Noelle (not her real name)
Noelle is a writer and "book nerd" from Malaysia
How to read more books
I’ve always been an avid reader from a young age. While my peers might complain about how cumbersome it is to carve out a slice of their own free time to pick up a book and read, I didn’t find it difficult at all to finish at least one book every week. It is perhaps an understatement to say that reading was my favourite pastime - it was also part of my identity as people used to know me as a huge “book nerd”.
However, I must also admit that I might have taken a backseat when it came to hitting my reading goals last year. Being bogged down by my studies and other life commitments, I no longer read as much as I would’ve liked. After a full day of classes, I was reluctant to spend my evening consuming even more texts. To me, there were many other ways to satiate my hunger for knowledge or the need for entertainment - gaming, watching youtube, or listening to podcasts. It was not until the start of the pandemic when I realised that I had not read anything (that is not an academic article or a textbook) in two years.
Like many of you, “read more books” was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. I have managed to finish 10 books since the beginning of the year. While this may not sound impressive, I consider it a step in the right direction as I slowly rediscovered the joy of reading. Here are three tips I found useful for anyone hoping to get back into the groove of reading.
1) Take baby steps.
Personally, I found it difficult to find time during the day to read. I thought of making reading a part of my daily routine. I decided I would set aside at least one hour in the evening, brew a pot of hot tea, find a comfortable position on the recliner, and start reading. To minimize distractions, I told myself not to leave my seat to get a refill or use the restroom until I had finished at least one chapter of the book. Everything went according to plan initially, but after a few days, I felt an immense resistance to sit down and read - all of it felt too much like a “chore”.
As I found it more and more difficult to reach the “reading goals” I had set for myself, I got rid of the goals once and for all. This immediately lifted the pressure off me as I no longer needed to achieve a certain target for each reading session. It turns out, the best way to cultivate a habit is not by setting goals; all we need is to build a system that just works. Try this - grab a book and put it on your nightstand. Before you go to sleep every night, no matter how tired you are, pick it up and read a page. After finishing that page, tell yourself you’re free to stop reading now. But you may continue reading if you really want to, no pressure. The point of taking baby steps like this is to build momentum, and with this momentum, we will continuously make progress towards our goal to read more.
2) Start reading for pleasure.
As we grow older, we tend to forget the very reason why we fell in love with books. The over-emphasis of our society on “productivity” and “hustle culture” has made us think that reading fiction is a great waste of time. But you don’t want to read non-fiction or a self-help book either, though you are well aware of the benefits that come with reading them. Scrolling aimlessly through Instagram and TikTok after a long day would seem easier and more fun.
This is a call for you to pick up a novel that you have enjoyed years earlier or even your favourite comic book as a kid and start reading. You need to stop viewing reading as a boring and time-consuming hobby, and from now on, associate it as an activity that “sparks joy”. As soon as you become comfortable again with the idea of reading for pleasure, you can then move on to the more technical books that have been on your TBR (to-be-read) list since time immemorial but “haven’t got the time” to read.
3) Don’t be afraid to read multiple books at once.
So you have bought some new books, or compiled a reading list for all the books you wish to read this summer. Somehow, you just can’t bring yourself to start reading any of them; you’re not motivated to do it, probably because you’re being intimidated by their sheer volume or because you just don’t know where to start. Considered together with Tip #1 and #2, you will know that the solution to this is in fact very simple: just do it. The hardest part of doing something is not “executing” the task itself but “initiating” it, i.e. overcoming the inertia.
Therefore, you must remind yourself that you’re not obligated to read your books in a certain way. Some people might tell you that you should only commit to reading one book at a time and read it from cover to cover. Truth be told, this method may not work on certain people (like me). I usually read two books at the same time: one fiction which is easy to read and helps to relax my mind, and one non-fiction for when I am feeling studious or hoping to get inspired by new ideas. Whenever I feel bored with any particular book, I’m not afraid of putting it down temporarily, or giving it up entirely. What matters most is to make the process as enjoyable as possible.
I hope these tips are helpful for you to fall back in love with reading!
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