How to read more books (video)

Viewing time: 5 mins. 59 secs. 

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast about writing that I started in 2017 and that ran, more or less weekly, until April 2022. This is a republication of issue #105, which gives advice on how to read more books. The post first ran on Aug. 30/19.


Do you want to read more books? That’s the topic I’ll be addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach.  

I have a question from Emma Williams based in Columbus, Ohio. Here’s what she’s asked via email. 

“I eagerly await the reading lists you publish twice each year and I can’t believe that you manage to read 52 books in 12 months. How do you find the time? How do you suggest I manage to read more books myself?” 

Thanks for the question — and for the compliment —  Emma. For anyone who isn’t familiar with my reading addic… habit, I publish my book lists in June and November and you can see them going back to 2010. Link below. 

When I first started keeping my book list, I remember only once in which my goal was a problem. ‘Round about early October that year, I realized that I was nowhere near my self-imposed total of 52. 

I made some quick calls & emails to friends and, with their advice, drew up a list of VERY SHORT books. With a combination of avid reading and short books, I managed to hit the total by December. Ever since, I have been much more careful about pacing myself. This means I work really hard to finish 26 books — ideally more — in the first half of the year.

But even if your goal isn’t as ambitious as mine, you can probably increase the number of books you read by following five tips. 

#1: Choose material that you really, really like 

Don’t think of reading as a vegetable that you have to choke down because it’s good for you. Make it cheesecake by focusing on books that you LOVE. If this limits you to Harlequin Romance, so be it. Once your reading habit is established, you can stretch yourself to other genres but get the habit nailed first. 

Remember: De gustibus non est disputandum. That’s Latin and it means: in matters of taste there can be no dispute. If you look forward to your reading you’re going to do it more often. I love books that get me so engaged I feel as though I’m watching a movie or, better, a fly on the wall in someone else’s really interesting life. This is what brings me back to reading.

 #2: Give yourself a daily goal 

I read 52 books a year because I’ve told YOU I’m going to read 52 books a year. I’ve made a public commitment. You can do the same by telling other people in your life how many books you plan to read each month or year.

When I get a book I usually check the number of pages and then divide it by seven to see how many pages I need to read per day to finish it in a week. Of course, it’s a “soft” goal — not a court order — and life frequently intervenes. I may have social events or a family emergency that I have to deal with. But if too many days pass when I’ve not read anything, then I know I need to make some adjustments to my life.  

#3: Make reading your default position  

We all eat several meals a day, brush our teeth and get six to nine hours of sleep. Some of us even manage to work in regular exercise. Put reading in those same categories! 

Make reading something you do without thinking about it. Always carry a book with you (this is especially easy if you have an electronic reader like a Kindle or Kobo). Whenever you’re unoccupied — waiting in a line or riding public transit, for example — pull out your book and start reading. It will amaze you how much you can read during times like these. 

#4: Track your reading 

I’ve kept a book journal for the last 30 years, even before I started my 52-books-a-year goal. In this journal, I note: 

  •       the name of the book
  •       the author
  •       the year the book was first published
  •       the first sentence or two
  •       my feelings about the book
  •       the date I finished reading it. 

This list used to be a nuisance when I had to write it by hand, as I did in the 1980s, but now that I keep the list on my computer it takes me only a couple of minutes. It’s also delightfully self-reinforcing — the more I read, the more I want to read. 

#5: Remember that holidays offer an excellent time to “catch up”  

When I say I read 52 books a year, most people assume I read one per week. Truth be told, I almost never read that way. When I’m on holiday, for example, I often read a book a day. This style allows me to put reading aside at other times of year when I’m too buried in work or too busy with other tasks. I also pay extra attention to the books I take away with me on holiday, ensuring I have a good selection of titles that I’m likely to love. 

Reading is the best hobby there is. It’s inexpensive (particularly if you make good use of your local library), it reduces stress, it’s fun and it improves our empathy.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the writer Lemony Snicket, also known as Daniel Handler: “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

Emma, the very best thing about reading is that it helps make us better writers. If you want to be a writer, you need to be a reader, first. 


Books I’ve read since 2010

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