habit shift: read more.

July 25, 2016

habit shift: read more | reading my tea leaves

New parenthood and reading a lot didn’t go hand-in-hand for me. For much of the first year of Faye’s life, and well into the second, I often felt like I was barely able to keep my eyes open and complete my responsibilities of work and parenting let alone find a quiet moment to still my mind and settle into a book. I could hardly handle the commitment of a movie and James and I probably streamed more tv shows in the year after Faye was born than in the entirety of our life together before she came along. I’m not demonizing tv, but I do think that a reading habit offers me a little more bit more in the way of general happiness.

Since moving our bed out of our shared room last fall, and since crawling out of the young infancy and early toddler period, I’ve been making a concerted effort to get back into my long-loved reading habit.
habit shift: read more | reading my tea leaves

Since publishing a piece on my make-believe summer reading list a week or two ago, I’ve gotten a number of emails asking me how I’m able to find the time to read. Here are a few habit-shifting tips that I’ve found to be helpful:

1. Plus one, minus one. You can’t create more hours in the day. You can only change what you fill them with. For me, finding time to read mostly meant replacing an hour in front of a laptop streaming a tv show, with an hour in front a book reading. (And to be sure: sometimes all I manage is ten minutes.)

2. Start slow. When I first started to make a concerted effort to get back into reading, I began my pledge with a commitment to finish at least one New Yorker article before falling asleep. Even if it was only the restaurant review. (And it was often the restaurant review.)

3. Read what you like. I used to be a real read-‘er-straight-through-whether-you-like-it-or-not kind of reader. Once I’d committed to a book, I felt a weird obligation to finish it, and I was doubly burdened because I never wanted to start a new book until I was through with the first. I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this book-related-guilt. (Right?) Regardless, in this new moment of book-reading I’ve started and stopped four different books this summer that I just couldn’t get into and I’m giving myself permission to read only what I really enjoy. Sweet freedom. And so many more books that I’ve actually finished.

4. Borrow and lend. As the author of a fairly new book, I realize I should be encouraging people to buy books, not borrow them. But borrowing makes the world go round and it definitely makes me read more. I’ve mentioned before that James gave me a kindle for Mother’s Day and I’ve been stocking up on books from the Brooklyn Public Library ever since. I still have my fair share of bound books kicking around, and the neighborhood stoop swap continues to serve me as means of keeping the bookshelves from tumbling over, but I’ve really found that using an e-reader has drastically increased the amount I borrow from the local library (and read!).habit shift: read more | reading my tea leaves

What about you guys? On a reading kick? In a reading rut? Utterly impartial?

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  • Reply Rachel July 25, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I definitely have that guilt complex when I don’t finish a book. It’s probably partly due to the fact that I keep a list of the books I read, and the list gets so much longer if I finish all my books that I start. And who doesn’t want a long “have read” list? 🙂 However, I think not plodding through dull material I’m not enjoying would keep my reading a lot more interesting.

  • Reply Lindsey Heringer July 25, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Yes lately I’ve been on a reading kick especially your blog. I recently discovered your book as an Amazon suggestion and fell in love with it so then checked out your blog and I have been following up on all your old blog post and current ones . I absolutely love the content that you write about and I love the simplicity and aesthetic of your home and way of living . I have an eight-month-old son and it’s refreshing to see how simple you can live even with a child.

  • Reply Michelle July 25, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Since finishing my Masters degree in March I have been relishing time to read for leisure, albeit with three kids it is often stretched. My reading list grows more quickly than my reading!
    Probably my one reading dilema is kindle vs book. The kindle is so convenient but I love holding a book

    • Reply Michelle July 25, 2016 at 11:26 pm

      Oh – and I love the point you made of reading what you like. The amount of times I torture myself, thinking I need to finish one book before I can start another…

  • Reply Joely July 25, 2016 at 10:55 am

    I’m an avid reader and mostly finish what I start! Thankfully I got rid of all my unloved books, in favor of using a kindle for simplicity, but there’s nothing like a good hard copy book – I especially love your Simple Matters, which is on my coffee table! The ONLY thing on it ha. Erin, can I ask what type of bulb you use in that lamp? I have a similar setup and would like to get the same one….thx!

  • Reply Lindsey Heringer July 25, 2016 at 10:56 am

    I too also have that guilt when I don’t finish a book. I’ve decided that I need to let that go though life is too short to finish books that you are not enjoying. I’m also an avid library goer through the e- reader. It’s so easy and convenient to download e-books from the library.

