Just as I predicted, March has been a slower reading month than February. I simply haven’t had the desire to read, whether that’s because of migraines and sickness or the fact that I finished a fantasy read and had nothing “high-octane” to fill its place; switching genres can be hard.
In those reading slumps, one can easily become discouraged. Whether you’re trying to expand your reading horizons, simply raise your books-read count, or finish a book club pick in time for group discussion, if you can’t get past one page in ten minutes, it’s time to reevaluate. Check out these ideas for improving your reading habits.
One thing I love to do is read during commercials. I watch a lot of TV shows, mostly on Hulu (I don’t have cable TV); if any of you use Hulu, you know how many ad breaks there are in one episode. I always have a book close by so I can hit mute during the breaks and read for 90-120 seconds, and I can usually fit in a couple pages. I realize there is danger of breaking up the flow of a story, but it’s a great way to sneak in a few pages here and there (plus you may find yourself pausing that TV show to read just a bit more…).
Read in the evenings. I love to read around mid-morning, but there are so many benefits to reading in the evening; it gets you away from electronics in the 30-60 minutes before bed, which every doctor will tell you is the cure for insomnia. Even if I stay up “past my bedtime” on the computer, I’ll still try to fit in a chapter before turning out the lights. I feel calmer and sleepier each night I stick to this routine, and as someone who deals with insomnia and night time paranoia, I don’t know why I don’t follow this rule religiously. (Tip: Reading It by Stephen King before bed doesn’t have the same effect. Be smart.)
Carry a book everywhere. The doctor’s office is another great place to sneak in a chapter or two. I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing a book with me to my weekly therapy sessions; it doesn’t guarantee nobody talking to me, but that waiting area can get pretty loud and sometimes burying my nose in a book is a necessary refuge.
Use reading as a reward system. If you absolutely have to clean the house, get that pile of laundry done, or finish mandatory reading for school, reward yourself with an hour of pleasure reading. After editing this post, I plan on spending some quality time with a current read.
Find a reading buddy. Whether you join a book club or set a reading goal with a friend, having someone hold you accountable for reading can do wonders for motivation (depending on what your goal is — don’t let reading become a stressful obligation!).
Schedule your electronics. Turn your phone on silent, shut the TV off, close the laptop, and read. I’ll bet you even notice the health benefits of getting away from electronics and social media for an hour or two every day. If you have a family, consider scheduling this into your daily routine and have everyone read at the same time. (You could even read a book together. The Chronicles of Narnia is always a great family choice.)
“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray / go throw your TV set away / and in its place, you can install / a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”
Roald Dahl, “Television”
Join Goodreads. I love Goodreads. Not only can you create a list of books you want to read or have read, you can also join the Goodreads challenge and keep track of your yearly goal (there’s nothing so satisfying as clicking “read” on a book and seeing it added to your yearly list). Plus you can follow other readers and gain encouragement from their reading patterns, and you can follow authors. (This is another way to make your reading public and in a sense have an accountability partner if you can’t keep up with something more personal.)
Read two books at once. Some may scream at this idea, but I almost always have two books going at once. I vary the genres — for instance, as I was reading Jane Eyre last month, I was also reading Make ‘Em Laugh, Debbie Reynolds’ anecdotal biography — so that I’m not bogged down by two heavy or similar stories. I’m now reading A Little Princess and The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop. I take my time through the latter, and also I can transport that one wherever I go, whereas I’m limited to reading A Little Princess at home as it’s a special leather bound copy I don’t want damaged in any way.
Save. Save those pennies and dimes. Tuck away a five dollar bill here and there and put it all into a special jar. There’s nothing more motivating than buying some crisp, beautiful new books (or old, falling apart ones, whatever your heart desires).
Make it a priority. You can set goals, turn the TV off, or join a book club, but none of it will amount to anything if you don’t work on your mindset. In a world where we seem to get busier each minute and at the end of the day all we want to do is turn on the TV and let our minds relax, making reading a priority can be difficult. But if this is something you’re passionate about improving, make it just as important as cooking dinner or going to class/work and nurture your passion for stories.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R.R. Martin