I don’t know about you, but once upon a time, I used to read way more than I do now. I don’t think it’s uncommon to read prolifically throughout grade school and then fizzle out by the time you hit college or even high school. Your recreational reading goes down as your required reading goes up.
Maybe your area of study required you to analyze literature, making it impossible to unsee the things you once didn’t notice. Maybe you were just too tired from all the convoluted textbook jargon to even think about reading another word for fun.
Trust me, I’ve been there. And I know I can’t be the only one. Which is why I’m telling you, you can learn to love reading again. Maybe you don’t have all the time in the world like you did in the 5th grade, but if you want to renew your love of reading, these 12 tips will help you get started.
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1. pick topics you enjoy reading
I mean, come on, this one almost goes without saying. But so often we feel pressured to read certain books, whether it’s what’s popular, or recommended, or what we read when we were younger.
But really sit back and ask yourself, “What interests me?” I’d say a good way to do this is to ask yourself what kinds of movies and TV shows you prefer to watch. It’s all storytelling media, so at least some of it is going to carry over.
Do you like history? Drama? Romance? Documentaries? I don’t even have to tell you there’s a book about everything under the sun.
And how do you find these books, you ask? The old Google machine is one way! Or ask your local library for recommendations. But the number one most important criteria for any book you read is that you actually like reading it.
2. buy yourself some swag!
I’ve heard that when you spend actual money on something, you’re more likely to invest time into it… and I’ve found this principle to mostly be true. Maybe not 100% all the time, but let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that buying yourself a fancy bookmark or a new reading light… or even a new book… will motivate you to actually read. Worth a shot, right?
For me, I’m always more motivated to read when I can sit down with a nice hot cup of tea (or magnesium drink… I’m told it’s good for you!) So maybe you need to buy yourself a new coffee mug… hey, nothing wrong with that, right?
Let me just leave this here, because it’s like one of my favorite things I own and actually mine isn’t this fancy but I still love it…
OR you can check out my Instagram friend Quill and Bean’s Etsy shop. She makes fantastic bookish things, including crocheted drink cozies!!! If that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will!
So listen, you don’t have to be some kind of ravenous reader to enjoy books, and if you’ve lost your love of reading, there are definitely ways to fall in love with books again. Just have fun with it, try new things, and make it your own!
3. think about the format
I guess it’s pretty obvious these days that there’s more than one way to read a book. Have you always felt pressured to read regular hard copies when really you prefer to read from a phone or tablet? Or maybe vice versa: you need the tangible feel of pages in your hand to really enjoy the book? Nothing wrong with that!
And have you tried audiobooks? I mean, come on, they’re everywhere nowadays! Often for free or with a subscription service like Audible or… uh… Amazon Prime? (Not sponsored, btw.) That makes it easier for a lot of people, especially if you’re on the go or in the car a lot.
Even things like hardback vs. paperback can make a difference. Me? I prefer physical hardback copies, though I’ve never really cared too much about paperback unless it’s really hard to open the spine. I’m weird like that.
4. set aside a designated time
Just like anything else that you want to work into your schedule, you have to be willing to set aside some time for it. Not hours and hours (unless you need a good way to spend a lazy afternoon), but maybe half an hour, or even fifteen minutes. Pick a time that works for you: early riser? Night owl? Afternoon tea? Whatever works for you, right?
Set a reminder for yourself, pencil it into your planner, read on your lunch break. I’ve found that like exercise, the more I read, the more I enjoy reading. Maybe it’s like a muscle or something?
Personally, I tend to read at night when it’s quiet; it keeps me off my phone before bed and honestly, most of the time it makes me sleepy. (Which is good news for someone like me, who often has a hard time falling asleep.) And I don’t really read for more than an hour–more like half an hour on average. I have a pretty short attention span in most cases.
5. make it fun and relaxing
You’ve probably seen all those Instagram posts where people talk about being all cozy on the couch with a cup of tea with their favorite book in their hand. There’s a reason why that image is so pervasive. Reading is usually associated with relaxation, so unless you’re reading something super dark and gritty (or hot and steamy, I suppose), you’re probably in for a relaxing time.
And if you’ve never tried curling up in your most comfortable seat with your favorite beverage, maybe some lo-fi music in the background if that’s your thing, then holy heck do I recommend it!
