I think it's a misconception that I read a lot.
Okay, let me rephrase that. I read "a lot" in comparison to the average American. According to some quick Google searches, the average American reads 9-14 books in a year. Comparing that to my reading, yes, I read a lot. I'm not sure how my reading would compare in other countries, but that's not really the point.
The point is more that people ask me how I read above the American average and the truth is, I don't really have an answer. It's a hobby that has defined my life for as long as I can remember, and because I love it so much, it's easier for me to make time to read. But here are a few things I actually do to make reading an active part of my life.
I've talked about the app Bookly before as something I use to track my reading. Over time, I've altered my use of it to primarily be a daily reminder to read. One of the features is a notification at a set time, which is what I use. Every weekday at 2pm, I get a tiny reminder to pick up a book and spend some time reading. That doesn't mean I actually do it, but it's in my mind.
I know people who drop what they're doing immediately to read, but for me, it's more of a reminder that I should make some time for something I love so much. For some people, having a reminder might be overwhelming, but it works well for me. Even if I don't pick up a book right at 2pm, chances are decently high that I'll pick up a book later in the day.
getting too many books from the library
This is more indicative of my forgetfulness than my love of reading. Having a library within walking distance of my house means I tend to put several books on hold, forget about all of them, and then have them all come in at once with the same due dates. And then I forget about them again until they're due and suddenly I have to read five books in a week.
It's a great way to get more books in.
I'm only partially joking. It really does work for me.
Borrowing books has helped me read stuff I normally wouldn't pick up. It's nice that I don't have to pay for a book in order to read it, and there have been some nice surprises among the ones I've picked up so far. I would say that I've read more widely because of the library and that makes me want to read more too. No longer am I limited to what I have on audio or in my personal library, there are plenty of other books for me to choose from.
Being able to choose makes me more likely to read and it also means I'm getting to some stuff that I've been putting off for a long time because it wasn't within my budget to spend money on books. Plus, not having to think about spending money on a book means I'm more likely to give certain ones a try, like reading more horror last year.
choosing to make it a priority
This is probably the most common thing you'll hear from avid readers. The reason we're able to read so much is because we make it a priority. The reason we make it a priority is because we enjoy it so much. And that can be said of anything you enjoy.
I find storytelling to be a lot of fun, and while I can get it from movies and TV shows, nothing is quite like holding a book in your hands and flipping the pages. Getting to visualize people and places through my own imagination is half the fun. Taking my time to really appreciate what's unfolding on the page makes me happy. And I've found that the more I read, the happier I am as a person.
As a writer, I also think it's important that I make reading a big part of my daily life. It's one of the most popular pieces of advice authors will give to aspiring authors - never stop reading. There's a lot to learn from reading other peoples' work. I've learned what not to do just as much as I've learned what I should do as a writer to draw my readers in.
It's good for me to read frequently. Reading relaxes me and never stops teaching me. Of all the things in my life that I can count on as a constant to make me happy, reading is high on that list. Knowing that means it's easier to prioritize it and making the time makes me feel like I'm sneaking in some self care throughout the day or the week.
making it my wind-down
Sometimes I'll read in the evening for a few hours leading up to bed. Or I'll read in bed for half an hour or so. Either way, I like reading in the evening as something that calms me down. It's honestly something I should do more of because that means cutting down on my screen time before bed, which is a good thing. And I find that I'm more likely to feel genuinely tired if I take the time to do something calming rather than scrolling through my phone before falling asleep.
There's been some research that says reading before bed is one of the best things you can do to unwind. Something about it helps the mind relax and slow down, getting it ready for bed. Of course, that could depend on what you're reading. I've been guilty of getting so into a book that I end up staying away until the early hours of the morning to finish it. But that's where non-fiction can be a great thing to read before bed if you're worried that fiction might keep you up late instead. I don't read much non-fiction so I'm content with reading my fiction books while my fairy lights do their best to keep my eyesight decent (I blame half of my failing eyesight on the fact that I'd read in low-light conditions as a child).
One of the best habits I had during my high school years was reading before bed. I'd set aside an hour or so and just read. Not only was it really relaxing and a guaranteed way for me to fly through books, it was a nice part of my night time routine that kept me off my phone as much. And honestly, it's something I'd really like to get back into. I think it'd be a lot better for me if I read instead of scrolling on my phone. Literally, if I replaced time I spend mindlessly scrolling with reading, I could probably double or triple the amount I read now.
not making a big deal out of not reading
This has been the most helpful thing out of all the things I do. I want to read more when I'm not putting pressure on myself to do it. As much as I like to keep a streak of reading every day, sometimes that's just not possible or I don't feel like it. And that's perfectly fine.
I've been reminding myself more and more lately that reading is something I do purely because I love it. It's one of my first loves in life, if you will (followed by dogs, writing, and ice cream). By putting pressure on myself to read a lot, I end up taking the joy out of reading, which I am guilty of having done in the past. And ultimately, I know that forcing myself to read will never make me happy in the same way as choosing to read because I want to.
I think a lot of people make this mistake when they're trying to read more. They make it a big deal or treat it as something that defines them as a reader. It really doesn't. A reader is anyone who reads. Trying to force yourself to read more isn't going to make you like it and it's not going to make you incorporate it more into your routine. It takes the fun out of it.
Treating it as a fun thing to do for 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes during the day can be all you need to do. Reading is supposed to be fun and that's the most important thing to remember.
None of these things are particularly profound. Unfortunately, I don't have the secret to reading all the books I want. If I did, my TBR would increase exponentially because I'd finally have the ability to read through all of it.
I hope that some of this was helpful and encouraging. It was a good reminder to myself that having fun and enjoying it has always been the reason why I read. And it should be the reason why anyone reads on their own time.
So, whether you already read "a lot" like I do or you're trying to get into it, cut yourself some slack. Give yourself the chance to enjoy what you're reading (if you're not enjoying it, put it down and pick something else up). Make it fun for yourself. That's when you're going to read more, when you let yourself have fun.