Most of us could stand to make an effort at finding more reading time. Many a reluctant reader has wailed, “But I don’t have time to read!” More often than not, exclaiming we don’t have time to do something often equates to a lack of effort to make the time. And don’t even get me started on writers who don’t read much. If that’s you, please imagine me shaking a testy finger in your face as I chide, “Tsk, tsk, tsk.”
And yes, life happens. Sometimes work or family stressors zap us of the mindset and habits necessary for adequate reading concentration. When things get back to normal, it can be hard to get back into the reading habit again. This is the boat I am currently in after a year of personal and professional changes.
It’s no secret that we live in a world full of steadily increasing distractions. The amount of information and entertainment at our fingertips often overwhelms more than it brings solace. Even though I know immersing myself into a story world soothes me and shuts out those distractions, it is so incredibly hard to find balance. This pull is a plague of the modern age, and I’m tired of being sick.
Listen to an Audiobook: I listen to one book a month during my daily dog walks. I tend to gravitate toward lighter titles or books I’ve read in the past. Every now and again, I will throw in a complex novel such as Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. The narrator often makes all the difference in my engagement. Audible’s monthly fee is quite reasonable, but free titles can be found on Audiobooks.org and LibriVox.org.
Join a Book Club: The social interaction offered by a book club may provide enough incentive for many to get back into the reading habit. Such clubs can be found via your local library, bookstores, or sites like Meetup.com. Online book clubs are also another option, but not quite as satisfying as in-person gatherings. It may take a few tries to find the best fit, but consider that half the fun.
Make a Sacrifice: In a word: unplug! Turn off that damn TV in order to stop watching its flickering glow like some sort of Zombie. Considering putting your SmartPhone in a drawer and leaving it there for an entire hour (or more). I’ve turned off nearly all noises and notifications on mine so it doesn’t own me anymore. Ignore the siren call of social media. Or skip a household chore or other such task.
Establish a Routine: Stick with a set time for reading. Perhaps first thing in the morning when your brain is energized or at night before you fall asleep as a way to unwind. Rather than scroll through your phone in the bathroom (and you know you have) why not sneak some reading time in? Read while taking a bath. Set yearly goals and make every effort to stick with them. Become active on Goodreads.
Read What You Love: In the past, it wasn’t often that I would quit reading a book. Part of my tendency to slog my way through any text could be shaped by years of giving feedback on student essays or skimming journal articles for graduate school. I am a patient and trained reader and have dove into the slush pile of a literary journal. Alas, life is too short to waste on books that don’t keep you engaged.
Get out of the House: Some people can’t read if chores need done. If the mess in the kitchen keeps nagging, grab your book and head to the library or coffee shop down the road. Whip that book out on the bus or prop it up while on the treadmill at the gym. That being said, make a habit out of carrying reading material. If necessary, get a bag or purse that fits most books and e-reader sizes.
Get Comfy: Plenty of bookshelf and reading room porn abounds on Pinterest. Why not creative an ultimate book nook? I have a special reading chair where I love to flop down and get cozy. Some rituals like making a cup of herbal tea can help signal the reading habit is about to commence. Or visiting the beach, pool, or park might be a great way to relax and get some reading done.
Read Aloud: If you have children, do you read to them? Beyond books for little kids, that habit of reading aloud can be nurtured well beyond childhood. Also, do you and your significant other have similar reading tastes? Or if one of you loves memoirs and the other can’t get enough science fiction, there’s always the possibility of reading erotic stories to each other.
Read Shorter Books: If all else seems to fail in your efforts at finding more reading time, read shorter works. Short stories and essay anthologies offer more manageable chunks. Thanks to Amazon’s Kindle store, many short titles are available for download like never before. Flash fiction is more popular than ever. Reading one or two short pieces a day is better than not reading anything at all.
How do you make an effort at finding more reading time? What works and what do you struggle with?
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Ha! I share your views on writers who say they don’t read. Impossible to even be a writer who doesn’t read… crazy. I think what finally enabled me to read more, was giving myself permission to stop reading things I didn’t like! In times past, I would force myself to read a book to the end, even when I didn’t like it. I can’t imagine not reading. That’s my definition of hell:)
Jacquie, it took me forever to realize how trudging through books I’m not really into slows my reading speed now. It still happens more often than I’d like it to, but I have gotten much better about putting aside books that don’t keep my interest.
