There are many reasons to read more books, including strengthening the brain, reducing stress, and even contributing to a longer lifespan. But who has time to read? Or, more accurately, how do we tear ourselves away from doomscrolling Twitter or watching the latest Netflix crime documentary or falling down a TikTok rabbit hole in order to read more?
Here are four ways to read more books that you probably haven’t tried before:
- Sign up to volunteer. I know. This one seems counterintuitive. How can another obligation help someone read more books? The truth is, while volunteering is very important, many positions can have downtimes. And those downtimes can be filled by reading books.
Last year I started volunteering with the American Red Cross at one of their blood donation centers. When donors come in, I’m the person who checks their temperature and helps them sign in for their appointment. When they leave, I’m the person who thanks them profusely for coming in and gives them an air high-five for doing such a good deed.
Between donors (and between sanitizing the waiting area, door handles, etc. a thousand times per shift) I have downtime. I made a rule that I don’t play on my phone while volunteering. I take a book and read it. Even though I only volunteer twice per month, my reading time adds up.
Volunteering not only allows you to give back to others, but you may get some extra reading time. (Side note: if you’re able to give blood, reading while donating is also an amazing use of time! Click here to find an American Red Cross donation center or blood drive near you.)
- Sign up for a half marathon. Okay, this one could also be “listen to audiobooks.” But everyone already knows to listen to audiobooks while commuting (which we’re not doing a lot of these days) or folding laundry. The key to this strategy is that signing up for a half marathon significantly increases the amount of time you have available to listen to audiobooks.
Most half marathon training programs have you running four days per week, including a long run on the weekend. Since I’m a slow runner, my long runs usually took anywhere from an hour to two and a half hours. That’s a lot of listening! Really great audiobooks make the time pass quickly.
Not a runner? How about walking? Try signing up for a StepBet, where you commit to a step goal (audiobook time!), bet on yourself to reach that goal, and maybe win a little bit of money when you do!
- Find your tendency. I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before and The Four Tendencies. They completely changed how I think about setting and meeting expectations. If you’re unfamiliar with the books, Gretchen identified four tendencies based around the way people respond to both inner expectations (what we expect of ourselves) and outer expectations (what others expect of us).
– Upholders readily meet both inner and outer expectations.
– Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations.
– Questioners readily meet inner expectations, but only meet outer expectations if they understand the “why” behind them.
– Rebels struggle to meet both inner and outer expectations.
I am a textbook Obliger. Therefore, setting a New Year’s Resolution to read more books doesn’t work for me because it’s entirely internal. I respond much better to something like setting a GoodReads goal, where my progress toward my goal is publicly visible. I also started a book club, where others expect me to have read the book by a certain date.
If you’re an Upholder, chances are you’re not even reading this post because you already reach your reading goals! For Questioners, try reading one of the articles linked at the top of this post about the benefits of reading. If you’re a Rebel, hope is not lost. Try reading something very different from what you usually read, like a romance, graphic novel, or children’s book. Or try reading during that super boring Zoom meeting at work that definitely should have been an email. (I promise not to tell your boss.)
Not sure which tendency you fall into? You can take a quick quiz here. Let me know your result in the comments below!
- Find (or start!) a Silent Book Club chapter. In pre-pandemic days, a chapter of Silent Book Club met once a month at a local cider bar. They would drink hard cider, chat a little, read a little (reading individually, any book goes), and then chat a little more.
While I was never able to attend the in-person sessions before COVID hit, I have joined in on the virtual events. We meet through Google hangouts (with our drink of choice close at hand) and follow the same chat, read, chat format.
Was it weird the first time I sat in silence, on camera, reading along with other strangers reading in silence on their cameras? Yes. But it only took a few minutes for me to get used to it. Being on camera ensured that I stayed focused on reading (see, Obliger!), and the time passed quickly.
The best part was hearing about what everyone else was reading. I have added many books to my TBR list thanks to this group!
Which of these tips are you going to try? Do you have other ways to read more books that work for you? Let me know in the comments below!