One of the questions I get asked the most is, How on earth do you read so many books?* It’s true, I do read more—maybe even much more—than the average toddler mom. I’ve read more than eighty books so far this year, putting me on track to read even more than the ninety books I read in 2015.
The short answer to the question of how I manage to consume so many books is that I love reading, I make it a priority, and I do whatever I can to fill my life with as many books as possible. But that answer doesn’t offer much in the way of practical suggestions for those looking to replicate my reading habits.
And so, I’ve decided to put together a little tutorial. These nine strategies are the tricks I use to help me read as much as possible. If you’re looking to read more, maybe some of my tips will be helpful for you, too!
1. I am flexible about format.
Like most readers, I prefer to read physical books, but that’s just not practical for my current life stage. Instead, I read primarily ebooks, supplemented with a healthy dose of audiobooks. Not only does this keep my bookshelves free of clutter (#AspiringMinimalist), it also means that I have a book available whenever my phone is with me (i.e., always). This allows me to read whenever I find myself with a few free minutes to fill. My willingness to read books outside of their traditional format factors into many of my other strategies as well.
2. I keep my “bookshelf” well stocked.
I keep an updated TBR list on Goodreads, where I regularly add titles I learn about from blogs, podcasts, and IRL friends. Whenever the Kindle version of one of these books goes on sale, I snatch it up so that it’s ready to read when I’m searching for my next book.
To stay up to date on the latest Kindle deals, I receive a few daily emails: Great Kindle Deals from Modern Mrs. Darcy; Kindle Daily Deals; and Goodreads Deals (which sends me deals based on titles on my TBR). I also have a Books wishlist on Amazon where I’ve added specific titles I’ve been stalking; I regularly check this list to see if there’s a deal on one of these books. Of course, I do pay full price for ebooks on occasion, but I’d much rather wait until they are being sold at a discounted price.
For books that I’d prefer to read (and own) in physical form, I request them as Christmas gifts, find them on sale at Target, or look for the pre-owned version at the used bookstore.
3. I make good use of my library.
We’re at the library several times per month for Toddler Story Time, but I rarely check out physical books. Instead I use OverDrive to check out ebooks and audiobooks directly from my phone. I still own my California library cards, which gives me access to the Overdrive databases of our old libraries as well. (This is probably cheating, though, so I try to mostly check out books from our current local library. Only when our library doesn’t have a specific title I’m looking for do I dip into the other libraries’ resources.)
4. I multitask.
Ideally, I would set aside time each day for sitting on the couch or snuggling in bed with a favorite book, but every mom knows that is a very unlikely scenario. More often, my reading takes place while I’m doing other things. I read books on the Kindle app on my phone while I nurse Charlie. I read on my actual Kindle while I’m on the eliptical (have I mentioned how much I love our gym’s free child care?!). I listen to audiobooks while we go for walks or while I cook or clean. Books make these tasks more enjoyable, and combining other to-dos with my reading helps me justify indulging in my favorite hobby throughout the day.
5. I set reading goals.
In the past I’ve set goals on the number of books I want to read in a year. However, I’ve found that I don’t need much motivation to read more books. But I do like to push myself regarding the types of books I read, which is why I am following a Reading Challenge for the year. I came up with my own categories, but there are a number of other reading challenges you can follow if you are looking to do your own. Modern Mrs. Darcy has a great annual reading challenge, and many libraries offer Book Bingo cards that encourage readers to discover new genres and authors.
6. I hold myself accountable.
Prior to our move, I was part of a book club, which held me accountable to reading a specific book each month. Even if the title wasn’t something I would normally pick up on my own, I would read the book so that I could discuss it with the group. I haven’t found a book club in Texas yet, but my mom and I have formed an informal book club of our own.
The other way I hold myself accountable to reading is through my blog: I want to read a variety of books so that I have plenty of content to share in my monthly Reading Wrap-Ups. Posting about the books I read for my personal Reading Challenge keeps me accountable to reading those titles as well. (I learned this lesson the hard way last year: by not writing about the books I’d committed to reading in 2015, I only managed to get through about half of them).
7. I read multiple books at once.
I always have one audiobook that I’m currently listening to, and one book that I’m reading on my Kindle/phone. I sometimes add a physical book to the mix. And I often read multiple ebooks at once. I find that I’m not always in the mood to read a specific genre, so I like to have a few types of books going at all times; that way, I’m less tempted to spend my time scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest when I’d really rather be reading but my current primary read doesn’t fit my mood.
8. I “read” fast.
Most people assume that since I read so much I must be a speed reader. Actually, I read very slowly—especially nonfiction, when I stop to highlight throughout the book. However, I get through audiobooks very quickly because I listen to them at 1.5 or even double speed. Depending on the narrator’s accent and pacing, I might have to slow things down, and sometimes I have to re-lsten to more technical books at a slightly slower rate, but I almost never listen to audiobooks at the given speed. Now that my ear has adjusted to faster readings, the normal speed sounds like the authors are reading underwater.
9. I turn reading into a project.
For me, half of the enjoyment in reading comes from reflecting on what I have read. After finishing a book I record my thoughts in my Day One Journal. (These entries form the basis for my Quick Lit reviews). I also keep records of my books in a physical journal, on Goodreads, and on Pinterest. This hyper-documentations might be excessive, but I find it fun, and it motivates me to read more. I like reflecting back on the books I’ve read in past years, and these records help me make informed recommendations to my family and friends.
And there you have it—the long and sometimes complicated answer to how I manage to read so much. For those of you who are big readers, what strategies do you use to make the most of your reading life? Have you had success with any of my strategies? Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear all about your reading hacks!
*My other most frequently asked question is, how are you so thin?, but I’m not about to open up that can of worms. Nobody needs a tutorial on how to become anorexic. ;-(