How I read 120 books last year

At our last book club meeting of the year, I mentioned that I’d probably reach about 120 books and the question came:

How on earth do you manage to read so many books?

It’s not rocket science but I thought I’d put it here just to remind myself too.

I set a goal (of 72) for the year

I’m a big goal setter and I honestly believe that without goals life is a lot less exciting 🙂

My reading goal means I need to read 6 books a month, that’s one every week but another two built in somewhere else. Just knowing that I have to get through a book a week means that I have a focus.

Have a good list of books to read

I admit, I took this one too far. At one point I had about 40-odd fiction and 20-odd non-fiction waiting for me.

But… you read a lot when you have a lot to read. If you have only 3 books you want to read, you’re going to drag out those 3 books.

It’s Pareto Principle in action – work expands to fill the time available for it.

I actually proved this in December – I could have read more than 8 but I knew I only needed to get to 8, so I slowed down when I got to 6 books for the month, and spaced out those last 2.

Use Audible or Overdrive for audio books

If you haven’t yet listened to an audible book, leave a note in the comments and I’ll send you my favourite one of all time 🙂

I easily get through one audible book a month, some months two. Truth be told I could get through about 4 audible books if I didn’t listen to as many podcasts as I do. One of my goals is to listen to just one more audible book every month.

For those that say they have a short commute, I have a 6-minute commute to my gym and my dance class, and I use those short distances to listen to essay-type books like Present over Perfect.

Use the library

You are much more likely to try books if there’s a low risk involved, in other words, you don’t have to pay for them. There are some books I dithered over, but when I saw they were available at the library, I had no hesitation in trying them. Granted, I did try books that weren’t for me, but I also found about 3 new-to-me authors, all at the library.

I use my physical library (I’ve been going to this one for 16 years; the librarians knew me waddling in while pregnant, and now they know my kids too) and last year I discovered Overdrive. Overdrive alone helped me read 23 of my 120 books. 

Use all those 5 and 10-minute blocks of time

If D and the kids are upstairs doing bedtime reading and I’m cleaning the kitchen/ packing my lunch, I listen to a book.

If I’m waiting in a queue or at the dentist, I pull out my phone, and read on the Kindle app. Non-fiction works best for these tiny blocks of time for me.

You know that if we all stopped scrolling Facebook or Instagram, we’d instantly be reading a book a week. Just saying.

Read books you really, really want to read

I abandoned 5 books in 2017. This is huge for me 🙂

However, you can read a book you really want to read in half the time of struggling to read something. This is different from books that are a hard read because they’re challenging your thinking (which is good for you!) vs books that are awful that you’re forcing yourself to read.

Also, in this same vein, don’t feel bad about the type of books you read. Granted, romance is not my thing, but if you want to read romance novels and nothing else, you go ahead 🙂

If you’re an Upholder, put “read” on your daily and weekly to-do lists

I started reading dramatically more books when I started adding a simple item – read a book – to my weekend to-do list. It became a fun task for me and was easy to then sit down and relax in the middle of the day, even while there was work to be done.

Surround yourself with readers

I haven’t ever had a problem reading a lot but I know for a lot of the ladies in the book club, just all of us talking about books and our Whatsapp group has pushed/ prodded/ encouraged all of them to read more.

Listen to readerly podcasts like What Should I read Next? and sign up to Modern Mrs Darcy’s blog where they discuss bookish things – it’s sure to keep your reading list full.

Bonus – I asked my husband if he had any tips for my readers and he rattled off 5 tips so quickly before the kids interrupted us that I think I need to do another blog post, just with his tips 🙂

(he is also an upholder but he leans to obliger so it may be more interesting to some of you :))

Now, did you reach your reading goal for 2017?

What did you do that made it happen?

Reading according to the season/ What I read in November

So it seems there is interest in talking more about books on the blog. This is last month’s post if you want to catch up.

But today, I want to talk about reading according to the season and then I’ll run through the November highlights.

