18 Ways to Read More Books This Year, According to Big-Time Bookworms
So many books, so little time! With these simple tips from BookTokers, librarians and other literary experts, you can read more books without completely rearranging your life.
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Easy (and fun!) ways to read more books
While we all know the benefits of reading, the reality is that life gets hectic. There’s a reason “read more” is such a common New Year’s resolution. As work piles on top of chores and social and familial responsibilities, reading for pleasure can often take a backseat. When we do get engrossed in a juicy page-turner, however, it’s easy to remember why reading is important. But can we really make reading a priority without taking time away from other important activities? Absolutely! Where there’s a will, there’s a way to read more books without completely changing your life.
We talked to big-time book lovers—BookTokers, book reviewers, librarians and Reader’s Digest Book Club members—to gather their tried-and-true tips for how to read more books. From finding the best books for your taste and schedule to selecting short books for your limited attention span, this attainable, sustainable and judgment-free advice will get you to read every day, or at least read more than the average American.
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Why should you read more books?
Many adults lament the fact that while they spent their childhood with their noses stuck in a book, that hasn’t been the case for a very long time. And that’s a shame: Reading a lot is tied to higher literacy skills in kids, but it’s also linked in adults to better mental health, expanded emotional intelligence, an improved vocabulary and a reduced risk of cognitive decay.
In other words, books make us happier, more empathetic, smarter and healthier. For this reason, reading more books is important. But it’s also noteworthy that reading more isn’t just tied to a specific number of books. Many of the book experts we spoke to stressed that it’s not necessarily about quantity but quality. At the end of the day, you’ll feel better reading more books that you enjoy than scrolling through social media. Keep reading for their best tips!
Looking for your next great book? Read four of today’s bestselling novels in the time it takes to read one with Reader’s Digest Select Editions. And be sure to follow the Select Editions page on Facebook!
Remind yourself why you enjoy reading
The psychological trick to actually achieving your goals is to reflect on why you want to achieve that goal. Maybe you want to read more books because you like escaping from reality into science fiction stories or fantasy books. Maybe fluffy romance novels warm your heart.
BookToker Nathan Shuherk of @schizophrenicreads feels healthiest when he reads for a few hours a day. “Especially in the years since my schizophrenia diagnosis, reading provides me with a solitary hobby that lets my brain explore ideas that keep me grounded in reality while [giving me the] ability to organize my chaotic mind,” he says.
Meanwhile, BookToker Carmen Alvarez of @tomesandtextiles finds motivation in seeing people like her represented as the heroes of the story. “Currently, what keeps me interested and voraciously reading is the amount of diversity and representation in books,” she says. “It’s so wonderful to see multiple aspects of my identity reflected back to me in the pages of books, something I never would have imagined as a child.”
Regard reading as a treat, not a chore
As an editor for Oh Reader magazine (a magazine dedicated entirely to the art of reading!), Gemma Peckham says she reads all day for work, so reading for pleasure can be challenging (“Netflix is always calling!”). But by remembering her love for reading, as well as the benefits of reading, she takes active steps to prioritize it above other pursuits.
“I work at it to make sure it’s something that’s always a part of my life. I realized that when we say we don’t have time to read, what we really mean is that we’re not prioritizing reading,” she says. “Allot time in your calendar for reading—an hour between work and dinner or half an hour when you wake up. Treat it like a standing engagement that you can’t miss, and you’ll soon be looking forward to that regular ‘me time.'”
And if you’re really struggling with the siren song of your favorite streaming platform, at least make an effort to read the books that are becoming movies this year before you press play on the film adaptation.
Join a community of bookworms
Just as enlisting a running buddy will keep you committed to exercising, finding a community of bookworms and gleefully nerding out together will keep you engaged and inspired to read more books. Oh Reader magazine is essentially a love letter to reading and filled with insightful stories that will have you itching to curl up next to a fireplace with a hot chocolate and a good book.
If you love discussing books with like-minded readers, you can sign up for online book clubs, including our very own Reader’s Digest Book Club. If you’d rather meet in person, start a book club in your community. Having a dedicated space to celebrate reading is a great way to motivate yourself to explore new books and actually finish them!
Read before bed
It’s tough to put down the phone after a long day—we get it. But looking through social media right before bed not only disrupts your sleep cycle with your phone’s blue light but also makes you more likely to stay up late. These apps are literally designed to be addictive and keep you scrolling, leading to less sleep overall.
Peckham recommends taking your phone off the nightstand and replacing it with a stack of books. (A book subscription box can help you build that to-be-read pile.)
“Reading in bed at night is like my treat for getting through the day,” she explains. “So I put my phone on the dresser on the other side of the room—which also helps me to get out of bed in the morning!—and get cozy with a book until I’m too sleepy to keep holding it up. This does mean that I usually have to reread the last few pages the next night because I was too sleep-addled to take them in!”
