If you managed to click on the title (and have made it thus far in this sentence), then you’re halfway there!
Ha. Get it.
If I were giving this post a more descriptive title, I might have titled it “How To Love Reading Again” – but that doesn’t have quite the same clickbait effect. And now that I’ve got you here, you might as well stick around for a little while.
Most everyone in the United States has the privilege of literacy (ranking third in global literacy rates). We read stop signs, billboards, website headers, headlines, text messages, emails, social media posts, and so many other textual elements on a daily (if not hourly) basis. And we do so willingly, voluntarily, in our free time.
I have heard an absurd amount of people in my lifetime declare that they “do not like to read”. The silliness gets me everytime! We all like to read! How else would we remain up to date on social media trends or the latest plans in the group chat? We read all the time! And we all choose to do it – so logically we must, on some level, enjoy the act of reading.
At the end of the day, we all prefer a life with reading to one without it.
What people really mean, though, is that they do not like to read books. Like the old fashioned kind with chapters and a table of contents.
And that makes me sad. Because in my heart of hearts, I truly believe that we all like to read books. We may not like reading a hundred pages a day or reading self help books or reading “classics” or being told to read or being punished for not reading – but there is a pure, inherent joy in the act of reading stories that is often forgotten in adulthood.
By reconnecting with our love of story, we may reconnect with our childlike sense of joy.
In this post, I will be offering a manual on how to love reading books again, or perhaps how to love reading books for the first time. Let’s get into it! First up …
Establish Your “Why”
So you want to read more. That’s wonderful, but why do you want to read more?
Ask yourself this question, and listen to the answer. By establishing a specific purpose behind the desire, the desire becomes more tangible, attainable, and exciting to accomplish.
This will look differently for everyone.
For me, the answer to my “why” varies on a day to day basis. Some days, I want to read because I am feeling anxious, and I wish to escape the constraints of my own life and live in someone else’s for a little while. Some days, I want to read because I am in a self-improvement mood, and I want to expand my mind. Most days, I want to read because of joy, and joy alone.
Most days, I read simply because I need a break from the mundane tasks of daily life.
The answer(s) will be different for you. You may want to read because all of your friends do, because you used to enjoy it and no longer do, because you want to look elusive and sexy and mysterious in the local coffee shop – whatever the reason is, just find one.
This “why” comes in handy on the days when we don’t want to read. On days when reading feels like a chore, I remember that I read because it brings me joy, because it allows me to take a break, and these reminders make me excited to read again.
Pick a Platform
When thinking about this, consider how you enjoy reading.
Do you prefer reading print books or eBooks? If you prefer eBooks, do you enjoy reading on a kindle or iPad? Do you prefer magazines or novels? Do you prefer reading on a screen or turning a page? Annotating or not?
Make joy the only factor in this decision. Do not consider convenience, because even if something is convenient, you are less likely to do it if it does not generate joy.
In picking a platform, ask yourself simply: which platform maximizes the enjoyment of reading for me?
Make the Time
Easier said than done. The most common reading excuse I hear is that someone “doesn’t have time.” But ….
We all have the same amount of time.
We all have the same amount of time in the day. We all have the same twenty four hours each and every day. The difference, then, is in how we choose to spend our time. If we want to fall in love with reading, we must enact agency over our amount of time, carve out little pieces of time to prioritize reading.
Those hours you spend on TikTok? Maybe pick up a book! During the commercial breaks of the Bachelorette? Pick up a book! Couldn’t we sacrifice one of our nine hours of screen time to a book?
We as individuals choose how we spend our time, and we all have the same amount of it.
We all have the time to read. But we don’t all choose to spend the time reading. We get to make that choice every day.
Find a space that works for you
Ask yourself where you enjoy reading, or think you might enjoy reading.
I, for one, enjoy reading either outdoors or in the comfort of my bed. I hate reading at a desk, and if someone told me I had to, I would probably never read.
What physical space inspires you to read? What physical space makes you want to read?
Find a time and amount that works for you
Self help guides will tell you to read twenty pages a night before bed. I disagree.
Perhaps I have beef with this instruction because I have ADHD.
I struggle to schedule my days, and I certainly cannot schedule my reading into my day as an immovable, static chunk of time and amount of pages. As such, when people tell me to “just read for twenty minutes before bed every day” I become immediately stressed out.
This rigidity isn’t necessary, and if it isn’t helpful for you, find something that is! If scheduling a time to read (before bed, just after waking up, on your lunch break, on your morning commute) works for you, by all means this is an excellent route to take. But I had to find another route to take.
Instead, I have a list in my head of potential times that I could read on any given day, and then I choose to do it when I feel the desire to. Every day is different, and my reading practice is different every day too.
What I’m getting at is this: find what works for you, and make it happen regularly.
It can be any amount of time. It can be every day, or once a week, or once a month. Sometimes this looks like a three hour time chunk and a whole book. Sometimes it looks like five minutes in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Both are equally wonderful. Maybe you get sick of reading after ten pages – so stop reading then! Stop once the joy does. Only read in ways that generate joy!
