“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 realize 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.” Recognize everything that makes a book appealing to you: its length, its setting, its sense of humor. (I’ve recently realized that I have a hard time plodding through a book that never once lightens up. Some of the greatest tragedies have a sense of humor.)
You don’t have to stretch beyond your favorite 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 favorite 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!
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 favorite 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.