Reading More Without Living Less

9 Tips for Reading More

October 8, 2012

Here are 9 tips for reading more, in no particular order:

1. Consider reading the same book with someone else (e.g., your friend, spouse, etc.).

It will help motivate you to read it, and provide for some great discussions.

My husband and I both read a good bit, and a good number of the books we read overlap. This has been a huge help in motivating both of us to read more. We don’t necessarily begin books at the same time, but we do generally read them within a very close window of time. There’s nothing like wanting to start an intense discussion on reading only to say or hear, “oh, I didn’t realize you hadn’t read that yet…I can’t wait till you do!” to motivate you to get moving. It’s also a good way to understand your spouse or friend’s views on things. Yes, I read books on pastoral ministry and he reads books on mothering. 🙂

I do this with friends, as well, and it’s really enjoyable to be able to discuss our reading!

2. Read something you’re actually interested in.

Don’t force yourself to read something that’s going to bore you to death (at least at first).

3. If you want to read a long book that seems overwhelming, set bite size goals. Rather than declare that you’re going to read War and Peace next week, instead determine to read five pages of War and Peace each day. Little goals help us reach big goals.

Speaking of War and Peace, you can actually read it over the course of a year or two by using Daily Lit, where you can subscribe to receive a daily e-mail of a portion of a book that is readable in just a few minutes per day. There are a good number of books to choose from on this site, but War and Peace is one that my husband finished in about 663 days (you can choose your own length of time on several) this way. 🙂

Just make sure you are reading other books at the same time.

4. Leave a book where you will see it and pick it up to read. Toilet. Night stand. Rocking chair. Inside the cookie jar.

Some people say to leave a different in-progress book in every room. How well this works may depend on the size of your house and what rooms you visit, but the overall concept is certainly beneficial.

5. Learn to speed-read.

This one is still hard for me, but one I’ve overcoming. You can take classes for this, or you can research how to do it.

Or, you can just take this tip (this works best with paper books or an e-reader with a large enough screen):

Instead of reading word for word, focus in on the fourth word in and the fourth word out of each line. Your brain will pick up the word in between and you’ll still get a pretty much word-for-word read. You do not need to mentally sound out each word in your brain as you read. 🙂

(If you’re viewing this on my site, with a Chrome browser, the words are bolded for the above sentence.)

If it’s really good, come back and take it in more slowly.

6. Replace TV-watching with reading.

I’m not saying never watch another movie or TV show again. But if you’re spending a lot of time watching cable, consider dropping the cable and using a service Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon to watch just the TV shows and movies you want. You’ll cut out time spent on commercial time and possibly wasting time by vegging in front of whatever show is next.

7. Reward yourself with reading.  

If you’re focusing on another area of life-improvement, consider rewarding yourself with reading. Choose a book that you really want to read, and only allow yourself to read it once you have accomplished your other task for the day. For example, after you clean the kitchen, you can sit down to read The Hunger Games for 20 minutes; or, after you push to run 2 miles, you can read another chapter in A Tale of Two Cities. 

This kills two birds with one stone, and will likely help you enjoy both areas more (and perhaps do chores and reading more quickly, depending on how you frame your work/reward system).

8. Order/put on hold some books from your local library.

These days, many libraries have it set up to request books online, and then be notified by e-mail (or phone call) when it is available. (My library even has drive-through pick-up!) Select several books that are out as bestsellers or popular books. Because they are new or popular, they might not be available right away, and you will be alerted to their availability somewhat at random. It can serve as both an unexpected treat and a challenge to read it before it’s due again (such books usually have a shorter loan period).

And even with regular library-loaned books, finishing the book(s) before the due date can serve as a great motivator to finish up the reading.

9. Always have the next book ready.

Never be without the next book to read when you finish another. (This does not mean you must begin right way; sometimes a pause is helpful. I usually try to write a short review shortly after finishing my books, and it does help me to first complete that before immediately jumping into the next book.) Reading multiple books at a time will help solve this problem, too.

I keep a (long!) running list of books I want to read, and manage this on Goodreads and my Amazon wishlist. I try to have the next book in mind or ready once I am about to finish a book. Since I’m usually reading in multiple formats, I try to keep in mind my next choice as I near the end of finishing a book in a particular format. That way, as soon as a I finish, I have the next book already ready to start.

These are just 9 tips for reading more and reading more effectively. (I’ll share more on reading more via audio soon.) There are countless more. What are you best tips for reading more and reading better?


