Monday, June 30, 2014

7 Tips For Reading More Books

If you're a book-lover like me, then you probably have a growing stack of books to read and not enough time to read them. I love my books, but they seem to mock me from my shelves and beg me from my Kindle. Come on! If I wanted a guilt trip, I would call some of my many neglected friends and family. What to do? Here are some ideas to help you whittle down that mountain to more manageable proportions.

1. Set goals.

Have a plan with a date. Noting pushes me like a good deadline and accountability. I use an on-line site called Goodreads to help me catalog my books and set goals for reading. They have a built in tracker that lets me know if I'm behind. This pressure keeps me motivated to stay on task. There are several on-line tools that you can use for this purpose. Or you may decide to go the old-fashioned way and make a paper book-list and year-end goal. Either way, the important thing is to take charge of your reading.

2. Read How To Read A Book by Mortimer J. Adler

I heard about this book from Howard Hendricks some years ago and have had it recommended to me by several people since. I finally gave in and read it through a couple of years ago. I found it beneficial for navigating different types of reading material. Here's a hint: you don't read every book in the same way.

3. Hit the highlights

Several years ago I asked my Inductive Bible Study professor and mentor how he got through so many books. He has a personal library of over 3,000 books in his office and another, supposedly larger one, at home. For a man who picks through Scripture with a fine-toothed comb, I was surprised a what he told me. Here it is in a nutshell: don't worry about reading non-fiction books in order, try reading the first and last page of the book and then read the first sentence of every paragraph. For many books that will be enough to give you the information for which you are looking. But does this count as having read the book? According to several scholars I have interviewed or read, Yes! I still struggle with method of reading but if it advances my progress even a little, it is worth it.

4. Audio books

Many people I respect use audio books to get more reading done. There are services like Audible to which you can subscribe. I have used the public library's audio book selection quite a bit, and recently I have used to download to my Kindle Fire. I have a thirty minute commute to work, so I have an hour a day to listen to something. Thus far, I have only used it for fiction, since I usually mark up my non-fiction reads pretty heavily...but to each his or her own.

5. Cut out "time-sucks"

In this day and age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to unplug. I don't know how often I have found myself reading at the table with my laptop right in front of me with Goodreads or Twitter or Facebook pulled up. Needless to say, those where not very productive reading times. Other people like to read with the TV or radio going. All of these forms of media cause unwarranted distractions and suck time away from your intellectual development.

6. Pause or quit books that aren't engaging at the moment

Too many people feel like they have to finish a book before they can move on to something else. If their book stalls out, so does their productivity. Here's the deal: life is too short to waste time on dull books. Give yourself a pass to either pause the book till a later date or quite it altogether. Then move on to something more interesting to you.

7. Quit shopping and start reading

This is something I have to tell myself every so often. The fact is that I'm not sure which I like more--reading or getting new books. I'm a bit of a book collector--my wife thinks of it in terms of hoarding--so rather than spend my free time reading, I often find myself at Half Price Books or Goodwill or Declare a shopping fast and shop your own book collection. More importantly, use that time to actually read.

If you have any additional tips for getting more read, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you. I might even edit this post and include it!


  1. Hello,

    We are a not-for-profit educational organization founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery—three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos—lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading, on one DVD. A must for all readers, libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are—we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

    ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

    Thank you,

    Max Weismann, Co-founder with Dr. Adler

  2. Good tips. And I need all of the help I can get reading the four bookcases of books, the stacks on the floor and the 300+ kindle acquisitions. *Sigh* Thanks.

  3. I know what you mean. I have over 890 books in my personal library that I haven't read yet and several hundred on my Kindle as well. As "The Teacher" says, "there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body." Ecclesiastes 12:12