I’ve always enjoyed a good summer beach read when I’m actually on the beach, and I definitely enjoy Christmas-themed books in November/ December.

In fact, I store up a few books throughout the year so that I’m ready when the Christmas season is here.

I don’t only read Christmas books but a good percentage of my fiction reads from about the second last weekend of November are themed.

This year I’ve already read 3 books, I’m currently half-way through this very photogenic book and our book club read also awaits.

Do you read according to the season?

And now, onto the books I read during November:

6 fiction/ 4 non-fiction (this year has been my biggest non-fiction reading year ever)

4 Kindle/ 3 Audible/ 3 Physical

Best fiction read: Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty. This was our book club read for November and I absolutely LOVED it. I was the only one in the book club who gave it 5*. I heard a podcast after that (No filter by Mia Freedman where she interviewed the author and she also LOVED my favourite character in the book). Have you read this one? Who was your favourite character?

Best non-fiction read: Frientimacy – Shasta Nelson. If you’re passionate about the subject of friendship like I am, you’ll enjoy being challenged and provoked into deep thinking by this one.

I read my first fiction book on audible in November. I chose The restaurant critic’s wife and it was a good read. I enjoyed the process especially when I figured out it’s exactly the same as reading a non-fiction on audible 🙂

So next year I’ll put a couple of fiction books on my reading goals list 🙂

Most of the books were just 3 – 3.5* to be honest, but Truly Madly Guilty totally made up for it!

What were some of the books you read last month? What was your best fiction read? What was your best non-fiction read?

PS for those who are interested, here are my 12 days of bookstagram

The Year of Living Danishly – a review

I know many of you are like me in that you love a good project. Even better when someone else does a great project and writes about it, right?

Examples of this genre that I love are The Happiness Project (for a few years after, some of my clients did their own happiness projects which I coached them through, and then I could re-live the book many times over – LOVE!!!), Happier at Home and the one I want to talk about today, The Year of Living Danishly.

In a nutshell, Helen Russell’s husband gets a job in Denmark at Lego (!), they go for the year. Helen is a journalist and during this year, she freelances while doing her Living Danishly project, one focus area each month. The Danes are known to be some of the happiest people in the world so the book explores that too – each person she interviews gets asked for their happiness score on a scale of 1 – 10.

I read the book through Audible and it was fabulous – the narrator is really, really good.

There’s a lot of talk about hygge – one of my favourite topics – because the Danes do this really well.

I wrote about hygge here and here, if you’d like to have a read.

The 10 concepts she explores in the book, and why Danes are so happy are:

  1. Trust more
  2. Live Hygge
  3. Use your body
  4. Address the aesthetics
  5. Streamline your options
  6. Be proud
  7. Value family
  8. Equal respect for equal work (I’d heard some of this research before from “Overwhelmed” – Brigid Schulte, a book I gave 5 stars)
  9. Play
  10. Share

I don’t want to say too much more, except if you’re going to read it, I recommend the audible version if you like a good English accent. However, if you’re not sure about audible, then get the kindle copy.

Hope you enjoy reading.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Which of the 10 do you most resonate with?

PS if you know of other similar project/ memoir-type books, do leave me a comment so I can check them out.

All links are affiliate – at no extra cost to you, I get a few cents for each book purchased via this blog

{New monthly blog series} reading highlights for October

I post a lot about reading on the OrganisingQueen instagram page and I think it also fits in on the blog because the question I get most when I talk about reading is not, “what should I read next?” but “how do you read so much?” or “I don’t have time to read”.

Reading to me is a priority/ time management issue with a good dose of organising thrown in, so it fits here perfectly.

Enough chit-chat? Let’s talk books.

