And so it begins.I know. I get that dopamine hit every time I see a new Reading Challenge (this is a great master list, by the way). I get launched back into my honeymoon phase of any new venture (which is why shiny object syndrome is a thing – I have it with books, big time!), pumped to READ. ALL. THE. THINGS. But wait! Isn’t this blog all about helping writers? Why is she talking about reading? Well, reading and writing are both essential parts of the writer’s life. The more you read, the more you improve your writing. Period. So whether you want to read more for fun or for your ambitious writerly goals, this blog post will give you some basic tips on how to read more books every year.
Good news for you. You don’t have to wait for the New Year to start reading more.
Here are my most practical methods to actually accomplish your reading goals, whether it’s 12 books a year or 100 or 5. I’ll walk you through how I set up my life so that I can maximize the reading potential of every conceivable situation. I’m only half kidding.
Here we go.
1. Give Yourself Easy Access to Books
This sounds obvious because it is. If you want to read more, you have to have books lying around. And you have to have the potential to acquire a book you hear or read about in a matter of seconds. This means you need to have access to books and immediate access to tools that will conveyor belt books to you. Your access to books should be as easy as your access to Netflix. But how?
Get a library card
My friends are sick of me harassing them about this. But let me shout it from the hilltops: Find the nearest library branch in your city and get a library card.
To successfully read books means getting your hands on more books easily and affordably. This is a crucial function of public libraries. You get free access to a seemingly infinite supply of books at your fingertips. For free – I could repeat that over and over. If you read a book that blows your mind and you just have to own it, then go ahead and buy it. But if you have to buy every book you read at full price, that’ll break the bank. So get a library card. You can probably do it online (and if not, just walk into a library branch and ask any librarian). They should be thrilled to help you.
Set your home branch to easily get books delivered to you
Once you have your library card, set the nearest branch to your house as your home branch (if available). This means you can put books on hold and have them delivered to this branch. Usually you will get an email telling you when your books are ready for pick-up. The key is to make acquiring books easy, a process that is seamlessly built into your day with no added effort. Just like you’re less likely to exercise if your gym is across town, you won’t read as many books if it’s hard to get your hands on them. One pro tip is to add a bookmark to your library on the home screen of your phone.
Make it easy. Get a library card. Go ahead. I’ll wait 🙂
Once you start accumulating books on your TBR (To Be Read) list, you can track them on Goodreads or other book apps like Litsy. You could also go analog and track your reading progress in a Bullet Journal. More on that in the future once I convert my recent addiction to Bullet Journaling into writerly resources…
x a million for libraries 😉
2. Expand Your Concept of Reading
Include ebooks, audiobooks, and devices
I used to be so print-book centric. A book had to be ink on paper. I disdained people who read ebooks on tablets, e-readers, or, god forbid, their phones! Audiobooks didn’t seem like “real” reading. I was so wrong!
Just as gaining access to library books makes it easier to get your hands on books, expanding your definition of reading and not being a snob about media (print versus electronic versus audio), you will open yourself up to so many more opportunities for reading. And they all have an entry-point on your smartphone as it happens (skip to #4 if you’re impatient).
Here’s how I set up my life (via the Toronto Public Library), but it will likely be a similar process where you are.
Download these apps onto your phone:
You’ll be able to access ebooks and audiobooks via your library card using OverDrive and Libby. You’ll be able to “check out” titles and read them on these apps. Here are resources from the Toronto Public Library on how to get started (but just look up resources to help you from your own library). You can read epub files on most apps/e-readers and Mobi files on Kindle.
Imagine instead of pulling out your phone and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram for the latest notifications, you opened OverDrive and read 10 pages of that thriller novel. Instead of getting sucked down a rabbit hole of clickbait articles, you opened Libby and listened to 20 minutes of a self-help audiobook while you fold your laundry. There are so many opportunities to supplant rampant social media checking with more reading!
You might also consider downloading the free Amazon Kindle app and Apple Books (for Mac devices). You can download epub files from the library, export PDFs to these apps to read later, and purchase ebooks from Amazon and read on the go. Which leads seamlessly into #3.
3. Reconfigure Your Smartphone Apps and Screens to Focus on Reading, Not Scrolling
I recently read the excellent book How to Break Up With Your Phone (and the related but much less instructional/practical Digital Minimalism), which made me realize the extent of my smartphone use. I took a big leap by deleting Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram from my iPhone. Not that I barred myself from being on social media, but the added speed bump of having to log in via browser just made it harder to fall into an automatic loop of checking the feeds.
I realized that I could even move my Gmail app and the browser window to the second screen, so I would have to physically scroll to see them. On the Home screen I made sure all my reading apps were front and centre to make it that much easier to start reading on my phone instead of checking social media. And it’s worked! Now my phone feels more like an e-reader, and it’s game-changing. My access to books has got a whole lot bigger.
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