How To Read More Books: The Blrt Guide

You’re busy, we get it. It’s part of the reason Blrt exists – to enable busy people like yourselves to shift time and place in order to communicate and collaborate more effectively. All too often, however, we fill all the time we’re saving with more of the same busywork we were trying to avoid in the first place.

What about the things we used to love doing before we got so busy? We had dreams, man.

One of the pursuits that we tend to neglect as life gets busier is reading. It’s a tale as old as time (if only we all had the time to read it): children devour books as though they were lollies and then grow into adults that remember fondly how nice it was to have time to read.

All that stops now. We showed you how to craft the perfect new year resolution and we have a Voyager Legend bluetooth headset on offer in our New Year Resolution contest. Here’s a gimme resolution: read more books!

How To Read More Books

Here’s the simple truth: we all have 24 hours in a day. The average work day is the same length. Humans – on average – require similar amounts of sleep, the same number of meals per day, etc. What enables somebody to read over a hundred books a year, then, when you can only ‘find the time’ for a handful is a simple matter of priorities and psychology.

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Supply And Demand

Here’s a way of looking at this problem that is very pleasing to the part of your intrepid blogger’s brain that prompted him to study economics in his undergrad: supply and demand.

Here, supply is the amount of time that you have available to read while demand is your desire to actually spend that time reading. As in economics, equilibrium is reached where supply equals demand. Since supply stays relatively constant the solution becomes shifting our ‘demand curve’. If you’ve ever read a book that you could just not put down and were willing to forego chores and friends and family and sleep and personal hygiene in order to finish, you’re familiar with the concept. In that instance, your demand for reading time increased and you shifted it even further than equilibrium (in this example we’ll assume that foregoing a shower is where you crossed the threshold).

The answer is obvious: only read books that your tastes ‘demand’. If you enjoyed the hell out of The Martian and found yourself bored by Anna Karenina there’s no reason to stick out all that Tolstoy – sit Anna down and pick up some more sci-fi like Ender’s Game. Sticking to authors and genres that you enjoy is a sure-fire way to keep yourself motivated to turn pages. Sometimes ten pages of something is all you need to know it’s not for you. Sit it down and get into something you truly enjoy. The moment reading becomes laborious is the moment your demand for reading time begins to dwindle. Anna is a lot of hard work – let her be if you’re not into it.

Finding more time to #read is about #SupplyAndDemand Click To Tweet

My Demand Is High – Now What?

Our constant pursuit to ‘hack’ our time and be as efficient as possible is one of the things standing in the way of us enjoying reading again. Even if we schedule time for reading it’s likely that something ‘more important’ will knock that block of time off our calendar. Even if we do make it the couch – book and pen (more on this later) in hand and mug of coffee at the ready – anxiety will creep in with familiar taunts.

You’re reading a book? Shouldn’t you be replying to that email from your boss instead?

That coffee looks tasty. Maybe you should sip on it while vacuuming the house.

Sorry, couldn’t see you reading over this massive pile of laundry that needs folded.

Reading is one of the few activities we regularly engage in that isn’t well-suited to multitasking. A book can be propped up on the elliptical machine and… well, that’s about as far as it can be taken. Reading time, then, is hard for some people to see as being ‘productive’.

The solution is to push the demand curve beyond what you may consider reasonable. Read in the bathroom, read on the train, read while on hold with the tax department. It might only be five minutes here and five minutes here but the shift we’re looking to create is attitudinal. Eventually the demand curve will be pushed so far that rather than finding time for reading, we will find ourselves reading constantly and finding time for work, exercise, etc.

Here’s how to make that happen:

Spoil Yourself For Choice

Keep more books on hand than you can possibly read. This is effective for two reasons:

  1. That pile of books to read will constantly taunt you.
  2. You’ll always have something that sounds interesting when you’re in need of a new read.

If you’re an e-book reader, make sure your books are synced across all of your devices so you can get stuck in at any free moment.

Suit Your Reading To Your State Of Mind

Human nature locks us into a kind of tunnel vision when it comes to focus. When you’re anxious about a busy day at work, it’ll be easier to focus on a personal development book on your commute than, say, Anna Karenina (I swear it’s not personal, Tolstoy). That’s fine! Get two, three, four books going at the same time: your commute book, your uni book, and your bedtime book. Because you have something for every mood you’ll find yourself flying through books.

Create Some Peer Pressure

Nothing motivates like the expectations of people we care about. Take advantage of this fact by joining (or starting) a book club that sets deadlines. This is a clever way to overcome that creeping anxiety we already discussed by converting reading into what productivity whizzes call an ‘action item’. Granted, you can just set yourself deadlines if you have incredible self-discipline but the social aspect of discussing a book with others as you go is incredibly valuable, as well.