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  • Catherine @ A Spirited Mind October 8, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Hm, I’ve never understood the point of speed reading. If you’re reading to enjoy the beauty of prose (fiction) or if you’re reading to learn a new skill or learn about a specific topic (nonfiction), why would you want to only read every fourth word? I know people who took speed reading classes in college, but I always felt that was missing out on the whole reason for reading! Instead, I’d advocate learning to read quickly. I read fast, but I read every word. My husband, on the other hand, reads very slowly, pausing to make notes or digest thoughts as he goes. If you want to read more, you could practice reading fast and digesting later, versus reading very slowly and deliberately?

    I guess for books of fiction that aren’t very important literature, or for non-fiction you don’t really care about learning from, speed reading could help, but if that’s the case, why read it at all?

    What am I overlooking? Or do you mean something else about speed reading? When do you use it and find it effective? (I’m asking because I’m really interested to know!)

    • Erika October 8, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      I hadn’t seen your comment when I wrote mine and had to laugh at the seeming contrast. Yet I also read every word and just do it quickly. Even in the reading program in high school (which might not have been strict “speed” reading), I wasn’t told to skip words. If I recall, the idea was to use three focal points per line at the beginning and get used to reading every word within each section at a glance. Then as/if a student was able, he reduced the number of focal points. We were also tested on comprehension, so the speed of the machine didn’t increase until we truly grasped what we were running our eyes over. I definitely don’t read now at whatever crazy high speed I attained then, but the program did benefit my speed greatly–a wonderful help in college since I did plenty of reading for my English degrees!

      I agree with you about needing to savor every word in important literature and to comprehend fully a non-fiction book. I find myself intentionally using two or three focal points in passages that I just need to “get through”–think the asides in my unabridged Les Mis. I have been steadily working my way through that book this year, mainly on trips in the car while the kids are sleeping! I need to be able to concentrate to keep the details together and revel in the splendid blend of history, culture,political commentary, philosophy, informative details, oh yes, and the story itself. So during one of Hugo’s asides, if I am experiencing lagging focus, I can switch to tunnel vision with my focal points and get back to reading quickly. Not even sure I can fully explain how or why! I have also consciously used this technique for a non-fiction book that turns out to be less beneficial than I had anticipated–I’m not opposed to returning a book that I haven’t finished, but I tend to want to finish it just to now if it redeems itself or if I am ever asked about it! In sum, I use this concept as a survival technique to get myself back on track when I find my reading slowing for some reason.

      Would love to know how either of you avoid getting bogged down!

  • Erika October 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Great tips and love the speed reading tip and example! And the acknowledgement that you sometimes have to go back and reread a good spot. I learned speed reading in high school with a machine and everything. Though I tend not to read with real speed-reading techniques, I do sometimes find myself skimming ahead on a spread of pages, reaching the end with the gist of the text, but wanting to go back and savor it again. I sometimes feel torn between efficiency and complete comprehension. Obviously, the book itself usually dictates which action I take. This habit is especially a problem if I’m reading a book out loud; the girls have to bring me back sometimes, and Andy just gives me a hard time for reading ahead!

    • Keren October 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm

      Erika, you squeezed some savory experiential advice in this paragraph! 🙂

  • Johanna Hanson October 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    My husband and I definitely don’t read the same things right now. He’s too busy reading required things that he doesn’t have time to read other stuff, but I fill him in. 🙂

    I don’t speed read. I definitely read every word, but I read fairly quickly. I also learn new vocabulary that way.I wonder if the new words would stand out as much if I sped read?

    All the other ones I definitely do. Great list!

    • Keren October 8, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      “My husband and I definitely don’t read the same things right now. He’s too busy reading required things that he doesn’t have time to read other stuff, but I fill him in.”

      We are that way with some of our reading, too. Daniel does some reading for work and reviews books, which makes both of us have less time to read the same books. But, it is very different when you have a spouse in school/seminary!!

      “I don’t speed read. I definitely read every word, but I read fairly quickly. I also learn new vocabulary that way.I wonder if the new words would stand out as much if I sped read?”

      Well, I think that’s still speed reading if you’re reading “fairly quickly?”

      • Johanna Hanson October 9, 2012 at 6:33 am

        Yes, I guess you’re right. I was thinking more true speed reading which I have never really learned. But any fast reading is technically speed reading!