I often get asked how I find the time to read so many books. I generally read 25-40 books each year. Sometimes I get comments from people who grew up never reading, and that they still don’t like to read. And then others ask how a person can become a reader. I’ll do my best to share with you how to be a reader because I think it is important that every member of our society spend a little more time every day reading great books.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele
What constitutes a good book can vary from person to person. I have my own lists of great books, but my interests are not everyone’s interests. A person becomes a reader when they stumble on a book that grabs their interest. When you can’t seem to put the book down, and you think about it when you’re not reading, and can’t wait for a few spare minutes to pick it up again, you know you’ve found your book. When it’s over, you are disappointed, and begin the search for something very similar.
For some people, that means great fiction. For others, it means learning new things with non-fiction titles. I like a mix of both.
For my fiction reading, I have always leaned toward historical fiction and the classics. There are a few modern fiction writers I’ve enjoyed, but they are rare.
When it comes to non-fiction, history is at the top of my favorites list! I enjoy biographies and narratives of almost any point in history I can find. Autobiographies and journals are the best! Besides history, I read a lot about education, parenting, apologetics, biblical doctrine, natural healthy living, gardening, and godly living from a biblical perspective.
Once you’ve found a book (or series) you enjoyed, you have a springboard for more. Start with the author of the one you just finished. Move into other titles they wrote. Find a book about their life and influences.
I have read and loved all of Jane Austen’s novels many times over. I enjoyed them so much that I wanted to learn all I could about Jane, her time in history, and the customs of the day. I began searching for books all about her life and the Regency era. Now my home library holds 9 books about those topics (aside from the novels themselves) and I have read them all.
The same is true of dozens of other authors. I first read Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade about the secret spy ring that Washington used to win the Revolution. The book was so great that I looked for more books by that author as well as other books on the Washington spy ring. Now I look for each new book by Brian Kilmeade. I pick up every book I see by David McCullough and Steven Ambrose for the same reasons.
I have done the same with Tolkien, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sally Clarkson, C. S. Lewis, G. A. Henty, Louis L’amour, and others.
This is how rabbit trails begin! Reading one book by an author, exploring more by that author, exploring more about their special topic, and exploring more about the author can give you several months’ worth of reading material alone!
This is probably the number one barrier to reading books: taking or making the time. In the age of internet, I believe the real problem is making the time. We often tell ourselves that we don’t have time for “whatever” when in reality, we just don’t use our time wisely.
So how do you make the time?
Planning is key. Determine which parts of your day might be set aside for some reading. It could be one large block of time at the end of the day, or possibly a little in the morning, a little in the afternoon, and a little at night. Maybe you spend a lot of time in the car? Determine to listen to audiobooks with that downtime. Do you have little ones at home? You’ll have to be intentional during their quiet time or naps. Maybe your kids are at the age where you can read great books aloud to them. Are you an early riser? Set aside 30 minutes in the morning to read.
If you still don’t think you have time to read, consider what you spend your time on each day. Do you surf the internet mindlessly? Do you watch a lot of TV? These two activities suck so much of our time from us. They can be huge time-wasters (as I tell my kids on a daily basis). You might be surprised how much time is frittered away on these two things. If you need a nudge, keep a daily journal of how much time is spent on these two activities for one week. Write down everything you do and how much time it took. Before the week is out, you will notice every time you turn on that TV or pick up the smart phone for mindless scrolling.
Reading great books is so beneficial to our minds, our hearts, our families, and our society. It is worth the discipline that it takes to make this a part of every day.
Now that we’ve talked about making time, setting up new habits is important. Just like with any new habit, it takes work to build. Set small goals and stick to them. If you’re not used to reading every day, start with an easy goal, like 15 minutes before bed, or one chapter on your lunch break. Keep the book next to your bed, or in your car, or wherever it will serve as a reminder. Set an alert on your smartphone if necessary.
And keep a running list of what you read. When you do this, you’ll be amazed at how many books you’ve conquered in a month or a year.
A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. —Mark Twain
Overcoming roadblocks to reading
No matter your lifestyle or preferences, there is a perfect way to read more books! Besides print books from the library or bookstore, you can read on a tablet or screen, or listen to audiobooks. I am a firm believer in all reading methods.
One of the reasons so few people read regularly is because of some learning barrier that goes all the way back to their school days. Maybe it is dyslexia, maybe it was a point in their education where reading instruction didn’t make sense and it never got better, or maybe it was a squelched loved of reading by the educational system. All of these are valid reasons, and all of them can be overcome.
Audiobooks are an excellent way to get around these issues. Many a child who didn’t love reading has still developed a love of great books by listening to them. Whether it was a parent who read aloud to them, or audiobooks, it opened the world of books to them that might otherwise have been ignored. So don’t discount the importance of listening to your books!
Our family has a monthly subscription to Audible, where we’ve accumulated over 250 titles. I know some people balk at the idea of paying $15-20 per month for audio books, but when you consider how much people pay to watch movies or TV in various forms (cable, Netflix, PureFlix, Disney+, etc.), this seems like a small price to pay for something so much more important. Add up your TV watching expenses and compare it to your book spending. What do you think?
Reading on-the-go is another easy way to make more headway in your goals. With Kindle and other eReader apps, it’s almost impossible not to find a way to read anywhere, anytime. I don’t typically use eReaders myself, but there have been occasions when I found myself in a waiting room or other similar situation without a book to read. So I pull up my Kindle app and read something that I’ve saved there. The beauty of Kindle is that there are many free or very inexpensive titles available. Classics are almost always free.
Buy or Check Out?
Public libraries make it super easy to read plenty of books, as long as you live near a fairly large library with generous rules. We live in a small town, and many of the small-town libraries around us leave a lot to be desired. So we began building our own collection at home many years ago.
If you’re in the same situation as us, let me tell you that it’s easier than you think to build your own library. Start with one bookshelf and your favorite titles. Look at yard sales, thrift stores, and library book sales. When you can buy books for a dime or a dollar, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming, does it? Buy for the future. Buy from authors you love. Buy books on topics that interest you and your family members. Begin to build a collection that will serve you for years to come.
Once you’ve found a few favorite authors or genres, you can scan books sales fairly quickly and find what you want.
When there’s something I really want, I’ll check Thrift Books or the used books on Amazon. The prices are still less than new, and I save the time hunting them down in big bookstores. Buying used books is the best way to build your own library.
I also keep a wish list on Amazon of books I would like to have. At Christmas, birthday, Mother’s Day, or any occasion, my family can purchase the books I’m looking forward to!
Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. —Vera Nazarian
So, now you have the steps you need to become a reader:
- Start with one topic, book, or author
- Explore new rabbit trails from there
- Set a reading goal that’s attainable
- Use 21st century reading methods to make it easiest for you
- Keep a list of what you’ve read
In no time you’ll be a nerd, stopping in every book store you see, elbowing your way through library sales, and lugging home stacks of books from the local library!
My reading lists
I love to keep track of what I’ve read, and I’ve been sharing those lists here for the past few years. Check them out below:
I have two previous years of lists on Pinterest:
Comment below if you’re a reader or if you aspire to be more of one!
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.