Ask LH: How Can I Learn To Enjoy Reading?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm sure I would like to read. In fact, I know I would, but I never quite seem to get to a point where I sit down and start reading a book. It feels a lot like cleaning the house: I know that I'll enjoy having accomplished it and will gain something from it (sanitary living conditions for cleaning, ideas experiences from books.) I probably won't even particularly mind doing it at the time. The problem is, I just can't quite get started. What would you recommend? Thanks, Ennui

Photo by Chillihead

Dear Ennui

There's a number of different ways to approach this problem. To kick things off, though, congratulations. You're reading this. Yes, it's not War and Peace, but then I get the feeling you're potentially more interested in non-fiction ideas and experiences than in a stirring drama detailing the effects of the Napoleonic war on Russia. It still counts if you're reading, no matter whether it's a screen or a physical page — at least in my estimation. I truly love reading, and spend a huge quantity of my time doing so; I've been known to read every prescription pad in my GP's surgery just to pass the time — although he's rather taken aback when I ask him about them...

Still, there are obvious time and personal management strategies that go into play here, and the first and most obvious is to make time for reading specifically. Set a calendar appointment for yourself, using whatever you've got to hand; if it's a smartphone, get Google to hassle you with an emailed reminder and screen alarm if that helps. Humans are creatures of habit, and if you make it a regular scheduled activity, you're more likely to stick with it.

If your budget permits, buy yourself an e-reader (or just a new book) — the appeal of the "new toy" might just hook you in long enough to get reading into your regular schedule.

It's also a good idea to separate yourself away from other distractions, whether that's reading away from the TV or whatever else is taking up your time. I'm thankful that we still have public libraries; there's nothing stopping you taking your own reading material (within the obvious boundaries of taste) into the library and reading in their quiet spaces. Ditto for public parks, but watch out for the local wildlife. Paper pages and pigeon droppings don't mix well. I tend to escape to my bedroom for quiet peaceful reading time apart from my kids, for what it's worth.

But speaking of kids, I put this question to my lovely wife, who, amongst other things, is a fully trained early childhood teacher. Early childhood is when most of us learn to read and learn to engage with reading, and she passed on these three tips:

  • Find something you're interested in. The best way to get a child engaged in reading is to find something they're interested in — and we're not that different as adults!

  • Read before bed — children get this instilled in them via bedtime stories, but it's a good way to wind down. (this ties in with what we've seen regarding studying before bed — but best not to do it on an electronic screen in this case)

  • Use the Goldilocks principle when choosing your reading material. Not too easy, not too hard: Just right. Also, avoid being eaten alive by bears, because that will mess with your reading schedule.

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


    Apart from getting reading material you are interested in. Get an E-Reader, it's the best advice from my experience.

    I struggled to read anything in book form as it felt like a hassle more than anything, Then I bought myself a Kindle and now I'm reading almost every night before I go to sleep.

    What guarantee do we have than Ennui will be bothered reading this reply?

    'reading what you're interested in' is the most important point, nobody wants to slog through 300 pages of boring text because you might get a couple of decent ideas out of it.

    I knew a girl who was fine with reading - she'd go through long newspaper and magazine articles just fine - but she didn't like reading books. We tried her on a bunch of generally popular works and things we thought she'd like (harry potter, some health related stuff, dan brown, etc) but nothing clicked. Then we finally hit jackpot: true crime books. She'll happily read through a whole book now, after not finishing one in her life before.

    Some quick and possibly useless tips:

    -somewhere quiet to read is essential. Don't try it in a room with the TV on or next to your computer, you'll just get distracted. Leave your phone in the next room at first.
    -Don't be afraid to give up on a book. if you're a few chapters in and it's not working for you, It probably never will. It may feel like quitting but it's just good use of your time.
    -Don't read purely to improve yourself. Try to read some things just for fun, with no agenda.
    -E-readers are great, but you can still cope fine with library books for a lower initial investment.
    -When you find some books you enjoyed, plug them into something like goodreads. It's pretty good at recommending new stuff based on your tastes.
    -As for what to read? I'd look at what you like watching on TV. If you like fantasy, try reading some fantasy. if you like action/drama, try some thrillers. If you like reality tv, I guess the equivalent is 'true story' style books or biographies?

    Myself, I can't read fiction. I love TV & movies comedy & dramas, but in book form I can't get into it at all. But I read a lot of non-fiction books - mainly biographies (sporting & political mainly), and sociology/political books. Not reference books, but books written by someone with their own ideas.

    Still attempting to finish War and Peace.... 1/2 way through :(

    Another good idea would be to have friends/family/coworkers who also read. Having just read a book and being able to discuss it, would make it more social and more fun and motivating. And get recommendations from these friends who share similar interests.

    I like to read a lot, although I'm a very slow reader. I blame this on English being my second language... I read both non-fiction and fiction. And try to mix up genres and authors to broaden my horizons.

    I think aliteracy in Australia is very high, compared to other countries and at least this person is trying to make the effort,

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now