How Do You Read So Much?

As I did that whole thing last year where I read a book a week and seeing as I’ve set myself the goal of trying to read 100 books this year, I get asked the question fairly often both on Twitter and in e-mails as to how I manage to make time to read so much.

This works for me, it won’t work for everyone.


(1) Stop Watching TV

Not all of it. Just as much as most people do. I’ve done the thing where the TV doesn’t go on at home until at least 9pm and before that is for reading. Works for me.

(2) Stop Watching TV

That’s not a misprint – on top of that, every now and then, I get bored of d’telly and simply don’t watch it for a week. You’d be surprised how much you record that week that you simply delete when you go back to it the following Monday because you couldn’t be arsed watching it really…

(3) Find A Partner Who’s On Board

I’m lucky enough that my wife is as voracious a reader as I am. The sofa of an evening with your other half reading beside you and fresh cups of tea beside you can be a very seductive thing.

(4) Sundays Are Sacred

Not in the traditional way. Most Sundays we spend almost all day reading. I know that’s probably not for you, but you did ask…

(5) A List

I don’t know if you’re like me but if you are you like lists and targets to aim for, you find them useful. This is my half of an A4 sheet that hangs in the kitchen:


Page one is full, I’ve moved on to page 2. I’ve only printed 52 slots on it as I thought that would be as far as I’d get. Might have to reevaluate that.

(6) Drink Less

Not sure about you, but those evenings where I’ve come home and opened a beer or a bottle of wine aren’t those where I’ve read late into the evening. One just doesn’t work with the other for me. A drink usually leads to TV or a movie…

(7) Go To Bed Half An Hour Early

Again, works for me too. Just do the above and read ’til you drop off. You’d be surprised how quickly you finish a book that way.

And the hard one – (8) Put Your Phone Away

I know these days that’s tantamount to saying “stop breathing for the next hour there, would you?” but it is *so* easy to allow your train of thought to be derailed when you’re reading if you decide to just check Facebook for a minute or look at the headlines on a news site or… or… or…

If you’re serious about this, take your phone and put it away for the evening or afternoon you’re reading. Physically away on a shelf or a table far away where you can’t reach it, and switch off all your social media and e-mail notifications. If it buzzes with a text or rings, so be it. You’ll lose yourself and get tons read if the book is any good.

Just to finish, I’m not saying that reading should be a chore or regimented or something that’s done to a strict set of rules or a template, far from it. Just merely that I was always one of those people who got panicky every time he was in a bookstore and saw the plethora of new books he’d like to read that just got bigger and bigger and bigger.

Last year I decided to do something about it. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

And before someone hops on their high horse and gives out to me for ordering people to blah blah blah, people had asked how I was reading so much, this is just what worked for me :-)


EDIT - One of the links you should see below is to an old post I wrote in 2007 on how I wasn’t reading enough books. It’s well worth the read:

Arena – 1 City 1 Book

It went out last night on RTE Radio 1, if you missed the show hosted as always by Séan Rocks and featuring spine-timgling readings from Owen Roe and Pheilim Drew and songs by Lisa Hannigan (as well as me, hiding on the right-hand side of the panel and reading a Paul Durcan poem myself) then it’s here in full…!type=radio&rii=9%3A10273798%3A1526%3A21%2D04%2D2014%3A

photo 4

Book Twenty Six

Book Twenty Six 2014: 

 The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami


I am immediately aware as I type this that Haruki Murakami is one of *those* authors that split people straight down the middle. You will either be immediately taken away by his characters, world, writing or you’ll think he’s a cryptic nonsense-merchant of the highest order and throw his books away in frustration.

Be aware I am in the former group.

Being honest I’ve come late to him, the first thing of his I read was the epic trilogy 1Q84 last year but I fully intend to make up for time.

This book is *beautiful*. Hypnotic. Elegant. Entrancing. The sort of thing I would willingly press into the hands of anyone who loves books.

As I do frequently I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot, I always much prefer to find out important things like that by actually reading the book. Suffice to say that it’s set in Tokyo in the 80s and involves a similar mix to 1Q84 of solitary living, intertwining stories and a world that is at the same time very, very concrete and entirely not like the world we live in bordering on fantasy or SF…

I was talking about it on Twitter afterwards and more than one person said they had read it years ago and it had “haunted” them.

