Developing a reading strategy

How to go about developing a better reading strategy? I mainly mean things like: how to decide which book to read next, when to stop reading, when to switch between books, when to buy a book, etc.

I’m noticing my current behaviour is rather haphazard. I buy books because they look interesting in the moment, and then never read them. If I can resist the temptation of buying, the book ends up on a list. Also, I tend to jump a lot, reading different books at the same time, never finishing most of them, and instead spend a lot of time reading stuff on the internet.

Not that any of those are nessesarily a bad thing, but it would be nice to have a more conscious process.



Not sure if this helps, but it’s sort of worked for me: I’ve been trying to borrow more ebooks from the library, and using availability as a filter for what I read now vs save for later, and using the 3 week return deadline as motivation to actually finish. The Brooklyn Public Library where I am uses an app called Libby that lets you borrow ebooks quickly and easily, and you can read them on your phone or send them to a kindle.

So if I find a book I want to add to my list, I’ll save it to a “to read” list on Libby. If it’s available for borrowing I’ll just borrow it right then, if not I’ll wait comfortably knowing that reading it is just a few taps of a button away once it’s available. Feels more actionable than just writing it down in my notes or whatever, and I still don’t spend any money on it. I guess an amazon wishlist could work similarly.


I used to have a long “want to read” list on Goodreads and recently removed a bunch of books; some I had added over 6 years ago, and if I haven’t made a move to read them by now, I had to admit they weren’t a priority. The ones I kept were either non-fiction books about topics I’m very interested in, or fiction books that came highly recommended by people I trust.

When to stop reading? If you’re ~100 pages in, or 1/3 in, and find it annoying, you can move on. Maybe find some summary online. But it’s okay to quit a book (and I’d still consider it “read”).

How to pick a book? Depends if I really want to learn something (non-fiction) or exercise my imagination (fiction). There’s a sense too of whether or not I want to read something “heavy”. I like to switch up book length too; I won’t read a 500 page book right after another 500 page book. Mixing lengths and genres is key for me.

I also like to read before bed and right after I wake up. I don’t always do this, but these are naturally quiet, uneventful moments in the day for me, so it’s easy to make time for a book. My commute is thankfully short so I don’t read then, or during the day in general really. Reading is slightly ritualistic for me; I have my cozy armchair, my tea, etc – it makes the whole experience much more pleasurable.

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My grandfather taught me a fun little trick for when to stop reading a book. Take your age, subtract it from 100 and whatever you get is the page you should stop reading on if it hasn’t hooked you yet.


Good question! I think there are several interrelated things to unpack when it comes to figuring out a personal reading strategy that works for you. As you may imagine, I have a few ideas :smiley:

Building an antilibrary

What books should be “on my list”? For me this started out with making an Amazon wish list and adding any books I found that looked interesting. That soon got overwhelming so I made a smaller, more selective list for my top “antilibrary” picks. Eventually I decided to make a whole website to try to organize this better.

I think it’s probably worth keeping either a couple lists (by genre, priority, whatever makes sense to you) or at least one high priority list of the books you most want to read. For me it can be helpful to differentiate between “looks super interesting” and “I actually really want to read this soon” — often different! Some books I think are awesome and want to have in my antilibrary but I know realistically I probably won’t read em soon. That’s okay!

What to read next?

Could be a good idea to revisit this list every so often and let the ones you’re most drawn to bubble to the top. No need to actually buy more than a few at a time, but you’ll always have something to draw from.

I should also note, honestly lots of the books I buy aren’t ones I’ve had on a list for a long time, but rather ones I found at a bookstore and picked up in the moment…serendipity is always great too!

Same goes for actually choosing what to read next…I don’t plan this out ahead of time, it’s always slightly random based on what I have on hand, what mood I’m in, etc. I think it’s useful to own enough books that you always have a variety to choose from, but past a certain point a great antilibrary list can be almost as valuable as your actual bookshelves.

How to read what and when

I think this is a totally fine approach! —

I like to read several books in parallel too. Often with fiction I’ll read one book straight through, but nonfiction…I have like two dozen books in my nightstand that I’ve started, some way through, haven’t necessarily read for a while, but meaning to return to at some point.

I’m not particularly good at the “when to stop reading” part. I have completionist tendencies and always want to at least try to finish a book. So perhaps the “parallel processing” approach is also just an easier way to abandon books without feeling bad about it. Either way I think haphazardly reading lots at once is great. @edouard wrote a cool post that’s on point here, discussing “reading networks” and how books can inform one another and let you build interesting connections between them.

Different modes / approaches to reading

Also worth thinking about different ways of reading a book…not just the approach to choosing books but the actual practice, because it can be surprisingly varied. I talk about that a bit more here in this topic I started back when no one was here yet so it has no replies haha…but I think also relevant to this discussion!

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