busy enough as it is. 

Headway is an innovative app designed with the modern learner in mind. It comprises a large library of the world’s top titles, broken down into short, easily digestible chunks. Simply pick a book and get an understanding of its key points in minutes without having to sacrifice other parts of your day. Download the Headway app today.

Consider your interests and habits

Reading should never be a chore, even when you’re setting annual book goals. Try to match your chosen books with your interests and habits. Otherwise, you’re more likely to put down the book after a few chapters.

If you’re unsure what type of books to choose, think back to the stories and topics that resonated with you in the past. Or, if you’re open to something new, look at what other readers are saying online — both in book reviews and on social media. Your peers will often be able to help you find stories that fit with what you’re looking for.

Also, keep in mind the type of book format you prefer. Do you like physical copies, e-books, or audiobooks? Knowing ahead of time will make it much easier to decide how many books you’ll be able to get through in a year.

Reflect upon your current reading record

One of the biggest challenges people create for themselves when establishing new goals is believing that everything can change overnight. You’ll see it commonly with New Year’s resolutions — someone says they’re going to stop smoking, start exercising and quit fast food from January 1st. That’s a lot of habits to change all at once.

The same thing applies when you’re setting reading goals. It’s unrealistic to expect a drastic change immediately. You’ll start at whatever reading level and speed you’ve always been at and have to go from there.

With this in mind, take time to consider your past reading experiences when setting new book goals. What has been your average number of books read in a year? Are you looking to increase that or maintain it? It’s important to factor in the time it takes you to read and ensure that your goals are achievable.

Know your schedule

Ultimately, the number of new books you’ll be able to fit into your life will depend on the schedule surrounding it. Many people are too busy to read titles from cover to cover, and that’s okay — just make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by considering existing commitments.

If you work full-time and have two kids, reading 30 books a year might not be realistic. Instead, you can adjust your goal to reading 12-15 books and carve out time whenever possible.

It’s also important to plan. Think about what you have scheduled during the year — will you take a vacation, work overtime, or host family events? Knowing what’s coming up will help you plan appropriately and ensure that your book goals are attainable.

Remember that not all books are the same

The world is full of books about love, life, tragedy, growth, management, business, and more. They come in different sizes and shapes, with varying difficulty and complexity levels.

When setting book goals, remember that not all books are created equal. Some may be longer and denser than others or require more focus and concentration to understand their content. While you should pick whatever titles interest you the most, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how difficult they are ahead of time.

Conclusion

Whether the idea has come about through New Year’s resolutions, encouragement from friends, or a simple interest in personal growth, making an effort to read more books should be celebrated. With these helpful tips, you can set realistic goals and make the most of your reading experience.

Have a busy life and lofty reading goals? Try Headway. Its bite-sized, gamified lessons are the perfect way to get ahead on your reading, learn something new, and still have time for other commitments. So what are you waiting for? Download the app today.

FAQs

Is it possible to read 100 books in a year?

It depends. If you have the right amount of free time and dedication, it’s possible to read 100 books in a year. However, it’s important to consider the level of difficulty and length of the books you’re reading. If they are longer or more complex, it might be better to adjust your goal to something more achievable.

How many books does the average person read a year?

Although the numbers vary over time, and between the studies that release them, it’s estimated that the average person reads 12 books each year. This can fluctuate among specific demographics, regions, and literacy levels.

What is a reasonable book goal for a year?

It depends on your commitments and availability. Generally, a reasonable book goal for the year would be 12-15 books if you have a full-time job and other commitments. However, if you have more free time and are comfortable with the level of difficulty and length of the books you plan on reading, you could aim for a higher number.

References

  1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html

  2. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/15/64-of-americans-say-social-media-have-a-mostly-negative-effect-on-the-way-things-are-going-in-the-u-s-today/

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