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How to Fall in Love with Reading

Basically, on reflection, my lifelong love affair with books resembles some sort of unhealthy relationship.

There have been periods of my life when I simply couldn’t do without a book: reading was all I wanted to do in every spare moment. Disappearing into a book was escape and happily ever after.

And then there have been months when I looked at my TBR pile and just couldn’t care less about any of it.

Sometimes I am so in love with a book I can’t stop raving about how amazing it is. Other times I’m so frustrated with a book I’m ready to throw it across the room…I can’t stop complaining about it. (Atlas Shrugged, I’m talking to you.)

Sometimes my reading life has been as easy as Sunday morning. Other times I feel like I am trying to read my way through peanut butter.

But in the end, I always-always-always come back to books.

Fortunately, as opposed to an unhealthy relationship with an actual human being, having this sort of love affair with books is actually worthwhile. (And doesn’t leave emotional scarring. Much.)

Books wait patiently for you; they don’t mind if you go ‘on a break’ for a bit. Books don’t get their feelings hurt when you are angry at them; books understand sometimes reading can be a challenge.

Books don’t judge you when you read cheesy love stories and children’s fiction. And they also don’t judge you when you can only read 15 pages at a time of a Russian classic, which shall not be named.

When you come right down to it, reading books delivers more joy than any other pastime I have ever tried. (And I like doing a lot of other things.)

To those of you who have made it into adulthood without experiencing this love of reading, I’m here to tell you, it’s not too late!

Here are a few ways to fall in love with reading: for the first time, or maybe for the 101st time.

1. Keep a list of books that look interesting.

One of the biggest obstacles to a life of reading is answering the question: What should I read?  So ask people. Friends, strangers, your dentist. If they love to read, you may not be able to get away.

And the next time you are near a book display-at the library, the bookstore, the airport shop-look around and see what catches your eye.

Take pictures of books, keep a list in your phone, make an Amazon wish list or use Goodreads to keep track of books you might want to read next. Now you always have a starting place.

2. Use whatever medium works for you.

One of them, or all of them. If you have to have physical books, get them. If you have a weird love affair with your e-reader, continue. If reading on your phone works for you, great. And I hope you have a fantastic vision plan.

Don’t let anyone snob you into doing it some other way.

And this goes for audiobooks as well (although it pains me slightly to say it)…if that is how you can fit in the reading, then by all means do that. Like I said above, books don’t judge. They just want to be read.

3. Read what you want.

I think people get frustrated when they feel like they have to read the book ‘everyone else’ is reading, but that book doesn’t do it for them. Or they are only allowed to read a certain genre that fits some persona they think other people expect of them.

Don’t succumb to the bibliophile peer pressure!

If you like romances, then read them. If you hate romances, but love non-fiction accounts of historical wars, then Wow. But read those! Don’t feel like you have to read to impress anyone.

4. Read something different.

And even though you shouldn’t read to impress anyone, on occasion (define that as you will), give a different genre a try. Or a longer or shorter book. You don’t have to finish the book if you hate it, but don’t let yourself get in a reading rut.

If you are like me and kick it old-school, a great way to give this a try on a smaller scale is to buy a magazine (you can still do that, right?). Choose one that covers a topic you  know nothing about. (Magazine articles count as reading! AND they have pictures. Bonus.)

Who knows? A little reading field trip might turn up a treasured new interest.

5. Go exploring.

A great way to start a TBR list if you don’t have one (or to make one larger) is to go spelunking for ideas.

I covered browsing in person above briefly, and that applies here as well. It’s like shopping but without the buying.

Another way to explore is to Google ‘book lists’. You will find endless ideas. Goodreads is another place to do that…especially if you make friends with some people (like me). Then you can spy on what they are reading. Which leads me to…

6. Socialize with readers.

Join a book club. If it’s a good one they won’t judge you too much if you don’t always finish the book. (If they do, leave and find another one!)

