27 Ways To Read More Books (And Make the Habit Stick!)
It’s not easy to make time for reading when your concentration is rusty. Here are some easy and powerful tips to read more books.
Every year I make a vague intention to read more books. And I’m not alone: finding time to read more books ranks right up there with eating healthier in popular New Year’s resolutions.
But by springtime, my motivation wanes. I’m dozens of books behind in my yearly Goodreads challenge. I pick up a book and my mind wanders. I figure all those years on social media have ruined my concentration.
Then I see friends gushing over the latest new release and I get jealous. Because I know the pleasures of a good book.
You’d think we’d make time for doing what we love, but that’s not how it works.
It takes discipline to make time to read.
So if you love books but can’t seem to get going, here are my tips.
How to read more books:
1. Schedule your reading time
It’s not enough to make a New Year’s resolution and hope for the best.
If your goal is to read more books, then schedule your reading time like you schedule meetings or coffee dates with friends. It might feel odd to schedule in a pleasure, but waiting for that special moment when you’re in the mood to read just doesn’t work.
You may love books, but that doesn’t mean that cracking open a new novel is easy. You might be tired at the end of a long workday or intimidated by a thick book.
But you’ll get more reading done if you dedicate a short time to reading daily instead of binge reading whenever you can.
An average adult can read up to 300 words per minute. So if you read just a half hour a day you’ll get through a mid-sized book in a week. If you make reading a habit, you’ll quickly realise how quickly you’ll get through books.
Scheduling in your reading means you’ll have to sacrifice other things (like TV or social media). Because you can’t really have it all and do everything. So ask yourself – what’s most important? What are your priorities?
If an hour a day isn’t doable, then aim for a half hour. It doesn’t matter if you read in the morning, on the subway or at night. What counts most is getting a consistent habit going.
2. Read a wide variety of books
Sometimes you’ve got a few hours with a cup of coffee to dive into a long novel. Other days, you’re too tired for anything more than an easy read with bite-sized chapters.
Pick up a light and easy fiction book when you’re too tired to focus and want to relax with a nice story. Pick a more complex book when you want to escape into a beautifully-written narrative.
Reading a wide variety of books ensures you’ll always have something you’re in the mood for. And you’ll be less likely to get stuck in a reading rut because variety keeps things interesting.
The goal isn’t to read the Western world’s greatest classics. If you want to read regularly and keep your habit going, then give yourself a break. Read a Young Adult novel when you’re too exhausted to concentrate on a complex non-fiction tome.
If you’re a passionate gardener, pick up some nature writing. Read some magazine articles if you need to train your concentration.
Reading should be a pleasure you look forward to.
3. Don’t force yourself to finish every book you start
Abandoning a book often feels like giving up and admitting defeat. You’ll tell yourself that your concentration isn’t what it used to be, or that you’ve just wasted $20 to be bored.
But the skill of abandoning books is critical if you want to read more.
Or else the bad books you suffer through bring you down. They take more time because you’re forcing yourself to read them, and they make you wonder if you’re really a reader.
But abandoning a bad book puts you ahead. It gives you more time to read great books that you’ll actually love.
4. Realize it’s not you – it’s the book
Trusting your taste is vital if you want to be an efficient reader.
It will keep you from getting stuck with bad books that you just can’t finish. And it will guide your future book purchases.
“It’s not me, it’s the book” is the mantra to use whenever you’re a few chapters into a book that just isn’t clicking or when you’re halfway through and don’t care to finish.
But this is easier said than done.
Doubts will creep in when you’re thinking about putting down a book. Maybe it’s by a famous author or it has great reviews. And you wonder if you’re just missing something.
Reading some negative reviews of the book can give you good encouragement to leave that book behind. And it’s empowering to read reviews that confirm your suspicions and make you realise that, yes: your opinion has value.
Trust your own judgement and be driven only by your own taste.
5. Sign up for a reading challenge
A reading challenge, like the annual challenge on Goodreads, is a great way to stay motivated and track your progress – especially if you’re goal oriented.
You can set a goal of how many books you want to read this year and the site will let you know whenever you’re falling behind.
You might say: but reading isn’t a competition!
And you’re absolutely right. But it’s still fun and inspiring to set goals for yourself and strive to meet them. And at the end of the year, you’ll have a valuable record of everything you’ve read. This will let you know if you’re picking the right books, enjoying yourself or should try something new.
