I get a lot of comments (and some shocked looks or incredulous questions) when people hear how many books I read, especially as a stay-at-home-mom of two little kids.
How many books a year? That’s crazy! How do you have time to read so much?
Sometimes they’re asking rhetorically, but often, people really want to know how they can read more, too.
Obviously, everyone reads at their own pace and has varying amounts of time to devote to leisure activities, but I wanted to share these tips for reading more books.
- Set a goal
Setting a goal for myself has made a huge difference in my reading progress. A specific year-long reading goal helps me to work towards something concrete, and gives me a sense of accomplishment as I make progress. Plus, it keeps me accountable and focused. When I’m tempted to spend my evening re-watching Friends on Netflix, I remember that the month is almost over and I’m two books behind on my goal, so I grab a book instead, and I feel better off for it.
Don’t try and set an unachievable goal for yourself, just because you want to be able to say you read a certain number of books that year. When I first started setting reading goals, I set my first challenge based on what I figured I was already doing: 36 books a year, or 3 each month. I wish I could read 100 books a year, but my current goal is 52 (one book a week, the same as I accomplished last year), since that’s as much as I can do during this phase of my life.
If you aren’t really reading at all right now, it’s ok to set a goal of one book a month, or even one book per season. Four books a year is better than zero, and you have to start somewhere! As you build a habit of reading and grow to love it, you can set bigger goals for yourself.
- Read books you like
This one sounds pretty basic, but I think a lot of people read books they want to like or think they should like, instead of ones they genuinely do like. I myself fall prey to this, though I’m getting better at it. We all want to be able to put War and Peace on our list of accomplishments, or discuss Te-Nehisi Coates’ new best-seller over wine and cheese to make ourselves seem cool and sophisticated.
But why waste time reading books we don’t enjoy? I have to be honest, I don’t like a lot of classic literature. There’s so much of it that is just too depressing, too fatalistic, and too gosh-dang slow. It may be great literature according to the experts, but I just can’t enjoy it.
No matter how much I want to like a book or be able to say I read it, if I’m not enjoying it, I tend to read it slowly and feel like it’s a chore. I often can’t seem to finish it, and the time spent reading a book I don’t like keeps me from actually finishing books I do like.
Forget about the books you think you should like, and discover what types of stories really grab your interest. If you want to read young adult novels despite being far from young yourself, read them. If you love fan-fiction, read it. If you like graphic novels, fluffy romances, Christian feel-good stories, cheap horror flicks, or some other “uncool” genre, forget about what everyone else thinks about it and just let yourself enjoy it. It’s your time and your reading journey, and you don’t need to impress people with your booklist.
If you’re reading books you actually enjoy, you’ll find yourself grabbing your book at every opportunity, taking it with you to read in the doctor’s office, and even passing up on Netflix for a chance to keep reading.
- Share your love of reading
I feel like nothing motivates us more than community and peer encouragement. That’s why there are so many groups focused on mutual activities, right? We surround ourselves by people who love the same things we do and encourage us in our efforts.
The same applies to reading. I’ve found that following bookstagrammers (other book lovers on IG), being part of a book club, and following my friends’ reading progress on Goodreads helps me read more. Doing this keeps books “in my face” all the time and constantly fans my passion for stories. In these communities, I see suggestions for great new reads, and I’m inspired by the reading accomplishments of others.
We are what we think about and who we spend time with, right? Surround yourself with books and book lovers, and I’d bet my monthly reading budget that you’ll find yourself reading more.
Of course, there are other tips for accomplishing your reading goals, which I’ll mention briefly.
- Listen to audiobooks. For anyone who doesn’t have a lot of down time or who spends a lot of time in their car, this can make a huge difference. There are a lot of free options or even library rentals.
- Join a book club. Again, peer pressure and deadlines really help.
- Get a library card. You’ll have more access to books, and sometimes librarians can help you find a good read, based on what you know you like.
- Buy new books. I know I can’t resist the allure of new books on my shelf. I have to read them.
- Skip the Netflix and the time spent scrolling through your phone in the evening and read a book instead.
- Take a book with you everywhere. You never know when you’re gonna be stuck waiting somewhere.
- Remember that all books count. Self-help books, parenting books, health books, books of the Bible… the only place I’d really draw the line is picture books. I don’t think the board books I read my 18-month-old count, do you?