The real secret to reading more is not speed reading. It is not setting goals and putting it on your to-do list. It's not 'tricking' yourself. It is not some new app, joining a book club or Facebook group. It is not a magic bullet or life hack.
To read more, you have to fall in love with reading. Simple, yet overlooked. The same goes for any good habit. To exercise regularly, you need to find a type you enjoy. To eat healthily, you need to find a diet which works for you. To meditate regularly, you need to find the technique which brings the most benefits. Reading is no exception. I noticed from the responses to my previous posts about my prolific reading habit, that many people just do not find it to be fun or beneficial.
If you want to read more, even if you hate it and have the attention span of a goldfish, here is how to fall in love with it. I have also covered how I find time to read 200+ books per year, how I remember everything I read and what my favorite books are.
Choose your books wisely.
No one says you have to read nothing but classics, or only bestsellers.No one says you have to just read fiction or non-fiction. Likewise, no one says you have to finish a book if you are not enjoying it.
Opt for books on topics you are passionate about and the rest will follow. Indulge nerdy interests, weird obsessions or taboo interests. If you fantasize about escaping from society, try reading Into The Wild or Walden. If you are fascinated with how people do great things, read Daily Routines or Tools of Titans. If you like having nightmares, read The Shining or American Psycho. Think of the topics which would cause you to interrupt a conversation if you overheard someone discussing them. Then find corresponding books. It's a foolproof way to fall in love with reading.
Read books by people you admire. Books are no longer exclusively written by writers. These days, it is extremely common for bloggers, actors, CEOs and so on to get a publishing deal.Mostly these are autobiographical, some are fiction or about topics outside of those they are known for. I adore Just Kids by Patti Smith and Chris Bailey's The Productivity Project.
Read the favorite books of your heroes. It is surprisingly easy to find lists, as this is a common interview question. People tend to be enthusiastic about their libraries, so you could even try contacting people directly for recommendations. It can be intriguing to see how these books influenced their work and their lives. Conor Oberst's mention of Moby Dick in one of his songs first prompted me to read it. The same goes for Robert Greene's mentions of Machiavelli.
Look at bibliographies. This is how I find many of the books I read. It is a process of organic discovery which leads to books you might not otherwise have heard of. Delving deep into a topic can be somewhat satisfying.
Get off social media and stop watching TV.
Focus is a muscle and constant bursts of easy entertainment are the cognitive equivalent of junk food. It's easy and immediately rewarding. As a result, reading seems boring- no quick hits of dopamine.
Reading requires a mind capable of handling more than 140 characters. The long term benefits of it far outweigh the excitement of a new notification. Everyone wants to do the easy thing, and binge watching an entire series on Netflix is a lot easier than reading. Removing that option is the way to go.
I was on Twitter for 6 years, during which I wrote 30,000 tweets and read probably 100,0000. I cannot remember a single one of them. Yet name a book I have read and I can recount every detail of it. Even if switching seems dull, it is a surefire way to fall in love with books, as your mind adjusts and recognizes how good it feels.
Make it a part of your daily routine.
People who dislike reading tend to see it as a chore to be trudged through under duress. For those who love it, reading is an essential part of their day. It is not a task, it as an essential activity. Returning to the nutrition analogy, it is not to be swallowed like a vitamin pill, it is to be savored like a lazy summer lunch. Like anything, the necessary time can only be found each day when it ceases to be optional. Depending on my routine for the day, I always set aside at least one block of time for reading, plus little gaps throughout the day.
Most people seem to find pre-bed to be the best time to read, especially as a means of avoiding using devices and sleeping better. One of the best presents I have ever received was a clip on book light for reading under the covers. Try to make it and everyday act, not a rarity. Practice makes anything more enjoyable. Carry a book everywhere and let it enliven dull moments.
Avoid decision fatigue.
Choosing a book when you are faced with countless options in a store or on Amazon is exhausting. At university, I would ignore the multi-storied campus library and go to the tiny, understocked public one. There I simply worked my way around the few shelves, finding many gems in the process. Likewise, I love it when I stay with someone and can devour their collection.
Deciding which book to read is not a big deal. I frequently see people asking which order they should read some books they have brought in. The answer? It doesn't matter as long as you read them. Seriously. Making decisions is cognitively draining which makes reading less fun. I keep an Amazon wishlist of everything I plan to read and just order whatever is first on it. In bookstores, I consult that list and buy whichever I see first.
Stop turning it into hard work. And stop feeling guilty about it. Regardless of whether you haven't finished a book for 7 years or just spent the entire day reading in bed, guilt never makes anything fun.
Forget about what you learned in school.
I get very angry when I think about the way schools ruin children's enjoyment of books. No 10 year old should be forced to read Shakespeare. If I could redesign the curriculum, I would get rid of required reading. Kids should be taught HOW to read not WHAT to read. I would focus on giving them access to books they actually want to read, like Harry Potter and Rahl Dahl. The rest will follow. Likewise, making them take exams on books and analyze them is ridiculous.
As I have written before, the difference between someone who studies books and someone who reads books is like the difference between a bodybuilder and a builder. When you read with the intention of learning how to live not what to think, everything changes. It becomes a pure delight.
Reading is a privilege, not an obligation. We are so lucky to have access to millions of books for the first time in history. Oscar Wilde put it best: It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it. Books are cheaper than ever and even free is you join a library or a project like Librivox. Audiobooks and large print editions mean even bad eyesight is no longer a barrier. Instead of thinking I have to read think I get to read. That excites me. I feel honored when I get to read about the knowledge of some great person, or about an event I did not experience, or about a concept which changes my life. Through books, I can travel the world and time, learn from my heroes, understand complex topics and use it all to alter myself. Nothing is beyond my reach.
As Stephen King wrote, books are a uniquely portable sort of magic. This essay is an invitation to you to fall in love with what I consider to be humanity's greatest invention: the written word. Once the true wonder of it sinks into your bones, going a day without reading will become unfathomable.