Reading has always been a delight for me. I loved the library’s summer reading clubs when I was a kid. Browsing bookstores is a favorite pastime when I travel. Countless books on writers and writing are scattered around my house. In recent years, however, I found myself reading books less frequently. And the ones I started, I tended to abandon more often.
Last summer, I set out to change that. I knew that I’d gotten too attached to my devices. I was scrolling far too much and reading books far too little. Over Memorial Day, I challenged myself to read a book a week until Labor Day. My accountability was writing a quick book review (I called them “blink book reviews” to keep them short enough to be read in a blink).
Going into 2023, I made an intention (not a resolution) to read more. I started actively asking friends for book suggestions and deliberately making the time to read. I sought out hints from friends and strangers about how they make time for reading and stay off their devices.
The dozen ideas below are the intersection of practices I’m trying to keep along with suggestions from others I’m trying to integrate into my habits.
1 – Join Goodreads or a similar reading site. When I recently joined, I quickly connected to several friends already who already use Goodreads to share their reading experiences. I find the “want to read” feature the most helpful. Back when I was a more frequent library user, I kept a running list of books I wanted to read on my phone. Goodreads can help with re-invigorating my “want to read” list. (Feel free to “friend” me on Goodreads.)
2 – Borrow from and contribute to a nearby Little Free Library if there’s one in your neighborhood. There’s a box near us, and I check it weekly. Clearly someone nearby has reading tastes like mine, as I’ve enjoyed several books I’ve found there. And the books I leave seem to be nabbed quickly.
3 – Give away the books you love. If I lend a book to a friend, I rarely get it back – and that’s the way I like it. I recently “shared” my all-time favorite book, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott, with a young writer friend. I hope she will gain some insight from my scribbles and notes that I add every time I read the book. Within two days, one of the ladies who helps my mom brought me a copy of the same book. She said she knew I loved writing and thought I might enjoy it. Today, it’s my “car” book as I read it for the umpteenth time. Good book karma!
4 – Read multiple books at once. I’ve always kept with a plan of reading one “good for you” book (most likely non-fiction that teaches me something), one “must-read” book (best seller-types) and one “junk food” book (just pure easy reading). That’s enough to keep one by my bed, one in my knapsack that goes everywhere with me, and one in my car. You’d be surprised at how often you can find a few minutes to pull out the “car” book.
5 – Change up your reading genre. I’m more of a best-seller fiction type of gal. But in anticipation of a trip to Berlin last year, I read an historical memoir recommended by a friend. It absolutely brought the city to life and made me realize that I really can like books about history.
6 – Download a digital or audio book version of a hard copy book you’re reading. Admittedly, this kind of felt like cheating at first, but I’ve found it’s a great way keep reading even when there’s not time or circumstances to sit down with the hard copy book. Some audio books even help you keep track of switching between digital and audio versions.
7 – Make reading (not scrolling) the last thing you do before turning out the light at night. Research overwhelmingly shows screen time before bed is a big contributor to insomnia. Even reading just a couple of pages calms my racing brain.
8 – Keep up with new books coming out and read reviews. Check the lists at bookstores and in newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Read friends’ social posts about books. I have several friends who share insights about books by writing reviews or giving suggestions. That’s how I’ve found lots of good suggestions about books I never would have heard about otherwise.
9 – Seek out book club recs. Even if you’re not in a book club, finding their lists is easy. The library keeps lists of book club selections. Check out books clubs that may be associated with your church, civic organizations you’re involved with or professional organizations you belong to.
10 – Accept it’s OK to use audio books. For many years, I disparaged audio books as “less than” reading. But as I’ve increased the time I spend in my car in recent years, I subscribe to Audible, but the library also has audio books and lots of other apps are available online. I’ve become a true fan. I also put in my ear buds to “read” while folding laundry, cleaning around the house or walking the dog.
11 – Don’t finish a book you hate. I’ve always been in the camp of finishing every book I start. Nope. Not anymore. If I hate it, I leave it in my neighborhood Little Free Library. No need to waste valuable time on books that don’t make sense, make me too sad, scare me too bad or are just badly written.
12 – Make reading a reward and not a chore. Reading should be a pleasure, a gift, an adventure and an enriching experience. Find ways to make reading your reward. Mine is sitting down with my book in a relaxing place after I’ve checked my to-do list for the day – whether it’s the comfy chair in my office, a chair on the beach or snuggled up on my bed. I place my phone and iPad in another room. I turn off my computer “ding” feature. I get comfortable and give myself the gift of time to read.
What else should I add to this list?