The One Thing I’ve Learned to Help Me Read More

Compared to some, I am not a huge reader. I look at my friends Anne or Keren, and my reading list looks like nothing. But compared to many others, I read a lot. And I am really happy with how far I’ve come since my early days of reading. I haven’t always read a lot.

I have learned a lot from reading. It keeps me inspired and full of ideas. It helps keep my mind sharp and not stuck in the issues of 4, 2, and 1 year-olds. Now that I’ve tasted the joys of lots of reading, I’m not going back.

When Stefan was a baby, I read a lot. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great way of keeping track of it then, so I don’t know exactly how much. But I was always reading. I read enough parenting books to make your head spin–and confuse you, too. I read a lot of Christian living type books and really that was about it.

After I had Olivia, reading sort of stopped. Olivia was my cry-all-the-time baby, and I felt like life froze for those first few months she was a baby. In hindsight, I realize reading –not stopping reading–would have probably helped my sanity. Live and learn.

The last two years I have been able to pick up my reading, but it really has just been in the last year that I have figured out the one thing that helps me read more. Apparently, it takes me awhile to figure these things out. If I’d only asked an avid reader earlier I would have known.

Read multiple books at a time.

Before, when I would have only one book going on at a time, I would often leave it for days, and sometimes weeks, completely untouched.

If it was a book I was having a hard time getting through, or didn’t especially love, it could take me forever (and I do mean forever) to read.

After I started observing what more proficient readers were doing, I realized this single most important thing: they always had several books going.

Having multiple books going at a time helps me vary the genres I read in. For instance, I have been trying to read more history so I started a pretty huge book. Obviously it is going to take me a significant amount of time to wade through the 700-some pages. But I am only reading a few pages a day so I keep making progress. I am actually really enjoying it, but I think that is precisely because I am taking it in small doses. I would never get through it if that was all I was reading.

In the meantime, I am still reading lots of other stuff that is either lighter fair or of different genres, which keep things interesting.

I always have something to read. If I’m dog-tired at night but still want to read for a few minutes, I read something a little easier on the brain. If I am fresh and full of energy, I read something that requires a little more thinking.

Having something going of varying genres and styles keeps things interesting and keeps me knocking out books. I am no more surprised than anyone when I go to write my reading posts. I read this much? Nice!

At any given time I may have up to five books going. This means I regularly have a book I’m finishing and a fresh book I’m just starting. This in itself helps me read more. There is something motivating both in the accomplishment of finishing a book, and in the freshness of opening up a new book. Since both those things are happening regularly, it keeps me reading more.

I am not a great reader. But this single tip has helped me increase how much I read more than anything else.

Do you have a tip to share that helps you read more?

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Comments

  1. The multiple book thing is new to me this year. Probably because I am reading a lot hardier books-not just fluff and stuff. Also, it is helpful for me to just unplug from technology in the evenings and read. I can waste so much time on Twitter and FB.

    • Johanna says:

      Yes, I agree…when just reading lighter fair, I can usually sail through them, but with more substantial books I need multiple books to keep me reading!

  2. Steph says:

    This is a great tip that I’ve just recently discovered as well. As a kid, I’d sail through books one after another without second thought. Now life is a little more complicated (and the genres I’m interested in a little more varied) so reading multiple books at one time has proven to be very helpful.

  3. And all this time I’ve been thinking my compulsion to read multiple books at a time was a sickness, not a tool. Thanks for reframing that one for me, Johanna!

  4. I’ve been doing this for a long time… and I used to feel guilty about it, like I was too lazy to read just one book at a time. But lately I’ve been seeing it as a good thing. Like you mentioned, you DON’T always feel up to reading that 700 page history book. Sometime you need something lighter. So now I happily have 6-7 books going at a time!

    Another great tip is getting an e-reader. Because, while digital books will never compare to paper & ink books, they certainly lend themselves to greater reading convenience. You can bring those 6-7 books with you everywhere (and not dislocate your shoulder). And with all the freebies, sometimes you can get ebooks when you wouldn’t be able to buy the regular copy. My reading has exploded since getting a Kindle last year for Christmas!

