Whether or not you’re a fan of the New Year’s resolution, it’s inevitable that the start of each year ushers in a desire to do more and better. The idea of a fresh start can be incredibly appealing, as can the hope of improving on your previous year’s achievements. Focusing on your reading habits – whether with a view to simply reading more, or perhaps increasing the diversity of your reads – is a great way to capitalise on this ‘fresh start, do better’ mindset whilst benefiting from the array of positive effects that reading brings. Working consciously on reading is a way directly assist your mental health (I’ll be writing more about this in February as I launch my series on bibliotherapy), broaden your perspective, develop a more expansive sense of compassion, and educate yourself.
However, as with all new year’s resolutions or goals, it is often easier said than done. Life has the fantastic ability of getting in the way, draining time and energy that you had hoped to set aside for these pursuits. You forget your book on a long trip, fall asleep on the first page, or find yourself running around after children (or, in my case, dogs) when all you want is a cup of tea and some quiet time. There is a reason why new year’s resolutions are often so difficult to stick with and it is typically that we are trying to mould our life to fit whatever our goals are, rather than the other way around. With a view to helping you achieve your reading goals in 2019 (and, perhaps, developing some that suit you), I thought that I would write down some of my top tips for successful reading. I’ll point you to some of my favourite resources and tricks for finding ways to read more, whatever the surrounding chaos of your life. If you have any tips of your own, be sure to comment down below, and let me know what reading goals you’ve set yourself for 2019!
1. Make It Portable
This is a pretty elementary tip but one that goes overlooked so often. Making sure that your reading is portable is vital for ensuring that you can take advantage of those moments of unexpected and generally unfilled quiet. If you commute, you have a perfect opportunity to tick off a few more pages. Breaks at work (even if just 10 minutes for a cup of tea) provide a chance for a brief retreat. Wherever you can fit it in, these moments all add up. After all, 10 pages a day can equal a book a month! To increase your ability to take advantage of these snatched minutes, it’s a good idea to assess what might make reading more easily conform to your lifestyle – and this is where portability comes in.
If you commute by walking or driving, audiobooks are an incredible resource. You might indulge in an Audible subscription, giving you access to an enormous library of audio books. If you’re on a budget, you may consider visiting your library for a look through their stash or, alternatively, take a look through the many super affordable options on iTunes (or the android equivalent). When I was commuting by train, audiobooks were a gift from the heavens. They increased my book consumption enormously – and, yes, I’m firmly of the view that audiobooks do still count as reading.
If your budget allows, you might also want to consider getting yourself an e-Reader. Although I will always prefer printed books, it’s undeniable that e-Readers massively increase the portability and convenience of reading. This is really a matter of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, however, since I carry enormous tote bags with me everywhere purely so that I can bring along whatever tome I’m currently making my way through. As with everything, it’s really a matter of preference – and my Kindle has certainly saved me on many a long-distance trip. One major advantage of using an e-Reader is the amazing app Libby. This app was by far my best discovery of 2018 and I am constantly shocked that more people haven’t heard of it. Libby (or Overdrive on some e-Readers) allows you to check out books from your local library direct to your e-Reader. You can search e-Books on the app and the best part is that the whole service is free. All you need is a library card! The more popular books are usually wait-listed so you may find yourself waiting a while for your turn but if you’re simply looking to increase your reading time, Libby is such a valuable resource!
2. Find A Challenge
In the world of the bookish internet, you really can’t go far without stumbling across a new idea for a reading challenge. This is for good reason since reading challenges are such an excellent way of reinvigorating your reading habits and finding some new favourite books. For the past few years, I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, through which you are able to set a particular number of books that you’d like to read over the course of the year. My numbers have steadily increased as the years have gone on and there’s honestly nothing more motivating than seeing the ‘percentage complete’ number tick up as I read more.
