I should honestly start charging every person who asks me the age-old question, “How do you read so many books?!” I can never give anyone a clear or definitive answer, because everyone is different. I also can’t really answer the question because reading has been a part of my everyday life for as long as I can remember, so I can’t picture my life without it. If you tell me, “Yeah, I’m just never in the mood to read”? Can’t relate. I’m always in the mood to read, even when I’m not. People will also ask, “But how do you even have the time to read so many books?!” Again, still don’t know what to tell you. I guess one night I just decided that staying up late to finish my book was more important than being mentally present or awake here today, and I never stopped.
That being said, since I have been an avid reader for almost all of my life, I have acquired a few tips here and there on how to help yourself with reading more books, and most of them revolve around just not being so hard on yourself when it comes to reading for pleasure! So, without further ado, here are my no-nonsense tips for reading more books.
Unless you are being forced to by some dreadful English class, nobody is asking you to go read all 1,225 pages of War and Peace for pleasure (unless that’s your thing, then please proceed! I admire your tenacity). But otherwise, let’s de-stigmatize reading shorter books. Short books are great. Gets the job done in 250 pages and doesn’t require too much thought? Perfect, sign me up. I recently read a book that was 185 pages with lots of pictures—and yes, it was written for adults! Great literature doesn’t have to be a thousand pages long. Great literature is whatever brings you joy, no matter how long it is.
A lot of readers will suggest that you pencil reading time into your schedule so that you will make it a consistent habit, especially if you are not usually a big reader. But honestly, that doesn’t work for me. Yes, I eat books for breakfast and am constantly buying more and more of them so having to make reading a habit isn’t a problem of mine—but in general, agendas and excessive scheduling stress me out. My anxiety and OCD have made me an incredibly disciplined person who can’t break a promise to myself, so if I were to start scheduling reading for pleasure, it would quite literally push me over the edge—and I’ve heard similar complaints from others when it comes to agendas and schedules. So, my motto is: only read when you feel like it. If that means you go six months without finishing a book, or six years, so be it! Nobody cares. Reading for pleasure is supposed to be pleasurable—it’s in the name—and I believe that scheduling pleasure defeats the purpose. Read what you want, when you want.
Please, for the love of God, stop reading books you’re not enjoying. I know your Aunt Susan told you she loved The Glass Castle and that you have to read it, but if you give it a shot and it’s not for you, stop reading it! Aunt Susan is not you. I know you spent $35 on that hardcover and I KNOW how wildly expensive that is, but forcing yourself through when you’re not feeling it just because you spent money on it is not the answer. Donate it, give it as a gift, put it under your Blu-ray player to keep it from rattling. You don’t owe anybody anything, but you do owe it to yourself to spend your reading time wisely.
I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for the library. I’ve gone to my local library regularly since I was in the 7th grade (aka when I was officially old enough to take out books on the “adult side”). One summer I went almost every single day solely because there were books and air conditioning there—what more could one need? As I’ve gotten older, the library has been my saving grace during very stressful times: to paraphrase Holly Golightly talking about Tiffany’s, how could anything bad ever happen to you there? We need more places where you aren’t allowed to talk. All of this to say, visiting the library regularly often opens my mind to new titles and new subjects that I want to read about, so I will always recommend making use of your local library to expand your mind and your reading list.
I once told my friend Vanessa that I have a specific pile of books to read while I watch TV and she looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Are you crazy?” Listen, I’m not saying I read complex, time-consuming 19th century literature while I catch up on RuPaul’s Drag Race—but it really doesn’t hurt to have a nonfiction book or a magazine to flip through while you’re watching a movie or a TV show. I’m not saying I don’t get distracted by the latest love triangle drama on The Young and the Restless and my book or magazine gets tossed aside, but I do tend to get a bit of light reading done that way. (Then again, my idea of light reading can be summarized by that scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Hermione slams that giant book down on the table and makes a comment about how she had checked it out weeks ago for “a little light reading” and Ron says, “This is light?” So, read while watching TV at your own discretion.) You can also always embrace your inner Rory Gilmore and bring a book with you wherever you go just in case you find yourself with time to kill!
More than a few people have told me that they don’t consider themselves big readers solely because they are never interested in the new hot fiction books that you are bombarded with whenever you walk into a bookstore or library. And that’s perfectly fine! You are more than allowed to not be interested in those, but if you want to read more, find a subject that you are genuinely interested in! I guarantee you they have books on whatever it is that interests you. Cars? Yep. Fish? For sure. Queen Victoria? Definitely. All you have to do is be willing to look.
I’ve been a Goodreads user for many years now and while I can’t picture my life without it, I’ve also never once participated in the yearly reading challenge in which you set a number of books you would like to read that year, and the app holds you to it. As I mentioned, anxiety makes up about 85% of my being on any given day and my OCD has made me somewhat of a compulsive overachiever, so challenging myself to read a certain amount of books is actually quite triggering and a big no-no. Sure, I do get a bit of a rush when I know I’m reading lots of books over a specific period of time, but at least it’s on my terms. I don’t feel like I’m contractually obliged to read a certain amount of books this year and then if I don’t keep up, Goodreads will shame me. NO! Get outta here with that! Reading for fun is supposed to be FUN. So if reading challenges are adding extra stress to your reading for pleasure process, please stop doing them. Besides, if a reading challenge was the only thing motivating you to read, you probably weren’t reading entirely “for pleasure.”
What are some of your tips for reading more books?