You should read it. I was hypnotised. He writes unlike anyone else.

The Dublin Arabic Film Festival

I’ve always been the sort of person who has thrown himself towards film festivals, stuff on in the likes of the IFI and the Lighthouse, the World Cinema section of HMV…

On top of that I got a renewed boost from my recent very positive experiences at the Japanese Film Festival in the Lighthouse. Saw two movies one of which I thoroughly enjoyed (The Story Of Yonosuke) and one of which I urge you to see out immediately called The Great Passage.

Thus, I give you for your consideration, the upcoming Dublin Arabic Film Festival in the same location. They ever have Omar Sharif turning up :-)


Mmmmmmmmm…. Steak……

Someone suggested the other day that I should stick other things I like here. Fair enough As long as you get that I’m not a reviewer of anything. What I might do is stick up quick references every now and then to things I see, places I go, stuff I think you should eat, do, whatever…


First out of the traps is Bull And Castle up facing Christchurch. Stumbled on it yesterday while heading into town for a quick bite. To be honest it used to be a very touristy, slightly manky looking old pub and I’d never been in. FXBs have turned it into a very, very nice steak and craft beer joint.

I had the 2 course earlybird including this delicious rump for €19 and a pint of the gorgeous craft beer of the week above…


Not that I’m up that way very often but I’d definitely recommend and go back.

One suggestion? They were very heavily booked yesterday so you might need to call in advance.

Book Twenty Five

Book Twenty Five 2014: 

 The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


As I’ve said here before I love books that tilt the world slightly on its axis and cause me to look at things differently; this one is no exception.

Ostensibly a book about events that occur entirely outside of the range of what one would normally expect to happen (9/11, financial crashes, tsunamis, the fate of Lebanon in the 80s, Facebook) it also ranges widely across vast territory how the financial system works (he used to work on Wall Street) to the very art of predicting anything in *any* field of life and why doing that is usually a complete waste of time.

He goes to huge lengths to say that he makes no predictions about anything himself (he sees attempts to do that in all but the most tightly scientific fields utter nonsense) but that he wrote this book in 2007 and makes no small suggestion that the banking system is build on sand and is liable to be swallowed up at any moment does no harm to the rest of his theories. There’s a fair amount of overlap in places with the wonderful Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman as well, another book that is nothing short of brilliant if you’ve never stumbled across it.

If I have one small criticism it’s that there are sections of the book that are almost impenetrable and that I lightly skimmed over. I’m no genius, but I’ve read this sort of stuff all my life and am fascinated by pretty much everything, but parts of this are not for the man in the street like me…

Having said that, it’s head-opening in places, wide-ranging and will make you look at the world differently. Highly recommended.

The Poem That Escaped



If you do listen to the RTE Arena special on Radio 1 on Bank Holiday Monday evening that was recorded last night in Dublin Castle you might hear Sean Rocks asking me about the one poem I’ve ever written that escaped into the real world…

I had been asked to paint the giant egg above for a charity auction the Jack & Jill Foundation were running last year. With no artistic training (or aptitude!) whatsoever I spray painted it gold and then thought it looked a little dull.

So, I took one of the many, many poems that I’ve written in scattered notebooks over the years and asked my wife (who has lovely handwriting unlike my own) to scroll it around the egg. Eventually it sold for €1200 and sits in the foyer of the Golden Irish Egg company in Monaghan.

On the show, Sean then asks me could I recite any of it and, of course, could I remember even the first line? No.

To be honest, even if I’d had it to hand would I have read it on Radio 1′s arts show flanked by 2 of Ireland’s best known contemporary poets? Not on your nelly.

Well, in case you were interested, this is what’s on the egg…



She is the summer sun,

Falling blue, gently but relentlessly

Against eternal sandstone,

She is the reason dead green shutters have undone,

Flung everything within them to the day,

She makes ruins glow,

Folds shadows under waiting stone,

Even, unbeknownst to her, from half a world away.