It doesn’t matter when the time is, how much time it is, or how much you read. What’s important is finding a time, any time, where reading any amount can fit into your life.
View Reading Time as Work
I know this seems paradoxical since I’ve been talking about joy, but bare with me …
Now that you’ve established your “why,” picked a platform, and found the time to read, the only thing left to do is the hardest part: actually doing it.
When I think about my reading time, I try to think about that chunk of my day as a work shift.
You can’t trade your shift
When thinking about my job, it doesn’t matter how much homework I have, how much I want to nap, or how much I want to scroll mindlessly on TikTok or watch Friday Night Lights instead. I have to go to work, and I can’t trade my shift. The rest can wait until after.
I try to think about reading in the same terms.
When my life feels particularly chaotic, I still have to go to work. And when my life feels particularly chaotic, I still have to make time for reading.
And I am always grateful that I didn’t trade my reading shift.
Return to a Personal Classic
Okay, so now we have to pick a book. Daunting task.
But I have a few tips that have previously helped me rekindle my love of reading when I was in a slump. If you think you hate all books and can’t imagine any book you would enjoy reading, try choosing from these options:
Revisit a favorite childhood book
When I thought I was losing my love of reading during my freshman year of college, I reread Harry Potter. And I was immediately that eight year old girl again, reading ferociously and immersed in a world separate from my own. I loved it. I was reminded that deep down, I do love stories.
Read a loved one’s favorite book
I love being recommended or gifted books by friends and family, and I love reading them even more. Because even if I don’t love the book, I love the person who recommended it to me, and I get to show them my love by reading it.
Reading a book recommended by someone you love will make reading feel relational, less isolating, and remind you that reading is an activity ripe with opportunities for connection.
Read the book of a favorite movie
In another reading slump, this time sophomore year of college, I read Jane Austen’s Emma for the very first time, though I had been an ardent fan of the film adaptation. Reading the book of a movie I adored reminded me that books can offer different gifts than screens, that books can offer different joys than movies.
Read Only What You Love
Resist the expectation to read “classics” or bestsellers
Book culture can be quite elitist and frequently pretentious. But fuck that. We aren’t doing that anymore. Reading is cool now, and reading whatever you want is especially cool.
Read whatever the hell you like, even if no one has heard of it, especially if no one has heard of it. You don’t have to read Ernest Hemingway to be a good reader. Someone who reads exclusively Magic Treehouse or Dr. Seuss as an adult is an equally good reader.
All a good reader does is read.
So read whatever the hell you want, all the time. No exceptions.
Don’t be afraid to put down a book
If you don’t like it, don’t finish it. If you’re not enjoying it, don’t finish it. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t make you a bad reader. Actually, it makes you the very best kind of reader, because you are prioritizing bringing joy back into your reading practice.
Ditch the Numbers
It can be easy to be sucked into the competitive nature of book culture. But we must resist that temptation at all costs.
To resist this, we must make reading a guilt free activity. It doesn’t matter if your favorite book isn’t on the best sellers. It doesn’t matter how many books you have read this year. It doesn’t matter how many pages you can read in an hour.
None of these quantitative parameters matter. What matters is learning to love reading again.
Think About Reading as Self Care
Not a task, but an essential activity
Tasks really stress me out. I can’t think of reading as a task, as something I must check off the to do list. I’m bad at checking things off of my to do list anyway.
Instead, I place reading in the same category as my skincare routine, stretching, exercising, journaling, sleeping eight hours a night, eating three meals a day – in the category of things I do to stay sane. Things I do because they are essential to my happiness, stability, and overall life quality.
Remember that by reading, you are honoring your body, mind, and soul.
Remembering this looks like never viewing reading as a waste of time (which I have been known to be guilty of saying to myself). By reading, you are resting your body, activating your mind, and fulfilling your soul – the most worthy uses of time.
Reading could never be a waste of time. Reading is self care.
Romanticize the Absolute Hell Out of Reading
Granted, this one I am quite good at, and I think it is the most fun aspect on this list.
When I sit down to read, I channel my inner Jo March, Hermione Granger, and Elizabeth Bennett – all women who read and who I admire. I become them in those moments. I am just as powerful, and as sexy, as them when I am reading. And yes I believe that reading is sexy.
Light a candle. Put on some silky matching pajamas. Bask in the sun. Make green tea with honey and lemon or have a glass of cabernet. Put on a cute outfit if that’s what you’re into. Diffuse some lavender essential oils. Cozy up with your favorite blanket. Sit in a coffee shop and hope someone falls in love with you because you happen to be reading their favorite book. Pretend you are starring in a movie and these are the scenes depicting your coming of age.
I don’t know what your prerogative is, but the simple gist of the idea is to make yourself the main character of any and all situations while you are reading.
And I can attest that this works. When I started feeling as sexy as Elizabeth Bennett while reading, the game changed forever. And the game got a lot more fun.
I hope that this manual will help you rekindle a love of reading – these things have worked for me, and I think they can work for you too.