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  • Writer's pictureMary

How Do I Read More Books?

Last year was a bit of a banner year for me, reading-wise. I read 138 books, exceeding my goal of 100. This was largely thanks to Agatha Christie, British pony books, and Judy Blume, although I also read a fair amount of longer works. I've always been pretty good at meeting or exceeding reading goals, though. I remember going in every day to my library to report on my summer reading, and the children's librarians were always rather suspicious that I was reading a book a day. I guess they thought I was trying to unfairly win the prizes awarded to the top readers of the library's challenge, which (if I recall correctly) were books. But no, I really just had that tiny and limited a life, even back then. Ditto my first grade teacher's suspicion of my ability to read whole chapter books within a day.

So reading has always been a serious hobby for me. It's not something like exercise, which I had to teach myself to learn to love. But like all adults, even I get pulled by the siren song of distractions like the Internet. So, here are my tips if you want to read more and exceed your Goodreads (or your tracking site of choice) goals:

  1. Read what you enjoy. This may sound like a duh point, but I know so many people who proudly inform me they never give up on a book, and they've been reading the same book all year. You know what? No one cares? No one cares that you're a "perfectionist" or a "completion-ist." Think of all the great books you could have been reading you'd actually have enjoyed. Truthfully, I think some people do this as a "blocking" device. They convince themselves they're somehow superior by forcing themselves through one miserable book, and therefore avoid the task of reading altogether since the one book they never finish is still sitting there.

  2. Read (some) shorter books. Don't jump on me Russian novel enthusiasts! I am not saying to only read short books. But it can be very intimidating to set a numerical goal for yourself (like reading 100 books), and then to fall behind that goal within weeks, because you're reading an 800 page novel. Of course, read longer books--there are many fine epics out there--but there is a huge psychological payoff to get a few books completed early on in the year. Also, being able to get a sense of what's out there, following a satisfying narrative, and getting into the habit of reading through the excitement of finding out what happens at the conclusion of a book is useful.

  3. Don't be super-virtuous about what format you read in. eBooks are an important part of my life. I love being able to take out many books for free via my library's app Libby, or access free books via Prime lending. I'm old enough to remember when I had to hunt down out-of-print books in secondhand bookstores. Now I can Google and often find them online, in the public domain. With an eBook, I can read on my phone when I'm busy, toggle between multiple books on my Kindle, and yes, also read a print book when I feel like it, to completely get away from screens and notifications. But sometimes print books come in a format that's too heavy, with too small print, or just uninviting, and an eBook allows me to adjust everything to suit my needs.

  4. If you're really determined to meet a specific goal, reading multiple books by the same author is helpful. Just like getting to know someone, once you know an author's style, word choice, characters, and voice, it becomes much easier to read more quickly and feel at home in their prose.

I admit the fact I don't have kids, don't really watch television, and don't have much of a life (ha) is probably also a factor, but I would never recommend a lack of a life (or getting rid of your kids) to meet your goals. A little selfishness with your time never hurts, though, and a library book is cheaper even than Netflix. Especially if your parents no longer share their password with you....

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