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How I Read More Books and Went from Zero to Fifty in a Year

Here are nine simple ideas for how to read more books, reignite your love of reading, and crush your personal reading challenge!

I went from finishing zero books in 2019 to 50 in 2020!

How I Read More Books and Went from Zero to Fifty in a Year | Where The Smiles Have Been #books #reading #readingchallenge #bookchallenge #readmore #readingtips


How I Read More Books and Went from Zero to Fifty in a Year

Now, this post is definitely out of the norm for what I typically share here on my little slice of the web.

Normally I’m providing tutorials for how to add legs to an IKEA shelf or DIYing your own personalized glitter ornaments.  Sometimes I’m giving away free printables and/or cut files for your Silhouette or Cricut because everyone loves free!

Blog posts about books are not really my thing…unless you count my post on tips for making the perfect baby photo book. That just has a handful of words though so probably not, huh?

This year, I not only got back into reading but I also kicked my reading goal’s butt and I just had to share my joy here.

Since as I mentioned above, I’m all about sharing tips and tricks, I also wanted to pass along some info on how I got my reading mojo back in case some of you might also want to read more books.

Here are NINE SIMPLE THINGS that I did to go from reading zero books last year to knocking out 50 this year and become a voracious reader again!


#1: Created a Reasonable Personal Challenge

New Year’s 2020 feels like a decade ago instead of just a year, but during that time before the world turned upside down, I made one resolution: READ MORE.

I used to read all the time and it was a favorite hobby of mine, but then…kids. Becoming a mom definitely caused some dust buildup on that ole bookshelf of mine, but now that my boys are older and no longer need constant attention, I was eager to dive back in.

Since this year was going to be a reintroduction, I knew I needed to set a personal goal that would challenge me, but also one that was reasonable so that I wouldn’t get frustrated.

I wanted this to be a stress-free FUN hobby after all, and not one filled with unnecessary pressure.

Therefore, I decided to set a personal goal of one book a month, or twelve for the whole year. A daily challenge like reading X number of pages or Y number of minutes seemed like too much pressure, but finishing one book per month was certainly doable.


#2) Read What *I* Like

I’m not really one for keeping up with the Joneses, and I don’t care too much about what the New York Times or Oprah are raving about. If a book’s premise doesn’t sound interesting to me, I don’t feel compelled to dive in, even if it’s all the rage on social media.

I do me without any shame or FOMO.

I tend to go for historical fiction (especially WWII), personal development books (because I am a GD Cheetah), and memoirs. You will probably never find me reading anything in the horror genre (sorry Stephen King, I’m just not that into you), and I am totally cool with that.

I like what I like and I read more when I’m reading what I like. It’s that simple.


#3) Print, EBooks, & Audiobooks Are All My Jams

I am not a traditionalist and don’t need to feel the weight of a book in my hands or have my nostrils filled with the scent of its pages (there are candles for that).

I’ve discovered that I prefer some genres (like personal development) in print where I can highlight and dog-ear pages to my heart’s content for easy access later on when I need some inspiration.

Celebrity memoirs and novels with a great narrator(s) make excellent audiobooks while on my daily walks or while knocking out home improvement projects like painting bathroom cabinets.

And ever since Oprah placed the very first Kindle on her Favorite Things list in 2008 (okay, I guess I do like her opinion sometimes), I’ve been a fan of ebooks. They’re just so dang convenient (and remember when best sellers and new releases were all under $10?? LOL, oh, those were the days…).

I’ve found what works for me, and that’s a variety of reading formats. Usually I’m reading two or even three books at once, just to spice things up and keep things fresh.


#4) Joined a Book Club/Reading Community

After Christmas last year, I stumbled upon this Facebook group that was exactly what I was looking for: a community of other bibliophiles who, due to life getting in the way, had had a sort of falling out with the activity but were eagerly looking forward to becoming a “recovering reader.”

It’s a totally no pressure and no shame environment that is uber encouraging and motivating.

We help each other with recommendations and reviews, share funny reading-related memes, and there’s also a traditional monthly bookclub pick and discussion if that’s your thing. There’s even a festive holiday book exchange and occasional giveaways.

My favorite part of the group, however, is sharing our monthly and yearly reads. More on this below in the #8) Celebrated My Progress section…


#5) Took Full Advantage of FREE Books at my Fingertips

Who doesn’t love their local library? A building full of FREE books right there for anyone and everyone, and now thanks to modern technology, more FREE books on your phone or laptop screen.