A quick disclaimer about the weird numbers:

My goal for the year was 72, and so far I’ve read 102 books for the year. I haven’t increased my goal because 1) I want no more pressure for the end of the year and 2) I get a kick out of seeing 142% of budget 🙂

Stats:

9 books read for October – 3 non-fiction; 6 fiction

Fiction

Best fiction: Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult (this was our book club read)

Runners-up: Noah’s Compass (my second Anne Tyler) and All at Sea – Pauline Lawless

Most disappointing read: The Course of Love – Alain de Botton (I am in the very small minority of people who did not like this book very much).

Non-fiction

Best non-fiction: Reading People – Anne Bogel by a very small margin over The Sacrament of Happy – Lisa Harper

Reading people is a book exploring 7 different personality frameworks (insert heart-eyed emojis!) and I loved it. I pre-ordered so received a Kindle and audio version. If I have one complaint, it’s that she speaks too fast and slowing it down to 0.75 is just a bit too slow. So I had to really concentrate. If you get it, get the Kindle or paperback versions.

The Sacrament of Happy – This is a Christian book. If that puts you off, fair enough. But I’ve been frustrated many times over the last few years by the lack of Word there is in Christian books (non-fiction titles marketed as Christian). This one is not one of those. She speaks the Word, loves the Lord and I love how she teaches and balances it all with humour, personal experience. I also adore her accent. If you’re not sure, listen to the God Centered Mom podcast episode 174 as a taster.

What was the best fiction and non-fiction you read in October?

PS these are affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I’ll receive literally a few cents if you purchase through my links.

Using the Kindle Notes Export function

or in my opinion, one of the best things about reading on the Kindle 🙂

I read a lot of non-fiction and I often want to blog about something or talk about it with someone (an unsuspecting friend!).

115 highlights! I know – I love this book 🙂 and I’m an Upholder

Since I started the book club, I do the same thing with the book club reads so I can print out all my notes to discuss at the meeting.

When I read physical books, I have post-it flags all over the book but for Kindle, I highlight everything I want, and then export and print out the notes.

Kindle sends the notes to your address on the record in both PDF and Excel format -it’s really cool.

But let me show you how.

I noticed that they look slightly different when you do them on the Kindle or from your iphone/ ipad.

From the iphone

Click the little icon with the lines and My Notebook opens.

Click the icon with the square and the arrow pointing up and at the bottom of the screen, Export Notebook to Email.

I just choose None under Citation Style (because I have no idea what that even means), and then Export.

The email opens and you can send it where you want so you can print it.

I think you only get PDF and Excel if you export from Kindle. Either way, have fun and keep making your highlights.

Do you have any tips and tricks for me with your Kindle notes?

My no-spend-on-books month

I’ve done a no-spend month once before, years and years ago, when I joined Beth for her no-spend month.

That was a really great experience because it broke my Exclusive Books habit of spending hundreds of rands on books every month .

This time, I had an idea that my book-buying habit was getting a bit out of control because I was buying a title from Modern Mrs Darcy‘s list almost daily.

Even $2 – $5 Kindle deals add up… and fast.

Amazon also sends those almost-daily emails with their recommendations based on the titles you’ve viewed.

One day I looked and I had 31 unread titles on my Kindle – real books, not samples. And I’ve been reading on average 10 books a month.

I then decided this book-buying thing was getting out of hand and I decided March would be a no-spend month on books.

What did I do differently?

I unsubscribed from MMD’s list. It’s the same way I don’t ever take a catalogue or brochure from a store – if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. I will subscribe again when I feel more caught up with my current reading and I have told my book club to let me know if Small Great Things goes on sale 🙂

How did I do?

I’ve been waiting for Alec Baldwin’s memoir, Nevertheless, for over 6 months so the minute that became available on Audible, I pre-ordered it with a credit I had.

I somehow forgot about my no-spend March when I went to shop for the 2017 Library project and I picked up some books. It honestly didn’t even occur to me that I was buying books because in my head I had DIGITAL books as my goal. Aside from the 4 books for the library, I bought 1 for a friend and about 5 for me (!).

So I was successful with Kindle and Audible purchases; not with physical books 🙂

What now?

