the sparkly life: How I've Read 50 Books In Six Months (And How You Can, Too!)

Monday, June 24, 2019

How I've Read 50 Books In Six Months (And How You Can, Too!)

how to read faster

A few weeks back, in early June, I shared on my Instagram Stories that I had just finished my 40th book of the year. I got a ton of DMs asking me how I managed to do that, and the truth is, it hasn't been an accident. I've made a major, concerted effort to read more this year, and it has definitely paid off. I'm now already at 48 books read so far this year (and almost done with two more!), which is a huge uptick for me, considering I read 22 books total last year. (And I was pretty proud of that at the time as 22 was already more than I'd read the previous year.)

I'll also add that I'm not a particularly fast reader. In fact, I'm probably an average-to-slow reader! I'm also just like you: I work, I'm a mom, I hang out with friends, I watch my favorite shows on TV, and for years, I considered myself "too busy" to read. Turns out, that wasn't true. I still do all of the things I did before (still have those kids--lol!), but I've just come up with some very specific--and, I realize now, very effective--strategies that have allowed me to supercharge the amount of books I read in the limited time that I have. 

None of it is rocket science, but it works. And I promise you can do everything on this list, too. If you want to know how to read more books, how to read faster, and how to find more time in your day to read, scroll down. Here's exactly how I taught myself to read more books--and how you can do it, too.

best books 2019

Read 20 minutes every day. Most of the tips on this list are stuff I figured out on my own, but not this one. I got this tip from Laura Tremaine, and it is a good one. Sounds simple, but it makes a big difference, and it's what really jumpstarted me to become a such an avid reader this year. Here it is: Pick up a book, set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes, and read straight for that whole time. (No stopping to check email or social--just focus for 20 freaking minutes and read.) Do this every single day (schedule it in your calendar if that helps), and even if you do nothing else on this list, you'll already be increasing your reading, big time. Everyone is busy, but no one is too busy to do something for 20 minutes. If you want to read for more than that, great! If you don't, that's fine, too. But do the 20 minutes every day without fail, and I promise, it will be a gamechanger in the number of books you read.

ABR. (Always Be Reading.) This has basically become my motto. (Consider it my GTL--Gym, Tan, Laundry--if you will.) The idea is that I want to always have a book with me, so that I can easily carve out pockets of time (even a few minutes here and there) to read. Now, ABR is a lot easier if you read electronically. I do most of my reading on my Kindle app on my phone, and since my iPhone is essentially one of my limbs at this point, it's always with me. But if you're super anti-e-reader, make sure you always have a physical book close at hand, in your purse or a tote bag, etc. Always having a book at the ready means I can easily read for a few minutes if I'm standing in line, waiting for a train, etc, instead of scrolling through social media. You'll be surprised how quickly a few spare minutes here or there adds up. But ABR goes even further. If you are walking down the street or driving in your car listening to Taylor Swift or a podcast, cool. But could be reading! Because I strive to ABR, the minute I step outside to walk to the train or to an appointment, I put in my earbuds and switch on an audiobook (more on those below). I also listen to audiobooks when I'm putting on my makeup in the morning, making dinner, putting away laundry, etc. I mean it: Always. Be. Reading.

best audiobooks

Learn to love audiobooks. Wait! I know what you're thinking right now; I was you just a few months ago. But go with me here: Audiobooks can seem intimidating or weird--I know--but they are actually awesome (often better than the regular book version--seriously), and can massively up the amount of books you are able to read. Now, I'll be honest: I don't love to listen to fiction. Some people don't have a problem with it, but I still find it challenging to follow a complicated narrative. But I love--love!--listening to non-fiction books and memoirs (especially celeb memoirs!). Non-fiction books (think self-help, parenting, history, etc) literally just feel like listening to a podcast. Memoirs--and particularly, celeb memoirs--are my favorite though. I honestly don't think I'll ever read a celeb memoir again, because it infinitely changes the experience to hear it read in the author's voice. You hear the author laugh, use funny voices, even cry--it totally alters the experience for the better. Two other tips: 1) Always increase the speed of your audiobook. Authors talk verrrrrry slooowwww when recording audiobooks, and I promise, you can listen faster. I listen to everything sped up to 1.25 to 1.5 times. It sounds superfast for about five seconds when you first increase it, but then you get used to it. 2) If you want to try out audiobooks, I highly recommend joining Audible. They have every possible audiobook that's available (you just order them through Amazon), and their app is great for listening. (If you use this affiliate link and do a 30-day trial, you can get two free audiobooks!) And to get you started, a few of my very favorite audiobooks are: This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps, Troublemaker by Leah Remini, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, Becoming by Michelle Obama, and From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home.

