In 2014 I was a full-time college senior, a full-time English teacher, a more-than-full-time Spanish student teacher, and an expectant father. Between all of this, my wife and I were trying to survive a 100º+ summer with no air conditioning, and pregnancy had robbed her of any and all ability to cook.
I had no time to read.
And I read 30 books in 2014
I hear all the time, “I love to read, I just don’t have any time.” But I disagree, so here’s a list of 20 ways to read when you have no time.
1. Keep track of the books you want to read.
It’s always good to have a list of books you want to read, because then you don’t have to agonize about the next book to pick up. There are plenty of apps to help you out with this. Slice Bookshelf is good, Goodreads has a built-in “want to read” tag for any books in your library. Pen and paper will work just fine too.
2. Keep track of the books you are currently reading.
This will help you keep all your books in mind. It also helps to talk about the books you’re reading. You could read a book with a friend, start a book club (not great for the full-time-everything kind of person), or just blog about the books you read. Post updates on Facebook and Instagram of what you’re reading. If you can talk about them, then you’re obviously keeping track of them. Having a list of current reads will help you to not forget a book that you’ve started.
3. Read more than one book at a time.
This one may seem daunting, but it’s actually a very key part of reading with no time. Suppose you get started on the Russian classic, Anna Karenina, only to find a few hundred pages in that you have become temporarily bored with the novel. THAT’S OKAY. This is the perfect time to pick up War of the Worlds and get your sci-fi fix. Maybe after a few days of reading Wells, you’ll look at your seemingly forgotten slavic volume and wonder: “Just what is going to happen next to the Karenina family?”
Having multiple books helps you keep reading every day if one genre/story/author starts to get stale or overbearing.
I’m currently reading La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind), Lord of the Flies, Beautiful and Pointless, and I’m making my way through The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Joseph Smith and the entire Animorphs series
4. Set aside some time each day when you can read.
I mean scheduled time. Have a 30min (or whatever amount you like) block that is designated reading time. This can be on the bus to work, during lunch break, right before bed, before breakfast, etc. I read for about half an hour every night before I go to sleep, and that way I don’t forget to read. While student teaching, I took the train to and from school every day, so I had an hour and a half every day to read.
5. (Together with number 4) Make reading a habit.
Reading every day is great, and if reading can become a habit, then you can get more of it done. If you make it a habit to read on the bus every day, you’ll get more reading done (and probably learn a lot more) than you would have by listening to Lady Gaga’s new album on repeat for a couple weeks. You may have to force it at first, but when it gets to be something that you do naturally, you can get a lot more of it done.
Read while you do something else. I read while I walk. I know this one’s not for everyone, so here are some other safer options: Read while you eat lunch, breakfast, or dinner; have someone read to you while you drive (or listen to an audio book); read while you wait in line at the DMV; read during downtime at work (if you’re a receptionist and the phone’s not ringing); read while babysitting if the kids are napping. You get the idea.
Reading in the bathroom works for some. I am not a part of that some.
If watching Downton Abbey is more important to you than reading Paradise Lost, which is going to happen? If reading is not a priority for you, you’re not going to be willing to make time for it. Reading is a pretty big priority in my book.
8. Watch less TV/ Netflix.
This is pretty much number 7 again, but if “Netflix and chill” were replaced with “Read and chill”, I’m pretty sure we’d have world peace in just a few years.
9. Frequent a used bookstore.
Used books cost a lot less than new books do. A new book often costs upwards of $20, and that can get expensive really fast. Used bookstores usually have paperbacks for 5 bucks or less, and hardcovers for less than $10 (compared to the new price of around $30 for hardcovers, this is a steal). Skip Panda Express just once this month, and you’ll have enough money to get one, maybe two books.
Reading is not an expensive activity, or at least it doesn’t have to be.
10. Free books from the Gutenberg Project.
Check out Project Gutenberg. What they’ve done is taken all the books that have fallen into the public domain (i.e. the copyright is expired and technically the book now belongs to everyone; it’s public), and they’ve typed up online copies of the books. They even have some audio versions of a few. This is a great place to get access to all the classics.