Curate your social media feed by following book lovers
The social media addiction is a tough one to break, so rather than quitting cold turkey, try following BookTokers and Bookstagrammers for inspiration and motivation. Not only do these book influencers work super hard to create visually appealing literary content, but they also have tons of book recommendations and can help you discover stories you’d otherwise never hear about. Plus, their love for literature is absolutely infectious. Although there’s a stereotype that these communities cater to Gen Z, there’s a BookTok or Bookstagram account for every genre, age group and walk of life. These are our top BookTok book picks that are totally worth the hype.
Get a library card
For many readers, the cost of books can be a barrier, and when you do buy a book, you may feel obligated to get your money’s worth and trudge through it even if you don’t like it. Luckily, borrowing both physical copies and e-books from your local library is completely free, and the due dates are a great motivator to finish a book (or accept that maybe that particular book is not the right fit for you).
Libraries are filled with all kinds of popular book genres, feature titles for adults as well as children’s books, and carry audiobooks to boot. “If you love books or want to love books even more, there’s nothing better than a library card,” says Rosemary Kiladitis, children’s librarian at Queens Public Library. “It’s your key to thousands of books to explore!”
Rakisha Kearns-White, senior YA librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, agrees. “We are living in a golden age of access to books, where the most tentative reader can find a book to connect with. English language learners, neurodivergent students, visually impaired folks and children of all ages can utilize a variety of book formats,” she says. “Librarians aren’t gatekeepers to books and information, despite what a century of media stereotypes have taught us. We are the patron saints of putting reading materials in your hands.”
Stop worrying about “important” books
Adding classic books to your reading list is a wonderful goal, and reading the bestsellers everyone else is reading can be exciting. But at the end of the day, you should like what you read, whether it’s a specific genre or topic you enjoy. “It can be fun to read what’s popular and what book influencers like me are talking about, but when starting, make your reading deeply personal,” Shuherk says.
Peckham echoes that sentiment. “Research books and authors, and find your own niche,” she says. “Read whatever you like—smut, fantasy, lit fic, sci-fi—without shame, because if you love it, you won’t have to force yourself to read it. The best book in the world is the one you love most.”
If you’re having trouble finding a book that interests you, make another trip to your local library. “The library’s best asset is our staff, who can help readers find a book that will make them fall in love with reading,” says Lynn Lobash, associate director of reader services at the New York Public Library. “Tell them about a book you love or a genre or subject you want to explore, and you will not leave empty-handed!”
Don’t like the book? Don’t feel pressured to finish it
As the arts and culture editor of Mochi Magazine, Yvonne Su reviews many Asian American books and edits many book reviews. She’s well aware that readers’ tastes in books differ—and that’s OK! “I learned a lot from editing other readers’ [book] reviews: It’s okay to not like a book,” Su says.
Get rid of that finish-what-you-started mentality, at least when it comes to reading. Not only will you be more likely to drag your feet when attempting to finish a book you don’t love, but doing so will prevent you from spending your precious time reading something you’d enjoy even more.
Reader’s Digest Book Club member Kathryn Findlay Mayfield admits she hates to give up on a book. “Sometimes I pick it up again, and sometimes I don’t,” she says. “I might skim through a book that just doesn’t grab me, but my TBR [to be read] list is very extensive, so there is always another choice.”
Read short story anthologies
There’s something about bite-size narratives that feels less intimidating: If you don’t like one story, you can simply skip to another one. Since you don’t have to wade through pages and pages of filler when you read short stories, you’re also less likely to lose interest in the book. “I always have a book of short stories on the go because sometimes I don’t feel like I have the bandwidth for a lengthy story—and there are oodles of amazing short story collections out there,” Peckham says.
Try different kinds of books
Take, for instance, poetry. You can flip to any page in a poetry book and immerse yourself in the written word for just a few minutes. A single image of poetry can evoke an entire narrative. Some readers may feel like poetry is “not for them” if they’re not a fan of extended metaphors and ambiguous symbolism. But poems vary widely, and there’s something out there for everyone, from the hilarious pages of a Shel Silverstein book to the words of heartache written by TikTok famous poet Whitney Hanson.
On the flip side, graphic novels are gaining more respect in the literary world, with adult graphic memoirs like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis paving the way. They’re quick to read and accessible while still delivering compelling stories. “Nonfiction graphic novels are making the most difficult material easy to digest,” says Kearns-White.
Strategically place books around the house
Always having a book within reach will keep you from reaching for your phone out of boredom, so leave different books around your house or apartment in order to read more books. “I keep a book in the car, a book by my bed and a book in the bathroom,” Reader’s Digest Book Club member Ellen Smith shares. “I also have the Kindle app on my phone. I typically read at bedtime, but if I get stuck somewhere and have to wait, or have time for a bubble bath, I’m all set.”
As an added bonus, those colorful spines add a decorative flair to your interior design, no matter how you organize your books, and they provide conversation starters for guests.
Carry a book everywhere
If you’re out and about, always carry a book in your bag. Whether you prefer physical books or e-readers (or even your phone!), having something to read is a healthy way to pass the time while still engaging your brain. Your daily commute, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, waiting in line and even jury duty will go by so much faster when you’re having fun reading. Just make sure to pay attention to the train or bus stations so you don’t get so engrossed in that cozy mystery that you miss your stop!
