Oh, hey there… Still here. Still being the worst blogger.
You already know what I’ve not been doing lately (writing); but, I *have* been doing a good bit of reading….
In 2016, I read 21 books (you can see reviews of most of them here). I realize that’s not a ton to many people, but I was pretty happy with that number – it’s definitely up from some years. My goal for 2017 is 30 (+ one per month #youdothemath with Sam). It’s decently lofty, but I’m already off and runnings, so we’ll see…
Soon, I’ll share three books I’ve already knocked off my “To Read” list & a few other titles that I’m particularly excited about this year. But first, I thought we’d chat about some of my reading habits – you know, the what/where/when/hows. I’m kind-of a nerd about it all and have quite the “system” for choosing, keeping track of, and finding the best deals on books. You probably have your own methods (or not? just me?), but maybe you’ll get some ideas from all my madness….
*Scroll to the bottom of this post for a link to the awesome “Readers Gonna Read” tee I’m wearing above. I’ve loved it for forever, and blogged about it many times, but I’ve got a great deal on it for YOU today!
So, here we go…
On Choosing Books:
I’ve always been a fan of reading new/popular titles. In middle school, my librarian literally set books aside for me when they first came in, and as I got older I always went straight for the “New and Noteworthy” table at Barnes and Noble. These days, in addition to good ole word of mouth from friends and the occasional skim of the Bestseller tab on Amazon/Kindle, I’m pretty reliant on the internet to tell me what “everyone” is reading, and I love to follow the trends. #noshame My favorite blog and podcast sources for book recommendations are: Modern Mrs. Darcy (and her podcast What Should I Read Next?) first and foremost, The Sorta Awesome Show – I particularly like Laura Tremaine’s recommendations, and often get ideas from her monthly “Secret Post”/newsletter, Mom Advice Blog, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, and The Popcast. There’s more of course (bloggers LOVE to talk about books), but these are my go-tos.
When it comes to choosing books for my kids and/or to read with Sam, I love the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast (we’ve been working our way through this list of first novels) and get lots of great ideas from Cool Mom Picks.
On Keeping Track of Books:
In any given week, I might run across as many as five book titles that sound interesting to me. Honestly, all the choices can get overwhelming, and I definitely don’t trust myself to remember everything; so I started a master “To Read” list on Google Keep about a year ago. Usually when I first hear about a book, I do a quick Amazon or Google search to confirm that it’s something I’d like, then, if it is, I add it to my list. *I know there are much fancier notebooks and methods for keeping track of stuff like this (Goodreads, for example), but I’ve tried lots of them and this just works best for me. I love the simplicity of a basic list and having it right on my phone or laptop (Google Keep updates on both, which is awesome).
The list itself is organized into a few different categories (simply separated by a blank line): At the top of the list, I put the books I’m currently reading or want to read immediately, then I have a list of nonfiction titles (usually labeled with NF), and a list of fiction titles (F). I don’t usually put the author’s name (too much to type) unless its necessary for some reason. If a book hasn’t come out yet, I will usually add the release date too.
This will make more sense once you read the next little section on how I get my books, but I also label each title once I “purchase” or “reserve” it so I know where to find it when I’m ready to read. For example, if I reserve a book at the library, I mark it as so. If I find it on sale for Kindle and buy it for later, I label that too. Honestly, without this little system, I guarantee I would buy the same book multiple times. It’s all very sophisticated and necessary.
When I’m done reading something, I cross it off my electronic list and mark it with the date it was finished. I love having a record of what I’ve already read, and keeping the running list of what I want to read helps me never get caught without a book and get the best deals on the ones I decide to buy (coming up).
Side note: I fully realize I will NEVER get to every book on my list. There are more than 30 titles on there now, and I always add faster than I can read. It’s not like it’s a “challenge,” just a way to keep track. Sometimes I will delete a book from the list (different from crossing it off which indicates I read/finished it) if it’s been on there for a while, and I never read it/ stopped thinking about it.
On Buying/Getting Books:
Ok, this is where things get complicated. Haha. Basically, there are five(ish) ways I get books… I’ll explain each of them briefly, but you should probably know first that close to 50% of my “reading” is done through audiobooks these days (it counts – look it up), and I read about 90% of the books I actually “read” on my Kindle… I was an early Kindle adopter and – though I do still love the feeling of a book in my hands – I love the portability of a Kindle (I can take 10 books on vacation without taking up any space in my suitcase), the fact that I can read with one hand and without a light on (KEY during the baby/nursing stages of my life), and that I can buy a book with just a click no matter where I am, what time it is, etc. I’ve been reading in this format for about six years now, and I don’t expect that will change.
Of course, buying books can get super expensive, so – though that’s a priority to Jeff and I and something we’re willing to spend some money on – I try to be smart about it. Here’s my general game plan…
- I always check Overdrive first. If you are a reader and you aren’t using this, you need to be. Bottom line. Basically, it’s a free service through the public library that allows users to “check-out” Kindle/electronic books and audiobooks using their library cards for a set amount of time. My local library’s collection isn’t huge, so they don’t always have what I want; and, often, the waiting list for “big” titles is loooong (it’s just like a regular library in that sense), but I’ve been able to read some great books completely free this way, and there are LOTS of good books for kids. (One problem: It never fails that several books become “available” at the same time for me, and there is just no way I can read/listen to them all in the same 14 days. I thought this was a major issue, but Tsh’s Tip #3.5 last week might just change my life.)