Making your reading goals public is also a effective way to harness the power of accountability. You’re more likely to achieve your goals if you tell others about them.
6. Read multiple books from your favorite authors
It’s not always easy to find authors you love. But when you come across a book that you really enjoy, it’s worth checking what else the author has written.
It’s a more fool-proof way to find more books you’ll love, instead of experimenting with one new author after another.
If there’s an author you absolutely adore – whether it’s Thomas Hardy or Danielle Steel – then set yourself a challenge to read a number of their books in a specified amount of time. Read several of their works and compare their earlier and later works.
7. Buy bargain and used books
Shop online to score great deals, get a library card, and find a few good used bookstores to hunt down some bargains. You’ll be able to try new authors and genres without much investment.
It’s also easier to leave a tedious book unfinished when you know it didn’t cost much.
If you’re a blogger, journalist or educator, sign up for NetGalley for free digital review copies of a wide selection of books.
8. Listen to audio books
Audible is a great choice for audio books and new releases.
There are also plenty of free options like LibriVox, which includes public domain tests read by volunteers. Some readers are better than others, so it’s good to listen to a few before settling for one that does the text justice. My favorite reader is Elizabeth Barr, who does many Bronte and Jane Austen novels beautifully.
Listening to audio books isn’t “cheating!” So hit play the next time you’re washing dishes or stuck in traffic – and watch your reading time skyrocket.
9. Don’t hesitate to skim
Sometimes an otherwise incredible book will have a boring chapter. Or a non-fiction book will plunge into details about a topic that doesn’t interest you. It’s not cheating to skim over these parts.
Or skip them entirely. If it’s a novel, then read the chapter’s plot synopsis on Wiki. This lets you move on to the next chapter without losing the storyline.
10. Join a book club – in real life or on Goodreads
Book clubs will motivate you to read, help you make friends and let you explore new authors that you wouldn’t normally pick up. If you can’t make time for regular meetings, then join an online book club and participate at your own pace.
Goodreads has some great book clubs (find them at Community > Groups) that you can browse by tag and genre. From sci-fi, to horror to romance, there’s something for everyone.
Here are some top Goodreads groups:
Victorians! – a brisk pace usually of about a novel every month with insightful and lively discussion on some of the greats of the period, including Dickens, the Brontes, Collins, Gaskell, Eliot and Hardy.
Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – a fun and active group that helps you tackle some of history’s greatest books in good company.
Addicted to YA Group – a large and lively group for the latest Young Adult novels that usually has a few selections going at once.
To join a real-life book club, check your local library’s or an independent bookstore’s calendar of events. There’s also meetup.com and Facebook groups to help your search.
11. Donate your unread books
Donating unwanted books makes you feel less guilty about leaving books unfinished – and it helps others to read more.
You’re not getting rid of a book, after all, but passing it along to someone who’ll appreciate it more.
12. Train your attention span
It’s not easy to pick up a book if you haven’t been reading for awhile. With social media and the increased pace of modern life, diving into a slower-paced classic feels like chasing a snail.
You get frustrated and you wonder: why can’t they just get on with?
But we enjoy books for the experience, and that means slowing down and appreciating the language.
Our attention at first may drift, but it gets easier with more reading. And if you feel frustrated then pick up an easier book, a YA novel or a non-fiction book on something you’re passionate about.
Getting your mind accustomed to a slower pace helps you relax and fight anxiety – one of the many benefits of reading.
Here are some exercises to train your focus:
Read some long-form magazine or newspaper articles on subjects you’re passionate about. Reading doesn’t have to be about a thick novel. Ease yourself back into reading with something lighter.
Listen to long-form podcasts and interviews that will immerse you in a topic for at least an hour or two. This gives your brain practice with focusing on one thing for an extended time.
Listen to audio books that get you into a story and train your mind not to wander.
Limit your social media time and be aware how those constant notifications are sapping your ability to focus. If you find it impossible to focus on a long book, try cutting back on your screen time.
13. Read before you buy
Read online reviews by people whose tastes you trust. Following people on Goodreads with similar tastes and interests gives you plenty of ideas about what to read next.
And if you’re at a bookshop, have a coffee and read the first chapter of a book. Then ask yourself honestly: do you want to continue?
The more you read, the easier these decisions will get.
14. Know the benefits of reading
Reading gives you knowledge and broadens your perspective. It helps you rest and unwind.
