I’ve been on a slight reading kick lately** and I’ve thought about why, exactly, I’ve had some success actually starting and finishing (and not just listening) to some really great books.
**Note: Other people with more responsibilities than me (stressful jobs! kids!) read way more than I do. Not for one second do I think I am some prolific reader.
So here are a few tips I’ve found that really help me get in a reading groove and stay there:
Get a library card.
One tip you hear over and over again from capital-R Readers is: “Don’t be afraid to walk away from a book you just can’t get into.” This has always been tough for me, so I’d like to amend this tip slightly with this one: Get a library card.
I am well-versed in the romantic Saturday ritual of having one too many bloody marys at brunch and then wandering into the local bookstore next door. Next thing I know, I’m falling head-over-heels in love with some random hardback fiction novel with the most deliciously trendy cover design without so much as reading the front blurb. Twenty-six dollars later, when the alcohol has worn off, I try reading it, and it’s a struggle to get to page 30 — I realize I’ve made a huge mistake, Arrested Development style.
It’s hard to put those books down for good because I’ve invested in them. And so I try to slog through it, or worse, just don’t pick it back up for months at a time. Reading another book in the meantime feels like betrayal, so I don’t.
This is where the library card has been clutch for me.
Bad book? No problem. Return it. Get another. Get another FIVE if you wish. All for free.
The other great thing about the library is the pressure to finish. That three-week window is like a challenge that should be pretty doable for most books. And the most popular books that have holds on them, you can’t renew. For some reason, when it’s finally my turn to read a book that I’ve had on hold for weeks, and I know there are others not-so-patiently waiting after me, something about it feels more special. I’m making someone else wait, so I better really be reading this and enjoying it and giving it to the next person in a timely fashion.
(I never have this sort of benevolence toward random strangers in other aspects of my life. But READERS, man. There’s a community there.)
Make your reading conditions ideal.
Some people get in bed at 9 p.m. for a solid hour of reading each night before bed. More power to them. Me? I struggle to get in bed before 10 p.m., and I get about two pages in before needing to turn out the light. Instead, I sneak about 20-30 minutes on a campus bench during the work day lunch. Weekend mornings with coffee are a given. I love reading outside, and my dude considers it time spent together if I’m outside reading while he’s tinkering with something in the garage or mowing the lawn.
Be that cool person reading at a bar before your happy hour people show up. And I say cool because I know I’m always jealous of those people – aren’t you?
Take yourself out on a date with a book. Leave your phone in your car. Make it a treat, but think of it as a productive treat. Reading is good for your brain!
Track your progress.
Goodreads is a fantastic app/website for keeping track of the books you’ve read, when you’ve read them, what you thought about them, as well as the ones you want to read. You can set a goal of how many books to read for the year, and every time I finish one and see my progress bar move up a little bit more to complete, it’s satisfying. It’s nice to look back since January and see what types of books I’ve been leaning toward at a glance.
Find your book people.
Listen, book preferences and opinions are about as subjective as anything in this world. You can be my my best friend and soulmate, and I can feel “meh” about a book you loved and vice-versa. However, there are people who mostly have the same tastes in books as you do. Find them, and go off of their recs. The key to staying in a good reading flow is picking ones you’re probably gonna like. No more half-drunk decisions based on cover design, mmmkay?
Just start with one good, easy book.
Or, get back on track with one easy book. Sometimes I think I’m too high-brow to enjoy a “beach read.” Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m not learning something, or reading something very heavy from a perspective I’ve never been exposed to. There’s a necessary time and place for all of that. In fact, it’s a main reason why we should read, in my opinion. But, there’s nothing wrong with flying through a great romance, just to get one novel under your belt.
Modern Mrs. Darcy has so many lists of great books, categorized in EVERY way (short, beach-y, reminds you of your college days, etc.) you’re sure to find a good one that appeals to you from one of her lists.
My latest read definitely falls into this category. It’s fun, easy, fast, and a good story:
Keep a running list of your Want To Reads
This is key for keeping up a good rhythm. As soon as you finish one, just refer to your To-Read list (curated on Goodreads!) so you don’t have to hem and haw over what perfect one you should read next. Just pick from those.
Another reason to get a library card: You can download books to your phone or other mobile device FOR FREE, as soon as you want to. All without having to make a trip to the library. The future is now.
Share your reads and what you thought about them.
I think sharing our reads is a really powerful thing.
When I see that someone I follow on instagram has read six books in a month? That’s inspiring, and makes me wonder how I could get in a few more pages tonight. When other people see what you’re reading and what you like, they’ll recommend similar things to you. When someone shares a beautiful image of their current read and their patio beer, I’m thinking of how I can make that happen in my near future, too.
It’s so fun to post what I’m reading next on instagram and get three responses of “Oh I loved that one, I hope you do, too!” Again – readers, man. We’re all in this together.
I think sharing encourages us all to read, which will give you more recs to weed through in the best way, you know? I think we’re all reading a little more cause we’re all sharing what we’re reading a little more. So pay it forward, and show off your reads to your friends!
One is better than none.
Don’t stress too much. Once you start reading a little more, if you’re like me, you see just how many books you can cram into a month, which will influence my picks. I’ll pick shorter, easier ones just to check it off the list, and avoid longer, harder, or more literary titles. This is dumb. Don’t be like me. Quality over quantity. We’re here to enrich our lives, learn some things, and relax a little, not check off all the boxes.
A supportive significant other helps.
My dude has bought and built furniture specifically for my books, never complains when I’m rattling on about the plot of my current read, doesn’t mind if I ignore him and read on long car trips, and has been known to bring me a glass of wine while I read. Ok, ok, now I’m just bragging. I think I’ll keep him.
Whew, that was longer than I planned. If you’re still here, I applaud and appreciate you. Reading is cool and fun! In the spirit of taking my own advice, soon I’ll review some of my latest reads here. And please let me know: What are you reading? What helps you read more? I’d love to know.