How to read more & actually do it!

Jennifer Du
Aug 10, 2017 · 5 min read
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Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

My Dad passed along his love for reading to me from an early age. I fondly remember visiting the library regularly after school. Summer reading programs were especialy fun because of free pizza and In-n-Out rewards. My dream room is the scene in Beauty and the Beast when Belle finally sees the Beast’s library!

In high school, I’d often read past the assigned reading because I had to know what happened next. I zipped through To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye but discuss much because of spoilers.

I lost my bookworm status in college, but a New Year’s Resolution reprioritized it. I challenged myself to read 52 books by the end of the year and ended up repeating it. That led to 100 books in 2 years, and now 100 every year — my mind and lifestyle have changed immensely!

1. What Do I Read? Curate a Reading List

  • Start with a list — New York Times Bestsellers or even Amazon Best Sellers
  • Visit a bookstore (if there are any left!) and browse through their book displays. You can flip through and get a better sense of what you’re curious about
  • Watch TED talks. Many speakers summarize their book in their TED talk. If you like their message, there’s a good chance you’ll like the book (avg. video length — 10 minutes)
  • Listen to Podcasts. If the podcast is interviewing guests, you can learn about the author and his/her book before reading more (avg. audio length 30–45 minutes). One of my favorites: 3 Books with Neil Pasricha
  • Learn a new topic by reading all about it. When I wanted to learn more about a topic, I’d search for the best-sellers and give it a go. This has helped me “build wealth”, “lead a team”, “marketing”, “eat healthier”.

I have a list of books to read and add at a rate much faster than I can consume!

2. Do I Have to Buy the Books? No, Take Advantage of the Library!

You can definitely manage reading within budget by using the library! Just watch out for overdue fees! If it’s related to professional development, you can always ask your manager/HR if they can purchase it for you. I live in the LA area and there are two great library systems:

County of Los Angeles Public Library (91 locations)

Los Angeles Public Library (73 locations)

  • Library Reservations: With your online account, you can access the entire catalog. The libraries within each system share their collection. If it’s a physical item, you can place a hold and have it shipped to your preferred library branch to pick up. An email will be sent out once it arrives. Sound like online shopping? I think so!
  • Go Digital: If ebooks/audiobooks are preferred, you can download Overdrive or Libby app and log in with your library credentials. This really helped me get through a lot of books and learn many things exponentially.
  • Availability: The only disadvantage to using the library is book availability. If you’re aware of a new release, search for the catalog entry and request it so you’re early on the waitlist. There are always more physical copies of books than digital.

Tip: If you have different library cards, add them to your library app to access multiple catalogs at once. Each library allows a max of 10 holds, so you have better options, a wider selection and a shorter waitlist.

3. Schedule Time to Read

  • If you’re killing time — read! Social media can wait.
  • Schedule it in your calendar and repeat. I enjoy reading before bed, part of my wind down routine.
  • Jog/walk/break time — low intensity activities are a great way to pair with an audiobook. High-intensity activities require concentration so focus on the workout!

If you’re using Overdrive or Libby (the new version), you’ll always have ebooks/audiobooks wherever you go!

4. Document & Share Good Reads

Over the years, I’ve kept a log of the volume and velocity of my reads in Airtable. It serves as a great tool to rate my favorites, add notes and become the best recommendation engine when sharing titles with friends.

When you recommend a book, you never know when it’ll be read and if it will be impactful for the reader. It’s always a heartwarming surprise to know your advice and recommendation was received:

I’d been listening to the audiobook as I got short spurts of time for the past month, finished it yesterday and started listening to it again this morning. It’s so meaningful. Thank you... Really, what a gift you gave me.

Talk about what you read and share your ideas with friends. It makes for meaningful, deeper conversation topics!

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. —

First Lady Elenor Roosevelt

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Jaw-Dropping Stat

In grad school, I did a research project focusing on a community issue. I picked the library as my field site. Through field observation, ethnographic interviews and contextual inquiry, I learned that childhood literacy is huge. Budgets for prison cells are projected based on children’s reading levels. If they’re illiterate, there is a higher chance that they will lead a life of crime.

Would you rather pay $10+ for a children’s book or $47,000+ to maintain a jail cell?

See more about my project

Be inspired to read!

Here are a few of my favorite spots that celebrate books in the Greater Los Angeles Area:

  1. Powell Library (UCLA, Westwood): The interior is gorgeous — tall arches, soft natural lighting from windows, mosaics and chandeliers. There’s many different options for seating and workspaces. I love coming here to put in some solid work hours too!
  2. The Last Bookstore (Downtown LA): The creative book decor makes for great photo opps! The upstairs has shelves upon shelves of books with color-coded book spines. There’s also book tunnel that’s a must see!
  3. Iliad Book Shop (North Hollywood): Charming used bookstore. I love pulling a book and tucking myself in the comfy, red couches in the back reading room. Books are piled high on shelves so you’ll get a chance to use the rolling library ladders!
  4. By the beach — gotta take advantage of living in SoCal!

Outside of Los Angeles:

  • Hearst Castle (San Simeon, CA): Hearst Castle is a mansion that offers tours of the grounds. The Upstairs Tour has a beautiful library. Pictures aren’t allowed but it’s still great to see!
  • Seattle Public Library — Central Library (Seattle, WA): Awesome architecture and green with solar panels. You’ll spot it a mile away.
  • Powell Book Store (Portland, OR): The world’s largest independent book store, great to check out after grabbing coffee or a donut!
  • Strand Book Store (New York, NY): Home to 18 miles of books — you might get lost!
  • El Ateneo Grand Splendid (Buenos Aires, Argentina): An ornate opera house that has since been renovated and converted into a book and music shop

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