Make reading a daily habit and find ways to incorporate it throughout the day.
In both 2018 and 2019, I reached my goal of reading 75 books a year. Halfway through 2020, I have already read 39 books, on track to achieve that goal by the end of this year as well. Many people are surprised by how much I read, but I believe I devote as much time to books as other people do to their hobbies.
To become a voracious reader, you must change your outlook on reading. It is not boring — it is a pleasurable activity. Developing a reading habit requires that you read books you love . You should encourage yourself to read during the random, free moments that pop up in your schedule throughout the day.
It is difficult to adopt these practices. Short-form media on the Internet is easy to consume for hours at a time and typically requires less of your attention. Books can be expensive. And it is easy to become overwhelmed by the thousands of books that sound interesting to you. What do you read first? What should you read?
Reading must be as relaxing and simple a hobby for you as possible. You will know when you have become an avid reader when you perceive reading more and more books as a way to expose you to new worlds, places, and ideas, rather than as a challenge.
Here are some ways you can create a sustainable reading routine:
1. Frequent your local library — and use all of its services
Libraries are magical places. A library card or membership to a library system provides you with so many privileges! There are the services that are typically associated with libraries, like checking-out physical books from a library’s on-site location or asking librarians for book recommendations. Then there are library services that are less well known, like eBook and eAudiobook loans and regional, inter-library loan programs.
I usually pick up four or five physical books from the library once or twice per month. I don’t necessarily read all of them but I find that my reading tastes change depending on the day or the week. I like having more books on hand than I will probably read because then I have more choice. I usually request two or three holds per visit, as I like reading new releases. Through an inter-library loan program, if your local library doesn’t own a copy of a certain book, it can request a copy from another library, which will be sent to your library through a courier or the mail.
At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, I started reading more books from my library’s digital catalog because its physical location was closed. My library has all their eBooks and eAudiobooks on a platform called OverDrive. This site lets you download books onto eReader devices like Kindle or apps like Libby (which is affiliated with OverDrive). One of my favorite things about OverDrive is that it lets you maintain a Wish List of eBooks that are currently available to check-out. It’s nice to know that if I want to read a book right away, I can go to my Wish List (~60 books long at the moment) and immediately check out an available copy.
If you are a member of a larger library system, check whether your library is organizing any author events. While living in a larger city last year, I got to attend free library events featuring Zadie Smith and Susan Orlean. For me, I become more motivated to read a book if I know I will be seeing the author in person.
2. Read in different formats
Audiobooks are an excellent way to get more reading into your day without straining your eyes looking at screens or pages. I like listening to them when I’m traveling or commuting to and from school/work. With just an hour commute each day, I can usually finish one audiobook per week. Audiobooks can also help you become more immersed in the book, particularly when reading fiction. Audiobook narrators are very good at performing in different accents and tones of voice.
On the Kindle app, I sometimes use its Word Runner feature to test how fast I can read. In Word Runner, the app shows you single words in rapid succession. Many readers believe that you can read faster this way than reading a book line by line. People who like this method adjust to a words per minute (WPM) setting within Word Runner that feels comfortable to them. Word Runner provides me with a little bit of a challenge on days when I don’t want to read as leisurely.
If you’re a visual person, I highly suggest reading more graphic novels. Graphic novels are growing in popularity in YA and adult literature, and you can find one in almost any genre. I recommend reading graphic novels in print for a more immersive experience, but they are usually distributed as eBooks as well.
3. Read across genres and topics
I find reading within a certain genre or topic for more than a couple weeks boring. To diversify my reading, I use algorithmic recommendations from Goodreads. On Goodreads, when you rate a single book, its algorithm provides you with recommendations on what to read next. The recommendations that come from one book are not always in the same genre. Often, they better represent the reading interests of the people who also read that book and felt similarly about it. On its recommendation page, Goodreads also lets you specify genres for which you can receive automatic recommendations. Goodreads can provide you even more personalized recommendations for books that fit two or more of your favorite genres/topics (as seen in my screenshot below).
4. 10 minute/day reading commitment
This is an easy one! Set aside at least ten minutes per day to read a book. This could be sometime before bed, during your commute or lunch break. Whenever the time, make sure you’re comfortable and that you have reading material accessible to you. I often read in the evenings and, as I’ve got more invested in reading, this 10-minute commitment often stretches into 2–3 hours of reading time. You don’t have to start by reading a lot at a time, but by making reading part of your daily routine in some way, you’re conditioning yourself to eventually start reading more frequently and for longer periods.
Reading is a highly beneficial and fulfilling hobby. Beyond simply entertaining or informing ourselves, reading can also help us become better thinkers. Books, even those not set on Earth, help us understand our fellow human beings. By setting a goal to read more, you are making the decision to pursue self-improvement and reflection on your own terms. I wish you the best in your forthcoming reading endeavors!