Essays

Ten Thoughts on Reading More

Why is there never enough of time?

Pocket-Watch-GraphicsFairy1

This week I had a wonderful opportunity to listen to a master teacher speak on the value of fairy tales and how they form the imagination. During his talk, he said something completely unrelated that made me pause.

“Two things happen to you when you turn fifty. The first is that you realize your life is more than half over. The second is you realize you will never read all the books you own.”*

My own birthday is quickly approaching, and while I am not even close to fifty, I do feel this growing sense of urgency. At night, I mull it over, when I should be sleeping. There are too many wonderful books on this planet and there is not enough time to read them all.

This realization can motivate me to read more, to trim my schedule, to pare away the unnecessary. Most of the time I just get overwhelmed, allow my emotions to fly out of hand, and decide ice cream will solve my woes. But in the spirit of motivation, I have gathered ten thoughts to encourage me to read more.

Thought #1 : Set a reachable goal.

Few of us can get anywhere without knowing where we want to be in the first place. Humans need goals, a “buck stops here,” a line-in-the-sand. I like to keep my goal simple; one book every thirty days. If I make that happen, I am on track. If I make that happen, I read at least twelve books a year.

Thought #2 : Get accountability.

When humans make changes to our habits, we need help. If old habits die hard, then new habits die easily. Enter accountability, stage right. A reading group, a discussion group, a book club; these all give us that push to keep towards the goal.

Thought #3 : Turn off the radio.

Listening to a book is reading. About two thirds of what I “read,” is done in the car because I live out of the powerhouse minivan. If you have a bit of a drive to work or traffic from the third circle of hell, then Audio books will change your reading life (Click here for my previous post exalting the game changing power of Audio books).

Thought #4 : Download an Audio Book App for your smartphone.

So you read thought #3, but your car has an audio jack? Say hello to Audio book apps. If you are poor like me, Audible isn’t an option. Local Libraries often have audio book apps that are free(mine is called One Click Digital), or check out LibriVox. They are a service of volunteer readers reading books in the public domain, and everything is 100% free.

Thought #5 : Track reading progress.

Progress trackers make accomplishments visual. Whenever I finish a book, I use Instagram or GoodReads to track and record my progress. This not only generates a heightened sense of accomplishment but also creates a digital map of what I have read and how long it took. At the end of the calendar year, the evidence of progress is empowering and encouraging.

Thought #6 : Carry a book in the purse/man bag/briefcase.

I hate bags but they don’t make pockets big enough for all the stuff I need  haul around. So long as I have a bag big enough for a book, there should be one in there. Having a “purse-book” that stays in the bag makes reading more accessible. I’m lazy, and the easier it is, the more likely I’ll do it.

Thought #7 : Make a reading space.

Do you have a reading throne? You should. In a small corner of my husband’s office is a brown lazy-boy from the 1950s. It’s quiet in there and comfy and I love it. It makes me want to read. When you find a place you like to read in, claim it.

Thought #8 : Put a book by the bed and read some of it every night.

Like the purse-book, the nightstand-book is a similar concept. Twenty minutes reading before bed and I crossed Dune off my TBR list.

Thought #9 : Read on a whim.

Humans do what they want. If you want to read War and Peace, go for it. But if you want to read The Hunger Games, go for that. Read what interests you. If you don’t like what you are reading, stop and try the next book. Alan Jacobs has a great little book called Reading for Pleasure in an Age of Distraction. I highly recommend it. He makes a convincing argument for reading on a whim.

Thought #10 : Read something different.

Discovery motivates us. It’s how the west was won. Humans are enticed by the unknown.  Even though Alan Jacobs gave me permission to read exactly what I want all the time in thought #9, I do try to read something outside my normal leanings. If I hadn’t, I would never have found Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings or Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Step outside the comfort zone and let a new book suck you in.

-rj

ps. Bonus thought!

Thought #11 Hide your iPhone.

Seriously. That thing will eat your soul. I hide mine in the mail sorter.


Master Teacher Andrew Paduwa, Fairy Tales and the Moral Imagination Sodalitas Gathering 2017, Louisville, Kentucky

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