I have a few thoughts on how to recapture your love of reading. But before I dive in, I have some questions for you. Did you love reading as a kid and just fell out of the habit? Or have you hit a bumpy stretch of life’s road and somehow fell off the reading bandwagon? Or maybe you never really loved reading to begin with, and you’re looking to help yourself feel more positively toward reading? All these situations might warrant different approaches.
Some Ground Rules
To start, let’s establish some ground rules. To be clear, I have some strongly held beliefs in this area that include but are not limited to: all reading is valuable, reading is not a competition, and reading doesn’t have to be painful. If you want a very thoughtful presentation of some of the best advice I’ve seen lately, read What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Reading Self.
For some, ADHD may be playing a role. If that’s you or someone you know, I would highly recommend How to Focus on Reading with ADHD. Even if you think you’re neurotypical, you might still find this an interesting list of ideas to jump into. Pick the best ones for you and try them out!
If you have hit a crappy stretch of life’s road that has taken you away from reading, then it might help to read about emotions. This is a list of books about emotions that I would highly recommend perusing. If this is your situation, I am sending you as much support as your heart can hold. I am going through a long and difficult stretch, and there is no end (currently) in sight. If that’s you too, I hope this list will steer you in the direction of the right approach: ask yourself questions, be kind to yourself, and generate as much hope as you can, as often as you can. Remember that nothing, and I do mean nothing, lasts forever. Winter always turns to spring.
Now, on to my thoughts. Think about your quest to return to reading as making books your friends again. If you had a lot of friends but you never had much contact with them, most of them would drift away, right? Think of this as something similar: maybe it’s just time to get back in touch with old friends and make some new ones.
Diversify Your Reading
Start by diversifying your reading: change the format, change the genre or topic, or change the author. There is no magic formula for any of these components; these are simply different variables to change as you make friends with books again.
If I find my reading slowing down, I turn to graphic novels or YA titles. Some of my recent favorites have included The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens, Taproot: A Story About a Gardener and a Ghost, and Himawari House. I thought Yes, I’m Hot in This was really funny.
For YA, I found Firekeeper’s Daughter drew me in slowly and then had me completely hooked. I also really like stories about people’s lives, so I was completely absorbed by Finding Me, My Life of Language: A Memoir, and Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, each from authors with very different life experiences. Try a new-to-you format, topic, or author and see how the change works for you.
Are there particular genres or topics that attract you? For me, I love Murderbot and the Thursday Murder Club. However, romance has rarely been my first choice, but I still really enjoyed Love and Other Consolation Prizes and Queerly Beloved.
Have you given audiobooks, stories, or essays a try? I will tell anyone who will listen that Born a Crime is incredible on audio: there is nothing better than listening to Trevor Noah talk you through his entire book. It is magic.
Refresh Your Determination and Experiment
Time will tell if you are hanging out with the right books. If you find yourself getting off track, just refresh your determination and start again. Consider your reading an open-ended experiment and see where your energy directs you. I have no medical training whatsoever and get upset around blood, yet I still loved reading Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Mysterious, Miraculous World of Blood and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. I don’t run unless I’m late for the bus, and I’ve spent most of my life terrified of deep water, but I read Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Marathon Greatness and The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m not saying you have to start with these or read them at all, but your favorite new book friends might surprise you.
Repeat on a Regular Basis
Think of your books as your chosen family and friends. You don’t have to keep any titles around other than the ones you love. You can reread or stop reading at any point; it is entirely up to you. Just keep reading in one way or another, and I know you will find the right ones for you. I have flown through books like When the Emperor Was Divine, Pachinko, and Exit West, regardless of their length.
However, other books just did not work for me. I have no hard feelings. For example, I know that most vampire and horror books are just not really my thing. How? I hung out with a few and we didn’t click, you know? I just left those books for others to enjoy and went off in search of other new book besties to spend my time with. And as someone who does not know you at all, I am giving you permission and encouragement to do the same. I wish you similar joy in recapturing your love of reading and keeping your life filled with books you love, like chosen family and friends.