If you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself thinking pretty consistently about how to read more books. Somehow my TBR (to be read list) always seems to be growing faster than my actual tally of read books (oops) – and try as I might to keep up, the list just never seems to stop multiplying! I know if I’m ever going to get through it, I need to prioritize reading – which can get tough for all of us when there are a million things tugging at our attention (whether it’s random distractions or things that actually need to get done). So it seems to be the case that for many people (myself included), reading more books is both an ongoing goal, and an ongoing struggle. Today I wanted to share a few tips that I thought could be helpful – I know that when I employ these strategies I definitely see my “books read” tally ticking up, and when I don’t, I don’t. There are a lot of tips on this subject out there, but these are my tried-and-true methods + things that motivate me the most when it comes to the conundrum of how to read more books!
Put your phone in another room
My phone is far and away the biggest obstacle in my reading life! I wouldn’t necessarily think that was true if I weren’t privy to my screen time reports, but whenever I see the hours I have wracked up each day on there, and realize how many book pages I could have read with those hours…yikes. Even though my phone actually brings a lot of good things into my life in terms of reading (see below), it also is a huge distractor. I’ll be reading and suddenly think of something I just have to look up or I’ll be in a slow part of a book and my phone just calls to me. The best strategy I’ve found to stop this from happening is to have my phone physically out of reach. I’ll put it in a different room and set a timer for an hour so I have a sense of what’s going on (ie, so I don’t find myself getting up to get my phone to see how much time has passed, lol). When my phone is out of my reach it just eliminates the temptation and allows me to fully focus on really getting lost in my book.
Follow Bookstagrammers and other bookish people online
Getting on #bookstagram (a bookish enclave of Instagram) has been such a huge motivator to me when it comes to reading! You don’t have to have a bookstagram of your own, but just following people who love to read and who post about books has been so much fun and so inspiring. Following people who are absolutely bananas over books helps me read more in a few ways. For one thing, it provides a constant flow of recommendations which motivates me to read more and faster so I can get to the next book on my list. It also just keeps me kind of immersed in the world of books and keeps books top of mind. I also find it really motivating to see that other people are prioritizing reading and getting through tons of books – I know for some people that can be disheartening, but I find it inspiring and motivating! You can follow my Bookstagram at @jackiesbookshelf if you’d like!
Listen to book podcasts
Ditto the above for book podcasts! For some reason, listening to people who love books chat about what they’re reading and what’s going on in the bookish world really motivates me to read – not to mention you get so many great recommendations! I wrote a post about my favorite bookish podcasts here – there are so many good ones!
Track your reading
I find that tracking your reading can be a really great way to get yourself reading more. You can track in so many different ways – on paper, on an app, in a book journal, a list, an Excel spreadsheet, etc – the sky’s the limit there. And then what you track is completely open too – you can track by genre, by page number, by mood of the book, by pub date, by recommendation source, you can give star ratings, etc – there’s no limit to the amount of data you can gather on what you’re reading. It seems like many of the people I follow on bookstagram and book podcasts love to analyze their reading data almost as much as they love reading! And I can understand why – it’s actually really interesting and illuminating. I’m currently tracking on Goodreads (you can follow here), as I have for the last few years, but I also recently downloaded a new-to-me app called Storygraph (mine is here!). This one collates a lot more data than Goodreads, so you’ll see pie charts showing you what percentage of your reading is dark books, hopeful books, funny books, mysterious books, etc…what percentage of audiobooks vs digital vs paper books you’re reading…what your average page number is…and so much more. I think by taking a look at the numbers you can learn SO much about your reading life, and in turn improve it – which will certainly get you reading more!
Set a reading goal – and then break it down
Setting a goal for books to read each year is something that I think can be really helpful, and for me I think it’s going to work especially well this year because I actually set a realistic goal. So in the past I’ve said, 100 books is my goal – without really thinking about it. Just seemed like a good, round number. I’ve “failed” both years in a row. So this year I said, ok, well in the past two years I read roughly 60 books/year, so how about I set a goal of 65? That seems doable, but will still be more than I’ve done in the past. So with that goal in mind, I know that I need to read roughly a book a week (obviously more than that some weeks, but roughly). Breaking it down this way has been really helpful so far. It will be the middle of a week and I’ll say to myself, ok so how close am I to finishing my book? I need to read a book a week! I realize that that sounds like it would be terrible, but for me it’s actually so helpful! It gets me to prioritize my reading and so if I find I’ve been dawdling on a book, been on my phone too much, not prioritizing reading, this just reminds me to do my best to put reading first. And I love that reminder! In addition, knowing how many books I need to read per week to stay on track is so much more helpful than just saying “100 books” or “65 books.” I think the key is setting a realistic goal and then breaking it down, whether it’s by week or month, so you can keep yourself on track. If you’re using Goodreads or The Storygraph you can also input your goal there and watch yourself chipping away at it – great motivation!
