How I’m Reading 40 Books This Week

This week, I will read 40 books. How will I do that? Is it some kind of stunt? And what's the point? We'll get to all that. Here are the books I'm reading this week…

By the way, I want to acknowledge Tom Beal as the inspiration of today's post. You should check out what he wrote here, about “How to Read Your Bookshelf.”

One of my primary beliefs is that leaders are readers, and if you want to be a leader, you start by reading. The sad fact is, most people don't read, or don't read very much. Check out these stats…

  • 1/3 of those who graduate high school never read another book.
  • 42% of college grads never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 80 percent of families in the U.S. didn't buy or read a single book last year.

If you're not reading books, yet wonder why you lead an average life, I invite you to ponder those two points (no reading/average life.)

You're smart. You'll figure it out.

How (and Why) I'm Reading These 40 Books

Tom Beal's post gave me a moment of startled recognition. I realized that I read pretty much the same way he does, only I had never systematized it before. Never articulated it as part of my routine (weird, I know.) It's just something I did, and I assumed everyone else did, too.

Let me walk you through the books in the picture, and explain what I do and why I do it. A few caveats:

  • I'm not reading every book word for word. Some of you will consider this cheating. That's your problem. It doesn't bother me.
  • I read the books I choose with purpose. Sometimes that purpose means I will read the book word for word; other times it means I am speed-reading, looking for particular points. And sometimes, I'm looking for references or quotations I can use in my writing.
  • Some weeks I'm pretty lazy, and I'll only read four or five books.

Stack Number One: The Daily Reading Stack

On the left is my daily reading stack. I start each day with the Bible. I generally read one chapter of Proverbs, five chapters of Psalms, and then read as the Spirit leads me in some other part of Scripture. This means that once a month I read through the entire book of Proverbs, the entire book of Psalms, and a significant portion of the Bible (based on what I'm studying or meditating on currently.) For those who care, my two preferred translations (for accuracy) are the New King James Bible, and the English Standard Version.  For daily reading, I'm currently using a treasured edition of the NIV (treasured because I searched high and low to find a single column format Bible for daily reading, and this is it.) I also really enjoy the NLT.

Next, I will read a single chapter in a daily devotional (this month it's Joel Osteen's book Every Day a Friday.) I usually follow that up with some more meaty theological reading: currently, that means a chapter each out of The Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and my friend Frank Viola, and from Richard J Foster's Freedom of Simplicity.

Then, depending on how much time I have on a particular morning, I will read a chapter (or more) of the remaining books in the stack. These are usually business books, but not always. Two books got added this week unexpectedly, as I received gift books by my friends Robert Plank and Lance Tamashiro.

Some people are crying “foul” right now, because I'm not actually reading these complete books this week. I'll grant you, I chose the words for the title of this post because they are a bit provocative. It might have been more accurate to say “I'm reading IN 40 books this week”. But the fact is, I will most likely finish four or five of these books in their entirety this week. I'm a fast reader, even when I'm reading word for word.

Let's move on…

Stack Number Two: The Research Stack

Believe it or not, this is mainly for business. I'm currently producing an online training course for spiritual entrepreneurs called “How to Profit from What You Already Know”.

The course itself won't be available for a while to the public, but I have a private beta group that will start working on the material next week.

The business stuff (how to set up a platform business, which tools to use, auto responders, launches, etc.) is not difficult for me to teach. In fact, my biggest challenge there is to be careful not to teach too much, and thereby make people feel overwhelmed.

But because this course is about spirit-based entrepreneurialism, I'm doing a lot of reading on that topic. Errors have been made in this realm in the past; there have been excesses on both sides. Some have taught that the most spiritual people will be super-rich. Others have taught that only the poor can be truly spiritual. I believe that Jesus himself taught something totally different.

I am reading a lot of other people's opinions about these matters. Especially people that I don't agree with. Those folks are the ones who challenge my thinking, and sharpen the core issues for me. There's a lot at stake here, and I want to be a good steward and get this stuff right.

I'm also writing a book tentatively titled “Permission to Prosper”, and much of this reading will serve as background and reference material for that manuscript.

Some of these books I'm reading very carefully, word for word. Some of them I have read before and am skimming, looking for particular notes and passages. Some of the books I most vehemently disagree with, but that I'm reading anyway, are not in the picture… mainly because I didn't want to expose anyone to some of their poisonous ideas.

To be clear, this middle stack will shrink and grow from week to week, and some of the books will stay in here, as I refer to them time and time again.

Stack Number Three: Brain Research

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I expect God to heal this affliction at any moment. I have seen him heal many other supposedly incurable diseases. Once you've seen God provide a miracle of provision like that, you no longer have an excuse to lose hope.

While I am confident in God's healing power, and that it is always his will to heal, and that my own healing is imminent… in the meantime I have some annoying symptoms I occasionally have to deal with.

I recently decided to dive all the way in, reading and learning everything I can about this progressive, degenerative brain disease.

The reading stack looks short, because many of the books I'm reading in this area are actually on my Kindle. They include all of Dr. Daniel Amen's books, Dr. Perlmutter's books, peer-reviewed research papers by scientists, and quite a few books I'm certain you will have never heard of.