I took on the routine of reading at night way back when, in an effort to clear my mind of all the drama and vexation of the day. As usual, the idea sprung from my mother as most sensible ideas do. The reading has been easier lately, probably due to finally finding my favorite genre, literary fiction. At least that’s what someone claimed it to be. It’s that genre about life, and maybe romance, that has a lyrical quality to it — like most of the well known classics have.
By the way, I’m one of the few who doesn’t take the phone into the bathroom, too prudish I guess.
Glynis, I’m getting back to my nighttime reading routine. I let freelancing work start going too late, which meant my free reading time went down the drain. I’m so excited too to hear you are a fan of literary fiction. That’s the good stuff 😉 I love the craft of writing present in that genre.
Thank you Jeri for providing such a powerful motivation. There are times when you can’t concentrate, don’t have the inspiring book before you or just want to be oblivious of all that ideal talk but yes, we have to get back into our mode…where would be without reading!
At the same time I wouldn’t like to make reading a medicine. If a book doesn’t give me pleasure I prefer to drop it, without having any qualms about not finishing it. I love the books which keep me clutched. Any suggestions?
Balroop, that’s a great comparison between books we don’t like being like medicine we sometimes force ourselves to swallow down. Two books I really enjoyed last year were Middlesex by Eugenides and also Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally get to Moon’s road memoir, but I’m glad I did.
I can just picture you shaking your finger! My problem is that when I get into a good book, I have a hard time putting it down and finding time to do anything else! I wish “Reader” was an actual profession. I’m currently in the middle of a delightfully wordy Victorian style novel where you have to wade through each sentence carefully to pick up on the nuances of the language. It makes for a lovely escape!
Meredith, I love how you describe your recent read as “delightfully wordy.” Picking through language is one of my favorite pastimes. I tend to get impatient with books where the sentences are too straightforward. Nothing wrong with that, and even my own style can be pretty straightforward, but in my personal reading, I tend to be drawn to dense text.
Excellent post Jeri – I too have wavered on my previously stellar habit, and I know once you do it can be hard to get back into it. And then of course there’s doc. media engendering short attention span which doesn’t help. But really I agree that as a writer especially you absolutely have to find time to read. I love my book group, not only because it forces me to read a discuss literature, but because I’ll also read book si haven’t necessarily heard of. BTW, Im planning to read War & Peace & wondered if you knew what the best translation is to get?
Kathy, I’m with you on how book clubs can often convince members to read books that they might not otherwise consider. I love it when I book I would normally not even take a peek at on my own becomes a much-loved favorite thanks to someone else’s suggestion. As for War and Peace my only recommendation is comparing the first pages of various translations side-by-side and seeing which ones strikes you as the most readable. Good luck. I’ve braved Anna Karenina, but not Tolstoy’s other masterpiece.
I love to read and my favorite time is at night for an hour or so before going to bed. It’s relaxing and I often call it my “meditation” time because it fulfills the same purpose. There is never a day that I don’t read. Like you, if I don’t like a book I put it down. Why waste time when there are so many other good books to read? As Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams, “I cannot live without books; but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object.”
Jeannette, I’m trying hard to get back into a daily reading habit that doesn’t take into account all of the manuscript pages I read while editing everyday. Reading really is a type of meditation. I need to remind myself of that more often and seek out its effects.
This is my goal for this year, Jeri. I plan to incorporate reading into my day. I plan on signing up for Audible when I finish reading the books I received for Christmas. I really am enjoying the reading process. I don’t know why it took me so long to add it to my day. Thanks for sharing these great options.
Sabrina, I hope you enjoy Audible. I’ve been a member for two years now and absolutely love it.
Great advice. I used to read on the bus when I took it to work. Parents with young children often spend time waiting for them to finish a piano, swimming, or other type of lesson. Great time to read. My book club had given me incentive to find time for books I might not otherwise have read. Sometines I didn’t like the book but more often have been pleasantly surprised.
Donna, I never used to be able to read in a moving vehicle until I rode a Greyhound Bus from Miami to North Idaho. It was a great way to pass the time on my eyes adjusted to the subtle motion of the page in front of me. Now I lvoe to read on long road trips and make quite the happy passenger since I know I have the opportunity for some uninterrupted reading time.
