How to read more books

How to read more books

“Studies show that there is a direct relationship between your ability to read and your success in life. Skilled readers enjoy better jobs, higher incomes, and greater opportunities for success in all realms of life.” – Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life by Jim Kwik.

Reading is one of the best life skills we can cultivate – for learning and pleasure. Reading is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to learn anything, or simply entertain ourselves as we step into someone else’s shoes or escape into other worlds.  

Reading gives us knowledge, and knowledge gives us power.

But in such a busy world, how do we make time to read? In this post, I’m going to share my top six tips for consuming more books. Let’s dive straight in…

My first tip for reading more books is to schedule your reading time!

As Jim Rohn once wisely said, “Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”

If you don’t schedule the things that are important to you, chances are they will give way to other things. The key with scheduling time to read is to select a time when you will get the most out of your reading. For example, I used to read before bed, which was a fantastic way to wind-down before sleep, especially if I was reading a novel. However, if I was reading a non-fiction book I wanted to absorb information from, this was not a good time for me to focus. I would often become drowsy while reading, and find myself reading the same sentence over and over, which meant it took me longer to get through a book.

The game-changer for me was when I began to read in the morning. Initially, I would wake up half an hour earlier to start the day reading. If I was reading a non-fiction book, I would also read with a pencil so I could make notes or underline any parts of the book I wanted to remember.

The only problem with reading in the morning was that it would often eat into my exercise time, so the second revelation I had with my reading practice was when I began to pair it with my exercise routine!

Yes, you heard that right, read and exercise – at the same time!

And no, that didn’t mean running while reading a book – that would just be dangerous!

This is my second tip for reading more books: pairing.

We were living in an apartment building with an onsite gym when I first began pairing reading and exercise. I was also pregnant, and needed to find a gentler form of exercise than my regular running regime. The bikes in the gym had recently been upgraded, and had nice padded seats and a ledge I had seen people propping books and magazines on.

Within the first month of this new pairing regime, I managed to get through the stack of magazines that had been lying next to my bed for months, and start on books I had had for years but never got around to reading. It was astounding how much reading material I could get through in 30 minutes!

Each morning I would pop down to the gym and spend 30 minutes cycling and reading on one of the bikes. This was the easiest piece of exercise equipment to read on as your body is relatively still while your legs do the grunt work. I found the cross-trainer was not as easy to read on as I was constantly bobbing up and down. So, the next solution I came across for reading more while exercising was audiobooks.

This is tip number three for reading more books: listen to audiobooks.

Audiobooks have been around for years, but often in the form of cassette or CD sets, which were great for listening to in the car, but weren’t particularly portable to take anywhere else. I had a mini MP3 player that I used to listen to music on, and was SO excited when I worked out how to purchase digital audiobooks online that I could download onto my MP3 player.

Things got even better when Audible came on the scene with an easy-to-use app that I could use to listen to books on my phone!

I invested in a good pair of wireless headphones, and when my children were babies I’d spend most of the day cruising around the house folding washing and doing other chores while listening to an audiobook.

When I started back at work, I had an hour’s commute each day, which offered even more time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. On average I was listening to a book a week just on my commute alone! This was when my consumption of books really went through the roof. I went from reading a couple of books a year to listening and reading over 50 books a year – life was good!

I still subscribe to Audible. I know there are some purists out there that don’t believe listening to an audiobook is “reading”. But to the naysayers I say, listening to an audiobook gives me the opportunity to access a book I wouldn’t physically have the time to sit down and read. Even if I’m only absorbing 80% of what I’m listening to versus 100% by reading a physical book, this is far better than nothing!

If I really love the audiobook and want to engross myself in it further, then I will often purchase the hardcopy to dive deeper and make notes. Listening to audiobooks has been an effective way for me to filter and uncover exceptional books that deserve my full attention.

Many audiobooks are narrated by the author, so you get the added bonus of hearing the book read in the way the author intends. If the book is not narrated by the author, it is narrated by a professional narrator, which is also a treat to listen to.

I also find Audible pretty cost effective. For $16 a month I receive a new credit each month, which is usually enough to purchase one book, and often cheaper than purchasing the hardcopy.

However, if you’re reluctant to sign up for yet another subscription, there are free options out there too. BorrowBox is an online platform of audio and eBooks run by Bolinda audiobooks through Australian libraries. So, if you are a member of an Australian library you will be able to set up an account with your library card. This is an excellent platform with a plethora of books to choose from. If you’re new to the audiobook scene I highly recommend you start here.

If you’re not a member of a local library, my fourth tip for reading more books is to join your local library! Libraries have come a long way, and are very user-friendly when it comes to tracking down specific books or accessing online resources.

The function I use most from my local library is the catalogue and request system. Whenever I come across a book I want to read, I search the library catalogue first. On most occasions, the library has multiple copies of the book I’m after, and when I am logged into my account, I can request the books I’m after. I then receive an email or text when they have been delivered to my local library, where I can collect and borrow them.

The other hidden benefit of the library is that every book has a “return date”, which means you need to eventually return the book if you don’t want to incur a fine. Most libraries offer a generous three-week loan period, which can often be extended. However, a “deadline” provides great motivation to read that book!  

Being a library member alone has saved me thousands of dollars, because I don’t need to purchase the books I want to read. It also means my books shelves are not over-following and (mostly) only hold only the books I want to keep and read again. 

Reading is a solitary activity, and often it can be enjoyable sharing what we’re reading with others. This is why joining a book club can further enhance your enjoyment of reading. Everyone takes away different things from each book they read, so a discussion around a book you’ve read can provide a new-found appreciation for the storyline, characters, themes, author’s message, etc. I’ve walked into many book club meetings loathing a book, only to come away with a completely different perspective (dare I say, almost loving it) after discussing it with my book club buddies.

The other way book club helps me read more books is by holding me accountable. I’m reticent to turn up to a book club meeting having not read the book – although this sometimes happens – despite my best attempts…sometimes life gets in the way! For the most part though, book club gives me the assurance that I’ll attempt to read a book a month for our monthly meetings. If I get through all the books, that’s 12 books a year, which is certainly more than I was reading a decade ago.  Accountability is an amazing motivator!

Finally, my sixth and final tip for reading more books is to create a Reading Wish List. This list consists of books you’d like to read. Rather than buying a book or borrowing it from the library as soon as you come across it, add it to your Reading Wish List. This will ensure you get through all those other books on your bookshelf you’ve been “meaning to read” first. And don’t pretend you don’t have books that have been languishing on your bookshelf for longer than you’d care to admit – we all have them!

This list is brilliant motivation to get you to read the books you have before precuring more, and also means you are never stuck for your next read. You can also prioritise your list so you’re always reading books you’re excited about.

So, there you have it – my six tips to reading more books. Let’s recap them quickly:

  1. Schedule it
  2. Pair it
  3. Listen to audiobooks
  4. Join a library
  5. Join a book club
  6. Create a Reading Wish List so you always have something to read.

I hope these tips inspire you to create your own reading practice that supports your lifestyle, and the books you enjoy reading. 

I’ll close with this quote from Joseph Addison: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”