In today’s fast-paced world, finding the time to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading can be tricky. But it’s a great tool for success and can even boost our overall health and wellbeing.
Non-fiction books can unlock useful knowledge to help us do better in our personal and professional lives, while fiction can provide much-needed escapism and stress relief.
So whether you’re a bookworm who simply can’t find the time, or you’re looking to develop a love for reading, check out the 15 tips below to help you read more.
1. Start by reading whatever interests you
Reading is often seen as an intellectual activity, which can lead us to reach for brainy non-fiction titles or Booker Prize-winning novels when we’re trying to read more. But these types of books can often be challenging, especially if you’re not in the habit of reading frequently.
It’s true that some genres are more beneficial in certain ways than others – for example, research has found that reading literary fiction can improve empathy skills more than popular fiction. But any reading can boost our brain health and vocabulary, so you don’t need to attempt the most intellectual books around to reap the benefits.
In his book, Atomic Habits, productivity expert James Clear explains that two of the best ways to form a new habit are to make it easy and attractive. You can follow both of these rules by choosing a genre you know you enjoy – from trashy rom-coms to obscure sci-fi. Then, once you form the habit, you can move on to more ‘difficult’ books if you want to.
2. Experiment with new authors, genres, and forms
This may sound counterintuitive to our first tip, but reading widely and experimenting with new authors, genres, and forms can help us find new types of books we didn’t know we loved. So once you feel relatively established in your routine, you could try branching out. By discovering new literary obsessions, you’ll constantly be renewing your motivation to read.
For inspiration, you can head over to our website’s books and literature section. If you’ve only ever read long-form books, why not check out our list of some of the best short stories available online for free? Or, check out these compelling autobiographies.
3. Give audiobooks a try
Listening to audiobooks is one of the most effective ways to up your book intake. You can listen to them whilst you do other activities (like working out or taking the dog for a walk) and when you might not want to focus your eyes on a book – for example, when you’re tired.
Ever since I signed up for my Audible subscription a few years ago, I’ve doubled my book intake! I listen to them while I fall asleep (many audiobook apps have a sleep timer) and when I’m grocery shopping.
Although audiobooks have been around for a while, many people still think of them as ‘cheating’. However, research has shown that there’s little difference in the way we comprehend audiobooks and regular ones. Plus, because you can listen to them in situations where you can’t read anyway, you could think of them as a bonus!
4. Create an environment that encourages reading
Another of James Clear’s laws for creating good habits is to ‘make it obvious’. Speaking about this rule, he tells us that “motivation is overrated” and that “environment often matters more”.
What Clear means is that we can have the best intentions to form a new reading habit, but if our environment discourages us from picking up a book, we’ll constantly be fighting an uphill battle. So try to shape your environment to encourage you to read.
This can be as simple as keeping a book on your pillow so that you have to pick it up before bed or moving your bookcase to a more prominent place in your house. If our books are constantly visible, we’re more likely to read them.
You can also consider how your environment can help limit distractions. For example, if the temptation to watch TV always gets in the way of your reading time, why not put the remote away in a cupboard when you aren’t using it? Often, out of sight really does mean out of mind.
5. Set yourself attainable reading goals
Another mistake people often make when trying to build a regular reading habit is doing too much too soon. While being ambitious is a good thing, chasing unrealistic goals can set us up for failure, ultimately discouraging us from the task altogether.
So why not set a daily reading goal of 20 pages, which takes the average reader around half an hour? If you keep that up, you’ll read a 300-page novel every 15 days and over 24 books a year!
6. Read every day
People like to say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but research shows that it can actually take anywhere from 18-254 days.
But one thing we do know for sure is that a behaviour will eventually become habitual if you repeat it enough times. So, if you want to make reading part of your daily life, try to do it every day, even if it’s just a page or two.
With that said, the study mentioned above found that when participants missed one day, their habit-forming progress wasn’t affected. So if you forget or life gets in the way (as it inevitably will) try not to be hard on yourself. Instead, just get back on the horse the next day!
Trying to get your reading done at the same time and in the same place each day can also help – for example, in bed before you go to sleep. Eventually, whenever you realise it’s that time or you enter that environment, you’ll automatically go to pick up your book.
7. Try habit stacking
If you struggle to make reading a part of your daily routine, why not try habit stacking? Coined by writer S.J. Scott, habit stacking is a technique that pairs desired habits with established ones.
First, try to identify some behaviours you do every day without fail. For many people, these include brushing their teeth, showering, brewing their morning coffee, etc. Then, pick one of these that you can ‘stack’ your desired reading habit on top of. For example, try reading your book whenever you brew your coffee in the morning.
Habit stacking effectively works by piggybacking on our existing habits. By linking a new behaviour to one that we perform automatically, we make it more likely that we’ll continue to do it.
8. Join a book club
It’s easier to break a promise to ourselves than to others. So once we’ve set our reading goals, one of the best ways to stick to them is to make ourselves accountable to someone else.
One simple way to do this is by asking someone you see regularly to check in, to see if you’ve been keeping up with your commitment. However, if you’re looking for something with some extra benefits – such as the chance to discuss books with fellow readers and discover new titles – you could consider joining a book club.