Workout Regularly

Being a slow reader (and I am one, myself) can be discouraging. As good as a 600-page bestseller might sound, the fact that it will take an average reader (who will have only taken just over three and a half minutes to read this far into this blog post) over eight hours to read can start to feel not worth it. We’ve all been there.

The solution is to exercise your reading muscle through sheer volume – you’ll read faster and faster as you go. You can develop your chops on leaner, faster reads to build up your speed and confidence. Before long you’ll be knockin’ over Franzens like it ain’t no thang.

Use That Pen

Now, about that pen we previously brought to the hypothetical couch along with our book and coffee.

The first use for this pen is to keep a log of what we read. By doing this we will not only begin to recognise trends and patterns in our reading habits (those authors and genres that we tend to gravitate toward) but will also be subtly ‘gamifying’ our reading habit. When you start keeping score, as it were, you’ll become motivated to read more and more and thereby grow and grow your log.

The second use is for something I’ve only just started doing myself in the last couple of years: marginalia. That is, of course, a very fancy word for ‘scribbling in the margins’ but we’ll stick with it now that we’re super literary.

I’ve used marginalia to turn reading a book into an event. It begins from the point of purchase: I write the bookstore and city where I purchased the book, the date, and any significance of the purchase (such as if I used a gift card that was a birthday present from a friend) on the title page. I also record the date when I begin reading. I mark anything that breaks my rhythm as I read, whether it’s a particularly clever phrase, an ‘oh no you didn’t’ moment, or something that makes me laugh. When I finish the book I jot the date on the final page, usually with dot point flash reactions and notes. It’s my hope that one day my children and grand-children will inherit my library and be able to ‘read along’ with me (and probably question my sense of humour).

Steal From Your Friends

If you’re unsure of where to begin in your quest to read more books, begin by asking your friends what they’re reading and enjoying. It’s reasonable to assume that you have a lot in common with them, so it’s the natural place to start trialling stories. The next step, of course, is to enlist them in that book club you started (love your hustle!) and take that friendship to the next level.

Or Just Steal From Us

In the name of one-stop shopping, we at Team Blrt have compiled a list of our own recommendations. Your next favourite book might be listed on this very page!

Get some great #bookrecs from Team #Blrt Click To Tweet

Each description is written by the Team Blrt member who has recommended the book.

How to read more books - Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr.Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr.

This book blends several genres – drama, romance, sci-fi, comedy – as it tells the story of a boy who must grow up with the knowledge of the exact date and time that the world will end. Currie weaves family drama through the trials of growing up and cuts it all with a dark comedic edge. Even though the story is about the end of the world and features two alcoholic characters, one brain-damage victim, a cancer sufferer and a suicide bomber there is no trace of cynicism to be found. A drastic change in tone toward the end propels the narrative to the story’s only logical conclusion and from that point on it is impossible to put the book down. It’s beautifully written, achingly funny and deeply moving. I’m not afraid to admit that the final page nearly had me in tears.

How to read more books - The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettPillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

This is a historical novel (England 12th century). The most gripping novel I have ever read. Religious conflicts, love, betrayal etc. It does describe gory stuff (pillages, murders) but keeps it tame and realistic (it did happen after all).

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer

A real life story about a boy who was abused by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother. I could not put the book down and read it in one day. The only book that has made me . Highly recommended for people who do not read. I converted a couple of people with this book.

How to read more books - A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Blindness by José Saramago

A compelling read. A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness”. It is basically a critique of society as it presents the picture of a society that sees but doesn’t want to see and also leaves you pondering our fragile social construct.

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Very dark (and darkly comic) in parts, it explores a constantly-raising level of paranoia and delusion among a group of heavy drug users, with a pretty light sci-fi element. It’s mostly autobiographical for the author so it gets pretty heart-wrenching.

How to read more books - Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey

It’s an incredibly interesting, amusing and very well-researched look into the power and mythology of red hair throughout the ages in history, art, literature, religion and culture. Since my son has red hair, I decided that reading it would be helpful, but I think that anyone would find it a great read.

Mr. Mercedes
by Stephen King

A slight departure from horror, this one leans more to thriller as a retired cop refuses to let go of an unsolved case, makes a connection with the killer, and embarks upon a crazy game of cat and mouse that drags a whole lot of people into the fray with him. On the surface, the plot seems a bit ‘Hollywood’ and screams for Bruce Willis in the lead role, but it’s a little more twisted and subtle than that. A great holiday read.

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