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Learn how to read long books once and for all. These simple tricks really work, and they’re exactly how I tackle the most ambitious reads with success. You’ll find practical tips that make it less scary and more fun. Get started now!

Stack of big books in front of a pillow that says "read".

How to Read Long Books in 10 Simple Steps

How to read big books infographic.
  1. Choose the right book.
  2. Accept the challenge.
  3. Set a reading goal.
  4. Get comfortable.
  5. Take notes.
  6. Use a study guide.
  7. Try different formats and editions.
  8. Incorporate reading activities.
  9. Make it a shared activity.
  10. Reward yourself.

Detailed Tips on How To Read Big Books

Choose the right long book.

First, you really shouldn’t just pick any big book. You should pick a book that sets you up for success. For example, choosing a book like A Little Life, which is known for being very dark and triggering, may be a bad idea if you’re feeling sad. It also may not be a great time to start reading classic books.

However, if you love historical fiction series such as the Outlander show, you may choose to read Diana Gabaldon’s 850-page novel.

In choosing the right long book for you, consider such things as the genre, author, the season, and your mood.

Accept that reading a big book is a challenge.

The biggest mistake I see readers make is not acknowledging that it will be hard. Acknowledging this challenge ahead of time allows you to better prepare for the roadblocks you will likely face and how to get around them.

When you don’t, you may become overwhelmed fast and quit.

Big books can be time-consuming, slow-paced, hard to understand, and heavy on the details. When they feel this way to you, it’s totally normal. You’re not failing!

Yet, we still read long stories for many reasons, including the fact that they can teach us a lot, such as the context of a story. They can also contribute to personal growth and professional skills.

Set a reading goal to manage your time and/or read faster.

The #1 thing I recommend when starting to read a huge book is to set reading goals that make it less overwhelming.

Your reading goals should be realistic and reasonable. You should strive for consistent reading habits, so you don’t lose momentum. Get into a reading routine!

I like to break a book down into small segments to maintain stamina — usually 10 pages per day (or a small amount of time). Often, this means it will take me a few months to read. I’ve read far more big novels this way than any other. I’ve also done so faster because I don’t give up or get bored and take a big break.

More advanced readers can also work on reading techniques to read faster. For example, you can follow the text with your fingers or read it aloud.

If you’re struggling to manage time effectively when you’re busy (because who isn’t?!), then you can also use your time management skills. Read more books by scheduling sessions, such as right before bed or during your lunch.

It also helps to track your progress in reaching your end goal with a reading journal.

Get comfortable in your environment with reading accessories.

Your reading environment can make or break your experience. We can’t all read in special reading rooms all the time. But, there are many things you can do to promote your health and wellness while reading a thick book.

If you can, minimize noise and distractions. First, you can use focus apps on your phone for mindfulness techniques. Or, wear noise-canceling headphones to listen to music while reading. I also love to play ASMR rooms on YouTube in the background.

But you should also keep your phone far out of reach. It’s arguably the biggest distraction today.

Sitting in an ergonomic chair or couch and maintaining proper posture is another simple way to avoid fatigue.

Adequate lighting also does wonders for extended reading sessions. Since I like to read at night, I use a bookmark light to see more clearly. If you’re reading on an e-reader or mobile device, blue light reading glasses can also help. They prevent eye strain.

(I wear and recommend Warby Parker blue light glasses and Peepers blue light glasses.)

Believe it or not, holding a big book can even be challenging! I often have a cat on my lap when I’m reading, so my mobility is limited. In this case, I like to lay the book flat and use my book weight to keep it open. I also often choose to read the e-version on my e-reader since it’s so much lighter.

You can also try book stands, book pillows, or lap desks.

Lastly, don’t forget to take breaks!

Take notes on the story to help you focus on difficult books.

Taking notes is one of the best ways you can “force” yourself to focus when reading. This concentration hack works every time for me.

For print books, I stick large Post-Its inside the front cover. Then, I underline and jot down things that catch my attention, such as character names and descriptions. On my Kindle, I highlight and take notes directly on the page!

I did this when I read Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros, which was extremely long and detailed. I was then able to export my notes to create reading guides for other readers.

Use a study guide to help comprehension of huge books.

If you really want to master the art of reading long novels, you should dive headfirst into study guides for better comprehension.

I swear by this tactic, especially for books with a lot of historical context. For example, The Covenant of Water spans several generations of a family in India, and it explores the caste systems and medical technology there.

Let’s be real: you’ll likely spend some time skimming and speed reading vs. active reading and deep reading. Study guides can fill in the gaps. They also provide context you don’t find within the pages of the book itself.

My own favorite digital tools to be a more active reader include sites like SparkNotes.

Try different formats and editions of long books.

It’s also important to consider the best format and edition, especially for a translated book. For the Russian classic Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, I specifically chose the Oprah’s Book Club edition because I trusted her to pick a good one. (It was.)

Some books work better in print books than audiobooks or vice versa, so research is important. I’ve even heard some readers of The Literary Lifestyle say they like to mix multiple versions of the same big book.

Some books also work better for you personally in a certain format. For me, audio can be a challenge for a long book, unless it’s narrated by a famous actor, and then it can really draw me in.

Incorporate reading activities to make thick books fun.

If your big, long book is starting to feel boring, spice things up! Make a themed meal or cocktail. Listen to a bespoke playlist inspired by the book. Read some reviews.

Most importantly, watch the adaptation, if one exists. I’ve utilized this strategy repeatedly, and it has always reaped big rewards for me. For Empire Falls, it turned a book I thought I might quit into one of my favorites!

I like to watch only as far as I’ve read, then return to it when I’ve read some more. This way, I can better imagine the book as I’m working through its dense pages.

Make long reads a shared activity.

Many things are better when shared, and reading can be one of them, even though it’s a solitary hobby by nature.

Reading challenges can motivate you, book clubs can hold you accountable, and online forums like social media can even inspire you. Community also makes it all a lot more fun.

Reward yourself for reading a huge book.

Last but not least, reward yourself for your accomplishments! Small incentives (or even big ones) for reaching milestones can keep you motivated throughout the book.

For example, nothing motivates me more to finish a big book than going somewhere inspired by it afterward. At the very least, give yourself a pat on the back!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I read large books fast?

1. Choose the right book.
2. Accept the challenge.
3. Set a reading goal.
4. Get comfortable.
5. Take notes.
6. Use a study guide.
7. Try different formats and editions.
8. Incorporate reading activities.
9. Make it a shared activity.
10. Reward yourself.

How to read big books in bed?

To read big books in bed more comfortably, use a pillow to support your neck and back. Hold the book with a book stand or lap desk, or prop it up with a pillow.

How do you read a bulky book?

1. Use a book stand, lap desk, or pillow to hold the book. Or lay it flat and use a book weight to hold your page.
2. Break reading into shorter sessions.
3. Sit in a comfortable position and use good lighting.

How do you read a 700-page book in a day?

1. Start early and minimize your distractions.
2. Skim over slow sections.
3. Take short breaks.
4. Read in multiple formats and increase the speed of audio.


You’ve now learned the strategies and tools I swear by to read a handful of big books every year (and give myself grace in the process).

To recap the most important points, I recommend you set a reasonable daily goal and use study guides to fill in the gaps. Remember to also use helpful reading accessories to make your experience easier and more enjoyable.


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