  • Reply laura July 25, 2016 at 11:21 am

    I need to make room for lots of healthy habits (should exercise more, should eat more greens) but when it comes to prioritizing, reading is of utmost importance to me. I carve out 30 minutes before bed every night to read, which can often mean leaving my husband downstairs alone while I crawl under the covers to read. Every Saturday morning (weather depending) I sit on the porch and read with my coffee. I go to bed on Fridays looking forward to my weekend ritual!

    I realize I work from home and do not have children, so I’m already at an advantage for carving out book time. But I am a voracious reader and it is one of my most biggest pleasures – and biggest habits – in my life.

  • Reply Cordelia July 25, 2016 at 11:21 am

    I love the library! We recently got an e-reader and the thought of buying books on it seemed like little much so we started using http://www.overdrive.com – we check out library books that way. You can rent audio books too! I have been listening to them while cleaning our apartment. It makes it so fun!

  • Reply Beth July 25, 2016 at 11:25 am

    I’m a pretty voracious reader but all of my spare hours in June and the beginning of July were totally eaten up by last minute wedding planning. I started to feel a bit unlike myself without carving out time for a few chapters each day. Happy to be settling back in the swing of things with The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. 🙂

  • Reply Ling July 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Yes to borrowing! My husband & I have read so many books borrowed through our library in the last year. And ditto to guilt about not finishing a book, but like “stuff”, if it doesn’t bring joy, why bother? 🙂 Borrowing also makes not finishing a book feel less guilty 😉

    • Reply Ling July 25, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Oh, & I’ve found that having my new Kindle Paperwhite with the backlight has increased my reading since I can sneak a few pages in if I’m having trouble sleeping or woke up a bit earlier than normal without having to turn the light on.

  • Reply Cynthia July 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I love librarian Nancy Pearl’s 50 page rule: at the bottom of page 50 if you are not loving the book, let it go. If you are older than 50, you have Nancy’s permission to subtract your age from 100 and stop there (since life is short). That rule has given me such freedom b/c I too, was a finish-the-book rule follower all my life. Now I happily finish 100+ books per year, virtually ALL of them on loan from the incredible Seattle Public Library. I have a Kindle but just can’t give up the look, feel, and smell of hardcover books. Erin, I even read your book from the library though there was a long wait!

  • Reply Melissa July 25, 2016 at 11:30 am

    The biggest change I have been trying to make to boost my time spent reading is to turn off my phone and stow it far away. Too many times I have been tempted to check social media or even research more info about the book that I am reading. Removing any distractions helps me to be carried away by a good story! A nice spot outdoors to read (even if that means squatting on my stoop) and a cold ice-tea doesn’t hurt either 🙂 I’ve also found that alternating fiction and non-fiction helps me too.

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Agreed! I’ve definitely found myself with a book resting on my stomach and my phone in hand!

  • Reply Jessie July 25, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I was a total bookworm as a kid – and then high school, college, starting my first real job all got in the way. The past couple years I’ve been returning to that early love. I’m a big fan of the app Goodreads for helping keep track of what I’ve read and seeing what my friends are reading. You can also set a reading challenge for the year (I chose a modest 20 books, a friend of mine went for 52!). I too have cut back my “screen time” in favor of reading. I find that after reading for an hour I feel accomplished and productive, but when I’m partaking in the netflix/amazon/hulu rabbit hole I feel like I’ve wasted time.

  • Reply Natalie July 25, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I work in a correctional facility, and while it has it’s definite drawbacks, it has some “habit shift” perks too! I’m only allowed to bring in water to drink (although we’ve recently been allowed a coffee pot), so I try to drink one full 16oz bottle before lunch and another before I leave. Also, we are given an hour for lunch but we aren’t able to eat at our desks, making it perfect reading time! I usually make it through about 15 books/year just by reading at lunch. Twice a year I stock up on books at our local friends of the library book sale, and I always keep my next reads in a box in the trunk of my car so I don’t forget them at home when I need them. The books do have to be pretty interesting/readable, though, especially if I’m eating in the break room while people are watching the Price Is Right. It’s hard to read dense language when all my coworkers are shouting out how much they think the car is worth.

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Two habit shifts with one stone! (Water + reading!)

  • Reply Jennifer Manzano July 25, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Ha! Literally JUST finished reading Sweetbitter less than half an hour ago. Enjoy it!

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply Christie July 25, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    I’m a book lover. I think you hit the nail on the head with your suggestion about time management and time choices. I am a lawyer, and I have two preschool aged children. Yet I read all of the time. There are only so many minutes in the day, and you have to choose how to spend those minutes. Americans watch a couple of hours of tv each day and additional time on the computer for pleasure. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s a choice. I choose to spend my time reading. I read for about 20 minutes with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning to wake up. I read on the weekends while my kids nap. I read for a bit before bed.

