Summer is in full swing, and for many of us that means one thing: the season for reading is HERE!
A few weeks ago, I discussed my own love for reading and how that passion has somehow morphed into reading 200 books in a year. In that post I shared five excellent strategies for fitting more reading into you life, and today I’m back with eight more tips for helping you read more books.
To be clear, I am not saying that YOU must—or even should—attempt to read 200 or 100 or even 50 books this year. But if you are looking to squeeze more reading time into your busy life, this list is for you!
1. Don’t be afraid to quit a book you aren’t enjoying.
I used to consider this a cardinal sin, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that there are too many good books out there to suffer through one that isn’t for me. Reading should never feel like a chore, so if a book isn’t working for you, set it aside and start something new. Pro Tip: To keep from even starting a book you won’t enjoy, read through several book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads before making a book selection. The more you read, the more easily you’ll be able to identify a book that isn’t for you after just a chapter or two.
2. Set a reading goal.
Many readers find that setting a monthly or annual reading goal takes the joy and spontaneity out of reading, but if you’re a goal-setter and list-maker like me, setting and reaching a reading goal merely enhances reading satisfaction. The key to setting a book goal is to make it ambitious, but not so high that it seems unattainable and will lead to frustration. If you read ten books last year, try to read fifteen next year, or aim to finish at least one book per month. If you live with a family of readers, or are surrounded by bookish friends, you can start a competition to see who can read the most books in a month—the winner gets treated to a new book of his or her choice!
3. Track your reading.
As with setting a goal, this is another tactic that won’t work for everyone, but it’s a must for the Type A’s among us. There’s no right or wrong way to record your books: it can be as simple as a numbered list on your phone, or as complicated as an annotated book journal or detailed spreadsheet. Next to reading itself, recording my books is my favorite aspect of being a bibliophile and I tend to go over the top: I document books I’ve read on Goodreads, on an annual Pinterest board, in my bullet journal, and in weekly roundups that I share on my blog. I also use my digital journal to record a brief summary of a book, along with my impressions and a star rating; these reviews come in handy when giving future book recommendations, and they help me retain information in the books themselves. Pro Tip: Don’t feel the need to be a perfectionist about your book logs. If tracking your reading becomes too cumbersome, it can quickly take the joy out of recording AND reading.
4. Get more out of your reading by highlighting, taking notes, and writing book reviews.
I know what you are thinking: how is spending more time with a book going to help me fit more books into my life? But hear me out on this one: I’ve found that the more engaged I am with a book, the more eager I am to keep reading. Highlighting and taking notes in my books (Kindle is great for this) keeps me focused on what I’m reading and makes the book more meaningful. If you enjoy reflecting on a book after reading it, share a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or simply jot down a few thoughts in your book journal.
5. Join a book club.
Book clubs are a great way of enhancing you reading experience. Not only do they add a fun social component to the frequently solitary hobby of reading, they can also provide helpful structure and accountability to your reading life. It can also provide a great excuse to ask hubby to watch the kids for the evening because you “have to get you reading done for book club!” You can start your own book club (here are some great tips) or join one at your local library. There are also a number of online book clubs that you can participate in from the comfort of your own home. And your book club doesn’t need to be a formal affair: it could be as simple as a monthly phone call or coffee date with a friend to discuss the books you’ve been reading and swap recommendations.
6. Make use of small pockets of time.
We all have extra minutes in our day that can be filled with reading, if we choose to make books a priority. Try reading on your eReader while you brush your teeth or blow dry your hair in the morning; stick a book in your purse to read while waiting at the doctor’s office or in the car pool line; or even sneak in some reading while waiting in line at the grocery story. (I once heard of a woman who read all 1,200 pages of War and Peace over years of waiting in line!) Or set a timer to read for just five minutes when you first wake up or before bed. Those spare minutes can really add up when we’re intentional with them.
7. Pair reading with other activities.
The strategy of pairing involves combining something you regularly do (or simply have to do) with an optional activity, i.e., reading. For instance, you can pair listening to an audiobook with your morning commute, folding laundry, or doing dishes: as soon as you begin the chore, put in your earbuds and start the audiobook—before you know it, “reading” along with these activities will become a habit. Other suggestions for pairing are: reading on your phone while breastfeeding your baby; fitting in a chapter or two of your novel as soon as you get in bed and before turning off the light; and (my favorite) reading on your eReader while on the elliptical or treadmill. (I do most of my best reading while working out at the gym—gotta love the free child care!)
8. Take a look at your priorities and carve out time for reading.
When it comes down to it, we only have so many hours in a day. As busy moms, we need to prioritize what’s important to us, and if you’ve chosen to make reading a priority, you might need to let go of some other activities in order to fit reading in. Personally, I have chosen to give up scrolling social media and watching television to make more time for reading. Do I miss those activities? Sometimes, but I feel much better about myself and how I’ve spent my time when I dedicate my “me time” to reading. Try giving up just one extracurricular activity for a week, and devote the extra time to reading; the change doesn’t need to be permanent, but you just might find that your time was better spent with your nose in a book!