The Super Power of Reading

“How many books do you finish per week?”

I had to ask this question of high school students as part of my summer class recently. When I first read this question, I laughed out loud to myself. How many books per week? If I’m lucky, I can finish a quarter of a book in one week, and I rarely read more than one book at a time.

When I asked others how many books they read per week, they took it as a completely normal question and answered with “between one and three.” I’m sure I had an incredulous expression on my face at this answer because…one to three books…a week? 

There are some books that I’ve read in two days, but stunts like this don’t occur often. When they do, I am one happy camper and let everyone know of my small success. It rarely happens that I’m able to finish a book in one week, which is a little bit depressing, considering that I’m studying to become a librarian. My claim to the “devoted reader” status seems a little shaky when I can’t even read as much as high school students.

It seems I’m surrounded by people who remind me of this fact. For instance, I started the Divergent series over Christmas break–and read them quite quickly, I might add. When I was halfway through Insurgent, a friend of mine started the series as well. Knowing what would happen, I told her to read slowly so we could finish the series at the same time.

Fast forward one day: My friend is already three hundred pages in, and I’m still reading the second book! I guess my super-reader friend couldn’t help it.

So do you see my point now? I’m a super slow reader compared to some people. Back in 2009, I made a habit of writing down the title of each book I finished. This might be somewhat strange, but it’s interesting to see how many books I’m able to read from year to year. For example, my best year of reading was in 2010, when I completed 26 books. That’s one book every two weeks on average, which is great for me. My worst year of reading was in 2011, when I finished only seven books.

What a sad and unmagical year to read only seven books. To prevent this from ever happening again, I’ve made a plan which consists of two steps.


1. NEVER take a break between books. ALWAYS be reading something.

The hardest part of reading is picking out what to read next, especially when the book you just finished was really good, and you’re sad to move on. But don’t let this stop you! Don’t say, “Oh, I’ll wait to start something, so I’ll have time to recover from the last book.” No! If you’re at all like me, it could be months before you finally pick out something to read. Just start a book.

It even helps to make a list of books you want to read, even if you don’t stick to it. At least you’ll never be left wondering what to read next. Here is my current list:

  1. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  2. Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
  3. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
  4. Call the Midwife memoirs by Jennifer Worth
  5. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
  6. The Invention of Hugo Cabaret by Brian Selznick

Based on the numbers from my past five years of reading, it could take me over a year to read all of these books, and that’s excluding the possibility of re-reads (because sometimes I just need to take a break from new books and read something I’m already familiar with).


2. READ!

This might seem obvious, but it’s a step to finishing books that I’ve often overlooked. This has become more apparent since I joined a book club with some friends. When asked about possible dates to meet, I say “Oh, I could finish this book in a week. I don’t have much left.” But then I don’t finish. Why? Because I didn’t read. At all. Some people have the super power of reading a book in a day, but no one has the power to finish a book with zero effort.

So here’s what I suggest to all of you readers who want to finish books but are too worn out by the end of the day to do so: read SOMETHING! Read a chapter! Even five pages! There’s no rule that says reading has to be done in bulk. Start off reading five pages. You might end up wanting to read more. And if you don’t want to read more, just read five pages. That’s great! Because eventually you’ll finish something, even if it takes months. And when you finally do finish a book, you can slam the book shut with satisfaction, knowing that you have the super power of reading.


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