A friend recently saw that I have been writing for Book Riot and asked me what one book I would recommend that would convince her to start reading again. That, my friends, is a tall order. I recommended a few books, tried to give her a wide range so that maybe one of them would spark something, but I knew that none of them were the silver bullet she was looking for.
Once you learn how, reading is–barring some kind of reading or learning disorder–pretty easy. I think it’s safe to assume that if you got to this this article on Book Riot Dot Com, you are able to read and enjoy doing so. For some reason, though, “start reading again” or “reading more” continues to show up on New Year’s resolution and personal goal lists. Reading is easy, but reading more or reading again is hard.
So, back to my friend’s question. How do you start reading again? Or, another related question: how do you read more?
Here’s the answer. It’s a big secret, but I am here to share it with you.
The best way to read more…
…to sit down and read.
I know. That’s not very nice of me. Here you thought I was going to give you all sorts of tips and tricks and instead I am just telling you to sit down and read and you could have thought of that yourself and what is even the point of this dumb article who do you think you are, you *scroll up to check byline* Jesse Doogan whoever even that is
I’m sorry. Nice to meet you.
Here’s the thing: reading more/again is a habit that you have to develop. You have to choose to read, and you have to choose to read over doing other things, some of which you really want to do. You’ll have to choose to read over putting Netflix on autoplay, you’ll have to choose to read over playing a game on your phone, you’ll have to choose to read over organizing your closet or hanging out with friends and loved ones or over seeing another Marvel sequel.
It’s a choice that you’ll have to make all the time, and sometimes you will choose not to read and that is okay. Reading is a mostly solitary activity, and you can’t always choose a solitary act over spending time with people. Sometimes I want to come home from work and watch TV for six hours. Sometimes I have to see every Marvel movie in theaters. And that is okay. Reading again/more doesn’t mean that all you will ever do is read, it just means that sometimes you decide to read instead of doing something else.
Choose reading over something else once or twice a week, and there you are! You’re reading again! Choose reading a couple more times a week than before, and there you are, reading more!
I know that it is hard sometimes to decide to read instead of doing something else. Today instead of reading I 1) did not wake up early to go for a walk with my audiobook, 2) went grocery shopping on my lunch break instead reading the book I have in my purse, 3) took a nap when I got home instead of starting my book club book. That is three times just today! But I also decided I was going to read a solid chapter over dinner, and I did. One out of four! Isn’t that bad!
Now, say you are making the choice to read, and it just isn’t clicking for you. That happens to. In that case, I do have some tips for you other than “put your butt in a seat and read.” Yes, you are really getting your money’s worth on this thing. Here are some things that have worked for me:
Try a New Genre
I was in a bit of a reading slump this year until a friend came into town with a suitcase full of comic books. We spent most of the weekend passing the books back and forth, and by the time she left, I was ravenous for more stories. I very quickly made my way through a stack of comics, graphic novels, and regular ol’ novels. Really, I just needed the reminder that I love stories and comic books are a great way to get a lot of fast-paced stories quickly, and you get the great art that goes along with them. Reading something new shocked my system.
Try a New Format
I don’t have a dedicated e-reader and always thought trying to read a whole book on my phone would be difficult. You know, since it’s not like I don’t already spend 20 hours a day on my phone. Here’s what I learned reading a couple books on my phone: it’s great to be able to read a chapter anywhere I am, any time I have a free minute. It’s time that would normally be spent on Twitter or aimlessly scrolling, and it is so great to be able to dip into a book instead. I also love that since my phone is backlit, I can read after the lights are out, no problem.
Or, try audiobooks. I probably “read” more in audiobook than I do in any other format. I love them. I use them as my encouragement to do unpleasant tasks. “Okay, Jesse, if you clean the bathroom you can listen to your audiobook. It’ll be great.” Here’s my tip for audiobooks: start with easy books, and train yourself to listen. Don’t jump in with a complicated 30-hour book. Try maybe a light 8-hour celebrity memoir like Rob Lowe’s or Mindy Kaling’s, and then you can work your way up to books that require more concentration. If an audiobook doesn’t work for you because it’s too complicated or you don’t like the reader? You don’t have to finish it!
Check your library to see if they have digital audiobook or e-book programs. My library has Hoopla, Overdrive, 1-Click Digital, and Axis360, and I’m sure your library has something similar. All of these programs have huge catalogs of e- and audiobooks that I can download to my phone or tablet, and they’re all free ways to try out new formats.
Find a Reading Community
I cannot think of a better way to get excited about books than to find people to talk about books with. Book clubs have been a godsend to me in the last few years: they make me read books outside my comfort zone, keep me accountable for finishing books, and give me an excuse to eat snacks and talk about books with people once a month. Start a book club with friends, check your library (or even a local coffee shop) to see if they have book clubs, or find out if your city has a One Book One Community program. One of my favorite ways to get someone to talk about a book with me is to buy them the book. It is a tiny little passive aggressive book club, but it works in a pinch.
If IRL reading communities aren’t an option, look online! Book Riot folks are happy to talk books on Twitter or Facebook. You can join communities on Goodreads or jump in and comment on blogs. Whatever you do, find a community, ask questions, listen, and share your own thoughts. You will want to read more so you can participate more.
When all else fails, Set a Goal.
Reading is good for you, and sometimes you have to give yourself goals to meet in order to motivate yourself to do what’s good for you. Try setting yourself a goal like reading one book a month or 20 minutes of reading a day. You could also jump in on a yearly reading challenge like the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, or any number of the ones bouncing around the internet.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to read. You can still have a good life without reading books. You are not terrible because once you got out of school, or had kids, or picked up the oboe, or whatever, you stopped reading. You don’t have to read! But I can tell you that reading will add some richness and texture to your life that wouldn’t be there otherwise. So, give it a try. Make reading a priority for a little while. Now, click out of this window and grab yourself a book.