First, a caveat–
How many books a person reads in a year (or thinks she can read in a year) varies dramatically, so while for some people, 36 books in six months will seem a small number, for others, that number seems so huge that this post is exhausting you even to read about it.
For me, though, at this point in my life, 36 books in half a year is a LOT. In years past, when I really focused on amping up my reading, I read 38 books total (in 2013) and 44 books total (last year).
So what’s the difference this time around?
Well, first off–and I can’t stress this enough–I’m no longer working full-time. While my time available to read hasn’t necessarily drastically increased (just because I usually can’t read much during the day with an active toddler shadowing me everywhere I go), my ENERGY to read has definitely increased, since it’s no longer all being spent on managing 150 seventh graders and trying to keep up my home in the spare pockets of energy I had left when I got home.
So that’s one big reason.
But the other reasons are just as important, for if I hadn’t chosen to consciously make THIS the year I finally read 50 books in 365 days (as an adult–I used to do it all the time as a teen), I would never have done the other tweaks I needed in order to reach that goal.
Here’s how I’ve done it:
1 – I’m only picking up books that sound interesting to me.
This sounds like such a “duh” thing to say, but for years, I pushed myself to stick to reading things off of recommended reading lists (like this one), which meant that for years, I felt guilty whenever I decided to “sneak” something that didn’t get me closer to being able to cross a line through one of the books on my lists. Awhile back, I resolved to just read whatever the heck I wanted, and it’s made a world of difference in my motivation to read every day.
2 – I’m getting most of my books from the library, which gives me a built-in deadline to finish.
Although I probably need to set a rule eventually that I really need to get around to reading all the books we own that I haven’t read yet (which number over 500 as of my last count), borrowing books from the library has a lot of perks. For one, I’ve been saving myself loads of money by not buying every last book that catches my fancy, whether or not I think I’ll read it again. For two, it gives me a 3-week deadline for any title I want to read that’s currently in high demand, which pushes me to read more every day than I would otherwise.
Take this week, for example. I currently have 7 books checked out that I haven’t read yet, all of which are due back at various points over the next two and a half weeks. Since most of these are new releases and have holds on them by other patrons, I don’t want to lose my chance to read those books NOW, so I’ve been pushing myself to really read a lot over the past couple weeks to try and finish them all. When I own the books myself, I’m in no hurry to finish them, so I tend to read at a slower pace.
Related Post: The Library is Basically Running My Life
3 – I’m abandoning books that don’t catch my interest or that don’t make me excited to read them.
I’ve talked about my issue with abandoning books before, but I’ll just say this:
It’s taken me a looooong time to develop this particular habit. However, it’s totally been worth it because on the few occasions lately when I’ve run across books that haven’t grabbed my interest, I’ve just let myself give up on them and move on to other books that are more interesting to me at this point in time. Since I no longer force myself to read books I don’t want to read, I’m pretty much always eager to be reading whatever’s on my nightstand, which translates to more books read over less time.
4 – I’m reading several different books at once.
I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but I have a rough system in place. Basically, I’m almost always in the middle of at least five books. One is a spiritual book (other than scriptures, which I’m also always in the middle of), one is an adult fiction, one is a young adult fiction, one is a memoir/biography, and one is a nonfiction (usually in the category of self-help or whatever you want to call it). Because the different types of books are different enough from each other, I never feel like I get confused reading multiple books at a time, and because I like to make progress on all the books frequently (if not daily), it means that I simply finish more books than I would if I just stuck to reading one book at a time.
Even on days when I only do reading right before bed and at no other time, I usually make myself read at least a chapter (or about 10 pages if the chapters are long) from each of my books, which means that if no other progress is made, I’m bound to finish about five books a month, just by the sheer mathematics of it.
5 – I employ simple math techniques to give myself extra motivation.
Speaking of mathematics, I’ve used simple math formulas to push myself to read even more this year, and to help myself stay on track. For example, I had two books due back today to the library, neither of which I’d finished as of Sunday night. For the first, I had less than 100 pages to go at that point, and the second, I had about 260. Since I had 3 days basically in which to read, that meant I needed to read around 120 pages a day. Since I read around 75-80 pages in an hour (I think), then I needed to devote about an hour and a half each day to reading. I usually devote around 45 minutes at night before bed without trying too hard, so the trick was just fitting in that extra 45 minutes in other pockets of the day.
6 – I fit reading into the “pockets” of spare time that come up in between other activities.
That brings me to point #6 – when I know I need to read a certain amount per day to keep up with my library deadlines, I employ little tricks to fit reading in during moments when I might not otherwise. For example, as I’m waiting for photos to upload to the computer or I’m between chores, I’ll sit down and just say to myself, “Okay, I’m just going to read one chapter or “X” amount of pages before I move to the next thing.” Often, I just read 5-10 pages at these moments, but when you do it throughout the day, those pages really add up.
7 – I have a defined reading period every night before bed.
I’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating–if at no other time of the day I’ve read, I ALWAYS read before bed. I do this for a lot of reasons, but I largely have stuck to it because reading is the perfect relaxation technique to make sure I fall asleep easily and sleep well. Having this built-in time ensures that no matter what, I’m at least making some progress every single day on at least some of my books, which definitely adds up over time.
I know not everyone cares about reading so many books in a year, but if you enjoy reading or want to do more of it, these are some of the strategies that have worked for me. Basically, if you make reading a priority, you will find a way to make it happen. Even in the busiest seasons of my life (when I was teaching full-time or was a full-time student with multiple jobs), I still managed to read at least 20-25 books a year, which translates to a couple of books a month.
What are your strategies for fitting reading into your life?
P. S. If you want detailed(ish) reviews of all the books I’ve read so far this year, add me as a friend on Goodreads.