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Reading is my life.
I say that with only the slightest hint of exaggeration. I probably spend more hours reading than I spend doing any other single thing. I am a copy editor by trade, and while I’m not reading every minute of my workday, reading is a huge part of what I do. (I’ll get more into that below.) And when I’m not working, my favorite way to unwind is—you guessed it—reading.
Surprisingly, now that I have more responsibilities than ever—I work full-time, I’m a mom and a wife, I run a blog and contribute regularly to other publications—I’m reading more than I ever have. Last year, I read 55 books (granted, I wasn’t pregnant and totally exhausted for most of that year), and I’m on track to read at least 50 this year.
There are many moms out there who read far, far more than I do, so I don’t say any of this to brag, but just to show you what is possible for someone who is in the thick of it with you. If you want to make time to read, you can—and if you don’t want to, that’s okay too! (Though I don’t think you’d still be reading this if you didn’t.)
Setting a goal to read one book a month is a great place to start, and from there, I wouldn’t be surprised if you found yourself wanting to read more and more.
So let’s dive in! Here are the nitty-gritty logistics of my reading life.
Why do I read?
Because I love it! I genuinely enjoy watching TV and movies, but I prefer reading by far, and I’m not sure why. Lots of people will say things like “Reading transports you to new worlds and helps you see through other people’s eyes!” I totally agree with that, but I don’t think that’s exclusive to books—well-made TV shows and movies can do the same. Maybe it’s because the characters feel more real to me in a book, or maybe it’s because the investment of time and energy is greater with reading vs. watching, and thus, so is the payoff. But I’d rather read than do just about anything else.
When do I read?
- At work: As a copy editor, my job is to read manuscripts after they’ve been through developmental editing and correct issues of style, grammar, etc. I’m also involved in two book groups at work, and I’m allowed to read those books on work time. When there’s a lull in my book groups, I usually pick up a book about faith or creativity to read on work time as professional development.
- After Selah goes to bed: Once dinner and bedtime are done, I have one or two hours before my own bedtime. Dan and I sit side by side on our oversized chair, and he either watches TV or plays a video game while I read. Once I do my own nighttime routine and get in bed, I wind down with another 5-10 pages before turning out the lights.
- On the weekends: I feel no guilt for reading while Selah is awake on the weekends. I try to spend at least an hour or two playing with her on Saturday mornings, but it’s my weekend too, and I don’t feel an obligation to “make up” for the time I missed during the week by playing with her nonstop. (There are plenty of other ways I connect with her and make her feel loved throughout the week and on the weekends.) Sometimes she’ll sit next to me on the couch and watch Daniel Tiger, or she’ll play by herself near where I’m sitting, or I’ll put her in the bath and read on the bathroom floor. I read during her Saturday nap time if there are no unwatched episodes of the Great British Baking Show.
- In waiting rooms: I live by the classic advice to have a book with me at all times. That doesn’t mean I don’t choose to scroll my phone sometimes, but I like having the option to read instead. I’m at the doctor a lot these days between OB appointments and occupational therapy for my hands, so I can usually sneak in a few pages while I’m waiting.
- All the other little cracks: I’m as susceptible as anyone else to picking up my phone in these tiny cracks of time, but I’m trying to stash my phone out of reach more often and pick up a book instead. I love having long stretches of uninterrupted time to read, but that’s not really a reality right now, so I have to be able to dive in and out of a book in just a few minutes. Five minutes of reading is better than no minutes of reading!
How do I read?
Probably 80% of the books I read are “real” paper books. I read more ebooks when Selah was nursing, because it’s easier to hold a Kindle one handed than it is to hold a hardcover book. Plus, I like that the backlight on the Kindle is not distracting to a baby the way a book light is. So I imagine that percentage will change when baby boy is born. I also read electronically for books I’m working on in my job, but the books I read for work-related book clubs are hard copy. I don’t have a strong preference for paperback or hardcover, but I do prefer hardcover from the library because they seem sturdier and more difficult to damage.
What do I read?
Until I got my current job, I read very, very little nonfiction. I think I was just reading the wrong kind, but I would be excited about a nonfiction book for the first three or so chapters and then lose steam and give up.
Even now that I know what kinds of nonfiction I like (memoir, productivity/creativity, and social justice), I do better with some sort of accountability, which is why most of this reading happens within a book club or professional development setting. I work almost exclusively on nonfiction for my job, so I’m usually reading 1-3 more nonfiction manuscripts for work at any given time.
