Not to get all “speaking as a mother” on you, but making time to read as working parent is really bloody tough. When I’m not child-rearing, or at the office, I barely have enough energy to do anything other than stare blankly into the void.
However, it is super important that I have something that I can call “my own”; an activity I choose to do, to please no one other than myself. So I’ve really made a point to make the time to read at least a little every day. And for the most part I’ve succeeded, but I’ve also learned to not beat myself up if I don’t read, or if I just don’t feel like it.
So here are the things that have helped me have another successful years of juggling parenting, wife-ing, working, and reading.
One of the major changes I have made since becoming a parent is lack of patience for awful books. I used to feel a weird sense of duty to finish a book, and I often found myself getting really angry when I hated what I was reading. So I learned to let go. My time is valuable, and incredibly limited, and no one is going to strike me down if I leave a novel unfinished, and move on to the next one.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dropping thousands of dollars on books that are left unread, which brings me to my next point.
Strangely, libraries are one of best-kept secrets for readers. They let you read books for free! Can you imagine?! And with fantastic apps like Libby, and Hoopla, you don’t even need to step foot inside a library to get a book anymore.
I’m very fortunate to live in California, and have access to an incredibly well-funded library system. So while I’ve been able to easily access pretty much any book I want, I’ve also been able to try things and not feel guilty when I don’t enjoy them. I still take physical books out, and currently saved around $50 by borrowing two HUGE new graphics novels (Clyde Fans by Seth, and Rusty Brown by Chris Ware, since you asked).
As my husband will confirm, I have absolutely not stopped buying books. I also very rarely spend more than $10 on a book. Thanks to sites such as ThriftBooks, Book Outlet, and Chirp Audiobooks, I can easily find used, new, and cheap physical books, and audiobooks.
I also have a little trick I use on Amazon to find cheap Kindle books. I put every book that I would like to purchase on my wishlist. Then, every day, I sort my wishlist with the cheapest first, and see if any of the books I want are on their Daily Deals. In the past few weeks, I’ve managed to get ’10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World’ by Elif Shafak, ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ by Ursula K. Le Guin, and ‘All This Could Be Yours’ by Jami Attenberg, for no more than $3 each. Woohoo!
There are so many book subscription boxes out there, it’s difficult to gauge the quality. I used to subscribe to the now-defunct Page Habit, which was really good until it wasn’t.
Now, the only physical box I subscribe to is the wonderful Indispensable from Powell’s Books. To my shame, I rarely buy books from physical bookstores anymore, so this is my attempt to balance this.
These boxes are great. You get one new beautiful hardcover edition of a novel from an independent publisher, as well as other goodies (and usually either an ARC, or another book from the featured author). I got John Boyne’s ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ in one box, which ended up being one of the favorite books of the year.
I also subscribe to TBR, from the incomparable BookRiot. This is really special. I answered a series of questions, and shared my Goodreads information, and each quarter a wonderful BookRioter gives me a list of three personal recommendations of books they think I will love. I absolutely adore it. The personal touch is just magical.
In April 2018, for whatever reason, I decided that I would read a short story every day. And here we are, closing out 2019, and I’m still doing it. I’ve read over 500 stories, and there are some that really stuck with me. Every day it feels like a little mini-accomplishment, when I put details on my spreadsheet. I’m a great believer that creating a captivating short story is incredibly artful, and bloody difficult to do.
And for the last two Decembers, I’ve had the pleasure of having the month “curated” for me, with Hingston and Olsen’s Short Story Advent Calendar. It’s beautiful, and I highly recommend it for the readers in your life next festive season.
How do you keep your TBR pile down to a reasonable level? Share your tips to keep those pages turning.