I've been a slow, non-reader all my life. Things have changed. I've even paused in the middle of writing this post to read a new book I checked out of the library. Who am I?!
Everything changed four years ago when I read a full novel in 5 days, which was unheard of for this slow, non-reader. We were spending the week between Christmas and New Year's at my parents' lodge in the mountains of California. It was as cozy and Christmas-like as it sounds. While the guys were out paint-balling and the girly crafted with grandma and the babe napped, I grabbed the nearest novel to spend a moment enthralled in a story. We left our laptop at home and didn't get cell reception there, and somehow I managed that picture-perfect image of an avid reader lost in a good story that previously always felt a world away to me.
That next year, in addition to choosing monthly resolutions, I decided I wanted to read a book each month. If I was able to finish a book in a week, surely I could manage a book each month. And I did. Sometimes more.
Reading used to make me gag. Now, several times I've heard people use the phrase reader, like you in reference to me. As in, "I used to be a reader, like you" or "I'm not a reader, like you." And I just have to chuckle that a few years ago, and for the first 25 years of my life, that couldn't have been further from the truth.
Now, I'm a reader. That still feels a little strange to admit, but it's also all kinds of wonderful. I've learned so much, grown so much, and had so many mini-vacations in these stories. I keep a couple ebooks on my phone to read when I'm waiting in the car or at the kids swimming lessons or at the doctor. I usually have something, and often multiple somethings, checked out of the library. And I keep up with my favorite authors on social media that introduces me to what they're reading and to their author friends that are coming out with new books.
This is all kind of a no-brainer since I'm a writer. And seriously, what does an introvert do with her time, if not sit around and read?! It only took me 25 years from learning how to read to finally get to this point. Here are some things I've learned in going from a slow, non-reader to a book lover.
How to Enjoy Reading More
You don't have to be an avid reader to benefit and even enjoy reading. Use these ideas to help make that happen.
1. Find books you like.This was a game-changer in my reading habits. Even though I still consider myself a slow reader, I found I could actually finish books and finish them in a timely manner when I liked them and wanted to read them. Not sure what you'll like? Ask around to people with similar interests as you. Look for books about a hobby that interests you. Browse a bookstore in a category you like. Look up books on Amazon then scroll down to "customers who bought this item also bought" section to see more similar suggestions. Take note when someone posts about or mentions a book. (You can see mine on my Recommended Books board on Pinterest.)
2. Don't feel obligated to finish what you start.And, when you start a book that you're not really into (because it will happen), remove all obligation to finish it. Return it to the library, pass it on, or set aside for another time. My reading lull really got started when several times in a row I started a book, then read pieces off and on for months or even a year. Reading became a chore. Don't waste time making yourself finish books you've decided no longer interest you. There's so many great books out there, spend your valuable time on those.
3. Let go of the notion of re-reading.When you finish a book, don't worry about reading it again, no matter how good it is. Some might disagree with me on this, but if you have a hard time wanting to read in the first place, don't waste that reading time on something you've already read. If it's a book you own, pass it on. You can likely find it at a good price or from a friend or the library in the future if you really want to revisit it. In the meantime, keep exploring the wonderful world of endless selections of books that are new to you.
4. Try a new genre.I tend to get stuck in the faith/self-help type books. They're great for my Intellection-Developer-Learner personality strengths. But sometimes, they also start to sound the same and my mind needs a break. Sometimes a memoir or novel is just the mix-up I need to take a break and enjoy reading again.
5. Ease in with something light, easy, or short.Actually reading a magazine article used to be too much for me. If you find yourself in the same boat, start there. Browse a magazine on a topic you like and stop to read one of the full-length articles. In my college magazine writing class I learned that writing a book is essentially writing one magazine article, in other words one chapter, at a time. The same is true of reading most books, it's simple the equivalent of reading one magazine article, or chapter, at a time. And if the book has subheadings, feel free to stop and place your bookmark in the middle of a chapter if you need a break.
6. Make space for reading.As I went into a year of resolving to read at least one book each month (a big deal for my non-reader self), I needed to make the time to make that happen. So, I started with scheduling it in. At the time, I stayed home with two non-school age kids, so we had reading time everyday after lunch. I would pull out whatever book I was reading and lay on the couch, and without direction they too would grab their picture books and sit and browse. This often lasted at least a good 15-20 minutes. Then, when they would nap, I sometimes would keep the reading go. Reading can be fit in to daily wait times (i.e., school pick-up), lunch break, or 20 minutes before bedtime. I also spend the 24 hours of Sabbath to set aside technology and spend some of the quiet in reading.
7. Share the love.Talk about the books or stories that impact you. Suggest them to friends that might like them. Give a social media or email shout-out to the author, or write a review of the book on Amazon. When you read a powerful quote, write it down. And when you're leaving honest feedback, remember that just because a book isn't for you doesn't mean it's not for anyone. Give feedback that might help a reader make that decision for themselves. Also, authors read reviews of their books so please don't be a jerk.
Reading used to be an avoided chore and is now a welcome mini-vacation. If you don't like reading, I can't promise you that will change (and thanks for reading this, by the way). But I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you find books you like, stop reading things you don't like, and make a little space for reading.
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