How to Get Back in the Groove of Reading

Picture Credit: Ryan Grayson

Last month, I was asked by Mandi Ehman of Organizing Your Way to share on a particular issue near to my heart for her 30 Days of Organizing Challenge. After reviewing all of her fantastic categories, I chose the one that has been something that I have been striving to do more of this year…reading more! Mandi is sharing her ideas for how to make reading a priority too today!

The number one complaint when I talk to other moms is that they have no time to read. Even when I was burning the candle at both ends, I still found ways to sneak in a little reading and I know that you can too.

Those difficult newborn days filled with cranky babies, nursing, and late nights, I longed to just run away and hibernate with a good book. Instead, I pulled a basket of reading material next to the glider and would squeeze in a chapter while the baby ate or would lock myself in the bathroom and soak in the bathtub for an hour with a book.

There are times were I am able to crank out four to six books a week and other times where I read a book in a month. Both situations are gratifying for me because I am still reading.

These are the best tips that I have for moms who are trying to squeeze in a bit of reading time:

Join a community of readers- Likely, there are communities of readers in your town that could help you get motivated to read again. Check your library’s calendar of activities and see if there is a monthly book club meeting you could join. Bookstores also offer great book discussions and opportunities to chat with local and well-known authors. Check their websites for details on these great options!

If there are no groups in town meeting, start your own book club! The best part about starting your own group is that you can create your own rules. Only love children’s literature? Get a group together to read books from your childhood. Only love chick lit? You could start a chick lit book club and meet at fun spots in town that fit with this lighter genre. Never read the great literary classics growing up? Try something new this year and meet quarterly over Gone With the Wind or the Great Gatsby.

If you aren’t able to meet anyone in person, there are so many great online groups that you can join or you could check on Meet Up to try and find a group locally.

Take advantage of reading windows- Reading for me is carved into that tiny window of time between getting one child off to school and then the other. I find a window when we have time with the television off and the kids are spending their quiet time reading or drawing. Another window is generously given to me by my husband when he completes the kid’s evening routine and I disappear on the couch. These tiny pockets of time are how it works for me now. I look forward to having bigger windows of opportunity in the future, but I crave these little pockets of time for me!

If you are a new mom or a busy mom running your kids off to the next extracurricular activity, I know that there are still windows, they just might be different windows than my own. Time spent waiting in the minivan for the kids to come out of school? Time when the baby is feeding or you are rocking that colicky baby for the hundredth time that day? Time when eating lunch in solitary after the kids eat? Heck, do you go to the bathroom?

In all seriousness, there are windows there, you just have to find the windows that work best for you!

Turn the television and computer off- I know it is hard, but if I keep the television and computer off in the evening, I know that I can spend that time reading instead. Find a quiet space in your home that is television and computer free and designate that as your reading spot. Encourage your other family members to do the same!

My scaled down social networking probably has not boosted traffic to the site or made me the social media maven I sometimes wish I could be, but boy, do I feel a sense of satisfaction when I read a book!

Create your own book basket- Who says book baskets are just for kids? Fill a basket up for yourself and make a regularly scheduled date with yourself to visit the library. Put it on the calendar and savor those moments of peace choosing great books to read.

Do it for your kids- When my kids see me digging into my book basket, they want to dig into theirs too. Think of what an incredible example you are when you are showing them how much fun it is to read. It is through your example that they will learn a love of reading!

Read what you want– We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

Here are a few great books that I have read this last month to get your reading list started! Many of these have been fantastic recommendations by YOU so thank YOU for all of the reading ideas.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book came highly rated by so many of my friends and I have to say that this one did not disappoint.

The story is told through the unique perspective of Death, which adds a certain darkness to this book, as he shares the story of taking souls and the increase in unnecessary and cruel deaths during the terrifying reign of Hitler.

While so many books I have read have concentrated on all that the Jewish people had to endure, this book told their story, but also told the story of a poor German girl who is taken in by a foster family enduring poverty and the heartache of the loss of her family members.

Her moments of joy come when her adopted father teaches her how to read and she becomes engrossed in learning and reading the written word. In a time of great poverty and where books were scarce, the little girl becomes a “book thief” stealing books for these sweet moments of treasure during a time of aching heartbreak in her life.

When her adopted parents hide a Jewish young man, by the name of Max, in their basement, they form a fast friendship and this protection of this man becomes of great importance to their family.

The book takes you on so many twists and turns and I found myself weeping for all that this little girl has to go through. The book truly touched me and I believe it is one that will stick with me for many, many years!

