I Read 77 Books Last Year — Here’s How You Can Read More, Too

by Erika W. Smith

The BUST office was pretty impressed when I shared my final Goodreads book count for 2017 — 77 books — and asked me to share some of my best bookworm tips. I read one or two books per week, and I’ve done so since I was a little kid — I credit growing up in a rural/suburban area with limited computer and TV access and not much else to do but read. I’ve been a fast reader for as long as I can remember — I can read 100 pages in an hour — but you don’t have to be a fast reader to commit to reading more often and enjoying reading more, whether that means you read 5 books in 2018 or 150. I hope these tips will help you enjoy reading a little more in the year to come.


1. Find time to read.

The number one place I read is on the subway. Instead of planning reading time into my schedule, I read during brief periods of downtime throughout my day. I knock out a chapter my commute to and from work, I read a few pages when I’m waiting for water to boil while cooking dinner or making tea, and sometimes I even read while I’m blow-drying my hair. If I need a break while working, I’ll try to spend ten minutes reading instead of scrolling through Twitter. Recently, I’ve been trying to turn off my phone and laptop and read for at least fifteen or twenty minutes before going to bed. Taking some time to unplug from the constant Trump tweets and political discourse makes it easier to fall asleep — who’d have thought? (Answer: Literally everyone.)

If you’re curious about just how much time you’ll need to read a book on your list, check out the site How Long to Read, which will give you an approximation, based on your own reading speed, of how long it will take to read any book.

2. Set a reading goal.

I’ve been using Goodreads regularly for the past few years, and I love their Reading Challenge feature. (I promise this isn’t sponsored by Goodreads — although hey, get at me, Goodreads.) Here’s how it works: At the beginning of every year, you set reading goal. Throughout the year, you can check to see if you’re on track, ahead, or behind of meeting that goal, and at the end of the year, you see how you did. (You can adjust your goal at any point if you want to.) For me, the simple act of setting a reading goal helped me surpass it. In 2016, I set a goal of reading 52 books — one a week — and actually read 80. In 2017, I set a goal of reading 75 books and came in at 77. In 2018, my goal is to read 80 books. Don’t feel like you have to start at such a large number — think about how much you read now, and pick a goal that’s a little more frequent than that (A book a month? A book every two months?). Feel free to use a notebook, Excel sheet, bullet journal, etc. instead of Goodreads, if you’d prefer.


3. Keep costs down.

I do not make enough money to buy 77 new books every year — and even if I did, I wouldn’t have the space to keep that many books in my apartment! I do buy new books, but rarely — usually only when it’s a new release that I want to read IMMEDIATELY, or if it’s a reread of a book I love but don’t own yet. The number one way to read for free is, obviously, the library — and thanks to holds and interlibrary loan systems, no matter where you live, you can access pretty much every book you could ever want to read. Other ways to read for cheap include buying used books (both in brick and mortar bookstores and and online), borrowing books from friends, and frequenting stoop or yard sales.

4. Keep track of books you’ve read and books you want to read.

When I was a kid, I kept track of every book I read in a notebook — today, Goodreads does that for me (though you can still use a notebook — or Excel spreadsheet, or a bullet journal, or anything else — if you want). Being able to go back through what I’ve read and remember what I liked and didn’t like helps me decide what to read next — as does my “Want to Read” list on Goodreads.

5. It doesn’t matter how you read — just that you read.

E-readers and audiobooks count as reading. Romance novels and sci-fi novels and comic books and YA novels count as reading. Rereading the entire Harry Potter series counts as reading. Read what and how you want, and ignore the snobs.


6. But at the same time, think critically about who you’re reading.

If you went to public school in the US like me, most — if not all — of the books you read in class were by straight white men. That should not be true of the books you read now. Read books by women, read books by people of color, read books by people from the LGBTQ community, read books by immigrants, read books in translation. Free yourself from the idea that you should read a book just because it’s a “classic,” and prioritize reading books by people from marginalized communities whose voices are often overlooked. In other words: Fuck the canon. And I will never read Infinite Jest.

7. And finally, some book recommendations.

Here are my three favorite books that I’ve read so far in 2018: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, and Her Body And Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. Add me on Goodreads if you want to see more, and check out BUST’s books section, too — here’s our list of the best books of 2017 to get you started.


top photo: Gilmore Girls

More from BUST

BUST’s Top 25 Books Of 2017 (Spoiler, They’re All By Women)

11 Books By Women To Read In January 2018

3 New Books By Trans Writers To Read Right Now

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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