- I check Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Kindle Deals every day. My favorite blogger, Anne of MMD (mentioned above) does all the hard work of scouting deals for me and posts them every single day (even weekends). Scrolling through her list has become a part of my lunchtime routines, and I’ve gotten GREAT books for SUPER cheap thanks to her. (You can also subscribe to the list in the form of an email newsletter.) Every once in a while, she will share a deal on a book I’d never heard of but that strikes me enough to grab it “for a rainy day;” but, mostly, this is where my big “To Read” list comes in. Every day I am really just skimming to see if any of the titles I already want to read are on sale, and you’d be surprised how often they are!!! Even if I’m not ready to read it yet, if it’s on my list, and it’s on sale (we’re talking $1.99 – $4.99 per book folks), I buy it (and label it as such on my list).
- I subscribe to Audible and get one book per month with a credit. Jeff and I go back and forth all the time about whether or not the $14.95/month fee is “worth it,” but – to me – it totally is. I LOVE audiobooks (see above), but they are NOT CHEAP (in fact, it’s hard to find an audiobook for less than $14.95). I’m careful about how I use my audible credits (i.e. try to save them for expensive new-release type books that I likely won’t find discounted or free) AND, if at all possible, choose titles that I think Jeff will like too.
- I buy for Kindle (at regular price) if all of the above fails & add Whispersync if it’s a bargain (it usually is). Ultimately, if there’s a book I REALLY want, and I can’t find it anywhere else, I’ll suck it up and buy it for Kindle. Best case scenario: The Kindle book will have the option to “add Whispersync narration” for a good price too. I LOVE that that allows me to switch back and forth between Kindle and audio – though I usually just stick with audio. (I’ve written about Whispersync many times, but probably explain it best here.)
- I buy a hard copy from Barnes and Noble or Amazon. This method is usually reserved for “special” books that I think I will want to mark inside, pass on to a friend, or display as “decor” in my house. Examples recently include Hillbilly Elegy, Chasing Slow, and Grace Not Perfection. I also like to buy hard copies of most books for my kids. (P.S. Teachers get 20% off Barnes & Noble, which is huge!!!)
On Actually Reading:
No great secrets to share here. This is just as hard for me as it is for you… Like I said at the beginning of this post, I know my 20-30 books a year is not super impressive compared to many people; but, I try to take into account this stage of my life and just be happy with what I DO read instead of worrying about what I don’t. A few things that have helped me read more in the last couple of years are adding more audiobooks (this has been HUGE – I listen while I’m driving, exercising, tidying the house, folding laundry, cooking dinner, doing menial tasks at work, etc. etc. etc.), allowing myself to quit a book I don’t like (also a pretty big deal for me – it means less books overall sometimes, but more quality books), reading before bed, and not feeling guilty about reading instead of doing other things (like cleaning, writing, or even playing with my kids) sometimes.
On that note, I obviously try to do a lot of reading WITH my kids too. I’ve written lots about this in this post, but Sam and I almost always have a book going together, and we like to listen to audiobooks in the car. Moreover, I’ve come to believe that providing opportunities for my kids to see ME reading can be almost as important to actually reading TO them in shaping them into book-lovers, so I do try to make that a priority. Just like with my students, if I tell Sam he has to have a quiet time and “read” some books, I genuinely try to model that behavior by curling up with a good book for myself during that time too. No guilt. This is something I hope to be even more intentional about as he gets older and is able to read more on his own AND over the summers when we have more “down time” together overall.
So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know. 😉 Don’t forget to check out the Books category under the “Life In-Between” tab on my homepage (or just click here) and check back soon for some specific book titles and reviews… Until then, don’t miss the great deal below!!!
Books and reading are SO important to me. I’ve proudly claimed the label of “reader” for as long as I can remember, and I love passing down that identity and passion to Sam and Nora. These “Readers Gonna Read” t-shirts (shown above on my two little readers before bedtime last night) are the cutest, and the cool folks at Cents of Style gave me a great deal on them to share with you!!!
Normally pretty pricey, Sam & Scout readers can get the kids’ tee for just $12.95 and the adult for only $16.95 + free shipping by buying through the link below (yep, it’s an affiliate link, but you’re saving way more money than I’m making, and I legit love these shirts – promise)and using code LOVETOREAD when you checkout!!! (There are a couple other great “bookish” styles included in the promo too – like “More Books, Less Selfies” which I also have!)
+ Free Shipping with code LOVETOREAD
Hurry and grab one NOW to have it for Read Across America Day / Dr. Suess’s birthday next Thursday (3/2). I’ll definitely be wearing mine to school that day!! (They would make great Easter basket stuffers too!)
P.S. A quick note about sizing… These a meant to be a little more fitted/hipster style (hence the v-neck) so they run a bit small. Mine is a large, and it’s flattering (I think) but not loose. I ordered both kids’ true to size (Nora – 18 month and Sam 5T), and they both probably could wear one size up. Just FYI.