Half of American adults read less than 5 books in the past year, according to the Pew Research Center. When it comes to literature, consumption has fallen to a 30 year low. The National Endowment for the Arts says only 43% of adults read even a single novel, story, poem, or play in 2015.
It seems there is an alignment between a decline in literary reading and an erosion in cultural and civic participation. This is sad. I think to-date I have read 20 books that fall into the category of literature. The National Endowment for the Arts defines literary reading like this – What is literary reading? The reading of novels, short stories, poetry, or drama in any print format, including the Internet. Any type was admitted, from romance novels to classical poetry.
I am not sure if this includes my spiritual reading or self-help reading based on this definition, but I think all reading is important. This would add another 26 books to my read list so far this year. Reading is so important and that is why I challenge myself to read 100 books a year for the last 4-5 years. I was amazed once I committed to this I started doing it consistently year after year. You can do this as well if you give it a try.
I also think it is great for people to go to art museums, concerts, and theater. This certainly make you more well rounded. I’d be curious if this data ties to being engaged and/or educated in politics. I also find this important, but today we’ve become so divided and so few turn up to vote, it makes me wonder if these things are connected at all.
Do you find that you want to read more, but one thing or another keeps getting in the way? If you’re going to boost your reading record, it’s important to do more than wait around for vacations or sick days to catch up. I’m a firm believer in habits and reading is one of the habits I highly recommend.
Want to step up your reading game? - Try following this recipe for consuming More Books.
Make Reading Interesting
1. Follow your passions
There are books on every subject. Start with something you love, whether it’s quantum physics or old movies. In all honesty I hated reading as a kid and young adult. It took me finding Charles Bukowski telling stories of drinking, smoking, betting on the horses, and fucking that I got turned on to reading around 24 years old. Them I read a lot of Beat Poets and/or books related to music or David Sedaris spinning humorous tails of life.
The point – this opened me opened me up to reading. I read a lot of pleasure books in my late 20s and into my 30s. I then transitioned or business books and personal development in my 30s and 40s. Then I dropped business reading and moved on to spiritual reading, political reading, biographies, race relations, as well as more personal development.
So the key is finding what you are interested in right now and just find one great book and one great author in that space. Before you know it you’ll be building a reading habit.
2. Expand your options
Are you feeling guilty about the bestseller that’s been sitting on your nightstand since last Christmas? Keep a variety of fresh reading material around to stimulate your curiosity.
I have about 6 books started right now. I am reading a book on history in the US and politics, 2 that are kind of daily spiritual books, 2 financial books, and 1 biography. So this keeps things related to my mood or current interest. This works for me. Try reading a few books at a time on different topics and maybe try some topics you might not typically be interested in to see where it takes you. I have had some friends pushing me a bit to explore poetry. This has not be easy to get into, but I like when I find a powerful poem that really resonates.
Stretch yourself a bit, my friends.
3. Know when to quit
If you’re bored with one title, move on. Stay engaged by reading only what you care about at the time. This greatly helps to build your habit.
Also, it is okay for a book to fall by the wayside or to just quit it all together if you do not like it. I struggled with the Malcom X autobiography. There were sections that just didn’t sit well. I recently finished it, but I started it last year. It is good to be challenged and stretched as I was with this book. It is also good to take your time, as long as needed, or as I mentioned above quitting to move on to a more fitting read.
Make Reading Social
1. Share lists
Does a local shop have a section for staff recommendations? Create your own suggestions to share with family and friends. You can also find lists online for the best books of the year or best books of a topic you like. Here are a few I like…
- Books We Love by NPR – this is based on year, but has many ways to sort books NPR recommends.
- Best Books on Buddhism – this is a huge list of 92 highly recommended books on Buddhism. I have read many on this list.
- Oprah’s Book Club – many of you are probably familiar with Oprah’s Book Club. This is a list of her top recommendations.
- The best books about music ever written – this is a list by Louder website.
- The Greatest Books of All Time – this is a list of the “best” literature books. There are so many good ones on here.
