How to Make Time for Reading (and Books I Read in January)

I have always loved reading. Unfortunately, when I get busy, reading is the first thing that I take off my plate. It’s so easy to sit in front of the tv in the evenings after a long day, especially when part of your job is reading all day. I have to read texts that I’ve assigned for my classes, and then I have to read all the essays and discussion board posts, so oftentimes reading is literally the very last thing I have any interest in when I have a few free hours.

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Luckily, I’ve tried to retrain myself this year to make reading fit back into my life and in an enjoyable way. I keep track of my books on Goodreads and am always horrified at the end of the year to see that I’ve only managed to read five books in a year (and those five are usually during the summer or winter break).

A photo of my bookshelf with American literature on top and British literature on the bottom.

So what have I done differently? This year I joined a reading challenge. I honestly thought I would join the challenge and then not follow through with it, but so far I’ve read more books in the past two months than I did in 2020 altogether (yikes!). There are so many reading challenges and book clubs out there to fit your interests, but I’m following along with the Uncorked Librarian’s 2021 Reading challenge (and highly recommend that you check out her blog because she’s lovely!).

Each month has a theme that’s been really helpful in getting me to branch out and read books I may not have come across on my own. In the past, I’ve stuck to the “classics” and am always SO out of the loop with new releases and current popular books because I’ve always had the uppity attitude of “books published now can’t possibly be as good as the old stuff” (read that in a really slow, snobby accent to get the full effect). Researching books for the reading challenge has 1) made me realize how wrong I’ve been and 2) introduced me to some fabulous authors and books!

I haven’t added more time to my day, and I’m still teaching (and prepping) just as much, but a huge change I’ve made is not wasting so much time aimlessly staring at the tv. Rather than watching an episode of something I’ve already seen twenty times, I bust out my iPad or book and spend some time reading. Sometimes it’s only a chapter or two, but other times it might be an hour or three (sometimes you find a book you just can’t – or don’t want to – put down!).

And I know I’m so late to this party, but downloading the Libby app and connecting my library card so I can read e-books was the best thing I ever did. I’m one of those who prefers a physical book, but using Libby has been a life-changer. Some of the hold times are wild (I have a hold on one book with a wait time of 6 months!), but it’s nice having access to books quickly and not having to fork out $20/book every time you want to read something.

These have been small changes, but they’ve made such a big difference. And I do feel more productive and happier than wasting every evening as a tv zombie.

So what did I read in January?

Boilersuit | Nail Polish | Lamp | Book (linked below)

Before We Were Yours – My sister-in-law gave me this for Christmas in 2019 and it sat on my bookshelf until this year when I finally gave it a chance. This book was published in 2017, so again I’m super late to the party, and was written by Lisa Wingate. I think the cover image, which is of two young girls, made me assume it was just some cheesy girly book, but once I started reading I couldn’t put it down…and it’s definitely not a cheesy girly book but a great work of historical fiction. The story is inspired by the true events of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that would outright kidnap or swindle poor parents into signing over the rights to their children. I had never heard of this and was horrified after reading and researching about Georgia Tann, its operator. The book switches between two characters – one in present day and the other a girl trying to take care of her siblings after they’ve been kidnapped from their home and taken to a group home in the Tennessee Children’s Home Society system. As horrifying and heart-breaking as a lot of the book is, by the end I just wanted to see and hug my sister. Amazon | Bookshop

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide – Again, an older text published in 2016; however, I was reading this while the events surrounding the insurrection were taking place, so it was extremely timely, even especially in 2021. This was also my choice for the reading challenge – the theme for January was truth-bomb non-fiction. This is an absolute must-read, especially for white people, and Anderson takes us through history (and not that whitewashed history we get in school) to show how many times and in how many ways we’ve punished Black folks for gaining any small step towards equal rights. I think the information she provides on voter suppression is also vital and something we all need to be more aware of (especially since we’re seeing a huge attempt to suppress voting right now after Georgia’s turnout). I’m definitely using this text in some of my courses in the future. Amazon | Bookshop

Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers – This book was our January read for my book club at school, so it’s probably only going to appeal to a very specific audience. I really enjoyed this book by Jessamyn Neuhaus because it was personal, honest, and didn’t have that “stuffy” tone that a lot of books written for academics contain. Although I’m not really an introvert in class (students are shocked when I tell them I’m actually super shy), I was able to reflect on things I do before class or through email that are very introverted actions that are ineffective for student engagement. I also used several ideas to revise my own teaching philosophy! Amazon | Bookshop

How do you fit reading into your own busy schedule? What are some books that you’re loving right now or highly recommend? I love adding to my “want to read” list on Goodreads!

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