What Should I Read When I Don’t Have Time to Read?

Sure, you believe in all the benefits of reading.  You wish you could read more.  But, your life is so full already.  Every spare minute is packed from morning till night.  There’s no way to squeeze in time to read. How can you find time? And what should you read?

The first solution feels almost magical. 

Surround yourself with great books that you want to read

Stash them near all the comfy spots in your home. Carry them with you when you leave.  All of a sudden, little cracks of time will appear.  Because you’re looking for chances to get back to the book you love, you’ll find chances.  Like magic.

But, the real trick is finding great books you love. How do you do that?

Multi-Task with Audio Books 

Consume your books while you’re doing something else: commuting, exercising, walking the dog, doing household chores, waiting in line or for appointments. 

Here’s a list of recommended titles to get you started:

Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Born a Crime by Noah Trevor

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand

The Martian by Andy Weir

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place#1) by Maryrose Wood

Focus on Effortless Reading

This mind set shift is especially helpful if you’re looking for entertainment rather than knowledge.

A genre rocketing in popularity is graphic novels. If they are new to you, start with El Deafo by Cece Bell, Zita the SpaceGirl by Ben Hatke and The Action Bible by Doug Mauss and Seregio Cariello.

Another genre of effortless reading is middle grade novels. Some are surprisingly well-written. Usually the plots are straight forward and there’s not a long list of main characters. I made a list of Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love and More Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love.

Check out Parables 

They are a great way to absorb important principles quickly and easily.  The ones listed here are quick reads.  Even though the principles are profound, the time investment is small.  Best of all the principles are wrapped in an engaging story. It doesn’t feel like a textbook at all. 

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard

Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson

Quit telling yourself you don’t have time to read 

You have 168 hours every week, just like everyone else. Busy people read.  They make it a priority, they schedule it in, they make it work. Sometimes getting up earlier to read is a good option. Sometimes it’s not.

Cut out other forms of entertainment, such as TV, movies or surfing the internet. Replacing these items with reading, even if it’s just an hour or two a week will add up over a year.  Austin Kleon’s advice is to throw your phone in the ocean. Maybe that’s a bit drastic, but curbing it’s use might help.

Read Short Books

Sometimes all the encouragement you need when you don’t have time to read is getting through a book quickly. The idea of picking up a long book doesn’t appeal because you know you don’t have time. 

But, if you can get halfway through a book in one sitting, you feel like you’ve made progress, like it’s possible to reach your reading goal.

I was a stay at home mom for 18 years.  Then I became a bookseller.   Both jobs are full of interruptions. All day. Day after day. It destroyed my ability to concentrate.  I’m regaining it, now, but, boy is it WORK.  I have to force myself to stick to the task.  Even 25 minutes is a hard go sometimes.  

Of course, if I get lost in a book, time disappears.  That’s the magic of it, right?  

Here’s a short list of some great books with a low page count to get you started:  

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

Call of the Wild by Jack London

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Consider collections of essays, poems or short stories

Not every book is a 300 page story. 

Some are broken up into little bites, easily consumed in small pockets of time here and there.  Blogger Sarah Dickenson thinks essay collections are underrated.  I agree.  Some are great food for thought that don’t work in other forms of literature.  

Collections of short stories and poems fall into this category as well. A ten or fifteen minute window of time might be all you need for a quick dose of great literature.

Read to your kids or grandkids

Reading to my kids was the best part of parenting. Now it’s the best part of grandparenting.  At each age, there are new delights to discover.

Reading works well before bedtime, before nap time, or as a reward for finishing school work. 

Always pick the best books.  As Anne Bogel says, “Life’s too short to read bad books.” It’s doubly true when you need to please a child and an adult. 

And the joy of shared reading experiences with children you love is unparalleled. 

Great chapter books are The Chronicles of Narnia, The Little House books, Cheaper by the Dozen and The Great Brain series.

There are scads of high quality picture books and board books as well. Check out Read Aloud Revival’s booklist for great suggestions.

Add Accountability and Deadlines 

Sometimes when we don’t have time to read we need someone to pick the books for us, give us a deadline and accountability. 

Enter the Book Club. Or the college class.  All of a sudden, the pressure’s on.  No procrastinating!  Get that book read. Form your opinions. Be ready to discuss it. 

Additionally, you have the advantage of help picking out your reading material. You open yourself up to books that you might not have chosen for yourself and you’re surrounded by like-minded readers.  Book people are the best people, according to Anne Bogel. 

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