Many people are impressed with the amount of reading I do. How can I read ten books in a month? To be fair, there are countless other readers who consume far more books than I do each month–some people are even able to read fifteen, twenty, thirty, and more books a month, though I should note that any amount of reading a person is able to complete is praiseworthy.
While the tips I offer here are by no means groundbreaking, I present them to you all the same. Above all else, I hope your takeaway is that you read more because you enjoy reading more, not because it’s a competition. And moreover, please be weary of burnout, and if you ever need to slow your pace or read less, allow yourself that break. Even for myself, I’ve been reading less for pleasure this month, as I’m inundated in school assignments, work, and personal life obligations.
That being said, I hope these tips empower you to foster your own love of reading.
Implement Reading Time into Your Day
There are some people who love reading before bed–that time of day when they finally escape all distractions and exterior interruptions. Getting lost in a book and drifting to sleep is their favorite finale to the day.
Others, like myself, enjoy reading in the morning with a cup of tea. Before I worry about all other responsibilities, I like to carve out a little time for myself, to start the day on a positive note, partaking in a hobby I love.
Moreover, many people favor reading over lunch, a delightful intermission to the day’s grind.
Yet even other people ritually listen to an audiobook on their commute to work.
Some people dedicate the entire weekend to reading.
As you can see, there are many possibilities for incorporating reading into your daily, or weekly, routine. What parts of your day do you have downtime you never know how to fill? What time of day do you most enjoy reading? For example, my one friend once told me she always attempted reading before bed but found herself falling asleep on the book. While that may be preferable for those who need assistance falling asleep, I suggested to her that instead of reading before bed, she might try to read in the earlier half of the day when her mind was more alert.
Ultimately, getting into a routine of reading can help immensely. It allows you to make steady progress in a book, and it’s a great habit to build.
Explore New Mediums and Genres
Until last year, I had never tried listening to an audiobook. Why not? I don’t know! I assumed I wouldn’t like it. While audiobooks still aren’t my most preferred method of reading, I have found that I like them for certain books and certain situations. For example, I would not like to exclusively listen to a literary fiction novel via audiobook–in that case, I’d rather read the text, or do both audio and visual. However, for more light-hearted literature, like romance books, or non-fiction that may be a little denser (yet I don’t intend to retain all the information), I find audiobooks a good time. They’re great for long drives or when my eyes are so strained from reading academic articles that I can’t bear the thought of squinting at a page. Moreover, when an audiobook has an especially skilled narrator, it can really bring the text to life.
Another medium many readers overlook is the graphic novel. Graphic novels are so much fun to read, and they go by much quicker than full-text books. (That’s a way to boost your reading count–fly through a 10-volume manga series, or check out a load of children’s graphic novels.) I love the variety and range of art styles and stories that graphic novels contain. If you don’t like one, don’t completely write them off yet–it’s still possible there are others that speak more to you.
Even consider reading e-books through your library, or picture books. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy books targeted towards a younger age range. And if you love to read but the font within paperbacks is too small, try out large print books, which may significantly lessen the burden placed on your eyes.
Some readers prefer reading non-fiction because they prefer to learn when they read. Others detest non-fiction books because they’d rather escape in a fantasy. Give it all a try! Then you’ll have a better sense of what you like. Which leads to…
Read What You Love
Have you ever felt like there are some classics that you just had to read before you die? Pride and Prejudice? Brave New World? The Fountainhead?
While it’s perfectly fine if you enjoy reading classics, it’s also perfectly fine to have no interest whatsoever in the literary canon and have lived your life free from the pages of Ulysses.
Some books we will find boring, and that’s okay. In order to cultivate an excitement for reading, we have to find the type of books that most resonate with us. Perhaps that’s true crime books or the detective novel. Or maybe, it’s superhero comics. Historical fiction may entertain you most. Fan-fiction? Celebrity tell-alls? Or perhaps it’s not so much about the genre as it is about the demographics of the protagonist or author.
Ask yourself: What do I like most about reading? Do I prefer to learn? Do I prefer to escape? Do I prefer to appreciate good writing? Do I prefer getting swept-up in an elaborate plot? Do I prefer to read about people I can relate to? Do I prefer to read about people different from me? Do I prefer series or standalone books?
Sample different types of books and get a feel for what you’re most enthusiastic about. This will help you be more discerning when selecting a book. For example, though I have a wide range of reading interests (which is another perfectly good quality!), I have a great sense for what I enjoy or dislike in books. Thus, I have a higher “success rate” in picking out a book I think I’ll favor reading.
Which, again, leads to…
Don’t Read Books You Don’t Enjoy
Seriously, unless you’re in school, don’t bother reading a book you don’t enjoy. Halfway through a book and it’s sourly depressing you–in a bad way? Put it down, for now or for good. Let’s make a pact not to sit through books that rub us the wrong way… (Unless you’re into that sort of thing.) You decide! There’s no penalty for discontinuing a book you picked up of your own free will. You don’t have to read anything that everyone else is “raving about,” but you also don’t have to have the most obscure reading taste ever. Read what you like; don’t read what you don’t like.
Make Reading Fun
More than anything, reading shouldn’t feel like a chore. That’s why I encourage you to approach reading with a sense of wonder. Go ahead, make it a special experience a part of your day.
