Now is the Time to Strengthen Your Reading Habits

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Here are 15 ideas on how to strengthen your reading habits. Just keep in mind that some may not work for you, but hey, let’s be honest, you only care about your N of 1, right? If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, forget it and do something else in your quest to build effective reading habits.

Let us start with the easiest one:

1) Enjoy your reading.

This is the best kind of habit for any reader. Let go of any belief that reading must be hard or good for you, and therefore not enjoyable. Don’t worry if you’re reading the “right book” or the hardest thing out there or something others will want to talk about at dinner parties. Read things you enjoy, things that make your brain work harder, and things that keep you up at night. That may be sparkly vampires or famously complex Russian novels or poetry that someone once told you was silly. Your reading habits will be stronger if you enjoy all or at least most of what you read.

Once you have given yourself permission to enjoy reading rather than view it as a chore, let’s turn to building other good reading habits for adults.

A lot of ‘effective reading habits’ advice falls into several types: how to read more, more frequently, or faster; how to track your reading; and how to plan your reading if you’re so inclined.

2) Read more than one book at a time and figure out what you like more quickly.

I used to read only one book at a time when reading for pleasure. Maybe it was a holdover from a time when I thought I could only read one book at a time; I don’t know. At some point, I crossed over into reading multiple books at once and for me, this is markedly better.

I usually read one nonfiction and one fiction at the very least, but the picture is often more complicated (and more fun) than that. If I’m listening to a book, it’s usually a memoir like Phuc Tran’s Sigh, Gone, Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, or Michael Arceneaux’s I Can’t Date Jesus. Right now, I’m reading a few nonfiction paper and ebooks like a copy of Tabitha Kenlon’s Conduct Books and the History of the Ideal Woman and Christopher de Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts. This year I’ve read Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and Rebecca Roanhorse’s The Trail of Lightning, and I am considering starting several other enticing choices waiting on my paper and ebook TBRs.

3) Try something you haven’t liked in the past.

Maybe you’ve never tried certain genres or have tried one and it didn’t work for you. For me, there’s a famous science fiction writer I once read because of how famous his book is. For various reasons, I found his most famous book to be awful. I walked away thinking I’d never read that author again, but that doesn’t mean I hate all science fiction. I am only against bad writing, poor plotting, and reading things I don’t enjoy. Genre doesn’t have much to do with it.

In contrast, I have found that I thoroughly enjoy other speculative and science fiction like Maggie Shen’s An Excess Male, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series and Martha Wells’s Murderbot books. I even read Frank Herbert’s Dune before it was popular. Just kidding, I’m not that cool. However, I loved that book and am so glad I read it for a class years ago. Without that reason, I may never have picked it up, given the fact that I thought it was very heavy science fiction. I was so glad to find that I loved it and I still think of that when I assume I won’t like a genre or topic.

4) Link your reading habit to something else you do regularly.

This is a common strategy to help you develop a new habit by ‘piggybacking’ on an existing one. For example, if you have a set morning routine, try reading for a few minutes while you eat or drink (or after you shower or you brush your teeth, etc).

woman reading book inside the library
Photo by Praveen Gupta on Unsplash

5) Try reading a different way.

Some people love audiobooks, some prefer to read on paper, some are like me and read different books in different ways. My system is too complicated (and frankly arbitrary) to describe here, but try reading different books in different formats. Maybe you don’t like reading some things on a tiny screen that much so you may find that nonfiction on paper or audio is best. Maybe fiction is easy to read on paper but not in audio for you, or vice versa. Experiment and you’ll see what works for you fairly easily. This will also allow you to read more, particularly if you find that audio works more often than you think it will.

6) Use your ‘time confetti’ to strengthen your reading habits.

We all have little bits of time that slip through our fingers. According to Jennifer Senior’s All Joy and No Fun, this is what time researchers refer to as ‘time confetti.’ At least, I think that’s where I first encountered this concept; I finished reading that book on December 13, 2015, so I am not entirely sure. If you’re wondering how I know that, I will explain in my next point. While we don’t have to make every single moment of a day ‘productive,’ reading during your unscheduled bits of time will help you build your reading habits and hopefully will bring more reading enjoyment into your life on a regular basis. After all, why wait until bed time to enjoy your reading habit?

