Bella Ross

Atlanta based writer and dancer

How to Start Reading for Fun Again

“I used to read two or three books a week when I was younger, but now I never read at all.”  “I wish I could read more, but I don’t have time.”  “After all the reading I do for school, I don’t really want to read for fun.”  “I can’t stay focused on reading for more than a few minutes at a time.”

I’ve heard these statements a million times.  In fact, I’ve probably said some of them.  We all have excuses for why we don’t read anymore, but the truth is: reading for fun is hard as a modern adult.  We have busy lives, and when we’re constantly being inundated with entertainment, it can be difficult to put everything down and pick up a book.  I get it–we’re all used to watching Netflix, while eating chips, while scrolling through twitter, while holding seven different conversations.  When that’s our norm for entertainment, we don’t have the attention spans to read.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve started reading for fun regularly again. Here’s what I’ve learned:

You don’t need perfect reading conditions.

I’ve heard people say to me that they just don’t have time to sit down and read a book.  But these people somehow have time to binge-watch TV shows, feed their social media addictions, and hang out with friends.  It’s not that they don’t have time to read, it’s that they’re placing too much importance on their reading conditions.  You don’t need to be curled up in bed with a cup of tea, a cat, and incredible lighting to read.  You just need to read.

Read On-The-Go

Once I started reading wherever I was, rather than waiting for a perfect location, I started finishing one or two books a week. So read on the train. Read while waiting in line for coffee. Read when you’re waiting for your professor to start class. Read on the toilet. The point is: There is time to read, and it often lies in the small moments between larger tasks or activities. I know it doesn’t sound like the ideal reading experience, but it’s better than not reading at all.

Use iBooks or another eReader.

iPhones come with the iBooks app, so use it. Having a book on your phone helps with the above point, as it’s easier to carry around. Plus, if you’re an old gen-z/young millennial like me, you’re probably picking up your phone all the time anyway, so that will feel much more natural than lugging out a giant book. But now instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, you’ll be using your phone to read.

Read what YOU want to read.

Don’t read a book because you think it’s literary and high-brow.  Don’t read a book because you think it’s sophisticated and might make you seem smarter. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks you’re intellectual because you’re reading a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel if you’re not actually enjoying that novel.

It only matters that YOU enjoy whatever you’re reading.

Read books that engage you, books make you excited, and books that are impossible for you to put down.  Read what you love, not what critics or awards tell you that you should enjoy.  If you’re not into the book you’re currently reading, put it down.  There are no book police.  No one’s going to arrest you if you’re more into YA than literary fiction.  I promise you, no one cares that much.

Watch the Movie First

Okay, this might be controversial.  I know that you’re supposed to read the book before you watch the movie.  For that concern, see the above point–it doesn’t matter when you read the book.  This is about your enjoyment.

Watching the movie first might make you less critical of the movie, and more immersed in the book.

Whenever I watch a movie before I read the book, I enjoy both a lot better. While watching, I don’t have ideas in my head of what the characters should look like, and I don’t have any particular lines or scenes that I’m putting insane expectations onto.  And when I do read the book, I’m already invested.  I already know that the story is good.  I care about the characters from the beginning, because I can attach names to faces.  And everything that the movie cut out because they wanted to squeeze a 600-page-novel into a 90-minute movie?  That’s all new to me.  I’m not angry about all of the details from the book were left out, because I don’t know that those details exist yet.  But I’m certainly thrilled to have even more content when I do read the book.

Create a Goodreads account.

Goodreads is a social media website for reading. On Goodreads, you can connect with friends, see what they’ve been reading and what they think of it.  You can look up specific books and see what others think of them.  When you read a book, you can rate it and leave a review.  You can set yearly reading challenges for yourself, and make a list of books that you want to read. It’s a good way to organize what you want to read, and it’s super motivating.

Make Reading Social

Reading is normally a solitary experience, but Goodreads gives you a community.  If you’re like me, and you’re super opinionated about what you read, then you can share your opinion on Goodreads. Goodreads makes reading a part of what we desperately need: to scream into the void–ahem, share our thoughts–on the internet.

With these tips, I went from reading about one book a year to one a week. I hope that you find them as helpful as I did. Happy reading!

Bella Ross

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