How to read more books
I read a lot of books growing up — a lot. I was a pudgy little home-schooled kid living in a very small town where it was pretty cold most of the time.
But when I got to university, I had so many school-readings that I got out of the habit of fun-reading.
In 2017 I started reading again. All told, I finished 55 books, with an average length of 384 pages. This is how.
1. Make reading as convenient as possible
2. Find people who also like books
3. Spend time alone
4. Pick themes
5. Don’t read books you don’t like just to prove a point
Bonus: My top 10 books for 2017 (+ all the books I read and their reviews)
1. Make reading as convenient as possible.
I am a 2018 woman.
I don’t want to wait in line for brunch.
I don’t want to wait 4 months to read The Disaster Artist.
In 2017 I decided that I could spend as much money I want on books . I know that I could walk down to a beautiful, fantastic public library 870m from my apartment. I love libraries, and I feel a tremendous amount of guilt, but I can never manage to get the hang of the library.
BUT I make my lunch almost every day, so I think it evens out.
The other big efficiency gain was switching from reading mostly physical books to reading e-books (using my Kindle and the Kindle App, in a pinch.) I keep copies of my favourite books as hardcovers, but I didn’t want to be hoofing a 1,200pg Hitler biography on the subway.
Tip: Bookbub is a website that automatically sends out daily $0.99–1.99 ebooks, curated to your tastes.
2. Find people who also like books
I use Goodreads to keep track of my books and write my quick reviews. It’s also how I creep on what other people are reading and steal their ideas about what to read next.
(Special shout-out to some of the readers who have inspired me this year, including Scott Stirrett, Emily Burns, Terra Arnone, Andrew Aulthouse, Omer Aziz and Alex Usher.)
3. Spend more time alone
The number one correlation to how much you will be able to read is the amount of time you spend without other people talking to you.
Here is my theorem:
Books Read = (Time Alone + Convenience of Books)-time spent on the internet.
Unfortunately, the modern workplace encourages many of us to plop down on on our butts all day long. According to new #science, this is virtually identical to gargling handfuls of cigarettes.
After a hard day of sitting and writing/reading emails, I wasn’t jazzed about the idea of coming home to sit around for another few hours. Thankfully we are living in the future, and physical books can be supplemented by audiobooks.
My Audible pitch:
1. Do you like podcasts?
2. Do you like long-form writing?
Then you’ll love audiobooks. They’re long-form podcasts!
Some people (haters) think audiobooks don’t ‘count’ as reading. These people are silly and I will debate them in the comment section.
Times I listen to audiobooks:
- Between 7:30 and 8:15 am while I clean my apartment
- While I walk to work
- When I’m at the grocery store
- When I’m doing non-cardio workouts at the gym
- As I cook dinner
Being alone is not the same as being lonely, especially if you have a book about how Shackleton had to eat the lining of his boot while marooned in Antarctica.
4. Pick themes
After you finish one book, rather than picking something completely different, pick something somehow adjacent to that book.
The good thing about themes — especially for non-fiction books — is that it gets EASIER to read about a subject over time. You might forget the little scraps of names and identities, but the timelines and major themes will suddenly come into focus. When you pick them up again, you will be able to place them into context that much more easily. I had a couple of themes this year, each comprising 3–4 books.
- Books about heroic dogs
- Books about zombies
- Books about the history of your next vacation spot
- Books by Stephen King
- Books by Indigenous women
My top themes for 2017, in the order I’d recommend reading them:
a. Major figures in Russian history
- History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev (Mark D. Steinberg, the Great Courses)
- The Romanovs: 1613:1918, (Simon Sebag Montefiore)
- Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (Simon Sebag Montefiore)
b. History of opium
- Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiod Epidemic (Sam Quinones)
- Flowers in the Blood: The Story of Opium (Jeff Goldberg)
- The Opium War (Brain Ingles)
c. Contemporary America through a black lens
If I had another theme, it would be the genre of “people persevering through tremendous amounts of suffering without losing the essence of their humanity.” Books falling into this theme would be:
- Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela)
- Man’s Search for Meaning (Victor E. Frankel)
- The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey (Candice Millard)
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Alfred Lansing)
Other subthemes I had were two books about Theodore Roosevelt, and two largely taking place in the city of Chicago.
5. Don’t read books you don’t like
Nobody learns to swim while attempting to cross the English Channel. Don’t try to read more by bashing your brain against a book you don’t like.
You don’t need to read Hemingway. You don’t need to read The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. You don’t need to read Dostoyevsky. You don’t need to read the Bible. You don’t need to read Ta-Nehesi Coates.
You can read 50 Shades Darker, and chick-lit and books about murderers. Heck you don’t even need to read at all, but you’ve made it this far, so I’m assuming you’re interested.
6. And now, for the top ten books I read in 2017
The links go to the reviews I made for the books. I haven’t reviewed every book (#2018goals), but I might go back and make some edits. Head to my Goodreads to see the full list.