You tell yourself this every year — I’m going to read more books this year. You tell yourself you won’t watch as much TV, you have more “me” time, and you’ll put your phone down and read.
And then you don’t. Ever.
And heck, if you don’t want to read, and just say so and own it. Don’t say you want to do it because everyone does (or the smart people you know do), just admit it to yourself and stop disappointing yourself over and over.
Or, decide that you actually do want to give it a try just see (and I dunno, get smarter, expand your vocabulary, become a better writer yourself…). You remember loving to read as a kid. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, Bobbsey Twins, Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, anyone?
How. How can you actually read more? Let me count the ways…
SIX WAYS TO READ MORE BOOKS THIS YEAR
1 — Start small, start easy. Like a gateway drug.
Don’t make big lofty reading goals. If you aren’t already someone who reads a lot, start small. I already read a lot, so I challenge myself to read even more, but I rarely hit my lofty reading goals. And honestly, I consider my reading goals to be soft goals. I do them if I have time, but I don’t stress about it.
What’s small? Have the goal of finishing ONE book in a month. That’s it, one book. You can do it. Twelve books this year is a lot better than ZERO last year. So, pick a book — maybe even go to (gasp!) a bookstore and buy one! Don’t pick something difficult, or really long, start small, start easy.
2 — Read how it works best for you.
Perfer reading on an iPad or a Kindle? Great, you can literally start reading NOW. I read in several different ways — physical books, digital books, and audiobooks. Sometimes all at the same time!
I have particular reasons I read in different ways, but that’s something that’s completely up to you. Try all three and see what you like best.
What I love about digital books is that I read most of them on either iBooks or the Kindle app — both of which I have on my iPad and my iPhone. So I can literally read anywhere. It keeps your place, so you don’t have to try to remember where you stopped reading on your iPad and started on your iPhone.
3 — Commit to reading when you travel.
Sometimes I think having wifi on planes is actually bad. It used to be the perfect forced opportunity to unplug, now most flights (over land) have wifi and yay — you get to work more!
Resist the urge to get out your laptop — it’s uncomfortable anyway — and READ. The great thing about actual books, and even digital readers (on most flights) is that you don’t have to put them away for takeoff and landing. So you can literally start reading the second you board.
It sounds crazy that this can be so hard, to resist the temptation to open your computer or phone, but see if you can. See if you can only read for one entire flight. And see if you like it.
4 — Read while you’re waiting.
If there’s anything I hate, it’s waiting. Now if I was a comedian, or a novelist, maybe I’d use all the time I’m waiting to just people watch, observe human behavior, take mental notes. But I don’t, I just get frustrated. So I read a lot while I’m waiting. Doctor’s offices, when I’m in line somewhere, even if it’s just the 15-minute line at the salad place, I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance if I’m not with other people that I’m listening to an audiobook (the other 50% is looking at Instagram, duh).
5 — Read before you go to bed.
A lot of us watch TV while we eat dinner (guilty!). But then you just keep watching for hours. All night long. Every night. So yes, watch an hour or two, but do you really need to watch that third hour? Get in bed, pick up a book, and you’ll probably even start to get more sleep too.
I read almost every night. I do need to put down the Instagram a little sooner, but once I get started on my book, I’m into it.
Reading in bed is great for me because I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac. More often than not, I have a hard time falling asleep, but reading is like my perfect Ambien without a groggy hangover. Much better than being addicted to sleeping pills.
6 — Read on your commute. (I’ll tell you how!)
Obviously this is easy for metro, subway, and bus riders, but what if you drive or walk to work? I have the solution — audiobooks! I’m telling you, audiobooks are the coolest. I use Audible. Super easy since I have Amazon Prime.
I’ve always known audiobooks existed — we used to call them “books on tape” because for those of you under 25, there were these things called cassette tapes way back when. On long car rides with my grandparents we would listen to Anne of Green Gables on tape. But then I got older, and I completely forgot about books on tape even being a thing.
Fast forward being out of school for 10 years and looking for a way maximize the time during my commute (walking & on the bus to my studio in Georgetown) I started listening to podcasts. I loved that I could just completely zone out and listen. It was the perfect thing for my commute. After a while I got a little burned out on podcasts and decided I’d try a book.
And I’ve been hooked ever since. So not only do I listen on my commute, but also when I’m driving, when I’m walking just about anywhere, when I’m in line getting a salad, when I’m at home cooking or doing laundry — basically anytime I’m alone and I can listen without being distracted, I do.
I do go back and forth between listening to podcasts and books. I’ll do a book, then a podcast for a week, then a new book, you see the cycle.
One thing I never want to completely stop with is time for mind wandering. Those times when you are just staring out the window, or mindlessly folding laundry, not really thinking about anything imparticular — I think that wandering brain time is important. So I don’t think you have to fill every second of every day with an audiobook, but maybe half the time, try it and see if you like it.
Audiobooks have helped me not only read more, but read books I had a difficult time actually reading. For example, I remember I tried to read The Kite Runner a few years ago, but after a few pages, I just couldn’t keep the characters straight. All of their names (foreign to me) seemed to blend together and I just couldn’t get into it. A few months ago I was looking for my next audio book when I thought, The Kite Runner would be the perfect book to listen to! And it totally was. I’m thinking I’ll have a better shot at reading Anna Karenina if I listen to it.
The only problem I’ve found with audiobooks is sometimes I’ll fall asleep listening and have to go back and find where I fell asleep. But that’s not a big deal.
Only one out of these six tips asks you to find time. The rest is all time you already have that you are probably spending on Snapchat, checking email obsessively, and watching The Bachelor.
BOOKS COST MONEY!
Eeek, but what about your budget!?! All of these books you’re going to read is going to cost a small fortune!
Remember that place your mom used to take you in the summer, and they’d give you a big empty list of 100, and as you read books during the three months of summer you got the satisfaction of filling in the list? That was at this place called the li-brar-y. Yes, the still exist. And you don’t even necessarily have to go to them anymore. You can get digital books and audio books FOR FREE, from the library. Mind-blowing I know. In DC I just had to go in person once to get my library card, and voila — free digital books I can read on my iPad!
So really, you don’t have the budget excuse for not reading.
What do you think? Think you can read more books this year now? Are you actually going to try?
Note, I the proper spelling of wifi is Wi-Fi, but that just seems silly to me, so I’m going with wifi. Remember when email used to be e-mail, but we all just never used the hyphen? Also e-books technically still has a hyphen, but I predict it will be dropped eventually, just like email. This is just from my amateur grammar knowledge, but I wanted to explain my reasoning for wifi.
Photo by Laura Metzler