“I always read a lot. I read the same amount, no matter what season it is. I read every night. When I’m on book tour, I’m on airplanes all the time, so I’m always reading. People say, ‘How do you have time to read?’ Oh, come on, it’s simple! You’re single and you don’t watch television.”
“How do you make time for that?” can almost always be answered with, “I make time for that.”
Still, here are 5 things that have helped me read more, and might help you, too:
1. Quit reading books you don’t like.
“I believe that the phrase ‘obligatory reading’ is a contradiction in terms; reading should not be obligatory… If a book bores you, leave it; don’t read it because it is famous, don’t read it because it is modern, don’t read a book because it is old…. If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it; that book was not written for you.”
—Jorge Luis Borges
“Nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren’t enjoying but think they ought to read.”
“There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag — and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty — and vice-versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.”
—Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
If you aren’t getting anything out of a book, put it down, and pick up another book.
Every hour you spend inching through a boring book is an hour you could’ve spent plowing through a brilliant one.
When it comes to books, quitters finish more.
Sometimes a book just isn’t for you, or it’s not for you yet.
It helps if you choose the right books in the first place. Stop reading what you think you should be reading and just read what you genuinely want to read. Read what you love and read at whim.
2. Carry a book with you at all times.
“Because I was carrying the book around all the time, I pulled it out all the time: On the subway, walking down the block to get groceries…”
—Clive Thompson, “Reading War and Peace on my iPhone”
Get used to carrying a book around with you wherever you go and reaching for it in all the spare moments you’d usually pull out your phone. (Commutes, lunch breaks, grocery store lines, etc.)
Go to bed early and bring your book with you. If you fall asleep while reading, pick it back up when you wake and read for a bit before you get out of bed.
Always have a book queued next in line for when you finish the current book you’re reading.
Feel free to read promiscuously — date 3 or 4 books at the same time until one makes you want to settle down with it.
I am partial to carrying paper books and reading with a pencil, but I also love my e-reader, and a smartphone is undeniably handy, if you can avoid social media and the internet.
Which brings us to our next point.
3. Keep your phone in airplane mode.
“Reading is socially accepted disassociation. You flip a switch and you’re not there anymore. It’s better than heroin. More effective and cheaper and legal.”
A big part of reading is visiting other worlds, and you can’t visit another world if you’re constantly distracted by this one.
If you’re gonna read on your phone, switch it into airplane mode so you’re not even tempted to go online.
When you sit down to read a paper book, either put your phone in airplane mode, or plug your phone in across the room so you’re not tempted to reach for it.
Get a paper dictionary, so when you read at home or in the office, you don’t have to pull out your phone to look up words.
4. Make regular trips to your local library and/or bookstore.
“You must go to the library and fall in love.”
I find a lot of great books through friends and online and through my own reading, but there’s nothing quite like the “serendipity of the stacks,” the magical discoveries that often happen when you’re browsing in a library or a bookstore.
If distraction is terrible for book reading, it’s great for book discovering. You never know what you’ll bump into in the stacks. You go hunting for a book and you find an even better book shelved a few books down from it.
I frequent the “New” and “Recently Returned” shelves at my local library and sometimes I’ll even snoop to see what people have on hold on the reserve shelves.
Nothing beats a well-curated selection in a great indie bookstore. It’s glorious to spend an afternoon shopping at Bookpeople or Powell’s or The Strand or any number of the great stores I’ve had the pleasure to visit on book tour.
5. Share books you love with others. (They’ll give you more books to read.)
“Read the books you love, tell people about authors you like, and don’t worry about it.”
Keep track of what you read, whether it’s in a private notebook or on a site like Goodreads. (Take inspiration from Art Garfunkel, who has a list of every book he’s read since 1968.)
Share the books you love in whatever way you can. (Every week, I share what I’m reading in my weekly newsletter, and every year, I make a list of my favorite reads.)
The great thing about sharing your favorite books is that you meet other people who love those books, and they’ll share with you even more books to love.
Take notes, and let the books stack up. Gigantic book piles aren’t a sign you’re doing it wrong, they’re a sign that you’re doing it right.
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If you need something to read, check out my newest book, Keep Going.