*Alternative title - Take a Drink at Every Use of the Word 'Read' and See if you Can Still Stand Up'
I have only really gotten back into reading in the past three or four months. Before I went to University I was what you would call a 'big reader'. I got through the first three A Song of Ice and Fire in as many weeks, blasted through six books a month easily and read consistently one after another. However once Uni life began to settle I essentially found myself reading
1. Get into the habit.
Making reading just another part of daily life takes a few weeks of effort. Like going to the gym or tending a garden, making reading a regular habit takes actively forcing yourself into it for a little while until it just becomes something you do. Try and find space at least once a day to read, you can set yourself a page count or timer if you like, or just make sure you're reading, however little, every day. You could choose a specific time of day, on the bus in the morning or while dinner is in the oven. If you find it hard to set a certain time try using something like Don't Break the Chain to give you motivation or get someone else to hold you to account. After a while reading will stop feeling like something you need to make time for, and be as much of a habit as brushing your teeth.
2. Stop adding to your TBR pile.
I know this will sound strange, but the more unread books I see on my shelves, the harder it is for me to actually read any of them. I know, I'm insane. For the time period that I was really not reading, I was still buying books, because I wanted to read, I wanted to get out of this slump and get back to being the avid reader I was before. But I would try and start my new books, then feel guilty about all the unread books already sitting on my shelves and think I should really get through some of them first. But what do I pick? Do I finish that series I enjoyed but never got to the end of? Do I go for one of the classics I really should have read by now? Do I read these new books I've just bought while they're still relevant? Being overwhelmed with choice is a huge detriment to getting anything done. I had the bookshelf equivalent of the woman rifling through a stuffed wardrobe complaining of having nothing to wear. In the end I took most of my unread books and put them in a suitcase. I go back now and again and some make it out and get read, but I will probably end up donating most of them. It's silly to waste them on my shelf when they could go to someone who will read and love them. The likelihood is I'll forget about them. And if I find myself pining to read some in later years I can just pick up another copy and actually read it straight away this time. So stop crowding yourself with more and more unread books. Trust me.
3. Figure out if you're a 'TBR reader' or a 'Mood reader'.
In the book blogging/ booktube community there's a trend in which we post a declaration of our TBR, a pile of books 'to be read' over that month/summer/weekend and for some people that structure and planning really works. I however, have learned that if there's one way to guarantee a book goes unread forever, it's to put it on a TBR pile. I find that for me this method works once a year (bizarrely) and that's making a long list of books to get through over summer. Even then there must be no order or time frame or I will just never get to them. I don't really have an explanation for this. Maybe I just really don't do rules and 'limits' even when I'm the one deciding them? Whatever the reason, I find I read more consistently and enjoy my reading more when I just buy two or three books, read them and then buy some more once I've finished. This means I'm unlikely to have those massive haul posts/videos that I actually quite enjoy reading and watching, but it does mean that I'm a much happier reader. So work out whether a TBR is something that works for you, or if you find that just going one at a time suits you better.
4. Balance dense or complex books with lighter reads.
I love literary fiction, but sometimes reading can feel like a chore because you feel like you have to concentrate to get through it. Fortunately I also love fluffier reads and find that reading one alongside the other works beautifully! I read a lot of non fiction this way, and got through Quiet by Susan Cain, which is dense and deals with a lot of research and studies, alternating with the first three books in The Emperors Edge series by Lindsay Buroker (incredibly trashy, moreish steampunk books that take less than a day to get through each). You can see my reviews here. I did a similar thing with Wool, a book that I began to find heavy going and slow about half way through but really wanted to finish. I began to read fifty pages of it, then treat myself to fifty pages of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman which is a joy the whole way through and kept me motivated to finish Wool. It worked perfectly! If like me you often find yourself reading dense or slow moving books, balancing fluffy humour or fast paced fantasy can be a great way to keep your reading pace and finish your books.
5. Make Reading 'Your' Time.
Reading for me is one of the few activities that I have to be completely focused on. You can watch TV and play on your phone and have your emails up on your laptop all at once, but reading needs all of your attention, and for me that means that reading is one of the few activities I do that allow me to be completely switched off from everything else. For a while I had trouble really sinking into reading, as I'd find myself having to come back out and check my phone or refresh twitter. Now it's become the ultimate 'me time'. Something that is about taking time for myself, to do something I enjoy without feeling the buzz of connectivity that is part of modern life. So turn your reading time into a treat. Create a comfy reading area on a soft rug by the fire, sinking in pillows and blankets on your bed or stretched out on the lawn in the sunshine. Reading in the bath is a bit of a stereotype but it's a good one. Occasionally I treat myself to some LUSH goodies, toss them in the bath and relax and read until I go all pruney. Books are an escape from daily life, to enter a different world or meet different kinds of people, or be exposed to different ideas, and I think that makes reading a perfect opportunity to take some time completely for yourself. Make reading part of your wind down at the end of a long day or your Sunday lie in and it'll become something you look forward to and crave.
6. Chill man, it's just reading.
God we all make a fuss about reading. We can attach so much weird guilt when we don't feel that we're reading as much as we want, or as much as others are. You only have so many hours in the day and we all have to figure out our priorities to fit them. Maybe you're happy to give up reruns of Next Top Model in favour of curling up with a book. Maybe you aren't. Maybe you can dedicate a whole evening to reading, maybe you've got other shit on. Reading should be something you enjoy and yes, if you want to cultivate a reading lifestyle, there will be pockets of time where you have to push yourself to read, but most people who consider themselves 'readers' have worked out a pace that suits them and their lifestyle. I have some days where I will do nothing but lie in bed and read, I have days where I catch twenty minutes reading on the train to or from work. I have days where I just don't read at all. I also read pretty slowly. It can take me a couple of weeks to get through one book, particularity if its very dense and something to savour and pick apart as you're going through. This can be frustrating as it feels like every book is a time commitment, unlike my housemate Abby who can inhale books in days. But it's not something I let myself get stuck thinking about. The more you stress and guilt yourself about how much you 'should' be reading, the more you'll give yourself analysis paralysis and not be able to get started. Let go of this obligation to be reading, start to see it for what it is: a past-time. Literally a thing you do because you enjoy it and it gives you a pleasing way to spend your time, as well as having some benefits to you (if you make that masturbation joke I swear to God.) Sometime you might want to do other things or just not feel like it and that's fine.
So those are my tips for making reading part of your lifestyle. Feel free to share any tips and also check out this similar post by Bee over at Vivatramp, which I remember being really helpful to me last summer.
Thank you for reading.