  • Reply Mary Kate July 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    As a lifelong bookworm, I think I’d go insane if I weren’t constantly reading books, so for me it’s never about finding time to read; it’s about finding time for everything else! I have yet to have children, and the concept of having no time to read is worrying, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

    On the weekdays I read on my commute (on the Path), on my lunch break from work in the little public space by my office, and always, always before bed–not sure I could get to sleep otherwise. On weekends it’s in the morning with coffee, on the elliptical machine if I’m motivated enough to go to the gym, at the beach or park, and then again at bedtime.

    Oddly enough for such a voracious reader, I have yet to purchase a Kindle–I just love the feel of a book in my hands. My apartment is a bit stuffed to the brim with books, but it’s the one thing I don’t mind having a ton of. I only keep the books I like, and I love being surrounded by them.

    Oh, and I never, ever finish a book I’m not enjoying–life’s too short and there are too many good books out there!

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      I’m sure it’s different for everyone. No need to worry!

  • Reply Emily July 25, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Reading is what keeps me sane, especially with two tiny kids – but there are definitely nights where I’m too tired for it. I’ve recently remembered something with my second that I loved with my first – reading books while nursing him to sleep! He’s still little enough that the light doesn’t bother him, and it gets me an extra half hour of reading after dinner that I would normally spend cleaning up the kitchen or watching TV (and, let’s be honest, it helps keep me from just falling asleep too). I usually read again once I’m ready to go to bed, too.

    I’ve been taking more (physical) books out from the library since I take the kids there on my Fridays off anyway! I just request whichever book I’m hoping for in advance, and grab it when we check out the kids books. It’s been great to read more without buying the books, and my library is small enough that the selection of e-books available is never quite as great.

  • Reply Niamh July 25, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I’ve been trying to read more- helped by the fact that my lovely friend sent me a copy of your book ‘Simple Matters’ as a birthday treat last week! I’ve been enjoying it with my morning coffee, and thinking about adopting some new simple habits as a result… (rags not paper towels!)

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      So sweet to hear that!

  • Reply Caitlin | Our Natural Heritage July 25, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    I love reading, it is my favorite wind me down activity – even 10 minutes before you pass out can be helpful! I feel guilty that I am not reading more intelligent books though, just ones that provide a fun escape!

  • Reply Debora July 25, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Now that my baby is a little over 9 months, I’ve started getting back in the reading habit, and it feels so good. May I suggest that one perfect solution to the lack of available time for new parents is reading POETRY? I’m biased, I guess, because I am a poet, but it never hurts to try to convert more folks to this side of the aisle. 😉

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      I love that idea!

  • Reply Emily Crittenden July 25, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve always been an avid and quick reader, but I’ve been in a bit of a rut. It may be pregnancy brain, but it helps to have a collection of easy to read books on my kindle app.

  • Reply Kari.M July 25, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    It’s interesting you should say that, about not having time to read when Faye was a baby. I found my children’s babyhood was when I got so much reading done. I just made a point of always having a book to read while nursing. I got so much reading done that way. And, like you, I’ve given myself permission to read only what I enjoy. Life is too short, and there are too many great books, to do otherwise.

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Ha! I think I spent a lot of that nursing time trying to type out blog posts…or closing my eyes for a few minutes!

  • Reply Amanda @ Anchored to Sunshine July 25, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    My best friend and I always swap books. Not only is it a great way to save money, but then you know you are picking up a great book if she recommend it!

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:35 pm


  • Reply Meg July 25, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    This is so true and timely! I’m sitting in the library right now, and trying to pick the best book to read. I’ve always been a major reader, but have slipped lately. The tips you suggest are great ones.

    For those of you that are e-reader fans in NYC, you can actually sync your e-reader up with your library card and get library books on the e-reader. It means missing out on the library, but it can be helpful if you’re in a particularly busy phase.

    Happy reading!!

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      Yes! Exactly! Sorry if I wasn’t clear: I’ve been reading 100% library books on my e-reader. Even from France!

  • Reply EllieA July 25, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    I love public libraries. Remember that open-shelve browsing and check-out are a privilege enjoyed by few other countries. The same holds true for my new e-reading via borrowing from (my) Denver Public Library. One thing to keep in mind for aficionados of public libraries of any type, that isn’t so widely shared is that they often love receiving books (esp. children’s books, cookbooks and hardbacks) for their book sales, only if in good condition, of course. And that they lose money on e-reading loans as they “buy” the rights for a set time and then don’t end up with a book to sell at the other end. Just a gentle reminder that donating even $20 bucks a year to your local library can help, not to mention any books you are clearing away.

