How I Read

17 May 2019

I recently listened to a Coffee & Crumbs episode all about media, and between that and our lively discussion about Where the Crawdads Sing and Educated on my last post (and the planning underway for my book swap!!), I thought it might be fun to keep rolling on the reading train. So today, all about my life as a reader… and I want to hear about yours!

What do I read?

Right now I’m averaging about 20-40 books in a year, or 2-3 per month. About half are non-fiction, and half are novels. I love…

…(good) parenting books
…pop psychology and behavioral economics books
…personal finance books
…books that give me practical ways to live out my faith
…books that deal with the intersection of technology and family
…novels with exquisite writing.

And of course I read the Bible! Usually this version.

How do I read?

I exclusively read physical books, for a few reasons.

I prefer the experience of real books – seeing the typography on the page, feeling the heft of the book shift from right to left as I page my way through.

I am a visual learner, so I tend to retain more from a paper page – even if I haven’t marked it, I can often recall where a certain quote I paused over was (top left corner, bottom right) many days later.

I want to live in a home with books because I think they’re beautiful and because I want where I live to be filled with things I treasure. Environment is a strong way of imparting our values to our kiddos, and there is almost nothing I more want to give them than a love of reading.

On that note, I read physical books because I want my kids to see my reading. I want that to be one of the most common sights of their childhood, me curled up with a book, to learn from my example that reading is a delicious past-time, one of the most delightful and worthy ways to spend an hour. I could be doing anything with my phone in my hand, but when I’m holding a book, my priority is clear.

When do I read?

At this stage in my life, most of my reading is done right before bed. This is both good and bad. If I’m reading a book that’s sucked me in, I’ll eagerly head to bed early to squeeze in a few more chapters. However, if I’m reading a book that’s sucked me in, I’ll often stay up too late to squeeze in a few more chapters :) Some nights I read for 15 minutes, some for an hour.

I’m also diligent about leaving a book in my car or packing one in my bag if I’m heading to an appointment so I can read on the go instead of scrolling on my phone. I imagine this will become even more helpful when our kiddos are in activities that require my chauffeur services!

Where do I find books to read?

Fiction I almost exclusively borrow from the library – I tend to only read it once, so to me it doesn’t make quite as much sense to buy! Nonfiction I prefer to buy (on Amazon or Thrift Books), because I’ll often read favorites multiple times. I also like to underline quotes or ideas that hooked me (often for use in EFM posts later!) and am an eager lender of my favorites to friends and family members. (Stephanie has my copy of The Coddling of the American Mind right now and when I get it back I’m sending it to Kim!)

It also helps that one of my benefits at work is a book library, which is $15 a month to spend on the “personal growth” book of my choice! As an Enneagram 5, lifelong learner, and avid reader, this is heaven :)

I keep an iPhone note on my phone for “Books to Be Read” as well as a list of the books I read each year (they are some of my most-referred to notes!). I add great suggestions to it from my Articles Club ladies, from my siblings, friends-in-real-life and on Instagram, from EFM readers in the comments, and from a few favorite blogs (Cup of Jo and Everyday Reading especially!).

More posts about reading:
My thoughts on reading in 2014 (a few things have changed!)
25 favorite picture books
25 favorite chapter books
My favorite parenting books

I think my next reading post will be about the books I recommend most often – though of course, if you’re an avid reader of this blog, I’ve probably already recommended them to you :)

In the meantime, I’d love to hear: what are your favorite types of books to read? And when do you read?

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May 17, 2019 9:03 am

I am also an avid reader! I read 92 books last year, about half as audio books as I commute at least an hour each day and also spend lots of listening time cooking/cleaning/folding laundry/exercising. I have a 2 and newly 5 yr old and realized I very rarely read with them around, it is usually before/after bedtime, over lunch at work or in my car by myself. What does your reading with kids around look like for you? I feel like I’m always trying to actively engage when my kids are around (I work full time and not home with them all day) and in the quest to “put my phone down” and give them my full attention, it would seem the opposite to have my nose in a book, even a paper one. Thoughts? Is it just the phase/ages of my children perhaps?

I rarely buy books, but definitely check out Their selection isn’t huge, but if you can find it, it’s usually $3-4 and everything ships free! I will definitely check out some of your recommended parenting books as I would love to balance out my fiction a bit. Thank you!

May 20, 2019 6:58 am
Reply to  Em

I love this. I try to do exactly the same around my son. Now he’s two and a half I am actually able to read productively whilst he is absordbed in something.

My other ‘peak’ reading time is communting by tube in London. I have a rule that I am not allowed to do anything else whilst I am on the train and it makes what could be slack time something really enjoyable.

May 20, 2019 8:44 pm
Reply to  Kristin

Wow! That IS an impressive number of books!

May 17, 2019 1:36 pm

One of my favorite topics! I love memoirs (especially those centered around food!) and fiction with satisfying storytelling. Emily St. John Mandel is a master at that — she manages to connect so many characters and storylines in the most beautiful ways. I’m working my way through her whole catalog after reading Station Eleven last year (I was a latecomer but I loved it!).

