How to Read More Books This Year (+ 9 Reading Challenge Ideas)

How to read more

This past weekend, as I sat down to update my 2021 reading log in my freshly minted bullet journal, I realized that I’ve already read 20 books this year… and we’re only about 20 days into 2021. Granted, they’re ALL romance novels, and would fall solidly into the category of “light reads”, but still… 20 books!!!

To be fair, reading is not a hobby that I have a challenge with. Except for a brief spell during my 20s, it’s been one of my most enduring hobbies since childhood.

In the age of bookstagram, reading books can seem like a bit of a competitive hobby. And yes, I’ll cop to it – there have been a couple of years in the past where even I set myself up for a reading challenge to read X number of books a year. Thankfully, I am past that phase!

The phase that I am solidly in right now is to read as much as I can, when I can. I mostly read for pleasure, so it’s really not a hardship. :)

HOW TO READ MORE BOOKS

The reason why I even mentioned the number of books at the start of the post is not to highlight a mad rush to read an obscene number of books this year. Rather, I really just wanted to drive home the fact that I love to read, and that it’s absolutely my favourite form of escape.

From my off-books phase in my 20s, I’ve more than made up for that in the last few years. Reading is an integral part of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Having said that, I know people still struggle to read more, even when they have the time and the inclination. If you’re curious to find out ways to read more and/or are just looking to make a dent in your TBR pile, I’ve put together a few tips that could help you read more books this year.

1| Know your reason why

Have you even wondered why is it that you want to read more books? Getting clear on your motivation can definitely help you in your book choices, which will hopefully make the whole reading process more enjoyable for you.

Is it because suddenly reading seems like a cool hobby and all the influencers on Instagram are talking about the 100 books that they read this year? Is it because you’re getting back to reading after a hiatus? Is it because you’re looking to learn more about a couple of specific subjects?

For each of these different motivations, you are likely to pick up a very different set of books. Which is totally fine – it’s just that your definition of “more” would vary! All this to say, being aware of your real motivation will help you to pick the right books for you, which is always a great place to begin with when you’re trying to read more.

2| Always have a book on you

Kinda obvious, I know, but really, it’s an easy thing to overlook, especially if you’re just getting started.

You will likely have some empty pockets of time in your daily routine. Your commute time, waiting times before an appointment, some idle time in bed before you finally fall asleep and so on and so forth. Having a book in your bag, or in your phone, or on your nightstand will make it easier for you to reach out for one when you have a bit of idle time.

3| Don’t look down upon e-readers & audio-books

I used to be that person – the one who said she would never get on board with e-readers because they are not as good as the feel of physical books.

In the last couple of years, I have had to eat humble pie. Today, the Kindle app is the single biggest reason why I’ve been able to read as much as I have been lately. My Kindle library is massive, and since I have it on my phone, it’s ALWAYS accessible to me. It’s made a huge difference to my reading habits.

So as far as e-readers are concerned, all I’ll say is, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Don’t think of it as an either/or situation – use both physical and e-books as a part of your reading repertoire.

Same goes for audio-books. It works for a lot of people, so give it a try to see if the audio-book experience makes it easier for you to ‘read’ more.

4| Read more of what you like

Again, super obvious I know, but it had to be said. You’re reading for yourself, and hopefully not to impress someone else. So it stands to reason that if you pick the kind of books that you like to read, you would end up reading more.

I am a die-hard fan of romance novels, especially the modern contemporary romances, so when I pick one up, I literally breeze through them. It makes it so much easier to read more.

Of course, in my personal case, I do want to read more non-fiction this year (which led me to my personal reading challenge for 2021 – more details below), but seriously, go easy on yourself and read more of the kind of books you like.

5| Don’t be embarrassed of what you like

On a related note, do not be embarrassed about the kind of books you like. If chick-lit is what rocks your boat, by all means, read that. Don’t get cornered into thinking that reading only a certain type of book would make you a “respectable” reader.

I actually think a lot about this quote from The Idea of You (one of favourite books – I dip in to read a few pages every once in a while) because it’s so true:

We have this problem in our culture. We take art that appeals to women—film, books, music—and we undervalue it. We assume it can’t be high art. Especially if it’s not dark and tortured and wailing. And it follows that much of that art is created by other women, and so we undervalue them as well. We wrap it up in a pretty pink package and resist calling it art.”

The idea of you | robinne lee

So please, be unapologetic about what you like to read!

6| Be open to experimentation

I know in the last few paragraphs I’ve basically implored to dig deep into your preferred genres, but that does not mean that you need to be closed off to other styles/genres. There is great merit in being open to experimentation and finding different types of writing that would appeal to you. Who knows, you might just fall in love with a completely unexpected form or style of books!

7| Try out a reading challenge

If you’re getting out of a reading rut, or looking to change things up, you can totally try out a reading challenge. In its most basic avatar, a reading challenge can be as simple as an X number of books in a year. I’ve got a few more reading challenge ideas later on in this post itself.

8| Build your reading habit into your morning or evening routine

Making reading a part of your existing routines, or even starting a routine around it, will help you read more. Doing anything with some sort of consistency will make you get better at it – same goes for your reading habits. And really, what better way to unwind in the evening than to get absorbed into the pages of a book?

9| It’s okay to not finish a book

No matter how careful you are with your book selections, not every book that you will read will be worth finishing. I am here to tell you that it’s okay to abandon books. Let that DNF pile grow – there’s no shame in that! That way, you will make more room in your life for books that you truly enjoy.

10| Follow other readers on social media

Social media makes it easy to discover good/new book recommendations. Sure, it does take a while to build faith in someone’s recommendations, but once you find a few reliable accounts, you’ll end up with a trusted source (or two) for your bookish needs.

