10 easy minimalist tips to read more books
Reaping the rewards of a minimalistic life
Minimalist and intentional living are lifestyles that declutter our homes, schedules, tasks, and therefore our minds. As a result, we spend time, money, and energy in a way that is meaningful for us. Freeing up more time so you can read more is indeed one of the benefits of minimalism. How can we apply the principles of minimalism to reading? Minimalism teaches us to be intentional about how we live. Accordingly, we could also try to be more intentional about the books we read. And this way we ensure that every minute I spend reading is time well spent
“So many books, so little time!” – the eternal anxiety of a booklover
How many times have we said this in jest? But think again, is this not true for all book lovers?
If you are like me and have over 1000 books on your GoodReads ‘want to read’ list, then the limitation of time is indeed real and daunting. Even if you read at an above-average pace of 50 books a year, then it will take you 20 years to read all that you have on the list. That calculation assumes you don’t add a single new book to that list! There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. That undoubtedly means you will be adding to your list as new books hit the market.
How a minimalist can read more – 10 tips
Applying the principles of minimalism, here are 10 ways to build a better reading routine. Regardless of how much you currently read, there is always room for improvement. And for those who wear many hats and manage their time meticulously, there will be some tips for increased effectiveness here for you too.
1. A comprehensive ‘to read’ list
Whereas it may seem counter-intuitive, I would suggest you go through your reading list and ensure that all books that you wish to read are on there. Yes, for this step, I am asking you to think like a maximalist. I am asking you to expand the number of books you wish to read at this point so that each book of interest is considered. Gather all book recommendations that you may have in different places. Perhaps you have them in your notebook, on your phone, or in a text message. Bring them all to the list. Ensuring that you have the complete pool of books you like is an important first step and will help you prioritize. GoodReads has been a constant companion for me as I read. I quickly add a book recommendation to my ‘want to read’ list using the GoodReads App on my phone. I also maintain a shortlist of my top books to read in my bullet journal.
As in all areas of life, when you look to declutter, things look worse before they get better. In this step, your books to read list will get significantly larger but that is ok as we can pare it down in the coming steps.
2. A great way to read what you love – think in genres first and then books
Once you have a comprehensive pool of books in front of you, it will help to think in genres first and book titles next. It may be, that for you, fiction is the way to go. Or if you are someone like me, you might want a good mix of fiction and nonfiction in your reading list. Under each category create subcategories that are meaningful to you. For example, when I think of non-fiction, I think of business books, personal development books, technical books, etc. Similarly, for fiction, I look at historical fiction, classics, memoirs, and some currently popular titles as well.
To help widen your horizons, try to include a genre that you don’t usually read. For me, some such genres are comedy, horror, or science fiction. If spiritual and/or religious reading is important to you, make sure to include it as a category for your reading list. Once you have the genres that are important to you listed out, it will become easier to pick the right books for your 2022 reading list.
3. It’s your reading list – set a theme that makes you happy
Another way to think about your reading list is to set a theme for the year. If you have several genres that you enjoy reading, consider setting a theme for the year. For instance, I love to read and reread classics by Jane Austen. So I made 2021 my year of Jane Austen. I have read each of her seven novels several times but reading them all in the same year gave me a different and perhaps deeper perspective. So if personal finance, management literature, or health and wellness is top of your mind, consider making that the theme for the next year.
Remember setting a theme does not mean you read exclusively from that theme. It just means that a good portion of your reading list will represent that theme. I think a deeper appreciation of a body of knowledge develops when you read several books on the same topic. The varied perspectives can deepen your knowledge significantly more than reading just one book on that topic.
4. Set a reading target for the year
Now is the time to set a good target in terms of the number of books you plan to read in the coming year. Remember, not all books are created equal. Some may be significantly longer than others. Alternatively, the topic of some will want you to slow down and stop to think every few pages. All of this is part of the journey. Make sure you plan for it so you can savor every moment on this journey. A good overall target expressed in a number of books will give you a good starting point.
There are no right or wrong answers in this area and the number of books you pick should depend upon your lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how little the time available is, with some thought and planning you can make it most meaningful and impactful for you. There are famous people that read more than 50 books a year that roughly translates to a book a week and others who read a lot more or less than that.
Instead of picking a fixed number of books, I recommend a high-low approach. This will give you the flexibility to slow down and savor a book that seems particularly insightful or read more books in case you breezed through that page-turner. So you could say that in 2022, I will read 12-15 books or 20-25 books. That way, hitting any number in that range will give you a feeling of having met your target.
5. How to build an effective reading habit
Whether you are looking to be a more consistent reader or if you are just starting out building a reading habit, evaluating your schedule and picking a time each day that you can devote to reading will go a long way. Remember consistency is the key. Even if it is just 30 minutes a day that you can devote to reading but you do it at the same time and the same place every day, the chances of you being able to stick with this habit are that much higher. And furthermore, the benefit that you will derive from these 30 minutes will compound with time.