Light a candle! Adjust the lights! Play some ambient music! Prepare yourself your favorite beverage or snack! Cozy up to your favorite chair–or even wander outside and set yourself up on a blanket beneath a beloved tree! Maybe you even coordinate the atmosphere to the mood of the book to even more fully immerse yourself in the plot.
Put Down Your Phone
Pretty much any time I notice myself scrolling aimlessly on social media for more than five minutes, I ask myself, “What am I doing?”
If you tend to gravitate to your phone in your downtime, ask yourself if it wouldn’t be a bit better to trade that Twitter session out with a reading session. Sure, it may be difficult to pull yourself away from the drama of social media and its enticing memes–and if you truly love your phone time, then follow your heart–but at least consider the option of reading instead of succumbing to the blue light’s chokehold.
The more I refuse to get sucked into my phone, the easier it is for me to realize this subliminal habit and prioritize reading over social media. For me, being online is rarely an enjoyable experience; others may have a different experience though. I have to consciously remind myself, “You do not feel better than when you first opened this app. In fact, now you feel worse.” This helps me put down my phone and return to activities that actually rejuvenate me–like reading.
Also, while your book is open, set your phone face-down away from your peripheral vision. This way, you won’t be as tempted or distracted by the impending possibility of a notification.
Journal Before Reading
As you may know, I am a huge advocate of journaling. In fact, I have a slew of journaling posts here. But sometimes when I sit down to read, my mind bounces all over the place and I just can’t focus. Usually, it’s because I’m feeling anxious or bothered by something else happening in my day. In that case, it’s sometimes beneficial for me to journal before reading. This allows me to vent all the pent-up thoughts aggravating my consciousness and “clear out” all the muck that just doesn’t go away by ignoring it. Granted, sometimes a journaling session may uncover more than we expect and afterwards, maybe we realize that reading just isn’t right for us in the moment. However, more often than not, journaling before reading is a helpful activity and allows me to take a deep breath, let some stuff go, and read with more focus.
Perhaps engaging in meditation or yoga prior to reading may likewise help with soothing anxiety. If this sounds like a feasible solution to your “monkey mind,” then maybe give it a try.
Use Your Imagination
Maybe some people are thinking, “Duh” at this one. Maybe others are thinking, “I can’t. I have aphantasia.” Both are fine responses. Like all theses tips, take them or leave them.
I find that when I read, I enjoy myself best when I imagine the scene in my mind. Depending on what I’m reading, it’s less about comprehending every single word and more about what representation the words evoke in my imagination. True, sometimes passages confuse me and I spend time rereading a page or a section (which is good and fine!), but other times it’s more about the gist than the literal meaning of the words. Often when I read, I become entirely engrossed in the visuals in my head, and it feels vividly real. This, I believe, can be honed with practice. Our imagination is a muscle and with more flexing, the greater capacity it can support.
This may not work for everyone, and it may not work with certain people, but perhaps pairing up with an “accountability buddy” may help you keep up with reading more. Buddy reading is sort of like being in a book club (which is another great motivator for reading), but buddy reading is more informal and personal. If you know someone equally dedicated to reading as you are, it may be helpful to encourage each other to keep up with reading. Especially if you’re the type of person who likes discussing the books you read, this may be a particularly advantageous activity.
Set Page or Time Assignments
This is a more structured approach, but another way to hold yourself accountable for reading more is to set page counts or time periods to meet each day. For example, you may challenge yourself to read fifty pages each day, or maybe for one hour each day. The quantity is completely up to you and your capacity. For some people, this regimented approach works better because they prefer these guidelines. And who knows–maybe once you hit the quota, you’ll be so invested in the book that you just keep going! There’s also no consequence for not meeting your personal goal; if something comes up and you can only read five pages one day, that’s completely fine.
Just Read More
I love yet hate this tip: just read more. It sounds counterintuitive, but the more we read, the higher tolerance we have for reading. I’ve heard lots of people remark, “I used to be able to read a book in one sitting and now I get distracted after five minutes!” This is understandable if you’re out of the practice of reading.
Merely challenge yourself to read one minute more each day than the previous day. With time and practice, you’ll become more accustomed to sitting and reading for longer periods of time. This is something I’ve personally trained myself on, and now I can read for hours without feeling fidgety or restless. Granted, for some people, this level of concentration isn’t in their wheelhouse–and that’s okay. If you need to take breaks between chapters, or incorporate another element into reading (such as having a stress ball or something in your hands to play with), do what works best for you. I can empathize to some extent–I have trouble with audiobooks if I’m not doing something with my hands. It’s hard for me to just sit and listen, and I always feel like I need something to look at or check. In that case, I find that if I’m at home, it’s helpful to use a coloring book. Working on a coloring book actually improves my concentration on the narrator’s words because it’s not so cognitively demanding that I need to greatly focus on coloring, yet it’s just stimulating enough that I remain alert and content.
I hope these tips, though fairly commonplace, have helped inspire you to some degree. As a reminder, you’re not obligated to read anything (unless, like I said, you’re a student, in which case, I completely empathize), but it’s important to cultivate healthy and enjoyable reading practices if it’s something you truly feel compelled to maintain as a hobby.
To read book reviews by Slanted Spines, click here.