I’m a slow and somewhat fickle reader. But I read every night—sometimes for a half hour, sometimes for much longer. For me, giving myself permission NOT to finish a book that is boring was a liberating experience. Now, I bail and move on to another book on my Kindle. That makes it easy to keep reading and reading and reading…
Candy, here’s to a great reading year in 2016. I’m excited to get back on track with my reading after last year’s ups and downs.
Great points here Jeri. I especially like the permission to ‘read what you like’ . With our time so short trying to write, do life and keep up with blogs, reading gets sacrificed by many. I have to learn to stop feeling obligated to read books to review for others which don’t hook my interest, especially when not in the genres I prefer reading.
I’m also with you about reading shorter stories. I much prefer that as well. 🙂
Debby, it’s hard to believe I used to review books on this blog. It’s what lead to people asking me to complete work in an editing capacity. I had to give it up though for many reasons. I still post short reviews on Goodreads and Amazon though. I’m also hoping to do a twice a year update here now on some of the books I’ve enjoyed the most througout the year.
I hear you Jeri. I also post on Amazon and Goodreads, and don’t always find the time to post on my blog. But I do try and at least post on books I’ve read on author friends at least, to help boost exposure. 🙂
Well stated… I am in for reading off the house… my main options is a coffe store, park or public square…
To read shorter books makes much sense to me…
Most importantly, being comfy is an imperative… Personally, I like to read as I lay down in bed …
Last but not least, Audiobooks are an unexplored domain for me… I will have to consider that option anytime soon.
Great tips, dear Jeri… sending best wishes. Aquileana ?
Aqui, I do hope you will give audiobooks a try. I’ve found they provide a nice change of pace and the narrator really does make a lot of difference. I’m not one to read on a bus or in a coffee shop often (too much background noise) but I have made quite the habit out of listening to books while walking my dog.
I don’t ever really think I will get to all the stuff I want to read in any given day. And that doesn’t even include books that I may be reading. A couple things work for me. Spend traveling time reading and whenever possible use transportation that enables this. For me that means taking a train rather than driving when possible. (I realize that’s not an option for many.) The other is to get out of the house when reading. I’ll sometimes go to a coffee shop for an hour with a book and no devices. I also don’t go to the closest coffee shops where I’m likely to run into people I know but instead go to a quiet spot one town away. Some might consider that anti-social but it does help me get a little more reading done.
Ken, hooray for anti-social reading habits! It’s always peeved me when friends and strangers a like will ask about what I’m reading when I would obviously be reading and not telling them about it! Putting devices away is a big one for me. If I leave my SmartPhone in some other part of the house, I can’t check it. I am much more likely to get engrossed in a book that way.
-grin- My Kindle sits on my bedside table at night coz I can’t get to sleep with reading at least a little. And then in the morning it comes with me to the bathroom – in case I need to spend some, -cough- quality time -cough- in there. When I go out the Kindle travels in my bag – after all, there are bathrooms in shopping centres too, and heaven forbid I should get bored while waiting in line at the supermarket!
Truth is, I’m one of those weird people who get panic attacks when they have nothing to read so I can’t imagine life without a book of some kind. 🙁
Jeri, our family loves books and reading so this really doesn’t apply to us. But one thing I would like to mention – Several of our sons started taking their children to the children’s section of the library when they could barely walk and they were allowed to choose their own books. Of course some were way beyond their understanding but there was something about the books that attracted them. Now the oldest ones are teens and they still love going to the library and while they are totally plugged in to all the technology, it is still lovely to see them laying on the floor reading an actual book. I guess what I’m trying to say with this long-winded comment is introduce your children to reading at an early age and give them the power of choice.
Lenie, the power of choice in reading at a young age often does make quite the difference. I actually had the librarian at my elementary school when I was a kid tell me I was checking out books that were too old for me. Of course all that accomplished as making me want to read even more books considered beyond my years. I know for a fact seeking out books over my age level made me a great reader. I was motivated to read the stories and would look up words, etc. as needed.
