How to Fall Back in Love With Reading

I went from 3 to 44 books read in the last year and I’m not stopping now.

Aaron Shea
Curious
6 min readJan 16, 2021

--

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

What is you first memory of books? Mine is my Dad reading to me every night before bed. He was fired from his job the month before I was born and decided to go out on his own — build his own company and his family, at the same time. The early days of both take an inordinate amount of time and commitment. There were days when he would work until midnight or 1AM, only to be up at 6AM the next morning and head back into the office. In his attempt to spend time with his budding family he would come home every night, just as my siblings and I were getting ready for bed. He would help put us in our pajamas, sit down next to us in bed, and open a book.

Flash forward to the 4th grade, reading on the bus before school, or my monthly trips to the book store with my grandmother. The summer reading programs at the library and the binge reading of a new book in a series that I had been waiting a year (1/10th of my life) for. I was hooked, obsessed. So many children who loved books growing up have some sort of emotional attachment to them — be it a familial relationship or a character who understood you in a way you didn’t think possible.

So what happened?

In high school and college, it was far more common for me to read SparkNotes, or online summaries, find any way to get around doing the actual reading work. There was too much life to be had outside of books to care about the world inside them. I stopped caring, I stopped reading, and before I knew it I realized it had been years since I last picked up a book. Especially when there was Netflix, HBO, Disney+, and more media than I could begin to consume instantly available to me. So why bother going back to books? In an article in 2018, movies based off of books made 53% more in box offices worldwide; though this is not a direct indication of quality, there is some merit behind these numbers. There is still something to be said about the creativity, inspiration, and quality of the source material. I find myself reading lists of “20 books that will change your life” on a regular basis, but not actually picking a book up. I’d become so accustom to the fast pace catharsis of movies and television; what could be achieved in a 2 hour film could take 10+ hours of reading, spread out over weeks if not months. Yet I still craved that experience I had as a child. The flexing of the imagination muscle, the full and complete absorption into a world and characters. The unbeknownst mispronouncing of words and the breathtaking twists and turns. So I decided to go back to books.

And I failed. Time and time again. I picked up these supposed life changing books and I put them down. I constantly got half way through, lost my momentum, and moved onto more entertaining things. I didn’t have the drive to power through plot lulls of difficult voice or structure. After a couple years of half reading a number of books and filling my bookshelf with tens of books I had never read, I decided I was actually going to change my behavior. Taking a page from Atomic Habits by James Clear, I would not try to read a book or two, rather I would become a reader.

So I went back to basics. Back to the very books I had such an intense emotional connection with as a child. The characters I grew up with who knew me so well. A lot of us have that book(s) — for many, they were Harry Potter. For me, it was the Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan. From the age of 8 to 16, I read Flanagan’s books as they came out, always yearning desperately for the next one. And even though I loved it, I never finished the last two books of the 12 book series. So I decided to go back to the beginning, and read all twelve books. Picking a book/series you have a strong emotional connection to is the best way to start. You get to tap into the element of nostalgia, you’ll get excited about what is going to come next because you remember just how much it affected you as a child. Give a nod to the old reader in you.

Books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series
The Ranger’s Apprentice Series

The next thing I did was to build a habit. I’m a before bed reader; I love the feeling of getting in bed with a book and letting the day unwind into a story. While there are numerous benefits to reading before bed, the important thing isn’t to explicitly do that, rather to pick a time of the day that is your reading time and read for 20 minutes every day. Of course you can always read for more, but especially in the beginning add some discipline to your routine. This way you’ll avoid burn out and build a reading habit. I still employ this technique when i want to read typically “hard” books. It takes time to acclimate to the voice of a new author. By giving myself time to get used to the writing style, I found that within 2 weeks the books are easy to understand. People often don’t make it through the first book of Lord of the Rings because the writing style can feel somewhat tenuous and drawn out. After two weeks of employing this, I was able to breeze through all three books. It was like learning a new language, something clicked and it all made sense.

Once I started reading, the first thing I wanted to do was talk to someone about it. I wanted to tell people about the books I loved and hated, get other opinions and recommendations. The key here is to build a community, a group of people to build your literary excitement with. Whether that is a group chat with a couple friends, a book club, or just a Goodreads membership, finding people equally as excited as you makes you more invested in reading.

And finally, make it as easy as possible for you to read. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, spending $10–$20 often as you read more and more becomes difficult to justify. Used book shops are great, as is the library. Quite honestly, I had forgotten that the library existed until my friend told me about Libby. After spending over $300 on books in the last year, I realized that through libby, I could rent e-books and audiobooks from my library. So I got a library card, and almost every book I read this year was rented from Libby. Because of Covid, most libraries have made it incredibly easy to sign up for a library card online, so it’s something you could do in a day or two. If audiobooks are easier for you to fit in to your schedule, or you have an e-reader, this app if life-changing. You’ll be excited to get best sellers off the waiting list and find yourself reading more because you’ve run out of reasons for “why not”.

P.s. if you like Audiobooks or are trying to get into them, I recommend reading memoirs read by the author. I feel it adds an extra element to the text that makes me want to keep listening.

At the end of the day, it isn’t about how many books or pages I’ve read in the last year. Literature is a medium that isn’t about mass consumption, rather experience. The more you read, the more empathy you build, adventures you go on, and in my case, relaxed and happy you will be. Go back to the kid who loved reading and bring them home, one page at at time.

--

--

Aaron Shea
Curious
Writer for

Software engineer and literature nerd. Can be found drinking coffee and thinking about Lord of the Rings.