    • Johanna says:

      YES! My kindle has really helped me too! My parents bought me one for last Christmas and I have definitely read books that I would never have bought because of the kindle. #lovemykindle

  5. Kelly says:

    Yes! I’ve joined the multiple-book reader’s club, too. I’ve learned to pick out a few books I would like to read and reserve them at the library. That way, when I stroll in with my hoard of children, I can just focus on what they need. I also choose very different books to keep my interest in reading. I agree that a Kindle helps with my reading on track because I can slip it into my purse for overnight trips or a few reading minutes at the waiting room, etc. Great Post!

    • Johanna says:

      I’ve been making good use of the library, too. And I have also enjoyed the fact that I can borrow kindle books from my library as well. No pickup/dropoff and I never have to worry about returning it on time as it just goes off the kindle!

  6. Rachel says:

    Wow! This was really helpful and eye-opening for me….I’ve never read more than one book at a time (and I do LOVE to read!).=( I have no idea why, but I thought it was a bad idea for some reason. However,after reading this along with everyone’s comments I can see how it is actually the more logical thing to do (especially to help wade through the weighter more in-depth reading). I’m looking forward to giving it a try to see how it goes!

  7. Erika says:

    I, too, had never really thought of this idea as the “key” to my reading a lot–most people have just viewed me as crazy for having multiple books going at once. I don’t know when I began practicing it, maybe growing up and into high school some, but definitely in college (as an English major), I realized that it is so refreshing to have a bevy of reading choices handy! I was actually known to read non-required books during the semester too–that is, by the last few years, once my time management and study skills were more proficient (though my assigned load was heavier too).

    I’ve even found a related concept to be beneficial in my Bible reading at times. One year I followed a reading schedule that had me in four places every day. Recently, I read someone’s comments about that schedule stating that it was so scattered and distracting, and I was shocked! I had found that read-through to be the most profitable, my focus most attentive, and the connections more readily made than during any other attempted read-through of the Bible. Because I had to switch my attention between each passage, I retained more.

    • Johanna says:

      Some of you do this naturally, and the rest of us have to “learn.” :) That is an interesting comparison to the Bible reading, but I totally see what you mean.
      I agree, I feel like having different readings going on can be really helpful.

    • I found your comment about Bible reading helpful, as well, Erika. I notice the interconnections of broader subjects as I read various books, and it is the same with the Bible.

      Also, when I’ve read through the Bible in order, only one place at a time, readings, I do tend to get bogged down. Since it helps me “keep going” if I’m reading a variety of books, I see how this would help me in reading the Bible, too. That’s a helpful observation.

      I think the key is probably having not too many and not too few readings going on simultaneously. Reading in ten places (or reading twelve different books at one time) might make the majority of us feel distracted. But three or four, and you’ve probably found the right tension.

      • Johanna says:

        “I think the key is probably having not too many and not too few readings going on simultaneously.” — Yes! Something I’ve learned by trial and error.

        Loving this discussion! Thanks!

        • Erika says:

          So thankful for others who have different strengths and life lessons that I can glean from–I do enjoy the intellectual and spiritual stimulation of online options!

          And I agree, Keren, finding that perfect balance is so important! I tend to have at least 3 books going at once, but try not to let myself have any more than 4 or 5 (sometimes that’s the motivation I need to finish up a slower or well-neglected book!) I also remind myself that I don’t HAVE to finish any book (though I tend to). But there have been a few that I was relieved simply to return to the library and move on to the next one on “the list.”

          I’ve also found that I read “seasonally”–both in amount and topic. Summertime brings bikes and swings and my garden and clothesline, each calling me outside–and I just don’t choose to take as much time to read per day. I also don’t end up reading much fiction, well, other than our read-alouds! But winter is our reading time–the majority of evenings after the kids go to bed, Andy and I take some time to read individually and typically make more progress in our joint book as well.

