Today, I talk about falling back in love with reading. After losing the “fire” for reading, you need to get yourself back in the mindset that “Hey, reading is pretty cool and enjoyable”, and then you can dive in to the meatier stuff. There are a lot of different approaches to doing it, and this is how I went about it.
Start with a list
The first thing I did after deciding that I was going to start really getting into reading was build a list of books and pieces that I wanted to read. This was the easy part.
It can be as simple as going to Google and typing in “books you must read”. I chose to pore through lists like this one from Art of Manliness. Part of me being a reader involves me learning how to be a better man, so it fit perfectly.
Where to manage your list? You can do it just about anywhere – because the bulk of my reading exists on my Kindle, I chose to use Amazon Wish Lists of all the books I wanted. Now, when I want to grab a new book, it’s as easy as one click.
But you can use other things too, like Evernote (one of my favorite apps ever), or just a plain ol’ pen and paper.
At the end of the day, choose something you are comfortable using. If you won’t use it, you’ll never look at it. You know what you like – use it.
“I’ve made a huge mistake.”
I had my list, and was looking around for a good book to start with. I randomly chose The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky as my first choice, simply because it looked interesting and was free.
Two factors I didn’t think about? A crazy number of pages and a heavy dose of Russian.
After 15 pages, I realized that this was a heavy piece, and I wasn’t ready for it. That’s not because I couldn’t comprehend what I was reading – it was written very well and fairly easy to follow.
On the contrary, my momentum was nonexistent. I did not build any up yet, and we are definitely creatures of momentum.
Think of it this way: if you decide to exercise for the first time in years, you don’t go out and run 5 miles. You might run 1/4 of a mile. Or a half mile. Your body hasn’t adjusted to working out yet. Even worse, your brain hasn’t.
Motivation lies in momentum. Make it easy on yourself for starters, and you’ll be able to go up to the more challenging aspects down the line.
So I put down The Brothers Karamazov for Manvotionals instead. I created a nice little collection of “Books to Finish” on my Kindle so I can return to it later – once I have some momentum on my side.
But while I am definitely going to return to that one, I’m also not afraid to…
Put a book down
How many times did you try to read a book in school, only to find out it bored you to tears? But you had to trudge through it because you had homework on it.
Those days are over, son.
Knee-deep in Catcher in the Rye and it’s not working for you? Trying really hard to “get” Confederacy of Dunces but it’s going over your head for some reason? On the second page of Twilight and it’s hurting your brain (just kidding, ladies – kinda)?
Put the book down. Then move on with your life.
See, we’re reading for two reasons: to become better people, and also for fun. Remember that second part: FUN. If you’re trying to read something and it’s not fun for you, then stop reading it.
That’s not to say everything will be enjoyable. “Fun” for me describes something that is interesting, historical, or thought-provoking. But if I don’t feel like I’m getting anything out of the book, I’m putting it down.
The simple fact remains: if you don’t want to read it, you won’t read it. You’ll lose your momentum, and you’ll go back to TV, where nobody judges you or makes you think.
Do not do this. Find another book and get back on the horse.
Read genres you like
Consequently, make it easy to find books you like. The internet can be used as a wonderful tool for finding new books in any genre. Amazon alone can let you explore for hours, but don’t underestimate the power of a good bookstore to walk through. Learn what interests you and tailor your reading list around that.
Check it out – there’s something for everybody:
- Sports? Read the true story of the guy who threw a no-hitter with one arm.
- Biographies? Check out a music legend’s life.
- Business? Sell better.
- History? Tons of stuff, but jump on how Eastern Europe fell under the Iron Curtain.
- Humor? This guy is pretty funny.
- Classic lit? Here’s a legendary piece.
- Romance? Please.
- Sci-fi/fantasy? Even one of the best writers of all time has a series like this.
This took me 30 seconds to find. Seriously – find a genre you like and wallow in it. I promise you will find something that totally enraptures you and keeps your attention.
Mix up the formats
If all you are currently reading is one book and you don’t know that you’ll stick with it, then let yourself read in shifts.
I keep two books going at all times, and I make sure they’re different. Right now, I’m reading Manvotionals and a book on what books writers should be reading. Two totally different genres, so I can open up either, depending on whatever mood I’m in.
Add to that the pieces from Longform.org that I send to my Kindle. Now I have pieces of different lengths: a few thousand words per article in case I feel a short attention span coming on.
Grab some blogs while you’re at it and put them in Google Reader.
Read voraciously – of different formats and lengths. You’ll keep your attention span sufficiently mixed up, and you’ll still be reading.
Think of it like TV: you don’t always watch movies. Sometimes you want shows. Sometimes you like hour-long dramas, and sometimes you just need a quick 20-minute sitcom. Regardless, you can find something. Treat reading the same way.
Get a Kindle.
By making it easy on yourself, you listen to your gut and you start molding your own reading life apart from other people’s expectations. This is your routine – make it your own. Nobody has written a syllabus. You do not need to work on somebody else’s schedule. Let your hair down (if you have hair).
Tomorrow: why finding an outlet for your reading can help you stick with it (and get more out of it).
What are your favorite reading tips? Share them in the comments.