It’s not easy to make time for reading when your concentration is rusty. Here are some powerful tips to read more books.
Every year I make a resolution to read more books.
And I’m not alone: reading more books ranks up there with eating healthier in people’s most popular New Year’s resolutions.
But by springtime, my motivation wanes. I pick up a book and my mind wanders.
You’d think it’s easy to do what you enjoy, but that’s not always how it works.
It takes discipline to make time to read.
If you love books but can’t seem to get going, here are my tips.
How to read more books:
1. Schedule your reading time
If you want to read more books, schedule your reading time like you’d schedule a meeting or a coffee date with friends. Waiting for whenever you’re in the mood to read just doesn’t work. Sometimes you just have to start to get in the mood.
You may love books, but that doesn’t mean cracking open a new novel is easy. You might be tired or intimidated by a thick book.
But you’ll get more reading done if you dedicate a set time every day to reading.
An average adult can read up to 300 words per minute. So if you read for a half hour a day, you’ll get through a mid-sized book in a week. If you make reading a habit, you’ll realise how quickly you’re able to get through books – and that will inspire you to read more.
Scheduling in your reading means you’ll have to sacrifice other things – like TV or social media. Because you can’t really do everything. So ask yourself – what are your priorities?
If an hour a day isn’t realistic, then read for a half hour. It doesn’t matter if you read in the morning or at night. What matters is building a habit.
2. Read a wide variety
Sometimes you have a few hours to dive into a long novel. Other days, you’re too tired for anything but bite-sized chapters.
Pick an easy book when you’re too tired to focus and want to relax with a nice story.
Reading a wide variety of books means you’ll always have something you’re in the mood for. And you’ll be less likely to get stuck in a reading rut because variety keeps things interesting.
The goal isn’t to read the world’s greatest classics. If you want to read regularly, then give yourself an occasional break. Read a YA novel when you’ve had a long day.
If you’re a passionate gardener, pick up some nature writing. Start with a few magazine articles if you need to train your concentration.
3. Don’t force yourself to finish every book you start
Abandoning a book often feels like admitting defeat. You beat yourself up, or tell yourself that your concentration isn’t what it used to be.
But if you want to read more, then abandoning some books is critical.
When you force yourself to get through bad books, you don’t enjoy your reading time. Then you’ll procrastinate and eventually stop reading altogether.
But abandoning a bad book just gives you more time to read books you’ll actually love.
4. Realize it’s not you – it’s the book
Learn to trust your taste if you want to be an efficient reader.
Your taste keeps you from getting stuck with bad books and it guides your book purchases.
“It’s not me, it’s the book” is a good mantra to use whenever you’re reading a book that just isn’t clicking.
Doubts often creeps in when you think about quitting a book. Maybe the book is by a famous author or it has great reviews. And you wonder if you’re missing something.
Read some negative reviews to give yourself some encouragement to leave the book behind. It’s empowering to read reviews that confirm your opinions and fine-tune your personal taste.
5. Sign up for a reading challenge
A reading challenge, like the annual challenge on Goodreads, is a great way to stay motivated to read – especially if you’re goal oriented.
Set a goal for how many books you want to read this year and the site lets you know when you’re on track or falling behind.
Though you might say that reading isn’t a competition.
And you’re absolutely right. But it’s still inspiring to set goals and strive to meet them.
And at the end of the year, you’ll have a record of everything you’ve read. This lets you know if you’re picking the right books or if you should try something new.
Make your reading goals public and harness the power of accountability. You’re more likely to achieve a goal when you tell others about it.
6. Read multiple books from your favorite authors
It’s not always easy to find new authors to love. But when you read something you really enjoy, seek out anything else that author has written.
If there’s an author you absolutely adore – whether it’s Thomas Hardy or Danielle Steel – then set yourself a challenge to read a number of their books in a set amount of time. Read a few of their works and compare their earlier and later novels.
7. Buy bargain and used books
Shop online to find great deals, get a library card, and shop used bookstores for bargains. You’ll get to try new authors without much investment.
It’s also easier to leave a bad book unfinished when it didn’t cost you much.
If you’re a blogger, journalist or educator, sign up for NetGalley to get free digital review copies of a wide array of books.
8. Listen to audio books
Audible is a great choice for audio books and new releases.
There’s also LibriVox, which is free and features public domain works read by volunteers. Some readers are better than others, so listen to a few versions before settling on your favorite. My favorite reader is Elizabeth Barr, who does many Bronte and Jane Austen novels beautifully.
Listening to audio books isn’t “cheating!” So hit play when you’re washing the dishes or stuck in traffic – and watch your reading time skyrocket.
9. Don’t hesitate to skim
Sometimes an otherwise incredible book will have a boring chapter. Or a non-fiction book will plunge into details that don’t interest you. It’s OK to skim those parts.
Or skip them entirely. If it’s a novel, then read the chapter’s plot synopsis on Wiki. Then move on to the next chapter without losing the storyline.
10. Join a book club – in real life or on Goodreads
Book clubs motivate you to read, help you make friends and let you explore new authors that you wouldn’t normally pick up. If you can’t make time for regular meetings, then join an online book club and participate at your own pace.
Goodreads has some great book clubs (find them at Community > Groups) that you can browse by tag and genre. From sci-fi, to horror to romance, there’s something for everyone.
Here are some top Goodreads groups:
Victorians! – insightful and lively discussion on some of the period’s greats, including Dickens, the Brontes and Hardy.
Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – helps you tackle some of history’s greatest books in good company.
