How the Heck Do You Read So Much?

I’ve got three kiddos! They are 6 years, 3 years, and ALMOST 6 months old. And I homeschool! But I read 123 books last year, and 19 last month. So, the question I get more often than any other, ever, is “how are you reading that much?”

No, we don’t live in a sty. No, we don’t eat boxed dinners every night. No, my children are not neglected. But I am always trying to fit a book in somewhere. Here are my favorite tips for getting more reading in to your life.

How I Read: The Methods

 

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My reading methods: paper, Kindle, and audio.

First tip: diversify your reading styles. This will make it easier to find time to read. I am almost always reading three TYPES of books at once. One actual, paper, printed book. One ebook on my Kindle Paperwhite (the absolute best for dedicated reading, because you can read in the dark or in the sunshine, and you can read without getting interrupted by text, phone, social media notifications!). And one audiobook in my ears. By diversifying my actual input methods, I always have something to read, and I can read or listen in almost any situation.

 

When I Read: Finding The Time

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My friend Erin sent me this picture so we could celebrate together that she found the TIME and space to read!

Second tip: finding the time to read is easier than you think! Since I have multiple books going at once, I find that each reading method lends itself to distinct situations. When I am cooking, I use either my Kindle or my Bluetooth headphones (like this, but these were great also) to read or listen. That way, the pages of my paper book don’t get messy from oil splatters. When I am doing dishes, folding laundry, or cleaning, I am listening to an audiobook, so my hands are free to get messy or be busy. While I drive, I keep one headphone in on one side so I can hear my kiddos and the traffic noise around me, but they listen to their music while I listen to my book. And when we are eating breakfast or hubby is watching a show after the kiddos go to bed, I am usually reading my paper book. Along with those specific times, I also try to squeeze in reading wherever I can. Kiddos are done with school and ready to watch a show? Mama gets a break to sit on the couch and read as well. I have to wait in line at a store or wait for a doctor/dentist/kid appointment? Grab a book to pass the time! Nursing the baby? Might as well read while you’re just sitting there! For further ideas on how to identify these pockets of time in your life,  I cannot recommend The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner ENOUGH! This book will help you find margin in your day and harness it for the activities that give you life. Guess what the majority of Jessica’s survey respondents said they wanted more time for? Reading!

 

What I’m Not Doing: Ditch the Distractions

social-mediaThird tip: ruthlessly cull time-sucking apps. If you want to read more, but can’t find any time to do so, my question is this: do you use Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter? All the time? I’ll be honest; I’m a social media junkie. There, I said it. That mindless scrolling will suck me in for hours if I let it. So, I took a few preventative steps: I uninstalled Facebook from my phone, AND cleared cookies on my browser so that I can’t log back in that way (2-step verification: recommended, but a total pain if you need to log in somewhere new!). That makes it easier to avoid the scroll. I ditched the Pinterest app and I never had the Twitter app. I kept FB messenger and groups as well as Instagram, to keep in touch with the parts of that platform that actually give me life, but only check in to the actual site once or twice a day from my PC instead of spending all day wasting time. I don’t have a show (or shows) that I watch on Netflix, but every once in a while hubby and I will pick one to watch together. That means most nights I’m reading for at least an hour or two after the kiddos are in bed. Which automatically gives me 360+ hours of reading per year. Installing an app called Rescue Time on both my phone and my PC really helped me clue in to where I was spending my online time. Being aware of it made me more likely to moderate it.

Deadlines and Money: Borrowing Books

 

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I’m especially lucky because my library is less than a half mile away and it’s BEAUTIFUL!

Fourth tip: utilize your library. Whether you’re saying “but I could never afford 123 books a year!” or you just need an extra push, I recommend checking out books from the library. This will give you two important advantages. First, library books and membership are FREE!!! Most libraries also have ways for you to borrow audiobooks and kindle books for free online, so you can utilize the “multiple methods” tip from above. Second: libraries have deadlines! If you know that someone else is waiting for that book, or you’ll have to pay a fine if you return it late, you may be more likely to make time to read it so you can get it back on time. Or, as in the case of audiobooks and kindle books, if you know it will disappear at a certain time. Using the library can be a great way to move reading up on your priority list!