In January, I discovered that my library provides access to ebooks and audiobooks through an app/website called Libby.

It’s great for new releases, and I can check out up to five ebooks/audiobooks at a time for two weeks each, and can place holds for up to five more at a time.

Libby Library Reading App Screenshots #reading #books #library


When lockdown hit our area in March, the library also provided us members with a free three-month subscription to another similar-but-different app/website known as Hoopla.

There aren’t many new releases with this one, however, if you see a title you want, you can borrow it instantly and it’s yours for three weeks, and you’re allotted five borrows every month.

They also provide quite the collection of movies, TV shows, comics, and music, and it was so popular during that initial offering that our library continued with their subscription and it’s still available for us members…so thanks HMCPL!

Hoopla reading app screenshot #reading #books #library


Friends, I use these two apps on my phone ALL. THE. TIME. They have saved me soooo much money and I’ve found some really great reads that I probably would have never discovered otherwise.

I listen to audiobooks on my phone via either the speaker or my Air Pods, and send ebooks from the apps to read on my Kindle Paperwhite (but you can also read them in the app as well if you don’t have/want to use a Kindle).

Definitely check and see if your local library has similar offerings to access free ebooks and audiobooks.

Also, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, don’t forget about your Prime Reading benefits!

Amazon Prime Reading


And while not free, Kindle Unlimited is a great cheap subscription service that gives you unlimited reading of books and magazines and listening of audiobooks on any Kindle or device with the Kindle app. I’ve discovered so many great offerings this way too.

Kindle Unlimited


#6) Turned Reading Into a Game

Completing a reading bingo card or a specific challenge like one for genres or wider topics are more fun ways to spice up the regular “total books read” feat.

Plus, how satisfying is it to yell out “BINGO!” or cross out things as you accomplish them?

These games also give me inspiration and help me answer the age old “What should I read next?” question.


#7) Tracked My Progress

Speaking of helpful apps…

I also use another app called Goodreads to keep track of the books I’m reading and as well as those I’ve finished.

I created my own personal 2020 challenge of 12 books as well as a virtual shelf that I oh-so-cleverly labeled…you guessed it…’2020′. It’s now super quick and easy to track my progress.

Goodreads App Bookshelf Screenshot #Goodreads #reading #books #readingtracker


If you’re not a fan of the digital, there are paperback reading logs and challenges (fancier ones or more simple ones), guided goal-setting journals such as this, book-specific journals like this one, or you could always incorporate your reading goals as part of a traditional habit tracker like this or this.


#8) Read with Reckless Abandon

I am not a purist. Some people out there believe that if you start reading a book, you need to finish it no matter what. I am not one of those people.

If I start reading something and I’m just not feeling it, away it goes, without any guilt or shame.

There have been plenty of extremely popular titles that the universe was just raving about and when I gave them a try, I was just like… “Really??”

Hard pass.

I’ve also found that with audiobooks, even if the story is interesting and the writing is good, if the narrator is not my cup of tea, I have to move on. Sometimes I’ll give the book another shot in print format, but an irritating/poor performer can kill an audiobook for me in no time.

Life is too short for fake cheese, boring clothes, and bad books.


#9) Celebrated My Progress

Like I mentioned up in #4) Joined a Bookclub/Reading Community, celebrating my progress was a huge part of my success in reading more books this year.

I mean, sometimes you gotta toot your own horn, ya know?

In that group at the end of every month, some members (myself included) choose to share what books they’ve read, and usually they’re cute little collages showcasing the book covers. Sometimes ratings and/or short reviews are also included.

It’s neat to see what others are reading and recommend (or don’t), and also fun to help someone else find their next read through my offerings. Plus, looking over all my collages from the year is a really fun and helpful trip down Memory Lane.

If you don’t feel like using a photo app or making a collage of covers, no biggie! You could always just take a screenshot of your Goodreads list or snap a pic of your tracker.

Here’s the collage I created and shared for my March 2020 reads. It was easily made with a couple apps on my phone:

March 2020 Book Cover Collage


And here was my final yearly collage showcasing my Top Picks of 2020:

Best Book Picks of 2020 Book Cover Collage


In case you’re interested, here are links to my Top 2020 picks. I highly recommend them all!


And now I’m off to start working on my 2021 reading challenge!

2021 Reading Challenge Goodreads

How I Read More Books and Went from Zero to Fifty in a Year | Where The Smiles Have Been #books #reading #readingchallenge #bookchallenge #readmore #readingtips


Thanks so much for stopping by! Happy reading!

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