One question I get asked fairly frequently is–“How do you read so much? I want to read more, but I can’t seem to fit it into my schedule!” Here are some tips that help me to read (and enjoy!) over 200 books each year, and also have time for other things as well.
This post contains affiliate links, it provides me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see disclosure for more detail.
1. Take a Book with you Everywhere
This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often even I am caught without a book! One rule of thumb is to never leave the house without a book–either on the Kindle app on your phone or tablet, a paperback tucked in your purse or backpack, or I know people who keep a book in the glove compartment of their car (this is a good opportunity to pick up a book of short stories or essays as listed below, you will always have something to read and won’t lose the flow of a story). Most often, I will just pop my Kindle into my purse and that way, if I have to wait for an appointment, in the school pick-up line, or for some other reason, I can pull it out and read a few pages. This goes into my second thing…
2. Eliminate Distractions
What is the thing you spend the most of your free time doing during the day? Most likely, it’s your phone. I get surprised at how easily I can get sucked into scrolling through social media, playing a game, or looking up “one quick thing” –and when I look up a half hour or more has gone by. The thing that has helped me more than anything is to either a) Put my phone in airplane mode (this is particularly critical if you are reading on your phone, at the very least turn off your notifications) b) Put my phone in another room, or if you are waiting for a call or text and cannot be away from it, c) Put your phone nearby, but out of your reach and possibly cover it up so it isn’t in your line of vision. I have even gone so far to tell myself that I need to complete X number of pages or chapters before I can pick up the phone for any reason. Then when I do pick up the phone, I set the timer to tell me when I have to put it back down again. If it’s the TV that is a problem, take some of the same actions. I typically do not read on my phone or on a tablet device because it is too easy for me to get distracted. I either read paper books or on my Kindle Paperwhite (in airplane mode). A dedicated book eliminates the distractions that have you clicking away from reading. (Plus, I find it too small to read on my phone for very long).
3. Read Before Bed
My husband and I do not have a television in our bedroom. We both love to read, and we thought that the TV would be a huge distraction for us, so we decided not to have one in our room. Every night before bed, we read a few pages or chapters. Yes, reading in bed does make me sleepy and sometimes I don’t get much read, but other times I can get a lot completed. One huge advantage of the Kindle Paperwhite is that you can adjust the screen brightness so that it’s readable in a dark room, but it doesn’t light up the room, which is helpful if you have a partner who doesn’t sleep well with any lights on. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more reading you can do if you don’t watch TV in bed. If you have a resistant partner, maybe have one or two nights a week where you agree to not turn the TV on, or agree to one show and then turn it off in time to have a little reading time. I also do not have my phone in the bedroom so it’s not a distraction, but if you use it for an alarm, you can put it across the room so it’s not a temptation.
4. Set a Goal
Another tip that can help you read more books in a year is to set a goal for yourself. Look at what you have done in the past–did you read two books this past year? Maybe set a goal to read six books next year, which is about one every other month. You may surprise yourself at how much you can accomplish if you set a goal. Another option is to set a goal to read a particular series. Last year, my husband, who had never read the entire Harry Potter series, made a goal to read them, and by the end of the year he had completed all seven books. There are some other reading challenges that you might consider participating in to keep your reading more varied or to give you inspiration. Some popular ones are PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge or Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge 2017 (the one for 2018 should be up mid-December) Both of those challenges have corresponding discussion and reading suggestion groups on Goodreads and on Facebook, so you can get a good deal of support and encouragement to complete them.
5. Try Short Stories
Short story or essay collections are a good choice to give you more consumable reading experiences. If you have a difficult time pulling yourself out of a longer novel or more involved tale, these are the perfect solution to help you read more, but not feel like you have to immerse yourself in one complete novel. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
This book is a collection of humorous essays, I have enjoyed pretty much everything Jenny Lawson writes, but I particularly liked this one. Some are funny, some are poignant, but overall it’s a great collection.
6. Try Short Chapters
Are you one of those people who don’t like to start reading if you don’t have time to finish a chapter? Fear no more, you can choose a book with short chapters! It actually might help you to finish a book more quickly as well, because you can just keep saying “Well, one more chapter…”:
7. Read Everywhere
This kind of goes along with many of the other suggestions above, but I will say it again– never neglect an opportunity to read! I know that many of you have blocks when it comes to reading–you only want to read when you can concentrate, when you can read a whole chapter, when you can have the perfect conditions, etc. In reality, these things don’t exist very often, so you should train yourself to take advantage of any situation in which you can read a paragraph or two. I read while blow drying my hair, while waiting in the drive through line at the bank, in between tasks while making dinner. Any time I think to pick up and scroll through my phone, I discipline myself to pick up my book and read instead. Read instead of watching TV, or read during commercials. Read before bed. Read at your kids’ sporting events when they aren’t actively playing. I am never more giddy than when I have a cross country airline flight scheduled because it means a long stretch of reading time.