          I have seen both of you, Keren and Johanna, comment on Catherine’s blog, A Spirited Mind (which always reminds me how small the online world really can be!). I subscribed to her blog back when I first moved out here and was beginning my home school research. Her blend of Charlotte Mason/classical/individual preferences and interests greatly encouraged me as I began that whole journey. And I used to wonder HOW she could read so many books to review especially in light of all the other things she did! Then she talked about reading while cooking–doesn’t work for me! But thankful for her prolific book reviews to inspire my list–and thankful for both of your reviews too. You three are my main blog sources of titles! Having a plan to anticipate “what’s next?!?” also motivates me to finish a slower book! :)

  8. Lisa notes says:

    Yep, you’ve figured out the secret. :-) I’m a prolific reader and I always keep about 5 books going at a time. I used to think it was what everyone did. ha. I’ve never made the connection that perhaps that’s why I get more read, but it makes sense. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Donna says:

    Always felt guilty about starting a book before I had finished the previous! Thanks for posting. Great post!!!

  10. RaShell says:

    Thanks! In just the past year or two I have started reading multiple books at once. I needed this reminder. I was impressed with your list the other day. I was trying to figure out how you do it! :) My goal for the year was to read 40 books- I know, not impressive to many. I am getting motivated to still try and make that goal even though I am only just over half way there. Pinterest has been a fun way for me to keep track. I have a Books Read in 2012 Board and I pin my book and jot a couple notes with it. Helpful for me! :) . Thanks again for the post. I think I’ll get off the computer and go read! :)

  11. I was thinking to myself at first, I don’t do this and am more of a one book person at a time then I started thinking, I have 2 or 3 books going on my kindle app.. One book by my bed and one book that I drag with me to soccer games and read each evening before heading to bed. So I guess I do do this. My trick seems to be stashing multiple books in multiple locations.

    • Johanna says:

      This a great idea. Having a book conveniently located to pick up as you have time is a great idea. I’ll have to think about strategically locating some books! :) Thanks!

  12. Hmmm… ;)

    Last year was really my first year “reading a lot” and in a lot of genres. Before that, my idea of what I should read was somewhat self-imposedly narrow, and I still read a good bit with Hana Kate (comparatively), it was relatively little compared to what I read now.

    Reading multiple books at a time has helped me, as well, and using Goodreads has helped me keep that aspect organized. Without Goodreads (or tracking it in some way), reading in multiple books at the same time tends to make me feel disoriented.

    Similar to your aside, reading in multiple genres has been helpful for me–otherwise, I can pick up interest in one area, and then get bogged down and burnt out on reading. Or get bogged down in a long book.

    I also find it helpful to do my book intake in a variety of ways: traditional paper books, Kindle (just the app on my iPhone), and audiobook (also via my iPhone). If we lived in the days of stone tablets, I’d add that to my list, too. ;) (But having audiobooks and ebooks/digital readers has immensely increased the number of books I can “read.”)

    Now, we want to know your secret for writing such high quality so often. (Though I’m guessing that this is kind of similar to adding more reading to your plate.) I’m hoping to do a series on reading more at some point, but I guess that means I need to get to writing more. :)

    • Johanna says:

      oohhhh, i’m looking forward to your series on reading whenever you write it! I know I’ll learn a lot.

      Yes, I have enjoyed having books in different formats. I have not gotten into audio books yet, buy my Mom gave me something for my birthday last week which should allow me to start listening to audio books. I do think I will have to pick genres carefully for audio as I am pretty visual. I know some books won’t be as helpful in audio format. I’ll have to figure out which genres I like in audio.

    • Erika says:

      Love the comment on Johanna’s writing quality and frequency. I might read a lot (for me at my season of life, that is!) and I do love to write–but I decided a few years ago that blogging (or any other official writing venue) would take much too much time for me at this point.

      Also looking forward to more thoughts on reading and how you utilize audiobooks. I’ve found that audiobooks work best for me in one ideal context–ironing at night once all the kids are in bed! So I proceed very slowly since I really don’t iron that much in the big scope of things. Most any other activity and I lose a lot of the book–but I am highly visual as well. And I prefer biography in that format–I can keep track of the chronological details better than the reasoning/logical connections of non-fiction or the literary devices of fiction.

      • Johanna says:

        Thanks for the kind words, ladies. You all are encouraging. :) I’m still “figuring it out” actually. I am enjoying it, but it is time-consuming, so I’m still finding my groove of what works for me.

        I don’t, however, have kids officially in school (that changes very soon). I wonder what it will like then.

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