I’ve been in the book business either as a librarian, bookseller, or voracious reader my whole life. I encounter people every day remarking on how much (or usually how little) they read these days, and in January there’s more talk about their reading goals for the upcoming months. So here, from a librarian, are some tips to achieve those reading goals this year.
1. Check out ebooks from your library.
It took me a little bit to adjust to the idea of electronic books when they first started becoming a thing about a decade ago. I definitely preferred holding an actual book in my hand and didn’t see the benefits of reading off a screen. That started to change when I had a conversation with a woman at my bookstore who was looking to self-publish her book on helping women get out of abusive relationships, and we talked about how convenient ebooks are because you can very easily hide what you’re reading from those around you (which a victim of an abusive relationship might need). From there I started to see real benefits of ebooks, including changing fonts and fonts size, carrying a whole library with you wherever you go, and getting some instant gratification of starting the next book you want. And the list continued to grow.
I didn’t really get into reading ebooks myself until I noticed the habits of one of my library directors. She was a voracious reader, and on her lunch break you’d see her with her iPad mini reading a romance novel. (Romance readers are a huge percentage of ebook readers.) I decided an iPad mini was the way to go, and as soon as I got it I hopped on to OverDrive and started to check out ebooks. I dove in headfirst and became a believer.
One thing I found was that I could get through books faster since I always had plenty of reading material on my phone. I could easily nab 5–10 minutes here and there reading while waiting for other things, and those minutes would add up. Getting ebooks meant I could read them on my work laptop when it was slow at the reference desk, and then switch back to my phone or tablet on my lunch break. And since it was free from the library, I could find a book wherever I had internet. Finished a book in the middle of the night? Check out the next one and keep reading! Read a couple of chapters and didn’t really like it? Return it and no harm done and no expense made! Expand your library by trying some ebooks.
2. Read a few books at a time.
I always have a few books I’m reading. Sometimes I have one or two ebooks going that I’ll read on my phone, a print non-fiction book I’ll read with a pencil to mark passages I like and information I want to retain. Sometimes I’ll have an audiobook in the car for my commute or road trip. For some, this may seem like an overload, and occasionally it is. But I find it helps to motivate you to keep reading. If you only have that one book you listen to in the car, you’ll focus on that when you’re out and about. You may have a book on World War II that’s well-written and dampens your mood a little bit, and you can break that up with a hot contemporary romance that’s fluffy and delightful.
I know that if I have a few books going at a time, I’ll always have something to read no matter what mood I’m in. I find that reassuring. And then I get to a point where I finish them all in a row and get to update my Goodreads and feel very accomplished.
3. Try audiobooks!
Caveat, I have never been much of an audiobook person. That’s just my personal preference. But they are so useful! And when I was living outside of Atlanta and driving to see my friends in Charleston, South Carolina about 6 hours away, I enjoyed picking a good audiobook to keep me company. I found I liked non-fiction best for audio and enjoyed celebrity memoirs the best. Lots of quick anecdotes to keep me entertained, and if I zoned out while trying to find my exit, I didn’t miss much.
My cousin goes through audiobooks like a kid goes through candy. And he listens to them at 1.5x speed to get through them faster! That may take some getting used to, but it’s an option for busy people who want to “skim” through a book. You can find options from your library in many different formats like digital audiobooks, audio CDs, and Playaways. Some people find Audible better for them, and others listen to podcasts that serialize a book. You may find, like me, that you prefer only one or two genres in audio format. Or you may find a narrator you adore and then listen to everything they’ve recorded!
4. Try a reading challenge or book club.
I took an Adult Popular Fiction class in library school. You’d think on the face of it it was an easy class, but not so. Our instructor was a local public librarian, and she DRILLED into us that every book has a reader, and every reader has a book. Never judge a person for what they’re reading, because reading is a joy that comes in many forms. Each week we focused on a different genre and read a book categorized in it. I never would have read “bonnet” fiction (typically Amish romances) otherwise. And my favorite week was urban fiction. I picked Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark completely based on the title and was impressed with how good I found it. I was further impressed to find that she wrote it while incarcerated. I have another level of respect for someone who writes a book that gets published while they’re in prison.
What I’m saying is, trying a reading challenge or joining a book club may help you find a new genre or author that you didn’t know you would like. Book Riot has their annual Read Harder Challenge. There are numerous celebrity book clubs, and you can always create your own club online or in person. I’ve been following Noname’s Book Club myself. Author Ian Doescher is heading up the Shakespeare 2020 Project to read all the Bard’s plays this year. Maybe your library has a winter or summer reading program you can participate in. Ask a librarian or bookseller for recommendations (I am so rarely asked for reading suggestions that it makes my week when it happens). Ask your friends and co-workers for their favorite books and read them. You never know what you may like!
5. Don’t finish a book if you’re not feeling it.
I’m one to talk. It’s taken me a long time to allow myself the ability to release myself from a book I didn’t like. It helps that I have access to so many books for free as a librarian, so I feel minimal guilt over deleting it from my downloaded books on Kindle or returning it to the library. But really, if you’re not enjoying the book, put it down. Let it go. Give it up. Send it away. Return it. You have this librarian’s permission. There are so many fabulous books out there waiting for you, don’t waste your time on a book you’re not enjoying. Maybe you’re not in the right mood for it and give it a few months and you’ll be in a better mindset. Maybe it’s too hyped up right now and you need people to chill about it. Or maybe it’s just a badly-written book. Whatever it is, move on to the next book on your list and enjoy that.
Read what you want and in the format you prefer. Enjoy what you like. Just keep reading!