How To Read More. A Lot More.

The Knight of Swords is about racing into a new challenge.

In the halcyon days of the mid-90s, I read my first chapter book silently. For some reason, that day stands out—I was sitting in a red and white armchair, reading a riveting entry in the Magic Tree House Series, when my mom walked by said, “Wow! You’re reading to yourself.”

magic tree house books
via Style Works Creative

I was already a bookish six year old, but that encouraging comment (and others like it) made me want to read more…at least until college. There, I lost interest in reading for pleasure as my free time was filled with coursework and…other college things.

That lassitude lasted beyond even graduation. In that first year after college, I rarely read anything that wasn’t related to my burgeoning copywriting career or my new improv hobby. Like the typical American, I read about four books that year.

Then, something happened. I bought Andy Weir’s The Martian.

the martian by andy weir

I didn’t know anything about it (this was before the hype and before the movie). I judged it and bought it and read it based solely on the cover. But I was hooked. The mix of hard science and drama activated some latent interest in space…and a latent interest in reading.

Four years and 132 books later, here’s what’s helped me read more than 30 books a year:

  • Create a curriculum. What topics interest you? What do you want to learn more about? Find books on those topics and read them. Don’t worry about what you think you should read. Read what interests you.

    Sometimes, a great curriculum already exists (like this one I’ve been mining for presidential biographies), and other times, you have to do some research and create your own.

    read more books about space
  • Queue up. Netflix keeps you couch-locked by auto-playing the next episode and serving up related recommendations. You can create your own reading queue to keep you reading with this three-step process:
    1. Always keep your eyes and ears open for book recommendations. I take suggestions wherever I can get them—friends, newsletters I read, even instagram posts.
    2. When something seems intriguing, look it up on Amazon. Read the description and a couple reviews. If you’re still interested, add it to a list. NB: the list is not a guarantee of future purchase.
    3. When I finally buy books, I do so five or six at a time. It used to be a way to save money on shipping before I had a Prime account, but now it’s become a useful way to ensure I always have another book on hand. I do this right before I finish the last book the previous order to ensure I have an unbroken chain.

      To fill my cart, I dig back into the list and choose titles that still hold my interest. Some books have been on that list for two years and may never come off; others are only on there a week or two before they end up at my doorstep. Sometimes, they’re themed by curriculum, and other times, it’s just what’s inspiring in the moment. Remember, you won’t want to read if the books aren’t piquing your curiosity.

This system always keeps me moving forward. When I finish a book, there is always one on my nightstand to pick up next. And when I run out of books on my nightstand, I have a huge list from which I can order more. And I never run out of items on my list because I am always open to new recommendations.

  • Make the time. This is a point I return to again and again—nothing just “happens.” That unencumbered “free time” you’re always waiting for does not exist. It will always be taken up by some other thing. So if you want to read more, you have to prioritize reading. Excepting the rare occasion I stay out past midnight, I am in bed by 9:00 every night with a book in hand, and I read for at least an hour. Of course, reading before bed doesn’t work for everyone, so find a time that works for you and stick to it.
  • Do something with what you’ve learned. The best way to remember what you’ve learned is to use it somehow. A lot of what I read makes its way into this blog. You could start a commonplace book, create a curriculum for others, start a book club, or just post ratings and reviews. The simple act of using what you’ve read turns a passive process into an active one.

If you need some reading recommendations for your new queue, you can check out some of my favorites from 2017, 2016, and 2015. Or, you can sign up to learn more about my forthcoming book about the Harold longform.

So go fourth and read more!

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