In his inspiring craft book, On Writing, Stephen King gives this famous advice: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
If you’re a writer, then chances are that you probably already like to read, so maybe this advice isn’t a problem for you. I love to read, but my struggle is finding time to do it. I’m studying to take the Illinois bar right now, but before that, I was in school, and just never felt like I could justify the time it took to sit down and read something fun when I really should have probably been studying for that Constitutional Law exam coming up… You get the idea. Another problem is that when I do have spare time, time all to myself, I usually like to spend it writing, not reading. So I guess I’m getting the second half of the advice down, but I still have a hard time with the first.
Because of this eternal struggle I have, I’ve come up with a few ways to help me read more. Maybe they’ll help you too.
OverDrive and GoodReads
OverDrive and GoodReads make a great team. You can use them together in such a way that you’ll never run out of reading material.
OverDrive is maybe one of the greatest apps of our time. (That is one hundred percent my own personal opinion.) OverDrive allows you to connect with your local library to check out ebooks and audiobooks straight onto your cell phone. I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m driving, cleaning, making dinner, or doing anything mindless.
GoodReads is a great way to figure out what book you want to read next. Here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to read more science fiction lately, so I did some research on the best sci fi out there and added them all to my “Want to Read” shelf on GoodReads. Then I took that same list and went into my OverDrive app and looked up every book on my list. If my library had it as an audiobook, then I added it to my “Wish List.” The app then tells me which books are available on my wish list, so whenever I finish one book, I can dive into another one. I can also reserve books. I’ve been waiting for Ready Player One for ages, and OverDrive finally notified me by email that I could download it. (I’m stoked.) It automatically checks books in and out for me, so I never have to worry about fines. (Which is good because my university library made quite a bit of money off me, and I’m still not too happy about that.)
GoodReads Reading Challenge
GoodReads is good for more than just figuring out what to read next. It also boasts a yearly “Reading Challenge.” You can tell it how many books you want to read over the year, and then it tracks your goal for you and shows you how close you are to reaching it. I set a goal to read thirty books this year. (And by the way, it doesn’t matter if you’re halfway through the year. It will just add all the books you’ve already read to the challenge.)
As you can see from the picture, I have a ways to go to meet my goal for the year, but rest assured, I will make it.
If you’re at all competitive, like I am, you can also view your friends’ reading challenges and see how they’re coming along on their goal. Seeing that my friends have read more books than me makes me grind my teeth and go read more books. (Don’t judge me. We’re all motivated differently.)
Join a Book Club
Maybe this is cliché advice, but book clubs really are an awesome source of motivation, and depending on the book club, they can sort of force you to branch out and read books that you might not have normally read. They also hold you to finish the book that you started, and sometimes, I really need that. Of course, book clubs can also just be a lot of fun. Getting together with other readers and talking about a book together can be anything from interesting and engaging to hostile and argumentative. (Sometimes the latter is more entertaining than the former, but don’t take that as encouragement to argue with your fellow book clubbers.)
Read More than One Book at a Time
This tactic is not for everyone. I know that a lot of people struggle with reading more than one book at a time because they confuse the plot lines. For that problem, I have a solution. If you read two books at the same time, just make sure they’re very different types of books. Right now, I’m reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, but I’m also reading Shakespeare’s sonnets. There is no possible way I could confuse those plots because Shakespeare’s sonnets don’t have plots. You could also try reading a non-fiction book with a fiction book.
Or maybe you’re thinking, “How does reading multiple books at a time help me read more? I’m just dividing up my precious spare moments.” Good question. Here’s what I do. I listen to an audiobook, and I read a hard copy, or an ebook. This works really well for me because I listen to audiobooks when I don’t have time to sit down and read, and I sit down and read when I don’t have other things going on.
So there you have it. Some ideas for helping you read more. I’d love to hear about what helps you read more books!
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Keep writing (and reading)!