Advice for People Who Say, “I Want to Read More Books!”

two shelves of books to read

It happens at almost every event I attend. Someone stops by my table and says, “I want to read more books, but…” The “but” usually comes back to time, focus, or finding the right book. As a semi-professional book reader and professional writer, I have some thoughts on how to read more books. But before we get into that, let’s talk about why you might want to.

Why Do You Want To Read More Books?

I love books and I can’t imagine not wanting to spend large chunks of every day reading. As the book nerd quote goes: “Life is just a series of obstacles preventing you from reading your book.”

"Life is just a series of obstacles preventing you from reading your book." - Anonymous

I could write hundreds of words about why I love reading and the power of books. But you aren’t me. So the question is, why do you want to read more books?

If your only answer is something about how reading is good for you and you think you should do it more, you’re going to have a hard time. Decisions based on obligations and “shoulds” are hard to stick with, especially when you’re accountable to no one but yourself.

So before you start trying to read more books, stop a minute and get clear on why you want to. See if any of these resonate with you.

“I want to read more books because I…

  • Am curious about this one book or author
  • Want to connect with my bookworm kid
  • Need hobbies that don’t involve staring at screens
  • Want to learn skills to advance my career
  • Need to be a good example to my kids/students/other people
  • Think it could improve my mental health
  • Want to save society from the evils of ignorance
  • Have heard about the health benefits and I want some of that
  • Would feel better about myself
  • Like supporting local bookstores, libraries, and indie authors.

If none of the reasons above resonate for you, that’s okay too. The point is to find something stronger than “should” to motivate you. Getting specific about why you want to read more books, can make you more successful at doing so. It can also help you choose books that support your goals.

8 Tips for People Who Want to Read More Books

For some people, just making the decision to read more might be enough. If you’re one of those superhumans, I salute you. The rest of us need strategies to find time and focus. Try any or all of these 8 tips for reading more books.

1. Find Books That Interest You

It’s much easier to stick with a reading habit if you’re interested in what you’re reading. For now, don’t worry about reading the classics or challenging yourself with difficult books. Reach for something fun or interesting instead.

Fortunately, writers like me spend a lot of time creating books lists on every possible topic. Whether you’re looking for something as general as the best YA fantasy novels or a super niche list like fiction books about tarot cards, someone has probably done the work for you. Use your search engine and find books you can get excited about.

You can also ask for recommendations from a friend, your friendly neighborhood bookseller, or a librarian at the local library.

Adults, try snagging a book from the bookshelf of your child, niece, nephew, grandchild or younger cousin. Children’s and middle grade books are often entertaining and quick to read, which can give you a feeling of accomplishment without too much effort. Plus, you’ll have something to talk about next time you hang out with them.

2. Carry a book with you everywhere

Going to the doctor’s? Bring a book. Waiting to pick your kid up from soccer? Bring a book. Heading to the library? Don’t forget your library books. Seriously, though. It’s easy to slip a book into your bag or stick it in your car so you’re never caught without something to read.

I like paperback books because they’re smaller and easier to carry. Plus, they’re less expensive than hardbacks. My cousin even bought me one of those nifty book sleeves to keep them from getting damaged in my bag.

With a Kindle or other ereader, you can carry an entire library in a space smaller than the average trade paperback. And if you don’t want to lug an extra device around, you can always add an ereader app to your phone. Shift your social media apps off of your home screen and stick your ereader app front and center so you’re more likely to read.

3. Set a page goal

Reading a whole book takes time – hours, weeks, even months sometimes. Break that goal down into smaller parts by giving yourself a page-per-day goal. I recommend starting with just one page per day. It was good enough for Francie’s mom in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so it’s probably good enough for you to start with too.

You’ll most likely find that one page isn’t enough and will want to do more. That’s great. But even if you only get one page read, that’s a page more than you would have done.

You can use a simple habit tracker app or a good old fashioned calendar to keep track of your reading habit. Just put an x in the box for every day you finish a page. If you want to buy yourself a pizza at the end, I’m not going to stop you.

4. Read first (or last)

One of the best ways to get something done is to do it first thing in the morning. Try reading while you drink your coffee or eat breakfast. If you commute, listen to an audiobook while driving or follow tip one and bring a book on public transport.

If mornings are too hectic, try reading when you go to bed. Instead of playing on your phone or watching TV before bed, pick up a book. You can even leave your book on your pillow or bedside table to remind you to get that page read before you sleep.

5. Take Notes

Taking notes is useful even if you’re not going to be tested on the material. When my mom read Anna Karennina, she took notes to keep track of all the multi-named Russian characters and their relationships. If you’re reading a mystery, try taking notes about important case details. Maybe keep a quotes notebook and jot down your favorite quotes from whatever books you read.

I know some people annotate books – highlighting, flagging, and leaving notes in the margins. Doing that pushes some deep primal guilt button in me, but if it works for you, go ahead.

6. Borrow Books from the Library

Borrowing books from the library gives you a deadline. Either you finish the book by the time it’s due or you might not finish it at all. For some people, a deadline like this keeps them reading.

Plus, getting books from the library is the cheapest way to read books. And you don’t have to find storage space for a whole collection.

7. Commit to Giving Up

Once upon a time, I was one of those people who would finish every book I started. Even if I absolutely hated the book, I’d slog through and finish it. But, I’ve changed. There are just too many books in the world. Reading one is a commitment, and there’s no reason to commit to something you hate.

As an author, I hereby give you permission to give up on a book you don’t like. If you’ve read 50 pages and you’re not enjoying it, put it away and try something new. Giving yourself the freedom to quit a book you dislike makes trying a book feel less risky.

8. Try Audiobooks

Speaking of trying books. Have you tried audiobooks? They’re perfect for when you’re driving, cleaning, or otherwise using your hands. You can listen to them even if you can’t read small words on a page. They’re also useful for sharing a reading experience with a friend or loved one.

Some people argue that reading audiobooks isn’t really reading. I get what they’re saying, you’re not looking at words and translating them into ideas. But you are experiencing a story or gathering information. Unless your goal is to get better at the physical act of decoding text, audiobooks are a fine solution.

Tell Me How You’re Reading More

I love reading and I love the idea that other people out there are reading too. Feel free to send me an email or connect with me on social media and let me know how your quest to read more books is going.

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