10 strategies to read more books

Takeaway: Many of us want to read more but are unsure of how to do it. A handful of tactics to try: set specific times to read, create a comfortable physical environment, identify less meaningful activities and replace them with reading, read shorter books, have multiple books on-the-go, put down books you’re not enjoying, make reading a social activity, know which reading format you prefer, and schedule a reading day.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 19s.

Podcast Length: 31 minutes, 58s (link to play podcast at the bottom of post).

Whether it’s immersing yourself in a faraway fictional world or digesting the ideas of a nonfiction book, reading is one of the most meaningful ways to spend your day and activate your mind. It’s also one of the best temporary escapes from this anxious time—all while staying within the comfort of your home. 

A lot of people want to read more books, but are uncertain of where to start. On this week’s episode of Becoming Better (which you can play at the bottom of the post), we explore this goal and share a buffet of tactics to get you started. Here are a few ideas that have worked for us, pulled from the episode! 

1. Set aside specific times to read 

Figure out how reading can fit into the structure of your day. Maybe it’s right after you wake up alongside a mug of tea, or sitting on a park bench at lunch. Think about how you’re spending your day and how you could carve out a window of time to sit down with a book. Reading is also a great way to transition from your work day into your personal time—an especially important divide when we lack the physical separation between our home and office.  

2. Create a physical environment that’s conducive to reading 

This can be extraordinarily helpful when it comes to starting your own reading ritual. I personally put my phone and tablet in another room, lie on the couch, and tune into the “Simply Piano Radio” station on Apple Music. Take this ritual with a grain of salt, though—the “perfect” environment for reading can be elusive, and if you wait for the stars to perfectly align you may never pick up a book. 

3. Replace less meaningful tasks with reading 

Whether it’s engaging in an endless Twitter scroll or binge watching Netflix, we all have parts of our day that could be categorized as less-than-meaningful. Identify what those things are and take them as a sign that you should pick up a book instead. We all have time for reading if we choose to prioritize it. 

4. Read shorter books 

This might sound like cheating, but short books actually pair really well with longer reads—right now, for example, I’m reading a bunch of short books while also reading the tome that is Cryptonomicon. It‘s rewarding to make progress in a short book while progressing through a larger one. 

5. Read multiple books at once 

Think of it like diversifying your portfolio of investments. If you’re reading multiple books you can pretty much guarantee you’re going to enjoy one. I ran a Twitter poll asking how many books people read at once—most (60%) said they read more than one book at a time. I personally have around four or five books on-the-go at once. This is especially true with nonfiction. You can process reading multiple simultaneous nonfiction books better than you might think, since you’re just accumulating facts, and have no storylines to cross. 

6. Stop reading books you don’t enjoy 

Some books just won’t connect with you, regardless of their reviews or recommendations. Putting down a bad book is naturally motivating. This approach is probably not worth applying to everything, but life’s too short to read books you don’t like.  

7. Put more thought into your reading list in order to read better books 

This can include the classics—many of which are available for free online or through the library. Look at literary recommendations but also be open to reading something that doesn’t have a five star review. Taste is so personal, and who knows where you’ll find your next favorite book—in general, we should spend more time choosing the books we read than we do. One suggestion: see the description of each book you’re considering reading as a pitch for your time and attention. 

8. Make reading more social 

You may already be familiar with Goodreads, a social network where users can review, recommend, and save titles. Book clubs are also a great way to make reading a social activity, and are one option for staying connected with friends and family during the pandemic. Both can help you stumble on great books you wouldn’t read otherwise.  

9. Know which reading format you prefer 

I’m a physical book kind of guy, and always have a pen and highlighter in hand to scribble in the margins. Look at what you’re reading and how consequential the information is—audiobooks can be great for fictional reads, but you may prefer a physical book if you’re digging into something meaty.  

10. Have a reading day 

This is a single day where you sit down and finish an entire book. Reading days can be a reward for meeting a deadline or finishing a project early. I find that a 300-350 page book is ideal for a reading day.  

Like all productivity advice, you need to take what works for you and leave the rest. Happy reading! 

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