Don’t shy away from audiobooks
This is the PSA you needed to hear: Audiobooks are not cheating! They make it easy to read a book while driving, doing dishes, exercising or even commuting to class or work if you’re prone to motion sickness and can’t look at a physical copy. “When I’m on a deadline for a review or interview [for my BookTok], not only do I read the physical or e-book, but I also try to have a copy of the audiobook so that I can listen to the audiobook when I can’t physically read the book,” says Alvarez. “This helps double the amount of reading I can get done in a busy day.”
On top of all that, they’re a great tool for language learners. “Downloadable e-books and e-audiobooks can be accessed with a few taps from a mobile phone or tablet,” Kearns-White says. “Besides the good ol’ paperback novel, my favorite format is our read-along books, which have technology embedded in the pages, allowing the book to read to you. A library user can plug in a pair of headphones and get lost in a story while learning to read in English.”
Be open to reading multiple books at once
Maybe that award-winning memoir you’re struggling to finish is brilliant but emotionally draining. Or maybe you like reading at night but are afraid horror books are going to be nightmare fuel. You may need a lighthearted feel-good book to balance out the deeper, darker titles.
“I read one book before falling asleep that doesn’t scare me, like cozy mystery or romance, [and] a different kind of book for daytime reading,” admits Reader’s Digest Book Club member Melissa Stephens. By switching between books, you’re being mindful and respectful of your brain’s current state, and you’re going to appreciate each of those books for their unique qualities so much more.
If you’re nervous about getting overwhelmed and never finishing the books, book clubber Carrie Myers recommends having different forms of reading for each book. “Listen to audiobooks in the car or on a walk, read an e-book while at the gym on the treadmill or elliptical, and have a physical book to read at home,” she says. “Three books at once!”
Read or listen to author interviews
These days, most authors have interviews as part of their press cycles. (Case in point: Author Iris Yamashita’s interview with Reader’s Digest about her debut novel.) And those articles or podcasts are inspirational gems. You’ll get insight into their most recent book and a peek behind the curtain of the world of literature.
“Writing for Mochi mag gave me the chance to interview authors, and talking to them demystified what it meant to write a book,” Su says. “Authors are people who love books, have a story to tell and have managed to get those stories out to us.”
Besides, interviewers typically ask authors about their favorite or current reads, and they usually have fantastic book recommendations. You’re bound to like your favorite author’s favorite authors!
Attend book readings
If you have access to a bigger metropolitan library or popular bookstore, you’re in luck. As New York Public Library reader services librarian Heather Barnum says, you can “enjoy an author talk” for free. Book readings are fantastic because you can get a little preview of books from the authors themselves, which is more likely to pique your interest and get you to read the whole book. You can even meet a lot of fellow book lovers and build beautiful literary friendships!
Keep track of every book you read
While it can be daunting to set a specific goal for the number of books you want to read, it is motivating in and of itself to record every book you read and celebrate those accomplishments. You can go analog and use a book-tracking journal to write down (and maybe even write about) the books you’re currently reading or just finished reading.
Alternatively, you can download a specific app, like Goodreads, which is free and easy to set up. You can even scan books to add to your “Want to Read” list, follow your bookworm friends and refer to your reading history when your friends ask for recommendations.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks from reading
It sounds counterintuitive, but taking breaks is crucial to both maintaining your mental health and keeping your goal to read more books actually sustainable. Maybe you read an especially dense, emotionally heavy or sad book and you need some time to let it sink in. Maybe you just need to give your brain a break so you can come back to your next book feeling refreshed.
“If you need a break for a day or a week, take it,” Shuherk reminds fellow readers. “Goals are nice, but if they’re not flexible, you’re more likely to burn out and ruin what’s supposed to be a fun, healthy hobby. It’s not a competition—or at least, it shouldn’t be.”
Su agrees. “It’s OK to go weeks or even months without finishing a book,” she says. “Reading slumps are real, and sometimes it takes one special book, like an old favorite, a graphic novel or a memoir for me, to get back into the groove of reading.”
Get started with great books
Now that you have all these tips from expert readers on how to read more books, the question is where to start. We’re including some of our favorite books to help you meet your goal of reading more. Get ready for the biggest book hangover of your life.
- American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (and the rest of the book series!)
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
- Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
- The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
- A Fire in My Head: Poems for the Dawn by Ben Okri
- Nathan Shuherk, BookToker who goes by @schizophrenicreads
- Carmen Alvarez, BookToker who goes by @tomesandtextiles
- Gemma Peckham, editor for Oh Reader
- Rosemary Kiladitis, children’s librarian at Queens Public Library
- Rakisha Kearns-White, senior YA librarian at Brooklyn Public Library
- Lynn Lobash, associate director of reader services at New York Public Library
- Yvonne Su, arts and culture editor of Mochi Magazine
- Heather Barnum, reader services librarian at New York Public Library
- Neurology: “Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging”