Why And How To Read More Books In Less Time

Some tips from a bookworm on how to read more books and accomplish your reading goals.
read more, tips for reading more, guide to reading, how to read more books
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I was an incredibly bookish child, and though the number of books I read decreased in high school, no one was surprised when I chose English as my major at university. What was surprising was that I stopped reading for pleasure almost entirely during my university years and for some time after I graduated. There were even some years I didn’t finish a single book.

Truthfully, I missed reading, but I wasn’t sure how to get back into the hobby, Suddenly, the vast number of choices seemed daunting, and all the time required to read a single book felt like way too much. Over time, I found strategies that worked for me, and last year I completed over 150 books!

If you’re someone who has never really enjoyed reading, I suggest first reading my article “Why Reading Can Feel Boring and What You Can Do About It” so you can understand the process involved in getting your brain to feel good about reading. 

This guide is comprised of tips for all kinds of readers, including tips that I employed myself on my journey back into reading! 

Why You Should Read More Books

If you’re still not committed to the idea of reading more books, you may be wondering why you should even bother. The truth is, the act of reading has benefits that are unique to this form of media! 

1. Reading Can Help Reduce the Risk of Cognitive Decline

The act of reading can strengthen your brain over time, by engaging various parts of the brain and strengthening neural connections. A study by S.M. Houston et al. proved through MRIs that reading does, in fact, involve a complex network of signals in the brain and these networks grow with our reading ability. 

Strengthening the neural pathways in your mind can also help prevent mental decline, as reported on Psychology Today. Researchers found that people who read more often had less memory decline and showed fewer physical signs of dementia. 

2. Exposure to More Words Increases Vocabulary and Comprehension

Though it has long been assumed that people who read more have bigger vocabularies, a 2011 study by Kate Cain and Jane Oakhill proved that reading experience and comprehension were tied to levels of vocabulary. It is not difficult to see why, as reading allows a person to be exposed to more words more frequently than they would normally encounter in their everyday life. 

Reading comprehension skills are needed to build this large vocabulary, as mentioned in the study. This is because the reader must understand what they are reading in order to use context clues to figure out new words they encounter. Luckily, reading comprehension is a skill that builds naturally as you read more. This not only allows you to read more difficult books but also is a helpful and necessary skill whenever reading written words are required, 

3. Books Can Teach Information

One of the biggest benefits of reading nonfiction (and even some fiction) is all the information you can learn with those nifty reading comprehension skills you're building. Whether you want to learn about specific histories or niche science concepts, chances are high that there's at least one book out there on the subject. Reading books on a topic has benefits over reading on the internet because you get extra information that isn't just the exact answer to your specific query, with the added benefit of all the information being in the same place. 

4. Reading About Others' Experiences Teaches Empathy 

Reading fiction, on the other hand, has been proven to help increase empathy. A 2013 study by David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano showed that people who read literary fiction that explored the inner lives of characters enhanced their "theory of mind," which refers to a set of skills (including empathy) that helps build, navigate, and maintain interpersonal relationships. This is because fiction allows us to see the inner thoughts of others, which is something we can't do in real life. This can help build skills for understanding others without knowing their every thought process. 

5. Reading Can Reduce Stress 

Focusing wholly on a single task can be great for reducing stress by helping the brain enter a sort of "meditative state" where it's fully focused on one thing. In fact, research conducted at the University of Sussex in 2009 found that reading for just six minutes reduced participants' stress levels by 68%. 

6. Books Can Be a Great Sleep Aid

The meditative state that reading can help the mind enter is great for relaxing and promoting sleep. After a long day, let your brain relax with a book that is almost guaranteed to help you get a good night's rest. In fact, even the Mayo Clinic recommends reading to help people struggling to sleep. 

7. Reading Helps People Connect

In addition to building empathy, which improves one's people skills, reading gives people something to talk about even when they don't have much in common. Even if the other person doesn't read, if you read enough, chances are you've come across a character that has similar interests to your conversational partner, and this can help you keep a conversation going. 

In addition, the "reader community" is very tight. There are people on all social media sites who talk about books, so look for your people on whichever site appeals to you the most. Whether you get into BookTube on YouTube, Bookstagram on Instagram, or even BookTok on TikTok, there are friendly faces waiting for you!

8. Focus and Concentration Improve As You Read

Many people struggle to focus nowadays, especially with society's emphasis on multitasking and the constant barrage of requests for our attention we're often subject to. Reading offers a great opportunity to practice focusing, especially when reading a print book that requires the sole attention of your eyes and hands.

If concentrating on one task is something you struggle with, reading may be challenging at first, but the more you do it, the better you'll become. You can then carry this improved skill into your work and other hobbies.

9. Reading Can Improve Your Memory

One of the main reasons that reading can help prevent cognitive decline associated with memory trouble is that reading is inherently an exercise in memory. When you read a story, you're constantly being asked to recall information about characters and the plot that you learned chapters ago. Since reading a book often occurs over several days, this memory practice is even more challenging, but also more rewarding. 

How to Read More Books in Less Time

Whether you want to read more for all the benefits, all the stories, and information, or some combination of these things, here are some tips to help you crush your reading goals or fall in love with reading as a hobby.

Choosing Books

Choosing the right book to read is the first step on a reader's journey! This is also one of the most important parts of reading more and liking reading. Choosing the right book for you and taking into account your interests and reading experience can really make all the difference. 

