How I Read 50 Books Last Year
This past year I reached my goal of reading fifty books. And I don’t think I ever burned supper because of it. “Why are you trying to read books?” a friend asked me. Perhaps we can all hear our mothers reprimanding us when we were young for curling up with a book when we should have been dusting the bookshelves. It was a good question, and the answer is not that I read only for entertainment or to escape my world.
I read because it refreshes me, energizes me, fills me, and helps me to grow. And that, as a mom of three, a school teacher’s wife, and missionary, is a good thing. A very good thing.
Reading also increases empathy, expands my vocabulary, and helps me to become a better writer, mother, wife, and Christian. I can learn more through books, and I can travel to places where I will never physically go.
Let me be clear. Not just any book can fill this demanding job. A diet of predictable romantic fluff won’t do much for my quality of life, but Gospel-centered Christian books, stretching nonfiction, and quality fiction can help to make me into a well rounded person.
I went through a season where I didn’t read more than a handful of books a year, and then I fell in love with reading all over again. My to-be-read list has more books than I will be able to read in several years. With all the books out there, how do I get a good idea which ones are worth reading?
How do I find good book recommendations?
When I hear a friend talking about a book they loved, or read about a book in an article, I add it to my To Be Read list. I make notes of books quoted in other books I’m enjoying, and jot down titles from articles.
I also listen to two book podcasts, “What Shall I Read Next?” and “Read Aloud Revival.” When I finish one book, I already have a good idea what I’ll be reading next since I have a list made. When I write down a book and its author, I’m far more likely to notice other books by the same author. Learning to know authors is a large part of being able to find good books.
Make use of good-quality books lists. Honey for a Child’s Heart is a wonderful resource for finding character-building children’s book. There is also a version for teens and women. Some of my favorite online book lists for children are from Deep Roots at Home and Read Aloud Revival. Young Wife's Guide has a good list for women. There are a gazillion more lists online. Just be aware that reading standards and tastes vary, and as with all things, we need to be discerning if the books are right for us.
Where do I find my books?
The public library is a great place. I don’t recommend walking in and just starting to browse the shelves if you are a new reader. You’ll get discouraged quickly. Instead, take one of those book recommendations and ask the librarian if they have it. You can also call your order in or order on the library’s web site and have your books ready to pick up when you walk in the door. If they don’t have the book you want, they can sometimes get it from another library.
I use our public library’s e-library all the time. Using the Overdrive app on my phone, I can download eBooks and audio books no matter where I am in the world by using my library card number and a pin number.
Amazon is a great place to find used books for cheap, as well as other sites such as AbeBooks or thriftbooks.com. Amazon also has many eBooks, although they’re not much cheaper than print books. Amazon has daily Kindle deals, and if you know what titles you’re looking for, you can occasionally find the book you’re looking for for $1.99 or less. You do not need a Kindle to read these books, but only the free Kindle app downloaded on your phone. Rather than looking through all the Kindle deals myself, I subscribe to a daily email from Modern Mrs. Darcy that alert me to potentially good deals.
And of course, borrowing from a friend or swapping out favorites is a great way to get books. And don’t forget yard sales and thrift stores for book bargains.
Christian Audio gives away a free high-quality audio book every month, and I’ve found some gems through that. Also Audible, Amazon’s audio book branch, has an audio book on sale everyday which will sometime be one I’m interested in. However, I rarely buy audio books since I don’t often listen to them more than once and they’re harder to copy quotes from or reference later.
Whispersync is something I’ve just started to use. When you buy an eBook from Amazon, there is the option to add Whispersync, which is the audio version. You can read the book or listen to it, and Whispersync keeps your place in both formats. Occasionally when an eBook I want is free or only a few cents, I can buy it and add Whispersync for less than five dollars. I am starting to build a collection of children’s audio books this way. For example, last week The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter was free, so I “purchased” that and added Whispersync for $.79. Now I have a high quality audio book that my children will probably listen to many times!
Librivox.com is a site where you can find many audio books that are in public domain and download free. Unlike Audible, the readers are volunteers and some of them do not read well. I like to get recommendations from someone else before browsing Librivox because the reader can make or break the book.
When do I find time to read?
I am a busy wife and mother, and two-hour chunks of time to read will not happen in this house. Most of my reading is done in couple-minute chunks, which certainly add up over time. When I sit down to nurse my baby, I usually read a few pages. Before I go to bed, I read a few more. My favorite time to read is on Saturday morning. I often wake up around my normal rising hour of 5:30 or 6:00, but rather than rolling over and catching a few more winks, I savor those moments with a book for an hour or two. This is usually one of the largest uninterrupted chunks of time I can find in my week.
I also listen to audio books while I’m doing laundry or washing dishes if my children are sleeping or playing outside. I love multitasking, and audio books can add quite a number to your reading list.
How do I keep track of what I read?
I use OneNote to record the books I read, starting a new page each year. I record if the book is fiction or nonfiction, my impression of the book, and a brief plot summary. I also record if there was anything objectionable so I can remember that before recommending to someone else.
Here are a few life-changing books to get you started
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. A Lesbian feminist comes face-to-face with Christian love when a pastor and his wife invite her into their home, serve her a vegan meal, and accept her exactly how she is without compromising their position.
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. The fictional account of a businessman who travels to China and discovers the trials and triumphs of the underground church.
The Other Side of the Wall by Gary Miller. Americans are privileged just because of where we’re born. But what is like for those who are not and how do we relate to their needs?
No Graven Image by Elisabeth Elliot. The fictional account of a single lady who travels to Ecuador as a missionary to the Indians. Beautifully written and full of truth.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. An amazing tale of a WWII veteran who drifted at sea for days before being captured and held as a prisoner of war.
Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski. What is it really like to be homeless in America? You’ll never look at someone sleeping on a park bench the same again.
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis. The inspirational story of a girl who moved to Uganda and gave herself in every way to help her friends and neighbors there.
What are some of your favorite books?
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