How to Make the Most of Your Summer Reading

We are slowly crawling towards the (arguably) most conducive season of the year for reading. Yes, summer is within reach, and along with its sunrays and beach days comes a little more time for reading than during the rest of the year. Even women with busy year-round careers usually find more time to relax under the summer sun. That might mean coming home from work and sitting on the front porch with a book instead of sitting in the living room with a laptop or in front of the television. Or that might mean taking a few more days off from work during the summer to relax and spend time with family. All we know is that, fortunately, summertime is often synonymous with “reading time.”

Now, you may not be thinking about what you want to read yet this summer, or you may have very lofty plans for completing a massive reading list. Whatever your stage in this process, though, we would like to offer some advice about how to make the most of your reading and how to have an overall “well-read summer” this year.


1. Choose the right books

This sounds like the easy, fun part, right? While it is, there is a little bit more to this step than just quickly jotting down the most popular books everyone has been talking about that you haven’t had time to get to. When deciding which books you want to read this summer, make sure you have a good variety of books on your list. The well-read reader will have a well-rounded diversity of novels, and not just the latest “books-turned-movies” (not hating, because I’ve discovered some of my favorites on this shelf in Target). You may love 1920s historical fiction (umm guilty), but if you choose books solely from this topic, then you will end up experiencing burnout and essentially “killing” those kinds of books for yourself forever. Avoid this problem by picking books from various genres (not all romance novels!) and from both new authors and authors you already know and love. And it’s not a bad idea to include a re-read in your plans as well. A good list will have something old, something new, something happy, and something blue.


2. Keep a reading journal / Make a list

Buy yourself a little journal and have a lot of fun with it! Make it pretty, keep it with you, and make sure you keep a section of it free for notes and thoughts about the books which you can then go back and reference in the future. Remember to be realistic in picking the number of books you choose (learn from Jane Austen’s Emma not to be too ambitious!), but do not settle for mediocrity either! Give yourself some lofty goals, but also think quality over quantity! (For example, in my humble opinion, it is more worthwhile to read Gone with the Wind than to read 5 Nicholas Sparks books which together add up to the length of Margaret Mitchell’s masterpiece).

The latest and greatest trend in book lists is bullet journaling (here's some tips and tricks!), and I happen to be a big fan of this method myself. For some added inspiration, here is how I set up my book bullet journal:

I divided my summer list up into the different genres or types of books that I want to read, and I made sure it looked pretty! (Note: I used a Moleskine journal and PaperMate Flair pens)

Just like you had to write a paper after finishing a book in high school or college, give yourself a little bit of homework at the conclusion of a book. However, make it fun homework, something to look forward to rather than dread. Designate a section of your journal for notes, where you can jot down your thoughts or opinions about the books you are reading to go back and read in the future.

Include a section for quotes. You can either go back and read these quotes later for some inspiration, or you can get a little creative with them eventually. As I’m reading a book, if I stumble across an inspiring or eye-opening quote, I like to record it in my journal. While I am not the most creative person in the world, I like to turn these quotes into something crafty later. In college, I had fun decorating my dorm room with small canvases that I decorated (attempting fancy lettering) with the quotes and authors. It made me happy to look at them, and these favorite authors gave me some much-needed encouragement whenever I was completely stressed out with tests and papers.


3. Keep a book on you at all times

Don’t ever leave the house without a book!! I know what you’re probably thinking...umm that sounds like a huge pain and an added weight to my already heavy purse? Well, if you happen to be reading a 1000-pager (looking at you, Atlas Shrugged), then you might want to simply leave it in the car or stroller. Then, when you suddenly find yourself with some free time at the park with your kids or waiting in line for an appointment, your book is not far from hand. If reading a book that does not weigh 85 pounds, then keep it in your purse, and pretty soon you will start feeling strange without it! Nobody likes to be caught empty (book) handed!


4. Don’t be afraid to read two (or three) books at once

I used to think that there was no possible way for me to be able to read--and fully grasp and enjoy--multiple books at once. I was scared that I would confuse plots, characters, and get all-around frustrated and give up. Thank goodness I was wrong, though, because now I get frustrated if I’m not reading more than one book at a time. The key here is to not read two similar books at once. For example, it would be a poor life choice to read Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 at the same time, the reason being that they are both similarly themed dystopian novels which could easily get muddled together in your head if read simultaneously. However, if you choose to read several different kinds of books at the same time, then you can keep yourself immersed in multiple “worlds” at once, and you can designate specific books for specific times and places. For example, I like to keep my fun, exciting “eye candy” novel in my purse for on the go, which is, essentially, easy consumption for whenever I have a spare minute or hour to read. It keeps me wanting to go back for more and I can usually get through this book fairly quickly. Then, I keep a deeper, more intuitive, or more resourceful book at home, which requires a bit more attention and thought and is something that I can pick up and leave as needed. I read this one when I have some free time to just sit and absorb at home. Then, I like to keep a spiritual book by my bed to read before I go to sleep. This book helps me unwind, readjusts my focus at the end of the day, and is not a nail-biter that is going to keep me up reading all night!


5. Document and reward yourself for books completed

Just like with any other kind of list, give yourself little rewards for checking things off your list to give yourself some motivation and encouragement. Some ideas here would be:

  • Document:

    • Every time you finish a book, take a picture with it and either post it on your instagram feed or print and place in your reading journal.

    • When you finish reading your entire list, take a super fun picture of or with all of your books and place in your reading journal (or on your bookshelf!).

  • Reward:

    • For every book you finish, buy yourself a cup of iced coffee (or ice cream!).

    • For every 3-5 books you finish, take a trip to your local bookstore and buy a new book.

    • If you finish every book on your list at the end of the summer, plan a small getaway to a bookish locale (inspiration here), a trip to the beach, or a fun shopping trip!

And with that, I hope that you have found some new motivation to get reading and make the most of this summer! Feed your mind and your soul with some good books, and give yourself some time to relax. There are many proven health benefits to frequent reading (here’s some proof). Thus, both your mental and physical health will thank you for it!

Need some help picking out a few books? Listen to our Novel Conversations podcasts to discover some of the world’s greatest stories and to give you encouragement to read the classics! Our second season just started on April 18th, and it is guaranteed to deliver some amazing reads! (I personally just added A Farewell to Arms to my summer reading list after listening to the podcast, loving it, and kicking myself for having gone this long without reading this book!)


Here is the first episode of our new season! Give it a listen:

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