A book club is a reading group that meets (usually monthly) to discuss an assigned book. It’s an excellent opportunity to delve deeper into a text and will motivate you to finish at least one book a month. We run a few engaging and lively book clubs on Rest Less Events that focus on novels, children’s literature, and short stories.
9. Track your reading progress
Tracking your progress is one of the most helpful things you can do when forming a new habit. Looking back on what you’ve accomplished, and the rewarding feeling of logging another day on your tracker, are powerful motivators – and it’s no different when it comes to reading.
There are plenty of ways to track your reading progress. You can simply keep a document on your phone or computer with all the titles you’ve read this year, or you can use popular book-tracking services like Goodreads and Book Breeze.
Goodreads is the most popular website/app for readers. Not only can it help you track what books you’ve read, are currently reading, and want to read, but it’s also a social community where you can get book recommendations and have literary discussions.
Book Breeze, on the other hand, is more focused on tracking. It’ll help you set reading goals and measure your progress down to the page.
10. Participate in a reading challenge
Reading challenges are exactly what they sound like. They ask participants to try and read a certain number of books in a specific time period. Some are themed – for example, this romance reading challenge – while others encourage you to read widely by following a series of prompts.
The 52 Book Club’s annual reading challenges are popular. They involve a series of 52 different ideas, such as ‘a book with a subtitle’ or ‘a book featuring an inheritance’.
If you want to increase your page count, reading 52 books in a year may be a little ambitious. However, why not see how many you can get through and try beating your score next year?
Or you could try setting yourself a reading challenge. This list from publisher Penguin has some interesting ideas.
11. Sign up for a book subscription box
Whether you’re manic about makeup or crazy for coffee, there seems to be a monthly subscription box for everybody these days – and it’s no different for bookworms.
Signing up for a monthly book subscription box can be a great way to get acquainted with a wide range of new authors, forms, and genres. Plus, having a title or two delivered automatically to your door each month takes all the effort and procrastination out of finding your next read. So all you have to do is open it!
There are plenty of subscription boxes to choose from based on your individual tastes. Two popular ones are The Book & Beer Club’s subscription, which combines UK craft beer with crime and mystery novels, and The Hand Me Down Book Club box, which redistributes pre-loved novels.
12. Use your local library
The cost of books nowadays is enough to put many people off reading. In fact, the average price of a paperback is now over £10. So it’s worth looking into ways to get a hold of reads for free.
One of the best ways to do this remains signing up and borrowing books from your local library. Plus, by loaning books, you set a deadline for yourself, which can give you a sense of urgency, motivating you to read books more quickly.
To learn about your local library services, head over to the UK Government website.
13. Find ways to try before you buy
Choosing your next read can be tricky with all the titles on offer. Plus, the sky-high price of books can put a fair bit of pressure on us to make the right decision, which can lure us into analysis paralysis. The thought of spending money on something we aren’t sure we’re going to enjoy can put us off altogether.
But there are a variety of clever ways to get a taste of books before buying them. Firstly, Amazon offers lengthy samples of their Kindle versions that you can read for free before committing (for example, you can read the first few chapters of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty here).
If you’re shopping for audiobooks, Audible also has samples of their titles. Sampling audiobooks is especially important, as you can see if you like both the author’s writing and the reader’s performance.
14. Try not to feel guilty about giving up on a book
Reading is good for our physical and mental health. It can also give us valuable knowledge to boost our careers and improve our interpersonal relationships. But above all, it should be enjoyable. So, if you don’t like a book, it’s worth moving on to something else.
There’s a funny stigma around reading. Many of us believe that we need to force our way to the end of every book we start – regardless of whether or not we’re enjoying it. But this can actually lead to us reading less: unable to grit our teeth and plough through to the end of something boring, we might give up on the habit of reading altogether.
Plus, reading is something we choose to do in our spare time, so there’s no point in spending time on something that doesn’t give pleasure. Instead, why not aim to read just 100 pages of each book you pick up? If you aren’t feeling it by then, you could try moving on to something else – and you can always return to it later.
15. Take a book everywhere you go
Having a spare few hours to curl up on the sofa each day and lose yourself in a good book is every reader’s dream. But, often, life doesn’t work like that, and our downtime comes in little dribs and drabs – for example, 20 minutes on the train to work or five minutes in the car while you’re waiting to pick up your grandkids.
With this in mind, try making sure you take a book with you wherever you go – to make the most of these precious moments.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to have a selection of books on the go at any one time and keep them in different locations. I usually have a book in my workbag, a small one that I can fit inside my jacket pocket, and one on my bedside table. So, no matter where I am, I can steal a quick reading session.
In a world filled with distractions, it’s easy to bump reading time to the bottom of our priorities list. But the rewards of building a regular reading habit are powerful, so why not start by trying a few of the tips on this list?
From setting yourself a reading challenge to listening to audiobooks as you go about your daily activities, it doesn’t matter how you get your reading done! What matters is that you go easy on yourself as you try to build your new habit. Try not to worry if you miss a day or want to give up on a book – reading should be pleasurable above all else!
For some inspiration for your next read, check out the books and literature section of our website.
Are you a regular reader? If so, do you have any tips to get more reading done? We’d love to hear from you in the comment below.