How to Read More

The other day I was thinking that there are a lot of things that I enjoy doing that I don’t do much of anymore.  When I get back to work on Monday morning, and they ask me how my weekend was (the inevitable question),  I always have to stop and remember what I did. I mean, really, it’s Monday morning – how can I not remember what happened over the past 48 hours?

When asked this inevitable question, I try to mentally go through my weekend.  Let’s see – I made the grocery list, then went to the grocery store (a weekend odyssey in and of itself).  I put gas in the car, picked up something, dropped off something else, washed clothes, cooked, ran an errand for the kids. What am I?  Pioneer woman?  

Since all work and no play makes Jane a dull gal (and pretty cranky at that), I decided to add more leisure activities to my week. And since I already felt crunched for time, I thought I would start with something simple, like reading.  You don’t need to drive somewhere to read, or take a shower afterward, or buy special equipment, or even spend any money at all if you have a library card.  The only thing you have to do is “find” the time.  Okay, that’s a challenge, but here are some suggestions of where you might actually “find” that time.

Read right before bed. This is the time where I get the largest bulk of my reading done.  Now, granted, I don’t make a lot of progress because by the time I get to bed, I’ve got energy for maybe 2-3 pages max (and that’s on a good night).  But, this is not a race, right?  I have found that just like movies, some books are better than others right before bed.  A page-turning mystery thriller 

Join a book club. I guess this is a way to get more reading in, but frankly this seems like a lot of work to me.  You have to answer questions in a book club, and I really don’ want homework to go along with my reading.  That said, I’ve never actually joined a book club, so maybe it’s a lot more entertaining than I am giving it credit for.

Read while you are waiting for something else. On your morning commute, while you are in line at the grocery store, while you are waiting for the pasta to boil, while you’re waiting for your kids to find their ear buds.  There’s a lot of waiting in life, and if you carry a book around with you, you can read instead of flipping mindlessly through your phone like the rest of humanity.

Stop eating lunch at your desk.  Get out of the office and read a book under a tree or in a nice cafe. You could use the break.

Read for 30 minutes on a weekend morning.  Don’t just hop out of bed and go blasting into your weekend errand list.  Add a little leisure and sit in a comfy armchair with a good book and a nice cup of coffee or tea next to you.

Likewise, read for 30 minutes in the evening in that comfy armchair with the beverage of your choice.  This is a great way to unwind and disconnect from the madness that is your work life, before tackling the madness that is your home life. Some people like to have a glass of wine after work – why not accompany that with a good book?  Personally, I’m a sparkling water kind of gal in the summer and an herbal tea gal when the weather gets chilly.

Go electronics free.  Turn off the TV and put away the tablet, smartphone, and laptop.  Seriously, if you take away your electronics, you will be looking for things to do – I guarantee it.  What better thing to do with your electronics-free time than read a book? (Okay – sit around and eat tortilla chips and salsa – but you get my drift.)  Without the mind-numbing effect of electronics mesmerizing us, we are forced to either talk to the humans around us, pursue some other leisure activity or go to sleep.  All great choices.   You don’t have to give up the electronics forever.  Give yourself a week and see how it changes your life. Facebook can wait.

What to Read

Part of finding more time to read is actually looking forward to what you are reading. Here are some suggestions.

Read what you want to read instead of what you think you should read.  Didn’t read Plato in high school and think you should read it now?   This is your leisure reading – read whatever you want to read.  Pick up a graphic novel for Pete’s sake.  Really, Mrs. Finklegrumple from your childhood reading log days is not looking over your shoulder anymore. Likewise, if you’re reading something that is starting to feel like a high school assignment – Stop!  There are literally millions of books out there.  Pick up something else.  

Subscribe to interesting, physical magazines.  Why physical and not electronic?  Two reasons.  Physical magazines come to your mailbox with shiny covers that are more likely to draw you in.  Electronic magazines require you to go to your tablet or smartphone, which is full of other distractions more likely to draw you in.  Some physical magazines with good reading that I like include, the New Yorker, the Atlantic Wired, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Harpers, Scientific American, Popular Science, Discover,  and Vanity Fair.  

Pick up collections of short-stories.  Have a short attention span?  Want something that you can read from start to finish in one sitting, but not interested in magazines?  Check out the Best American Short Stories series.  These come out each year, and are a collection of short stories in different genres.  There is, of course, the Best American Short Stories, but there is also, the Best American Mystery Stories, the Best American Science Fiction Fantasy, the Best American Essays, the Best American Nonrequired Reading (now there’s an intriguing title), the Best American Sports Writing, the Best American Travel Writing, the Best American Science and Nature Writing, and the Best American Comics.  Really, there is something for everyone.  And if you want a little international fiction instead, you can pick something from Ann Morgan’s list.  She spent a year reading a book from every country in the world.  That should keep you busy.

How do you fit reading into your life, and what are your favorite book recommendations?

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