 

Reading BIG: Setting Goals

 

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My personal 2017 challenge

Fifth  tip: make a goal for yourself, or get thee to a reading challenge! My next tip works great for me since I am an Obliger in Gretchen Rubin’s Habits framework (go here if you want to find out more about what that means and take the quiz yourself!). I need accountability and external goals to reach! When I make a goal for the year, and share it publicly, I am more likely to grab a book than do almost anything else. If I have any free time at all, I want to spend it reading, so these goals are imperative to me. I use an excel spreadsheet as well as Goodreads to track my reading and motivate myself even further. I love checking off books as finished!

 

Bonus Tip: Crank Up The Speed

speedometer-148960_960_720For those of you that are audiobook lovers but feel like they take longer to listen to, I recommend slowly increasing the speed as you listen to your books. When you start listening to audiobooks, try moving the speed slider up just a bit to 1.1x. It won’t feel like anything has changed. A week or so later, move it up again by a little bit. Keep doing this until you get it to a faster speed that you can still understand, but before it sounds like Minnie Mouse is reading to you. I find it’s pretty easy to get to 1.5x pretty quickly. If you want to devour books even faster, keep going until you get to 2.0x (that’s where I listen) or more. Then, even when you pick up a long book, you can mentally cut that time in half and finish books in just a few days!

I truly hope one or all of these tips helps YOU to reach your reading goals this year!

Happy reading, my friends.

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QuickLit – January 2017

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading them. I read 19 books in January, which means I’m holding steady on my December pace.


01-curious-charms-of-arthur-pepperThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick

This was a sweet and heartwarming story about an older widower (a la A Man Called Ove) who finds a charm bracelet in his deceased wife’s boots as he prepares his donations for charity. The charm bracelet, which he has never seen before, has 8 charms on it and be spends the book trying to find the meaning of each one. I feel like I wasn’t properly warned that there’d be some weepy moments in this one! But there are funny moments as well, and I thought it was a fun book, although at times I felt that there were some scenes that maybe should have been cut, just the slightest bit too long. I loved Arthur Pepper as a character (he’s much less curmudgeonly than Ove, even to start), and his development through the story.


02-yes-pleaseYes Please – Amy Poehler

Listened to this one on audiobook, and THAT is the way to go. Amy pulls in guest narrators that are phenomenal, she plays you clips of some of her favorite scenes, and sings you songs throughout the book. She is hysterically funny and this book is pure gold. I’ll be ruined for memoirs that aren’t on audio after this one, because it’s just that damn good. In fact, this may have been THE book that decided for me that from now on, any celebrity memoirs read by the author will be consumed in audio format!


03-love-and-first-sightLove and First Sight – Josh Sundquist

I figured this would be a quick but silly read, but I was wrong about the silly part. Will is a newly mainstream 16-year-old blind kid. He was born blind and has always attended the blind school. now he has to/gets to try to make his way in his new public high school. This is YA but it’s also wonderful. Josh Sundquist did so much research to try to understand blindness and blind culture. as someone who is newly aware of impairments of this nature, I found this book both fascinating and wonderful.*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*


04-the-boys-in-the-boatThe Boys In The Boat – Daniel James Brown

This was slow to pick up for me, but once I committed to it, I couldn’t stop reading! Daniel James Brown really brings the story of the Washington crew and the boys who composes it to life. Although I think I should have been more drawn in by Joe Rantz’s upbringing and childhood, it is the synchronicity of the boys in the boat, their trust in one another and their utter power that really pulled me into the story. and drew me out emotionally. I ebbed up breathless and teary eyed for win after win. even knowing from the outset that this team wins the gold medal, the race stories in this book will have you on the edge of your seat.