7) Use something to keep track of what you’re reading now, have read, or want to read in the future.

I still use Goodreads for this, which is how I know when I finished All Joy and No Fun so precisely. However, this is rarely very important. Rather the goal is to increase the likelihood that you will build your reading habits by tracking them. This could mean keeping track of what you’re reading, but you could also track how often you read on a calendar, how many minutes you read on a chart or spreadsheet (use Book Riot’s reading log here or search for a DIY reading log online), or write down your favorite titles in a bullet journal or something similar.

8) Give yourself a deadline.

Even though I have a lot of books at home and on my various devices, I still borrow books from the library. Knowing I have to return them helps me strengthen my reading habits and finish the books I want to finish. Other ideas include joining a book club so you have a meeting to attend or marking a due date on your calendar and planning to start another book after the current one.

9) Try a buddy read.

You can do this in person or virtually, and plan this as much as you like or as little as you like. Find someone else who wants to read the same book and read it around the same time. It’s as a simple as that. So far, I’ve only done this once with Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, but I enjoyed it and plan to do it more (and this was with people on social media in different parts of the world so we could be very flexible and it was stress-free).

10) Try a reading challenge or a ‘readathon’.

Book Riot has an annual “Read Harder” challenge you can join or just set a certain amount of time aside for your own personal readathon. You can plan this as little or as much as you like.

11) Have a ‘reading party’.

I did not invent this although I wish I had. A friend of mine once said he told his daughter (who at the time was 8 or 10 I think) that they were going to have a reading party. Then they both sat down with their own books and read. It sounded like a great idea so I am happily passing it on to you. I don’t remember any other details to be frank. However, you may decide that your party needs special beverages, snacks, music, or book-inspired costumes. All that is up to you, as long as your idea of partying involves a book to help you strengthen your reading habits.

12) Listen to podcasts from people who like to read and see if that inspires you.

Book Riot has a number of shows you can try and there are of course many others out there. I’ve found that I enjoy some much more than others, try as many as you can to get a feel for what you like. Do you want a discussion of the book itself or are you more interested in author interviews? Do you want to hear about the craft or do you want to know more about reader reactions? All of this and much more can vary across different shows. Find one that hooks you and encourages you to strengthen your reading habits.

13) Get professional help.

Sometimes, you just want someone else to ask you what you like, make recommendations just for you, and then send them to do you (as a letter or as actual books). This might sound too good to be true, but that’s where Book Riot’s Tailored Book Recommendations come in. This system is pretty awesome. It’s how I read Bethany Morrow’s Mem, finally read Britt Bennet’s The Mothers, and have had many other good books recommended to me. Long before I became a Rioter, I signed up for my very own tailored book recommendations. I love reading the letter I receive and I love giving feedback on the choices I get. For me, this indulges my book love while still giving me the flexibility to pick what I like from the recommendations.

14) Use a fun way to pick your next book.

Write titles on pieces of paper, put them in a jar and choose at random. Have your cat pick the next one (by rubbing its face on a particular book? meowing when you hold up a cover? the choices are endless if you have a cooperative feline). Spray paint them on your wall (not someone else’s wall, this is key) and throw a dart. Whatever works for you.

15) Buy or borrow stuff that helps strengthen your reading habits.

If you’re lucky enough to have others who will lend you books (always controversial among book lovers), borrow some. You can also buy a book light, cool reading socks or a literary-themed calendar that will remind you of your newly strengthened reading habit.

If you have the space, you can set up a book corner or reading cocoon. Remember those little ‘reading corners’ in elementary school? Whether you do or not, you can make one. If you don’t already have one, ‘build’ your own reading nook with pillows, blankets, or something else you like.

And lastly, how else to read more? Keep coming back to Book Riot. We’re a diverse, supportive community full of people who love books. Stick with us and we can help you keep up your reading habits and find your next favorite read.

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