Great advice Jeri. In my case you are literally preaching to the choir! I turned off my TV 2 years ago and haven’t turned it back on – and don’t miss it. Although now that I think about it I should probably see if it still works … hum. Anyway, in the evening I’m either with friends or reading and I love it – never get tired of it – can’t have enough books!
Marty, so great to hear that you’ve killed your television! I have an HD antennae to receive local channels and a few off-the-wall ones I never really watch. I don’t miss my satellite dish at all, and I know I read more with less TV temptations around.
Fabulous suggestions. One of my resolutions this year is to read more. I guess your tsk tsk made it all the way to Germany.
It’s so funny that you brought this subject up. My husband and I joined a book club we found on meetup.com last year. Our first meeting was in December, and we’ll be discussing the book in a few weeks. I’ve already started the review of it for next week’s blog post.
Again, thanks for reminding everyone how important reading is to the mind and soul.
Denise, wunderbar! It’s the tsk tsk heard halfway around the world. That’s great that you and your husband have joined a book club together. I hope it work out and will be looking forward to your review on your blog. Do you try to read books in German at all?
Audiobooks are what do it for me. I’ll sometimes convert e-books into audio with text-to-speech software. Trying to read a book with my eyes with the kids is near impossible.
Loni, I haven’t use a text-to-speech converter yet but likely will give it a try one of these days.
That is the hardest part, finding the time. It seems like I am squeezed between writing, and other projects.
I do like the idea of an audio book, sometimes that is the only way I get.
It does make it hard, when you want to read a book, and it is not in audio yet.
Thanks for sharing this with us.
Bill, that is a bit of a bummer that the audiobook version tends to lag behind just a bit. I wish I still had a work commute because then I would have even more time to listen to audiobooks 🙂
I stopped slogging through bad books some years ago. Time’s too pressure and there are too many good writers out there to waste time on something else. I always read before I go to bed, but a treat for me is reading on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea nearby. Ah, wonderful! Good blog.
Rose, spending an afternoon reading can be such a relaxing treat. Especially this time of year when being outside is not very inviting. All I need now is a fireplace to fully set the scene.
Great tips here, Jeri! I think every dedicated writer needs to make an effort to read regularly. For audiobooks, I like the app Hoopla (you just need a library card to access it). HUGS!
Christy, it’s great to see you! Thanks for telling me about Hoopla. I am downloading it right now.
Hi Jeri, I love to read. Always have. But I think you’d be shaking your finger at me. Lol. Unless you count reading cookbooks and blog posts…that’s reading right? Alas, I need you follow your advice and use some of your methods to carve out more time to read a great BOOK. What is amazing though, is when I get a really good page~turner and can’t put it down the massive amounts of time that suddenly become available. 🙂
Susan, I feel the same way about finding great books. I’ll feel like I don’t have the time to read and then come across one that completely engrosses me and go to the ends of the earth to make time to the reading done. My biggest distraction remains social media, and I am making it a habit to shake that bad habit and put that time into reading more books instead.
The only book I read daily is the bible. I have good intentions to try to read a few books a month but struggle to find the time. I know for certain that the more you read, the more you expand your vocabulary and writing style.
Can writers afford not to read?
Phoenica, have you ever tried audiobooks? At the very least, I can read one book a month that way on a consistent basis. Every little bit helps.
The “read shorter books” one made me chuckle, because I actually breathed a sort of sigh of relief when a book I recently picked up off of my TBR pile was less than 100 pages (especially since the one before it has been 400+). Also, I never go to a hair appointment without a book!
Laura, with the rise of shorter e-book titles, I will totally admit to fluffing out my yearly goal of 50 books with the occasional short title. I think it all balances out in the end though because like you mentioned, it helps make up for the especially long books that end up on our TBR lists.
Jeri, I agree. If you want to become a higher quality writer you have to read. That is why I started writing because I love to read. They also say most successful people read one non-fiction book a month. It is good to turn the tv off and read instead. Now I am going to get back to reading. =)
Crystal, it’s admirable how you are going to great lengths to improve your reading and writing. I’m making more of an effort this year to read helpful nonfiction books. I think I’ll be able to manage one every other month.
I’ve been wailing I haven’t enough time to read, but lately, have managed more time. Today, I unplugged and read for TWO hours. T.W.O. 😀 😀 😀
Tess, unplugging and just reading is such a good feeling 🙂