Here are the five steps to help you read more:
- Make a list
- Schedule time to read
- Shorten it by reading books or taking off pointless/boring books.
- Don’t read too many things at once.
- Leisure reading is no substitute for religious reading if you’re religious.
Overly Personal Introduction
Many of us have too many books to read. I know I do. There are good reasons for this:
- You need to keep up with your field of study.
- You are really ambitious to know more about the world.
- You genuinely want to decrease your television/non-print/social media consumption.
- You want to add specific skills to your repertoire.
There are also bad reasons for this:
- You have spread yourself too thin and will not give up on interests that add nothing to your vocation.
- You want to impress people whether or not the book is a worthwhile read.
- You have no realistic concept of yourself or your capabilities.
Anyway, I always have a humongous list to books to read. This reasons for this vary:
- I’m a math teacher. So, I try to read books about mathematical philosophy, symbolic logic, motivational psychology, memory, and pedagogy.
- I’m a research and rhetoric teacher. Thus, I try to read books about rhetoric, logic, epistemology, inference, and critical thinking.
- I’m a college student. This means that I try to read books about physics, statistics, and computer programming.
- I’m a Bible teacher, chaplain, and a seminary graduate. For this reason, I try to read books about ancient history, ancient culture, Greek linguistics, theology, philosophy, and Old Testament theology.
- I’m also a nerd. So I read science fiction and have interests solely for fun like warfare, strategy, and tactics, philosophy of mind, and scientific perspectives on fitness.
For the reasons listed above, at any given time my book list (really my to read list, because it includes articles and book chapters) is absurd. It really is. It is not laudable, it is simply silly. In fact, if you talk to people who know me behind my back, they would probably tell you that I read too much, talk too much, and do too little.
Anyhow, here is my strategy to get my reading done:
- Make a list
I make a list and divide into topics. This helps me tremendously. You might even find it helpful to prioritize books by putting numbers next to them in terms of urgency or personal importance. There is a difference between urgency and importance. A self-help book might change your life. But a chapter in your math text book might help you pass a test tomorrow.
- Schedule Time to Read
If you do not plan to read and you are not already a reader, then you will not read. If you want reading to become your default pastime, then you must force yourself to do it until it is as natural to read when you have down time as it is to eat when you’re hungry.
- Cross things off the list
When you finish a book, cross it off the list and write a few comments about it: what you learned, whether you would recommend it to others, what could have been better, etc.
Another reason to cross things off is because you decided not to read them or finish them. If you skim a book and realize it would not enrich your life (it is not important) and it has no data that you need to know that is otherwise inaccessible (it is not urgent), then put it down and cross it off the list with a note: not worth reading.
- Never read more than two things at once
There are obvious exceptions to this such as doing research or having text books to read aside from leisure reading. But exceptions aside, I recommend having a non-fiction book and a fiction book or two non-fiction books. The fiction book could be used to replace television and the non-fiction is something you read in a very intentional way. You might set aside time for a non-fiction book the way you set aside time for golf, going to a movie, or a doctor’s appointment.
Example: If I’m reading The Everlasting Man by Chesterton and The Hobbit by Tolkien I would read the Hobbit when I have time to burn, but I would read Chesteron and his long ponderous sentences during moments when I commit to sit down and finish a whole chapter.This principle also can apply with articles and chapters for research or lesson prep. If you have time to burn, use the fiction book as a carrot: I will read and briefly summarize this journal article/book chapter before I commit to reading my fiction book.
In my own world of reading I actually make my books for lesson prep and college into prerequisites for even reading non-fiction that is personally interesting.
- Religious Reading is Separate (but not really)
Religious reading, like reading Scripture daily or studying it in depth every Sunday morning prior to church is something that can be leisurely. Still, Scripture reading, does not necessarily fit the paradigm of leisure reading. If you are a Christian I still recommend scheduled time for reading Scripture that cannot be infringed upon by other reading delights or duties. Of course, such reading must be performed in proportion to other duties.
Those five steps have already been very helpful for me this year.
Here are some aphorisms that may help you to read more fully:
- If you feel like scrolling on the internet, read instead.
- If reading feels like a chore, read anyway.
- Some land really just has gold on the surface and skimming can be better than reading.
- A steak and some salad is much healthier than fifty pieces of candy.
- Don’t talk about reading until you’ve read.
- Don’t whine about the books you want to read until you’ve read the books you have.
- This one isn’t mine, “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. (Proverbs 20:13)
- Neither is this, “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.(Proverbs 12:27)”*
*The lazy will not read the books they own, but the diligent will reap the wealth of knowledge and experience available to them.