While I have always been an avid reader, I always read one book at a time, and I finished every single one. Even when I was struggling with either the content or the tone, or hating the characters or the writing, I held on. I wanted to be able to identify what I liked and also what I didn’t like, and I felt an obligation to the author (a little co-dependent, I know!) to see their work through. I also think I was hoping that there would be a twist or a “magic moment” where it would come together for me. As you can probably imagine, it rarely happened like that. It was only when I let this simple axiom go, that I was able to read at a pace that was remarkable, even to me. Now I will “drop it like it’s hot” if anything isn’t working for me. I’m ruthless. There is too much out there to focus my time on.
Building my library
While I read quickly, I wanted to be able to take in more content, and especially using the downtime in my day more efficiently. The first step for me was the purchase of an eReader about 5 years ago. I chose a Nook, from Barnes & Noble, when I read that it had apps that would integrate with the public library system. I come from a family of public library readers. Some of my best early memories in childhood was being driven to the biggest and most modern library in our county and spending the afternoon in the stacks, marveling at all the stories we could take home. I have never lost that feeling of profound gratitude for the library system.
Before owning an eReader, I would frequent the semi-annual Friends of the Library sale that my town held and build my To Be Read pile for the year. An old store was rented and converted into a massive book sale, and it was practically a holiday for me. I would take the day off, get there early with my rolling cart and cash money in hand, lining up with the elderly, just chomping at the bit for the doors to be opened by the lovely volunteers. I had a system which included a list of books I was searching for, and a method of navigating the endless tables of books laid out haphazardly. (Hint- start in the furthest table back where the hardcovers start and move toward the door, quickly scanning and pulling, then do a second perusal for items that may not even be on your list.)
After owning the nook, I fell in love with the ability to have multiple books at my fingertips- a traveling library, as it were. Then I fell quickly down the technology rabbit hole. An upgraded iPhone, a Kindle paired with the Overdrive site and mobile app meant that I could truly borrow and download library books from my local libraries, something that I wasn’t able to configure well on the nook version I had. And I didn’t have to carry a big or heavy book with me all the time. Suddenly, I had amassed a strong library of both digital and physical books, just waiting for me to pick them up.
The evolutionary leap in my reading
So at this point I had a lot of tools, and access to many books, but my reading philosophy hadn’t changed. The real shift happened when I was listening to a podcast and the host was extolling the virtues and benefits of listening to audiobooks as supplemental to reading books. While this wasn’t a novel idea, something he mentioned clicked with me. He talked about how he was always wary of mixing up the stories, but realized one day that he followed many TV series and never confused them, so why did he think he would confuse books if he read more than one at a time? (!!!) Eureka!
So I started to adapt by adding an audiobook to the rotation, with a novel. At first I chose non-fiction audiobooks, in an effort to have a true differentiation between the books I read and books I listened to. But I found that they required a larger amount of attention than I was always able to give. Whereas a longer novel was something I could really enjoy, as long as there weren’t a large number of characters that were hard to differentiate in the narration.
Success with that experiment led me to push the boundaries a bit more- I decided to have a digital book going, an audiobook going AND a physical book. And this is where I have had the biggest breakthrough. I am now able to use little gaps in my schedule to A.B.R.- Always Be Reading! Stuck in the waiting room at the doctor’s office- pop in the earbuds for the audiobook or open an app on my phone. Standing in line at the bank- open the Kindle app and jump back in where you left off. No one to lunch with at work- not a problem anymore since I always have access to a good story. And I love using the Goodreads feature of tracking your progress on what you are currently reading. Because I have the Goodreads app on my phone, when I do shop for physical books, I have my TBR pile at my fingertips at all times.
And the stats show just how successful this method has proven to be. Another interesting aspect of this experiment is that I have less patience for books that I am not connecting with anymore. I am not afraid to move it to the Did Not Finish shelf on Goodreads and move on. Time is too precious to waste, and there are too many good books out there.
So tell me- have you changed your approach to reading and had success? Or how do you like to read? Any interesting failures in your reading plans? Let me know your thoughts below in the comments.