Read multiple books at a time. I was always someone who reads only one book at a time, but that's the old 20-Books-In-a-Year me. I am now always reading two books, and often reading three. I always have a book that I'm reading on my Kindle app, and then I also always have an audiobook going. If I do a third book, it will be a physical book. Audiobooks are always non-fiction for me, and then I try to make the Kindle and physical books very different, which means that one is fiction and the other is usually a memoir or some other type of non-fiction book. Reading two to three books at once in this way keeps you from getting bored, and also gives you a psychological boost because you end up finishing multiple books one after another--boom, boom, boom! And of course, it helps ensure that you ABR.
how to read faster

Don't be afraid to dump a bad book. I can't tell you how many boring books I used to suffer through because I had that mentality that you had to finish a book. Like it was a law. Well, I'm here to tell you: It's not illegal or rude or wrong to stop reading a book you're just not feeling. You can take a permanent or temporary break from it and the world is not going to end. If you're not enjoying it, you're going to read it slowly, and just think about all of the reading time you're wasting by doing that! Let it go, and pick up something else. And that dud will always be there waiting for you, if you decide to give it another go down the line. (I've done that before, by the way, and often find it way more enjoyable the second time around!)

Follow fellow readers. I probably get 99 percent of my book recommendations from people I follow on social media. And when someone you trust and admire is raving about a book, you'll find that you won't be able to wait to dive into it, too. Some of the accounts I follow are just "regular" people who love to read, and some are dedicated #bookstagrams. A few of my favorite accounts to follow for book recs: @ashleyspivey, @laura.tremaine, @graceatwood, @hithapalepu, @carlysbookclub, @reesesbookclubxhellosunshine, @nycbookgirl, @sarahsbookshelves@shelfbyshelf, and @purewowbookclub. (Shameless plug: I give lots of book recs on my Insta Stories at @alyssahertzig, and I *just* started my own Bookstagram! It's @alyssaisbooked and I would be forever grateful for a follow!) I also get a ton of recs from #Spiveys Club on Facebook (search for it! It's the one with the book stack emoji), and the Bad on Paper podcast.

Join Book of the Month. After debating for a long time, I joined Book of the Month Club a few months back, and I'm so happy I did. If you're not familiar with it: Each month they pick five books that are basically guaranteed to be awesome and guaranteed to be some of the biggest, most popular releases. (I also love that they often get books early, so BOTM members are often able to get their hands on books a month or so before they are officially released.) I've found it's a great way to a) learn about "guaranteed" page-turners, b) build excitement (it feels like Christmas morning when your blue box of books arrives, and even that pales in comparison to the excitement of finding out which books are going to be offered each month, and c) it's a great deal. You get one hardcover new release each month at $14.99, and you can also add on any others for just $9.99. (You also get a free add-on book during your birthday month!) Now is a great time to join because they're running a promo where you get your first book for $9.99 instead of $14.99, so if you've been mulling it over, don't wait! (And if you do join, use my link here, because then we'll both get a free book! Yay!)

book of the month deals

Alternate heavy and light books. I like reading sweeping historical fiction, but I also like a fun beach read. When possible, I try to alternate heavier, denser books with shorter or lighter reads. This helps keep my momentum up, and will help you feel like you're reading more books. (Because you will be reading more books this way!)

Watch less TV. Okay, this is the one you didn't want to hear, I know. Sorry, but it's true. I'm no math genius, but it turns out less watching-TV time equals more reading time. I used to watch a lot of TV because it was how I would wind down at night or on a lazy weekend afternoon. Now, I wind down with a book. I still watch my very favorite shows, but really, only those favorites. If I get the urge to switch on the TV just "because," I read instead. 

Build a kick-ass TBR (to be read) pile. Ultimately, it all boils down to this simple truth: If you have great books to read, you'll read more. Here's a few of my all-time favorites and some of the very best books I've read this year. Grab a few of these amazing page-turners, and you're on your way to an awesome book year. Try 11/22/63, Lilac Girls, The Nightingale, Magic Hour, Tender At The Bone, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Mrs. Everything, City of Girls, The Great Alone (yes, I'm clearly obsessed with Kristin Hannah!), Station Eleven, Kitchens of The Great Midwest, When Breath Becomes Air, The Age of Miracles, The Heart's Invisible Furies, and EducatedHappy reading! 

Do you have any tips to add? If so, please let me know! And if you try any of these and see a difference, please let me know either here or on Instagram. Can't wait to hear how many books you guys read this year now!


Unknown said...

This is a great and helpful post! I'm going to begrudgingly try audio books now. Also, I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who dabbles in multiple books at a time. :)

Gayle Weiswasser said...

I agree with everything you wrote here! All of it - always have a book, audiobooks, stay off social media and TV, find good recommenders. And the last one is the most important! Picking great books is the most effective way to read more. You just can't put them down.

Anonymous said...

This is a great list, thank you for sharing! I easily doubled my reading when I would listen to one and read another. Good tip about making them different types, though. My first time around I was reading/listening 2 different mystery books and I got REALLY confused LOL

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) said...

Thank you so much for including me in your list of bookstagrammers!
Love this and I think we have the exact same list of tips to fit more reading into your life! The only one I still have trouble with is reading multiple books at once. Well, unless one print and one audiobook count as reading multiple books at once. But, I have trouble with reading more than one print book at a time.
I'm even like you with only being able to listen to nonfiction on audio!

Janet Locane said...

Very interesting, thanks a lot!

JeffThorsen777 said...

I wish I could read as many books as the author. But it is difficult due to the large number of assignments and homework. It’s good that I learned about literature review writers and turned to them for help. They completed the essay and thesis for me quickly. Thanks to this, I have a little more free time.

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