I used to read a lot. I mean constantly. I grew up in a house without cell phone service and all the computers were in public areas. In order to spend quiet time alone, I had to read in my bedroom. I remember my mother banning me from reading when I was enthralled with the Inkheart series as a kid because I was foregoing household responsibilities to read. Now that I work and I am a student, I find it difficult to read for pleasure as often as I used to. I had to ask myself why I don’t read more? Why was it so hard for me to pick up a book and just read it? In my quest to read more books and to read more often, I came to a few realizations: I had become a book collector, not a reader; I was caught up in what I “Should be reading” and not what I wanted to read; and I was comparing what I was reading to what everyone else was reading. After reflecting on these three things, I learned a few things about how to read more books, and how to read more often. I have read more in the last few months than I had in years.
Reading is a fantastic way to learn, increase your vocabulary, gain more perspectives, keep the mind young, and it’s downright relaxing and entertaining. I was caught up in how successful people take time to read and how many if not all good authors read a lot to learn more about writing. What I had forgotten was the nostalgic feelings I get when I curl up with a book to read with the intention to finish it in one or a few sittings. I used to love to read and I feel guilty for not reading more and reading more often. So why was I not reading more often? Especially if I loved it as much as I thought I did.
Why didn’t I read more?
I became a book collector, not a reader.
I had convinced myself at one point that future Brette had an extensive personal library at her disposal where she would collect all the books she had ever read and books she was going to read. After I started moving towards a minimalist lifestyle, I realized, in my already relatively large book collection, there were so many books I had yet to read and probably never would read. Future Brette had changed, yet I was still moving towards what I used to want, not what I want now. I was collecting books for the sake of having books. I was buying a new book or three every time I went to the thrift store and telling myself I “would read it one day.” I had a massive Amazon wish list for books and was purchasing books like crazy. The hard truth is that I was lying to myself. I was never going to read those “literary classics” that everyone is supposed to read but are actually god awful. But they littered my shelves. I had books that were completely out of my interests that I thought I would suddenly become the kind of person who enjoyed those books if I owned them.
I got rid of the books I was never going to read and vowed to only purchase a book with the intent to read it immediately. With my now two shelf library, I only kept the books that I have read multiple times and would read again and again. The books I haven’t read yet are small in numbers (a total of four). Yet, this change also posed a problem. I was not willing to purchase new books anymore. No new books= I’m not reading.
Some time after, I began watching a lot of minimalism YouTube videos and reading blogs by minimalists. Someone mentioned that I could read more books without buying more books by using, wait for it…the public library!
Local, public or county libraries have print books, ebooks, movies, magazines, internet access, and many more resources for FREE! (unless you pay taxes, and if you do pay taxes, you should definitely be using your library)
When I moved to where I am now, I immediately got a library card and proceed to never use it. Now my card gets plenty of use, I have an account on the county library website, and I check out multiple books at a time, check to see if the books on my list are in, and renew the books I have checked out. I have no idea why I drug my feet in using the public library the first two years I lived in this town. When I was a child, my mom used to take me and my brother to the library to read and check out VHS tapes so often it became a large part of my upbringing. I admit, I am ashamed that I had forgotten about how wonderful public libraries are. If you want to read more books and to read more often, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on new books you might not like, get a library card and use it.
There are also other resources where you can read free books online, but I have never enjoyed those stories on those sites and apps.
I was caught up in what I “Should be reading” and not what I wanted to read
Like many people, I used to be a reading elitist. I thought the list of classics should be read regardless of how dull and unenjoyable they are (in spite of the fact that I hadn’t read a lot of them) and that reading was exclusive to books.
I used to force myself to read books that I was told I should read. It was miserable. I was miserable reading shit like the Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, The Adventures Huckleberry Finn, and Frankenstein. To be honest. I often put books down and never pick them up again if they aren’t assignments. I would then feel guilty for not finishing them. I seriously couldn’t get past 30 pages in the Scarlet Letter. Every year I try to read Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix and fail at it because (warning: unpopular opinion) I hate every word I read in that book (I also hate the movie).
I only recently got over the guilt of not finishing a book I’m not enjoying. I had to tell myself that there is nothing wrong with putting down a book you aren’t enjoying or makes you miserable to read. Those stupid “classics everyone should read in their lifetime” lists need to die. Don’t let a list or a reading elitist tell you that you aren’t an educated or an “esteemed” reader because you choose to only read books and stories you enjoy.
Reading also isn’t exclusive to books. I used to chastise my brother for never reading. Once he responded, and I commend him for this, that he reads plenty because he reads the subtitles on animes and videogames, and he reads forums and gaming articles all the time. At the time I didn’t consider that reading because it wasn’t a book. Now I realize that if youre reading, it doesn’t matter what the medium is. Reading blogs and magazines aren’t less stimulating or educational than reading a book. Someone who reads romance novels in book form isn’t any different than someone who reads romantic fanfiction online. Just like someone who reads one self-help book a week isn’t more enlightened than someone who reads the equivalent amount in blog posts. Reading is reading, no matter where the words are “printed.” Stop comparing what you’re reading to what other people are reading.
I was comparing what I was reading to what everyone else was reading.
I thought that my friend who exclusively read nonfiction and self-help books was a more refined reader than me, someone who prefers fiction. The minute someone started talking about the inspirational memoir they just read, I would suddenly feel inadequate and would rather tell them I hadn’t read anything recently than admit to enjoying a riveting space opera. I didn’t read more because I didn’t want people to know what I was reading. We, as readers, place status on things meant to be enjoyed. We think listening to classical music is more refined than listening to pop music. We do the same thing with books. In reality, there are different, yet equally important things to learn from fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes we need an epic adventure across a fantasy landscape with magic and impossible things to learn about morality. Sometimes we need someone else’s memoir to teach us the importance of loving ourselves. The lessons are different yet equally important. We lose the lessons when we compare the arbitrary “quality” of the mediums we choose to consume information from.
In order to read more and to read more often, we have to let go of our preconceived notions of what reading should be and limiting ourselves to what we have and what we can afford. Read more books that you enjoy, not because someone told you that you should read it. If you aren’t enjoying it, put it down. Read more books that you can check out from a public library or get for free. Read more blogs and articles. Additionally, we need to schedule time to read or allow ourselves leisure time. You can’t read more if you aren’t giving yourself time to do so.
Reading isn’t exclusive to printed or electronic books. In order to read more books or to read more in general, we have to let go of what we think reading is or should be. Just read more, it doesn’t matter what it is.