There it was, the whimper, followed by the hiccups, soon it would evolve into the full-blown wail of my sweet little newborn.  I checked the clock: 2:05, time to eat for sure.  I slowly roll out of bed.  After changing my son’s diaper and getting him started on eating, I flip open my kindle and step into The #1 Ladies Detective Agency where I join Mma Ramotswa and her partner Mma Grace Makutsi talking about their latest case.


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Do you need a quick way to relax?  Do you want to actively engage your mind on a regular basis?  In other words, do you want to read more, but aren’t really sure where to start?

When I began reading The #1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, I was just trying to figure out a way to cheerfully endure the exhausting first few weeks of taking care of a newborn, but later realized that I had inadvertently stumbled on the secret formula for picking and reading a lot of books.  A secret formula, I’m sharing with you today.

Pick a purpose.

The first thing I did was pick the right book for the right time.  At that moment, I really just needed a way to relax and so I picked this series with that purpose in mind.  If I had picked a difficult piece of classic literature or even a parenting book, it would not have served it’s purpose as well.

We need different books for different times in our lives.  Finding the right book, for the right time and the right person (i.e. us, not our neighbor or fictional self) can be tricky, but we have a much better chance of getting that if we know what we want to gain from our reading.

This year, my purposes in reading are to improve my parenting skills, increase my empathy and understanding of other cultures and people and to expand my literary knowledge.

What do you hope to gain from your reading this year?

Find the best books.

The second step was to find the best book that fit my chosen criteria.  Ask a friend for their favorite reads, pay attention to book recommendations in articles or podcasts and specifically research ideas in different genres on the internet.  These are some articles I found useful when researching parenting books, children’s literature, books from the canon and learning about our global community

I picked up The #1 Ladies Detective Agency because of a recommendation from friends at a book club.  I knew I would like the main character from their description and I really liked that it was set in Africa, a place where I may not ever be able to visit, but would love to learn more about.

What categories of books could you research to find one that fills your needs?

What are some books that you have heard others recommend that you would like to read?

Keep a continual stash.

I got through 14 books over a 6 week period.  How’d I do it?  Well, I had a specific time to read and as soon as I was done reading one book, I borrowed the next copy through my digital library.  The single best tip I have to keep up your reading is to always have something you want to read on hand and set aside a specific time in your day to do so.  You can keep a continual stash by trying the following:

  • going to the section of library you want to learn more about and grabbing books that look interesting to you, I know this is crazy, but I usually find at least 1 good book this way
  • ordering or reserving books as soon as you hear them recommended
  • grabbing the next book you want to read on your kindle or other device as soon as your finish your current book.

Using the strategy of grabbing books from one particular section, here’s my latest book grab from the library (can you guess which section I went to?).

So, that’s it.  Pick a book with intention, listen for and research books that are useful to your goals in life, pick one and repeat, making sure you always have one available.


Don’t become too occupied with the specific book you read, there are literally thousands of books out there that would serve your purposes, this is why it’s good to have several on hand.   Pick up one book and try it out, if you don’t like it or it doesn’t fit your standards, put it down and try another one, life is too short to waste hours of time on a book you don’t like.  To prevent the likelihood you read a book you don’t like, you can also try reading reviews or checking the rating on commonsensemedia.


Write it down in a journal, talk about it with a friend or leave a comment below.

Need some more convincing that reading can you help you in your life today.  I found this great article listing the benefits of reading in adulthood.