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This Is How We Do It: Rioters On How To Make Time For Reading

Ashlie Swicker


Ashlie (she/her) is an educator, librarian, and writer. She is committed to diversifying the reading lives of her students and supporting fat acceptance as it intersects with other women’s issues. She's also perpetually striving to learn more about how she can use her many privileges to support marginalized groups. Interests include learning how to roller skate with her local roller derby team, buying more books than she'll ever read, hiking with her husband and sons, and making lists to avoid real work. You can find her on Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth), Twitter (@mygirlsimple) or at her website,

One of the questions I get asked the most is “how do you find time to read so much?” I have small kids, a full time job, and a writing habit that I sustain, but reading is one of those things that I need, like water and sunlight. When I stop picking up books, my mental health is affected, so I’ve had to find ways to make the time. My best trick is to bring a book with me on the elliptical machine– the exercise and chance to dive into a story both leave me feeling strong and happy.

Recent Book Riot Insiders newsletters gave a peek into the day-to-day of Book Riot back office superstars, and I loved hearing how they crafted time in their schedules to read.  It made me wonder how other voracious readers feed their habit. Whether you’re looking to up your reading time or you already have a day packed with bookish goodness, this look into the time-saving tricks of other Rioters is interesting!

Jamie Canaves: I sneak reading into as many things as I can all day long: audiobook on speaker while I get ready in the morning; audiobook with earbuds while I cook and play with dog; I usually read on my ereader while I eat breakfast and lunch–and if no one notices during dinner sometimes; if I’m watching a movie that turns out to not be that great I bust out whatever book I’m reading and let it play in the background instead because I don’t have time for underwhelming or crappy movies when I’m reading a great book; eliminating from my TiVo’s season pass any shows I don’t love or look forward to also made a huge space of time for more reading; and when I need/want to sit down in peace and read I put my phone in a drawer far from me so I don’t have distractions (answering texts, checking social media constantly etc really eats up reading time). 

Steph Auteri: Like most Book Rioters (I assume), I get creative about finding the tiny crevices of time in my life in which I might read at least a few pages: when I’m drying my hair…in the few minutes before yoga class begins. I even leave my house a little bit early when I go to pick up my daughter from preschool so I have a few minutes of alone time in my car. What’s made the biggest difference, though, is breaking up with most of my regular TV shows. I used to watch TV with my husband every evening, before bed. But when I stopped to think about it, what I really wanted to be doing was reading.

Melissa Baron: I make sure I always have a book in my bag when I leave the apartment; that way, I end up reading on the train, in waiting rooms for doctor or dentist appointments, or even in line for something. I also shuffled my schedule around so I go see my therapist when he’s downtown instead of near my work, which is about a 45-minute subway ride for me. I get a lot of great reading time in for those visits. I’ve just started to listen to audiobooks for commutes and plane rides (I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to do that). Beyond that, I’ve been trying to limit my TV watching and reserve some time before bed to read. I also don’t force myself to keep reading a book I’m not in love with, which will just turn into another excuse to put off reading for a few days. I’ll pick up another, and then have a few books going at the same time. 

Elizabeth Allen: I actually found that I started reading more once I had my daughter. I earned to read smarter once my free time was being imposed on by a tiny, adorable little tyrant. I discovered the glory of listening to audiobooks while emptying the cat litter. I have perfected the art of reading while drying my hair. I started a hard and fast personal rule that the time between when I put my daughter to bed and when my husband serves dinner is solely reserved for reading. Instead of gossiping with coworkers during lunch in the office, instead I am completely anti-social and stuff food into my gob while staring at my current book. I read using the Amazon Cloud Reader (less conspicuous than a hardcover sitting on my desk) while I’m dialed into a particularly boring online training or am waiting for a client to join me for a call. It’s true, I rarely have long reading sessions like I used to before I became a parent, but those small, stolen moments add up really quickly!

Rachel Manwill: Now that I no longer have a commute and my audiobook time diminished significantly, I’ve had to find other places to squeeze in reading. I listen to 30 minutes or so while I’m getting ready in the morning. I read in snatches between meetings or during slow moments at work by using the Amazon Kindle web-based cloud reader. I avoid TV for an hour when I come home and sit down with a book instead. It’s been an adventure trying to figure out other places to make up for the lost two hours of audiobook time a day, but I’m finding all these other spaces where I wasn’t reading before that I had lost. 

Mal Soto:

  1. Lifehack that train ride! I love trains. I love my garbage hellscape of a commute to work, but I love it because I come prepared. I usually have at least one book in the backpack I take to work and an arsenal of books on my iPhone, so I could theoretically be trapped underground for a few days and still have something to read. Those minutes before and after work are where I read best, so if I’m not jammed directly under someone’s armpit, it’s a great time.
  2. Short stories. I love short stories with all my heart and one of the benefits of reading them is that I can finish an entire story during my commute or lunch break. Added benefit? You can find some amazing short stories online, so in those small moments at work where I need to reset my brain in order to function, I have something waiting for me thanks to the internet. When I was younger I was a Strange Horizons fanatic, but nowadays I hop over to Electric Literature to see what’s new or check in on Joey Comeau’s Patreon page. Bonus: Once short stories became my bread and butter I was discovering new authors, often browner and queerer and a little more like me. 

Kathleen Keenan: Like so many other book lovers, I rely on my commute for reading time. But sometimes the subway car is too cramped to even open a book (true story; thanks, Toronto transit), so I try to fit in reading in other ways: by taking my book to a nearby cafe or park on my lunch break; by reading at the laundromat or in line at the bank; by skimming my book while I’m cooking dinner and waiting for water to boil or veggies to roast. I always have a book on me, so every five- or ten-minute interval can be filled. But the thing I find most helpful is actually scheduling time on a weekend or weeknight to read. I clear my calendar and make sure I have a couple of books at hand. Then, I’ll either go to my favourite coffee shop for a few hours or snuggle in bed with my cat. It’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon, or a Wednesday night, or… 

Leah Rachel von Essen: I read while walking, and I always have a book. At the very least, each day, if the weather allows it, I read on the way to and from work, giving me at least 40 minutes of reading a day. If I take a train or bus ride, I read. I often read during my lunch break, and when I work out and am cooling down on the bike, I read then too. The biggest recommendation is to just always be prepared with a book, and to take every opportunity to read. 

Alison Doherty: Reading more than one book at a time makes me spend more time reading each day. If I’m not in the mood for nonfiction, I can read the YA book I’m in the middle of. If I’m not feeling the Vibe of the YA, I’ll switch to a romance novel or literary fiction. And if I like everything I’m reading at the same time, then I feel even more pressure to carve out more time to read. 

Priya Sridhar: I’m reading less books this year than I have been, but one thing that helps is audiobooks. I have about a thirty to forty-minute commute every day so I use it to listen to podcasts with short fiction (thanks, Levar Burton) and a few CDs from the library. I also read at work during bathroom breaks. It’s amazing how much short fiction can go so fast. 

That’s the wisdom from the Riot team, but what about you? How are you fitting in a session with the words you love? Let us know. Happy reading!