I got about 8 books by H. G. Wells there and sent them straight to my Kindle.
11. If it works for you, get a Kindle.
Like I mentioned above, e-copies of books are great. If it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t. But it works for me. On my Kindle, I can have with me at all times a miniature library. Like I said, I have an H. G. Wells collection in my hands as I walk to campus every day. The drawback of the e-reader is that you don’t have a physical interaction with the book, and that makes it easier to forget what you’ve read. Plus, you can’t share an e-book with a friend. The e-reader helps you read more by giving you access to more portable books.
12. Read the table of contents and the chapter headings if available.
Read through the entire contents of the book in a general sense by using the titles given to you in the table of contents (supposing that your book does have a table of contents). This helps you get a general idea of the plot into your head before you even start reading. Then you can read faster, because you already have the outline in your brain. Don’t worry about spoilers in the titles, though. Most authors aren’t that quick to give away a surprise, and you’re bound to want to read the chapter to get the details anyways.
13. Set a daily goal.
For some, this might be the time that you set aside each day, for some it may be a page number. If I want to read 50 books this year, and I average each book at about 250 pages, I end up with about 35 pages a day to read if I want to come close to my goal. If I can make sure to just take one day at a time, and not get overwhelmed by the overall goal, I should be able to do fine every day. Reading a little bit every day is the same as reading a lot over a long period of time.
14. It’s okay to give up on a book.
Can’t keep yourself interested in Les Miserables? Thats okay. Most people can’t. Most people can’t make it very far through Moby Dick either. If you’re working toward a goal like reading a lot of books, don’t force the means to get in the way of the end, but rather use the means to get you to the end. I have had a lot of trouble getting through Paradise Lost, so I stopped reading it. I’ll try again later, but for now, it’s not on my list. Also, if you start reading a book, only to realize it’s not worth finishing, it’s okay to not finish it.
15. Short books are okay.
Just because one of your 50 books wasn’t War and Peace doesn’t diminish the fact that you’ve read 50 books. I’m reminded of my father-in-law, who had a hard time reading chapter books as a child. His teacher decided to give him short stories instead, and he quickly devoured them. He couldn’t pay attention long enough to read a 50-page book, but he could handle 10-pagers. In fact, he handled them so well, and enjoyed them so much, that he was able to read 6 or 7 short stories in the time it took most people to read one long book. This helped him enjoy reading more, because he didn’t have to stay focused on just one thing. There’s also something gratifying about reading an entire book, even if it’s short. It won’t diminish the content. Take C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man for example. Short books are okay.
16. Poetry books are okay too.
Same reason as the short books. Sometimes poetry has more weight in it than a lengthy novel would. Also, I get to decide what books I read, right?
17. Audio books are okay too.
Some people just don’t like reading as much as others. That doesn’t make the literature worth any less. Suppose you want to read Treasure Island, but you don’t have enough free time to do so, even after prioritizing and setting aside specific time to read. Suppose your commute is an hour each way, driving. You should not read while driving, so don’t feel bad about putting in an audio version of the book you want to read. This a good help at the gym also.
18. Read what you like.
Don’t like nonfiction? Don’t read nonfiction. Don’t like fantasy? You don’t have to read it! Do you love everything by Tom Clancy or Agatha Christie? You can stick to one author and sometimes still get to 50 books, especially if they’re ghostwritten. Two words. Nancy Drew.
I’m reading the whole Animorphs series right now. I like them, they’re short, and there are over 50 books in the series.
19. At the same time, be open to something new.
If you’re going to read 30 books in a year, you may get bored with Agatha Christie (or R. L. Stine) by July. Or maybe not. In any case, it won’t do any harm to try something new. Maybe even stick to something close to what you already like. Like historical fiction? Try steampunk romance. It’s not too far off, but it will still help you to branch out slowly from where you’re already comfortable reading.
20. Surround yourself with books.
Not like a book fort, though my wife wouldn’t mind that in the slightest. I mean keep a book on the nightstand, one on the coffee table, one at work by your desk, one in your bag, one in the car. If there are books everywhere you go, it will get easier to find time that you can fill with reading.