6. go through the books in your library
You don’t have to be crazy like me and actually attempt to read all of them, but it might spark some inspiration if you go through your home library and play a little game my mom used to call “keep-and-go.” (Reserved exclusively for garage sale season…)
It was pretty straightforward: decide which books you’re gonna keep and which you’re gonna get rid of. Now you have more space to buy even more books! Or maybe you rekindle your love of reading by perusing your dusty shelves… also, you may want to dust them while you’re at it.
7. stop acting like it’s that big of a deal
I know this is going to sound a little counterintuitive, especially coming from someone who claims to be bookish, but stop acting like reading is that big of a deal. Okay, reading is important for so many reasons, but not more important than your health or your day-to-day responsibilities.
Unless you’re a professional book reviewer or critic (ain’t that the dream!) reading is recreational and educational. Which means that on the priority list, it’s probably gonna fall somewhere towards the middle or the bottom. So if you aren’t able to read one day or one week, don’t feel bad about it. Even if that’s because you chose Netflix or Hulu over reading a book that day. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there.
After all, we can learn quite a bit from movies and TV… maybe not everything we watch, but a lot of things. But that’s another post.
8. give yourself permission to DNF
What is DNF? “DNF” stands for “did not finish,” which obviously means that you bailed in the middle of the book. Some readers are more prone to DNFing than others. Personally, I think I’ve DNFed more books in recent years than finished them. And I used to feel really bad about it–I used to strive and strain, max out my library renewals, or try to cram it in in the last few days.
But here’s the thing: it’s okay to DNF a book, especially when you’re just not into it. A good rule of thumb is to have a cut-off limit: fifty pages, a hundred pages, one chapter, two chapters… and if the book doesn’t grab and hold your attention by then, if you can’t commit to it by that point, then give yourself permission to DNF it.
Life is too short to waste your time on boring books, or bad books, or books that you just can’t stomach. There are thousands–nay–millions of books out there. If you don’t like the one you’re reading, find one that you do.
9. read some book reviews or watch some YouTube videos
Enthusiasm is contagious! If you want to rekindle your love for books, read and watch reviews by people who are huge bibliophiles–not only can you feed off of their passion and excitement, you can also get some good book recommendations!
Who would I recommend? For the sassy YA reader, readwithcindy is a fantastic no-nonsense booktuber. For the sci-fi and fantasy lover, James Tullos goes in-depth on the worldbuilding of various fantasy series. For someone who just wants to find good books, paperbackdreams makes me wish I read more.
In the blogging space, R’s Loft is the kind of blogger I wish I could be and I couldn’t even begin to name all the good book review blogs I’ve come across in the past year. Perhaps I should make a list…
10. set goals for yourself
If you want to get reading more, set some goals! Start small: finish one book a month, one chapter a day, 100 words a week… whatever is attainable for you! Once you hit those small goals, set bigger ones: knock 5 books off your TBR list (unless you trashed it… see #2), read an entire series, read a book that’s been made into a movie so you can watch the movie version… whatever motivates you!
11. join a community
Like attracts like, so they say. Similar to #9, if you surround yourself with people who like to read, you’re more likely to feel motivated and excited about it. I wish I had some good recommendations to offer here in terms of, like, Facebook groups, of which I’m sure there are many.
Goodreads is a huge book community, I’ve also heard of LibraryThing… and I’m a big fan of Swoon Reads even though it’s more of an indie book website. (Right, I should probably mention I posted a manuscript there.) I’m sure there’s a lot of subreddits, too? Honestly, I don’t stray too far outside of Instagram and Twitter.
There’s also your local library! I know many of the physical locations are still closed right now, but I guarantee you they have online resources!
And then don’t forget good, old-fashioned book clubs. Grab some friends and guilt (uh, I mean persuade) them into reading a book with you.
12. clear the TBR list
Do you have a stagnant “to be read” list that’s been sitting in your phone or in a notebook for ages, collecting dust? I know I do, and it just keeps growing. Maybe it’s time to start fresh, especially if your TBR list is years old.
After all, your tastes may have changed since you started it. But most of all, it’s just a mental block. You get anxious thinking about all the books still have yet to read, so you never start any of them. Never mind that confounded list! Throw it away and start fresh–or choose a few “must-reads” and start there instead.