The Ultimate Guide to Reading More Books Every Year

Image of Ryan McRae
Ryan McRae

Your TBR (To Be Read) pile is huge. You don't even want to look at your e-reader and your library wants you to pick up the books you've put on reserve.

I get it. And sometimes, in your darkest hour, you figure out how books you have left to read in your lifetime and no matter the number---it haunts you. 

So how can you up your reading speed with out those speed reading hacks? Here are the strategies I use to get through more books. I do struggle at times, but when I stick to these, I move books from my TBR to my R pile much faster. 

Read When You Wait

When I was an English major, I whinged to my professor about all the books I had to read in my 3rd year. So many books. Books on books on books. And reader, this was before the digital age, so I only had a physical version! Next to my Discman! 

She looked at me and said, "Show me the books, McRae. Show me this vast horde of books you have to plow through and analyze." 

I looked at her blankly: "They are in my dorm room."

And then she folded her arms and explained my mistake. 

I needed to carry anything I'm reading with me. There are so many times when we have to wait that if we have a book with us, we can turn a page or two. Two pages becomes ten pages. While we wait for our coffee to be ready, for the dentist to call our name or wherever you find a pause, a page can be turned and we can put a tiny dent in that book. 

That semester, I always carried a book and I was that guy who read while he walked to class, in the cafeteria and anywhere I could take a breath. 

Keep a book with you wherever you go and turn the page when you can. 

Keep a Car Book as a Backup

If you own a car, keep a book you're sort of wanting to get through in the car. It doesn't have to be a banger and I suggest it be a small paperback so it can get beat up. I can't tell you how many times I've had to wait and looked around and didn't have a book. I suggest Daemon by [AUTHOR]. Nothing too deep, just a book that can knocked around and have a food stain or four on it. 

Put Your Phone in Another Room

I have to relearn this over and over---put your phone in another room when you want some dedicated reading time. I struggle with playing games, checking my work schedule, playing more games, email, and all the pings--so many pings. But your phone erodes your attention. 

I could say more on this, but I'm afraid my hypocrisy will shine through.

I also use an app called Forest where I can shut my phone down for an hour or two. If I try to use my phone for anything other than music, the virtual tree that I planted, will die and I'll be left with a dry husk of a reading garden. No one wants that! 

Declare a Reading Night

My partner and I want to read more this year. He has a stack of books and so do I. So on most Monday nights we have a reading night with snacks out, a dinner we can have set in the slow-cooker, Sure, if you have kids, this might be a challenge, or if they are old enough, that's just what's happening that night (Caveat: I'm not a parent.) 

The reading night can last one or more hours and can involve multiple books, one book, comic books, whatever. But it's reading, reading and more reading. I feel these nights I put a huge dent in my reading plans and it relaxes me for the entire week. 

Invest in an Audible Account

I used to balk at listening to books. I'm highly ADHD and if I try to listen while driving or cleaning the house, it just doesn't work. Something grabs my attention and it wasn't until one of my editors said, "What about just on a walk? A treadmill?" 

That got me there, but something was still off.

I wanted the experience to mimic my reading speed, just a bit faster. Over time I increased the speed from 1x to 1.2x and now I'm at 2.4x speed. Yes, the author sounds like a muppet at times, but I'm able to "turn pages" quicker.

Now do I buy an audible book for every book I'm reading? Nope. But if it is a chonky McChonkerson book, then let's get to steppin'.

Get a Libby Account

Through your local library, you may be able to get audible books and other digital books. Highly recommend. 

DNR Books With a Vengeance 

If you aren't enjoying a book when you are five to six chapters in, do not read that book. And I'd take it a step further: give that book away. Leave it on a doorstep. Give it to a library. Chuck it somewhere other than where you can see it. 

Sometimes we have a tendency to be like, why does everyone else love this book and I don't. . .maybe I need to read farther. No. You don't. Just move on. 

There are plenty and I mean plenty of other books. Don't waste your limited, oh so limited, time. 

Permission to Write in Your Books

This isn't actually about speed and getting through books (they should be savored) but as someone who is studying to be a writer, I'm inclined to read with a pencil in my hand. I make notations on all kinds of parts of the novel: 

  • Dialogue that reveals the character and their motivations. 
  • Descriptions and what they want to drive home, especially around characters and locations. 
  • How someone enters or leaves a room and what it says about them. 

Now what do I do with such notes? Nothing really. The only book I've heavily annotated is The Hobbit because I took a course on it but it's the practice of noting these things as I read turns me in a better writer. 


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