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No Time to Read? 11 Hacks to Change That

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I’m a mom of four kids. I am also book lover. And for years, I felt discouraged and pathetic when it came to reading. The only time I could find to read was when I finally crawled under my covers at night, exhausted. It would take months for me to get through even a short, mindless read — most evenings I’d have to backtrack a few pages because I couldn’t even remember what I’d read the night before. Short chapters were my savior.

I used to stare longingly at the new releases through bookstore windows while pushing my double stroller down the street. “Maybe on vacation,” I’d think, sighing, and continue on. I’d see newspaper ads showing my favorite authors speaking at local bookstores and flip the page sadly, knowing it was basically impossible for me to get there.

So instead of attempting to extricate myself from bedtime in order to hear my favorite writers speak, I decided to launch my own podcast so I could finally ask authors all the things I wanted to know. Now that I host “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” I read more than ever — sometimes two books a week.

I’m still a mom, of course, so I’ve had to be super creative about finding the time to read. While cooking eggs for the kids was probably my least intelligent choice — I still have the burn marks to prove it.

Trust me: If I can find time to read, you can, too. Here are a few tricks I’ve found to incorporate books into my #momlife.

1. The elliptical machine.

My most reliable hack is reading while working out. I know fitness trainers would gasp in horror at this (“her form!!”), but those 30 minutes I steal a few times a week are the perfect time to read. I used to listen to music or watch TV in the gym. (I mean, I used to go to step aerobics and “slide” classes, but let’s not even go there…) Now, I grab a novel and a bottle of water and hop on the elliptical machine. I hold the book with both hands, which forces me to use my core to stabilize myself, so what I used to call my “bulls—t workout” is now a sweat-buster. Win-win!

2. The kids’ bedtime.

My little ones still like me to sit outside their rooms until they fall asleep. Actually, they’d prefer to fall asleep in my arms and have me stay all night, but we’ve compromised: I read while sitting on the floor in the semi-dark hallway outside their rooms, the sound machine whirling, their breathing growing more and more steady as they drift off to sleep. It’s a great way for me to transition from the intensity of kid-time to the land of my marriage.

3. Waiting rooms.

Forget People magazine. If I add up all the time I spend waiting for various appointments each week, I can squeeze in a short novel. From kids’ doctors’ visits to eyebrow shaping, I read a few pages before all my appointments.

4. My bedtime.

This is still my go-to time to read. I force myself to put down the laptop (no more Draper James online shopping sprees after 9 pm!) and read in bed until my husband starts pulling on my sleeve.

5. Audiobooks.

Last summer, I listened to the bestseller “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,” by Gail Honeyman, while driving to and from camp pickups. I got so into the book that I couldn’t turn it off — I kept it playing even after I loaded the kids in the backseat. A few weeks ago, my daughter asked, “Hey, whatever happened to that funny book we were listening to?!” Listening to a book got the kids involved and helped me enjoy a book while out and about. (The wonderful Scottish voices from the recording made the experience even richer.) Audible, Apple iBooks, and Google Play all have huge selections.

6. Blinkist.

This innovative app distills popular non-fiction books into 15-minute text or audio recaps, or “blinks.” With 6 million users, this company, founded in 2012, has 2,500 books for wannabe readers to ingest — like Lauren Smith Brody’s book about new moms rejoining the workforce, The Fifth Trimester. (It’s now a 12-minute read on Blinkist — but you should still buy her book, she’s amazing!) Other apps like Instaread, Joosr and 12-Minute have started doing this, too, adding their own insights. It doesn’t replace reading but it’s a fantastic supplement.

7. Goodreads.

This website recommends books you’ll like based on what you’ve read, and allows you to connect with friends to see what they’re reading, too. Joining a community like this one gives readers like me an added incentive to keep reading. Life’s too short to read a bad book.

8. Medium and Longreads.

If you really don’t have time to read an entire book, at least go on sites like Medium or Longreads which are dedicated to storytelling.

9. E-books.

It’s easier than ever to have a book with your at all times, no matter what. The New York Public Library has launched SimplyE, a library e-reader app which gives users access to 300,000 free e-books from the library. Other libraries and sites like Kobo also feature extensive e-books. Now you don’t even have to carry a book with you.

10. Join or form a book club.

Find some friends (not online, in real life!) and plan a monthly or bi-monthly get together with food and wine to discuss a selected book. The key to a great book club is to find friends whose taste in books also matches yours. If you’re more into romance novels from the grocery store, don’t partner up with friends who only read The New Yorker. (No judgments, only preferences!)

11. Listen to a Podcast

Let podcasts like mine, the New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker whet your appetite by hearing directly from authors about their works.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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