Ever since I was a kid, I have been an avid reader. Perhaps not just because I love to read but because I love stories. I remember looking at my family bookshelf and not being able to decide what I wanted to read next because I’d read it all before.
When I went to college as an English major, all of my reading for funsies was put on hold due to the incredible amount of literature assignments I had. It was amazing because it pushed me to read more classics and a wider variety of genres but I missed having the ability to choose my own reads.
Last year, my first year as a post-grad, I read more than I ever have: 29 books.
Before 2017 even began, I made a goal to read even more than last year. This past weekend I finished up my 17th book.
I’ve had a lot of friends & family ask me how I’ve been able to read so much, so I decided to create this blog post to have one convenient place to spill the beans.
Here’s my secret sauce to reading A LOT:
Scheduling time to read
Possibly the most helpful thing I have done to begin reading more has been scheduling the time to do it. I’ve found that if I don’t, it just doesn’t happen. I always find it much easier in the moment to plop onto the couch and turn on Netflix or endlessly scroll through Instagram on my phone.
Also, by planning ahead of time to read in my schedule, I have found I have no excuse to say that I “don’t have time”. If I really didn’t have time to read, I would know that. But usually I can find at least 30 minutes sometime in the day to open a book — even if that means no time on social media.
Keeping a yearly reading list
Making a reading list all started at the end of last year when I was trying to determine how many books I read. I went through my personal library recalling recent reads and made a list.
This inspired me to create a list of my “want to read” for the next year.
Doing this helped me keep track of the books I needed to put on hold at the library. I keep it as a Evernote on my phone and anytime I see a book I’m interested in, I add it to the list. Keeping a list has also helped me set a goal and keep me motivated to keep working on my list. When I think it sounds easier to lay on the couch and turn on the TV, I think about how much progress I have made with my reading list and how I can still relax by just picking up my book. Reading gives me the opportunity to both relax AND be productive. The best of both worlds.
Fun fact: From 4th grade all the way up to my high school graduation, I was homeschooled. At some point in middle school, my mom bought me CD’s that were a training program on how to read faster. And I think it actually worked? I took a reading comprehension test just the other day and I think I read around 1000 words a minute.
I have no idea what this program was or if it *actually* worked but if you’re interested, I’m certain there are similar programs out there.
The first step for reading faster that I would advise would be this: As you’re reading, stop hearing the words in your head.
Reading “aloud”, even in your head, to yourself slows down the reading process. By focusing on just processing the words instead of hearing them, you’ll be able to move along faster. It feels SUPER weird at first and will affect your overall comprehension but you’ll get better and better at it overtime.
Using the public library
As I began reading more last year, I also began to frequent my local independent bookstore, Parnassus. I love going to bookstores, especially this place. It’s owned by one of my favorite writers (Anne Patchett!), has shop dogs, and the most wonderful & helpful staff. I think saying it’s my dream to work there would be an understatement.
I love that by shopping local I am able to support keeping small bookstores like this around. I did find that by buying a new stack of books for my nightstand every month started to add up, though. My wallet started feeling the pain.
So I remembered - aha! The library. Of course. In early January, Branden and I took a date to the library and each got a library card. I now visit the library almost every Wednesday. As I find new books to add to my list, I look them up on the library’s website and put them on hold. I currently have 10 books checked out, 20 on hold, and 3 ready to be picked up. Plenty of libraries also offer digital downloads for both ebooks & audiobooks, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m a physical book kind of gal, myself.
Beginning in elementary school through college, quitting books was never a option that was presented to me. When I read this blog post by Austin Kleon about giving yourself the freedom to quit books you don’t like, it blew my mind.
Because of that, I have quit quite a few books for numerous reasons over the last year. Some were boring, some were too vulgar, some were just too similar to books I’ve read before.
It took me awhile to not feel shameful or regretful about leaving a book behind; abandoning it unread at the library drop off.
It feels a whole lot better than when I used to read brand new, unread books at the used bookstore. Which is just ANOTHER reason why I am so grateful for the library! It gives me the opportunity to find which books I fall in love with so I can add them to my at home collection.
Life’s just too short and there are far too many amazing reads out there to spend time with a book you don’t love.
Hope this info inspires you to get out and find a book you love today.