Episode 310: Very Special Episode—Great Hacks, Tips, Tools, and Suggestions About How to #Read21in21.

Very Special Episode

In episode 305 we announced the challenge for 2021 – to read for 21 minutes every day in 2021. Listeners have embraced this challenge with tremendous enthusiasm. Remember, join any time! If you want a “don’t-break-the-chain” sheet, you can get it here. For this year of #Read21in21, at the end of every episode, along with resources, we’ll mention what each of us is reading—if you’re curious to know. We mention the try-this-at-home suggestion from episode 302“Think of a book that you read in high school or college that you still think about, and re-read it.” Elizabeth’s book was Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart (AmazonBookshop); my book was The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagun (AmazonBookshop).

Hacks from us

  • if you’re suffering from Zoom fatigue, reading is very restorative—Elizabeth also discusses this hack in episode 193 of Happier in Hollywood 
  • put your phone out of reach while you read
  • create a big stack, and if you suffer from decision fatigue, just grab the next book on the stack
  • read what you feel like reading—for instance, I love children’s and young-adult literature, so read a lot of that (here’s a post with a list of my favorites, or download the list here).
  • remember: reading leads to reading; the more you read, the more you want to read.

Listeners’ hacks and suggestions for reading more 

  • take the Artisan Geek’s “Black Lit Challenge” for February described here:
    1. Read a book outside your comfort zone by a black author
    2. Read a book with a black person on the cover
    3. Read a book written before the 21st century by a black author
    4. Read a book by a black author from outside the US/UK
    5. Read a book recommended by Ina – the recommendation I generated was Witchmark (AmazonBookshop) by C. L. Polk, which I bought a few weeks ago and have in my stack already
  • have a two-person book club
  • for a book light, try the LEDGLE Rechargeable LED Book Light Neck Reading Lamp Hands Free Adjustable Brightness. Jamie says much better than a book-clip light
  • consider whether you might prefer to use your phone to read
  • try the Strides app to check in with your goal and a time clocking app to “clock in” for 21 minutes
  • invest in better headphones if you’re listening to audio-books
  • try sleep headphones-—flat earphones in a headband so that it’s more comfortable to lie on your pillow with them (also used for running, working out, yoga).
  • use the Libby app to check out e-books from the public library
  • read while preparing meals that don’t take much supervision, like sheet pan and crock-pot meals—a great use of the “Strategy of Pairing” one of the 21 strategies of habit-change that I write about in Better Than Before 
  • read 21 minutes of fiction and 21 minutes of non-fiction
  • follow the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to “Christmas book flood.” In this custom, people give presents, often books, on the night of Christmas Eve, and people spend the rest of the night reading.
  • walk 20 minutes for 2021 and read 21 minutes for 2021: twenty…twenty one!

Reading debates

Do you read multiple books at once?  Do you use bookmarks?  Do you mark up books?  Do you put down a book if you don’t like it?

Know-Yourself-Better question

What was the first book you remember that made you cry? Mine, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (AmazonBookshop); Elizabeth’s is Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (AmazonBookshop).

Four Tendencies Tips

Use your Tendency to help you read more. Don’t know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the free quiz here—more than 3.2 million people have taken the quiz.

  • Upholder: use your calendar
  • Questioner: remind yourself of why this is a great use of your time; organize and customize the habit so that it works best for you
  • Obligercreate outer accountability! Join a book group; tell your children you’ll read the books they’re reading in school or for enjoyment, or read while they’re doing homework; think of your duty to your future-self; think of your duty to set an example; post on social media; use #Read21in21 to check in each day
  • Rebel: think of your identity; remind yourself that this is what you want.

Remember, Whenever it is and wherever you are, there’s always a book waiting for you. If you want to read a post about the #Read21in21 challenge, it’s here.  If you missed the episode where we discussed the challenge, it’s episode 305.


  • Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter “5 Things making me happy” where I ask readers and podcast listeners questions, share what I’m learning and reading, and of course, I share 5 things making me happy. Click here to join.
  • Don’t forget that I’ve created a PDF for you to organize your “21 for 2021” list. Download it here.
  • If you listen to Happier (or most other podcasts), you hear the hosts ask listeners to rate and review the show. Why? Listeners respect the views of other listeners, so by rating and reviewing—assuming you have good things to say!—you make other people get interested. Rates and reviews also build buzz around the show. It’s easy to rate and review—once you know what to do. Click here to find step-by-step instructions. Give yourself a gold star if you’ve subscribed, rated, reviewed, or recommended the show. It really is a tremendous help to Elizabeth and me.

What we’re reading

Elizabeth: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (AmazonBookshop)

Gretchen: A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros (AmazonBookshop)



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.