As a lifelong reader (thanks, Mom & Dad!), I've encountered countless variations of the same question over the years: "How do you manage to read so much/so many books?" Honestly, the long and short of it is simple: you must purposefully carve time out for reading, just as you would (and should do) for any self-care activity. Yes, I said "self-care", because reading is a form of self-care.
“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.” – Charles Baudelaire
I've always loved books for their unique "portable magic"; for being able to transport me to different cities, countries and worlds, allowing me to live in someone else's shoes and experience different cultures and worldviews. So often, the right book happens along at the right time and I've often felt anxiety about certain situations melt away as I got lost in the pages of a story. As such, I read diversely and deeply and try to read as often as I can, which, with a husband, child, pets and a home to take care of, not to mention a full-time job, can be quite difficult. But it's not impossible.
So, let's get down to business. How can you fit more reading into your daily life?
Start or end your day with reading. Are you an early bird or a night owl? If you're an early bird, wake up a little earlier than you normally would and read 5-10 pages before your whirlwind day begins. For my night owl friends, skip the blue-light haze of the TV, phone or tablet that affects your ability to fall and stay asleep and crack open a good book instead. Taking some time to escape through the pages of a good book is the perfect way to mentally ease yourself into the day - or to unwind at the end of it.
Set a personal reading goal. Some of us do well when we have a checklist of goals to accomplish. If that's you, think about what's reasonable for you. Maybe it's five pages every day or two chapters per week. Maybe you simply want to read 12 books in a year - that's one book per month for those keeping track! If you're a tech geek or simply like to keep track of things, Bookly will "help you track your books, read more and improve your reading over time." You can also keep track of which and how many books you've read at GoodReads.
Always keep a book with you. Make space for a book in your purse or keep one in your car. With our smart devices, making sure you always have a book on hand becomes even easier! There are so many lit-based apps, from the Amazon Kindle and NOOK reading apps to the Scribd audiobook app to the Libby library app, that there's no excuse to be without a book. Whenever you find yourself with a few minutes of downtime, instead of doom-scrolling through the news or FOMO-scrolling through social media, read or listen to a few pages instead! Speaking of keeping a book with you at all times... Download the Libby app on your smartphone and/or tablet. With Libby, you can borrow and read/listen to ebooks and audiobooks from your local public library for FREE! You can read or stream across devices and download for offline use. This allows you to seamlessly switch between devices, wherever you are, to sneak a few minutes of reading in while you're in line at the grocery store, waiting to pick your kid up from school, waiting for your food delivery - you get the idea. Bonus: you support public libraries everywhere!
Join a book club. Late into 2020, as anxiety around the COVID-19 pandemic and the mental strain of self-quarantining began to take their toll, I was desperate for more human interaction - and started the Dangerous Creatures Book Club with a handful of friends scattered around North America. Knowing that there was a set date every month by which I needed to finish reading so that I could contribute to a conversation with intelligent, hilarious friends lent just the right amount of pressure to stay caught up on my reading. Why not start a book club of your own? If you're looking to join an existing one, your local library or independent book store will have book club resources. The #Bookstagram community on Instagram also functions as an unofficial global book club in a way - you'll find book lovers of all kinds who are ready to "buddy read" within any genre you can imagine. There's also a significant number of celebrities with thriving book clubs that offer camaraderie around books, including: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Emma Roberts.
Try audiobooks. I'll address the age-old question of whether audiobooks actually count as "reading" (hint: yes they do!) in a future post, but for now, take my word for it: audiobooks are an excellent way to "fit more lit" into your day. I listen while I exercise, when I drive, and when I'm folding laundry or washing dishes - all activities that don't require intense focus. (Of course, keep your eyes on the road and be alert to where you are and who and what is around you.)
In keeping with audiobooks, listen to a short story podcast. I personally recommend LeVar Burton Reads on Spotify. Every Tuesday, this Reading Rainbow star handpicks a favorite short story to read aloud. His narrations are captivating and you'll find yourself looking forward to the next week to discover what he picks next.
Explore different genres. You don't have to read a whole book of fiction to say you're a reader, you know. Maybe you prefer poetry or short stories? Maybe you love memoirs or biographies? Even graphic novels and comics count! Once you find a genre you really enjoy, you'll find your time spent reading naturally increases because, well, you want more.
Finally, set the mood. I am fortunate to have a dedicated library/office in my home where I love to curl up and read, but a dedicated space is not necessary to set the mood. Find a spot in your home - or outdoors - where you can be comfortable and relatively uninterrupted. Maybe you have a cup of coffee or tea, or glass of wine, to sip while you read? A good candle always sets the mood, too. Grab your comfiest blanket or reading pal (I still love teddy bears, I admit) and dive into your current read. Soon, you'll find that this special space helps open your heart and mind to what you're reading - and maybe you'll read more than you thought you would!
Questions: Do you have a personal goal or desire to read more this year? What do you think is stopping you? Which tip(s) above do you think you can apply to your current situation? If you've already made reading more a priority in your life, what has helped you? I'd love to know! Let's chat in the comments section below.
Happy reading, dear ones!