Updated: Dec 27, 2019
As you may have noticed in my monthly wrap up posts (see wrap ups for October and November), I consistently read more than 20 books a month. I’m going to share how I do this with some simple tips you can follow to crush your TBR (to be read) list.
Like most book bloggers and lovers of reading, my TBR list is a long one. Not only is it longer than a receipt from CVS, I’ve realized that the more I read and talk to other bookworms, I keep finding new books to add to this ever-growing list. Websites are even getting in on the action now. When I go to my local library’s website to see if they have a book, or visit sites like Goodreads or Amazon, they now have this recommendation feature saying “Oh hey, you liked this book? Try reading THESE!”
While adding 2 books for every one you read may make it impossible to ever completely get through your TBR list, but I’ve got some practical tips to help you crush your reading goals and make some headway on reducing that towering stack of books on your nightstand, dresser, bookshelves, e-reader, and any other available surface that they’re covering at any given time. Besides, completely eliminating your TBR list would mean you’re out of books to read, so that’s not exactly ideal — we just want to get it to a manageable level, right?
1. Set a measurable goal for how many books you want to read. Goodreads is a great tool to use for this. They have a reading challenge where you decide how many books you want to read for the year. Setting a reading goal gives us something to strive for. I started with a low number, and kept increasing it as I reached the goal. It kept me focused on my goal, and gave me a sense of achievement as I reached that goal.
2. Set aside time every day to read. Incorporating reading into your daily schedule makes it more likely that you’ll reach your goals. Even if you can set aside 20-30 minutes to read every day, that will help. If you are on the road a lot, or have to do chores around the house and need to have your hands free, consider reading audiobooks. They’re a great way to multitask and get the benefits of a book while still being able to do what you need to do. FYI - reading is a better way to unwind before bed than watching television. It's a scientific fact.
3. Remove or minimize distractions. Life is fast paced and hectic in the digital age. One of my biggest distractions is my phone, but distractions are different for everyone. Think about what is distracting to you, and try to minimize those as much as you can.
4. Pick a book that is really interesting to you. We are much more likely to want to read a book that holds our attention. Reading a book that we find boring becomes a chore, but a book that’s fascinating is one that we can’t wait to finish. We can’t put it down! If a book isn’t interesting, or you just don’t like it, don’t push yourself to keep reading it. It’s okay to DNF (do not finish) a book. It happens to all of us.
5. Use something to keep your eyes on the line you’re reading. Our eyes naturally move around the page when we are reading. Something that is really helpful to improve our reading speed is to use a pencil, pointer, or my personal favorite, a folded page/piece of junk mail to mark which specific line I’m reading. (That's a letter my big sister sent me my first year of sleep-away camp when I was nine).
6. Avoid rereading. When reading books as a pastime, there is no test on the material. Even when bloggers write reviews, the author/other bloggers/readers of the blog aren’t going to quiz us on our mastery of the book. I’ve had to work to break myself of the habit to go back and reread sentences and even paragraphs of material to make sure I really “got it,” and this is an ongoing battle. But seriously, it slows down reading speed, and often isn't even really vital information that we're rereading.
7. Avoid procrastination. This is another that I’m guilty of, and I’m positive that I’m not the only one! There’s always a million pressing issues and things that aren’t even time-sensitive but that I’m suddenly going to do now, and for some reason reading is the activity that gets pushed to the side. Make reading a priority, and it’ll help you tame that TBR.
8. Stop subvocalizing. Remember back to elementary school when the teacher would make the whole class read out loud? Chances are, once you learned how to read well enough, you still kind of kept that habit to some degree. If you notice that when you read, you pronounce the words in your head, you’re doing something called subvocalizing, and it’s slowing down your reading speed significantly. Our brain doesn’t need to pronounce every single word to understand what we’re reading. How do you stop doing this? Chew gum, listen to relaxing music, go somewhere that has some background noise (like a coffee shop), or focus on your breathing.
9. Use another activity as an incentive. If there’s something you want to do, get your reading done first, and use the other activity as a reward for finishing the reading. I often do this before watching a favorite television show. It’s effective.
10. Read more than one book at a time. This one isn’t for everyone, but if you can do this, you’ll read twice as many books. What I’ve realized is that I can read two books concurrently, but they have to be different genres, or it’s easy to get mixed up. I can read fantasy at the same time as a romance or mystery, but I can’t read two fantasy books. Give it a shot. You won’t know if you can until you try.
I hope this helps you. Let me know if you have any other tips that you use, because I’m always open to new ideas to improve my ability to crush my reading goals and keep my TBR list in check.