How To Read More Books.

How To Read More Books

I have always been an avid reader but especially so for the past seven or eight years. Every time I do a Q&A I get asked how I read so much! (I also get asked what I do with all those books – I pass them along to friends… sharing books is my love language). Today on the podcast we tackle that briefly (but only before diving into our favorite underrated books along with several listener submissions!) but I’d also been working on a blog post about reading more for a while so thought I’d publish the post today.

I probably read at least two books a week. I know that’s a lot. And I just genuinely LOVE reading and will also say that I think my life circumstances definitely help. I’m single, child-free, and we are in a pandemic. So most of my free time is spent reading. I see firsthand how kids can change everything: my two sisters love reading as much as I do but barely get a chance to read as they both have small children. Also, let’s be honest, reading is now a part of my job. My reading lists (and filterable books page) are among my most popular blog posts, and we talk about books a LOT on the podcast. All of that being said, I do have a few tips for reading more, so let’s dive in!

How to Read More Books!

Read more than one book at a time!

This might sound daunting but I promise it isn’t. At any given moment I am most likely reading three books. Usually that is something fun (fiction), something educational (non-fiction / self-help), and then I am listening to a third book on my walks or while I’m doing chores (or in quar, a puzzle).

I’m usually listening to a non-fiction book and then reading physical copies of something non-fiction and something fiction. I will say that I typically take MUCH longer to read fiction vs. non-fiction. And I can read a murdery thriller within 24 hours but something more serious (like The Underground Railroad more recently for example) will take me a lot longer.

Weekends are made for books.

My favorite thing in the world (and it definitely doesn’t always happen) is to have an uninterrupted 3-4 hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning to just read in bed or on my couch. Ideally, this involves coffee, a bagel, and a nap afterward.

Read before bed.

My favorite way to wind down the day is to spend a solid hour reading before bed. My reading time before bed is my favorite part of the day. Sometimes I will pick up a book before bed and be unable to stop reading. This doesn’t always happen but I’ve been pretty great at this during quarantine as I have far fewer plans these days. But even making it a goal to read 20 pages a night will help you hit your reading goals.

Read books you love!

I think people feel pressure to read smart books, and that is okay. But I want to stress something: all books are good books. Kind of like exercise, there’s no such thing as bad reading! I try to read a few non-fiction books every month for personal betterment but if we are being honest I don’t LOVE reading them the way I love some of the fiction books. I learn a lot, but what really relaxes me and helps me unwind from a long week is to curl up with a murdery Gone Girl knockoff. It is what it is, I’m lowbrow I guess. What I’m trying to say is that if I tried to read only “serious” and non-fiction books, I’d probably read way less.

You don’t have to read the latest New York Times pick or Ryan Holiday book… pick books you genuinely enjoy! If you are finding motivating to read hard and need a good starting point, this page can help: it’s packed with good books to read and you can filter by genre and sort by ranking.

Do not be afraid to DNF (do not finish) a book you aren’t enjoying. If you find you’re slogging through a book, it’s perfectly okay to stop reading it. Life is too short to read bad books… or even “good” books that we don’t enjoy. Don’t force it!

Take books with you!

OK so this might not be as relevant as usual but one day things will get back to normal, and I generally always have a book (or at least an audiobook) on my person. On the subway, when waiting for a doctor’s appointment (or hell, the 2020 version of that: standing in line for a COVID test), etc. Most of my favorite handbags are big enough to fit a book, and it makes a difference having a book on your person.

Audiobooks are a game changer.

Honestly, I was a little bit of a snob about audiobooks for a while. I’d only read physical books. But this year I got into audiobooks and have really loved it, especially on the non-fiction front. My favorite audiobooks are definitely memoirs, ideally narrated by the author.

Take the pressure off.

Reading books should be fun! If you want to start reading more, tell yourself how much fun it will be. Treat it like what it is… a treat, vs. a chore, or something you “should” be doing more of. Your reading habits will improve when you treat it as something fun as opposed to a task.

Join a Book Club!

This may be hard during lockdown but there are so many great virtual book clubs! A few favs: Spivey’s Book Club, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Onward Book Club, and of course… Bad on Paper. When I first moved to New York, a book club was how I made all of my close girlfriends…. it’s an amazing way to meet a group of women who enjoy reading as much as you do. Joining your local library can be a great way to find a book club, depending on where you live.

PS – This podcast episode also has some great advice on how to read more. A lot of the advice is totally different from how I approach reading (I don’t really read in the morning!) but I love the advice on keeping track of what you read.. it definitely motivates me!

