How I Read 4X More This Year Than Last

In all of 2017, I read twenty books. So far in just the first three months of 2018, I've already read twenty-one books! Who wouldn't want to make 4X as much money? Run 4X as far? Spend 4X as much time with someone you love? Here's how I'm reading more than four times more than last year.
How I Read 4X More This Year Than Last ♥

Bookworms Unite!

Were you a reader as a child? Did you too always have your "nose in a book", that's what grown-ups used to call it. And even though I do still read and even though my book club has been reading together for almost 25 years, in the end, for me, books and reading had fallen in importance. Books were no longer a priority.

The photo above is one of the twin grandsons, then age eight. The house will be noisy and busy but somehow, that one finds a private corner and just keeps reading ... it was just a quick snapshot but somehow, the image struck me. Look how intent he is, how his mind and his body are both tense with focus, how he's blocked out the rest of the world. He's inspired me to re-immerse myself in books, to allow the time and intention to fall back in love with reading.

I half shocked myself, being able to read so much more this year than last!

Here's how I've done it and what I've been reading.

How I Make Time to Read

  • I gave up Facebook, Netflix and the assault of the 24-hour newscycle. Two of the three (guess ...) were making me crazy, the third was turning me into a zombie.
  • I "read" three books at a time, one on the Kindle, one to listen to on Audible on my phone, one in hardcopy.
  • I got a decent set of Bluetooth earbuds (for dog-walking, housework and once spring arrives, working outside) and an Amazon Echo (for listening in the kitchen) and a LED spotlight (for reading in bed).

How To Read More: My Tricks and Tips

  • Reading both non-fiction and fiction works different parts of my brain. Non-fiction makes for better table conversation, fiction sweeps me away.
  • Short books might boost "my numbers" but longer books are, to me, inherently more engaging. I seek them out.
  • My next books (for the Kindle, for Audible and for hardcopy) are always in the queue (that means identified and also downloaded or waiting on the bedside table).
  • If one book is a hard slog, I switch to something easier in one of the other two books.
  • I don't hesitate to re-read or re-listen to books I've really loved.
  • At least one of the books I'm in the middle of reading has to have me totally entranced. Just one is enough, otherwise I'll move on to a sure bet, then cycle back around.
  • On the other hand, I'm actually more patient with books that don't grab me, perhaps because there's less at stake.

How I Pick Books I'm Likely to Like and Even Love

  • I experiment with new genres, most recently, YA (Young Adult).
  • I no longer fall for the free/reduced price books on Amazon Prime Reading, they're free or cheap for a reason. Plus, if Amazon says a book is "rated by customers interested in" romance books, it's probably not for me.
  • I avoid most of the hyped-up just-published books and instead delve into older "best books of the year" lists from NPR, the New York Times and other trusted sources.
  • I watch for historical fiction about places/periods I'm less familiar with.
  • My next goal? Deeper, more challenging books from past years.

The Best Books of 2018 (So Far)

How I Read 4X More This Year Than Last ♥

My Favorite Book of 2018 (So Far)

Beartown *** by Fredrick Backman. You may know this Swedish author from A Man Called Ove. I read Beartown twice this year (should it count as two books? I decided it did!), once on my own and then again extra carefully to lead my book club's discussion. The writing is often lyrical, the characters are well developed and definitely not black-and-white, the storyline fits right into contemporary life. I am so glad that a Beartown sequel will come out in mid-2018 and that Backman is a young writer. No Spoilers! Must Read!

Recommended Novels of 2018 (So Far)

We Are Not Ourselves *** by Matthew Thomas. How it's life's small moments that create a life, even one turned upside down by dementia. I found this most compelling and thought-provoking.

An American Marriage *** by Tayari Jones. I break my "no current books" rule when Oprah names a new book, if only to be present for what often becomes a national conversation. No Spoilers! Must Read!

Echo *** by Pam Nunoz Ryan. This was my first foray into YA literature, what a joy this story is, three intertwined stories of children facing! I do recommend "listening" vs reading and you just might want to invest in a harmonica! No Spoilers!