Addicted to YA Group – for the latest Young Adult novels that usually has a few selections going at once.
To join a real-life book club, check the calendar of events at your local library or independent bookstore. There’s also meetup.com and Facebook groups to help your search.
11. Donate your unread books
Donating unwanted books makes you feel less guilty about leaving books unfinished – and it helps others to read more.
You’re not getting rid of a book, but passing it along to someone who’ll appreciate it more.
12. Train your attention span
It’s not easy to pick up a book if you haven’t read in awhile.
With social media and the pace of modern life, diving into a slower-paced classic sometimes feels like chasing a snail.
But reading great books often means slowing down and appreciating the language.
Your attention may drift at first, but that gets easier with practice. If you feel frustrated then pick up an easier book to get back in the habit.
Getting your mind accustomed to a slower pace helps you relax and fight anxiety.
Here are some exercises to train your focus:
Read some long-form magazine or newspaper articles on subjects you’re passionate about. Ease yourself into a reading habit with something light and fun.
Listen to long-form podcasts and interviews that will immerse you in a topic for at least an hour. This gives your brain practice in focusing on one thing for an extended time.
Listen to audio books that get you into a story and train your mind not to wander.
Read online reviews by people whose tastes you trust. Follow people on Goodreads with similar tastes for ideas on your next read.
And if you’re at a bookshop, have a coffee and read the first chapter of a novel. Then ask yourself if you want to continue.
The more you read, the easier these decisions will get.
14. Know the benefits of reading
Reading gives you knowledge and broadens your perspective. It helps you rest and unwind.
Whenever you’re feeling unmotivated, remember everything that you’re getting from reading.
Here are some benefits of reading:
it boosts your vocabulary
strengthens your analytical thinking skills
improves your memory
boosts your focus
reduces anxiety and stress
helps you empathize with other people
helps you sleep better
makes you a better conversationalist
lowers your blood pressure
enhances your imagination
slows down age-related cognitive decline
improves your writing skills
inspires your children to read
15. Listen to a bookish podcast/YouTuber
A bookish podcast or YouTube channel will inspire you with reviews and insights about the joys of reading.
Here are some of my favorites:
The Book Review from The New York Times takes you inside the literary world, from famous prize winners to daring new releases.
The History of Literature is hosted by an amateur scholar with a real passion for the classics that will get you excited to read – or re-read – old favorites.
The Writer’s Voice features a short story every week read by its author from a selection of stories published in The New Yorker.
Miranda Mills is a fan of Jane Austen and golden age mysteries with a great eye for new releases. She also posts regular episodes that pair books with baking.
16. Carry a book everywhere
An hour on the subway or in the dentist waiting room adds up to hundreds of pages a month.
Since you can’t always foresee when you’ll get stuck waiting, carry a book with you. You’ll be grateful when you get unexpectedly stuck with extra time on your hands.
17. Have your next book ready to go
Have your next book on standby to eliminate the fatigue of deciding what to read next. When you dwell too long in that decision phase, you’ll get stuck.
If you’re not excited about your next book, then listen to your instinct and set it aside.
18. Read what you love
Your reading habits should match your interests, hobbies and passions.
Trust your own taste and read whatever you’re passionate about – without snobbishness or judgement. If you’re facing a challenge, whether it’s landscaping a garden or saving your marriage, then turn to books for advice and inspiration.
19. Take notes
When you engage with a book, you appreciate it more. And the more you enjoy reading the more you’ll want to keep going.
Dedicate a separate notebook to your reading notes and keep it nearby to jot down observations or memorable passages.
Here’s how to take notes while reading:
copy down favorite quotes and passages from novels
jot down a plot summary to help you keep track of plot twists and new characters
copy down summaries and bullet points from non-fiction books
write down observations and anecdotes from non-fiction books
jot down facts and figures, or suggestions for further reading
20. Read short stories, poetry and essays
A short story or poem can re-ignite your love of reading when you’re feeling stuck. Collections and anthologies let you enjoy reading without committing to a longer book.
They’re also great if you don’t have much time to read, or if you want down-time between longer books.
21. Start again if you’re falling behind
You’ll likely fall behind when trying to establish a reading habit.
Forgive yourself and get back into reading with an easy book if you’ve been away for awhile.
22. Keep your books visible
Display your books on shelves and stacks on your nightstand. When your books are in plain sight – and when they’re a beautiful part of your home – you’ll be inspired to read more.
23. Create a reading nook
Get a comfortable armchair or lay out a rug and some throw pillows on your balcony to create a cozy reading nook. The more comfortable it feels, the more you’ll look forward to reading.
24. Read physical books
If you work long hours in front of a computer, then give your eyes a break and pick up a physical book.
Make your reading more special with a beautiful edition. It’s been proven that reading paper books has certain benefits you won’t get from reading on a screen.
25. Find trusted recommendations
Whether it’s a good friend or a bookish account on Instagram, curate a list of trusted people with tastes similar to yours. Recommendations make it easier to pick out your next book – and more likely that you’ll love it.
26. Read whenever you’re bored
Smartphones and TV series are often a default reaction to boredom.
Replace those habits and form new rituals of flipping through an art guide, listening to an audio book or unwinding with a great novel.
If you want to read more, then train your mind to look beyond Netflix and social media for entertainment.
27. Try a new genre
Surprise yourself and venture off your beaten path towards books you wouldn’t normally read.
Try a sci-fi novel or a Western epic for a change, or pick up a non-fiction book or a memoir about an unfamiliar personality.