Tips for Reading More with the Rest of 2020

Five tips to help you work through your reading list this year.

June, 2020 | Python

Introduction

One of my New Years Resolutions in 2019 was to read more than 20 books; I finished the year having read 25. At the beginning of this year, I wanted to set a goal that would feel like an achievable challenge and have me reading even more. So I doubled my original goal and set out to read 40 books this year.

July 1st marks the start of the second half of 2020, so how am I doing in terms of this goal and what has helped me make progress?

Reading Update

I'm currently at 19 finished books for the year so far, meaning I'm a little shy of my goal. I'm not worried about that though because:

  1. In 2019, I read a lot more in the second half of the year than in the first. There's more downtime in the second half of the year because of all the holidays and traveling to see family.
  2. I'm only one book behind and the point is to do something fun, not to mercilessly pressure myself into achieving an arbitrary goal.

What has Worked

I've experimented with a few changes to how I read in order to achieve this higher reading goal of 40 books. Some of these changes have helped a lot. What follows is an explanation of five things I've tried that worked well. You should try them too and see if they work for you!

The five things are:

  1. Keep a book handy while working from home
  2. Start and stop more books
  3. Extend your timeline for some books
  4. Read more than one book at a time
  5. Find big chunks of time

1. Keep a book handy while working from home

In 2019, I started carrying my kindle around with me everywhere - to and from work, to the grocery store, to pick up coffee. You really would be amazed at how often you have a few extra minutes to read here and there throughout the day. For instance, I could typically read almost half a chapter of a book while I waited to order and pick up my lunch. And I'm not a particularly fast reader.

Now that most of us are working from home, though, most of these pockets of reading time disappeared. So how do you keep up the reading? Well I found that those pockets of time still existed, they were just less immediately noticeable.

Now instead of carrying my kindle with me, I have the kindle app open on my laptop all day. Now, if a meeting ends a few minutes early, that's time I can spend reading before the next meeting starts. In an 8ish hour work day, I can typically find 30 minutes of time like this, which is generally enough to finish a chapter of a book, depending on the book.

2. Start and stop more books

I've heard this advice a lot over the years: if you lose interest in a book, just stop reading it and start reading something else. It's great advice, but I've found it really hard to actually implement.

More likely, I'll slog through an uninteresting book (slowly) or procrastinate reading at all. That is of course why I should stop the book and start a different one. I've gotten to a point now where this isn't as difficult. I've finished 19 books, but I've stopped reading six!

I was able to get past the mental block of not finishing a book by telling myself that I'm going to finish it later. I may! But I probably won't.

The nice thing about reading books on a kindle is that there is no cost to owning a book, other than the price you pay for the book itself. Compare that with physical books: if you decide to stop a book, you have to find some place to put it in the meantime. With an ebook on my kindle, I can just remove it from the device.

An interesting side effect of this has been that I'm more selective with the books I finish, but less selective with the books I buy or sample. It literally costs nothing to download a sample to my kindle. If I get to the end of the sample and want to keep reading, it's an easy decision to purchase. If I'm 50/50 on buying it, I should just buy it and see what happens.

3. Extend your timeline for some books

Something that has prevented me from reading more in the past is getting hung up on a particular book. A book can be interesting while being challenging to read. It can be a book that I want to finish, but that I'm not often in the mood or the right mind-space to read.

For instance, I've been reading a book on Blockchain for about 2 months now. I'm almost half way through it after 2 months and this is very intentional. The book is interesting and I'm learning a lot from it. But it's also a completely new field with a lot of new concepts and topics. I'm not putting any pressure on myself to finish it, instead I read it when I'm in the mood to read something challenging.

I suspect I'll finish it in another 2 months.

4. Read more than one book at a time

I did this when I was younger and was talked out of it. Really though, within reason, it makes a lot of sense to read multiple books at a time. You can read different kinds of books and pick up and read the one that best fits your mood.

I'm currently reading For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Art of Doing Science and Engineering, and Blockchain Basics and I just finished Working by Robert Caro and Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney.

You do have to keep a soft limit on this, or it'll get out of control. I've found that four books at once is generally the most I can do.

5. Find big chunks of time

One of the most enjoyable things I've stumbled on this year as a reading tactic is doing what I call a reading walk with my dog, Sadie.

I walk Sadie 3-4 times a day, which is pretty average for a dog owner. Sadie likes to walk really slowly and smell everything. She also likes going on really long walks. So a couple of mornings a week, I'll take Sadie on a 2+ hour walk and read the entire time.

Sadie walks slowly, so I'm not really walking and reading. She also stops and smells literally everything, so I'll spend most of our walks standing under a tree while she's smelling all the flowers. We'll also often stop at parks for 20-30 minutes at a time to rest in the shade, during which time I'll read and Sadie will be on the lookout for squirrels.

The time outside walking and reading has been such a fantastic addition to my lifestyle, not to mention that Sadie loves them. Whether you're a dog parent or not, I can't recommend reading walks enough. If you live somewhere where it gets really hot during the day, then go for a nice reading walk in the morning. Walk to a park, read for 20-30 minutes, walk somewhere else, read some more, and so on.

The other point I want to make here is that if you find big chunks of time, you'll finish books faster. I read Normal People by Sally Rooney in 2 days, or two ~4 hour reading walks with Sadie. One on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. Sadie woke me up at 6:30, like she always does. We went for a long reading walk where she smelled literally everything and I read and on both walks, I was home between 10:30 and 11.

Conclusion

If I were to come up with a philosophy of reading more it would be: find more time to read, then read what ever you're in the mood for in that moment; the number of books you finish will take care of itself.

So if reading more is something you're interested in, then try out some of these tips. Each tip is either about creating more time to read or making sure that what you're reading is something you're interested in.

I'm looking forward to reading another 20 books in the second half of the year.

Now I'm off to walk Sadie