Reading: Here’s How to Find the Time

If you say that reading is important to you, but you don’t have time for it, think again.

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If that priority is exercise, you make it happen. If it’s photography or quilting or your favorite TV show, you do it (even if it that means setting the DVR), you carve out time for it.

No, you can’t do everything in life. We all must make choices, even between good things.

For me, reading is part of the job description of a writer. If I don’t read, my writing will grow stale.

But I also wear the hats of a busy mom, a volunteer, and several others.

Catch-22? Not quite.

Here are a few ways I sneak in reading time, and you can too:

1) Read in snatches.

Reading isn’t like exercising, where you really need a good 30 minutes to do any good.

If I get to read for several hours, awesome. Alas, that a luxury I rarely get at this point in my life. (If I have an extended period without anything that needs doing, I’ll likely fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.)

I don’t usually have long chunks of time to read, but (wait for it . . .), I still read.

Back in my university days as an English major, I often had enormous reading loads — something tricky even for a book lover, as I also have ADHD, and I don’t read fast. (I enjoy reading slowly).

I chipped away at the mountain of assigned texts by reading at times other people might not think to. I read while walking across campus from one class to another. (If I read 3 pages here, 5 there, 10 there, and 2 here, that’s 20 pages further than I was that morning.)

I finished entire books this way.

Today my snatches look different, but they still exist. I always have a book with me (often two), something easier today than in the era before ebooks.

On the paper side, I usually have a car book for when I’m, say, waiting for kids to come out of piano lessons or when I’m the passenger. My purse book comes out in waiting rooms, in lines like at the post office or pharmacy, and so on. A few pages here and there add up to entire books read.

I also read while I eat. That’s supposed to be a big no-no, because supposedly you’ll eat more. But I usually have a set meal with portions before I sit down to read, so I think I’m okay.

That, or I blame this one on Mom. I have umpteen memories of her eating (cherries from our tree, grapes from the garden, raisins, chocolate, whatever) while reading. She always had her nose in a book.

(Note: I don’t eat at the dinner table. That’s a no-no. At dinner, the TV is off, and toys, books, and electronics are put aside. It’s family time.)

2) Read everywhere.

I also learned this from Mom, who might as well have been born with a book in her hand. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of her stirring sauce on the stove while it thickened, wooden spoon in one hand a book in the other.

She even put books (and please, no grossing out here) in the bathroom, usually ones that are hard to read in long stretches, like complex nonfiction and histories. She’d read a page here and there, and — tada! — eventually, one more book is read, even if it took awhile.

Our previous treadmill had a book holder on it, and I can’t tell you how many books I read while exercising. I got a ton of research done that way. Books don’t bounce too much as long as you don’t go much faster than 4 mph, although I got good enough at reading on the treadmill that I could read while running up to 5.5 mph.

3) Read with the family.

For over twenty years, I’ve kept lists of the books I’ve finished over the year. Ever since I had a kid old enough to be read chapter books, I’ve included novels I’ve read aloud to the kids. I used to read aloud to my husband before bed, something we picked up during the Harry Potter years.

Even during crazy busy years, even three books read to the kids, and that many again with my husband, added half a dozen books to my finished-books list. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

4) Listen to audio books.

I got an iPod somewhere around 2010, and while it had some music on it, I almost never listened to the music. I listened to podcasts and audio books. Sometimes I pop in earbuds on the treadmill or when going out for a walk. Other times I listen to books while doing household chores or while driving.

I don’t get through tons of books this way, largely because I often pick books that are exceedingly long (Hello, Wheel of Time . . .), and listening to a book always takes longer than actually reading it does (even for this slow reader).

But listening to books fills up otherwise empty time when I can’t or won’t be reading text. Audible has more audio books than ever, and now that they’re partnered with Amazon, you can often buy the book there and get the Audible version for a significant discount.

5) Ebooks, Baby!

My first Kindle, a Kindle 3, was awesome: lightweight and small enough to fit nicely into my purse. I ran two of them into the ground and resisted going to the next generations.

When my replacement Kindle 3 finally went the way of all the earth, I took to reading on my phone with the Kindle app.

Then I got a Kindle Oasis. And oh, my. Heaven! I love that thing. It’s the size of a CD case, so it can go anywhere, and has so many great features, including an interface that’s understandable for anyone. (If I can figure it out, anyone can!)

Whatever e-reader you choose, remember that they can carry hundreds if not thousands of titles at a time. The second you’re done with one, you can begin another.

Technology has improve page turns, e-ink, backlighting and more so that e-readers are easier on the eyes than ever.

Other benefits to the Kindle: No need to prop open a book, so you can read hands-free. So I can even read while blow drying my hair — something totally impossible before unless I set up an elaborate page-holding system, but then I’d have to turn off the drier, free a hand, undo the stuff holding the book down, turn a page, and set it back up.

With an e-reader, I can read pretty much anywhere: while chopping vegetables, emptying the dishwasher, walking down the hall at night to check on the kids. (Easy especially with my handy Kindle cover with a built-in night light.)

Most ebooks are cheaper than their print counterparts, and dozens of e-newsletters are out there to alert readers on ebooks deals for free or very little.

(Just be careful with those; it’s easy to think, “Hey, it’s only $1.99!” and inadvertently fill up your e-reader with more books than you can read in a lifetime.)

6) The ebook library

Worried about money? That’s still no excuse. If you have a library card and a mobile device, you can still read anywhere, any time.

Download the free Overdrive app, find your library, and plug in the barcode of your library card.

Then go search for books to check out. They’ll download to your device and delete themselves when the checkout expires. You can even put holds on books.


7) Track books read and to read.

There’s something motivating about a checklist. A computer file can serve as both a have read and a to read list. Books I plan to read or am currently reading are all there, but in parentheses. As soon as I’ve finished a book, it moves to the bottom of the have read section and loses the parentheses.

I also make a note if it’s a reread, or read with the kids. Throughout the year, I keep a running tally, such as “32 books read as of 5/27.” Seeing that number go up is a definite motivator.

8) Make it a party.

Several times a year, I throw a “reading party.” My kids love them and don’t realize they’re a sneaky way for Mom to make them do something good for them. I read aloud from our current novel, maybe a bit from a library book or two for the youngest, and then we have silent reading time. Oh, and the treats in the center of the circle don’t hurt.

(For a full explanation of our reading parties, see THIS STORY.)

We live in a world where it’s increasingly important to have good literacy skills. As far as I’m concerned, writers aren’t the only ones who should be reading. Everyone should be reading, whether it’s novels, nonfiction, or news.

Read and read regularly, even if you if it’s not dozens of books a year.


My grandmother-in-law died at 92. She was sharp as a tack until her last day, and she read almost as long. She stopped reading literally a couple of days before her death, and only because of weakness.

I remember her holding a magnifying glass close to her face so she could read the newspaper or a novel. She read every day, and I’m convinced that her clear mind and memory are a direct result of the fact that she never, ever stopped feeding her brain.

Children who see their parents read are far more likely to be readers, and literacy is a huge indicator as to who will become successful as an adult — including health, living above the poverty line, and more.

As far as I’m concerned, not enjoying reading is like not enjoying chocolate: you’re really missing out on a great joy of life.

And unless you have no moments of waiting, chores, driving, riding, or other unused minutes in your life, you have no excuse.

Written by

USA Today bestselling & award-winning author of women’s fiction & romance. Word nerd. Chocoholic. Mom.

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