I do not naturally love to read. Some people will choose a good book over almost any other activity when they can fit it in. Personally, however, I’m the type that is prone to watch something on TV or get lost in an internet rabbit hole of research about something that doesn’t matter.
But I don’t want to be this way.
I want to be one of those readers who is constantly expanding my horizon, learning about exciting new topics, experiencing the world through the eyes of others, and getting lost in a faraway land. On the occasion that has happened, like with some historical fiction books that I have read, or when Andy Weir writes about living in outer space.
So, over the past few years, I’ve slowly cultivated the habit of reading, and I’ve learned how to squeeze in more books of all kinds. I’ve even practiced tactics for becoming a faster reader. It has enriched my life for the better, and while not always easy or natural, by implementing a few tricks I get through dozens of books each year.
Watch Less TV
I know, this one is a low blow. Of course, if we just watch less TV, or do anything less, we’ll have more time to read. The thing is I was watching around an hour of TV per night (I use the term loosely, since Netflix on my phone counts as TV in this context). However, over the years through journaling, I keep coming back to the fact that consuming more television shows and movies doesn’t give me life. It’s not furthering my goals for myself.
Ask yourself, is watching this series adding to my life? Is it helping me be the person I want to be?
I’ve even stopped myself after a few episodes of a new show, that usually falls under the category of “mildly entertaining” or “a decent enough way to kill an hour,” and realized that to finish the season I’d have to donate 10+ more hours of my life to consuming the plot. Is that really in line with my goals?
So, instead of consuming some Netflix before bed I now try to get in bed with a book and make that the last thing I do before bed. I find that I fall asleep much faster (because the show often keeps me up later, and reading by a bedside lamp prepares me to sleep much better).
If this sounds daunting or unrealistic for you, I would challenge you to just give up a portion of the television and swap it out for a book. Maybe it’s a dedicated amount of time at the end of the day, or just one day of the week you read instead of watching TV before bed.
While some may debate whether listening to audiobooks constitutes “reading,” it certainly helps me consume more books. In the car, on a walk, or while cleaning the house, I am often listening to an audiobook. Some people with Audible accounts prefer to use Whispersync with their Kindles so they can read some, listen to some, and switch back and forth while keeping their place in the same book. I just have a separate book that I’m listening to in addition to one that I’m reading.
With audiobooks, a good narrator can make the experience, while a monotone one can break it. There are books that I’ve listened to where I’ve decided I just don’t like the narrator’s style, but I’m sure I’d like the content, so I switch over to a physical book. If a book is read by the author, it’s almost always great because the excitement about the subject matter comes to life.
If you’re looking for a shortlist of well-narrated fiction audiobooks, here are a few to get you started:
- The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Narrated by Richard Armitage)
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Narrated by Jim Dale)
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Narrated by Cassandra Campbell)
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Narrated by
Of course, any autobiography is great to read by the author, and most of them are. In fact, for autobiographies, I almost always go the audiobook route because my head should be reading it in their voice anyway.
Get a Kindle
For the longest time, I was a paper book purist. There’s enough digital content in our life, why not embrace the analog when we can? Besides, Kindles don’t smell as good as cracking open some freshly printed paper (or old paper, middle paper is just neutral).
I can see this argument for reading on an iPad or Kindle Fire, or any LCD screen, but e-ink does feel different to my eyes, and there are a few reasons why I am a proponent of using a Kindle to read (in addition to paper books):
- The backlight is great for in-bed reading
- You can travel with several books without the weight
- You can acquire a book instantly
- It’s waterproof, read by the pool and beach all you want!
- You can click on any word to see its definition, build that vocab
- Your hightlights are saved digitally for fast review (especially if you tie in with Goodreads, more on that in a bit).
All that being said, I still use paper books and am not a Kindle purist. I still love perusing the local library and grabbing something that calls to me from the shelves.
I’m surprised how many people still have not jumped on the Libby bandwagon (Libby is the current mobile software from the Overdrive company). With Libby, you can borrow digital books and audiobooks from your local library, free of charge. I have found very few books that I’ve wanted to consume that weren’t listed in a library’s digital database.
When you borrow an audiobook, you listen to that book directly within the Libby app on your smartphone. When you borrow a digital book, you can read it in the Libby app, but you can also send it directly to your Kindle, which for me provides a better experience. When the digital book loan expires, it will be automatically removed from your Kindle.
Pro Tip: Put your Kindle in "Airplane Mode" after you've downloaded a Libby loan and it will never be removed. This can be useful if loading up a few loans from the library, then putting your Kindle in airplane mode while you read them.
Of everyone that I’ve met who uses Libby, I have yet to meet someone who takes advantage of this other “hack”: Get library cards from every major library in your state. For example, I live in Ohio, and I have a library card for 8 libraries. Creating these accounts is simple to do online, some even offer “digital-only” cards as long as you live in the state. The reason I have multiple libraries is that oftentimes there is a long wait for a particular book at my local library, but another library might have 3 available copies, so in general, I can get whatever book I want, at the time I want it.
Unlike digital books, there is no hack to keep audiobooks past their 21-day borrowing period. Is this a bad thing? For me, it forces me to listen to them while I have them, and of course, I can always re-borrow them if the time runs out before I’ve finished, Libby remembers your progress between different loans.
Read More than One Book at a Time
I’ve hinted at this previously in the article, but I usually have a few books going at the same time. I once heard someone say they like to read some light learning, some heavy learning, and a fiction book, then they just grab whatever sounds good to them at the moment.
Try reading one light book, one heavy book, and one fiction book you can get lost in—then grab whichever you are feeling at the moment.
By default, I usually have one book on my Kindle, a paper book I have lying around, and an audiobook I’m working through. This is also helpful if you prefer to leave different books in a different places, like one book at your desk or in your backpack, and one on your bedside stand. It can be easier to just read a couple of different books instead of moving the same one around with you. I even have one dedicated book on my iPhone’s Kindle reading app so I have something to read when I have no other books with me. This is good for when I’m resting between sets at the gym or when I’m at the BMV.
Curate Your Goodreads
I’ve saved one of the most inspirational tips for last. Goodreads is essentially a social network of book readers, and even if you don’t use it to connect with others, you can use it for the following:
- Discover new books with lists and annual awards given in various genres
- Read reviews and ratings to ensure your time investment is spent reading something you’ll enjoy
- Keep a log of books you’d like to read
- Keep a log of books you’ve read
- Store your highlights from books you’ve read if you connect your Amazon account and highlight on your Kindle.
I try to leave a short review of each book I read, but this is mostly for myself, so I can remember what I thought about the book, and any lessons learned. When you keep highlights you can also leave notes regarding those highlights, and chose to share them publicly or privately. Yes, there are some books I’ve read that I keep private, including my notes. It is up to you how much you want to share with the world.
Using Goodreads to curate, organize, and keep a record of my reading activity has helped me to turn reading from a casual activity to one that I intentionally fit into my life, and ensure that the time is not wasted by helping me to remember the contents of those books and to think critically about what I have read through my reviews.
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.“Walt Disney
Nowhere in this article did I push fiction over non-fiction, or vice-versa. I believe reading both has enriched my life, and I typically engage with a little of both at the same time. I gravitate towards non-fiction because I get obsessed with learning about random topics from time to time, but once I discovered good historical fiction, I started not only learning about but seemingly experiencing different periods and walks of life. No amount of fact reading can compare with the mental descriptions some of the world’s most talented writers can plant inside of you.
However you do it, wherever you do it, and whichever methods you use to get more books into your life, it’s fairly universally agreed that you will enrich your life for the better. Any tips I’ve missed or you’d like to share? Place them in the comments below.