*** good potential for book clubs

Recommended Non-Fiction Books of 2018 (So Far)

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. Wow. This is one of those books that one person after another recommends, we've heard about at least twice. Both Jerry and I really enjoyed it, if "enjoy" can describe learning about such a dark period of American history that involves Native Americans, the oil industry and the early days of the FBI. No Spoilers! Must Read!

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. The Lusitania is like the Titanic, we know the ship sank and many people lost their lives. But there's so much more to the story. My take-away is that during times of war and provocation, the unthinkable becomes the day's news. Must Read!

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. We're no Bill O'Reilly fans but his "killing" series swept through this house starting in 2016. My now 92-year old father is a veteran of the "Greatest Generation" and was on four U.S. battleships in the South Pacific in the last year of World War II. Like all the "killing" books (Killing Lincoln, Killing Patton, Killing Kennedy, etc.), this is good introductory history, well-researched but not weighed down by punctilious detail.

Series Page Turners That Make Me Think

Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Last year, two friends recommended the Outlander series, am I the last person in the world to hear of it? (For the record, I adore the books, especially the first two or three in the series, but am cool on the Starz production.)

Outlander. Women: your husbands will be glad you read it, at least the first book, the eponymous Outlander. Men: read the first book. The Outlander books should absolutely be read in order and would make great beach books. No Spoilers! Must Read!

The Fiery Cross (Book 5) by Diana Gabaldon. I'm up to the fifth book in the Outlander series and am taking a break for a bit. Books 4 and 5 have been less interesting, there's historical detail that's new to me and/or interesting but doesn't much contribute to the storyline. Will I finish the series? I think so, these are great to listen to.

Penn Cage series by Greg Iles. There are three more books in the series, I definitely intend to get to them all. The first two, anyway, are separate and individual books, you don't need to read Book 1 in order to understand Book 2. That said? I love reading books like this in order, finding the little nuggets that stretch back to/amplify bits from the earlier book. Again, these are great beach books.

The Quiet Game (Book 1) by Greg Iles. A fascinating look into the American south and race relations. The book is set in Natchez, Mississippi, I can't help but think of my Southern Belle Lemon Layer Cake which originated with a restaurant there. No Spoilers!

Turning Angel (Book 2) by Greg Iles. There are so many negative reviews of this book, people turned off by what would have become a May-December relationship. The book didn't strike me as "off" in this way. No Spoilers!


Little Fires Everywhere *** by Celest Ng. This was a fascinating exploration of so many contemporary issues, race, class, motherhood, friendship and more. No Spoilers!

The Go-Between *** by L.P. Hartley. First published in 1953, this was a fascinating read, well, listen. Grown-up lives are watched and entangled by a teenage boy during a few summer weeks. Beautiful writing, there's at least one movie version as well. This book makes me want to start looking for older books that have stood the test of time.

Life After Life *** by Kate Atkinson. Set before and through World War I, this book also uses magical realism but here, somehow, it works.

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion *** by Fannie Flagg. This easy read tells the story of women pilots during World War II, even in a family of pilots, this was a new story.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. This is another YA book but definitely has lessons and relevance for adults. Aza is sixteen. Her name opens up a world of opportunities, A to Z and back to A, but she she faces mental illness. No spoilers!

*** good potential for book clubs

Acclaimed Books Which Didn't Work for Me

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn West. A small boy protects his smaller sister from their drug-user mother and just-out-of-prison father while the one who expresses her love for them, their grandfather, passes away. Considerable magical realism, which, I admit, rarely works for me.

Lincoln in the Bardo *** by George Saunders. Considerable other-worldly experiences here, none of which added up for me. I will say that the book provoked good conversation in my book club. The one person who actually liked (even loved) Lincoln in the Bardo listened to it on Audible, so that might be the way to go.

*** good potential for book clubs

Not Recommended

Instructively, these books were all free / purchased at low cost via Amazon's Prime Reading machinations.

