Ever thought you should read more but can’t seem to get around to it?
Perhaps you think you haven’t got time for that sort of thing because, after all, it’s just entertainment, isn’t it?
The fact is that reading offers far more than entertainment.
We all know the benefits to our health of a good diet and exercise, but hardly any of us stop to consider the benefits of reading. And that’s a shame because there are so many.
Reading improves your focus, memory, ability to empathize, and communication skills, and has huge benefits for your mental health.
Not only that, it reduces our tendency to indulge in unhealthy behaviors such as binge-watching TV and spending endless hours scrolling the internet.
In fact, reading helps you live longer!
Most importantly, reading is enormous fun, and the more you do it, the more enjoyable it becomes.
So let’s get you started.
This is a video by English Literature University student Ruby Granger, who reads 150 books a year. Her video is hugely informative and inspirational. She breaks the topic down into five main areas –
How to get motivated to read
How to read consistently
How to access books cheaply
How to retain what you read
How to access classics
Ruby is a true lover of books and this is a perfect place to start if you’re looking for inspiration and practical advice about reading more.
In this article, Nancy Jo Sales writes in the Guardian newspaper about her attempt to read 50 books in a year.
Nancy was an avid reader until the number of books she read dwindled to almost nothing. She didn’t find it difficult to identify the cause of this: her tendency to be distracted, lacking focus, and addicted to her phone.
Here she describes how she significantly increased her reading over the course of a year, how this led to her spending less time on social media, and how subsequently she became happier and more fulfilled.
This is a useful list of tips to help you read more by entrepreneur and avid reader John Rampton.
The Pulitzer Prize for fiction reflects the highest standards in fiction writing in the US. The prize is awarded in twenty-one categories, fiction being just one of them. It was established in 1917 and has been awarded annually ever since.
This list, (and the previous ‘Best Novel’ list which ran from 1917 to 1947), sets out all the previous winners for fiction.
If you dig around on the Pulitzer website, you’ll also find lists of category winners for ‘Drama’, ‘History’, ‘Biography’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘General Non-Fiction’.
If you want to read some truly inspirational books, there’s no better place to start than the Pulitzer Prize.
Read More Classics
There’s a reason some books become classics. This is the finest literature in the world, written by the greatest minds in the world. Great works of classic literature have stood the test of time due to their unique wisdom, depth, quality and insight.
Literary classics aren’t always the easiest books to read, but their influence can be profound; they challenge your conceptions and can ultimately change your whole outlook on life.
So they’re well worth including on your list of books to read.
This is a list of one hundred literary classics compiled by Penguin books, as recommended by their readers.
Penguin Books is an old British publishing house with a reputation for publishing serious books. Have a browse through their website for even more inspiration.
If you want to read more of the classics but find them daunting, this app will serve you manageable bite-sized chunks.
There are more than 800 classics to choose from and all books are unabridged and free.
This is the opposite of speed reading. It forces you to slow down so you can work your way through otherwise challenging books.
The developer, Michael Schmitt, made the app to improve his reading habits. He felt that limiting himself to smaller chunks of dense literature helped him think more critically about the work and retain more of the story.
7. The Shakespeare Pro App
Ah Shakespeare! Everyone’s heard of him, but so few of us have got to grips with him.
But there must be something really special about this work for it to be so popular for over 400 years. Right?
Of course, watching a play is the best way to encounter Shakespeare. But reading and understanding the play first will give you the best experience.
And don’t forget the sonnets which have fascinated readers for centuries.
The Shakespeare app includes the complete works, with extensive notes to help you understand the often dense Elizabethan language. There’s a free and paid version of the app, the paid version offering more extensive features.
If you’ve tried and failed with Shakespeare before, this app could well offer you a way into his fascinating and beautiful world.
If you want to read more books, you’ll have to either allocate more time or read more quickly. You will naturally get faster the more you read, but there are specific techniques you can practice to speed up even more.
These little-known speed reading tips have been compiled by the influential lifestyle guru Tim Ferris. His article includes detailed written instructions and an explanatory video just to make things extra easy to understand.
You might not want to employ the techniques if you’re reading for relaxation and pleasure, but if you want to read a lot more books, this will definitely help. The techniques would be particularly useful if you’re studying.
Leon Ho from the popular website Lifehacks has compiled another list of speed reading tips. These are slightly different to those of Tim Ferris, but equally useful.
One trick to increase your reading speed is to stop your inner monologue. Many of us speak the words in our minds as we read, which can significantly slow the reading process.
When used selectively, music can help to stop that inner monologue and enhance our focus and concentration.
These twenty Spotify Playlists have been compiled exactly for that purpose.
Find Cheap and Free Books
Project Gutenberg is an online library of free ebooks. The current collection includes over 60,000 free books, digitized and archived by volunteers. Their mission is to encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.
The archive includes a large and diverse array of classics which are available in plain text, and other formats such as HTML, PDF, EPUB, and MOBI.
Leo Babauta, writing on his popular ‘Zen Habits’ blog, can generally be relied upon to provide useful and accurate information.
Here he provides an extensive list of resources for book swapping and sources of free and cheap books.
Use Tools, Apps and Readers’ Websites
Everyone’s heard of Goodreads. It’s the world’s largest site for finding and sharing book recommendations. But did you know there are now many excellent alternatives to Goodreads, each offering a slightly different user experience?
This article provides a list of 12 of the best alternatives.
In-person book clubs may be the best option for many readers, but if that’s not practical or attractive for you, an online book club might be the perfect alternative.
Book clubs meet together to discuss books based on an agreed reading list. They’re a great way to meet like-minded people and discover alternative insights on the books you read.
This article is published on the Reedsy website, which is primarily a website for writers. However, in the ‘Discovery’ section, there are some interesting book recommendations and information for readers. So it’s well worth exploring, especially if you’re interested in Indie books and up-and-coming authors.
Tracking your reading habits is fun and motivating, and this is why many readers use apps.
But if you want a simple, free alternative to apps, these book- tracking spreadsheets may be the ideal solution. You can adapt any of these sheets for your own needs, making them as complex or simple as you like.
Are You Fired Up and Ready to Go?
So now you have a ton of resources to inspire you, to help you find free and cheap books, share book recommendations, and track your reading habit.
That’s enough to keep you going for a lifetime of reading.
So make a promise to yourself to develop a reading habit, and start to experience the pure joy of curling up with a good book. Think of it as an act of self-care, a supremely healthy habit like regular exercise, that you need to do to keep yourself happy and healthy.
If you’re unsure where to start, I highly recommend starting with Ruby Granger’s video, just so you can catch some of her pure enthusiasm. So give it a watch, stock up with a pile of cheap books, and get reading.
I promise you’ll never regret it.