While I respect my neurologist and his staff (I am fortunate to be treated by one of the top movement disorder specialists in the region), I'm often surprised that I know things about current research before he does.

I'm also friends with one of the country's best Naturopathic Physicians (who is also an MD), and we have had some lengthy discussions about Parkinson's and related brain disorders.

I've been quietly working on developing my own experimental protocols to help quiet the more inconvenient neurological symptoms of Parkinson's disease. And now I've begun assembling those into a formal document.

It's mainly for my own benefit, but if it provides me with the relief I seek, I may end up sharing it with other PWP's (Persons With Parkinson's).

I'm not a doctor, of course, but I have more of a vested interest in this than most of them do.

That's My Reading Routine

So that's it. That's how, and why, I'm reading through 40 books this week. Some weeks it will be more, some weeks less, but when you count the books that I speed read and/or skim through, I probably average 20 books a week. To be fair, only three or four of those will I complete Word for Word, start to finish, in a single week.

One final note: I also love fiction, and as part of my newly re-engineered daily routine, I'm currently working my way through Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series. Pretty lightweight stuff, but lots of fun, and a unique world Butcher has created for this particular series.

Question: what's your reading routine, and what's on your current bookshelf? Do you have any questions about my reading routine?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

Grow Your Business

Grow Your Business

Proven teaching. Inspired approach. Free Course.

Click Here to Subscribe

  • KenMcArthur

    Hey Ray,

    Loved the article and the insights.

    This week I’m reading …

    The soul of a new machine by Tracy Kidder,
    Newjack : guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover,
    Everyone communicates, few connect : what the most effective people do differently by John C. Maxwell,
    The goldfinch by Donna Tartt ,
    The examined life : how we lose and find ourselves by Stephen Grosz.

  • Hi Ray,

    I’m presently reading
    – “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus” by Robert F. Capon
    – “Epistle to the Romans” by Karl Barth
    – “Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

    I’m a terribly slow reader word for word – typically I can take about 10-20hrs to read a smaller book! Because of that I find myself speed reading anything that isn’t fiction or extremely important to me.

    What are some practical tips you have for speed reading? Do you have a system that helps you or maybe a recommended resource people can check out?

    Thanks 🙂

      • The “for dummies” books are some of the best resources out there – I’m not surprised will definitely check it out.

    • Phil,

      I picked up speed reading in grad school 30+ years ago. The rate at which you read is determined by (1) the nature of the material and (2) the degree of comprehension you’re seeking to attain. Reading Karl Barth at the same speed as “A Game of Thrones” would be nearly impossible.

      Some books are meant to be read quickly. Others are meant to be savored. One in the latter category is Stott’s “The Cross of Christ.”

      BTW, I highly recommend that people speed read books of the Bible. It gives them a sense of the author’s argument and the flow of motif from book to book. Most people read the Bible in small snatches, which results in almost no understanding of the “big picture.”

    • Same here. I’m a super slower reader, but I have a Phd. In skimming! 😉

      • haha – yes, I’m good at skimming too unfortunately my comprehension isn’t on par with my skimming skills!

        Thanks so much for your input on Ray’s podcast this week @frankviola:disqus – as someone who frequently gets called a “hyper-grace” preacher it was very reasuring.

    • Phil,
      Capon rocks! So does Martin. I am reading the GoT series out loud to my wife…. with a little on-the-fly editing as we go….

  • These days I listen more than I frequently read, but my goal is to read/listen to 52 books (word-for-word) by the end of 2014. I am an average reader, so it usually takes a little longer.

    My current reading list includes:

    – “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch
    – “Work Naked” by Cynthia C. Froggatt
    – “APE” by Guy Kawasaki
    – “The 4 Hour Work Week (Updated / Expanded Edition) by Timothy Fereiss
    – “David & Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell
    – “Outhink” by G. Shawn Hunter
    – “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard

    I also listen to numerous podcasts during the week as a break from just pure reading and listening.

    Ray, I am curious, what’s on your “research” book stack?

    • That’s a good list Dave! More about the “research” stack another day.

  • Sean Smith

    This is awesome, Ray! Thank you for sharing your routine. Very powerful. I don’t have a consistent routine that has ever really worked for me, so I appreciate these ideas a lot.

    • Thank you Sean, glad to know it was helpful. It’s been too long since we talked, bro!

  • So are you counting Proverbs as one book, Psalms as another, and whichever other book you’re reading out of the Holy Library as a third book? That’s how they’re assembled canonically. Perhaps your title could be amended from 40 to 42?

  • I need to give myself permission to skim a book and search out the highlights. About 4 months ago I developed a new habit of reading the Bible every morning. I’m using a Chronological plan from YouVersion. It’s really helped clarify a lot of questions simply reading in Chronological order.

    Your post inspired a new idea for my wife and I to try. We are each going to read one book together, something to help us grow in our faith. Then, we are each going to read a different book and share the highlights with each other. These books will be related to helping us grow our business. Thanks for the inspiration to think strategically about my reading.

