How I read 73 books this year

I read more books this year than any other — and that’s saying something for someone whose main hobby for most of her life has been reading.

And because I love posts like this — they feel like a peek in someone’s brain — I decided to write down how I did it. (None of this is groundbreaking, but maybe it will help you read more, and that’s worth writing about.)

I tracked it.

This made the biggest difference in my reading total this year.

I wanted to finish a book so I could mark it off on Goodreads. This is not about showing off — I think a total of three people follow me on Goodreads, and one of them is my sister who hasn’t logged on in years — but about checking off. I love lists and completing tasks and tracking progress, and Goodreads combines all of that for me.

If you’re the kind of person who is motivated by something like a Fitbit, you’ll probably get a similar high from tracking your reading.

I consciously chose to read. 

In years past, I would watch TV (usually a basketball game or “Friends” for the 54th time) or scroll social media instead of reading. I might dedicate a Saturday morning to grading or cleaning. And I spent my time in the car or on walks listening to NPR or podcasts.

This year, I still did all of that, but I added in reading. I’d read while “Friends” played in the background (and I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone. Instagram stayed because Instastories are my guilty pleasure). I broke up my grading so I could spread it over a few days, giving myself a few more hours on a Saturday to read. And I started successfully listening to audiobooks this year.

(I say “successfully” because I tried to listen to audiobooks when I was in high school, back when I checked out tapes from the library and tried to listen in my 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee. A couple problems: Because that car didn’t have a CD player, my choices were severely limited. And because I was a mediocre 16-year-old driver, I could not drive and listen at the same time without almost driving off the road.)

Two things that helped me enjoy audiobooks this time around:

I listened on 1.25x, because the speech speed on normal time made me crazy (I am a Southerner and even I think you don’t need to talk that slow).

I tried to pick can’t-put-down-able books. Those included “Rabbit Cake,” “American Fire” and “Harry, a History.” The latter two are nonfiction, and that was also intentional: Since I’m used to following the nonfiction storytelling pace of podcasts, I figured it would be easiest to make the switch to nonfiction audiobooks. I was right, but I also discovered that a standout fiction book read by a charming narrator — aka “Rabbit Cake” — will hold my attention pretty dang well.

I picked stuff I wanted to read and gave myself permission to quit reading. 

I read some young adult (aka YA) fiction. I read some fluffy chick lit. I read some well-reviewed New York Times highbrow stuff. But mainly, I just read what I wanted to read, because, well … I’m the one reading it!

Why pick something highfalutin that I hate? Just so I can tell people I read it? Lame. And, again, unnecessary (see: three people follow me on Goodreads).

When people asked me if I’d read anything good lately, I will shamelessly admit that I told them about the more highbrow stories first. (I recommended this to a LOT of people this year.) But I’m also not afraid to tell people that I read stuff that gets labeled as fluffy. Often, that stuff isn’t actually as fluffy as we think. But most importantly, you have to read it, so you should like it.

And if I didn’t like a book, I didn’t force myself to suffer through it. When I saw that this book was recommended for fans of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”, one of my favorite books of the last five years, I figured I’d love it. The opposite happened. I can handle unlikable characters. I can’t handle characters who make me throw down a book in disgust over and over. (But you may love it! If you don’t, just read one of Maria Semple’s books instead.)