You can read more books by not actually reading. And by not reading an actual book.
Hang with me. I’m not trying to trick you! I really am going to share with you how to get more reading in. But first let me define a couple of things.
What is reading?
First of all, let’s define “book.” According to Merriam-Webster, “book” can be defined as “a long written or printed literary composition”. “Book” can also be defined as “a set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together between a front and back cover”. But I’m using the first definition referencing a composition because the bound pages of a physical book are simply the delivery method of the content of the book.
Now let’s tackle “read.” Going back to Merriam-Webster, the first definition we see for the verb “read” is “to receive or take in the sense of (letters, symbols, etc.) especially by sight or touch”. I find it interesting that we see the word “especially” in the definition. Read the definition again, but skip the word “especially.” Is that the way that you yourself would have defined the act of reading? But inserting the word “especially” changes the meaning of the definition, showing that reading doesn’t always involve sight or touch.
So let’s completely leave out that part of the definition and combine it with the definition of book. If we do that, we see that reading a book means that we receive or take in the sense of a a written composition.
That leads us to two important points that will help you to read more:
- You can take in the sense of a written composition by listening to the composition (without sight or touch).
- You can take in the sense of a written composition with a delivery method other than a physical book.
Both of these points are huge for me in upping my reading game in a season when I am B-U-S-Y. Reading has been one of the great pleasures of my life since I was a young girl. I didn’t understand why so many people didn’t like to read until I became a mom. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I imagined that I would spend many hours rocking my nursing child while enjoying a good book. I pictured a stack of books next to my chair and assumed that I would read more than ever. I would be a reading machine! It would be so fun! And relaxing! And make motherhood that much more pleasurable!
I’m truly embarrassed to admit the naive view I used to have of motherhood. I didn’t take into consideration all the Tired. And worry. And distraction. And busyness of life. Not to mention how difficult it is to hold a book while wrestling with a hungry baby!
I distinctly remember one day, when my oldest was a toddler and I was very pregnant with my second little one, taking my son out to the back yard to play. I briefly considered taking a book with me, but decided against it because I just didn’t feel like it. And I realized that I hadn’t felt like reading in a very long time. Suddenly, the thought struck me, “Oh. So this is what it’s like to not like reading. I get it now.”
I did eventually come out of the years-long fog I was in during my season of birthing babies and being a mom of toddlers. I rediscovered my love of reading, but I was busier than ever. Especially after we started homeschooling. After trying a few different things, I found some ways to get in a lot of reading and bring that pleasure back into my life.
The Benefits of Reading
You stay teachable most by reading books. By reading what other people went through.
According to a report put out by Barna Group (“The State of Books and Reading in a Digital World,” October 22, 2015), 67% of Americans read five books or less per year, and 25% of Americans read zero books a year!
These statistics are unfortunate because, according to Healthline, there are many benefits to reading, including (but not limited to):
- improved brain connectivity
- sleep readiness
- stress reduction
- preventing cognitive decline
- lower blood pressure
That list makes me want to read more!
How to Read More Books
I’ve found that the key to reading more books is to read more than physical books and purposefully explore e-books and audiobooks.
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Book-lovers love a physical book. I know I do. Walking into a library or bookstore gives me such a jolt of pure pleasure that I need a moment alone. The job of “librarian” seems magical to me. What could be better than pushing a cart of books through entire aisles of books, finding where each precious volume belongs, and returning it to its home on the shelf to wait for the next literary adventurer?
Books look good, smell good, and feel good. I love to caress a cover and thumb through pages. I love the rustle of pages. The combination of sight, smell, and touch in the act of reading is immersive and so so satisfying.
You miss out on a lot of that with an e-book. You lose the smell and rustle of the pages of the book, the comforting heft of a volume in your hand. These are some of the reasons that so many readers have such a passionate distaste for e-books.
But here’s the thing. The reason that I relish in the multi-sensory aspects of reading a physical book is because those aspects are associated with the content of the book. With taking in the sense of a written composition. I wouldn’t pick up a physical book of blank pages and think, “Ahh, the sight, the smell, the feel. This is enough.” And no matter how lovely a book might look, smell, or feel, I won’t keep reading it if it’s garbage.
My focus is the content. The story, knowledge, or insights contained within the pages of a book are my true aim.
So once we get past losing some of the multi-sensory aspects of reading a physical book, we can start looking at the benefits of e-books. And these benefits are what will help you to read more, even with your very busy life.
- You can carry a lot of books around with you at once.
