Word Count

Writers Talk About Writing

Five Ways to Find More Time for Reading

"I love your idea of reading 52 books a year," said a colleague last week. But the modifier  "theoretically" hung in the air. "How do you ever manage it?" she added.

In truth, I adore reading so much I don't find it difficult. I was the kind of kid who read the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast.

But I recognize that not everyone enjoys reading as much as I do. As well, parents of young children and people just beginning -- or changing -- their careers, might have less time than I do.

Here, then, are five tips for fitting more reading into your day:

1) Read what you really like. Really! Don't feel as though your grade 11 English teacher is hiding under the bed -- or your English 100 professor is lurking in your closet. You don't have to read classics and no one is going to report you to the linguistic police for reading thrillers. If you've always wanted to read Moby Dick, okay, but establish your reading habit first. Find some books that you can read easily and painlessly and increase your comfort by reading more of them. If you need some ideas, ask friends or a librarian or simply enter the names of other books you've read into Amazon and check the link titled: "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..."

2) Read in bits and pieces. Don't feel you need a two-hour chunk of time to be able to read. I always have a book -- or my Kindle -- in my purse. Read while standing in line at the bank, read while on transit (although not while driving!). Read while waiting for a friend. If you've made the right choices (see point 1, above) you'll be motivated to leap back into your book. If not, choose different books!

3) Have a goal -- and make it one you can likely exceed. I like the goal of 52 books per year because it's memorable and because it translates to one book per week. That said, I almost never read at a rate of one per week. In fact, when I'm really busy with work, I can sometimes go several weeks without reading a book. But when I'm on holiday, I know I'll usually read a book a day. For me, 52 books per year was a goal I knew I could exceed. Pick one that allows you to do the same - and feel good about yourself.

4) Turn the project into bite-sized chunks. A typical book is 300 pages. To read one per week you need to get through 43 pages each day. Whenever you start a new book, do a little math to see how many pages you need to read a day to reach your goal. It will seem much more manageable this way. (I read this tip on Communicatrix by Colleen Wainwright, who also suggests reading first thing in the morning, although I preserve that time for writing!)

5) Keep a record of what you read. I cheerfully admit to being a tad obsessive-compulsive and confess I started a reading journal more than 20 years ago. Recently, I've persuaded my husband to do the same. I note the name of the book, author, publishing date, date I finished reading it and the first sentence of the book, which helps me recall the author's style. If I feel like it, I might also add a sentence or two about my impressions of the book.

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body," according to Sir Richard Steele. Reading widely exposes us to new ideas, fresh images, interesting rhythms and different styles. What we read in books inevitably penetrates our deep unconscious and informs our own writing. That is why good writers are always good readers. Resolve to give yourself the gift of plenty of time for reading.


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A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a free weekly newsletter on her website Publication Coach. Click here to read more articles by Daphne Gray-Grant.

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Comments from our users:

Tuesday March 15th 2011, 11:32 AM
Comment by: Elliott C. (Arlington, VA)
One more recommendation: books on tape. Ok, it's not "reading," but it is an equally enriching process. I'm a doctoral student, which leaves my eyes feeling burned and raw at the end of the day from constant reading. The audiobook is such a great way for me to turn on a different part of my brain. It is also an incredibly flexible media. I find myself listening to audiobooks while ironing, cleaning, cooking, on public trans, and while driving. If you are the type who likes to mark your books, some smartphone apps (like Audible's iphone app) allow you to place audio book marks with notes for places you want to return to...not perfect, but a worthy substitute for the audiobook lover. Audiobooks are more expensive, so if you choose this route, best to go with a subscription such as Audible.com. Thanks for your article!
Tuesday March 15th 2011, 6:19 PM
Comment by: Patricia S. (Utica, NY)
There is an inexpensive sollution to the expense of audio books...your public library! Many libraries have moved into the eBook world. If you have moved beyond books on CDs so you thought you were out of luck at the library think again. Libraries use software, like Overdrive, which allows patrons to download ePrint and eAudio books to many devices...computers, ipads, iphone, androids, etc. Go to your library or go to their website to find out if they have moved into the eWorld.
Tuesday March 15th 2011, 7:47 PM
Comment by: Glenda G.
Just a note to back up Elliot C's comment on audiobooks. Some genres lend themselves to the audio format better than others, and the quality of the narration is an important factor, but it is amazing how much listening time you can squeeze into a day. (My dog and my trainer are both happy with the longer walks.)

