Reading does a body (and a mind) good! (Photo of the author)
Seriously, I read a lot, and I’m (almost) a doctor. Trust me!
According to the good folks at the Pew Research Center, the average adult American reads 12 books a year, with half of American adults reading just 4 books a year or less. Not to toot my own horn, but unlike my compatriots, I read a lot of books. And I don’t mean, “I listened to someone read me a story and consider that having read a book”. I actually read books. I constantly have people asking me how I manage to work, pursue a PhD, balance a social life (well, sort of) and consistently surpass my yearly reading goals. I’m here to give you 4 easy tips on how you can read more, get more enjoyment out of what you read, and become a more effective reader!
*Disclaimer: Audio books are great, and a lot of the time they are definitely more fun than opening up a book. But unless you’re visually impaired, don’t count it as reading. Have you ever watched Kenneth Branagh’s word-for-word five-hour film version of Hamlet? If yes, have you now read Hamlet? No, you haven’t. (Hopefully that didn’t trigger audiobook lovers too much.)
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Tip 1: Don’t bother reading something you’re not really interested in
My first tip is, read whatever the heck you want.
No one is judging you! Graphic novels (I love them!), YA, romance novels, trashy crime thrillers, Billy Idol’s autobiography (seriously, my best friend read it and loved it!). You DO NOT have to read the circulating “List of Books to Read Before You Die”. Many of them are awful. Most of the classics are tedious and sleep inducing. The more passionate or interested in a genre you are, the easier it will be to stay with a good book; or several of them.
Hand in hand with this goes my ‘Quit the Damn Thing’ rule. I’m sure you’ve been halfway through a book and asked yourself, “Why am I reading this? It’s garbage!” Don’t worry. It happens to the best of us. But instead of trying to power through a book that you’re not enjoying or finding useful you should just put it down and start reading something else. I usually give a book 20–30 pages before I put it aside.
Congratulations! You’ve survived 1/4 of my reading tips!
Tip 2: Keep track of your progress with goals and challenges
Am I obsessed with Goodreads? Has it changed my life for the better? Yes and yes. I started using Goodreads in 2012. It’s a free site that I describe as Facebook, but for books and readers. It completely changed the way I read, because the site allows you to keep track of what you’ve read and “shelve” books in different categories of your choosing. Its shelving, searching and sorting tools also make it easy to see all the books you’ve read of a certain genre, or look up which year you read a book in. You can see what your friends are reading, leave book reviews, and suggest books to pals. It’s awesome! I started setting reading goals for myself in 2014. Back then, I set a goal to read 60 books, and fell way short, only reading 41 that year. Since 2014, I’ve read more and more books every year, peaking in 2019 with a Personal Best of 101 books read!
I like a challenge, and tracking my progress was helpful for a competitive person like myself. That doesn’t mean you should set towering goals for yourself. Make a realistic goal, only take on what you can handle. I have a daily reading goal of 50 pages, which is manageable and realistic for me.
You can also do fun reading challenges, like PopSugar’s yearly book challenge list, which encourages me to read outside of my “comfort zone” and try new things. To really stick it to “the man” and stand up for free speech, try reading books from the Banned Books List!
Tip 3: Always have a book on-hand
Paperbacks, hardcovers, your Kindle, whatever! How are you going to read if you don’t have any books? Go to the library and stock up on a few books at a time, and the same goes for finding eBooks. And don’t be a snob! You can find excellent books at used bookstores and secondhand shops.
You can find time to read in so many situations; commuting (big reading time for me), waiting at the doctor’s office, during an online meeting when you’re bored (guilty!). I literally never NOT have a book on me. I’m actually known for being the gal with at least one book on her. And I utilize whatever time I have available to get some reading in. It’s a nice break from staring at my phone and getting anxiety by spending too much time on social media.
We’re almost done! Well done for hanging in there!
Tip 4: Join a book club
Or just follow some online, like PBS Book Readers’ Club. Book clubs don’t just happen in person anymore, a lot of them function purely online. You can meet some great people with similar interests, expand your literary horizons by exposure to new authors, and have a little extra push to meet your goals. Surprise, book clubs actually involve reading books — who knew? I love seeing books that people share and I participate in threads asking for reading suggestions. It’s fun! I was a member of a book club for many years, and now I run a feminist book club online in my town.
You’ve survived all 4 tips! Now get out there and get reading!
Add me on Goodreads and share some of your favorite books with me! I am currently on book 65 of the year. That may sound impressive, but believe me, it’s nothing compared to my friend Carrie. She reads even more than I do (108 books so far this year) and has a gorgeous instagram-bookstagram account! And she lets me borrow books from her personal library! Friends like Carrie help push me to read more and read genres I never would have thought to pick up on my own.