After writing my post on “100 books every teacher should read” I received a number of emails about finding the time to read all of those books (without going broke or insane!). There is something to be said for enjoying books (I am still an English teacher at heart), but it can also be easy to slowly fade away from reading as we take on more and more responsibilities in life. The past two years I read 42 and 43 books respectively. This year I’m going to read a book a week. 52 books in one year.
To put it into some context. I’m the proud dad of 4 kids (age 6 and under), in an administrative job launching our 1:1 initiative, have published two books (and releasing three more books this year!), and still spend most of my time at night binge-watching Netflix with my wife!
I love creative work, and quite frankly, probably spend too much time thinking of new projects and ideas (as well as books and blog posts!). But, I’ve found that spending time reading every day has helped ground me in high-quality content and information. There is something special about a book that a blog post or article cannot replicate. Maybe everyone does not feel this way, but books (to me) are one of the purest forms of creativity and thought.
Here’s how I find the time (and money) to read 40+ books a year. And how I plan on changing it a bit to read over 50 books this year. I call it the “nerdy way” because it’s built on reading the most amount of books, in the shortest amount of time, for the least amount of money (can’t beat that right?).
1. Be Intentional to Make Reading a Habit
As a teenager I used to binge read books. I’d spend hours a day sometimes reading a book (or a series) and the go weeks without reading. When a book or story caught my attention, that was it…I was hooked and would not stop until I finished.
In college, I slowly started to read more non-fiction. I was interested in how the world worked and wanted more information on specific topics. Again, I would read a book start to finish in one sitting sometimes.
When my family started growing, and job responsibilities began to pile up…my binge reading quickly stopped. I’d start a book…then pick it up again in a month or two…and I remember going on vacation one week thinking, “I have six books I want to finish because I started all of them at different times in the past year!”
That’s when I decided I had to make reading a habit. Even if I read a tiny bit each day, I could make progress on the books I wanted to read, and finally finish all those great books I’d started during the past year.
Then I came across a post by habit-guru James Clear. James wrote about how he reads at least 25 pages each day. I did the math…
If an average book was 250 pages I would finish a book every 10 days by reading 25 pages a day. That 25 pages a day would lead me to read 36 books a year!
I started reading 25 pages a day as a daily habit. Two things became quickly apparent:
a) It didn’t take long to read 25 pages.
b) I usually went over the 25 page mark because I was into the book!
I read over 40 books that first year, all by using a method that I had repeatedly told my high school students to do as an English teacher (but never followed the advice myself).
Now, I’m increasing the habit by just a little bit, and it’s going to build over time. I’m challenging myself to read 40 pages each day. That 40 pages will ultimately lead to one 280 page book each week.
The trick is that I’m not reading all those pages with my eyes, I’m spending a lot of time reading with my ears.
2. Read With Your Ears
This year we moved into our new home and my commute got a bit longer. I now spend around 1.5 hrs in the car each day (45 mins each way). That gives me on an average week 7.5 hrs of commute time to listen to audiobooks.
But that’s not the only time I have to listen to audiobooks. There are also the ‘in-between’ moments of life. This could be a long drive, waiting for a train (or on a plane), while working out, or while doing chores around the house.
Most audiobooks are between 5.5 hrs and 7.5 hrs long. But a book I just listened to this week, Anything You Want by Derek Sivers, was only 1.5 hrs long. One week. One book down.
I blame Audible.com for my audiobook addiction. I signed-up for free and got two free audiobooks downloaded straight to my phone (Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks). Reading with my ears has only increased the number of books I’ll read this year. It’s also a different type of reading/listening experience. Often I’ll have to rewind the past minute of audio to catch a quote or insight or story that I want to remember. It’s almost a form of “close-reading” while listening.
3. Find Great Deals
I love BuckBooks.com for great Kindle book deals. Sometimes they will have free books, and usually the site features books on price for 99 cents. This is a completely free service to sign up for and then they’ll send you emails with featured books that link directly to Amazon (Kindle store). In essence, they do all the hard work in finding books that you’ll like to read…and that are cheap. BuckBooks recently came out with a new Audiobook promotion (for a dollar) each week as well and I can’t wait to check out that feature (sign-up here!).
Other ways are to borrow books from your friends and colleagues that they have recommended, go to the LIBRARY, or get ebooks from your local library. When you’ve built the habit of reading into your daily routine, you’ll have no problem finding recommendations and talking to other readers. These deals let you read without going broke (hint: that’s still my problem with Barnes & Noble).
Try apps like Hoopla or go to websites like NetGalley to get free books (audio and digital) for your reading pleasure!
So, what are you waiting for?
Find great book recommendations, make daily time to read, read with your ears, and find deals…after that they only thing left to do is spread the word on books you think others should read!
Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share with us? Leave them in the comments!