The story I'm telling isn't a novel one. I used to read voraciously, and now I just kind of... don't. While I haven't completely quit the pastime, I've somehow found myself reading five books a year, as opposed to the hundreds I used to inhale.
As a nerdy and competitive child, my love for reading was both a passion and a way to measure-up. I always wanted to read more than my older siblings and loved the moments when I'd realize I'd already read the book we were assigned in class. Perhaps pointing this out to the teacher was unnecessary, but it nevertheless made me feel invincible.
Then came boyfriends, extracurriculars, and college applications. By my Freshman year of college, I was so overwhelmed by thousands of pages of assigned reading that I read one book for fun that year. The full year went by and I barely noticed. How had something so integral to my personality fallen by the wayside without me noticing?
Whether it be the high school quarterback or an 80 hour-a-week corporate job, the first things we let go when distracted can be the things that make us intrinsically ourselves. It's been two years since I graduated from college, yet I haven't bounced back. I've read fewer than ten books a year for the past two years and, honestly, I'm embarrassed. I don't believe in being hard on yourself or cutting things out entirely, I just personally don't think my current relationship with reading is healthy. So I'm stepping back and making a change. Here are 5 discernible tips that have already helped me read significantly more over the past two months:
This is incredibly obvious, yet somehow the hardest to follow-through on. I never thought I was addicted to my phone until I saw my alarming screentime reports (Emily had a similar experience, which she wrote about here). Spending over an hour on Instagram every day is simply not something I want to do, yet oddly find myself doing everyday. By cutting back on this app alone, I've found I reach for my phone less and my book more. I've also tried to keep my computer time limited to the work day itself (a benefit of having a job that encourages a work-life balance) and limit the number of episodes I watch on T.V. before bed. Even if I don't fully commit to my goals, the idea of monitoring and limiting screentime keeps me from mindlessly binging on it every night.
For most people, a book club is the perfect way to stay inspired, especially given the community atmosphere, complete with snacks and wine. But this approach just hasn't worked for me. My friends haven't quite perfected the art of keeping the book club going (which is why I'm looking forward to a post Anne's writing on fixing this problem). Instead, I've challenged my fiancé to join me. Every month, we pass off who picks the book we'll be reading. It's been so fun having someone to discuss each book with, all without leaving my apartment. I've had to read a fair share of film books (his choices), but pushing myself out of my go-to genres has reminded me why I love reading so much in the first place.
Creating guidelines is the best way to turn reading into a full habit. By establishing certain times as reading times, grabbing a book before bed or as you head into work will become second nature. Another great tip is to always have a second book ready to go as back-up. Having a book on deck doesn't allow for the "I'm still looking for a new one" excuse when you finish or abandon your first book. Lastly, be kind to yourself. Track your books (which I do through Goodreads), but don't set impossible goals. Put down books you don't enjoy, and prioritize reading as a way of wellness instead of a chore.
Here are the books I currently have on deck:
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Beatsploitation by Kevin Curran
My Year Of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Testament by Kim Sherwood
I swear by my Kindle Paperwhite. It fits in every purse I own and is lightweight enough that I barely notice its there until I need it. For those with a smartphone, downloading the Kindle app is the easiest way to always have a book with you. When I lived abroad with no cell service, my phone became my eReader and I read more there than I did over my other three years of college. It took me a while to get used to reading on a screen, and even longer to adjust to my small phone's text, but soon enough I was reaching for my phone everytime I waited for subways, appointments, or Ubers.
Audible is another amazing way to read on the go. The only books I listen to are Harry Potter, but look no further than Leslie's 'The List' for amazing recommendations every week.
My parents were incredibly generous when it came to sharing their library, so I never ran out of books to read for most of my life. Unfortunately, moving out of my house meant losing access to my main library. Luckily, Leslie summarized several incredible sources for getting books on the cheap, delivered straight to your eReader, as well as best tips for making the most of your local library.
One of the things I treasure most about my parents' relationship is their ability to never tire of waking up early and reading on the porch together. It's instilled in me the importance of making time for one another, as well as the idea that reading should be a part of life. Even though I've strayed from previous reading habits, refocusing my priorities and following through on these tips will hopefully lead me down a path where my husband and I sit on the couch every Saturday, coffee and book in hand.
I'd love to hear—what are some books you've been loving lately?