1. Read What Interests You

Don't let yourself get discouraged or intimidated by book lists like "Books to Read Before You Die" or "What Billionaires Are Reading." What you choose to read is personal, and everyone has different tastes. I may struggle immensely to finish a book about sports, yet devour a book about dragons, and you may be the opposite. Choosing books based on what appeals to you and your interests greatly improves the chances of you finishing the book and having a good time reading it.

2. Don't Be Afraid to Abandon a Book

Though you may have chosen a book with the best intentions of finishing it, you may find that you're struggling to engage and not enjoying your reading experience. At this point, feel free to drop this book and pick up another one. You can come back to it later if you want, or donate or sell it if you don't. Since you're reading for fun, as a hobby, no one is forcing you to finish something you're not deriving joy from. 

3. Start Small and Try a Book for Teens or Young Adults

If you're just starting to get back into reading, one of the best things you can do is choose something simple. Perhaps you can read a book that you enjoyed in your childhood or teen years, or pick up a newly published young adult book. I have written previously about "kid lit," or children's, middle grade, and young adult books being acceptable reading material for people of all ages. The reason that this is one of my favorite pieces of advice is that nostalgia can help reignite a love of reading, and the relatively simple storylines and vocabulary are great for easing back into the world of literature.

Focusing on the Book

When we're struggling to focus on a task, we may assume it's because the task is boring or not engaging and choose to give up on it. This can happen even if the struggle to focus comes from factors outside of the task. If lack of focus is preventing you from meeting your reading goals, try these tips.

4. Take Notes on What You're Reading

Some people find that taking notes on their books helps them stay focused. These can be notes taken in a separate notebook, or in the margins (if you own the book!). Notes about specific plot points, characters, and your feelings as you read can help keep you on track, as well as allow you to jump back into a book without too much confusion if you have to take an extended break. 

5. Try E-Readers or Audiobooks

E-Readers can help you read more by allowing you to always have multiple books on hand wherever you are. This means that you can read a little whenever you have some time to kill. Focusing on the books in little bursts like this can help improve your overall ability to focus on reading over time. Even if you don't want to invest in a standalone e-reader, you can download e-reading apps directly onto your smartphone, increasing the number of places you can squeeze some reading time in. 

A lot of people also find audiobooks help them read more. This is because they can listen while their eyes and hands are otherwise occupied, like while driving or exercising. Some people also just process information better auditorily, in which case, audiobooks will feel more accessible to them than print!

6. Keep Things Fresh By Reading More Than One Book 

Though some people prefer to read only one book at a time, I personally read multiple books at a time so I have options if I get bored of one book for a bit. This isn't a strategy that will work for everyone, but I thought I would mention it because it is something that I find really useful. It gives me variety and means that I drop books out of boredom less frequently. 

Making a Habit to Read More Books

Habitual reading is one of the best ways to finish books. Though the process of making something a habit can be somewhat of a difficult "uphill climb," the results are often worth it! Just like making going to the gym, a habit can produce great fitness results, making reading a habit can produce amazing reading results.

7. Read 20 Minutes a Day

Creating a goal like "read X minutes per day/week" can help make reading a habit, and therefore an important part of your life. The more habitual reading becomes, the more books you will naturally read. Using reminder apps on your phone can help build this habit!

8. Integrate Reading Into Your Routine

Another way of making reading a habit is trying to integrate reading into an existing routine. Perhaps you listen to an audiobook while you're getting ready every morning, or read a book while you wind down for bed every night. However, you integrate it, tying reading to something you already do every day makes the process of forming a habit much smoother. 

9. Keep Books on Hand

Just like having an e-reader on hand can help you focus by allowing you to read in short bursts, having books or an e-reader on hand can help you make reading a habit as well! Reading whenever you have spare time is a much more productive habit than scrolling social media when you have time to kill, and it will help you get through more books than you realize!

Staying Accountable For How Many Books You Read

It's one thing to set a goal, but staying accountable is the key to meeting it. Too often, lack of accountability is what causes people to be unable to stick to goals they set for themselves, like New Year's Resolutions. Finding ways to be accountable, to yourself or others, is a great way to stay on track. 

10. Keep a Reading Journal

Keeping a reading journal can help you keep track of books you read, as well as incentivize you to read more if you really enjoy journaling and stationery. A reading journal doesn't have to only include a list of what you've read, though. Check out my tips for starting a reading journal if this sounds like something you're interested in. 

11. Join a Book Club

Having other people hold you accountable is one of the best ways to stick to a goal. Joining a book club that meets regularly can give deadlines on finishing a book for those who need them to feel motivated, as well as discussion and conversation for those who are more extroverted and like to engage in activities that allow them to interact with others. 

12. Start a Reading Challenge 

I touched on reading challenges in my aforementioned article on tips for keeping a reading journal, but in essence, they are lists of "prompts" like "Read a murder mystery" or "Read a book that starts with the letter Q" that can be fun to tackle, as they help you choose books and expand your reading horizons. They are also often meant to be completed in a year, which can help keep you accountable by providing a deadline. More popular challenges even have discussion groups to provide a community.

Wherever you are in your reading journey, whether you used to love reading or are trying to learn to love it, whether you haven't read in years or are a bona fide bookworm, I hope you found some tips that can help you!

For more of my book content, see my young adult book recommendation lists: Upcoming Young Adult Romance Novels, Underrated Young Adult Novels, and 2021's Most Anticipated Young Adult Releases

Stevie is a writer who perpetually has a coffee in her hand and a cat on her lap. Her other hobbies include reading and playing video games.

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