Whether you’re an avid bookworm or someone who casts a longing glance at their book shelf without picking up so much as a novella from month to month, we’d all like to read just that little bit more. As someone who went from not reading a single book for pleasure for nine years, to now flying through three or four per month, I’ve learnt exactly what I need to do to ensure I get at least one read in per day. Here are my tips, I hope you find them useful too!
1.Start with an easy read. You don’t have to dive in with War and Peace – choose a book that feels achievable, that you can look at and not feel daunted by just how many pages you have left to work your way through. The first book I picked up for pleasure after my nine year drought was Kit Wharton’s ‘Emergency Admissions: Memoirs of an Ambulance Driver’. The chapters were short enough to keep me enthused whilst retraining my brain to stay focused on a body of text, whilst the anecdotal format was amusing and mostly light-hearted, meaning the book did not feel like a chore, rather a quick half hour giggle in the evening.
2. Wake up half an hour earlier in the morning to read. I know, you’re already getting up at the crack of dawn as it is, but just like exercising, if you do it in the morning then it sets you up for the rest of your day! Picking up a book before you pick up your phone when you wake up is an instant improvement to any morning routine. I like to read ‘Dear Female Founder: 66 Letters of Advice from Women Entrepreneurs Who Have Made $1 Billion in Revenue’ by Lu Li when I wake up. It’s a gentle kick up the behind to get me motivated for the day ahead and to remind me what I’m getting up for.
3. Keep a book in your handbag. Preferably a paperback to avoid shoulder ache. Always having a book in your bag will mean that you can whip it out whenever you find yourself in a waiting room, on the bus, early for a meeting and so on. Instead of spending your dead time mindlessly scrolling, you can actually put those moments to good use by sneaking in a page or ten. Nothing too complicated – just something you can pick up at the drop of a hat and be able to pick up exactly where you left off. The book currently taking up residence in my bag is Not Working by Lisa Owens – it’s humorous, quick to read and has kept me company whilst I’ve waited for many a doctor’s appointment.
4. Read only what you actually want to read! Ignore the ever ubiquitous snobbery of the literary world. The ‘oh, you must read this’ and the ‘why are you reading that drivel?’ is just white noise, making those who follow it to the letter feel that their reading time has been spent more importantly because they’ve read what everyone has told them is a must. Nothing is a must. Last summer I trudged my way through the book everyone was talking about (I won’t name it, but it was eye-wateringly boring) – it reigned at the top of every best seller list imaginable, every columnist heralded it as one of the books of the decade and it was the book everyone was posting on the ‘gram of themselves reading because obviously that made them soooo cool (snore). But I hated it. Despite it being relatively short, I wasted weeks battling my way through it with every page feeling like a penance, because I felt like I had to read it. I’ll admit, I only did so on the vain basis of wanting to be able to join in with the discourse surrounding it. However, the reality is that those are weeks I could have spent reading books I actually enjoyed. I’ve vowed I’ll never waste my reading time again on something I’m not into, even if it is venerated by every critic in the land.
5. Find a peaceful reading place. Many people read in bed, but within 60 seconds of being under the duvet I am asleep and dead to the world. I’m rather lucky really – a pneumatic drill could be roaring away at the foot of my bed and I’d sleep through it so long as the quilt is over me. Therefore, I’ve ordered myself a little scallop chair and matching foot pouffe where I can go to read, away from the disturbances of the outside world.
6. Speaking of disturbances, put your phone on silent and in another room, thus reducing the temptation to have a cheeky scroll every time it so much as lights up. Insta can wait!
7. Join a reading club. You know how when Love Island’s on, you want to discuss the drama with the group chat, your hairdresser, your colleagues and your manicurist? Well, I’m the same with books – when I’ve finished a good read, I want to talk everyone’s ear off about it, but the problem is nobody else really cares unless they’ve read it too. However, with a reading club, you can socialise and network whilst discussing the book you’ve all been getting into. It’ll also help broaden your horizons in terms of books to add to your collection, sometimes pushing you in the direction of a publication you might not otherwise have considered. There are loads of online book clubs, of course including House 21’s very own Online Book Club, the first meeting of which is on 3rd May. Find more details here.
8. Download an app which stores online articles for you to read later. Your reading doesn’t all need to be novels – opinion pieces and news articles are just as important. I use Pocket to save articles which I’ve spotted but can’t read right at that moment. Then, when I have a quiet ten minutes, I’ll go back into the app and revisit what I saved earlier. The articles stay on your list for as long as you need them there. There’s something weirdly satisfying about ticking them off as you work through them…or maybe that’s just me?
9. Find a cute independent bookstore. I love grabbing myself a coffee (in a reusable mug, before you yell at me eco-warriors) and heading down to my favourite independent bookstore for a browse. Whilst most will have the latest best sellers, there’ll undoubtedly always be a little something else that isn’t widely stocked but may catch your eye. The last unexpected gem I found at an independent was ‘The John Lennon Letters’ – a chronological collection of letters written by John Lennon which served as an introspective commentary of his life and career. I certainly hadn’t headed to the store with that book in mind, but having enjoyed it so much that I flew through it in just a few days, I was definitely grateful to have found it.
10. Remember that your reading time is actually important! Don’t feel guilty about taking a half hour out to read – this isn’t a treat, it’s crucial. The benefits of reading, as I’m sure I need not tell you, are endless, not only for mental wellbeing and for self development, but for educative purposes too. Just because you’re an adult who left education several years ago, does not mean that you should stop learning. Reading teaches us so much, and that applies to fiction too. Think of the fiction novels which proved powerful in causing seismic shake ups to society and public thought: To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Crime and Punishment…if these hadn’t been written and read, who knows what societal developments may never have occurred. Reading is important, no matter the genre, so stop thinking of it as a luxury and start remembering that it’s a necessity!