As someone who reads at least 100 books per year, the questions I get asked the most are: How do you find the time? What are your reading hacks? And most commonly, how do you read so much?
It’s no secret that we’re all busy. We’re overwhelmed at work, we’re constantly trying to spend more time with our friends and family, and we also need to keep the house clean, eat right, and maybe even get a workout in. But no matter how busy we are, finding time to wind down is vital. While it’s certainly easier to scroll through Instagram or rewatch a favorite TV show, there’s nothing quite as rejuvenating as curling up with a good book.
The hardest part of reading more isn’t finding the time to read; it’s finding books that make you want to read more than you want to do anything else. These five reading hacks will teach you exactly how to do that.
1. Learn the specifics of your reading tastes
We are most likely to define what we like to read by our favorite genres. For example, I like to read women’s fiction and young-adult realistic fiction. But within those genres, there are a lot of books that wouldn’t be for me. So how do I know which ones I will love? I’ve gotten really specific on what I like to read.
In women’s fiction, I like multi-generational stories with both adult and teenage point-of-view characters. In YA realistic fiction, I prefer when the characters are at least sixteen, when the main character’s goals and opinions differ from those of her parents, and when romance isn’t the main plot. Those parameters give me a lot more to go off of than simply women’s fiction and YA realistic fiction. It also allows me to find books I like in other genres. My favorite thrillers are multi-generational stories, too. And when I read adult romance, I look for books where the characters are struggling with more than just their love lives.
Think about what it is you really liked about your favorite books. Then, find more books that include those elements. A targeted search will likely turn up lists posted by other book lovers, and a quick browse of the gists (short reviews) on the Readerly app will yield recommendations on things as specific as fake relationship tropes and romances that make you cry. The StoryGraph app is another great option that will tell you the moods of books you like to read, such as emotional, lighthearted, and reflective. Or you can ask your local bookseller or librarian for recommendations. I promise you’ll end up with books you won’t be able to put down.
2. Only read the buzzy books if you want to
As someone who used to work in publishing, I can tell you that every publishing division selects one to three books per season to throw a bunch of marketing and publicity behind. These are the books that you’ll definitely hear about. They’ll be all over the Internet. They’ll be at the front of bookstores when you walk in. And many of them will hit the New York Times Best Sellers list.
Recently, some of those buzzy books have been Spare by Prince Harry, I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy, Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey, and Things We Hide From the Light by Lucy Score. Thousands of people will buy these books, and thousands of people will love these books. But if you don’t think you’ll love them, then let me be the person who gives you permission to not read them.
If you’re not a fan of memoirs or royal drama, then don’t read Spare. If you didn’t like Every Summer After, then don’t bother with Carley Fortune’s latest. But if those books do sound like they’re for you, then absolutely pick them up! Read a book because it’s what you want to read, not because it’s what everyone else is reading.
3. Fill your social feeds with bookish accounts from people who have the same taste as you
Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are filled with book lovers who review the books they read and post about upcoming releases they’re interested in. But while there may certainly be similarities in the content they share, no two Bookstagrammers are alike.
So head to your favorite social media channel and look through bookish feeds for books that you have also read. Read and watch reviews and see what it was that that particular BookTokker liked about those books. Did you also love that the book took place in only one day? Were you just as pulled in by the witty dialogue? If so, hit that follow button!
While you’re at it, look up a few authors you love and follow them, too. Following your favorite authors will not just keep you in the know on their latest books; it will also give you a slew of recommendations of other books you’re likely to enjoy. After all, authors wouldn’t be authors if they weren’t also readers.
Emily Henry, the New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation, is the perfect example of this. She is always posting about contemporary romance novels that she’s enjoyed, and she even mentions books that she thinks her fans will enjoy. For example, she posted on her Instagram that fans of Beach Read will enjoy Love Scenes by Bridget Morrissey and shared that Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane is right up her alley.
With your social media feeds now filled with books from people whose recommendations you can trust, your TBR list will soon be longer than you could’ve imagined.
4. When you start a book, read the first 60 pages in one sitting
You’ve taken the time to select your next book, and now it’s time to start reading. Don’t read the first page and then get distracted. Don’t read the first chapter and then set it aside. Commit to reading the first 60 pages in one sitting. Why? Because at that point, you’ll be far enough into the story to understand the book’s structure, care for the characters, and want to know what happens next. You’ll no longer be thinking about putting the book down.
Even as a Sally Rooney fan, if I had not followed this rule when picking up Beautiful World, Where Are You, I would not have wanted to keep reading it. Rooney opens the novel with, “A woman sat in a hotel bar, watching the door.” This is a strong first line, but Rooney goes on to refer to this character only as a woman and the character who eventually talks to her at the bar simply as a man. It’s not until almost the end of the chapter that we learn the characters’ names: Alice and Felix.
When we turn the page to the next chapter, we expect more of the same—but that’s not what we get. Instead, we discover we’re reading an email from Alice to her friend. It takes an additional two chapters for us to have a complete picture of the novel’s structure. I wasn’t interested in the book when I was reading about four nameless people, but once Rooney moved on from that and I got used to the back and forth of narrative and email, I couldn’t wait to find out where the book was going.
5. Don’t be afraid to DNF
If you’re a reader, you have probably heard of the term DNF before. But just in case you haven’t, it stands for “did not finish,” and it’s a phrase Bookstagrammers have been using for years. When you start a book and then decide not to finish it, you DNF it.
This is the one example on this list where I need to do a better job of taking my own advice. I am admittedly a bad DNFer, even though finishing the books I want to toss aside is barely ever worth it. Instead of putting down a book that isn’t working for me, I waste a week not wanting to read and then finally force myself to finish. If I had just DNFed, then I could have read two, three, or maybe even more books that I would have loved in that amount of time. So don’t be like me. If you aren’t enjoying a book, DNF it and pick up something else!