OR be a rebel and start your own! If you like a specific genre of book and want to book club over that, post on social media  for people who are interested in the same thing and someone will hear your call. Your people are out there. Fly your freak flag high so they can find you. (Nextdoor or Meetup work well if you want to find local friends.)

Follow social media readers and bookstores on Facebook (search ‘book club’ or ‘bookstore’) and Instagram. Some IG I follow: @annebogel, @readswithrosie, & @wordwoonders#Bookstagram is also a great place to find new people to follow.

If your kid or your partner likes to read, read with them and talk about the book.

You become like the five people you spend the most time with. So get some book influencers in your world and interact. (With proper social distancing, of course.)

7. Set a timer.

If you are trying to develop a reading habit and feel overwhelmed by how much you think you ‘should’ be reading, or if you are like me and you have a few books on your Reading Bucket List that are mocking you with their level of difficulty, then make friends with a timer.

Read for ‘X’ number of pre-determined minutes and then STOP. The stopping part is crucial, because then there is a much higher chance that you put the book down wanting more. Which will bring you back again and again!

8. Use a pencil.

Obviously not in a library book or any book you don’t actually own. (Did I really need to say that?) Having a pencil (or the e-highlighter) in hand means you are on a mission to find something. You are going to mark things that you think are interesting, or language that is lovely, or words you don’t know. It can add a little purpose to the reading experience.

And giving yourself this extra bit of purpose can lend itself to feeling more ‘productive’ for those of you who need that extra bit of engagement or motivation. I use a pencil AND those tiny post-it tabs…but I’m a nerd and reference my books a ton. (Yes, even the fiction. I did say nerd.)

9. Keep Track.

Join a Reading Challenge or keep a list in your phone or on paper of all the books you read. Some libraries have a way to keep track (and even make a TBR list) on their websites.

There are a million reading challenges out there (just Google it). Goodreads has one every year that I join. Gretchen Rubin has a #Read21in21 challenge that is perfect for establishing reading as a habit! Find a way to give yourself the proverbial gold star for being a good little reader.

10. Give the book a fair chance.

Forgive me while I cliché: but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Sometimes, we start a book and it is challenging. Or horrible. Or we just aren’t feeling it.

Only you can decide if you must be a book-finisher. I recommend determining this on a case-by-case basis.

Sometimes it IS important to finish challenging books. There is value in reading things that force you to rethink ideas, share other’s painful experiences or just to stretch yourself as a reader.

However, don’t let the pressure to finish every book rob you of the joy of reading. If you truly aren’t enjoying it, better to set it aside (even if it is temporarily). Don’t stall out your reading habit because you are avoiding having the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ conversation with your book. Remember, the book isn’t going to sulk. I promise.

I always told my kids, read 50 pages and then if you hate it, dump it. (I’m terrible about following my own advice, btw. My name is Sheri and I have a problem leaving a book unfinished, even if I hate it. Do as I say, not as I do.)

If after all this, you are still thinking “I just don’t like to read’ I contend that you simply haven’t found the THING you like to read…because everyone likes to read something. I know this how? Read on.

I briefly taught 10th grade English years ago. Of course, kids had to read something and do a report of some kind. (I was such a mean teacher.) I had one young man who was a total outdoorsman. Serious hunter.  Reader & writer, not so much. He was r..e..a..l..l..y dragging his feet about choosing a book. So when his class was in the library, we talked about his interests. And I set him on Louis L’amour. He did the most amazing project from that book. And his mother told me later that he really enjoyed it. It just took finding the right book to open the door.

So don’t tell me you ‘aren’t a reader’. Everyone is a reader, when they find the right book. Don’t give up the hunt.  When you find “the one”, you will thank me. 

One last, but very important, thing.

If you are a slow reader, DO NOT be discouraged. First of all, if you never ever become a fast reader, being a READER is more important than being a speed reader. And second, there is a very good chance that the more you read, the faster you will get naturally. But in the end, speed really doesn’t matter. It’s how much you are enjoying it that counts.

Besides, what’s the hurry?  The books don’t mind.

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