Summer is upon us, and for book lovers everywhere, that means one thing: the year’s best reading season is under way!
I’m a lifelong bibliophile: some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around books, and to this day, reading is my favorite pastime. Few things give me more pleasure than cozying up on the couch—or a lounge chair by the pool—and losing myself in the pages of a good book.
In the months leading up to becoming a parent, I worried that once my son was born, my reading life would suffer and possibly cease altogether for the next dozen or so years. While I did struggle to read during the sleepless haze of the newborn stage, it wasn’t long before my reading picked back up, and I’ve been “reading strong” in the four+ years since. In fact, by becoming smarter with my time and my reading habits, I’ve managed to add to my annual book count with each passing year, and in 2018 I actually surpassed my goal of reading (or listening to) 200 books in a single calendar year.
Please don’t let that number intimidate you. I am NOT saying that you should read 200 books in a year, or even that you need to read more books at all! I recognize that reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and if you’d rather spend your free time in other ways, you will receive absolutely zero judgment from me. However, for the sake of this post, let’s assume that you enjoy reading and are looking for ways to fit more of it into your life. If that’s the case, I’m here to help!
Over the years I’ve accumulated a number of tips, tricks, and tools that have helped me increase my reading and gain more from my reading life, and I’d love to share them with you!
1. Embrace alternative book formats.
I read a few books per week, but other than the picture books I read with my son, it’s been months since I read a traditional hard cover book or paperback. Instead, I rely on audiobooks and e-books to meet my bookish needs.
a. Audiobooks are a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading. More than half the books I read are in audio form, as I find it easier to squeeze listening time into my day than dedicated time with a traditional book. And yes, listening to an audiobook DOES count as reading. There is a fair amount of research demonstrating that, as far as mental processes are concerned, there isn’t much difference between reading and listening to a book. So listen to your heart’s content, and don’t feel like you are cheating! Pro Tip: Once you’ve adjusted your ears and brain to listening to audiobooks, gradually increase the speed. I get through audiobooks much more quickly by listening at 1.5x speed.
b. E-books are another excellent substitute for conventional books. It’s much more convenient for me to read books on my eReader or on the Kindle app on my phone than to tote a book or two around with me. E-books make it possible for me to carry dozens of books around in the palm of my hand, and having books on my phone means that I’m more likely to choose reading a book when I’m tempted to waste time playing Words With Friends or scrolling social media. Pro Tip: Put the Kindle app in a prominent place on your phone so it’s the first one you see—before Facebook or Instagram or any other time-suckers. And if you can, put your phone into Airplane mode while you’re reading to avoid distractions.
2. Create a TBR (To Be Read) list.
For committed readers, reading is a habit, and there will always be plenty of books to fill our designated reading hours. However, if you’re just getting started with the dedicated reading life, finding the right book can be a prohibitive barrier to reading more. To combat decision fatigue, use your bullet journal, Goodreads, an Amazon wishlist, or the notes app on your phone to keep an ongoing list of titles that interest you. Next time you finish a book, you’ll have a plethora of ideas for what to read next.
3. Listen to reading podcasts, read book blogs, or follow bookstagrammers for bookish inspiration.
If you need some help building up your TBR, there are tons of great resources for finding strong book recommendations. A few of my favorites are Modern Mrs. Darcy (blog), Book Riot (website), What Should I Read Next (podcast), Currently Reading (podcast), The NY Times Book Review (podcast), and @bookedupblog (Instagram). I also share weekly reviews of the books I’ve been reading—including titles I would recommend—on my personal blog.
4. Keep a stack (or digital folder) of books that are ready to be read.
Once you’ve begun to build up your TBR list, it’s time to start collecting books. There’s no need to break the bank here: utilize your library to check out physical books, or download the Hoopla, OverDrive, or Libby apps to access audiobooks and e-books through your library. I rely heavily on library holds to gain access to hot new releases (I place enough holds that I always have new titles waiting for me), and I like to make use of the library app’s shelving/favorites features to keep track of books I want to check out in the future. Beyond the library, I utilize sites like this one and this one to find deals on e-books so that I can keep my Kindle loaded with titles that interest me. If you’re an audiobook listener, consider an Audible subscription to save money on audiobooks. And if you’d prefer to read books the old fashioned way, head to your nearest used bookstore or the little free libraries in your neighborhood to stock up on future reads; request a subscription to a book subscription box (this is my favorite) for your birthday or Christmas; and let your friends and family members know that you’d happily take any extra books off their hands.
5. Read multiple books at once.
I almost always have three or four books going at once, including a novel, one or two nonfiction titles, and an audiobook. This guarantees that when it comes time to read, there will at be at least one current book to fit my reading mood. It takes longer to get through an individual book this way, but I manage to polish off more books over a year than when I try to read just one book at a time. Many readers have luck with reading certain books at designated times during the day: for instance, they might start their morning with some sort of devotional or other inspirational book, read novels during the daytime, and enjoy a poem or short story before bed. Pro Tip: Don’t try to simultaneously read multiple books from the same genre; it’s too easy to confuse plots and characters!
Next week I’ll be sharing eight more tips for fitting more reading into your life. If you are a reader, how do you make time for reading?