Dear Jill: How to read more books this year

Dear Jill,

I have 10 books on my Goodreads list right now and that’s probably too many. I can only keep track of a couple at a time. One of them I haven’t picked up in months, although it sits at my bedside.

I’ve been a restless reader lately, I’ve started more than 10 books that never made the list and set them down. It’s not because they were bad (most of them), but I just didn’t have that drive to read them. I’d set them down and not care what happened next.

However, I’ve read 25 books this year, so far and I imagine I’ll get to 75 by the end of December as I usually do. Maybe all 10 of my current reads will be done by then, or maybe I’ll remove some. It took me more than a year to finish The Brothers Karamazov back in 2013. I read in fits and starts and enjoyed it overall. I just couldn’t do it in one go.

Here are my secrets to reading more books in a year:

  1. Mix in some short reads. I always read a few graphic novels throughout the year and I tend to motor though, even though I like to stop and examine the pictures. They get a bad rap sometimes, but even much-maligned superhero comics can have surprising depth. One book I’ve set down, but will eventually come back to is Mighty Thor with Jane Foster becoming Thor while fighting cancer. It’s pretty dark (which is why I had to set it down for a bit).
  2. Don’t force yourself to finish every book. There’s no participation trophy. Reading should be enjoyable and you’ll read faster if you read things you like. It’s OK if a book challenges you and takes you longer to read (hello, Thomas Cromwell biography), but if you’re resisting picking it up, try something else.
  3. Audiobooks are books. I don’t quite understand why some people don’t want to count them as books. You listen to the whole story and you get to do things like drive or ride the bus at the same time. Also, your weird purist idea of reading leaves out those who are blind, dyslexic, or have another impairment that prevents them from reading from the page and there’s no need to be ableist in your reading habits.
  4. Try new genres. I used to be the most awful book snob. In the past few years I’ve started adding mysteries and bestsellers much more than I used to. I was surprised by how much I liked them. In the past I’d read such a small selection of the sub-genres that I was writing off so many great books because I didn’t like a couple of authors.
  5. Talk to people about books. Reading gives you something to talk about when you are forced to make small talk. When people know you read, they’ll often ask you about what you’re reading and that carries the conversation without having to resort to the weather. Then they’ll tell you about what their reading. You’ll both get great recommendations. Everyone wins.
  6. Turn the TV off / put your phone down. I watch TV and I play on my smartphone a lot. Social media is my literal job. But I make myself spend at least one evening reading each week for at least an hour, I read on many of my lunch breaks, and I listen to audiobooks on the bus. Sometimes it takes 10-15 minutes for my brain to calm down and focus, but it will. Unlike when I scroll on Twitter for 20 minutes, I feel more refreshed at the end.

This is how I read 50-75 books each year. Nothing ground-breaking, but I like to think some of these things are freeing. Read what you like! Read short books! Listen to books! Set realistic goals for you. I don’t have kids, so I have more free time than my friend with three kids under five.

Reading more will enrich your life and make you a more interesting person… But that’s another letter.

 

—Sabrina

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