As an aside, while the novel started out very slow for me, the second half really picked up and made it all worth the time invested to read the first part of this book. If you have a hard time getting through that first part, keep on reading…it will be so worth it! I promise you!

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

This book was an unbelievably fun adventure that chronicles the life of two best friends from the time they are children until they are grown women. It goes through each decade, the hair, the pop culture references, and the politics that are happening as they are growing up.

Kate & Tully are as opposite as friends can be, but they are both outsiders in their own ways. Kate is a bookworm and shy while Tully has been uprooted to a new school and feels unloved by her mother. Regardless of their differences, they become fast friends whose lives become quickly entwined.

As they get older, new issues face them. Tully is career-driven and hungry for a job as an anchorwoman. Kate, on the other hand, is more laid back and unsure of her life goals. Kate really just longs to be with someone while Tully ends up with the someone she longs to be with.

In some ways the book was predictable, in others, it reminded me of the chick flicks I love to see with my girlfriends. I laughed out loud and I cried a little bit too. It was just an all-around fantastic read!

I gave this gift to my girlfriends for the holidays because it is just one of those books that you can’t not share!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I am becoming such a huge fan of Lisa See and now am anxious to read Peony in Love after having read this great book. Snow Flower & the Secret Fan takes place in 19th century China and is centered around the lives of two girls who are paired as laotong (or “old same”) at the tender age of seven years old. As is customary in their tradition, Snow Flower & Lily are paired together to be lifelong friends and to see each other through their marriages, children, and through the ending of their lives.

They write back and forth in a secret unique language called nu shu on a fan to communicate to each other without allowing the prying eyes of men to see their true feelings and discussion about what goes on in their household. The messages written on their fan start in their girlhood and begins as an introduction to one another. It later reveals the true secrets of how they feel about their status and about one another, shared between only them.

In the beginning, Lily seems an unworthy match for Snow Flower and does not seem as learned and polished as her old same. Snow Flower appears to be the more polished one coming from a higher upbringing and is happy to share her knowledge on things such as writing, embroidery and sewing. Lily offers advice on cooking, cleaning, and caring for the home. They seem the perfect match.

A secret and misunderstanding sends their worlds into a spiral and the reader is taken on the journey where their friendship is threatened to tear apart. It is a friendship that endures through a war, through many pregnancies and miscarriages, through difficult marriages, but can it survive until the end of their lives? You will have to read this one to find out!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Marry Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I wasn’t sure if I would really like this book as I dove in and realized that this book is entirely made up of a series of letters. In the past, I haven’t enjoyed books like these, but within a few short pages, I felt attached to the characters and loved to see how this story unfolded.

This book is set both in London and in Guernsey Island and is a series of letters from Juliet, a budding author looking for a new story, and the people of Guernsey Island as she learns about their Literary & Potato Peel Society that is set up as a way to survive the occupation of the Germans set up on a whim to explain why a group of them were out past curfew.

Juliet is a hysterically funny and witty character and comes to know The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society when one of the members happens upon a book of hers and inquires if she has anymore books to share with his book group.

Juliet asks for more details about this group and the members in it and through the letters comes to know more and more about them. After much correspondence, she decides to visit the Guernsey Island and begins a personal relationship with each of them and corresponds to her friends and literary agent about her special time there.

While the book was definitely predictable in parts, I still found the story endearing and felt as though I knew each of the characters so well. I would love to see a continuation of their story and how their friendships evolve through the years. It is a sweet and satisfying read that I thoroughly enjoyed!

After You by Julie Buxbaum

I am not much of a chick lit reader, but “After You,” was a fantastic read for those who embrace the chick lit and those who do not.

Ellie’s best friend, Lucy, is brutally murdered in front of her daughter and Ellie comes to stay with her daughter to help comfort her during this time of loss. Ellie arrives in Notting Hill to find her husband who is drinking and working to comfort himself while Sophie has decided to stop speaking after witnessing the death of her mother.

Ellie remembers that when she was small and lost someone she loved l that the book, “The Secret Garden,” was read to help bring her the comfort she needed. She begins reading the book with Sophie and as they dive deeper into the book, they both began to heal with each flip of the chapter.

As they read the book, Ellie begins working through her own grief losing her baby Oliver in her the ninth month of her pregnancy, the decline and fall of a marriage that she thought could withstand it all, and the reality that she didn’t know her best friend as well as she thought she did as a secret life begins to unwind.

I could not put this one down and now I am dying to read, “The Opposite of Love” because I enjoyed this book so much!

Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain

After reading the fantastic, “The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes,” I was anxious to dive into another Diane Chamberlain novel to see if it would be half as thrilling as her first book that I read. I was not disappointed with “Before the Storm,” which sucked me in and was quickly read within two days.

Before The Storm is a complex family drama that is told from each family member’s point of view. Laurel is the mother of two children, but her focus is solely centered upon her son Andy who is her fifteen year old disabled son. When a fire to a church starts at a youth lock-in that Andy is attending, Andy for the first time becomes a hero saving all of the children in the church and an object of the town’s affection instead of being cruelly ridiculed by his classmates.

As the investigation as to what started the fire goes underway though, Andy becomes the focus as the arsonist instead of the town hero. Laurel is focused on proving his innocence and as she focuses all of her efforts, she loses sight that she has two children and not one.

Her daughter Maggie harbors deep secrets, but goes unnoticed because of all of the effort that is put into her brother and his special needs… and now his defense.

The book goes back and forth from the past to the present tense, setting the reader up to discover why Andy is disabled, the family secrets that shadow their life, and the complex relationships between each of the characters.

The only disappointment was the build-up to the grand finale, which was finished in a short epilogue and chapter. For over four hundred pages of build-up, I had hoped for a more in-depth ending. It reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s swift endings that take the reader by surprise, but leave you wishing more.

Thankfully, “Secrets She Left Behind” should fill that void as the character development continues in this sequel!

Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain

This is a spoiler alert- don’t read this review until after you have read the first book! As a warning, this book is a sequel to “Before the Storm,” and I would definitely skip reading the reviews if you haven’t read the first novel yet.

We rejoin the Lockwood family in this sequel following Maggie’s prison sentence for the arson that she committed to a community church. She rejoins society only to be welcomed with great anger from the families of those that were lost or injured and finds it is more difficult to return to society than she could ever imagine. Even simple things like volunteering her time to charity becomes difficult because no one wants to be associated with her. She deals with the guilt for the wrong she has done and is faced with learning to try and love herself again. She is happily surprised when she meets a new girl in town who befriends her and seems to look past her faults. Will this friendship help Maggie love herself again?

In the meantime, Keith, Sara’s son, discovers that his mother has disappeared without a trace. He is now left alone with the burns from the fire, the emotional and physical pain that he now has to endure alone, and his anger towards Maggie for what she has done. Abandoned by his mother, he is forced to get help from the Lockwood family to help him survive the day-to-day expenses. Luckily, he meets a girl who makes him feel somewhat whole again and can look past his scars to the person he is.

The plot thickens as Sara’s past is told through her eyes, Keith and Maggie finally see each other after her time in jail, Maggie tries to find a way to forgive herself, Keith deals with the abandonment of his mom, and a surprising twist occurs at the end that will take the reader by surprise.

I found this to be a really satisfying read especially since I was so disappointed with the abrupt ending of the first book. I was able to read this in just a few nights and would love for the story of the Lockwoods to continue!

While some sequels can be read without reading the first book, this is one that you really need to read the first book to really get all of the family drama. It is a twisted family tree and reading the first book will provide reference to just how tangled those branches are!

Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon

If this had been my first introduction to Jennifer McMahon’s writing, I would have totally loved this book. Having just read Dismantled though (which I would consider one of the best thrillers I have read this year), I think I was a little disappointed with this one.

School Nurse, Kate Cypher, has returned to her home in rural Vermont to care for her mom who has Alzheimer’s. The night she arrives, a young girl in town is murdered in a horrific murder that eerily is the same as a murder that took place during Kate’s childhood to one of her friends.

The book flashes forward and through the past of these two murders, one to a social outcast named Del who is nicknamed the “potato girl” and is mistreated by her friends and family. The other murder that has taken place to another young girl in a similar way. The mystery of these two murders ends up colliding together as Kate begins to pull the pieces of these two murders together.

It is definitely a ghost story, a mystery, and a coming-of-age story that is pulled all together. Much like McMahon’s other books, it is a twisted story that pulls together with a nice twist at the end.

If you haven’t read McMahon before, I would recommend this one, but I definitely enjoyed Dismantled a little bit more than this one!


Photo Credit: Sarah Furnell

What if you don’t have a great library system? Well, there are some great reading alternatives out there! Here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari– I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing– This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf– This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Paperback Swap & Bookmooch– Just two of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you receive to get more books.

Bookins– This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple– This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You get the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Read More

What was in your book basket this past month? Any book recommendations you would like to share?

Published January 05, 2010 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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