I recently looked back on some old bookmarks and found Austin Kleon’s How to Read More. As I’m two books away from doubling my reading goal this year, I think I finally have the walk to back up the talk on this one.
Here’s my thoughts on reading more:
No more angry pigs
1. If you don’t own an e-reader and you find physical books cumbersome, then download an e-reader app on your smartphone. After you do that, uninstall all other distracting apps. When you would otherwise scroll through social media or throw pigs around, instead… read. It doesn’t matter if you only have 5 minutes; 5 minutes a few times a day is over an hour of reading per week, which is over 52 hours of reading per year, which is MUCH MORE reading than the average person does annually.
Invest in your hobby
2. If you do own an e-reader but don’t use it as much as you’d like, start carrying it around with you everywhere. Invest in a quality water- and shock-proof cover just in case, but also because spending $60 to protect something usually acts as a motivator to actually start using the damn thing. Again, uninstall the distracting smartphone apps; you have an e-reader to use up those spare minutes now.
3. If you don’t own an e-reader and aren’t opposed to carrying physical books around, do so. Invest in some flattering magnetic bookmarks (all other bookmarks tend to jump ship during transit, in my experience). AGAIN, uninstall ALL THAT SHIT on your smartphone; why carry that heavy book around if all you’re gonna do is touch that screen of yours during potential reading time?
Get the freebies
4. You know that thing with the free stuff to read? “What thing?” you’re thinking. “Where’s the free stuff?”. It’s called the library, and it’s okay if you don’t remember the last time you visited one. Most readers I know do not partake in that awesome resource; people tend to forget about things that have been around as long as they can remember. But here’s the thing… THE LIBRARY IS AWESOME. And not just for all the reasons you’re familiar with but for all the reasons you’ve yet to discover. Just take a few minutes to peruse your local library system’s website. Check out their services. Look up all the ways they wanna give you free stuff. Because here’s the thing–it’s not just physical books anymore. Most libraries have partnered with services such as Overdrive to lend digital e-books and audiobooks. Some libraries even have a delivery service that will bring books directly to your doorstep. And if you’re into actually going to the library, most of ’em nowadays have events like public readings and book signings. Things that are designed to make you excited to read. And there’s even an invention for people who find formatting MP3 players too cumbersome; it’s called a playaway book and is essentially an audiobook already downloaded onto a portable & playable device that you (not joking) just get to carry with you out of the library and listen to it wherever you are.
Get over yourself
5. “But audiobooks aren’t like reading real books,” you’re groaning at me through the screen. Look, I get it! I SO GET IT! But when I was faced with an hour long commute a few years ago, I just had to get over that irrational fear of mine. And because I did, I experienced most of Neil Gaiman’s published fiction that year when I otherwise would’ve listened to the same music I’ve already listened to for hours and hours and hours and hours and, well, you get it.
6. And what’s with this fear anyway? Let’s get to the heart of that. The fear that you’re not reading the “right way” is just hogwash. It’s especially hogwash if you’ve never even tried the ways of reading you’re letting fear stop you from trying. I held back from the e-reader craze for a long while before I embraced it. Once I did, I realized how overly critical I’d been of an awesome product. Look, there is no real reader. Anyone who says otherwise is an elitist who doesn’t realize their criticisms restrict literacy instead of promote it. Read WHATEVER you want. Read HOWEVER you want. Read WHENEVER you want. If someone wants to judge you for pulling out an e-reader versus a physical book or for turning on the audiobook instead of talk radio, then they can stick it where the sun don’t shine. If the words in a book are making it into your psyche, then that’s reading. Congrats, you’re a reader.
7. And speaking of the words in a book, there’s no right versus wrong words, and there’s no right versus wrong stories. I would rather someone read a book that I absolutely hate than read nothing at all, and I’d never tell someone they’re “not a real reader” for only reading books I hate. Their reading tastes are different than mine, but they’re still very much a reader. So if you find yourself struggling to read the books you’re “supposed to read”, CLOSE THOSE BOOKS and go find the ones you’ll enjoy reading. You’ll read many more books once you have this realization. Gosh, I remember thinking back in college, “All my peers loved this literary fiction novel that I didn’t even finish, what’s wrong with me?” Thank God I didn’t let those insecurities take too strong a hold on me. Instead I graduated and started reading the books that caught my eye. I went from popular fiction to genre fiction to young adult fiction, thinking all the while, “These books have just as much to offer my education.” And they did. I wouldn’t be writing a young adult fiction novel now if I hadn’t gone through my rite of passage reading many books in the genre. And even if I wasn’t a writer, even if I wasn’t interested in ‘furthering my education’, I still would’ve found pleasure in reading the books I actually desired to read. And that pleasure alone would’ve allowed me to read more.
Turn off the telly (sometimes)
8. Here’s where I’ll differ from many readers’ opinions. I love the television. Netflix and I are like this. I have a digital movie collection. I wouldn’t call myself a moving picture buff by any means, but what I’m saying is, I’m not against the TV. What I am against is most of this country’s reliance on it. If you’ve watched the thing for five hours and are still mumbling, “Just one more episode…” then it’s probably time to stop and move onto another hobby. The key to anything is moderation… which brings me to my final point.
You shouldn’t be reading more if reading is all you do
9. Reading is not only a fantastic hobby but also a means to literacy. Enough of it will work wonders on a person’s mind. Mainly it will open it. Stories show us the “us” in the “other”, which is a viewpoint most people severely lack.
10. But reading on its own does not make a healthy person. People need other things too. People need to get out and have experiences. People need to spend time with other people. And people need to see storytelling in different forms–movies, shows, art, dance, drama, and more. The correct dosages of these things will vary from person to person. Play with the formula if you like, just know that you’re not better than someone else because you’ve read more books than them. Only compete with the self you used to be, knowing that reading is only one variable in a happy, healthy life.