I am a consumer. I don’t just watch one episode of a TV show; I watch all of it in a month. I don’t just read a book occasionally, I devour them by the dozen. When I open a bag of M&M, it’s finished before the day is done.
In spite of all of this enthusiasm, call it gluttony, if you must, I experienced a reading slump in 2015. I was, at the time, experiencing an episode of depression. See also: Books That Helped Me Through Depression. Depression covered my mind in a veil, surrounded my emotions with a fog, and made it difficult for me to read books, because it was hard for books to reach me.
Well on my way to recovering my mental health, I pledged on January 1st of this year to read one book every week: 52 in total. So far, I’m on track, as you can see.
In order to keep myself motivated throughout the year, I have developed a number of tactics to nurture my reading habit. Because I always hear people complain about having no time or concentration to read, I thought I’d make this wisdom available to the public.
Always Carry A Book
This is so simple. Just always, always, always carry a book. If you’re reading War & Peace maybe leave it at home, but instead, slip a Little Black Classic in your pocket. These are brilliant and cheap little editions of famous novellas and short stories. This year, I’ve read two of them already.
- How Much Land Does A Man Need by Leo Tolstoy, which would provide a nice accompaniment for War & Peace.
- The Yellow Wallpaper And Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which was so incredibly spellbindingly gripping that I almost missed dinner the day I read it.
Reading should always, always, always be a pleasure. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re not enjoying a book, put it aside. If a book is triggering unpleasant memories, if the characters or the style annoy you overly much or if the book is just plain boring; chuck it. You don’t have to tell the author. You don’t have to tell anybody. Just leave it be, and if it was required reading of some kind, you can pick it up again when you’re in a better mood. Never read against your will, because then you will start to associate reading with displeasure, and you contaminate an amazing hobby.
Give It Time
One of the books I’m currently reading is Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. It’s a 850 page historical novel roughly the size of a brick. I started reading Outlander on March 24th, and I’m about halfway through. That’s because, although it interests me, I find the plot a little slow at times. So occasionally I read a handful of pages, then I turn to something else that satisfies my craving for a compelling story more quickly. A few days later, I’ll return to Outlander. What I mean to say is, there’s no rush. If a book fails to captivate your attention for as long as it would take you to finish it, have a break. Read something else in between. I can’t, for example, abide a seriously dark book unless I occasionally pick up something a little lighter.
Read Before Bed
Seriously, I haven’t slept this well since I was a baby. Reading before you turn in for the night allows your mind as well as your body to relax, and it gives you something nice to dream about. For me, it’s easier to concentrate on reading in the evening because I can just get into bed and go offline for a few hours. Just make sure not to read anything too thrilling or you might be up until way too late.
What I’m trying to say is this: reading doesn’t have to mean what you think it means. You don’t have to adhere to the old stereotype of the recluse reading in some dimly lit library until the wee hours. You can read what you feel like reading, when you feel like reading it. The beauty of it is that once you allow yourself this freedom, reading becomes your favorite activity in the world. I promise.
Header image taken from Belle & Sebastian’s music video Wrapped Up In Books.