    On my reading list at the moment:

    All In by Mark Batterson (We are reading this together)
    Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey.

  • i am with you 100% leaders must be readers! I love reading and have found it to be a huge contributor to my personal and professional growth. I find that if we don’t move forward intentionally we start to drift backwards.

  • On my bookshelf:

    The Bible

    STACK TWO (professional and business development):
    -The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry
    -Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
    -Turnaround Pastor
    -People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership
    -Copy Logic! The New Science of Producing Breakthrough Copy (Without Criticism)

    STACK THREE (personal & professional interest):
    -Jesus > Religion.
    -Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace.
    -The Unchurched Next Door.
    -Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment.
    -Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism.
    -The Law of Rewards: Giving what you can’t keep to gain what you can’t lose.
    -A Life God Rewards: Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever.

    -The Believer’s Payday.
    -Exploring the New Testament World.

  • Usually I find it hard to skim. I’m so selective about the books I read, I want to read them slow. Yet this weekend I did skim one biography because the language was archaic (from 19th century).

    Reading this week: Job; Axelrod, The New Game of Selling; Koch, The Natural Laws of Business

  • I need to work better at coming up with an actual schedule, but I do have a list of books. I usually go through between 2-4 books besides my Bible reading. I’m currently reading Problogger (the book based on the website), Wrecked (Jeff Goins), and Geurilla Marketing. Some other books on my backlog: The In Between and Selling with Noble Purpose. I have also committed to help review others that are publishing eBooks and on Kindle. I don’t have my list or bookshelf here, so this is just off the top of my head.

  • Kathleen Thompson

    I thought I was the only one who read a bunch of books at once! Besides the Bible, I’m reading Ken Davis’ book about Effective Communication, How to Connect with People in 90 Seconds, The War of Art (re-read), Necessary Endings (by Henry Cloud), Take Control of Your Health by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Cooked by Michael Pollan, The Daniel Plan by Daniel Amen, and more. BTW – Change Your Brain to Change Your Age is excellent. Our brains can definitely be helped or hurt by what we eat, how we move, and virtually everything we do.

    I am going to give myself permission to skim where warranted.

  • Nice. Posts like this inspire people to read. So I’m inspired! Thx. also for the shout-out on my book with Len where we try to cure JDD (Jesus Deficit Disorder). 😉

  • Thanks Ray. I’m currently reading:

    The Bible
    The Immortal Game (history of chess)
    The 4 Disciplines of Execution
    Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
    Common Sense by Thomas Paine
    The 4-Hour Workweek (Reread)
    Memorial Day (part of the Mitch Rapp series… great fiction series!)

  • Great post, Ray. Just heard about this while listening to your latest podcast on your new productivity routine (Episode 101, if I’m correct). I’m glad I’m not the only person who “everyone else” thinks is crazy for having my head in so many books.

    I’m usually in between 2 or 3 books at a time as well as an audiobook/podcast in my car/mp3 player and have recently begun a morning routine of reading the Bible for at least 30 minutes after listening to a podcast by Michael Hyatt regarding his “Ideal Week.” Some of my favorite and definite re-reads include:

    The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
    The Power of Focus by Les Hewitt, Jack Canfield, and Mark Victor Hansen
    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
    Caught Between A Dream and A Job by Delatorro McNeal II
    Streamlining Your Life by Stephanie Culp (an oldie but a goodie)
    Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy
    Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden
    Purple Cow by Seth Godin
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (lengthy, but a wonderful historical fiction piece about the rise and fall of English Magicians)

    Some of the best books I’ve recently read include:

    Worth Every Penny by Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck (in a word: phenomenal!)
    The E-Myth Revisited (will change the way you think about business forever)
    Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
    Start by Jon Acuff

    No Excuses by Brian Tracy
    Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson (another book that will change the way you think about business)

  • Hey Ray, I like the way you think. I am currently reading:
    The Bible
    Boys Adrift
    Girls on the Edge
    Finding Ultra
    The War of Art
    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
    Thou Shalt Prosper
    Thanks for all the good ideas! I will investigate some of your book selections too!

  • Christy Largent

    I just saw this post! Oh my goodness! My house looks exactly like that! I am constantly reading 5-10 books of all varieties of styles. We have a great library, so I’m able to check out tons…if you really want to know, I’ll detail them, but I guarantee there are both similar to yours and VERY different! 🙂 Keep up the great work!

  • Ray where have you been? I suppose right here! I just found you. It’s a way cool thing because I am currently trying to figure out how to incorporate “the whole of life” into my entrepreneurial endeavors. I believe in business, God, health and healing, being a good steward, passive income and such. It is all beginning to come together.

    I, too, am an avid reader. I love my Kindle Fire and eBooks even though I also often refer to my tangibly held books daily. I follow along the same lines as you do. Research should be my middle name. 🙂

    Just so glad I found you! Wanted to let ya know!

  • Dean

    Have you read about the doctor who improved her husbands Parkinson symptoms with coconut oil? I also believe in gods healing power through his son Jesus death on the cross.
    I was totally healed of Herat failure and AF praise God.