This weekend I came across a short documentary by Max Joseph (of Catfish fame) called Bookstores: How to Read More Books in the Golden Age of Content. First of all, it’s worth watching for the bookstores alone—so many beautiful bookstores are featured. *heart eyes* However, Max is trying to figure out how he can learn to read more because currently, he’s reading about one book a year. He goes on a quest to get advice, including tips on speed reading. But what I was struck by was that the book he wants to tackle first is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. That book is a giant 1000+ page tome of literary fiction. And all I could think was, dude, you’re never going to become a regular reader that way.
If you haven’t developed a reading habit and aren’t a regular reader, jumping in to something so big and literary is just going to frustrate you. I think a lot of people go into the “I want to read more” project with this homework mentality or like you’re trying to fit more greens into your mental diet. Like reading is not worth doing unless you’re going to read something super difficult and “high-brow.” But for people who read all the time, reading is FUN. It’s not homework. We’re not doing it because it’s “good for us.” It’s what we do to get away from our work and enjoy ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t read literary books or difficult books or sad books. But just like with getting kids to read, if you want to read as an adult, you have to find things that HOOK you and won’t let go. Books that entertain you and make you want to turn the page and stay up too late.
Once kids develop a reading habit with books that are entertaining and fast-moving, then they eventually can develop the muscle to tackle harder books or classics later on. But if you just throw slow-moving literary classics at them first, then they think reading is a slog because they don’t have those reading muscles built up yet. The same goes for adults.
So if you’re looking to read more, stop dismissing genre fiction like suspense, mysteries, horror, fantasy, romance, and young adult books. You don’t have to seek out “important” books. I think all books can be important. If a book makes you think about what it means to be human, or stirs up emotions, or makes you think about love or fear or family, if a book can make you laugh or cry or feel that rush of satisfaction that comes with a happy ending, all those are valuable experiences. And if a book simply sweeps you away from your daily stress for a few hours, that can sometimes be more important than anything because it’s an act of self-care. So stop putting pressure on yourself to read the “right” kind of books and just read whatever sparks your interest and makes you turn the pages.
But if you’re not hung up on the type of books you read and are still having trouble finding ways to fit reading into your life or you want to up your reading game this summer, I’ve gathered fifteen tips to help you out.
15 Ways to Read More Books This Summer
Quit books you don’t like.
Seriously, life is too short to read bad books and summer vacation is DEFINITELY too short to read bad books. If a book hasn’t captured you in the first couple of chapters, you have permission to move on. Otherwise, your reading will come to a halt because you’re not finishing the book and don’t want to move on until you do, creating a vicious cycle that will make you dread reading.
Keep a list of what you want to read.
You can do this on paper or on an app like Goodreads or on an Amazon wish list, but it helps when you have a list to go to when you finish a book and know where you want to go next. This also provides a place to capture books from random recommendations from friends, websites, or podcasts.
Put your ebook app in the spot on your phone where you favorite social media app usually resides.
We think we don’t have time to read, but that’s often because we squander our reading time by mindlessly scrolling through our phones. I’ve taken the social media apps off my phone (except for instagram which I put on the last page) and I have my kindle app on my main screen. That way, when I’m stuck in the grocery line or in a waiting room, I can read instead.
Always have a book with you.
This is sort of related to #3 because if you have an ebook app, you always have access to books. However, our phones can be such a black hole of distraction, that I’ve come to prefer paper books over the last few years because I can’t click out of those. So, I’ve made a point to buy a big enough purse to fit a book. I also bought a Book Beau sleeve to keep in my purse so that my book is protected. It’s become a habit to slip a book in there before I go out because I never know when I’m going to get stuck waiting somewhere. Easy access makes all the difference. And if you’re going on a summer vacation, pack a few books because you may not like one or you may like one so much you finish it super quickly. Have a back up. (My husband teases me because I’ll bring like 3 books plus my Kindle on a 3-day weekend trip and he’s like, “I know you read fast but…” I like to be prepared for all scenarios.)