Building a new habit takes time and patience. It becomes easier when you apply proven habit-building techniques. In Atomic Habits, James Clear reiterates the idea of habit stacking. Stacking habits means attaching a new desired habit to an existing established habit. For example, you are in the habit of brushing your teeth each night. If you want to incorporate oil pulling into your routine, do it right after you brush your teeth each night. This way you are attaching the new habit to the already established anchor. Check out this blog post comparing two epic books on how to develop new habits.
Additionally, consider other techniques such as Block Planning. Simply put, block planning means using blocks of time to schedule your day to perform similar tasks during the day. Doing like tasks at the same time saves time and is incredibly efficient. Plus if you consistently perform designated tasks at designated times, they become an automatic part of your life, just like muscle memory.
6. Build your minimalist reading list
The purpose of building a reading list for the year ahead of time is immense. This way your reading is more proactive than reactive – that is how we imbibe minimalism in our approach. Browsing a book store and picking up a book with the most appealing cover or a catchy title, will quickly distract you from your stated goals. If you do your research ahead of time, you know what areas to focus on. This way every book you read has been intentionally picked by you and therefore it is the best investment of your reading time.
I would caution against copying an existing booklist no matter how good your source is. Remember your booklist should be unique and reflect your choices and values. Honoring these choices and values in your daily life will let you live more intentionally. Plus if the books in your reading plan are books you are personally drawn to, the chances of you enjoying those books and sticking with your plan are that much higher.
At this step, bring all those lessons on minimalism to work for you as you put together your reading list for the next year.
Quality trumps quantity, always. So make sure each book on your list counts. Check out my detailed blog post on how I built my 2022 reading list.
7. Stack those shelves and be open to different ways to read more books
Having the books you want to read easily accessible is paramount to your success. This way, when you are ready to read that book, the book is ready for you too.
There is no denying the pleasures of reading a physical book. Holding it in your hands, making notes in the margins, reading the notes of other people, being able to touch and feel each word you read is an incredibly rich and rewarding experience. For books with a repeat value, such as technical books, classics, or other books, you could consider investing the money and shelf space to buy a physical copy. If you know you are going to buy only a select few books, you can splurge in hardcover or even special edition books, if you can afford it.
For books that you are unlikely to pick up again, I would suggest you take advantage of the fantastic public or school libraries available to you. Those who grew up outside the United States will tell you how valuable this resource is. Not every country can offer this to its citizens so make the most of it.
An e-reader further enhances your access to books by making them instantaneously downloadable. Again you don’t have to buy all the e-books either. You can download them to your e-reader by using the Libby app (thanks to the United States Public Libraries).
Finally, audiobooks, also available for free download from Libby, allow you to continue to engage with your books as you drive to work, cook, clean, or work out as you are no longer chained to a chair. It takes some training but once you are able to enjoy audiobooks, the time you can spend on books increases manifold.
8. Choose the best format for each theme/book on your list
Depending on the type of books, pick the format that will work the best for you.
I find Fiction particularly amenable to audiobooks. Modern audiobooks are productions designed to engage and enhance the listener’s experience even more than reading it on your own. For example, when I read The Rosie Project, the accent of the reader tremendously added to the Australian backdrop of the story. With Amazon’s Kindle, you can actually move between the audiobook and the e-reader experience seamlessly which is a pretty awesome feature.
For the quick reads, an e-reader is a great solution. For those timeless classics that you will revisit frequently, a physical book is a great investment.
9. Read more by joining a nurturing reading community
A book club is a gold standard for building a reading community. However, it may be that your lifestyle does not permit that kind of a commitment. There are many ways to build that community. For instance, there are virtual book clubs that you can be a part of.
Regardless of how you do it, partnering with someone is one of the best ways to stay on track. GoodReads is a great way to build a virtual community and communicate with fellow book lovers. You can also have a personal reading buddy who can be a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, with whom you talk about the books you read and have some accountability.
10. Sharing is caring – show you care by writing down your impressions
To me, the most profound way to memorialize my experience with a book is to write down my impressions of the book. In the writing process, a tremendous clarity about the concepts discussed in a book emerges. You can do this in many ways, either by writing a review of the book on various platforms – again GoodReads is my favorite but by no means the only option available. You could also go all out and start a book blog where you summarize your impressions about every book you read. Even if it is a small paragraph in your journal, writing down your takeaway from a book is a huge step in internalizing the learnings.
So many of us love books but don’t know how to incorporate them into our everyday lives. I hope some of these techniques help you get there. The joys of reading and living a full life are one of the many benefits of minimalism. If you have embarked on the long journey of being a minimalist, don’t stop now. Feel free to savor the many rewards of being a minimalist, by doing what you love with your time.