Have you ever struggled with how many books to take with you on a trip? Or wished that you’d brought a book along with you to an event? If you read e-books, you can have them with you wherever you go! I regularly read Kindle books, either on my Kindle e-reader (this one is waterproof!) or on my Kindle app on my iPhone or iPad. So I can fit a lot more reading into my daily life because if I’m in line, in the car with my husband driving, or in a waiting period before an event, I can just pull out my phone and get in a few pages. If I’m going to be outside, I take my Kindle with me because it’s as easy to read in the glaring sun as a printed page. It is small and thin enough that I can easily slip it into a purse and take it with me wherever I go. And the newer Kindles even have a backlight to make night reading possible without a book light.
- You can read one-handed, or even hands free. Anybody that has a lifestyle of reading has tried using a book holder while they’re eating or exercising. And they’re just awkward. But reading with a Kindle or tablet is a completely different experience. Both iPads and Kindles have cases (Kindle Paperwhite case, iPad case) available for purchase that allow them to be propped up. This is how I read so much when I was nursing my youngest. I used the kickstand on my iPad case to keep it propped up on the end table next to the couch. But if you want to get on the treadmill and read, you don’t need a case at all. You can simply place your iPad or Kindle on the book rest and change pages with a swipe of a finger. This alone can help you to read a lot more, since you don’t have to choose between reading and cardio and instead do both at once.
- You can get new books immediately without ever leaving your house. If what’s holding you back in reading is actually finding the time to get the books, e-books can be your best friend. Rather than taking a trip to the store to pick out a book, or waiting for an Amazon Prime delivery (which is magical in itself), you can download an e-book instantly. If you get a Kindle with cellular connectivity, you can get a book wherever you are. I once downloaded a book to my Kindle while riding in the car (my husband was driving)…it made me so happy! #booknerd And it reminded me of the time that I was on a cruise, finished the book I was reading halfway through the week (the only book I took – aaaah!), and was on pins and needles for the next couple of weeks before I could get the next book in the series.
- You can read new books for free without ever leaving your house. Are you on a book budget? Would you read more if money wasn’t a factor? Well, it doesn’t have to be! If you get a local library card, find out if you’re able to use it for Overdrive. With Overdrive, I can borrow e-books from my library for free. It’s super convenient because I don’t have to actually go to the library to borrow or return the book. I can even put e-books on hold and get an email when it’s available for me to borrow. Another option is Kindle Unlimited. It’s not exactly free – you do have to pay a fee – but if you read a lot of books it may be cheaper to pay the fee than to purchase each book separately. You can see books available with Kindle Unlimited here.
- Integrated dictionary and translator doesn’t slow you down. Sometimes the way to do more of something is to focus on efficiency. If you already regularly find time for reading, but are slowed down by looking up words (for example, if you read anything by Dorothy Sayers, you’ll want a dictionary handy), then you’ll love Kindles and the Kindle app. They have integrated dictionaries and even translators. I find myself using the translator a lot when reading Louise Penny books.
Another awesome side benefit of Kindle books, especially for content creators, is the ability to highlight selections and easily find them later. On the Amazon website, go to read.amazon.com/notebook. You’ll even find highlights from Kindle books that you borrowed from the library.
I have a bad habit of reading more than one book simultaneously!
This past year, audiobooks have had the biggest impact on my reading life. I didn’t think that they would because the Spoken Word is my weakest Learning Preference, but I find that I enjoy an audiobook so much when I’m doing chores around the house, going on a walk, or even walking on the treadmill. Audiobooks allow me to combine activities in a reasonable way, and listening to an audiobook helps me to get through it much faster because I tend to overthink and analyze a little too much while reading. Another nice thing about an audiobook is that you can change the speed of the reading. Some narrators have exactly the right pace in their reading, but if the book feels like it’s dragging I just bump up the speed to 1.2x. Or I can slow things down a little if I feel like it’s flying by too quickly.
So where do physical books fit into all this? Now that I’m listening to so many audiobooks and primarily borrowing e-books from the library, do I ever purchase physical books?
Why yes, yes I do! After listening to an audiobook or reading an e-book, I’ll purchase it if I really loved it. Sometimes I’ll purchase the e-book, sometimes I’ll purchase the physical book, and sometimes I’ll purchase both. It really depends on the book. If I’ll need to search the book for specific words or phrases, I’ll get the e-book. But if I decide that sitting with the physical book and a highlighter will help me to process the information more deeply, I’ll get the physical book.
I’ve also learned that nothing replaces a physical book if it is rich in images. Picture books, decorating books, graphic novels – they’re all better in physical form.
Books, in any form, are magical and precious. Whether physical, e-book, or audiobook, they have the ability to transfix, transport, and transform. They can both calm the mind and excite the spirit. Distract from troubles and inspire visions for the future. Reveal a lack or teach a skill.
Each book holds the promise of a journey for the reader. The reader simply needs to decide how they’ll begin the trip.