05-evictedEvicted – Matthew Desmond

What a 5-star read to start the year off with. Matthew Desmond’s in person interviews with the people of Milwaukee (tenants and landlords) come together like a harrowing novel. This book follows eight families through the cycle of poverty and eviction, in the dead of WI winter. It seems inescapable as the characters in each vignette try to find decent housing and stay there. The amount of research he did for this book is staggering and it shows in every word. The picture is not all bleak though, there are solutions if we are willing to pursue them.


06-fangirlFangirl – Rainbow Rowell

I liked this plenty, as YA audiobooks go. I think Rowell has written better in other works (like Eleanor and Park, and Attachments), but this one was appealing and quick and sweet. The plot centers on Cath and Wren, twin sisters who are starting at University of Nebraska Lincoln. Wren wants to experience the world independently of Cath, so she chooses to live with a roommate that isn’t her sister, which leaves Cath living in the dorms with someone else as well. Cath deals by spending most of her time working on her fan fiction. There was plenty of drama, but not so much that I wanted to strangle everyone. The plot seems kind of ho hum, but it works anyway, because the characters are fun and engaging.


07-the-mothersThe Mothers – Brit Bennett

The Mothers is a quick read by a talented, young debut novelist (only 25 years old!). The Mothers themselves are the aged ladies of the Upper Room church in Oceanside, CA. The plot of this book centers around Nadia, Audrey, her best friend, and Josh, the pastor’s son. At the beginning of the book, there is an abortion and the rest of the book deals with the fallout and secrets and damage surrounding that decision.We follow Nadia and her cohorts from high school through middle age.


08-lillian-boxfish-takes-a-walkLillian Boxfish Takes a Walk – Kathleen Rooney

On the cusp of 1985, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish takes a walk. she leaves her Murray Hill apartment in Manhattan and walks all over the island, reminiscing about her remarkable life and meeting new people all along the way. This lovely and witty old lady is charming and adventurous and sweet. Based on the real-life advertising woman of Macy’s, Margaret Fishback, and great for fans of MadMen. *I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*


09-the-grownupThe Grownup – Gillian Flynn

This is a short story written by the author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and Dark Places: AKA a bunch of really dark books. When I read it, I totally scared the bajeezers out of myself in 30 minutes (it’s only 64 pages long). A palm reader takes her game to the next level by offering to help spiritually cleanse a house that the owner thinks might be haunted. This tiny little book just leaves you hanging and my hands were a bit shaky from about halfway through onward. Book of the Month sent this little freebie along in their January box. I love surprises like this!


10-design-momDesign Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide – Gabrielle Blair

I loved this collection of short and simple tips to designing a beautiful home while living with kids (what? they don’t have to take over every room and surface???). The book is divided into sections of the house with ten to 20 single-page tips per section so it’s easy to find exactly the advice you are looking for. Beautiful color photos to illustrate the points make this book a keeper and a great gift idea. Look for my upcoming interview with Gabrielle!


11-the-girl-in-the-spiders-webThe Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

Perfectly captured the spirit and tone of the Steig Larsson Millenium (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, et al) series. In reading more about it afterwards, there are apparently notes from Steig Larsson for another novel, but this is not that work. Those notes are still held by his parter. However it was developed, Lisbeth and Mikael are back, along with August, an autistic savant. We’ve got tech, hacking, and dramatic exposes, all with a side of murder, thugs, and mobsters. Thrilling and well composed, this series is great for those looking for “books in translation” for a reading challenge. I enjoyed it on audio.


