A few years ago, I was sitting around during those strange days between Christmas and New Years (when no one seems to know what day it is) and I saw a friend of mine post about the 100 books she had read that year.
My first reaction was–NO WAY–she must have counted picture books or something, because she was in the same stage of life as I was with young kids, pregnant/nursing and homeschooling, etc. and I had, had the same three books on my nightstand for the last eight months without any progress.
But, as I looked over the list of books she had read (which weren’t picture books like I had assumed) and chatted with her about how she did the impossible, I became completely inspired! So inspired, in fact, that I set a goal for myself for the coming year: I was going to read 50 books! I don’t usually set goals for myself unless I feel like they’re actually accomplish-able but even 50 felt like a stretch.
Imagine my surprise, when here we sit at the end of the year and I’ve read 100 books! I want to share with you how I did this, what I learned and what some of my favorite books were, and I hope you’ll join me in the future in setting a reading goal of your own.
Turning off the TV: I didn’t think I watched very much TV, but this year, since I was committed to reading, I made a conscious choice to choose a book in the evening rather than start another Netflix series. I was fairly surprised how much time I found to read.
Audiobooks on Scribd: I’ve really hated on audiobooks in the past, because Audible was the only service for them that I was familiar with and I thought the price was atrocious! I had no interest in re-listening to beloved books; I just wanted to be able to listen to a lot of various titles. When I discovered Scribd, it was such a game changer! Scribd is an audiobook subscription app that lets you listen to unlimited titles for one monthly fee. And, the first 30 days is free when you try it! Audiobooks have allowed me to at least double, if not triple the books I would have been able to read otherwise.
I have friends who say they have no time to listen to audiobooks, but I found my best times to listen were when I was getting ready in the morning, on car trips, when I was folding laundry (that’s like three hours of listening a week for me right there) and when I was making dinner or breakfast and the kids were in another room. I know there might not ever be perfect time for listening without interruption, but I think it found space in our lifestyle easily in places that we already listened to music or a podcast or whatnot. I love that audiobooks helped me feel doubly productive, because I could “read” while sewing, cleaning, resting sick in bed, doing dishes or during a myriad of other things.
Scribd is still an app that I use occasionally, but as I've also found apps like Hoopla, Libby and Librivox helpful as well! It's amazing how many audiobooks I have available just through my public library!
Goodreads: Goodreads is the app my friend introduced me to. I love having a place to track all the books I’ve read, those I want to read, my book goals and a place to see what my other bookish friends are reading! I’ve gotten some of my best book recommendations from their lists!
Various Genres and Formats: I realized that one of my favorite things about TV is having an engaging storyline and the mindlessness of it all. I came to find that what kept me from reading more times than not was my book choice—I was always choosing these thick, lofty books that required a lot of thought to dissect. Who wants to read that when they’re exhausted? Not me. So, I made sure to sprinkle in a lot of books with easy, and engaging storylines. I tried to scatter my book selections in order to not lose momentum.
Reading books in various formats helped too: paperback, hardback, kindle, audiobook, books I read aloud, etc. The books on my first list were current buzzworthy fiction, favorites I remember from elementary school, books recommended from each of my family members, memoirs, culturally relevant books, mysteries, Christian living book, books turned into movies, parenting books, homeschooling books, classic novels and more. I challenged myself in reading a lot of books that I typically wouldn’t have, and it was fun to grow in my reading tastes and abilities.
Pre-Reading: As a family, we are planning to use Ambleside Online as our curriculum when my oldest starts Year 1 (first grade), so this year I was able to work in a lot of pre-reading, especially off of their Free Reads list. I like to know what to expect from a book rather than be surprised mid-reading with my children. And, even though I was familiar with many titles, I was surprised by parts of them in the re-reading of them (here’s looking at you Peter Pan!).
- Recommendations: Taking recommendations from people I respect and love changed the way I approached reading, totally. It’s one thing to read a book that an acquaintance says is good, and it’s another to read a book that your family member said changed them at their very core. That first year, I felt like all year I was getting to know or feel more connected to those I love by reading their favorite books. I highly recommend that even if you don’t ever set any goals for reading, that you read books your loved ones love!
So many things surprised me that first year in the process of setting and achieving a reading goal. One of the things that surprised me most was that I found a favorite genre….and it wasn’t what I thought it was. Almost all of the books that stuck out to me upon reflection were memoirs. I have, and will continue to incorporate these into my reading in the future! I also couldn’t believe how often certain books and topics came up in conversation. It was fun being able to make connections with others, or to be the one who said “I was just reading a book about that exact thing, and it said…”
I was also surprised by how much I benefited from consistently reading. I hadn’t realized how much the infiltration of my smart phone had changed my ability to read longer works and to fully absorb what an author was saying. I was always half-finishing, half-absorbing, mindlessly skimming articles, so much that my ability to concentrate and really read something was diminishing! Making time for consistent reading has helped me regain some of the skills I had (and probably haven’t used much since college) for narration, comprehension and audible learning.
That first year was such a growth experience and I enjoyed myself so much, that I kept reading more and more. I finished 100 books the first year, 112 the second, and 100 the third! I can hardly fold a load of laundry anymore without wanting to grab my lasted book to listen to. It is amazing to look back through my list of books and remember where I was when I listened to or read it—almost like a snapshot of my year!
In 2019, the first year I did this challenge, we had a baby, moved and remodeled our home, I started a blog and my instagram account, we kicked off our first official year of homeschooling and my husband had two changes in his role at work. So, it was a bumpy and busy year for us. But, with all of that, the time was there to read. It really was, I just had to change my habits and make it a priority. And you know what? It was worth it! So much so, that even if it’s only 12 books or 2 books or 20, I hope you will join me in setting a reading goal and reading more books!