2. Lend and borrow
3. Post reviews
Sites like Amazon and Goodreads make it easy to voice your opinions about any author and their works. You may find that you read more carefully when you know you’re going to report on what you think.
4. Join a club
Reading doesn’t have to be solitary. Look on Meetup for a book club near you or start one of your own.
I tried starting a book club for several years. I didn’t ever have too much luck, but then I tried again early in the pandemic and have gotten a few people to join me. We’ve been running weekly for the last 2+ years now.
A year ago I wrote this article about our book club – ARE YOU AWARE OF THE HOPE & INSPIRATION BOOK CLUB? LIKE TO READ? LIKE BEING CHALLENGED? JOIN US! If you like what you see, join us!
I love reading together. I also belong to reading based Buddhist groups where I join other people to read related to one of my interests.
Make Reading Convenient
1. Fill in gaps
If it’s difficult to carve out a full free hour, read when you can. That could include the time you spend on hold or standing in line for groceries. So for me, I love having the Kindle, Apple Books, and Audible on my phone because now my library (or most of it) goes with me everywhere. I love listening to audiobooks in the car, while mowing (if ya got an electric mower it helps), at the doctor/dentist office or anywhere you wait.
Also check out Whisper Sync where Kindle and Audible work together to sync you to the place you are at in the book. So if you own both the kindle version and the audible version, when you listen (or read) to a certain part, when you open the other version it will ask if you would like to start where to left off in the other version.
Another tip – if you buy the Kindle version you can often pick up the audible version with the Kindle purchase at the same time for a very discounted rate. Sometimes the discount is less that the Audible version alone or close to it. It is a great hack and you might be surprised how much you use both if the books are personal development or something you might like to highlight and take notes about.
2. Carry supplies
Put a paperback or magazine in your tote bag, so you can take it along with you wherever you go, or keep your e-reader handy. Stash some books in your office, car, and kitchen. As I mentioned my phone has hundreds of books on and is in my pocket at all times.
3. Install shelves
4. Plan ahead
While it pays to incorporate reading into your daily routine, you can also take advantage of opportunities to dive deeper into great works. When you’re recovering from surgery or taking an international flight, you can use the time to brush up on Russian poetry or Greek art or whatever floats you boat.
5. Keep it brief
On the other hand, if you’re swamped, you can still squeeze in some essays and short stories. Do what works for you. I love books that are easily broken up into small chucks or even a book with a collection of short stories as they are usually easy to dig into the small bitesized nuggets of literature.
6. Choose your format
E-readers and traditional books both have their advocates. Experiment with whatever options are most comfortable for you. You may even find that you like both approaches, depending on the subject matter or time of day.
I honestly read mostly digital books, either Audible audiobooks or Kindle e-books. I will say however not all books are available on these platforms. All the popular stuff usually is, but my Buddhist reading often only comes in physical book form so sometimes the options will choose for you, but often you will have your choice in platform.
7. Renew your library card
How long has it been since you visited your local library? Unlike most hobbies, reading can be totally free of charge. I get a library card everywhere I live. I think it’s a great way to explore books you may not want to buy and find new topics/genres you might like to test drive and see how they feel with very little risk.
My oldest was so excited to get his own library card. Now when we go to the library he always wants to use his card with I think helps my kids enjoy reading and the library more.
Grow wiser and have fun by reading more books. Reading sharpens your thinking, reduces your stress levels, and helps you to feel more connected to the world around you. The next time you’re watching TV or checking your Facebook page, consider picking up a book instead.
Last night the Hope & Inspiration Book Club met and I was excited to hear a new member excited about what we have created and saw real potential in impacting communities and the world with both our reading and the book club community we are building. Another member who’s been a member for a while shared how they enjoyed that we choose different types of books and this makes things interesting.
If you’d like to join our book club just comment below and I’ll get you details or click the image to join the group on Facebook where we meet and share details. Our weekly meetings are on Zoom on Thursdays at 6:00 PM central time.
Want to read some other articles on reading and habits to improve your life? Here is a list…