I’m back on the no-spend wagon. We have a mini-break coming up and I wanted some books for lazing at the pool so I bought some books on Amazon last week. Coming to an instagram feed near you 🙂

I do think I’m set for at least another 3 months so let’s see if I can keep up the no-spending challenge for books for at least another 2 months.

How about you?

Have you ever declared a no-spend challenge on buying books? Or make-up? Or clothes?

Speaking of which, I haven’t bought a watch since December 2012 and I now have only 3 working watches left. I’m going to treat myself for my birthday though (4 months away) or sooner if I see something I really want.

I want to tell you 7 things about reading

Reading is one of my favourite things to do or talk about. When you couple this with my passion, time management, I especially love it when people tell me they don’t have time to read, or enough time to read, and so on.

So not true, guys. I’m not buying it 🙂

You see, I think we all underestimate the amount of time we waste, and more importantly, how much time we have that we fritter away. Someone I follow, Laura Vanderkam, decided to stop scrolling the internet and read instead. She read 14 books in a month. She found 1.5 hours a day and more on the weekend, totalling 13.5 hours a week, without working or parenting less.

Why you and I are not reading more books

How I find time for reading

Another way to find time for reading – this one is probably unpopular

Then, the new thing is people tell me things like they don’t think audio books will work for them without even trying. I know audio is not for everyone.

Like how video is not for me. But I have watched a few Youtube videos, vlogs and such, tried it first and now I can give you reasons why (slow download speed/ impatience/ I like to be doing something and with video I have to actually sit there and watch, for example :))

Back to audio books.

If you have a short commute, remember all those 15 minutes add up. If you have a 15-minute commute, you can easily finish one audio book a month. That’s 600 minutes a month just to and from work.

However, there is also cooking time, cleaning time, editing photo time, scrapbooking time, walking time, gardening time.

I would love you to tell me you listened to a book and then decided it’s not for you. But please try! You can easily add 1 – 2 books to your “read list” every month in this super-simple way.

You may like this post on how I use audio to work for me. One major trick is to find a narrator you like.

Here’s where I shared my love for the Kindle at the 3-year mark. I just passed the 6-year mark two days ago!

When it’s worth it to buy a book

Bonus – free books with Overdrive

How do you prefer to read your books?

Have you tried an audio book yet?

Free digital audio and e-books with Overdrive

I get my books from 4 sources: library, buy on Kindle, buy on Audible and physical books from my shelf.

Recently though I discovered the Overdrive app.

I’d heard about this on the US blogs I follow and first thought it was an American thing.

Until I saw an Australian person comment on one such bookish post and so the wheels started turning.

I then investigated further and discovered that we also have Overdrive in South Africa.

Yay!

I’ve only been able to find one library in Johannesburg that my library card works at – the Gauteng Provincial Library Service – but one is enough…. at least for now 🙂

So far I’ve borrowed 2 audio books and about 6 ebooks in the last month.

Here are my notes:

  1. You have to be a member of the library (this is easy enough – pop into your local library, fill in a form and pay what they want – usually less than R50).
  2. Overdrive is a digital library so if you want to borrow “real books”, you go into the library as usual to get those, but this way, you can borrow audio and ebooks. I’ve seen that they also have videos but I have no interest in those 🙂
  3. You’re allowed to borrow 3 digital titles and put about 15 on hold. If you reserve a title (on the wait list) they will email you when it becomes available.
  4. You are allowed to keep the title for 14 days. It will automatically disappear from your account when this happens so allow enough time to read it. My first audio book was over 10 hours long and I thought I’d run out of time but I made it just in time 🙂
  5. I’ve only just discovered (in checking out a few things for this blog post) that you can return titles earlier than the 14 days. It worked for 2 of my 3 titles but somehow doesn’t want to let me return the 3rd one.
  6. For audiobooks, it is a little more cumbersome to use than audible but hey, it’s for free 🙂 You have to download a number of files (roughly 1 file per hour of listening time) but you can set it up to keep playing. And I delete files as I move through the book to save space on my 16 GB iphone.
  7. For ebooks, they can be read through the overdrive app on the ipad but I actually prefer reading in the ipad’s browser. You can access cool stats like how many times you’ve picked up the book, how long you’ve been reading, etc.