Photo by Allie Provost.

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Comments

  1. Emily B says 2.17.21

    Love these tips, I completely agree about reading multiple things at once! I do the same thing, usually a few different non-fiction reads going plus one fiction. I’m currently reading “Joyful” at your suggestion! There seems to be a lot of pressure around reading the ‘right’ book of the moment or whatever is trendiest but reading anything is great. I started a bookstagram account a year ago (@eboydsbooks) and it’s got the tiniest following but it makes me happy to have a place where what I’m reading is recorded, even if it’s a bit less polished than a lot of accounts. I always look forward to your monthly round ups!

    • grace at the stripe says 2.17.21

      Oh my gosh Joyful is just the best!!!!

    • AC says 2.25.21

      Great tips! What was the thriller book you talked about set on an island off Martha’s Vineyard that had a twist like Verity? I keep rewinding the pod but didn’t catch it. Dying to know! Love your recs. Thanks!

  2. Molly says 2.17.21

    Love these tips!!! I have been reading in the morning just because at night I tend to keep myself up much later than I want to! I loooove hearing about people’s ‘reading routines’.

    Also I think people get way too hung up on the # of books! What’s a LOT of books for one person is not that much for others – my dad reads non-fiction exclusively and remembers EVERYTHING that he reads so for him, reading 12 books a year is wonderful! For me, I read 6 books in January and four of them were YA! Very different!

  3. Clare says 2.17.21

    I joined a book club in an effort to read more. I have no issue reading more short form content on my phone and I LOVE magazines but was feeling like I wanted more long form stories so a book club helped me be accountable for finishing the books I started. Even though we only meet (virtually these days!) every 4-6 weeks it’s still fun to see the number of books i’ve read in a year that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise!

  4. Thank you for these tips! I’ve been trying to read more for years now – hopefully this is the year I finally do it haha! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  5. Jules says 2.17.21

    I have two little kids (5 and 10 months) and a full-time job and still manage to read quite a lot, usually around 100ish books a year. I don’t really keep track as I’m going, but I’ve started tallying at the end of the year from my library history – the first time I did this a few years back I was shocked at how many books I actually read! For me, the biggest thing is that I don’t really watch TV – I honestly can’t stay focused on a TV show or movie as much as I can a book! Often I’ll sit on the couch and read for a few hours while my husband watches TV at night, so I’m able to read quite a bit. I also get super sucked into a book and will stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. finishing once I get going. Not a great habit, but my brain wants what it wants 🙂 Also totally agree with not worrying about reading only “good” books. I used to be such a book snob, now I read whatever makes me happy.

    • grace at the stripe says 2.17.21

      Oh wow you read more than I do and you have two children!? I bow down!!! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Annie says 2.17.21

    What’s worked for me lately is reading for an hour a day – but in 20 minute chunks to make it feel more manageable/less overwhelming. An hour can sound like a lot when there’s so much else to do, but I read for 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at lunch or right after work, and 20 minutes before bed. Even if I don’t feel like reading or I’ve got a massive to-do list, I can talk myself into reading for just 20 minutes, and I almost always get into it and end up finishing the chapter I’m on or reading even further!

  7. Rebecca+Zoler says 2.17.21

    Love this post! You’ve definitely inspired me to reallyyyy lean into my speed reading abilities during the pandemic. Another good tip/habit I’ve started: try reading instead of watching TV. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good weekend show binge. But, especially during the pandemic, I found that when I was watching TV after a long WFH day, I wasn’t really enjoying/ paying attention to the show. Instead, I was scrolling through social media and going down a doom spiral of the news cycle. I started changing my evening TV habit to reading a book instead for at least an hr. I would put my phone on the other side of the room and fully immerse myself in the my latest read. And I ended up feeling so much more relaxed and fully helped to take my mind off the news. Now, it’s become my favorite way to unwind after a long day <3

    • grace at the stripe says 2.17.21

      YES!! Becca inspires me here, there are full weeks where she doesn’t turn on her TV so that she can read! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Carly A Heitlinger says 2.17.21

    Welcome to the audiobook dark side I used to be the same way about memoirs/non-fiction read by the authors but now I LOVVVVVE fiction audiobooks too. I will listen to anything!

  9. Colleen says 2.17.21

    I love any and all of your posts related to books and reading!!!!!!

  10. marys says 2.17.21

    Grace, You’ve helped me read more with the simple advice of just giving it an hour before bedtime every night. That’s really all it takes!

