Recently, I wrote a list of 10 books I recommend out of the more than 100 books I read last year. In the comments on Instagram, many people shared their own goals to read more books this year—whether that goal is one or 100. Today, I’m sharing some tips about how I manage to fit reading into my life, in the hopes you can use some (or all) of them to achieve your own reading goals.
First, a confession: I am currently unemployed. Last spring, I left my apartment in California and have been traveling around the world with my husband ever since. That means for eight months last year, I was not working 40+ hours a week, which is a huge chunk of time I realize most people reading this don’t have at their disposal. However, 115 books (my final count for 2019) is actually the fewest number of books I’ve read since 2015. The year before last, when I was working a full-time job and two part-time jobs (to save for said year of travel) and writing freelance pieces, I read 155 books. The two years previous, I read around 125 books each year. I’m not telling you this to compare numbers (because reading is not a competition) or to claim I’m busier than you (I don’t have kids or pets, for example, which I know is a huge time commitment for many), but I do want to be transparent about how much time I do (and don’t) have to read, so you can put my suggestions into context for your own lifestyle.
Why do I read so many books each year? Honestly, I just genuinely love to read. In the beginning of 2019, I actually set a goal to read fewer books so I could explore more hobbies. I would wake up early to work on a new project … and I would find myself reading instead. I would set aside time to develop a new skill … and I would find myself wishing I were reading instead. But if you want to read more, these tips can help you get there.
1. Ask yourself why you want to read more this year
Is it because you truly love to read and want more books in your life? Great, let’s go! Is it because you feel like you should read more, even though your passions are elsewhere? If that’s the case, I admire your determination to read more (and I hope you succeed), but please don’t be too down on yourself if you don’t meet whatever arbitrary number you think you “should” reach. If you are finding fulfillment in other parts of your life, whether that’s watching movies or spending quality time with friends or experimenting with new recipes, there is zero reason to feel bad about the books you are not reading.
2. Prioritize reading
When people ask me how I read so much, I used to jokingly answer, “I don’t watch TV.” But then I realized it wasn’t really a joke. I regularly prioritized reading over other activities, and those decisions added up. Whereas my friends were coming home from work and winding down with an episode of The Bachelorette or binging Black Mirror (which I’m not knocking, btw!), I was reading. When friends were going to the movie theater or a trendy new bar on Saturday night, I was at home reading. And when friends were scrolling through Instagram in the waiting room before their dentist appointments, I was reading. Which brings me to …
3. Always have a book on you.
Honestly, this is the most practical tip I can give you. Whether you carry a paperback book in your purse or keep a book (or audiobook) downloaded on your smartphone, you should always have a book on you. That way, there is never an excuse not to read. Waiting for a friend who is late for a coffee date? Read your book. Standing in line at the post office during the holiday rush? Read your book. Sitting on the freeway during a bad traffic jam? Hit play on that audiobook and listen to just one more chapter. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done in small increments each day. When you find yourself pulling out your phone to kill some time, click on the Libby icon instead of Twitter and get to reading.
4. Use your library.
What the heck is Libby, you ask? Libby is a magical app developed by Overdrive, a company that provides e-books and e-audiobooks (and even e-magazines) through public libraries. You can download materials for free with your library card and even send most e-books to your Kindle if you don’t want to read on your phone or tablet. Other popular apps that provide free e-books through your local library include RBDigital and Hoopla. First step? Get a library card. Second step? Ask your local library about its e-book and e-audiobook options, and start downloading.
5. Use your ears.
Yes, audiobooks count! In fact, audiobooks are so popular now, it seems many new books are written for your ears. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to audiobooks; if you like podcasts, you might find it easier to listen to nonfiction books on audio. If you are less of an auditory learner, you might find yourself more engaged by fiction. I know people who can listen to audiobooks at work (so jealous!), but I could never focus enough that way. Personally, my favorite activities for listening to audiobooks include washing dishes, doing laundry, running and commuting. When you listen to an audiobook while performing other necessary activities, the time you have to read expands dramatically.
6. Read what you like.
This one might seem obvious, but in an era where everything seems to be a contest, it has to be said: read what you want to read! Don’t like a book? Put it down and try another one. (I’ll admit this is something I struggle with myself, but no one is giving you a cookie for finishing a book you’re not interested in. Switch to something you want to read instead.) Feel free to join a book club to keep you accountable, but make sure it is a book club that picks books you want to discuss. Ask trusted friends who read what they recommend for you. Ask your local librarian or independent bookseller for a suggestion. Check out our lists on The Everygirl and see what appeals to you. If you enjoy what you’re reading, you’re much more likely to finish it—and then start another book.
Finally, remember that reading goals don’t have to be numerical. It’s simple to plop a number into Goodreads and work methodically toward reaching it, but there are other worthy reading goals to pursue. Maybe you want to read more books by Women of Color. Maybe you want to read more nonfiction. Maybe you want to read more to help you professionally. Maybe you want to escape into a romance or a page-turner. Maybe you want books you can talk about with your friends. Maybe you want to support more independent bookstores and publishers. Whatever your reading goals are for this year, I hope these tips make them possible!