As a kid, I could read for hours on end and still get annoyed when my mom interrupted me saying it was time for dinner. My sister and I used to get into fights every time a new “Harry Potter” book was released over who got to read it first (which, consequently, is why my family now owns multiple copies of almost every book in that series).
When I got older, things changed. I now dislike “Harry Potter” (don’t @ me), and I also struggled to finish a single book outside of the ones assigned for school from the ages of 13 to 22. (And even some of those books were iffy. See: The teacher who circled a paragraph and wrote “this didn’t happen in the book” in my “King Lear” paper in high school.)
When I graduated from college and didn’t land a full-time job immediately, I made the conscious effort to try to start reading again to fill my time. I’ve been keeping up steadily, and after receiving a Kindle for Christmas last year, I’m on target to hit my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of more than 30 books this year. (I’ll be accepting congratulatory tweets.)
Fortunately, you don’t actually need to pay our Amazon overlords to jumpstart your reading. Here are four ways to fall in love with books again.
Reread an old favorite
The first books I read as a postgrad were my childhood favorites: I reread “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. I sped through them, mostly because they’re children’s books, but also because it was so fun to revisit them and remember how much I loved the characters and the books’ dark humor.
It’s way less intimidating to start a book you know you’ll like, and it’s a great way to remind yourself why you like reading in the first place.
Make it a part of your routine
Hands down, the one thing thing that has helped me read more is incorporating it into my nightly routine. While I love binge watching Netflix, scrolling through Twitter, or consuming hours of beauty tutorials on YouTube I will never use, none of that makes me feel very productive. Reading, on the other hand, does.
So, earlier this year, I made a pact with myself to stop fooling around on my laptop after dinner. When I’m through with my meal, I put my laptop away and read for the rest of the night, usually from around 8 to 10 p.m. While this was a little difficult for me at first, it’s since become my standard schedule, and I usually look forward to putting everything else away and turning on my Kindle. It’s also helped me feel accomplished, knowing that I read 100 pages of a new book, rather than rewatched Jade’s cycle of “America’s Next Top Model” for the 12th time.
Listen to an audiobook
For those of us with short attention spans used to reading no more than 140 (now 280, I guess) characters, the thought of getting through a whole book after years without reading can seem a bit daunting. However, as an avid podcast listener, I can attest to the fact that listening to people talk, particularly while on your work commute, is pretty easy. Try easing yourself back into reading by listening to audiobooks. Levar Burton (truly the King of Literacy) has a podcast where he reads short stories in full, or you can listen to some other familiar voices (Elijah Wood, Jake Gyllenhaal, or Meryl Streep to name a few) read full-length novels.
You can even download them for free with a library card using the Overdrive app. Hot tip from my mom: If you’re a commuter who drives, go to the library and pick up the actual CDs. The sound quality is better.
Stop reading books you don’t like
This may seem obvious, but I know plenty of my friends and I have fallen in the trap of “I started reading this book so now I have to finish it.” There have been many times in my past when I’ve stopped reading for long periods of time because I dread going back to a book that I’m not enjoying. Then, a few months ago, about 100 pages into an “office drama” novel that was boring me to tears, I realized it wasn’t an assignment, and that the only person who cared if I didn’t finish the book was me (and maybe the author, but she never has to know). Returning that eBook was a truly freeing experience.
It’s important to remember reading should be something you do for fun, not because you feel obligated due to a self-imposed rule. If a singular book you “have” to finish is keeping it from being enjoyable, drop it!
Diving back into regular reading has been such a positive influence in my life, especially now that I can give a more cultured and adult answer to the small talk question of “So, what are you reading?” (A person can only pretend they’re rereading “Catcher in the Rye” so many times). So, grab your books, eReaders, or audio files and get swept up in a great story!
Originally published on September 11, 2018.