Fiction is what I default to in my personal reading, and it was my first love: I devoured American Girl and Babysitters Club books when I was a kid, often finishing a book a day in the summertime. I am still enchanted by a well-crafted story with lovable (or at least likable) characters, even though my preferred genres have changed a lot over the years.
In high school and college, I read a lot of classics for school, but I loved them and often read them in my free time as well. As a younger adult, I read mostly historical fiction and “fluffier” contemporary reads—books by Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Weiner, for example.
In the last few years I went through a big-time mystery and thriller phase, and I still love these kinds of books but I got a little burned out on them. Lately I’ve been enjoying more recent historical fiction and contemporary novels by women and people of color. I’m still romanced by plot-driven novels over character-driven ones, but if I dislike the characters, there’s a good chance I won’t like (or won’t finish) a plot-driven book. And on the flip-side, some of my favorite books of 2018 could be described as character-driven, but they had enough plot to keep me going.
How do I stay in the rhythm of reading?
I always know what I’m reading next! I generally have a hold list going at the library, so I pick those up as they come in. I also check out 3-4 other books at a time based on what’s available and what I’m in the mood for. I tend to read heavier books in general, so in every library trip I try to grab at least one lighter book as a palate cleanser. (The Crazy Rich Asian series was perfect for this!) I find that having a few options ready to go whenever I finish a book is the perfect balance: I can still choose something according to my mood but without having to sift through my entire TBR list to find just the right next book.
I do read less in seasons where I’m really invested in a TV show, but I am very, very picky about the TV I watch, simply because I know I’d rather be reading. When I’m deep into a show, I still try to read at least 5-10 pages of a novel before I go to bed so I don’t lose all my reading momentum.
How do I choose what to read next?
Like I mentioned above, I prioritize my library holds because those are usually the books I’ve been most excited about (along with everyone else, hence, the hold) and i know I won’t get a chance to renew those. I hate returning a book unread and then having to wait for it again!
Besides that, I try to rotate genres as much as possible. I don’t like reading two mysteries or social justice books back to back. Other than that, I choose my next book based on what I feel like reading. I don’t plan out what I’m going to read for the whole year or even for the whole month. If I genuinely have no idea what to read next—nothing is catching my attention on Instagram and I have no holds set to come in—I’ll go to the beginning of my TBR list and choose something I’ve been meaning to get around to.
I generally don’t participate in reading challenges, though I do set an annual reading goal and keep track of my progress in Goodreads. If I’m feeling totally stuck in my reading, I might browse the categories of a reading challenge for inspiration.
What I’m saying is, there’s no science to how I choose what to read. By reading what I like whenever I want to, I don’t get stalled often.
Do I DNF books? (DNF = “did not finish”)
Oh YES I do. I try to give a book 20% or 50 pages (whichever is more), and if I’m still not into it, I’ll quit. Occasionally I will push through if I have a compelling reason—i.e. it’s a book club book, or multiple people have told me it gets better at page 75.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies, for example, is one I normally would have DNFed, but literally every person who recommended it said to push through to page 250 because the rest of the book is unputdownable. Since the book is almost 600 pages long, and people were raving about the second half, I broke my usual rule. (It’s now on my all-time favorites list, so it was totally worth it.)
I know having a newborn is going to change many of these rhythms for me! My brain was so foggy with Selah that I did way too much phone scrolling while I was nursing her. I’m planning to build a stash of lighter books on my Kindle so I can ditch my phone and read during those days when I’m parked on the couch for hours on end.
My advice for you if you want to make more time to read:
- Find a ten-minute window each day when you can read consistently, and track your progress each day. You’ll be surprised at how much those pages will add up, and I think you’ll find yourself making even more time once you establish that rhythm. (Also, stash your phone out of reach during this time.)
- Read across a variety of genres so you can figure out what you love right now. It may not be what you enjoyed reading last year or ten years ago!
- If you have no idea where to start, find inspiration through a book podcast. My favorites are Currently Reading and Sarah’s Book Shelves Live.
- Start a book club. Gather up some of your best girlfriends, set a recurring time, and assign a person to host and choose a book each month. Reading is always more fun when you have people to process with!
This post was inspired by episode 1 of 10 Things to Tell You, Laura Tremaine’s new podcast. Give it a listen for more reading inspiration and encouragement!
I’d love to hear from you on any of these questions! How do you decide what to read? When, how, and why do you read? What’s one obstacle that’s standing in your way of reading more?