8. Incorporate Reading into Daily Life with Kids
Another common thing I hear is “I have small children and I can never get any reading done.” I will admit, when my kids were young, I didn’t read as much as I do now that they are older. Yet, I did read then and you can create space in your day for reading as well. Besides the obvious nap time opportunities, you can institute 5-15 minute reading breaks into your day where everyone sits and looks at their own book. You can mix it up by reading to them for part of the time and then encouraging reading to themselves for part of the time. Reading is a discipline like any other, and even very young children can sit and look at a book for 5 minutes and work their way up to a longer period of time. Create a cozy reading space where everyone can “Drop Everything and Read!” As they get older and more independent with reading, you can gradually increase the amount of time where you are reading your own books. Find intriguing and fun chapter books to read out loud to your children. Find ones you loved as a child, as well as some newer ones:
The Magic Tree House books were my son’s favorites, in fact, he doesn’t really want me to get rid of them even now!
Pretty much anything by Beverly Cleary is an enjoyable treat for kids. My daughter always loved Ramona because she was horrified at Ramona’s bad choices. My son was much more of a fan of Ralph S. Mouse.
Another one of my kids’ favorites, this is the first in a series of three books about a boy who runs away to rescue a dragon.
This whole series is an incredible one to read out loud to kids in about the 3rd grade and up. About some gifted children enlisted to help a mysterious man. Superbly written and engaging.
I have a list of at least 20 more great books, I think I’ll have to do a separate post about more favorite read-alouds for kids.
9. Practice, Practice, Practice
Reading is just like anything else in life, it gets easier the more you do it. I have known many people who started out as incredibly slow readers who increased their speed and enjoyment through practice. The more you read, the quicker you will be able to read and the better and faster you will get at doing it. My daughter has had great success with reading more complex novels for school (Such as A Tale of Two Cities) by pairing the audio book with the paper book. She reads along with the paper book while listening, and it helps train her to read more quickly and absorb more because she’s doing it both with her eyes and ears.
10. Try a Different Format
These days, there are so many different ways you can experience a book, if one isn’t working for you, maybe another one will be better. Hardcover and paperback are the two traditional forms, but there are also electronic means of reading and audio books as well. You can choose to read electronic books via a dedicated e-reader such as a Kindle Paperwhite, which is helpful for many reasons. See my post about Why I Think You Should Get A Kindle
Audio books can often be checked out from your local public library on CD. Most libraries have access to the system called Overdrive, where you can check out electronic or digital audio books. Some libraries also have a subscription to Hoopla, which is another source of electronic books or digital audio books. There are also subscription services such as Audible where you can join for $4.95 a month for the first three months, $14.95/month after that. For years, I have always had an audio book going in the car while I’m driving. When I used to drive kids around all the time, I had one book for when they were in the car, and another for my own personal listening. With my kids we listened to The Hobbit, Anne of Green Gables, and The Thief Lord among many other books. It makes trips in the car more pleasant and avoids kids staring at screens for an entire trip, and also adds to the number of books I can complete in any given year.
11. Explore New Genres
Another common complaint I hear from people is that they can’t seem to find anything that will hold their interest. There are so many genres of books and so many fantastic books out there, if you don’t find something you like the first time around, try another genre. Ask yourself–what are some of my favorite movies or television shows/series? What genres do those fit into? There are most likely book genres that fit into those same categories, in fact, you might be surprised at how many television shows and movies started out as books before being developed into shows. (And the secret is–that almost all of them are better and more in depth in the book). The website GoodReads is an excellent place to explore what books are out there and to find books you might enjoy. Or ask a friend you know who reads to recommend something to you. You can always ask me! If you want some recommendations, just let me know what kinds of things you enjoy reading or watching and I’m sure I can come up with a list for you.
12.Don’t Force Yourself
My final suggestion is to go easy on yourself. Reading for enjoyment should be FUN. It shouldn’t make you feel like you are slogging through mud to get to the end. Unless you’re reading an assigned book for school–if you don’t like or aren’t getting anything out of what you’re reading, feel free to stop. Turn it back in to the library. Pass it on to a friend. Donate it to charity. Life is way too short and there are way too many books to read something you don’t care for. Go ahead and skip to the end and read it if you absolutely have to read the ending no matter what. Again, you aren’t writing a book report or taking a test–if you don’t like it, set it aside for later or just move on. Give yourself permission to quit if you don’t like something.
I hope these suggestions will help you to fit more reading into your life. Books are such an enjoyable form of entertainment as well as an opportunity to learn about new and different things.