How to Develop a Reading Habit

This is a topic I've thought about delving into for awhile, since I get asked QUITE FREQUENTLY: How do you read so many books? Where do you find the time? What is your secret? 
First I'd like to address how this question might make a bookish person feel... On a recent favorite things vlog from Long Story Short, Megan spoke to this when sharing her mutual love for Book of the Month and Wendy asked how she found the time to read. Now, when a good friend asks, we can be confident that the question is genuine. Though, as Megan pointed out, it CAN feel like a negative comment. Maybe, in my case, it's a sensitivity of being a stay at home parent that the question can come across as, "Must be nice to read all day." Or, "I have way more important things to do than sit around and read." In the unlikely event that this is the sentiment being conveyed, my response would be: most of my reading happens at night and on weekends (same as when I was working an office job) and reading IS IMPORTANT. Although, I'm sure the intent of most people asking is really: Do you have any tips for reading more? WHY YES! Yes, I do.

It all comes down to creating a habit. Reading has been a habit of mine since I was a kid, so it's pretty ingrained. However, I know a LOT of people (my husband included) who weren't voracious readers as kids, but got more into the habit later in life. Wherever you fall on the bookish spectrum, it's NEVER too late to start! Here are a few ideas:
  • Read what you want. I put this first, because I think it's so, so important. It may sound intuitive. Duh, of course I'll read what I want. Yet, I think people who don't read regularly get caught up in what might be popular, what they think they should read, or what's being made into a TV show or a movie. Which can be great! Reading to form our own opinion on what everyone is talking about is a great motivator. Oftentimes, the book might not be a good fit for your taste and that can lead to conflating a dislike for a particular book or genre with a dislike of reading in general. Want to read cozy mysteries? Middle grade fiction? Romance? Strictly WWII historical fiction? YA fantasy? YOU DO YOU. No matter what you read, it's all good.
  • Do a little research, but make it fun. So how will you know what you want to read? Well, hopefully you have read at least ONE book that you have enjoyed. The easiest thing would be to Google phrases such as "books to read after reading ___" or "if you loved ___ then you will love" Inevitably you should end up with some articles from Goodreads, Buzzfeed, Book Riot, etc. Book of the Month can be an asset in this regard, if you have to start from ground zero. Here's a handy post I wrote a few years ago on finding your next book, and I would now add the awesome new Make America Read Again newsletter from friend Hillary Copsey and, of course, Modern Mrs. Darcy's What Should I Read Next podcast.
  • Make a list. Once you've gone down the rabbit hole of finding all sorts of cool new books to read, make a big list and keep it handy. Either an easy Amazon wish list, create a Goodreads account, or write it down on paper: this is an excellent addition to a bullet journal. Then when your kids drag you to the library or you pass by the bookstore, you can pull up your Amazon/Goodreads app or journal and are GOOD TO GO.
  • Get a library card. Then take your list and get a big ol' stack of books, or ebooks or audio books. Find out the checkout limits and get as many as you can/have a bunch ready to go. That way, if you don't like what you're reading, you can (and should) put it down and try another - keep the momentum going with enough books on deck. I'd say I get through half of my library pile each month and end up returning lots of unread books. This was a hard thing for me to get past, as someone who likes to 'check the boxes' in life. But, those books will be there for another day! This was a very freeing realization. I wrote another handy post on being a library power user in my neck of the woods, including tips for keeping a good stash of books in the queue on Overdrive
  • Download the Kindle app. I suppose I'm being presumptuous in assuming everyone has an iPad or a Kindle... If you don't, I still recommend it for your phone and here's why: I recommend putting a library hold on both physical and digital copies to see which comes in first. And if I start reading a physical book, I still check out the digital copy to have in case I have time to read on the go!
  • Take advantage of big AND small chunks of time. As I mentioned above, I do try to take advantage of little bits of time to get in some reading. Equally important is to recognize those big chunks of time where you can read. In that Long Story Short vlog, Megan admitted to reading during family movie night - because how often does one need to watch Big Hero 6? Ha! I totally do this during lazy Sunday morning cartoon time - bonus points for modeling good reading habits for the kids. Commuting used to be a big reading opportunity for me back in the day. Recognize these gifts of time and don't squander them.
  • Everything in moderation. I personally read an average of an hour a day: at least twenty minutes every afternoon during my coffee down time before getting the kids. Then I read anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more each night. YES, I watch TV. YES, I surf the web and type on this blog. I think the KEY is to not binge on anything in particular. As for TV, usually, we are watching about three shows at one time (right now it's Stranger Things, Top Chef and Girls) and we watch them each... once a week - the old fashioned way. Maaaaaybe two if we're antsy. After only watching one episode of something per night, I still have plenty of time write, do mindless web stuff as well as read for at least a half an hour. Plus the show lasts longer this way! I can savor it! I think Netflix binge watching is one of the main reasons people don't read as much as they may want. And I'm not saying to binge on reading either. In fact...
  • Read every day for at least 15 minutes. If you do this, bare minimum, you can read at LEAST a dozen books a year. The average American reads 200-400 words per minute and most novels are about 60,000 to 80,000 words. Even we assume reading at the slowest rate and a longer novel, that's about 400 minutes for one book. At 15 minutes per day, that's twenty seven days! That's it for a book a month. And a little more than the amount of days it takes to form a habit...
I'm probably doing a fair bit of preaching to the choir here, but now I have a handy response for the next time I get asked how I read so much. Any other favorite tips or tricks? I'd love to hear them!


  1. Love this list! Sharing it on my blog this week!

    I would add that the more you read, the more you read. The more I take in about books (from instagram, other blogs, bookish podcasts) the more I want to read and make time to read, since there are so many books out there that I'm excited to read.

  2. Love this and most of these would be on my list too! Especially the "take advantage of little snippets of time." If I'm in line at the grocery store for 5 min, I'm reading. Choosing to read when many people are scrolling through their phone adds up!
    Also - my mom and her friends ask me all the time how I read so much. I'm a stay at home mom too and their questions are always tinged with a "well, she must be neglecting her kids" attitude. My kids are 6 and almost 4...so they're both in school in the mornings and my daughter still takes an afternoon nap (during which I read and blog). Then I read during their after school sports (I look up when it's their turn) and they're old enough now that they just go off and play when we go to the playground....so I read then too, looking up every few minutes.
    I think it's kind of "where there's a will, there's a way." Admittedly, I also put reading above many other things in my priorities list.

    1. Right?? I get so much more reading done in the summer months because I've got my nose in a book at the park or the beach!

  3. I love this list, Andrea! I agree with you; one of the best things to ever happen, for me, was the advent of electronic books. I, too, read in "snippets" and have my Kindle app on my phone so that I can read everywhere. I have a tough time sitting still for *too* long, so it's not likely that I'll be reading for hours at a time. Having said that, I probably should have done some cleaning yesterday and I finished a book, instead. HA!