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 25, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply han July 25, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Loved this. I definitely need to replace screen time for reading!

  • Reply Jessie July 25, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Yes! The library’s vast (erm) library of e-books AND audiobooks has greatly assisted me in getting out of my post-Ph.D. / post-infant slump. Audiobooks have been great for my commute as well as listening to a book before bed. I read a ton of books on the Kindle app while putting my son to sleep, too.

    • Reply Nicole July 25, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      I love reading for pleasure (now that I’m out of graduate school, anyway), and am happy to carve out half an hour (just like a commenter above) before bed–no phone, no social media, just a book (on my reading-only iPad mini or a paper copy). My reading habits have changed a bit, though…fewer War and Peace-type novels, more poetry, essays, short stories, etc. I used to stay up all night to finish a novel, and am really trying not to do that!

  • Reply Gitana Deneff July 25, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Currently reading “The Tragedy of Mr. Morn”, one of Vladimir Nabokov’s (author of Lolita) first works! Loving it so far because it’s written in play format and he totally captures the allusion of a shakespeare play with motifs and stuff. I love it.

    I’m still in kind of a reading rut though. I’m trying to make time for at least 30 mins a day… Considering that books are supposed to be a huge part of my blog… I’m just trying to incorporate them more and READ more. ugh. Also. i’m a grad student for english lit.. go figure.

    Good post!

  • Reply Abby Cameron July 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    I am in the same rut you were in. I have a 15 month old and sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to read again. I get the tv watching. It feels easier to zone out to a show than concentrate on a book, but you are right, it lacks in the happiness department. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone! I look forward to the days I can read again and I am holding your suggestions until then.

  • Reply joanna July 25, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    I was reading on my tablet but not finishing what I started. Mostly I think because I didn’t want to be on a device too much. I’m finding reading real actual books has hooked me into reading! I borrow from library or request books from local libraries in my area. Its been a significant change for me.

  • Reply Sam-c July 26, 2016 at 12:40 am

    #3 gets me all the time too. I get recommendations from bloggers and friends. Sometimes it’s fun and frustrating when my husband and i read the same book and we can talk about it as we progress. (Frustrating if he gets further ahead; that happened with The Goldfinch. ). I really wish i had time for a book club (or knew how to join/ find one)

  • Reply Mun July 26, 2016 at 2:36 am

    I’ve recently gotten back into reading and it makes me feel so alive! There’s just this incredible satisfaction that I get from reading books that is lacking from blog surfing…

  • Reply Miina July 26, 2016 at 4:03 am

    Another vote for the library! I read voraciously as a child and children’s library was only a few blocks over, so I went there almost every day.
    With the fall of Soviet Union that branch closed and books got so expensive, I don’t think I bought any books in 90’s :O Thankfully we had a lot of our own, so I kept reading.

    Nowadays I’m back at the library reading, they opened local branch literally one house over from mine 😀 Best thing is I can order any book I like from their website and just pick it up when passing by. They have very good selection of fiction and non-fiction in English language too, it’s such a blessing!

  • Reply Julia July 26, 2016 at 5:26 am

    I am an booklover ever since and I was so afraid that with the birth of my first child, I wouldn´t have time for it anymore, but surprisingly I find it differently! It was during the days in the hospital that I bought my first ebook to read it on my phone and I totally got hooked. One handed reading is the key for me! When my baby fell asleep in my arms I could read tons of books during that first months. And now I sneak into my reading app whenever possible, even for minutes, outside when she is sleeping in the stroller, or when I am alone even while waiting to cross the streets. That is so easy, I have my phone with me anyways. I enjoy that short gaps in the reality so much, but it leaves me with remorse. I love the touch and smell and culture of a printed book, I love to have them around me, pass them by in my apartment and remember all the hidden treasures, all the storys in them and the memories of the times I read them, the holidays, train rides, just feel their presence. And I know that with digital reading so many information is send to the publishers, that may cause damage to the freedom of writing and to the future of print… So I can´t wait to get back to print as quick as I can, but until then I allow myself to enjoy instant reading!

  • Reply Robyn July 26, 2016 at 6:46 am

    First, as a teacher I know that if you want your children to be readers than you should be a reader yourself. Children should see the adults in their lives reading. Secondly, I’m an avid reader but to balance reading with responsibilities I will often read a chapter or two then do a task I alternate this routine for a while. I also schedule time to read, it may be ten minutes one day and two hours the next. During the school year it’s less. As part of my classes schedule we have a Drop Everything and Read time. I read during that time as well.

