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The exhausted mom’s guide to reading books

WOMAN, READING, SOFA
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Here’s how you can read great books even when time and energy seem nonexistent.

Somebody asked me recently how I read so often, and I had a moment of total confusion. “Wait, what …. you mean me?” I don’t read. That’s obvious, because I’m very, very pregnant, and I have a preschooler and a toddler, and by the end of the day, I’m actually too tired to move and almost too tired to think.

Clearly, this isn’t the stage of my life when I’m going to be reading much more than the occasional piece of clickbait … except, somehow, I have been reading books. When I stopped to think about it, I realized I’ve found a handful of ways to make picking up a book seem easy and interesting enough that it’s not just one more drain on my very limited energy. 

Hack your dopamine system

Shopping gives your brain a real dopamine hit. That’s why we shop when we’re stressed. But did you know that you can absolutely trick your brain into thinking it’s shopping just by being really over-eager with your library’s inter-library loan system? I look for books I want to read on Amazon, click through the “people who bought this also bought” suggestions, and then I order them through the library instead. That way I don’t have to drag children through the quiet sections of the actual library, and I know I’m going to be excited about what comes.

Don’t finish what you start

You don’t have anyone to impress here. If you don’t love it, don’t push yourself to finish it. Otherwise, reading is just one more thing to push yourself to do, and why would you pick up a book at the end of a long day if it’s just more hard work? Let reading be a source of joy, and feel perfectly free to shut any book that’s draining your energy.

Keep your books in plain sight

Whatever I’m reading — or whatever I want to start — I keep right on the counter, in the middle of everything. That way it’s always on my mind, and I don’t automatically gravitate to Facebook when I have a minute to sit down. You don’t need one more thing to keep track of, so leave your books where you won’t forget them. 

Keep a list of what to read next

Sometimes, the hardest part of reading is just deciding what you want to start. Whenever one of my friends mentions a book they liked, or whenever somebody links to a promising new book, I note the title quickly on my phone. That way, whenever I don’t know what I want to read next, I have a list of ideas, and it’s that much less work I need to do. It’s a great way to keep track of what’s good when I’m in the middle of one book I love, and I’m not ready to order the next one yet.

Get out more books than you’ll be able to read

Come home from the library with 15 books, even if you only end up reading through one or two of them. That’s what libraries are for. Order what looks interesting, even if you’re not sure you’ll want to read it … and don’t feel guilty about returning the book, even if you never managed to crack it open. If you’re going to make reading a part of your busy life, you need to make it as easy and accessible for yourself as possible.

Lose the “shoulds”

Do you have an idea of the kind of books you think you “should” be reading? I do; I wish I was the kind of person who read more fiction, and more spirituality. But as long as I focus on what I should read, reading feels like homework, which I super do not have time for. Read what you like, even if you think it’s silly. If you’re into breezy beach fiction all winter, or if all you ever want to read is cookbooks, then go crazy. It’s still reading, and you make the rules. 

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