Listen to audiobooks
Listening to audiobooks has to be hands down the best way to get more books under your belt. This is a way to be reading while you do a million other things, thereby adding hours of reading to your life. I listen to audiobooks while I do chores like laundry and cleaning, while I’m cooking, walking, subway-ing, and more. It takes any mundane task and turns it into a golden opportunity to read! And there are so many other benefits too. Oftentimes the experience of taking in a book is greatly enhanced by listening to it. Many narrators are immensely talented and listening to them is such a pleasure – especially for a funny book. The book YOU, by Caroline Kepnes, was one of my favorites to listen to- the reader did SUCH an amazing job of bringing all of Joe’s snarkiness and sarcastic comments to life in the funniest way. For memoirs it can be so much more powerful to hear the author read their work to you (Open Book by Jessica Simpson comes to mind), and for fantastical books like Harry Potter or The Night Circus (both narrated by the legend, Jim Dale), the narrator can bring the world to life in a way that just makes for a magical, immersive experience. Jim Dale is incredible, he actually did a distinct voice for all of the HUNDREDS of characters in Harry Potter. Can you imagine? If you do want to try out audiobooks, I highly recommend going through Libro.fm, where your purchases can come straight from an independent bookstore of your choice. It’s super easy – you assign the bookstore on the site, then you purchase audiobooks by clicking a button and checking out, and boom, it downloads to the Libro.fm listening app on your phone, and you’re good to go. It couldn’t be an easier way to support independent bookstores! If you sign up using my link, you can get two audiobooks for the price of one when starting your membership (and you can pause or cancel at any time, so you have nothing to lose!).
Get the Kindle iphone app
I have the Kindle app on my phone and for me it’s just an easy way to always have a book with me, making it possible to sneak some reading in during any random downtime. Usually I’d opt for an audiobook but of course sometimes that’s not feasible (nor is carrying a physical book always feasible), so having the app on my phone ensures that I’ll always have a book on me, no matter what!
Saved the best for last. DNF means “did not finish,” ie, putting aside a book you’re not enjoying. Here are my thoughts on DNFing. What makes me want to read? An awesome book. What makes me never ever ever want to sit down and pick up my book and plow through it? A bad, boring book that I hate. So while I totally understand why some people don’t DNF or can’t bring themselves to, for me, it’s a no-brainer. If I’m not enjoying a book, I simply won’t be able to get myself to read it..and then I’m not reading…and that sucks. I don’t have a set page number that I give a book before I DNF, it’s just a feeling. And sometimes a DNF can be just a “put aside” – if that makes anyone feel better about it. Sometimes it’s just the wrong timing for a book, and you can put it aside and say ok, I’ll come back to this later on and see if it works for me then. One of the only books I ever DNF’d and then went back to and actually really liked was Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends. So while it’s not the norm for me, sometimes a DNF can be a “not right now.” But yeah. Reading is supposed to be FUN. Yes, it can be educational, or dark, or emotional, but it should be enjoyable. Even if “enjoyable” means it’s something that makes you cry or disturbs you, it’s making you feel something. It’s evoking a reaction. There should be something that drives you to want to pick up that book. If a book isn’t calling to you in any way or it annoys you or it’s so boring or you’re getting nothing out of it, please do not suffer and push your way through it. Those are my personal thoughts on it, though, as I said, I completely understand why some people choose not to DNF and indeed, to force themselves through a book. For me, it’s detrimental to my reading goals and to my goal of getting myself to read more – and there are TOO many good books out there to sit there and suffer through a bad one! (or just one that isn’t for you).
I hope these tips are helpful, whether you’re looking to read 5 books this year or 100 or anywhere in between!