How to Read More

I’ll start with a definition. I’m using the word “book” pretty loosely and without judgement. A book can be an audio-book, an e-book, a slim volume of poetry, a 60-page graphic memoir, or a 500-page work of historical fiction. If you want to include magazines, include magazines. It’s your reading life! You make the rules! Be generous; there’s no point in being otherwise.

  1. Read whenever you can, for as much time as you’ve got. Don’t think you need to wait to start until you’ve got an empty half-hour: it will not magically appear. Read on your breaks for 5 minutes, at the bus stop for 10, while you’re brushing your teeth for 2. Pasta for dinner? You’ve got 15 minutes for water to boil and 12 minutes to cook. You may only get through a couple of pages, but that is two pages you hadn’t read before, and they build up faster than you’d think.
  2. Always carry a book. If you’re going to read whenever you can, you need to have a book to hand. Move from room to room with your book. Tuck it into a corner of your bag when you leave the house, even if you’re only going to the corner store. Waiting for a friend in a restaurant? Pull out your phone to open your e-reader.
  3. Don’t make reading a punishment. You don’t have to read every page; if an entry in a short-story collection is boring you, move on. If you hate the main character of a novel so much the book remains untouched by your bedside, chuck it and find something that makes your fingers itch to hold it.
  4. But do make it a challenge occasionally. Once you’ve got into the swing of reading back, try reading something you normally wouldn’t. Poetry, plays, science-fiction, non-fiction. Anything different. It’ll keep you from getting bored with what you normally read. And if you find you really don’t like that something new after you’ve started, see number three.
  5. Don’t say you’re going to cut x out to make more time. If you try to force yourself away from Facebook to read, you’ll only resent reading. Instead, make reading your priority, and you’ll figure out pretty quickly what can easily fall to the wayside to make time for just one more page.
  6. Don’t count if you don’t want to. Numbers aren’t everything. For lots of people, they’re really motivating, so count away if that’s you. But if what you love to read is a thick tome of modernist literature, or complicated science fiction that takes 200 pages just to set up a whole new world, you simply can’t get through the quantity of books you could if what you liked instead was poetry or graphic novels. All of it is valid reading. If you need to count, try counting pages, not books

Following these basic guidelines, I read 104 books in 2018, which is about 84 more books than I’d read in any of the previous 5 years. The number makes me proud, I’m not going to lie. But more importantly, my brain is stronger and more plastic, my attention span has increased, and I feel like a more empathetic person. You don’t need to read 100 books to get that. Just more.

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