If you’d like to go for a challenge that’s slightly more specific/instructive, however, there are so many places to look. 2019 will be my second year of working through the Popsugar Reading Challenge and it remains one of my favourites for the diversity of its prompts. This Reading Challenge gives you 52 prompts through which you can select your reads for the year. I tend to do a mix of actively seeking books that fit the prompts and just backfilling where books I’ve read happen to fill the requirements of a particular prompt. This gives me the freedom to read what I want to, whilst also encouraging me to seek out new fiction using the prompts when I’m feeling particularly uninspired. Other reading challenges worth looking at include Book Riot‘s Read Harder Challenge, A Book a Week with The Pingel Sisters, and The TBR Pile Challenge.
Outside of giving you that extra bit of motivation, these challenges are a great way to connect with other readers. Most challenges are active on social media. There are also Goodreads groups where you can actively seek out recommendations, read along with others, or discuss your challenge progress. If you are participating in the Popsugar Challenge, I highly recommend looking up the Goodreads group for some extra help with the prompts!
3. Switch Up Your Environment And Set Aside Some Time
For me, this is absolutely key. Whatever your lifestyle, reading more means finding ways around a plethora of obstacles. It may be juggling work with home life, it might be family and kids taking up all of your free time, or perhaps you just find yourself gravitating toward the TV anytime you’re at home. Cultivating habits usually means working with yourself and knowing your own limitations. Switching up your environment can be vital to carving out time specifically for reading. This might mean creating a corner for yourself at home, away from the TV and comfortable enough that you’ll be happy to sit still for a while. If home is replete with chaos and distraction for you, it may be a matter of taking yourself off to a cafe once a week for tea and a reading session.
Creating a reading space (and, connected to this, some designated reading time) can be fundamental to meeting your reading goals. I’ve developed a couple of different reading environments for myself that I can utilise depending on my mood and whatever else is going on at the time. Although I tend to default to my couch, I have a specific nook set up if I know that I need to remove myself from the easy distraction of the TV and a local cafe I visit whenever I just need to escape the chaos.
As I mentioned above, setting aside some time is also an important part of habit creation. Whether your goal is simply to read more or if you are actively working to get through a particular number of books in the year, separating out time purely for reading is super important. It will encourage you to read consistently and help to ensure that reading becomes second nature as a use of your time. If you are attempting to create a reading habit from scratch, there is nothing more important than consistency. Whether this means reading for 30 minutes once a day or an hour every Saturday, it is a matter of your preference, goals, and lifestyle. However much time you set aside, I promise that being consistent holds the key to successful reading. Taking a bit of designated time for your own development and goals is also wonderful for your mental health!
4. Go Beyond The Book
Reading more successfully doesn’t have to start and end with the book. Digging deeper can be a wonderful way to motivate yourself and can, in itself, be an excellent literary-themed goal. I recently wrote about my favourite resources for learning about literature online and the resources listed are wonderful starting points if you want to spend some time educating yourself further. You could take a course on an author that you love, or perhaps a course offering a wider introduction to a period in literary history. These courses are a fantastic way of finding out about new books that you might wish to add to your To Read pile and the curriculums will also encourage you to read specific works that conform to the content. This kind of structured approach to reading can be perfect for those of us who struggle to motivate ourselves outside of deadlines and tend to respond better to reading in a semi-educational environment.
Another way to take your reading beyond the book is through adaptations. Searching out adaptations for books that you’d like to read – but are perhaps intimidated by – is a great way to introduce yourself to challenging literature. I will often ‘tempt’ myself with an adaptation that I really want to watch, encouraging myself through a book with the promise of a great TV series at the end of it. Although it is rare to find an adaptation that lives up to the book (and I wouldn’t suggest that watching a visual interpretation of a novel ticks the same boxes as actually reading it), if you struggle to get yourself reading, adaptations can be a valuable way to get going. If you are not sure where to start, I’ve written articles on my favourite book-to-TV and book-to-film adaptations. Be aware, however, that these articles are a few years old and still need to be updated with the many amazing adaptations that have come out since!