Audible.com is a great site but there are others such as eMusic and (of course) iTunes and libraries. Another advantage – like ebooks, you can start on a book a minute or two after you purchase it.
Wednesday March 16th 2011, 10:03 AM
Comment by: Aj.Scribe (Dallas, TX)
Amazon.com has a free PC or Mac version download Kindle App. for. Any generic or inexpensive Internet type note book manages and reads pages very well functioning as a reader and e-browser. Remember the Kindle device is an Amazon.com proprietary device not donwloading other e-libraries.
The best for cultural Kindlelanders are its group functions. One Kindlerperson buys the book and shares it around with fellow group Kindlers, free.

NPR is a respectable source for a wide range of intellectual entertainment downloads.

I carry an ancient device, the Palm-Palm-TX, not of the new mother HP version. In a pinch I can read a quick review of what is going on in the world or research what I am thinking about. I enjoy choosing what I want to read, as our Daphne say's. How many of you (young male warriors) remember being forced to read The Scarlet Letter in High School? Enough is enough…revenge is here...e-read to your pleasure. If you want to scare yourself in real-time, watch TV for possible Japan disaster radiation fall out. The media doing its usually bad job of thier minds terrorizing your brain about global wind stream possiblilites in your neighborhod and the pharmaceutical remediation pill you should run right out buy…watch TV. Before that, please read Mark Twains fabulous story "The Black Plague". There you will find the benefits of reading.
Wednesday March 16th 2011, 10:14 AM
Comment by: Aj.Scribe (Dallas, TX)
Ooops--Sorry---for the after reading shock of my unedited comment---if I followed the 8.5 Rules …hmmm…and so it goes.
Wednesday March 16th 2011, 11:44 AM
Comment by: Daphne Gray-Grant (Vancouver Canada)Visual Thesaurus Contributor
I agree with Elliott that audio books are a great way to "read" while doing other stuff (such as walking, cooking, driving etc.) We survived many driving holidays with our three kids ONLY because of audiobooks. We used the library for many years (thanks for mentioning that, Patricia) and then I discovered Audible.com What a terrific resource!

I also agree with Glenda that the narrator is important. Did you know that Stockard Channing does the Ramona books (she is absolutely AMAZING!) I also listened to The Four-Hour Work Week via audible and the narrator was very good. Arnold - no need to apologize for your post. Comments on a blog are a bit like "speaking" -- no one expects perfection. Simply having a conversation is the goal!
Wednesday March 16th 2011, 2:52 PM
Comment by: christiane P. (paris)
Thank you for the advice. Now i am not able to read 52 books per year , because I am French and reading in English is not very easy. I need to understand what i read and sometimes my researchs to my dictionary make so much time!!!!
Wednesday March 16th 2011, 2:58 PM
Comment by: Sante J. Achille (L Aquila Italy)
I LOVE reading - reading and studying are an integral part of my job, yet there is never enough time to do so - IMO it's not always possible to read in chunks - if I read a few pages it just doesn't seem to "stick" and I loose it completely - maybe because I have too much going on in my professional life, so I need to allocate at least 1 hour to read otherwise it's wasted effort - anybody else have the same problem or is it me?
Sunday March 20th 2011, 10:29 AM
Comment by: Raju Kalampuram
I really love to read a lot! The hunger never ends,and these tips definitely will help me to be bit more efficient!
Wednesday March 30th 2011, 11:18 PM
Comment by: Chocoholic (New Delhi India)
Good tips! I get really annoyed when someone proudly tells me, "I don't read". What they don't understand is that they're missing something so special and so enriching in life. It's honestly not a matter of pride if one hasn't read books. It really doesn't matter what one reads- no reading goes waste!
Tuesday May 24th 2011, 9:17 AM
Comment by: Bookwormsub (FL)
I agree with you Chocoholic, although I don't feel annoyance, but a deep sadness for the person who says they don't read. They are missing out on so much! Also, I wanted to share a wonderful site for "renting" both audio books and paperback books. www.booksfree.com They have various subscription plans, but all are reasonable. They work like Netflix...you receive the book and return it whenever you are done...no late fees involved and they provide the means to return the book - in the case of the paperbacks. They also give you the option of buying the book you have.
Tuesday July 19th 2011, 10:41 PM
Comment by: Fiona W. (Portland, OR)
I love, love, love to read. Something to add to tip #2: Don't read while walking!!!!!!!!!!!!

Could you recommend some good books for a 12 year old?

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