When I was young, I devoured books as quickly as Leslie Knope devours waffles. Returning home from the library with an entire basketful of books was a common occurrence, and I’d happily hole up in my room with a new stack of volumes, consumed by new worlds and entrancing storylines. My love of reading for pleasure that followed me through high school was forced to take a back seat during college, when any free time I had was devoted to socializing, Netflix, and sleeping. I finally had extra time to allot to reading for fun again after graduating, but however much I still enjoyed reading, getting back into the habit wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
The Washington Post cites a study done by the National Endowment for the Arts that shows a noticeable decline in literary reading across America. The article mentions several possibilities for this drop in reading, such as the rise in popularity of video games and the internet. Apparently, according to multiple studies listed in the article, there’s a link between reading literary fiction and increased amounts of empathy for other people. It turns out that in addition to providing participants with a well-rounded awareness of the world, imagination, and knowledge, reading is a fantastic way to be able to see life from another’s perspective. It’s too beneficial to be thrown by the wayside in favor of social media and all-consuming busyness.
So, whether you’re a former reader who’s wanting to return to the world of books, or would like to pick up the hobby for the first time, how do you turn reading into a regular habit? After some experimenting, I’ve found a few simple tricks that have have helped me return to my reading-obsessed days.
Keeping Lists of Books to Read
Every time a book catches my eye, I add it to a comprehensive list of everything I’d like to read. I’ve kept a list in the notes section of my phone before, but I’ve found that using Goodreads is most effective. The website and app not only allows you to easily create lists of books, but also to review and discuss literature with other users.
Cutting Back on Netflix
As much as I love Netflix, I’ve realized that limiting my watching time is vital to my goal to read more. I haven’t given up Netflix altogether (heaven forbid), but balancing watching a show with reading a book has gotten easier with practice. Occasionally setting specific limits on myself (i.e. only one episode of Gilmore Girls per day) has helped tremendously. Something else I’ve tried is eliminating watching tv before bed, which brings me to my next point…
Setting Aside Time Before Bed to Read
Studies show that brightness from a phone, computer, or tv screen before bed disrupts sleep, so do yourself a favor by replacing scrolling through Instagram one last time with picking up a book. By devoting a few minutes before bed to reading, you can improve your sleep and create a good habit at the same time
Reading Different Genres
I’ve found that changing up the genres of books I’m reading has made getting back into the routine easier. In addition to your usual fiction book, try a book of poetry, essays, or a non-fiction work. Choosing a genre that you aren’t familiar with is a great way to keep reading exciting.
Bringing Along a Book
I used to be an absolute pro at this one. Until smartphones came along, books were my go-to source of entertainment for car rides, doctors’ waiting rooms, and any situation that didn’t require my full attention. Once I started hauling a book along with me again, I discovered endless opportunities for stealing a few minutes to read, like in line to get my oil changed, or waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. Even if you don’t always bring along a book (I don’t always remember, either), the times you do will pay off.