For the sake of my sanity (and my bank account) I don’t really follow more than a couple of bookstagrams. But a couple of bloggers/influencers that I’ve been following for years now also happen to be big readers – Grace Atwood, Hitha Palepu, and Becca Freeman. So many of their book recommendations have been solid gold, and they’ve helped me discover a wide variety of books to read. On Twitter, I follow Vivek Tejuja (@vivekisms) – again, an incredible range of recommendations.

I hope with these little tips & tricks, you are able to read more this year! I would love nothing more for you. :)

MY PERSONAL 2021 READING CHALLENGE

The staggering number of books that I mentioned about at the beginning of the post got me thinking hard about my reading habits. On the one hand, I was super happy to be in the ‘reading flow’, but on the other hand, I realized that I need and want more substance in my reading.

2021 is going to be my year of up-leveling my life in many, many ways. While I love my romance novels and the light reads, I realize that reading those alone will not necessarily help me with the kind of life I want for myself.

Which is how I ended up creating a reading challenge for myself. It’s a fairly straightforward one: 12 non-fiction books in 12 months.

If you’ve read any of my book posts over the years, you would know that I don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction. But clearly, there is a LOT of value in reading non-fiction. It definitely expands your learning and sharpens your thought processes. In very simplistic terms, I like to think of reading non-fiction as voluntary education. And I am totally up for it this year!

I’ve got a few books already shortlisted for this challenge. Atomic Habits by James Clear, The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.

Let me know if you have any non-fiction recommendations in the comments below.

9 READING CHALLENGE IDEAS

Reading challenge ideas for 2021

If you’re looking to make your reading even more interesting, how about signing up for a reading challenge this year? I’ve put together some ideas for reading challenges that you could try out.

‘X Number of Books’ Challenge

As I mentioned above, this kind of a reading challenge is the simplest of them all. You just need to pick a number of books you want to read through the year, and that’s it. No complication of selecting themes or genres or any specific type of books. It’s the best (and easiest) challenge if you’re just getting into the habit of reading books, or simply want to read more. The Goodreads reading challenge is exactly this!

‘X Number of Pages A Day’ Challenge

Totally borrowing this from James Clear’s 20 pages a day habit, but really it’s an extremely doable reading challenge. I think it’s a particularly helpful one if you’re trying to get into reading more non-fiction or just starting out on your reading journey.

‘Around the World’ Book Journey Challenge

To be honest, I was contemplating taking this up myself this year, but ultimately decided to stick to my non-fiction challenge, because that seems more important to me right now.

You could do this challenge in potentially two ways: one, read X travelogues spanning different countries, or two, X number of books by authors from a pre-selected list of countries.

Author Deep Dive

This is an idea that came to me from a post I read years ago on Meg Biram’s blog, where she talks about reading books by an author in a particular order – Ernest Hemingway, and Joan Didion, in her case.

I think it’s a fabulous way to follow a writer’s journey, especially if you read it in a chronological order. It would be easy to see the development of their writing style/voice, the evolution of themes that they explore, and also a reflection of the passage of time in their writing.

Diversity Challenge

We’re living in a world where it is super easy to form and live inside your own echo bubble. Which means that it’s more important than ever to proactively seek out more diverse voices in the media that we consume, including the books that we read and the shows we watch.

Here are a couple of ideas for you to diversify your reading: read X number of books by non-white authors, or read X number of translated books in the next 12 months.

‘Not Your Typical Genre’ Challenge

My personal 2021 reading challenge would fall under this category. It’s really all about switching things up and exposing yourself to new voices/views/styles.

There are so many possibilities with this idea. If you’re all about reading fiction, why not switch up your fiction genre? Thrillers instead of romance, historical fiction or classics instead of contemporary, and so on. Try out poetry, short stories, regional stories. Non-fiction instead of fiction. You get the drift, right?

‘Read What You Own’ Challenge

Are you one of those people whose bookshelves and e-readers are filled to the max with unread books and yet you just can’t seem to stop buying all.of.the.new.books (basically me)?

If that sounds like you, you could challenge yourself to not buy any new books till you’ve read through all (or say 25% or 50% of) the unread books that you already own. An added bonus? All the money that you’ll save.

PS – Just for the record, I could never do this. Not for a whole year, nope. I’ve tried, and failed miserably.

War & Peace Project

Admittedly, I wouldn’t have known of this challenge if not for good ol’ Twitter. So, it turns out that War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy has 361 chapters (or is it 364?). If the book has been on your reading agenda forever but you’ve been deterred by the sheer size of the book, how about breaking it down into a chapter a day challenge? So much more manageable this way.

After all, all big projects and goals are successfully completed by breaking them down into small, actionable steps, right?

Themed Reading Challenge

This reading challenge by the Booklist Queen is a great one if you’re looking to experiment with your books but don’t want to stick to a single genre/format. She’s set up a 52-week themed challenge, and you need to pick a book for each week that satisfies the theme. If 52 books in 52 weeks seems too overwhelming, you can just select a lesser number of themes from the list and work through that.


So well, there you have it – 10 ways to read more books as well as 9 reading challenge ideas to help you along the way. Let me know if you’re doing any personal reading challenges this year and if you have any specific reading recommendations! I am always keen to know more. :)

Images via The Creative Library

Hi! I am Shirsha, and welcome to Sage & Bloom. I am a textbook introvert, and a hopeless dreamer! 🌻 Lover of books, rainy days, chilled white wine, fresh flowers, and personality tests! ✨

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1 Comments

  1. 1.20.21
    Michelle said:

    You’ve read 20 books this year?! Wow, that is amazing! I try to read about 10 pages a day, which is not much but you’d be surprised how quickly you get through books. I also make sure that I always have a book on me, especially if I know I’ll have to wait in line for something.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)