With the new year comes new reading intentions, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve taken a deep dive into 2021 with a stack of books by your side. For me, as I glanced at the reading I did in 2020 – 128 books, to be sure – I couldn’t help but notice that nearly two-thirds of the books I completed were fiction.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with fiction: fiction teaches us and changes us just as much as non-fiction does (if not more, many would argue). For me, I read more fiction because I tend to read consume it at a faster pace; due to the times of day when I read or the number of books I try and read at one time, it then takes me longer to actually get through a stack of non-fiction books.
When a friend recently asked me how I actually read (and therefore consume so many books), I found myself eager to pass along a few of my favorite suggestions. Mind if I do the same for you?
Here are three ideas, along with some of the books I’m reading now:
Set the timer for 20 minutes. When podcaster, blogger and author (of the upcoming release, Share Your Stuff) Laura Tremaine mentioned how she religiously sets the timer for 20 minutes to read, I thought about how I do the same thing in writing. Whether you call it the Pomodoro Method or whatever else, when we set the timer for twenty minutes and put any other distractions to the side, a holy kind of magic happens. I get words written. I get words read. I do not hit the “refresh” button on email or social media, but I actually focus on the work before me and make progress.
In the new year, I’ve started doing this during the work day, specifically to help me read through some of the non-fiction books that have been on my shelf for too long. For the first couple weeks of the new year, I flip-flopped back and forth – at twenty minutes a pop, with a five minute break – between Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton) and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting in the Cafeteria Together? (Beverly Daniel Tatum). When I finished the former, I swapped it out for Songs My Grandma Sang (Michael B. Curry), which I’m reading alongside Tatum’s book. What joy!
Read different books at different times of the day. Now, if you’re one of those readers who only reads one book at a time, this suggestion need not apply to you. But if, perhaps, you’re one of those people who can’t help but read four, five …eight books at a time, consider setting aside certain times of day for certain types of books. Here’s what I do:
Early morning: Poetry, Writing or Religion. First, I write my morning pages, which is always my first priority (and if you’re a creative and haven’t worked through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron yet, get on it!) Right now I’m using the time to read through The True Secret of Writing (Natalie Goldberg) and Polishing the Petoskey Stone (Luci Shaw).
Late morning: Religion or Justice. This is generally my “set the timer” time (along with the aforementioned books).
While driving or walking: Fiction (on Audible). I tend to only listen to fiction when it comes to audiobooks, otherwise I want to take notes! I want to see the printed text! Sometimes I make an exception for memoir and such is the case with the current read, Unfollow (Megan Phelps-Roper).
Early evening: Fiction (on Kindle). Our boys love for us to stay in the room for ten or fifteen minutes after we put them down, so I use that time to read a novel. Like audiobooks, I tend to only read fiction on Kindle because otherwise, I want to take notes! I want to see the printed text! Right now I’m making my way through This Tender Land (William Kent Krueger).
Late evening: Fiction. Sometimes I keep reading a Kindle book, other times I cozy up to a paperback I’ve got on my shelf. While I generally go to bed before my husband, I love snuggling under the covers with a book light attached to the top. That being said, I’m enthralled in Unforgivable Love (Sophfronia Scott).
Finally, always have a book at hand. Even though I generally read certain books at certain times of day, I also always have a book on hand. If I’m stirring the risotto for dinner, I can read with one hand and stir with another. If I’m at my son’s soccer practice and I’m not allowed on the field due to Covid-19 restrictions, I can take a walk around the neighborhood and listen to a book on Audible. And if I’m running errands and find myself with an extra nine minutes before the next excursion begins, I can read for a few minutes instead of brainlessly scrolling through social media.
Social media may not be the distractor for you that it is for me, but when I choose to read instead of to mindlessly zone out, it’s amazing how a little bit of reading here and there really does add up!
That’s what I’ve got for you, along with a couple of books recommendations along the way.
What say you? How do you read? What else would you add, because how, oh how, do you get through that stack of books?
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