12-you-are-freeYou Are Free – Rebekah Lyons

I thought this was a decent collection of personal stories illustrating the way that God can work through you to bring freedom. Biggest takeaway: confess your shortcomings and failings and He will heal them and replace them with his grace. Rebekah’s stories are approachable and human (not high-and-mighty or flawless). She is genuine in her writing.The book itself didn’t grab me in a change-your-life kind of way. But that cover! *I was provided with a galley copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review*


13-miss-janeMiss Jane – Brad Watson

Oh, Miss Jane, I adore you. In the early 1900s, a baby is born to a couple on a farm. Conceived in less than lovely circumstances, one of the first things they notice about her is a genital defect, which will affect her for the rest of her life. This baby grows to be Miss Jane, based upon the author’s own great aunt and treated just as lovingly through these pages. Brad Watson is a vivid wordsmith. I’ve never read any of his other works, but do feel that this book will be treated well through history, and someday be considered a classic. It is intimate and emotional and the natural beauty portrayed through his words is unforgettable. This author is notoriously difficult to get ahold of, so I will refer you to the excellent interview my friend Amy Allen Clark did on her website, momadvice.com if you’d like to learn more about him!


14-the-oddfitsThe Oddfits – Tiffany Tsao

Although I did enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy part of this book, mostly I found it really tiresome. It took almost 30% of the book to get into any kind of action whatsoever. And because it is the first in a series, that action is almost useless. I just couldn’t get interested in Murgatroyd Floyd (yes, really), or the More Known World. Mostly, I was annoyed with it and felt like I needed to power through to get to more interesting books. Probably should have abandoned this one, but didn’t realize that until it was about 60% done and I only had an hour and a half left. *sigh* Don’t finish books you don’t love, people! A friendly PSA from your favorite book nerd.


15-today-will-be-differentToday Will Be Different – Maria Semple

This novel follows Eleanor Flood for one day, when she vows to be different from her regular (pessimistic, negative, judgemental) self. But she just keeps getting derailed. Today is not the day she thought it was. I thought this was put together pretty well, and fun to read, but I didn’t really like Eleanor as a character. I enjoyed Where’d You Go Bernadette (the author’s first novel) more, overall. And I feel like most people like one or the other, but not both! So, Bernadette is my heroine.


16-attachmentsAttachments – Rainbow Rowell

So fun and sweet and funny and great. It’s the turn of the millenium and email is new enough to still be a little scary.Lincoln is in charge of IT security at the local newspaper. Beth is the movie review girl, who keeps using “banned words” in her emails, so they end up gettting flagged and sent to Lincoln. As he reads the emails between Beth and her best friend, he gets to know them both, but only from one side of the screen. I think I loved every word of this book. I could not have loved it more.


17-the-professor-and-the-madmanThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary – Simon Winchester

I picked this one up on Audible sale after buying it for my mama for Christmas. I knew she’d love it when I heard about it and I was excited to get to read it as well. Anne Bogel calls this the book that turned her onto audiobooks. I thought it was interesting and compelling (not the best book EVER, but great). The history of the OED along with WC Minor and Dr. Murray, friends to the end, was put together very well.


18-is-everyone-hanging-out-without-meIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling

I liked this one well enough. I just don’t think it stands out as exceptional in the celebrity/comedy memoirs I’ve listened to. But I will say that, as with other memoirs of this genre, listening is the way to go. You’ll enjoy the additional celebrity voices she pulls into the soundbooth with her, as well as the honest portrayal she gives of a girl with a “not perfect” Hollywood-body. So fun and funny.

 


19-heartlessHeartless – Marissa Meyer

This new novel by Marissa Meyer (of the Lunar Chronicles, one of my favorite YA series!) took me a little while to finish, but only because we were on a family vacation! I really enjoyed this retelling/prequel to Lewis Carroll ‘s classic Alice in Wonderland, which answers the question “WTF is up with the Queen of Hearts”? We meet Catherine Pinkerton, Lady of Rock Turtle Cove, daughter of the Marquess and the Marchioness. She falls in love, is proposed to by the King of Hearts, and has to deal with the dreadful Jabberwock. We meet the Mad Hatta before he went mad, the March Hare, as well as various other characters from Wonderland. It really is a fun retelling, but don’t expect the sci-fi/future element of the Lunar Chronicles: this is definitely set in the original time and place.