Whenever you’re feeling unmotivated, remember everything you get out of reading.
Here are some amazing benefits of reading:
it boosts your vocabulary
strengthens your analytical thinking skills
improves your memory
boosts your focus
reduces anxiety and stress
helps you empathize with other people
helps you sleep better
makes you a better conversationalist
lowers your blood pressure
enhances your imagination
slows down age-related cognitive decline
improves your writing skills
inspires your children to read, too
15. Listen to a bookish podcast/YouTuber
A bookish podcast or YouTube channel can inspire you with reviews and insights to convince you of the joys of reading. It’s also a great source of recommendations for your next read.
Here are some of my favorites:
The Book Review is a podcast from the New York Times that takes you inside the literary world, from the famous prize winners to daring new releases.
The History of Literature is hosted by an amateur scholar with a real passion for the classics that will get you excited to read – or re-read – old favorites.
The Writer’s Voice is a podcast where a new short story is read by its author every week from a selection of stories published in The New Yorker.
Miranda Mills is an ardent fan of Jane Austen and golden age mysteries with a great eye for new releases. She also does episodes that pair books with baking, and runs a regular book club on her channel too.
16. Carry your book everywhere
A half hour on the subway or waiting in line at the dentist all adds up to hundreds of pages a month.
And since you can’t ever foresee when you’ll be stuck waiting, carry a book in your purse and you’ll be grateful when you’re unexpectedly stuck somewhere with time on your hands.
17. Have your next book ready to go
Have your next book on standby to eliminate the decision fatigue of not knowing what to read next. When you dwell too long in that decision phase, you’ll get stuck in a reading rut.
If you’re not excited about your next book, then listen to your instinct and set it aside.
18. Read what you love
When your reading habits don’t match your interests and passions, then you’re stuck reading books out of obligation or because someone recommended them.
So trust your own taste and read whatever you’re passionate about – without snobbishness or judgement.
19. Take notes and underline
Engaging with a book will make you appreciate it more. And the more you enjoy reading, the more you’ll want to keep going.
Dedicate a separate notebook to your reading notes and keep it on your nightstand to jot down observations, books to read next, or memorable passages.
Here are some tips to taking notes while reading:
copy down favorite quotes and passages from novels
jot down a plot summary to help you keep track of the different twists and new characters in novels
copy down summaries and bullet points for non-fiction books
write down observations and anecdotes from non-fiction books
jot down facts and figures and suggestions for further reading
20. Read short stories, poetry and essays
A short story or poems can re-ignite your love of reading when you’re feeling stuck. Collections and anthologies let you enjoy reading without committing to a longer book.
They’re also great if you don’t have a lot of time to read, or if you want some down-time between reading longer works.
21. Start again if you’re falling behind
You’ll likely fall behind when trying to establish a reading habit. Forgive yourself and get back into reading with an easier book if you’ve been away for awhile. If your concentration is rusty, get back into reading slowly and cut down your social media and TV time.
22. Keep your books visible
Display your books on beautiful shelves and stacks on your nightstand. When your books are in plain sight – and when they’re a visible part of your home – then you’re be inspired to read.
23. Create a reading nook
Get a comfortable armchair in your living room or set up a rug and some throw pillows on your balcony to create a cozy reading nook and a place that will motivate you to read. The more comfortable it feels, the more you’ll look forward to your reading time.
24. Read physical books
If you work long hours in front of a computer screen, give your eyes a break and add some variety to your day by picking up a physical book. This will make reading more special, and it’s been proven that reading paper books has certain benefits you won’t get from reading them on a screen.
25. Find trusted recommendations
Whether it’s a YouTube channel, a good friend or a Bookstagram account on Instagram, find and curate a trusted list of people with tastes similar to yours. This makes it much easier to pick out your next book – and more likely that you’ll love it.
26. Read whenever you’re feeling bored
We pick up our smartphones or turn on the TV as a default reaction to boredom. But replacing our screentime with reading time is a powerful and effective way to read a lot more books.
You can’t have it all, however. If you want to read more, then you won’t get through many books if you still spend hours a day on Facebook or Netflix.
27. Try new genres
You might just surprise yourself if you venture off your beaten path to dive into books you wouldn’t normally read. Try some sci-fi, romance or a Western for a change, or pick up a non-fiction book on an unfamiliar topic.