Audiobooks count as reading and are awesome for commutes, chores, and summer road trips.
I’m relatively knew to the audiobook world, and I will say that I’m still not big on fiction audiobooks. However, I ADORE non-fiction audiobooks. I always have one going so that I can listen to a book in the car while I’m driving. I also listen a lot when I’m washing dishes or cooking dinner. It’s like listening to a really long, in depth podcast. And don’t let anyone tell you audiobooks don’t count as reading.
Book review blogs and bookish podcasts can keep your list growing and your excitement about books stoked.
There are a ton of book bloggers, book review sites, and bookish podcasts out there to keep you busy. Find the ones you like and you will have a steady influx of “ooh, I want to read that” which keeps you excited about reading. These are great to listen to on road trips too.
Turn off phone notifications
I know I’m always preaching about how to tame digital distractions. But if you’re trying to read and Facebook and Twitter notifications keep dinging, you’re never going to sink into the story. Don’t let your phone dictate your attention.
Do a summer reading challenge (or a yearly challenge)
Some of us love to check off a box on a To Do list. I am wholeheartedly one of those people. So reading challenges work for me. That’s why I create my own each year (this year it’s the Read Wide challenge.) But if you don’t want to create your own, just google reading challenges and you’ll find all kinds of fun ones you can join. Modern Mrs. Darcy does a great summer reading challenge/guide each year as well.
Review books yourself
You can do this publicly on sites like Goodreads or you can keep a private reading journal like I do, but I find that recording my reading makes me more likely to read. I enjoy writing down that I completed a book and then scribbling down my opinion about it. It can enrich the experience. Plus you can jot down fun memories like “read this on the beach in Florida.” (I have a free romance reading journal download if you don’t want to make your own.)
Read whatever the hell you want and not what you feel you “should”
I already talked at length about this above, but I’m including it here for those of you who skip the blog content and go straight to the lists. I see you, skimmers. ;) Read what you want without shame. Read what you enjoy, what sweeps you away, what makes you turn the pages.
Start your day with reading
Instead of scrolling through your phone first thing, keep a book on your bedside table and read for fifteen minutes after waking up. It’s a much calmer way to start the day—whether at home or on vacation.
Develop a daily time/habit for reading.
We don’t do what we don’t make space for. Look for the pockets of time where you can read. Do you get a few minutes to yourself after dinner? Or after the kids go to bed? Is the morning your only quiet time? Maybe during your lunch break at work or on your commute? Find a slice of time that you protect for reading and then work on creating a habit of using that time just for that.
Create a distraction-free reading nook.
This may mean you simply leave your phone in another room and keep the TV off. But if you can find some little space where you aren’t going to be fighting distractions while you read, it can make the reading time feel extra special and renewing. And if you’re going on a summer vacation, create a reading nook wherever you’re going—on the beach lounge chair, by the pool, on the hotel balcony.
Figure out your reader preferences
If you’re new to this or just getting back to reading after a long break, you may not know what you like yet (or anymore.) Be willing to explore and see what catches your attention (including the middle grade and young adult sections if the spirit moves you.) Go wander the library and pull books off the shelves to see what catches your eye. If you’re on vacation, wander a local bookshop. There will be trial and error involved but that process can be fun. Make no apologies for liking what you like or disliking what some other people may love.
Branch out if you’ve gotten in a rut.
Sometimes we may be avid readers but we get in a rut. For me, this usually means I need to shake up what I’m reading. That’s one reason why I love the Read Wide Challenge. It forces me not to stay too long in one lane. So don’t be afraid to pick up something out of your normal reading zone and change it up. You may discover a whole new area you like. Or maybe you read heavier books during the year and want something lighter for summer (or vice versa.)
And remember to have fun! Reading can be a great joy in our lives. I know it is in mine. But if we turn it into homework or a self-improvement exercise, we’re just going to run away and scroll through Instagram or binge watch Netflix instead. Find what you love to read. Don’t apologize for it. And give yourself the gift of getting lost in a story.
Happy summer reading!