Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to read more this year? Are you having trouble finding the time or even a book you might enjoy?
We talked with three local bibliophiles—Chuck Roberts, president and founder of Wonder Books; Ari Brooks, executive director at Friends of the Library; and Allen Stypeck, president of Second Story Books—to find out the best ways to jump-start a reading habit and keep it going throughout the year.
Determine your reason for reading
When it comes to making and maintain a reading goal, Stypeck says you first have to figure out your purpose for making it. “Don’t make the goal the reason why you’re reading. The goal has to be defined before it’s applied,” he says.
Perhaps you’re looking to read for comfort, especially after this past year. “Reading gives me some rest and peace from the news and the scariness of the pandemic,” says Roberts of Wonder Books.
When you do find your reason, make sure you set a goal that’s best for your personality. “I’m jealous of the people that can read fast, but remember that quantity isn’t everything,” Roberts says. He points out that reading goals can also depend on the kind of books you read. “Some books are dense so they take a long time to plow through, whereas others you can just roll right through.”
Explore your interests
If you want to see what books are popular right now, Stypeck of Second Story Books recommends keeping up with Amazon’s best sellers list. “They have millions of categories to choose from and the rankings are often effected by new releases, big events going on and movies coming out so it creates an overlap of what you’re interested in and what’s popular,” he says. Amazon will also generate book picks for you based on your search history and past purchases to give you inspiration.
Roberts also suggests searching for authors similar to ones you already like, or following your favorite writers on social media and seeing what books they recommend.
Surround yourself with books
This doesn’t mean become a hoarder, but Roberts recommends having a good selection of books so you can give yourself plenty of options. “It’s always good to have a stack of books on hand, especially if you have kids or multiple people stuck at home,” he says. We can all relate.
If you don’t want to keep buying brand new books, used bookstores and libraries are great alternatives. “Getting a library card will also help keep you on a schedule since you’ll eventually need to return the book,” says Brooks. Plus, librarians are basically walking search engines; they’ll be able to help you find a book in no time.
It can also be relaxing to wander a bookstore or library and wait for one to jump out at you. Roberts says that there’s a lot of serendipity when it comes to discovering things to read. “Publishers spend a lot of money and resources on design to make books look attractive. Go to the genre section that you’re interested in and just let chance decide what you’ll pull off the shelf,” he says.
Join book clubs
“There are book clubs in every category imaginable, so look for some that you have common interests with,” says Stypeck of Second Story Books. They’re especially popular now that everyone is stuck at home and looking for more ways to connect over the internet and they’ll keep you accountable.
Bookstores and libraries offer a variety of book clubs and discussion groups as well as author talks and lectures. Brooks recommends trying a writer’s group. “Reading prospective authors’ work and giving useful feedback is a great way to get more reading in,” he says.
Manage your time
A lot of people never factor in how much wasted time they put in every day, especially on their phones. “Calculate what’s really essential and what’s wasted time. It can help you redefine your lifestyle and make time to read,” says Stypeck.
It’s easy to just whip out you phone when you’re bored, but instead of scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, try downloading an eBook or audiobook. You can easily pull them up on your commute or when you have free time during your day and don’t have a physical book on hand.
Many bookstores and libraries offer a full range of eBooks and audiobooks to download; however, Friends of the Library’s Brooks prefers paper books over screens because they can create distractions and reduce comprehension.
Give yourself permission to quit
“Don’t take one book and create a demand on yourself, that you have to read that book ‘or else,’” says Stypeck. Unless you’re trying to educate yourself in a specific area or broaden the scope authors or content you consume, there’s no reason to push yourself. “Choose a variety of books that you want to read for pleasure or knowledge and pick the ones that bring you the easiest enjoyment. Don’t force yourself to read something just to give yourself some kind of credit,” he says.