“How do I build a steady reading habit?” asks redditor 6hlooo on r/TrueAskReddit. “I was always the kind of person to read a book and stop reading after a few pages. I know what the benefits of reading are, but I just can’t seem to motivate myself to read consistently. What do I do?”
Redditors answer with great tips for getting into the habit. The secret is in letting yourself read what you like, and taking practical steps to make it easy to pick up a book. Out of 60+ comments, here are the very best.
Follow your pleasure
If you want to read more for the sake of reading, then start out with the stuff that gives you the most immediate pleasure. You have to get into the habit of reading before you can challenge yourself further.
“Read short story compilations!” says u/DeeplyMoisturising. “Like you, I can’t commit to novels. Short story comps though, I would read one story in one sitting and before I even realise it I’ve finished the book.”
On the other end, u/kikellea sticks to fiction series. “I can’t do short stories, and one-off books usually make me disappointed that they’re over so quickly.”
Recognise everything that makes a book appealing to you: Its length, its setting, its sense of humour. (I’ve recently realised that I have a hard time plodding through a book that never once lightens up. Some of the greatest tragedies have a sense of humour.)
You don’t have to stretch beyond your favourite genres and styles yet. “Re-read books you love to help build the habit,” suggests u/_rfm. But at some point, you might feel hungry for a change.
It’s hard to predict which books you’ll like. But your best bet is to start with your favourite books, and find something similar. Use Goodreads, says u/r_sails. “Look up a book you enjoyed and find some other books related to it: in a list it’s featured in, or in a recommendations list.”
On Goodreads, don’t judge books by the star rating but by what people say in their reviews. I’ve found some great books by reading one-star reviews — people who hated Asimov’s clipped style, or Umberto Eco’s obscure references. These reviews are doing a legit service!
Some people know how to quit a book as soon as they stop liking it. But many of us feel some sort of completist pressure to stick with every book we start, even when reading for pleasure. We struggle through stuff we don't actually like, and so we're less likely to pick up the book and more likely to pick up our phone. We start reading less.
If you’re hating a book, go ahead and ditch it. But if you think you’re just too easily bored, build up a little endurance. Set yourself a minimum to read, like one chapter, 30 pages, or four sittings.
“A lot of books are quite boring in the first few pages or even chapters,” says u/tuenap. “Sometimes it’s because it needs to introduce characters, etc. to build up the plot. You have to plow through to get to the good parts.” If the book is so bad that you’re skipping your scheduled reading time, put it down and try a new one.
Carve out some time
Yep, “scheduled reading time.” In crude terms, reading more books is about spending more time reading books. You need to pick up a book more often, and keep reading longer. (Speed reading is terrible for pleasure reading.) Here’s how to actually spend more time reading.
First set a goal. A very tiny goal, one you’ve reached before without trying, but this time a goal you need to reach every day. u/Xosomeblonde suggests just ten minutes or pages. u/Placeholder2169 set a goal of five pages a day — which would net them about six books a year — but they usually blew past those five and kept on reading.
“Set an alarm on your phone every day when you know you’ll have 15-20 minutes to sit and read,” says u/fallenwater. “Set a timer when you start, and continue reading until the timer goes off.” The timer lets you stop considering distractions.
Is it time to pick up your phone or go wash a dish? Nope, your brain just got bored for a few seconds, and it will quiet down when you renew your attention to your book. Nothing else gets done until the timer ends. (You may, of course, keep reading when the timer ends.)
“If you’re competitive, then set yourself against your past self,” says u/xosomeblonde. “Or make up a reward system! For every page past my previous record, I’ll get to watch ten minutes of my favourite show.”
Load up on books
When you finish a book or just get bored of it, you should have another book ready to take its place. You could stock up on cheap paperbacks, subscribe to Goodreads sale alerts, borrow stacks at a time from the library, or grab free public domain ebooks on Standard eBooks.
But one of the best methods is to stock up on library ebooks. “Get the Libby app for your phone,” says u/ __stare. Libby is a slick app for checking out library ebooks without going to the library. The app has its own decent ebook reader, but it also lets you open some ebooks in Kindle.
(I had to do this when Libby screwed up the footnotes on a Terry Pratchett novel. Pratchett fans know you gotta read the footnotes.)
Read books in whatever format feels best. “I found myself far more receptive to some non-fiction books in audio form,” says u/CarlJibbs, “while most fiction books I prefer to read via paper or Kindle.” Many library systems offer all of these formats.
Replace social media
“The thing that always helps me a lot is to take a social media break,” says u/Tzipity. On your phone, move your ebook app to where you used to put your social media app, says u/__stare. “Now when you’re waiting in line and need to kill some time, instead of popping into Reddit you’ll pop into a book.”
If you’re still scrolling over to your Reddit and Twitter apps, then try deleting them altogether, just while you build your book habit.
“Remember that every story you read through will be so much more fulfilling than a bunch of bite sized drama on reddit, and every subject you read a book on you’ll learn so much more than looking at Wikipedia articles,” says u/placeholder2169.
Of course, if a book gets repetitive and you really would rather polish off a subject with one article, that’s not inherently bad. A lot of non-fiction books are just padded-out articles, and you can find a New Yorker long-read that covers all the points intelligently! But you’re not allowed to read articles in your designated book time. You have to move onto another book.