The pandemic of 2020 has certainly been a challenge. We had to learn new ways of doing just about everything, from working from home to educating our children and getting along with the family in close quarters. But in addition to this, many of us have developed new skills, from cooking to crafts, even sports, and we found ways to do things we never had time for before.  One of these abandoned pastimes is reading.   We may have been avid readers in our younger days, but as timed passed, life (and children), just got in the way. Some of us haven’t finished a book since it was required in high school or college.

Many of us have been saying with every new year, “I’m going to read more.”  And while we may write this down in our New Year’s resolutions, and even pick up a stack of great titles, the to-be-read pile still continues to grow.  Even now, with stay-at-home orders becoming mandatory again, we just can’t find the time to read.  But it can be done, especially during quarantine. To quote an old adage among teachers, “If you plan to learn, you must learn to plan.

I do my best reading outside. I can sit in the sun, or curl up on my patio, and read for hours. When it starts to get dark earlier, my reading decreases. While many of my friends love reading in bed, when I try to read at night, I usually fall asleep. I prefer a good movie or a show I follow to pass the time in the evenings.  I push myself a little harder if I have a reason to read: a book club deadline, a promised review, or just an author I’ve been dying to explore.  I used to read a book a week. I’d record my titles and rate them with stars or minuses. It might take two weeks for a longer or more challenging book.  But right now, I’m doing well if I get through a book a month.

What I’ve learned is that reading takes dedication and planning.  If you want to be the reader you imagine yourself to be, you have to make the time.  I push myself to finish a chapter in a sitting, so I can see the progress I’m making with the book. My goal is to read at least fifty pages a day, so I can easily see myself finishing a 200-300 page book in a week.  Some books, like a Toni Morrison novel or a work-related nonfiction book, may require a slower read.  I juggle balancing my reading with my work on the computer, whether it’s blogging or promoting my books. And I know that when my grandchildren are around, which is most weekends, I will have very little time to myself. So I do most of my reading in the afternoons during the week, and in the morning during the summer before it gets too hot.  (I live in Texas.) The better the weather, the more I’ll read.

So what will make you read more efficiently?  Here are a few suggestions.

1. Prioritize your reading. Plan for it in your agenda or set aside a time each day. Find a spot you like to read in, like a comfy chair, and get the extras you like to make it more enjoyable, like a cup of tea or coffee. And don't forget the music! Do you read with smooth jazz or classical music, or do you focus better in silence?  Carry a book with you for a break between errands. You can read in a restaurant or in your car.

2. Join a book club. Meet with friends to talk about good books or find a group online that selects the type of books you enjoy. My book club, Houston Reads Toni Morrison, discussed over half the books ion Zoom. There are plenty of online book clubs, often formed by genres like mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, or following a certain author. Oprah’s Book Club is still going strong online. You’ll want to be ready when it’s time for the talk. 

3. Research books online. Read articles about the best new books or books every woman (or man) should read. You’re bound to find something that will spark your interest, that will make you want to read.  Then download it on your tablet or Kindle or have it delivered. This makes it so much easier to follow up with an author you want to explore.

4. You can do the same with an author you see on television. Talking to the author, or seeing them talk about their book, really peaks my interest. I downloaded my first book on Kindle after seeing actress and cancer survivor Pam Grier on Oprah!   My new Kindle had sat in the corner for a month and I finally took advantage of the ease of downloading immediately. I wanted to read her story and I didn't have to go to the bookstore or wait for it to come in the mail.  I am inspired by authors on talk shows all the time.

5. If you buy or browse a book on Amazon, you will get suggestions of similar titles and authors. Use them. I’ve found some of my best reads this way. And don’t forget to check the daily discounts.   Remember you get free delivery with an Amazon Prime membership. And with a Kindle Unlimited plan, you can download up to ten ebooks at no additional cost.

6. Browse bookstores. I still love hanging out at Barnes & Noble, perusing the shelves to the smell of Starbucks.  You can always find something there. 

7. Most public libraries allow you to request books online and pick them up at your closest branch.  That saves you from writing down the call numbers only to find out that the book you want is checked out or unavailable. You can renew them online as well, giving you up to nine weeks to read the books.

8. When the pandemic is over, we can start going to vendor events again, like outdoor fairs, commercial expos and book festivals. You can meet the authors and get your book signed. Again,a personal connection to the author will inspire you to read the book.

9. Finally, if you like my blogs, you’ll love my lists. When the pandemic started, I asked myself what I could do to help people stuck at home. So I started "Rose’s Bookshelf". Every week, I recommend a book, give a summary and comments, and post it daily on my Facebook page. Every Sunday, I post a new book.  I target my readers, mostly Black women, and recommend a combination of contemporary and classics, fiction and nonfiction, and American, Caribbean and African authors. Every tenth book is one of mine, and I combine my ten recommendations into a blog.  Below are links to my first three blogs. Number four is coming soon.

Rose’s Bookshelf:  Find these and more book reviews at RoseFreelance.com. The links below will take you there.  


1.  Rose's Bookshelf Number One

       The Bluest Eye, Sula, Their Eyes Were Watching God, An American Marriage, Becoming

       and Well-Read Black Girl, just to name a few.


2.  Rose's Bookshelf Number Two

     Inv1sible Man, Song of Solomon, Baby of the Family, Narrative of the Life of Frederick

     Douglass,The Color Purple, and more.

3.  Rose's Bookshelf Number Three

     Books you'll love like Beloved, Small Great Things, Heads of the Colored People,Tumbling,

    Purple Hibiscus, and The Audacity of Hope.

10. Finally, if you want to become a reader, just do it. Some students in my English classes used to tell me “I hate to read.” And I’d tell them, “Reading is like eating. You might not like broccoli, but you love chocolate cake. You just have to find the book that suits your taste. But don't be afraid to try something new.”  So make an effort to find the book you really want to read, that captures your heart and soul. Then you will understand that books not only teach and entertain us, but they make us who we are. And then you’ll look forward to the next book, and the one after that,  and the one after that. Before you know it, you’ll call yourself a reader.

And if you really appreciate what the author has given you (and believe me, writing a book takes a lot of sweat, sleepless nights and tears), then thank them, by writing a review. Three or four lines is sufficient, but feel free to write more. Post it on Amazon and Goodreads, or other websites where people look for books.  You may wind up getting quoted in their next book!. So get out your book and enjoy it!