    Another thing that helps me is to try and get in at least 50 pages of a new book in my first sitting. I find that dedicating a little extra energy and focus for those initial character introductions gives me a better base. If all I can do is a few pages a day after that, so be it.

    Your love of reading is infectious and that has inspired me to make the time. Thank you!

  11. Erica says 2.17.21

    I have two young kids (4.5 and almost 6) and am super proud that I read 36 books last year. While I mostly read before bed, I sneak reading in whenever I can, including the two minutes it takes me to brush my teeth each morning and night. Usually my books stay on my nightstand, but when I’m really in love with a book, I take it downstairs with me in the morning so I can read during lunch instead of scrolling social media. This year I’d like to add listening to audiobooks. I have a harder time reading non-fiction and think listening to it while running or cleaning the house would be helpful (as long as it doesn’t take away from listening to my favorite podcasts like Bad on Paper!).

    P.S. I am currently reading The Authenticity Project and am pretty invested in the characters!

    • grace at the stripe says 2.17.21

      That is amazing, good for you!!!! Audio books have definitely helped me to read more non-fiction!

  12. Ali says 2.17.21

    Hi Grace! Not sure if it was an editing error but you didn’t give the name of your last hidden gem book on the pod. It sounds so good but I need the name!

  13. Melinda says 2.17.21

    I was a voracious reader as a child. As an adult, I had trouble incorporating it into my routine until I bought my iPad mini. It comes with me everywhere and always has at least 1 book downloaded from Libby or iBooks. I know you aren’t a fan of e-readers, but constant access to books has made it much easier for me to read more- I averaged 2-3 books per week last year!

    • grace at the stripe says 2.17.21

      I love that! And what doesn’t work for one person works for another… the important thing is finding something that works for you!

  14. Laura B says 2.17.21

    Yes yes yes to all of this! Also I give a book 100 pages and if I don’t like it I stop reading with zero guilt.. I have no time for a book I’m not enjoying!

  15. Jessica Camerata says 2.17.21

    I definitely go in spurts with reading. But find I read best on the couch so always make sure to leave a book on the couch at all times when I’m in the mood. I’ve also loved tracking my books in Goodreads, it’s like checking off a to-do list! Wish I read more though, need to stop scrolling and read more!

    xo Jessica
    an indigo day

  16. Kayla says 2.17.21

    Love this blog post — BOP has inspired me to read SO much more than I used to. Until last year I only read before bed which is great but I’d get sleepy within 10 minutes. I’ve come to love reading on my couch all evening leading up to getting ready for bed instead of watching TV or scrolling aimlessly on social media. I need to try audiobooks for non-fiction!

  17. Martha W says 2.17.21

    I read a lot — at least 200 books a year for the past few years — despite working ~55 hour weeks between my two jobs (I’m a librarian and also a novelist). I find what has really helped is practice! I know this sounds weird but when I was in college I probably read 30-40 books a year and that number has gone up steadily in the ten years since because I basically trained myself to read for longer and longer periods. When I was 22 I felt like the internet had broken my attention span and I couldn’t focus on a book for more than ten minutes at a time, but the more I tried to read the better I got at it and now I can read for like 3 hour stretches. So I always tell people who want to read more to start just trying to read for like 20 minutes at a time and they’ll see themselves be able to do it for longer and longer as time passes.

  18. Lynn Croland says 2.18.21

    Grace I’m readin something I’m engrossed eith recommended. It’s called “The Girlfriend”. I started it and I cannot put it down . It’s by Michelle Francis international best seller. My sister read it on her last Nantucket summer and raved about it . Maybe not like gone girl but definitely gripping and sucking you right in. Let me know if u read it. “ She lives your son , she wants your life “. Shivers …..
    Lynn

  19. Vanessa says 2.19.21

    I’ve been an avid reader since I was a kid, so anytime you publish a bookish post, I’m THERE! Loved this one and if someone asked me for my tips on how to read more, I’d suggest everything you did here in this post. All great tips! My favourite time to read is before bed, too. That’s definitely when I get the bulk of my daily reading done. It’s a wonderful way to wind down and relax after a hard day.

  20. Zoe says 2.20.21

    Thank you! I love reading at night and uninterrupted weekend reading, too. I would LOVE a follow up post on your handbag recommendations that are big enough for a book, but comfy, ha!

  21. Lindsey says 2.20.21

    Ohhhh, what are some of your favorite author read audio books? I listened to I Miss You When I Blink that I believe was read by the author and I really enjoyed that story.

    I used to read so much but since the pandemic, I gave picked up and put down soooo many- I have completed very few. I am not able to focus as well I think with a crazy household.