During almost every visit to my grandmother's house, I gravitate toward her tightly packed bookshelves and the stack of books resting in the basket next to her favorite recliner.
My grandmother is a diverse reader. From biographies to memoirs, to theology and books about current events, she is always in the middle of two or three books at a time.
And I remember her distinctly saying when I reached high school age, “If you want to be well-read, you have to expand your reading tastes.” At the time, I was knee-deep in fluffy Christian fiction reads, which I rather enjoyed, and I couldn't imagine reading anything else.
And yet her comment stuck with me and pushed me past my literary comfort zone.
I didn't want to shy away from challenging reads just because I couldn't fly through it in an afternoon. I really did want to broaden my horizons. Learn more about how the world works. And discover a way to grow as a person, through my reading.
So after making reading a bigger priority in my life, I made intentional reading a priority too.
Don't get me wrong—it's still important to pick up books that excite you! I'm a sucker for good reviews and usually only read books recommended to me–sometimes from multiple sources! I also will set a book down without guilt if I'm not interested by the third chapter, no matter what genre it is.
How about you?
When you look over your “Read” list, do the titles accurately reflect the type of books you want to read? Or could you branch out? Do you want to experience new places, people, and ideas?
As an intentional reader, you have the power to shape and influence your life based on the next book you pick up. Here's my 3-step system for deciding what that next book should be.
1. Define your Reading Goals
Just like you have goals for your life, you can set goals for your reading habits too. Here are some questions to ask to determine your goals:
- What do you want to learn more about?
- Do you want to explore the world through travel memoirs?
- Do you like getting to know historic figures through their biographies?
- Do you desire to learn practical tips to improve your health?
- Do you dream of discovering new ways to launch or scale your home business?
Knowing yourself and your interests is the first step to expanding your reading life. As I noted before, I'd read only fiction if I had the chance! But my reading goal is I want to develop my reading life in terms of productivity and personal growth, as well as read business books to improve and grow as an entrepreneur.
So the books I typically pick up fit either in the fiction, personal development, or business category. I try to have a good mix of all three going at once and focus on one from each category every month.
2. Make an Intentional To-Read List
List maker as you are, you probably already have a “to be read” list somewhere. But now it's time to make an intentional to-read list with books from the goals you've honed in on above.
You can do this using Goodreads (here's my list!), an Amazon Wish List, or creating a paper list inside your bullet journal. The key is to keep every title you want to read in one place so you always know where to go when it's time to choose another book.
Where to find good books:
- Modern Mrs. Darcy's What Should I Read Next? podcast (I get a lot of my book ideas from her blog but especially love her podcast interviews!)
- Book recommendations from friends (Conversations often turn to books and we often swap titles we can't stop thinking about.)
- Favorite Books of the Year lists (here's mine from 2019!)
- New book releases from favorite authors and bloggers (like my blogger friend Kim Anderson's recent book!)
- Book lists on Club31Women
- The best kept secret in your town
Reading more books doesn't have to mean a bloated line item in your budget. If you're trying to cut down on the amount you spend on books, you can find thousands of free paperbacks and eBooks HERE.
3. Create a System for Reading
If you really do want to create better reading habits, simply adding a title to a list and hoping you get a chance to read it probably isn't going to be enough. Sometimes you need to add a fun step to get that book off your nightstand or bookshelf and into your hands!
- Participate in a reading challenge like this annual event hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy. Or follow Ana on Instagram for a peek into readathons, book parties, and more. You might be challenged to read books waiting patiently on your to-read list, reading books with a person on the cover (novels, biographies), and reading books in a row that begin with every letter of the alphabet.
- Establish a routine to fit reading into your day at strategic times. In the morning after my devotions, I read a business book to get me pumped for the day or I read a personal book to think on throughout the day. I savor my fiction books for only at bed (I don't want to think at night!).
- Start a Bookstagram (book-only Instagram account) or book blog. Writing a review or posting a photo of your next read keeps you accountable with your reading goals and as an added perk, you get to share the love of reading with a like-minded community.
- Join a bookclub. If there's not one in your area, start one! Or you could get together with a bookish friend, pick the same book to read, and discuss it each week over coffee. Reading a book with friends is sometimes even more fun than reading it alone.
Just so we're clear, reading intentionally is not about a list of rules of what you should and shouldn't read. It's about expanding your horizons into the type of reader you want to be.
As I've pushed back the fictional curtain and immersed myself in more thought-provoking reads, I've experienced a greater sense of well-being. Some of the books that have impacted me the most were non-fiction titles I would have normally passed by:
- I've created more margin in my life as a result of reading The Best Yes.
- I've stopped feeling guilty about not being a morning person after reading The Power of When.
- I've completely revamped my goal-setting structure and get MORE done because I recently read The 12 Week Year.
Maybe you're the opposite and you haven't read fiction in so long you can't remember why you stopped. Find a good story and rediscover the joy of losing yourself in a novel. Whatever book you decide to pick up next, give a little more thought to what kind of books you want to influence and shape your life.
Because it's not about reading as many books as you can. It's about reading the RIGHT books.
What genre would you love be more intentional about?
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