How to read more (if you have trouble reading)
2023-03-27

I don’t think there are any secrets to reading more other than just sitting down to read.

Though that’s true, it’s not very actionable, and advice that isn’t actionable sucks.

So here are some things that have helped me read (and enjoy reading) a lot of books.

If you have plenty of time to read but can’t focus, the book you’re reading is probably bad

I’ve heard this from a lot of people: “I want to read more, but I just can’t focus.” If that’s you, know you’re not alone. While I can’t diagnose the issue for sure, something that might be causing the problem is that you just don’t like the book. Some books are boring, dry, and not very fun to read. If that’s the case, yeah, it’s going to be hard to focus.

If you’ve ever sat through a movie, you know it’s *possible* for you to sit down and do something for an uninterrupted amount of time as long as you’re interested. Therefore, you most likely don’t have a focus problem, you have a book selection problem.

Ditch the boring book and pick up a new one! And another new one…and another new one…and another new one…until you find one that makes 60 minutes feel like ten.

Quit more books

The biggest lie people believe about reading is that they can’t quit books. Hear it from me: you can! It’s perfectly okay to get a few chapters into a book and think, “Meh, this isn’t for me.” I do this all the time.

Life is too short to read boring books.

This is hard to do with books that signal status. It’s not hard to quit, but it’s hard to look at others and think, “Man they finished that book and liked it? I thought it was so boring! Maybe they’re smarter than me…” I know that’s hard to get over, but you have to try.

I tried reading The Power Broker because of how many people raved about it and I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t give it up completely, just put it back on the shelf for later. That’s hard to admit, but true. I probably quit around then books last year.

If you have plenty of focus but can’t find the time, you’re probably wasting it somewhere

Something something we all have the same 24 hours in a day something something.

While that saying has become abused by people who #hustle every day, it’s still true.

How many hours a week do you spend watching TV? How many hours do you lose scrolling social media? How many hours dissipate into the ether because you don’t know what to do next?

If you want to spend an hour a day reading, you most likely have to quit doing something else for an hour. That’s just the way life is. (Or you can wake up earlier/stay up later. That’s okay too.)

…but what if I’m not wasting time?

If you don’t feel like you’re wasting any time, good! What you need to do then is utilize the “spare change” more effectively.

Like finding nickels and dimes in your couch, you need to find 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day to make progress on your reading goal. Austin Kleon puts it well, “People often ask me, ‘How do you find the time for the work?’ And I answer, ‘I look for it.’ You find time the same place you find spare change: in the nooks and crannies.”

Some people who want to read for an hour a day think they need an uninterrupted hour. While I recommend that (so you can get lost in the book easier), it’s not necessary, especially at first.

Read for the extra 10 minutes before a meeting or for 15 minutes on your lunch break. A good rule to follow is *anytime you don’t know what you should do next, read.* You might only get through a couple of pages, but that’s how all books are read: page by page.

Read multiple books at the same time

Another good rule to follow is to always read three or four books at a time. This works because it makes reading for three hours in a row much more enjoyable. Instead of reading one book for three hours, you can read three books for an hour.

This also works because you’re never in the same “reading mood.” Sometimes you want something light and fun just to pass the time. Other times you want to read something long and important. Still others, you just want to read a good novel. So having a book to match each of these moods will help you read more.

If you’re only reading one book at a time and the reading mood you’re in doesn’t match the type of book you have, you won’t read at all.

Most people recommend reading a fiction book, a light non-fiction book, a heavy non-fiction book, and a biography or memoir all at the same time. I think that’s a good outline to follow until you realize what you truly love to read. I used to follow that, but now I just have a couple different biographies I’m reading at once, an instructional or how-to book, and a novel I read before bed or when I’m waiting in line somewhere. Currently I’m reading The Wright Brothers, Genius, In Search of J.D. Salinger, Bird by Bird, and The Catcher in the Rye.

Make it an experience

Finally, make reading an experience. Having a book you can’t wait to finish helps (see number one), but it’s not the only thing you can control. What type of music you listen to, where you sit in your house (or at a coffee shop), and what beverage you have to consume are all things that can encourage you to read more.

If you love to have a beer or glass of wine every night to unwind, make a rule for yourself that you can only do so while reading a book. That way you pair something you love (having a beer) with something you want-to-love (reading).

Sit down and read

While these tips have been helpful for me, remember, there is no secret to reading other than sitting down to read. You probably don’t need to watch a YouTube video teaching you how to read better (you can just start reading) or pay for an online course to learn how to read more (you can just start reading more).

Start with a physical magazine article (I like *The Atlantic)* or a poem if you have trouble committing to something as long as a book. There are also dozens of speeches and articles that contain unique insights and are less cumbersome to get through.

I hope these help. Happy reading.

PS If you’re looking for recommendations, I just finished *Novelist as a Vocation* by Haruki Murakami and loved it. (You can read my notes here.) Splendid and the Vile is good too. I have more recommendations here. You can visit my company’s site for more too.