For those who aren't immersed in the culture of books through blogging, librarianship, teaching, or the publishing industry, it can be completely overwhelming to a would-be reader who hasn't picked something up in years. The options for starting are endless and I can totally understand how people find it difficult to know where and how to start reading again after years of focusing on home, family, career, or school. So I'm going to do a short series here about what the options are, how to determine what you want to read, find the right time for you to read, and where you can find the right books for your needs.
Five years ago (basically a billion years in blogging time) I posted about how I find time for reading. All those ideas still apply, but I thought I'd update it with a bit less defensiveness and more frankness about the fact that, if books aren't already a part of your world, it may be difficult to imagine a place for them in the midst of the business of life.
So in addition to my previous post, I offer these suggestions:
- Always have a book on you. Carry a paperback or e-reader in your purse, download a reading app on your phone, or download audiobooks for your commute or road trips. This suggestion frequently works in my favor, but not always. A lot of people recommend reading while waiting in line or while shopping or while waiting on an appointment. I have a hard time reading for just a few moments at a time, but I have been so grateful to have access to a book at times when I've found myself stranded for a length of time with nothing to do (or a dead phone).
- Schedule reading time. If you've got young kids, this is probably more difficult, but not impossible. My schedule allows for daily reading time, but maybe yours doesn't. Maybe what works for your schedule is an hour a week on Saturday afternoons that your partner can watch the kids. Or for thirty minutes a day during naptime. Don't stress about reading in terms of quantity of books read or time spent reading. Just make it a priority and give it the same attention you'd give any other entertainment or interest.
- Along with scheduling time to read, be mindful of how you spend your down time. I am the absolute worst at this. I can easily waste a half hour that could have been spent reading browsing Pintrest or clicking through Netflix trying to decide what I'd like to watch. I have to force myself to make a continual effort to make those 5, 10, or 15 minute spaces of free time count for something, whether it's reading for that short time, or using that time to take care of other tasks so that I have more time for reading at night.
- Make reading a family event. If your kids are old enough, read out loud to them. My brother recently read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my nephew. I was lucky enough to be there for a night of it and had as much fun listening to him read it as I would reading it myself. Getting to experience great children's literature with children as they read it or hear it for the first time is such a treat. If your kids are old enough to read on their own, designate a portion of each evening to reading silently as a family. And if you don't have kids, find a book that your partner, roommate, or best friend would also like and read it together. I'm not much of a fan of reading out loud with Luke, but we frequently choose a book we'd both like and listen to it or read it separately and then discuss as we read through text messages, g-chats, or dinner conversations.
- Don't get caught up in comparisons. Don't compare yourself to other readers. Don't compare yourself to other non-readers. Don't compare your choice of reading materials to the choices of anyone else. And don't compare your response to the material you choose to anyone else's response. Maybe you hate a book that was critically acclaimed. Maybe you love a book that was panned. You're not reading for other readers, you're reading for you.
- Most importantly, remember you're not in school anymore. In school, you read what you were told to read, whether or not it interested you. Those days are over - you can read anything you want now! You're an adult! Don't choose a book you think you ought to read or that is on a top ten list or that everyone you know read in school but you avoided. Trust your instincts and pick something that you know you'll like. And if you start something and don't like it? Put it down. Skim a boring description of a meal or landscape if those things don't interest you. You're not going to be tested on it and if it's not fun, you'll find reasons not to do it.
So now we've gone over the basics of finding time to read and how to incorporate reading into your life, even if you're pressed for time. I think the best place to go from here is going to be finding the right place and format for reading and making it easy for you to choose to pick up a book as opposed to turning on the TV or playing WordBrain on your iphone for three hours straight (I mean what? No one I know does that).