I’ve said in previous posts that I’m not one for setting huge goals at the beginning of a New Year. 20 years of resolutions later and I’m still not running marathons, boasting rock hard abs, eating organic lawnmower clippings, or greeting 5am with a green tea and a smile. So, at almost 35, I’ve finally realised my personal goals need to be smaller, manageable and, importantly, something I actually WANT to do, not just something that looked a bit fancy on Instagram.
One of my goals this year is to make more time for reading. I have an idea of how many books I’d like to get through before the year is out and I’ve made space in my journal to jot down book recommendations as I find them (drop yours below if you have any!). I’m studying English Literature at University, so I’ll have a few classics on my list, but when it comes to reading purely for pleasure, I’ve made a note of some of the best ways to expand your reading repertoire. Read on if you’d like a few tips!
Think about your why
As with any goal, understanding and connecting with the motivation behind it makes it far more likely you’ll achieve it. Reading for me is an escape and a form of self-care. There’s nothing quite like a good novel, fascinating characters and intricate plot twists to completely lose oneself for a while and it’s one of the few practices of mindfulness that I can fully give myself over to. With your nose stuck firmly between pages, you are far less likely to mindlessly pick up your phone and get lost in a scroll hole, the way you might whilst Netflix binging. Reminding myself of how it feels to be truly present and in the moment when I’m knee deep in a good book, draws me back to the practice and reignites my love for reading. Think about your attraction to books and what you get most from the art of the written word to re-spark your interest.
If you feel like the dusty pile of books you’ve been promising yourself you’ll get through is getting so high you don’t know where to start, try setting smaller goals over the course of the year and break down what you’d like to achieve. For example, if you’d like to read 10 books this year, aim for one book per month (giving you two months wiggle room if you need it) and try to read a chapter per day. Bitesize and unintimidating aims mean you’re more inclined to stick to a goal and the chances are you will actually whizz through two or three chapters in a day once you’ve reintroduced the habit.
Make Reading a Reward
One of the stumbling blocks I fall over regularly is the guilt of feeling unproductive when I’m rifling through a book rather than doing something constructive that I really ‘should’ be doing. To turn this on its head, I’ve started making conscious time for reading at the end of my day and I look forward to a couple of chapters (usually in a hot bath with a glass of red for company) when I’ve had a productive day and ticked off a few of the old to-do’s. This also nicely replaces the terrible habit I’ve developed of using a relaxing, bubble bath to endlessly scroll social media instead of being relaxed and … bubbly(?). On that note…
Swap your habits
Quite often when we say we don’t have time for things, we know deep down we would if we only switched our priorities. I’m sure I’m not alone in frittering away more hours than I can count staring blankly at a phone screen, when I know I get far more satisfaction and peace staring blankly at a book instead. By replacing an old habit with a new one, there is no need to find that ever elusive spare time (legend has it such a thing does exist), or for the impossible task of making time in an already jam-packed day. Perhaps instead of half an hour (read: 3 hours) on your phone or watching TV before you go to sleep, you can use the time to chip away at the reading list you’ve been compiling since the turn of the millennium.
Join a book club
This may seem counter-intuitive if we’re already struggling to find time in our busy schedules – but stay with me. Book clubs exist across a wide range of mediums these days and I am confident there is at least one group out there that fits comfortably with everyone. Friendship websites such as Peanut or Meetup are perfect for connecting with people who have mutual interests, and group events are often arranged online if you don’t have time for a physical meet. If you prefer more of a spectator sport, try social media groups or forums for clubs you can join. Reddit has an entire ‘book club’ subreddit devoted to a book or two per month; with a published reading schedule and regular discussions on plot, characters and theories. Discussing good reads with like-minded people brings a social element to the hobby which I personally love.
On the Go Alternatives
I understand that the mere suggestion of deviating from the sanctity of the tangible, crunchy pages of a book; dog-eared with memories and stained with splashes of strong, sugary tea, is pure sacrilege to the literary veteran. However, the convenience of getting your fictional fix via alternative means is not to be sniffed at. While it will never replace the act of flicking through the leaves of a hard back classic, an electronic or audio book makes such ease of reading on the go it is worth expanding into. Travel time can easily play host to a few chapters of a novel through your earphones (although I prefer to consume my non-fiction via this medium). Waiting around for appointments, trains or (if you’re anything like me) children, to come out of one of the 72 clubs they attend each week, becomes a joy when you have an easily transportable ‘Kindle’* to delve into. An added bonus being you get to try a sample before you commit – no more judging books by covers!
Try a Subscription
As saturated as the monthly subscription market is these days, the addition of the monthly book subscription is, in my opinion, a welcome one. For around £15 a month, online bookstores such as the Teatime Bookshop will send you a new book every month based on your preferred genre, age or category – or you can opt for a surprise read. They also send you a cuppa of your choice and a few tasty biscuits for dunking as it is quite unlawful to settle down into a reading nook without a snack of some sort!
I’m looking forward to digging into some excellent reads this year and making more time for a hobby that can so easily become a lost art in a busy life. Let me know below what your reading goals are this year and what is on your book list for 2022.
“An hour spent reading is one stolen from paradise.” – Thomas Wharton