If you aren’t already someone who reads for fun, you may be wondering how to motivate yourself to read more. But, reading takes time, concentration and stillness – all things that are hard to come by these days for many working adults. Building regular reading habits, though, is a great way to improve your physical and mental well-being.
Reading for a few hours a week has been linked to reduced stress levels, slowed cognitive decline, improved sleep, enhanced social skills and boosted intelligence. Reading more can help us learn new things, reduce our screentime and exercise our imaginations.
Plus, books can also be social tools; we can join book clubs or start up engaging conversations with strangers. We can lend our favorite books to friends and family members, watching as they analyze and interpret the work for themselves, then discuss the work with them once they’ve finished.
So, how can we manage to become bigger and better readers? It can be challenging for some less avid readers to finish more than a handful of books a year. And, well, not every book fits the tastes of every individual.
So, if you’re wondering how to motivate yourself to read, we’ve narrowed down some tips. Give these methods a try to help you read more often and find value in the time you spend with a book cracked open.
Read what you actually like
This piece of advice may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s really not. Because reading books as a hobby is sometimes viewed as a “scholarly” or intellectual endeavor, the kinds of books that first come to mind might not be something that actually piques your interest. After all, not everyone is looking to crack open “Hamlet” or “The Grapes of Wrath” on the subway. In fact, if you are the type to read Milton or Joyce for fun, you probably don’t need much advice on how to motivate yourself to read.
But, if you are finding it a challenge to motivate yourself to read, consider the material you are choosing. An aversion to reading could be based on the kinds of books you’ve been forced to read, especially while in school. When you were first introduced to literature, it was probably with books that are undoubtedly beneficial as tools for analytical and critical thought – but they may have also been a total snoozefest.
If you want to pick up a comic book or graphic novel, you’re not being childish. Likewise, you’re not too old to be reading YA fiction. And pulp sci-fi? Most of that stuff is out of this world. Just because something isn’t in the classics canon doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading.
You don’t have to read anything cerebral or intellectual if you don’t want to. When you’re doing something for fun, it shouldn’t have to feel like a chore. So, feel free to pick up a book because you like the cover or because you saw it quoted on Instagram.
Take the road less traveled
With social media reading communities like Goodreads, BookTok and “Bookstagram” out there, you may feel compelled to read a particular subset of books. Our advice is: don’t limit yourself.
The same titles show up at the tops of the same readers’ lists over and over again. The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to books, just like there isn’t one for movies, music or TV shows. So while following book-influencers on social media can offer motivation and reading inspiration, it can also pigeonhole the titles to which you’re exposed.
There are so many lesser-known authors publishing books through independent presses whose voices are drowned out by market censorship. For more diversity in your reading list, seek out underrepresented authors who are sharing previously untold stories using inventive literary mechanisms. You may just find a diamond in the rough.
You can often discover compelling, worthwhile reads just by picking up the most worn-out-looking paperbacks at a local used bookstore. Or look through the catalog of an independent publisher with a good reputation. Indie publishers like Haymarket Books, Two Dollar Radio, Two Lines Press, Analog Sea and Microcosm Publishing all have worthwhile titles to peruse.
You don’t have to finish everything you start
Unlike other forms of media, like movies and TV shows, reading a singular book eats up a lot of time. And once we start a book, even if we don’t like it, there’s a lot of internal pressure to just get through it.
There are so many books in the world, and more are published every single day. So, why would you waste your time with one that you feel you are trudging through? While finishing a movie you don’t particularly like would only take a couple of hours, finishing that book could take days or weeks. Time is a finite resource; pick up a different book instead.
Craig Miller, the co-founder of Academia Labs, agrees with this advice. “Do not be pressured into reading the same book and finishing it,” Miller says. “This is one of the primary mistakes that people make, pressuring themselves into finishing a book. Instead, if you find the book interesting, continue reading it. However, once you get bored, go and get another book that sparks your interest.”
Make reading a routine
Miller also advises: “Reading is an activity that is formed through a routine, and it takes patience to fully integrate it into your routine. Start with allotting 15 minutes of reading time before bed for about a week. Then gradually increase your reading time as you get it into your routine.”
Scheduling time for reading is a helpful way to incorporate reading into your daily life and get through more books on your to-read list. Sure, you may not have time to sit down with a book every day, but can you spare a half-hour a few times a week? As you become more accustomed to regularly reading, you may even want to increase that time.
Rediscover your local library
Another roadblock to reading more can be that buying books becomes expensive and creates a sense of obligation. But, there are alternatives to buying books. While you may not have visited your local library in a while, you’re always welcome back.
Public libraries also offer more services these days than just lending physical books; you may also be able to borrow e-books. Just check your local library’s website to see what kinds of book-related services they offer. With free books at your fingertips, figuring out how to motivate yourself to read won’t be as hard as you think.
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at [email protected]