I’ve been asked a couple of times recently about how I manage to fit so much reading into my schedule, which admittedly is quite busy. I probably average around 25 books a year, and though I know plenty of people who read a lot more than that, I know that to some people 25 is a huge number. Especially when you consider other commitments – work, children etc. I went through a real reading slump in 2015, and though I was pretty upset by it, it actually took quite an effort to pull myself out of it, even though I really wanted to. So I’ve been thinking about what I do now to keep my reading time on an even keel. This isn’t a post about making time, but about how to get back into reading. I don’t think I can help anyone find time – everyone’s lives are different and to be honest I don’t really know how I find time myself.
- Make a TBR
TBR = To Be Read. Perhaps you’ve got a huge pile of books that have been sitting there for weeks/months/years and you don’t know where to start, or perhaps you don’t have any at all and can’t work out how to choose a new read. I was probably in the former category, and it was difficult to envisage how I would go about having read virtually nothing for over a year to completing the huge stack before me. So I picked 5 and put them in order, and worked my way through, ignoring the rest.
I found that the key to this is research. Before I started reading, I made time to research into different authors and titles, reading reviews and really understanding if the books in question would be something I would enjoy. It helped me work out where to start, and also understand which ones might be more of a difficult read, which wouldn’t really help me much when trying to get back into reading. I wanted something that flowed quite easily, without millions of characters names to remember.
The research also helped to discard some books that it was unlikely I’d ever read. There can be a similar problem with making TBR lists on apps/websites like Goodreads or Litsy, where it’s so easy to add a title that you think you might be vaguely interested in – I realised I had over 100 books that had been sitting on my virtual list for years in some cases.
A TBR doesn’t have to be stuck to rigidly though. It just helps if you’re struggling with where to start, or where to go next. Don’t ignore a book that might come your way unexpectedly. And making it fun or unusual helps too – for 2017 I have made an A-Z list of 26 books, one for each letter of the alphabet.
- Find a Good Series
The thing that really helped me get back into reading was finding a good series. Before I knew it, I’d read 3 books in a couple of months and suddenly thought OK, I can do this. They weren’t difficult books to read, I’ll admit, and they probably aren’t going to win the Man Booker, but that was what made it work. From there, the reading began to flow.
Again, research into series helps. I look at reviews on places like Goodreads, and try and pick ones where the average star rating is consistent across all the titles. Often I find if a series has bad reviews for book one, and better reviews for the sequels, I’m probably not going to like it, even though it would appear that the series improves over time.
- Separate the Similar
Most people have a certain style of book that they are drawn to – a particular theme or genre that gets them hooked. Now that I’ve got back on track with reading, and I’m getting through more books in a shorter space of time, I’ve realised that it can be a problem if I read one book after another that is too similar. Reading a series of books one after the next is one thing, but two different books that have similar settings/themes/characters can get confusing I find! It sounds obvious, but I try and read something a bit different in between two similar books. It helps me to not get stuck in a rut or get sick of reading the same thing.
- Give up if Necessary…
Don’t be afraid to put a book down if you’re not enjoying it. You might pick it up again, you might not. It doesn’t matter. But spending three months reading a page a week is no good if you’re trying to motivate yourself to read more. I used to hate giving up on books, and would persevere to the bitter end. But time is too precious, and there are so many good books out there. And if you’re trying to get out of a reading slump, the last thing you need is to spend ages reading something that doesn’t interest you.
- …But don’t stop
If you give up on a book, pick up something else straight away. Don’t wait. And when you finish a book, don’t wait too long before picking up the next. I find I need to keep the momentum going, and the TBR is good for making sure that you always have another title lined up, or at least a few to choose from. Falling back into that reading slump is just too easy.
One last thing – I know I mentioned at the beginning of this post how many books I read in a year on average, but I don’t think anyone should be bothered about how many books they manage to read in a certain amount of time. I wrote a post in February about some people feeling that yearly Reading Challenges on websites like Goodreads are a negative thing, as you could end up feeling disheartened if you don’t hit your total by the end of the year. I like setting a target, but it’s just for fun. In the end, just read what you like, as often as you can.