I begin my day with meditation. And then reading at least 20 minutes a philosophical or theological or spiritual or sometimes political — something that will absolutely take me out of myself and center me, completely center my thinking. Slow it down. It prepares me for, if you will, clearing the deck of whatever detritus from the night or even the day before. And readying myself with a particular mind-set for whatever the day brings.
And then at the end of the day, I do two things that may or may not be helpful to people, especially people with young children. And that is I have to find a way for the world of imagination to take me away from the work of the day. Sometimes it’s films; sometimes it’s novels; but it has to be something truly in the world of imagination for me. And then I end that because I don’t want to be on a screen at the very end of my day.
I often end it with some essay by Montaigne. I mean, that sounds really strange. But he was the first essay writer. And those essays are sometimes really funny, sometimes really boring. But whatever they are they give me a kind of peace that I find in very few places. Wendell Berry, Marcus Aurelius, those are the kinds of people who make me feel the peace at the end of the day is something that is really well, well worth striving for. So I end and I begin each day with books.
I like this a lot. (And I love Montaigne.)
I always read fiction before bed to help put me in the dream state, but I also really enjoy reading in the morning. (Instead of opening Twitter, I try to reach for a book or open the Kindle app.)
If you modded this a little bit and threw in some lunchtime reading, you could do Ray Bradbury’s one essay/one poem/one short story plan. (I might prefer nonfiction in the morning, but Kingsley Amis swore by poetry as a hangover cure.)
This is the time of year people tally how many books they’ve read and set goals for the next year, but if you really want to build a reading habit, I think you’re better off committing to a certain amount of reading a day vs. a certain number of books read over the year. (Somewhat related: “Quantity leads to quality.”)