Growing up, I’d read uninterrupted for huge chunks of time (think 5 hours on a Saturday). I don’t do that as much anymore, and I feel like it affects my ability to get “lost” in a story! My commute is longer since Tanner and I moved in together, so I often eat lunch at the office rather than going home. I’m now using that lunch break to get in a solid hour of reading, and I can feel myself reclaiming that “lost” feeling.

Also, answering a question you didn’t ask, but I highly recommend following Annie Jones for book recommendations. She owns The Bookshelf in southern Georgia and has fantastic taste. She’s anniebjones05 on Instagram!

May 22, 2019 9:29 am
Reply to  Em

Yes! Should’ve checked your comment before articles club so I could have recommended this to you in person :) — but Ruth Reichl has a new memoir out about her time as editor of Gourmet magazine! It’s called Save Me the Plums and I highly recommend it. (She also wrote a novel called Delicious! that I really liked!)

May 17, 2019 3:53 pm

Fiction! Specifically, a genre of fiction I call “mom thrillers.” Big Little Lies is the best example. Or memoirs by funny women. I always read at night, too, and only physical copies, usually from the library or friends!

May 19, 2019 10:50 am
Reply to  Em

Yes! The best writing. By page 2 I was like yep, this lives up to the hype. I loved it so much I refuse to watch the show bc no matter how good it is I know it won’t compare to the book.

May 17, 2019 4:31 pm

I read about 6-7 books a month, but my first baby is due in about 3 weeks so I’m interested to see how that will affect my reading life :) I actually live in Rwanda, and while I definitely read almost all physical books before, now I read almost exclusively on my Kindle because I can download ebooks from my library in the States. I get most of my recommendations through the facebook group “#spiveys????club” and usually have several books on hold at a time because of that! I read a mix, but pretty much all fiction (with a few memoirs thrown in). Here’s what I read last year:

May 18, 2019 11:47 am

Emily, as an author, I absolutely loved this post. I nodded and agreed with almost every point, only I tend to buy fiction books — I love to look at them on my shelves and think about how much fun I had reading them.

May 20, 2019 11:32 am

Do you do goodreads? I’d love to follow you if so!

Kelly Strawberry
May 20, 2019 2:28 pm

I think my reading taste is very similar to yours, with one exception…I am obsessed with Stephen King! I’m not sure why I picked up one of his books a few years ago, but reading “The Stand” was life-changing LOL (I would not describe it as horror or gore at all).

I read the Bible first thing in the morning and also the newspaper. I like to read magazines when I’m at appointments or at the pool/beach. I read whatever my current book is on lunch breaks, evenings, or pretty much any other time.

May 21, 2019 8:54 am
Reply to  Em

We have a subscription to The Atlantic and it’s definitely worth it! It’s pretty inexpensive for the year (I think less than $30) and I am always marking articles in there for upcoming articles club ideas :)

May 20, 2019 8:49 pm

I LOVE this post, Em! I am slowly getting back into reading this year and am so grateful for the joy of holding something tangible in my hand while getting lost in a good story / approach to something in my life. I’ll have to bookmark this for future reference!

May 21, 2019 8:50 am

One of my favorite places to find books to read (other than personal recommendations, of course) is from the NPR book concierge. They release it each year. There’s more than enough books to choose from, with short reviews on each. I’ve found some of my favorite books from this list. The website on desktop is also extremely user friendly (I’ve not tried on mobile), which is also a plus: I love to use it when I have a longer wait list for books at the library and no books checked out, I just scroll through and search the library until I find one that interests me and is available.

May 21, 2019 11:06 am

I love this post Em, I am also obsessed with reading! I like reading before bed and then any small gaps I get during the day or kids nap time and I read as much as I can on short trips and vacations… I unfortunately read on my iBooks on my iPad because of the availability of the books and having very limited storage space in our home.

You can read a few of my reviews here:

May 21, 2019 11:49 am

I get ideas from the New York Times Book review, random titles mentioned in magazines and family/friends. Greg says that I am becoming a bookworm because I generally read as soon as I get home from work. I mostly read fiction but throw in some non-fiction to keep it real. I use Goodreads, a running list on my local library account and a good old fashioned sticky note.

May 21, 2019 12:06 pm

I read some nights before bed, depending on how engaging the book is versus how tired I am. I’ve recently implemented “doing nothing during nap time.” So, when my toddler sleeps (he usually takes gloriously long naps on Saturdays!!) on Sat & Sun afternoons I am reading (also, eating :).

Bethany Howe
May 22, 2019 4:28 pm

One of my favorite topics! I used to read a lot more than I do now (3-5 books a month), and I’m trying to get back into reading more. When I worked full time I used to eat lunch at my desk while working and then head to my car for my lunch break, where I would read for a blissful hour in silence! Now I read mostly before bed, or during the day when Lucy is playing independently. I love reading fiction, not much of a non-fiction girl!

May 24, 2019 2:07 pm

Em: Well said! Especially: “I could be doing anything with my phone in my hand, but when I’m holding a book, my priority is clear.” Right now I am reading “Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.”