Last week my post discussed why I had lost interest in reading for fun, and what I think caused this. This week I am happy to announce that I have turned things around. I can can feel that itch to read coming back and while it is not at full strength just yet, I will continue to nurture it and practice good habits. But what were these habits/new discoveries that has allowed me to do this? I
1. Setting goals and challenges
One of my points last week centred on the dominance of study and the prioritising of grades. These were learned behaviours and my life had become regimented around them. So I guessed that if you can’t beat it, use it.
First I tried to set myself a particular time each day in which I had to read something unrelated to class or work. It started with half-an hour, a.k.a. an episode of Flog It! It didn’t work. Then I tried to wake up early in the morning with the sole purpose to read. I didn’t even have to get out of bed, but that didn’t work either. I should have known better, mornings are a dark time for me. But where these things did not work in this instance I know others who they have worked for. So it is just a case of trial and error until you can find something you can stick to.
What worked for me, and I mean worked like lighting a firework and seeing it whizz off, was setting myself a challenge. I selected the Goodreads challenge. This allows you to specify how many books you would like to read in a year and off you go. I selected 52, one for each week of the year. Why I like the challenge is that it is linked to your Goodreads account, so you can see how you are progressing. It lets you know if you are behind or ahead of schedule, while giving you recommendations of new books to read based on your past reading habits. I am too proud to fail if I set myself a challenge, especially a public one, so by using the power of my ego I am changing my habits in a positive way.
2. Go electric
I was once one of those romantics who loved printed books. The smell, the feel of the book in your hand, the panic when you are reading in bed and you drop the book on your face. I would like to say that I realised on my own that this sentimentality was actually hurting my reading, but I did not. What actually gave me the push to go digital was a painful shoulder injury, obtained by lugging books from A Song of Ice and Fire around in my handbag for months. I caved for a Dance with Dragons and purchased an e-reader.
For those of us with sore shoulders, difficulties with small text, and a habit of moving house every 12 months, I cannot recommend getting one enough. You pop it into your handbag and you can have the equivalent of hundreds of books, ready for you to read, whenever you like. You can make notes, increase text size, highlight favoured passages or just read away. Also you can download from the comfort of your own home, perfect if you cannot or don’t want to, go to a book shop.
I was surprised to find that old nostalgias were replaced with new ones. I really like e-ink, I love the way to looks and I find it very easy to read. I also really enjoying seeing what other people have highlighted, or commented on, capturing the fun of buying a second hand copy and seeing someone else’s handiwork.
Yes there are downsides. Most of the time you are only purchasing a licence not a book. Technically the providers can withdraw the copy at any time based on their terms of service. But for novels that you are only going to read once I think this is an acceptable compromise with a low risk. I can then save my shelf space for illustrated or favourite books that I will read multiple times.
Another negative could be that you have to purchase the books. This is, and is not, the case. Yes there will be new releases or best sellers that you have to purchase but there are other ways to get your hands on books for free. Often sellers such as Amazon have a platform which allows people to sell their work for free. Project Gutenberg similarly allows you to download books on which the copyright has expired with no cost. Of course don’t forget your local library, many of which are lending ebooks and there is an going campaign by CILIP to increase the public’s access to ebooks through their libraries.
3. Go audio
When I failed my time-trial reading I reflected for a bit; why can I not set aside a time for reading, what is so hard about that? Then I was asked by a very insightful individual, why do you need to?
A major part of my childhood consumption of stories came from audiobooks. I would get the tapes and listen to the stories in bed, while was I playing, while I was in the bath, while I was hanging out in my Wendy House etc. I have written before about my love for the Magical Music box series which I played until I had to search for pencils to fix the twisted tape inside of the cassette. But I had totally forgotten all about this until the moment I was asked why “reading books” had to be limited to text.
So I armed with an Audible subscription I gave audiobooks ago. You can also get audiobooks from local book shops and from libraries. I was also pointed toward LibriVox by the lovely folk at Project Gutenberg. They offer free audiobooks!
Listening to audiobooks was simply a revelation. All of a sudden I could “read” walking to university/work. I could read doing the washing up and the laundry. Cooking, shopping, brushing the cat, waiting for the bus, all of these activities could now be done with a side of literature. In fact the audiobooks even inspired activity, when I reached an exciting part of the book I would do extra house work or go for walks so I could continue listening! So for the time limited reader I can not recommend them enough.
Audiobooks also add another dimension which I had not considered before using them. There are narrators for the story and you definitely develop your favourites. Getting a good narrator really brings the story to life. Others have big production pieces, see my Dune review as an example, with sound effects, different actors and music. It was like a TV/film/radio production without losing any of the content or magic of the original text.
Finally, yes I do consider listening to audibooks as “reading”. I am aware that many people do not but I think that could be a post on it’s own so will leave it for another day!
4. Learning the value of serendipity
So now I had the challenge and the tools, but the old grade-monger in me would need to see a value in the activity that was bigger than just entertainment or an expanded vocabulary. As part of my course we learned all about serendipity and how useful it was in a personal and professional capacity. We discussed how to recognise serendipity, how to encourage it and finally, how to use it to our advantage. It was really another light-bulb moment. At the same time I started reading a book called Get Lucky, which re-enforced this message. Now I could read away to my hearts content, confident that the more I consumed and considered, the likelihood of encountering information that I could use in some other way would increase. This did happened and I have used quotes and examples from books in my assignments and essays about the value of reading and information.
5. Show off all your good work
By now I was reading away. Books had become part of my rituals and routines again. But to keep things up longer term I felt I needed a plan.
It is said that if you commit to something publicly you are less likely to go back on it. This may be weight loss, quitting smoking or in my case reading books. Having a blog is a great way to do this. After I finish a book I can write reviews, or I can write posts like this!
If blogging is too much there are other ways you can get involved. Write small reviews for sites like Goodreads, Amazon and Audible. Share tweets and Facbook posts. Join an online messaging boards which discuss reading. There are loads possibilities are out there. It is also a great way to get book recommendations, tips and insight without feeling with overwhelmed by the amount of choice out there.
I used all the methods above to kickstart me back into the world of recreational reading. Changing habits and behaviours is never easy but with a plan and some effort it can be done. I hope it gave some inspiration for those also looking to reconnect with reading. If you have some other hints or tips I would love to hear about them in the comments below!
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