Are you intrigued, South Africans?

Please let me know if you use this service.

I see that there are libraries in each of the provinces so check it all out – you might save yourself some audible/ kindle costs 🙂

PS there aren’t tons of books (well, that I’m interested in reading) but I have placed holds on everything that does interest me so I can at least read all of those.

Organising Queen’s best books of 2016

2016’s not over yet but unless something radically changes, these were my top books:

5*

Stories I only tell my friends – Rob Lowe

I listened to the audible version of this book and I recommend you get that version because he narrates his own book and does all the different impersonations too. Even just for that alone, it’s a great listen. But he’s actually a really good writer too, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the listening time.

Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money – Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze

I wrote a bit about the book here but I can say this – if you have a child and you want said child to have a good relationship with money, just get the book. You won’t be sorry. Matter of fact, I think many adults need to hear/ listen to many of these truths.

I listened to the book on audible, but it would be just as easy to read a paper or Kindle copy.

4*

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

This book won Goodreads’ 2016 choice award in the memoir/ autobiography category with good reason.

It is a beautifully written account of a journey through a lung cancer diagnosis and ultimately death, and I enjoyed listening to it. For Cup of Jo fans, the author was her twin sister’s late husband.

I think everyone should read or listen to this book. Treat yourself 🙂

And then some fiction

I really enjoyed these ones by authors you may not know (I didn’t know most of them) but give them a chance. You can always download the Kindle sample and see if you like the writing first.

The Marriage Mender – Linda Green

While my eyes were closed – Linda Green (this one is only $2 on Kindle)

Tomorrow there will be apricots – Jessica Soffer

The week I ruined my life – Caroline Grace-Kennedy (unputdownable)

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty. I’m starting a bookclub in Johannesburg next year – first meeting end of January – and this is our first book.

For those who are budget-conscious (like I am!), I get my books 3 ways:

  1. Audible membership which I put on pause for three months a year to catch up.
  2. Kindle (but my rule still applies – it has to be under $10. I do put books on my wish list and Amazon lets me know when they go on sale)
  3. Library – a little-known fact for South Africans…. take a list of all the titles you want to read to your nearest library and ask the librarian to check if they are in circulation. You then reserve them and pay only R12 (for my municipality) when they arrive. I’d got lazy to take a list of books but I did so this weekend and reserved two. The minute the current lenders return them, they’re flagged on the system and will be dispatched to my local branch.

What were your favourite reads in 2016?

Share in the comments!

PS I posted the Rob Lowe book on Instagram and I’m so grateful to a commenter for telling me to get Andre Agassi’s one too. I’d had it on my wish list forever but wasn’t sure. Her recommendation pushed me over the edge 🙂 So please please do feel free to tell me your favourites.

What’s making me happier? Organising my Kindle

I was sorting out my Kindle the other day and realised this might make me a bit weird but it’s a weirdness that makes me very happy.

I have folders to organise my downloaded Kindle books.

img_4762

I have the obvious ones like Books read, and then the unread books go into either Fiction or Non-Fiction so depending what I’m in the mood for, I go directly to that section to find a book.

I also have a folder for Children’s books.

I leave sample books out of folders so that they’ll “bother” me and I’ll read them quickly 🙂

It makes me super happy when I finish a book and I can happily file it away in its folder.

img_6781

If only Audible let me create folders, I’d have a very happy time organising my audio books too 🙂

And now, I wish you 30 very happy minutes organising your Kindle. Take a screenshot and tag me @OrganisingQueen so I can come do the happy dance with you.

Do you have a Kindle?

Do you use folders? What are some of your folders called?

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