Nicolas Anelka and El-Hadji Diouf inspired Bolton to a deserved first win of the season to ease the pressure on manager Sammy Lee.
Diouf (right) set up the first two goals for Bolton
Diouf delivered the corner for player-coach Gary Speed to head Bolton ahead after 32 minutes.
The Senegal winger then played in Anelka, who rounded Marcus Hahnemann and made it 2-0 on 55 minutes.
Substitute Daniel Braaten volleyed in Anelka's cross to wrap up Lee's first victory as Bolton boss.
Lee admitted in the lead-up to the game that he may be powerless to prevent Anelka and Diouf leaving the club but he will hope this encouraging display will persuade the pair to lead the Bolton revival.
Reading arrived at the Reebok Stadium with confidence high after beating in-form Everton in their previous match.
But injuries to their England left-back Nicky Shorey and captain Graeme Murty forced a defensive reshuffle.
Ulises de la Cruz replaced Murty at right-back with 19-year-old Scott Golbourne coming in on the left for his first league start, and the new-look defence was tested fully by a lively Bolton attack.
Diouf and Anelka's pace and movement troubled Reading time and again and Hahnemann had not long made a sharp save from a fierce Anelka shot when the hosts took a deserved lead.
Diouf forced the corner and from his precise delivery, Speed rose above Ivar Ingimarsson to head home.
Half-time brought no respite for Reading, with Gavin McCann unlucky to see his shot deflected behind after more good work from Diouf.
The Royals did manage to threaten the Bolton goal shortly after when Kevin Doyle's effort was blocked and then De la Cruz shot wide from a good position.
But Bolton were quickly back on the attack.
Anelka cut in from the left and sent a fizzing shot just wide before the French striker ran onto Diouf's pass, deceived Hahnemann and watched the ball trickle over the line.
Bolton deserved a third goal for their rampant display against a hard-working but uninspired Reading side.
A superb move ended with Anelka chesting the ball into the net from an offside position and skipper Kevin Nolan was desperately unlucky to see a well-struck volley go just wide.
The third goal finally arrived when Anelka galloped into space down the left and crossed for Braaten to score his first goal for Bolton since arriving from Rosenborg in the summer.
There was still time for Reading to put the ball in the net after a rare attack - but Shane Long's effort was ruled out for a foul on keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to complete a miserable afternoon for the visitors.
Bolton boss Sammy Lee:
"I didn't get carried away when we lost the first three games of the season and I won't get carried away now.
"I said before that if we kept being positive we wouldn't go far wrong but we had to start keeping clean sheets.
"The application, dedication and focus from the players has been excellent. It's been a very pleasing day."
Reading first-team coach Kevin Dillon
"It was probably our worst performance for a long time.
"Bolton were really excellent and I'm pleased for their manager Sammy Lee, but it was just one of those games where we didn't perform.
"We've had a hard start. We got a point against United, felt we deserved a result against Chelsea and beat Everton so overall we're pleased."
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Cid, Meite, Samuel, Speed, Nolan, McCann, Alonso (Braaten 75), Diouf, Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Wilhelmsson, Davies, Andrew O'Brien. Booked: Hunt, Meite.
Goals: Speed 32, Anelka 55, Braaten 90.
Reading: Hahnemann, De la Cruz (Halls 83), Bikey, Ingimarsson, Golbourne (Convey 63), Fae (Lita 73), Harper, Gunnarsson, Hunt, Long, Doyle.
Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse.
Booked: De la Cruz.
Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).