My Disclosure Promise

Nearly all the links on this page are for books from Amazon. FYI, if you follow a link and purchase something, I may make a small commission. (True Fact: Amazon closed down its commission program in Missouri for a few years. I linked to Amazon anyway, just to make things convenient for readers. No good deed goes unpunished, however, for once Amazon brought its program back to Missouri, all those old links, some thirteen years of them, are no longer good and need to be replaced, one by one, with new code. Sigh ...) My Disclosure Promise

What Are YOU Reading?

Enough about me! What're you reading that you love, perhaps Kitchen Parade readers would love your favorite books too!

Do you make a concentrated effort to read more? Is there room in your life, pushing something else aside, to read more, if it's important to you?

Anyone interested in my 2017 reading list? Let me know, I'll post it!

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture.
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. We have a city-wide book read each year. This year's book was The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande. Very interesting look into immigration from the immigrant's perspective. Thanks for sharing your book recommendations. You are not the last to read Outlander - it's been on my to-be-read list for a while now. Just haven't gotten to it.

  2. "Enlightenment Now", by Steven Pinker - slow going because so very thought provoking. Just finished "The Soul of an Octopus", by Sy Montgomery, an absolute joy. Also "The Potter's Field" by Andrea Camilleri, as I'm working my way chronologically through the Inspector Montalbano series; I love mysteries set in places I want to visit which also feature great food and quirky witty characters dealing with ethical challenges.

  3. These sound great. I keep telling myself I will read more and always have 3 or 4 in progress. Just finished "Go Set a Watchman" (I know, I'm behind the times - but I thought it was very close to being as good as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and recently read "Bible of Clay" by Julia Navarro - fascinatingly detailed merging of fictional adventure with history and anthropology" akin to Dan Brown's books but oh, so much better! Currently I am reading and thoroughly enjoying, J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy", Julia Navarro's "Shoot Me I'm Already Dead", "The Road to Cana" by Anne Rice, and "Bread Upon the Waters" by Peter Reinhart (bakers/cooks should especially enjoy this). Tops on the "next up" list are "Angela's Ashes" (I told you I'm more than a little behind the times!) "Baptized with the Soil", "A Child Called It" (I don't need to say it again), and Neil DeGrasse Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry". But, like life, plans change - so who knows what will actually be next to be read.
    I'd love to see your reading lists from previous years and am looking forward to looking into the list above and the suggestion from your other comment writers.
    Thanks - From one Dusty Lady.

  4. Not sure whether or not my additional comment was posted before my computer threw a fit. I'm a YA fan too - especially since fewer writers seem to be "writing down" to youth. "Define Normal", by Julie Ann Peters (I think) drew me back into them as an adult; "Touching Spirit Bear" by Ben Mikaelsen is another I enjoyed as well as "Where the Red Fern Are" which I could never read to my middle schoolers without tearing up. Read the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games with the older set of GDs now in high school. Level 2 GDs are just getting into the young adult literature so, since I no longer teach middle school, I would appreciate suggestions for books to read with them. I am looking forward to soon introducing the youngest level GDs (2 1/2 & under) to Roald Dahl, Thornton Burgess, and, of course, Dr. Seuss. By the way, I don't remember whether I mentioned Anne Rice's "Out of Egypt" earlier - really captivated by her storytelling and so have her "The Road to Cana" at hand.

  5. VDoyle ~ Thanks for reminding me about The Distance Between Us, it’s on my Wish List and is #2 on my non-fiction to-read list. Very timely --

    Karen ~ Fascinating recommendations, all new to me, also on my Wish List. The Soul of an Octopus sounds especially intriguing, I’m thinking it might be a good choice for my book club’s Christmas book?

  6. I felt the same about Lincoln in the Bardo. Actually, I listened to it on audio and thought I might have appreciated it a bit more if I would have read it.

    A book I find fun on audio is "Kitchens of the Great Midwest." I've listened to it a couple of times and love the narration and storyline. You'll love it especially if you are a foodie. :-)


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna