How to Enjoy Reading

Stop saying you're "not a reader." How to find books you like and actually enjoy reading.

You don't have to be an avid reader to enjoy books. (Go here to see My Favorite Books.)

People tell me things like, "I'm not a reader like you," and I have to laugh because I used to be the one saying those things about other people. Until a few years ago, I wasn't big on reading. It's a little embarrassing to admit, but if I read a complete book in a year, that was doing pretty good.

(Of course I did plenty of reading to get my Bachelor's of Arts in English, but even that was often segmented reading for key info.)

That all changed during a family vacation in the mountains in California one Christmas. I got bored and read a novel in less than a week. That was the first time I realized maybe I'm not a "slow reader" like I always thought. Maybe I just wasn't reading the right books, and I definitely wasn't choosing to make time for reading.

So I made a resolution for the next year to read one book each month. For an avid reader, that's easy peasy. For me at that time? I wasn't sure I could do it, but I figured I'd try. And I did, sometimes reading more than one book in the month. That was in 2012, and I've maintained that book-a-month resolution ever since.

Now, I can honestly say, I'm a reader. Whatever that means. (Aren't we all "readers" once we learn how to read?) I want others like me to see that they can become a reader, too, and actually want to read.

Following is more about how to enjoy reading, finding books you like and want to read, and stop saying you're "not a reader." Plus, some of my book recommendations in case your taste in books is similar to mine.

Affiliate links used; see full note below.*


The Joys of Reading

The Joys of Reading


We all know books open up knowledge and understanding. They aren't for the "elite" readers--they're for all of us. Here just some of the many joys I've found in my life after becoming a reader.

Get offline and increase your attention span.

Clicking around the internet and scrolling through social media hasn't done much for our attention spans. I know it hasn't for mine; I find myself clicking around out of habit. Reading gives me the opportunity to retrain my brain to slow down and enjoy the words on tangible pages, giving it a chance even if it isn't as quick or flashy or entertaining as what's on my screens.

Learn a new perspective.

Being told information doesn't sink in as much as seeing someone else's perspective. Reading has been an incredible way not to just learn new information, but to walk in someone else's shoes through the page, teaching me things I could never learn or know otherwise. Empathy and understanding by experience people's stories is a huge step in getting out of the my-way-is-the-only-way thinking. It leads to kindness and a much more effective approach to problem-solving that serves more than just me and people like me.

Feel less alone.

If friendships are formed when someone says "me too," reading a book is like finding a friend. There are times when my friends may not know or understanding things I'm going through that particular authors not only know, but know how to articulate. This is helpful both in feeling validated and less alone, as well as in finding potential solutions or at least comfort in the journey. If you can't help but be alone, a book makes a good companion.

Get practical help.

If you walk through a bookstore, self-help books are now being rebranded as "personal growth." These books are my jam! These books are usually written by professionals, researchers that compile others' experiences, or people that have life experience with wisdom to share. And beyond the personal growth genre, there are tons of books on any given topic you hope to learn more about. If you want to make a life change, learn a new hobby, or grow in some way, get a book on it.

Take a mini-vacation.

A real, shut everything down break. Except your brain. Only you can decide what type of reading feels like a mini-vacation for you. For me, it's usually an all-engaging memoir or coming-of-age type story. Something that gets me into someone else's story for a little while--something I can't wait to read and find myself choosing that over whatever show I'm watching on Netflix. This type of reading is a welcome break in my usual reading.

Lead by example.

If you are a teacher, parent, mentor, boss, or leader of any kind, reading is an excellent way for you to grow in that area and to lead by example. As you read, you are putting emphasis in that area of your development showing your students, children, mentees, employees, or followers a simple way they can invest in themselves, too. It's one thing to encourage others in the importance and value of reading for their education, personal growth, or work; it's next level to actually be a reader yourself and lead by example.



Simple Ways to Like Reading


Before that book-a-month resolution I made in 2012, reading was a frustrating process. I'd start reading a book I thought I was interested in (or thought I should read). Then, I'd start to lose interest, sometimes in the first couple pages. I felt some weird obligation to finish what I started, and the obligation-guilt cycle of my reading began.

That is a big contrast from how I feel about reading today. I look forward to my reading moments, whether it's in the afternoon when the kids have quiet time, in the evening after they go to bed, or during the weekend when they follow my lead and pull out their own books to read (or at least look at pictures).

Following are the practical changes that took me from thinking being a slow reader was excuse enough to not read, to now where I am always reading something and often multiple books each month.

Only read what you want to read.

This is simple enough, but I didn't always do it. And I didn't always understand the difference between topics that I'm somewhat interested in to books I'll actually love. It's taken some trial and error, but I'm getting a lot better at knowing if I'll like a book before I even start it, and thus knowing if I really want to read it.

Don't feel obligated to finish what you start.

Sometimes I start a book I think I'll like, but it turns out not being what I hoped. I've learned to not feel guilty to admit that and stop reading the book. I've had several books, including some with great reviews and recommendations from friends, that I've given myself permission to not finish. I gave them a try, but it either wasn't the right book or wasn't the right time, and that's okay. There's too many right books for this particular season of my life to waste time or energy on the wrong fit.

Put reading in your daily routine.

My reading habit was possible because I put it into my daily routine. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler and a toddler who both napped. So I decided I would spend at least 30 minutes of their naptime relaxing while reading a book. Sometimes I'd even start my reading before they laid down for their naps, and they'd follow my lead looking at their own books which was a great wind down time for them before their nap. Since then I find myself wanting to read and fitting it in to various parts of my day and weekends. Lately, at a minimum, I aim to shut down the tech at least 20 minutes before bed so I can read in bed, which is a great way to end the day.

Take it on-the-go with audio or ebooks.

Maybe actual paper books aren't fitting into your life right now. Try audio books (Hoopla) that you can listen to while you commute, get ready in the morning, make dinner, or go for a walk. Similarly, ebooks (put the Kindle app on your phone) means what you're reading is always with you on your phone, so you can read while you wait in the carpool lane or while the kids play at the park or during your lunch break. This is handy so I spend my waiting time reading something worthwhile, rather than wasting time pointlessly scrolling social media.

Get a library card and go weekly.

When was the last time you had a library card? When was the last time you used it? I got my library card initially to give the kids and I someplace to go each week. Now I can't imagine not having our regular library visits, even now that the kids are in school. I look books up on our library's online catalog and put them on hold so the books I want to read are ready to pick up when I visit the library. I connect my library account to Hoopla so I'm able to checkout 4 audio books each month (handy for while making dinner). And libraries usually have a way for you to request a book so they know where to spend their budget when stocking new books--which means you often don't have to wait too long to even able to read newer books.

Try a new genre.

If you keep getting hung up on the books you've tried reading lately, branch out. Try a different type of book than you normally reach for. Personal growth, novels, historical fiction, science fiction, young adult, faith, memoir, humor, travel. The options are endless. If you don't love reading, maybe you're still figuring out the best type of book for you.



Finding Books You Like


Enjoying reading starts with reading books you actually like and keep you engaged. How do you find such books? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Follow your favorite authors (or readers) online.

Maybe you only know 1 or 2, but they are a treasure trove of book ideas. Authors are usually in a network with other authors in their genres, and often share about the books they're reading or their friends' books being released. Don't have a favorite author? Find a friend or influencer that posts about books that you're interested in.

Scroll through the related items section on Amazon.

Head to Amazon to look up books that you've read and liked, then scroll down to the "Customers who bought this item also bought" section. This is where you can scroll through to find new books on the same topic or genre, and find new authors, too.

Take recommendations from friends or ask Instagram/Facebook.

Post on Instagram and/or Facebook to ask friends for suggestions of books to read. Either ask for people's favorites, what they're currently reading, or books on a certain topic. There's bound to be some readers that have great suggestions.

Start a Pinterest board or running list on the notes in your phone.

As you see books that interest you, have a place to note them for future reference. You can use this to see which books to checkout at the library, books to request when a loved one wants to buy you a gift, or a reference when you're ready to buy a book yourself.



Some of My Favorite Books by Category


Dividing books up by category is a little bit challenging, because many of these books fit into more than one category. Personal growth (or "self-help") books draw my attention because they are largely topic driven and applicable to daily life. But my favorite reads show the growth and life lessons in a person's life experiences rather than telling how to do something. I love being invited into someone's story, and many of my favorite books do just that.

I also share some of what I'm currently reading on Instagram under #BeginnerBeansReads and in the read section of my story highlights.

Memoir-ish

Safer than a Known Way by Pamela Rosewell Moore
The Joy of Doing Things Badly by Veronica Chambers
Carry On, Warrior and Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
Post Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley
In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park
Never Broken by Jewel
There Are No Grown-ups by Pamela Druckerman
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
God Never Blinks by Regina Brett

Faith

Believing God by Beth Moore
Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lammot
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg
Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Clairborne
A Beautiful Offering by Angela Thomas
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Unity, Justice, Love

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
One and Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs
Falling Free by Shannan Martin
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski
Love Does and Everybody Always by Bob Goff
Love, Skip, Jump by Shelene Bryan

Personal Growth

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
Quiet by Susan Cain
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick
The Best Yes and Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
Comfort Detox by Erin  M. Straza
What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey
Start by Jon Acuff
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Writing/Creative Life

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Home + Food

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith
Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Ryan
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Simplicity

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman
7 by Jen Hatmaker
Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Marriage + Parenting

The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Desperate by Sally Clarkson and Sara Mae
Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Fiction

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Journals/Planners/Interactive

A Book that Takes Its Time by the editors of Flow magazine
Powersheets by Lara Casey/Cultivate What Matters


Being a reader isn't for a certain type of person; it's for all of us. So stop saying you're not a reader. You're just still figuring out the books that make you love reading. You'll get there. One book at a time.

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Also see:
30 Books that Changed My Faith + Life
Slow Reader to Book Lover
My Book-a-Month Resolution


*Note: Affiliate links used. Any purchases made through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. This is a little known way to support the bloggers, writers, and online creatives that you love. So if you choose to do that here, thank you!