Just 10 Minutes: How I Actually Started Reviewing All the Books I Read

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

I only have one reading goal for 2024, but it’s a big one: to write about every book I finish as soon as I finish it. I read a lot of books — more than 100 every year — so this is a fairly big commitment in terms of time and energy. It’s also something I’ve been struggling to do for years. Even though I write about books for a living (at least part-time), post regularly on Bookstagram, and write a weekly newsletter that is mostly book reviews — well, last year, I still only reviewed 50% of the books I read.

Sometimes I finish a book, and I just don’t have that much to say about it. But much more often, I finish a book and find I have a whole lot to say about it — and that feels overwhelming. It’s often so overwhelming that I just don’t bother. After all, it’s much easier to just start a new book than it is to take the time to untangle my thoughts and feelings about whatever I just read. For years, I’ve let the overwhelm and the pressure to write a polished and thoughtful review scare me away from reflecting on everything I read.

But 2024 is going to be different. I have read 29 books so far this year, and I have written about every single one of them. Every. Single. One. Honestly, it’s the single greatest reading achievement of my life. It has transformed my reading life in ways even I did not anticipate. I’m making all sorts of connections between books that I wasn’t making before. I’m thinking more deeply and more critically and more joyfully about what I read. I’m also really enjoying the actual act of writing. I used to dread sitting down to write a review — not because I don’t like doing it, but because it always felt like An Event. Now it’s just what I do. I know we’re not that deep into the year yet, but it’s already become a habit. I’m committed.

So, how did I get to this magical new place where I write about everything I read? I made three rules for myself:

  • I will write about every book I read as soon as I finish it.
  • I will write for 10 minutes.
  • This writing will not be public.

If this sounds simple: it is. Sometimes all it takes is a simple set of parameters to make something that felt impossible suddenly feel easy. I am still in awe that this system is working as well as it is. Maybe it will work for you, too.

I will write about every book I read as soon as I finish it.

I actually think there’s an argument to be made for waiting days or weeks or months — letting a book settle — before writing a review. Books aren’t static, and neither are we; how we feel about them changes. So I want to note that I don’t review every book I read as soon as I finish it, but I do immediately write about every book as soon as I finish it. There’s a difference between getting my thoughts down on paper in a big beautiful jumble and crafting those thoughts into a review I want to share with the world. The second thing can wait. The first thing can’t.

Sometimes I don’t start writing the very second I finish a book — I go for a walk, make dinner, fold the laundry. But I don’t let more than a few hours go by. I used to finish a book and spend the next three days thinking about it. I’d muter about it to myself while driving and compose reviews in my head on walks. But actually writing about it immediately? If I put it off for an hour, I could put it off for a day, or a week, or three months, by then, I’d have forgotten most of what I wanted to say.

I don’t let that happen anymore, and it’s such a relief. I’m catching all those thoughts on paper instead of letting them slip away! But this only works because of the other two rules I’ve made for myself.

I will write for 10 minutes.

Here’s what I do: I open Notion (it’s where I keep my reading journal), set the timer on my phone for 10 minutes, and start writing. This is the secret to my success. This is why I’ve written about all 29 books I’ve finished so far this year. Ten minutes is such a tiny amount of time. I can do almost anything for ten minutes. Committing to 10 minutes is easy. Writing about books brings me joy; it’s starting that’s hard. Starting is the overwhelming part. Creating a finite boundary — only 10 minutes! — makes all the overwhelm disappear.

Sometimes I run out of things to say before the timer goes off, and that’s fine. Sometimes the timer goes off, and I’m still typing away, and I go on typing for another 10 minutes. I wrote over 2000 words about my current book obsession, Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar. I was probably writing for 45 minutes. It wasn’t challenging or boring or a burden. It was a joy. But I only got there because I told myself, “just 10 minutes.”

This writing will not be public.

I used to review books on Goodreads as soon as I finished them. I’d do this sporadically. I’d review every book I read one month and none the next month. I’d write a few sentences about a book I loved, adding, “more to come,” though more never came. No matter what I tried, I could never get into a consistent habit.

Don’t ask me why it took me so long to realize that immediately reviewing a book publicly is a lot of unnecessary pressure. Maybe it works for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. When I’m thinking through my own reactions to a book, I don’t want to be coherent or polished. I want to gush and rant and repeat myself. I want to write paragraph-long sentences. I want to let the writing take me where it takes me, not worrying about how it sounds, not pausing to fix all the spelling mistakes and typos. I can’t do this kind of writing on a platform like Goodreads or Storygraph.

My immediate book reflections are full of spelling mistakes. They are raw and rambling. They don’t always make sense, but they always capture everything I’m thinking and feeling about a book. Often I discover something new about the book or myself while writing them because I’m not preoccupied with how my sentences sound. It is glorious.

I love writing and sharing book reviews. I love shouting about books to the world. This new process has reminded me that I also love journaling about books — just for me — something I haven’t given myself permission to do in a long, long time.


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