A drawing of a book covered in sticky tabs being held by a hand, against a yellow backdrop
A drawing of a book covered in sticky tabs being held by a hand, against a yellow backdrop

Ah, a new year. Have you been eying up your to-be-read pile with the flick of the calendar, or contemplating that, this year, you'll finally tackle some of the classics? Maybe you simply want to carve out some more time to read, but are still struggling to make your way through the books on the shelf.

Whether you've resolved to read more or simply want to read better, we hear you: there are far more many excellent books than there is time to read them. Fortunately, there are also plenty of clever hacks to help you read more - just once you've finished reading this piece! 

Get tabbing

You might have seen some rainbow-maned books kicking around on Instagram, TikTok and Youtube: welcome to tabbing! As shown above, tabbing is the process of marking out different parts of the book for different reasons. These reasons can be particular to both you and the book. Perhaps you want to highlight the scenes that you want to return to, those that include fantastic facts you'd like to remember or simply beautiful passages you may want to quote from. You can use different colour tabs for each category, but you may want to make a key in the front cover to remind you which refers to what. 

How does it help you read more? Well, devoted tabbers say it brings them everything from satisfaction to fun and mindfulness. It also gives you a reason to keep reading - and tabbing - that pleasing rainbow ruffle along the pages!

Read in the ad breaks

Some people who get through dozens of books a year hold the fact that they don't watch a lot of television responsible for their success. But it needn't be either or - especially if you're watching a brilliant TV adaptation of a great book! Ad breaks may increasingly be a thing of the past with on-demand TV, but they're still present when you watch live sport or on services that advertise during shows. What do you normally do during this time? Grab a snack, have a scroll? Keep a book nearby and pick that up when the ads start to roll - you can turn the volume down if they're distracting. You can rack up 15 minutes of reading right there.

Apply the 10 Minute Rule

The best books hold you tight - the kind you find yourself thinking about when you're not reading them, the kind you can't stop talking about, the kind you find yourself bereft after finishing. But not all books are that easy to get into, or finish. Perhaps they're rewarding in other ways: they offer fascinating insight, or beautiful prose, or a new way of thinking about things - but you have to stick with the sentences to get there.

How to do it? Try the 10 Minute Rule! As suggested by Reddit user Rendy Anthony, sitting yourself down and making yourself read for 10 minutes each day is a great practice to get into. You may find your timer goes off and you're delighted to stop trying, but at least you've done 10 minutes of reading. Chances are, you'll look up and 35 have flown by.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Perhaps this year you're keen to sink into some of the older classics, and dive into the books that some consider part of the literary canon. It's a fantastic challenge, but 19th-century English can seem archaic to modern ears. In which case, it's not cheating to reach for a study guide or some insight. There are plenty of resources available online, with Schmoop, SparkNotes and CliffsNotes offering insights on many of the greats.

Read more: How to navigate your way through the longest classic books

Read more: How to start building your classics collection

Read on your phone

I know it sounds counterintuitive, phones being the agents of distraction and often the biggest enemy of some uninterrupted reading time, but Penguin author Megan Nolan shared this tip with us last year and it's too good not to pass on. Like many of us, Nolan uses her phone a little more than she'd like "So I decided I would start reading on my phone, I use Kindle on my phone," she explains. "So that when I have the habit of having my phone in my hand, I'll be reading instead." So simple, but so effective! For extra concentration points, switch your phone onto airplane mode or greyscale mode, and enjoy some beneficial screentime.

Start the day right

What's the first thing you do when you wake up? If you find yourself reaching for your phone to find out what the time is, and are still scrolling 20 minutes later, this one's for you: pick up a book, instead. As our very own Indira Birnie explained last year, starting the day with reading can be life-changing. "In my desperation to overcome the dreaded reading rut, I took drastic measures (well, drastic for me), forcing myself out of a slumber as soon as my alarm went off and vowing to spend at least 15 minutes reading every morning. I made it easier for myself by turning to my comfort reads: classic crime or other escapism-inducing fiction with plots so gripping that they're hard to put down – even if it means waking up early to get your fix."

Musician Lucy Dacus also reads in the morning, and told us of her elaborate literary routine before she gets out of bed: "in the morning, before I let myself leave my room, I read one poem or one essay. And then if I want to keep going, I'll read a book, but definitely one poem every morning. It's just really accessible; you get to finish it. And that kind of fuels you up to read a whole essay, which may fill you up to just like, read a whole book. So I love doing that."

What did you think of this article? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

Image: Rebecca Hendin for Penguin

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