  • Reply Aja Lake July 26, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I am scared of/fascinated by the Kindle. I may become addicted! I have three babies under five, and I think I feel better about my nose in a book than a(nother) device. Old-fashioned?

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 26, 2016 at 10:20 am

      Aw, I get it. I resisted for so long. But the screen is so different from a computer or an ipad or phone or something similar, it still feels dissimilar enough to feel refreshing!

  • Reply Lexie July 26, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I am a,voraciously big reader and I speed read taught by my Mom a voraciously fast reader and lover of all books. I limit social media and TV I am not interested in. To me tv sucks the intelligence out of you.
    Our family motto “to read is to live life”. We were a family of readers. My Mom emphasis was to read as much as one would like. I read 4-6 books a week. Life is to short for bad books and those that are sub par I pass on. Reading to me is like taking breath. A necessity. I have a Kindle with about 3000 books on it. I utilize a fantastic free online resource called Net Galley. You request , receive and review for many publishers. It a fantastic addition to the world of E readers. It opened me to the world of reviewing and now I work with authors and publishers who I review for as a hobby that I love. I utilize my library as a avid visitor. I live in less then 240 square feet so I have room for only two bookcases. One I have my antiquarian family book collection and classic books to choose from. I am always so pleased to see your emphasis on reading with dear Faye. And the lovely books you choose for her. The bread of life to open new worlds! Well done Mom.

  • Reply Rachael July 26, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I’m a huge reader, but realized at the end of last year that I’d only finished about 15 books. I’ve done a few things different this year and have already read about 40. First, I signed up for the year long reading challenge at my library, where you read a book in each of 50 categories over the course of the year, but I told myself I didn’t have to finish because I didn’t want to read something I hated just because it fit a category, and I never had to finish a book if I wasn’t into it. Second, I started listening to audiobooks using Overdrive or One Click (through my library) while I work (generally the same topics as my favorite podcasts, history and self improvement. I don’t listen to fiction while I work). Third, I realized that I can read or listen to audiobooks while I do a lot of my home activities, knit, sew, wash the dishes, and that’s where I get my fiction in… Fourth, I cancelled our Netflix account. We still have Amazon Prime, and I’m going to get it back for the Gilmore Girls reboot, but I watch so much less tv, and veg with a book instead.

  • Reply ladylyn July 26, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I’m a mom of four and small business owner, so at the beginning of last year when I saw several of my friends posting a read-52-books-in-a-year challenge as a new years resolution I just laughed at how impossible it seemed. But I was curious, so at the end of the year I counted up the books I had read, and it was in the 40’s. This year I decided to go for it and aim for a book a week. I have already finished my 40th. My Kindle and my library’s e-book lending program are invaluable. I’m also learning to embrace that reading what I like is more important than finishing a book or a series that I’m just not all that into. (Note: In my 40 book count, I am not counting picture books, but I do count elementary and junior high level chapter books that I read so I can discuss them with my boys. I also count audio books. I feel like these sort of go in the same category as allowing yourself to not finish books. There is simply no room for snobbery about reading while you’re a busy parent.) 😉

  • Reply Veronica Funk July 26, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    When my daughters were newborns, I read while I nursed, and since then (and still do) carry a book with me to every appointment (doctor, optometrist, dentist – 9 years of orthodontics with my eldest!) and now love waiting. Plus, I still need to read at bedtime, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. I agree with – no more forcing the reads. And thank you for the recommendation of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld…loving it already! We also purchased the Keetsa bed frame you use and have never slept so well – excellent customer service and quick delivery. Thank you for sharing.

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 26, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      So glad to read this!

  • Reply Nicola July 28, 2016 at 11:15 am

    I’m exactly the same as you on point number 3…
    It means I end up not reading anything for six months when I get stuck on a book I don’t like.

  • Reply Bridget McNulty July 29, 2016 at 4:04 am

    I’m the mom of a two-year-old and soon to be mom of two (eep!) but I’m a voracious reader. I decided at the beginning of the year that seeing as lying down reading is my favourite thing to do, I need to do more of it. So I just do less of whatever else is on offer…

  • Reply Katelyn August 1, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    i’m currently borrowing your book from the library 🙂

  • Reply Mo January 10, 2018 at 6:01 am

    One thing I see missing from the comments are short stories. I used to be a voracious reader (in middle school, my mum capped my reading at one chapter book a day!) but have gotten out of the habit recently as a small business owner with some quite extensive sidelines, and I miss reading things that aren’t work related. Short stories have really helped me get into reading for pleasure again as you get the satisfaction of finishing a book even if it’s only a few pages long.

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