Reading is a habit that needs to be cherished and cultivated. During my teen years, I always had my nose in a book. Unfortunately, I reached a point around there year 2000 where I couldn't remember the last time I had read a book from cover to cover. That was the catalyst for me to rekindle my love of reading and make it habit once again. I came up with some guidelines to keep in mind that I'd like to share. Hopefully, this will be food for thought for others and encourage you to read more.
Keep Track of Progress
Stay motivated by keeping track of your progress. I started with a spreadsheet and eventually migrated to a web site. Google docs works great for building a spreadsheet. The fields that I used in my spreadsheet were: Title, Author, Genre, Format (paperback, hardback, ebook, audio), Year read, Series, Notes.
Goodreads is a good choice since you can track what you read and get recommendations for future reads.
Making a wish list is also a good idea. Whenever a friend recommends a book or you run across a book that sounds interesting, add it to your wish list. In addition, doing internet searches for things like "best classic novels" or "top 10 science fiction books" is a great way to discover things to add to the wish list.
The goal is to maintain the habit of reading. The best way to do that is to have a book in the pipeline continuously. Throw in a lot of genres and authors that you really enjoy reading.
The problem is that if you have long breaks between books it becomes hard to start up again. There are many distractions out there such as TV series, movies, gaming, Facebook and other web surfing. It is easy to get caught up in those things and the time that could of been spent reading is gone.
The solution is to plan ahead for the next book you will read. For audiobooks, download your next book onto your player, of if its CDs, place them in your car or whereever you listen to books.
For physical books, I choose the next book from my bookshelf and place it on my nightstand. eBooks can be tough to choose since there are several hundred on my reader. One trick I use on the Nook Color is to take the next book and drop it on the home screen. This way, I see it each time I turn on the Nook.
Since I read physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks I typically have a book going in each format. You may think it is hard to keep the storylines apart, but it isn't too bad. Just having different formats helps keep the stories separate. Also, having a variety of genres and authors helps a lot. If you had three Agatha Christie mysteries going at the same time, that would be confusing. But, if one is a mystery, another sci-fi, and the third is a classic, it's much easier to wrap the old brain around them.
I love Sci-Fi. At one point, that was almost all I read. One way to create a challenge is to read more from other genres.
- Classics: well they are "classics". These stories have stood the test of time. The stories they tell also are bigger than the era in which they were written. They influence later authors. Classics are a great way to broaden your reading and also challenge your vocabulary.
- Inspirational and self-help: I try to throw in books that serve to inspire and motivate me. Material that causes me to think and helps me become a better person.
- Non-Fiction, biographies: Expand your general knowledge. I find it interesting to read biographies of those involved in a particular time and place. For example, one of my goals is to read stories about the "founding fathers" of the United States. Reading stories of George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin gives an interesting perspective because you see connections between the people involved, their friendships and rivalries, how they were different and united.
Don't think that you are obligated to read a bunch of heavy hitting books. The point of reading is to enjoy it. If you don't enjoy a book like Anna Karenina, set it aside. I put off reading Moby Dick for a long time. When I finally did read it, I appreciated it more than if I had slogged through it at a younger age.
Limit Research until the book is Read
It is good to find new books to read and have some idea as to what the book is about. But, I don't want to know too much about it beforehand. I'm not one of these people that reads the last chapter first. I also avoid reading Wikipedia articles about a book since they usually include a plot summary and character descriptions. I prefer to read the book first. If it sparks my interest, then go read reviews and find out more about the author.
I rarely spend a lot of money for books. Having a broad genre, diversified reading list makes it easier to find inexpensive reading materials. Here are some of my favorites for finding reading materials.
- Local Library web site: Many library web sites support Overdrive media (among other) services that allows downloading of audio and electronic books. In addition, many libraries have book sales where you can pick up an armload of books cheaply.
- Librivox: Check out Librivox for out of copyright books read by volunteers. Some readers are better than others, but it is a great site.
- Gutenburg: Project Gutenburg is one of the original sites for classic books. They usually have a variety of formats available.
- Baen Free Library: Baen books has a free library of downloadable science fiction ebooks.
- Barnes and Noble Free Fridays: Set a reminder to check on the free ebook each Friday. Not all of them are keepers, but some have been good.
- Garage Sales: What's a garage sale without a few cheap books.
- Standard Ebooks: Their motto is "Free and liberated ebooks, carefully produced for the true book lover." This site takes classic books and does additional proof-reading and formatting to make them pleasant to read on your ebook reader.
- Internet Archive: A treasure trove of books and magazines (Search for IF or Galaxy magazine for some great old Sci-Fi)
There are other sites where free / cheap books are available, but these just happen the be the ones I've used most frequently. In putting this article together, I ran encountered another site: Open Library that looks very interesting.
Give books away
Do you really need shelves and shelves of books around the house? Why not give them away?
There are only a few books that I read more than once. These favorites I keep. Also, reference books of various kinds are keepers. You don't really read them, but they are handy for looking up information. Everything else is fair game to get rid of.
I have sold books in the past to stores that give you credit towards other books, but the amount recieved wasn't really worth the effort. Instead, I tend to just give them away or donate them to book drives. Setting up a free library bookshelf at work or some other location is a great way to get rid of books you have read and maybe even pick up a few new ones.
Since I wrote this article back in 2014, I have found there is a "Little Free Library" movement, which sets up book sharing locations.
Read Your Favorites Again
As you read, you will find some books that inspire or speak to you in some way. Don't be afraid to go back and re-read them again. Many times you will find additional insights when you revisit an old friend.