zen habits : breathe

How to Read More: A Lover’s Guide

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Reading a good book is one of my favorite things in the world.

A novel is a time machine, a worm-hole to different dimensions, a special magic that puts you into the minds and bodies of fascinating people, a transporter that lets you travel the world, a dizzying exploration of love and death and sex and seedy criminal underworlds and fairylands, a creator of new best friends.

All in one.

I read because I love the experience, because it is a powerful teacher of life, because it transforms me.

I am not the world’s most prodigious reader, but I do read daily and with passion.

Lots of people say they want to read more, but don’t know how to start.

Read this. It should help.

1. Don’t read because you should — read for joy. Find books about exciting stories, about people who fascinate you, about new worlds that you’d love to visit. Forget the classics, unless they fit this prescription.

2. Carve out the time. We have no time to read anymore, mostly because we work too much, we overschedule our time, we’re on the Internet all the time (which does have some good reading, but can also suck our attention endlessly), and we watch too much TV. Pick a time, and make it your reading time. Start with just 10 minutes if it’s hard to find time — even 10 minutes is lovely. Try 20 or 30 if you can drop a couple things from your schedule.

3. Do nothing but read. Clear all distractions. Find a quiet, peaceful space. It’s just your book, and you. Notice but let go of the urges to do other things instead of read. If you must do something else, have some tea.

4. Love the hell out of it. You’re not doing this to better yourself. You’re doing it for joy. Reading is magic, and the magic will change everything else in your life. Love the experience, and you’ll look forward to it daily.

5. Make it social. Find friends who love to read, or find them online. There’s a world of readers on the Internet, and they’d be happy to make recommendations and talk about the books you’re all reading. Try a book club as well. Reading is solitary, but is also a social act.

6. Make it a habit. Pick a trigger in your daily routine, and consistently read exactly after that trigger each day. Even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes. The more consistent you are, and the longer you keep the streak going, the stronger the habit will become.

7. Don’t make it a chore. Don’t make it something on your todo list or schedule that you have to check off. It’s not part of your self-improvement plan. It’s a part of your Make Life More Awesome Plan.

8. Give up on a book if it’s boring. Reading isn’t something you do because it’s good for you — it’s not like taking your vitamins. You’re reading because it’s fun. So if a book isn’t fun, dump it. Give it a try for at least a chapter, but if you still don’t love it, move on.

9. Discover amazing books. I talk to other people who are passionate about books, and I’ll read reviews, or just explore an old-fashioned bookstore. Supporting your local bookstores is a great thing, and it’s incredibly fun. Libraries are also amazing places that are underused — get a card today.

10. Don’t worry about speed. Speed reading is fine for some, but slow reading is great too. The number of books, and the rate of reading them, matters not a whit. It’s not a competition. You’re reading to enjoy the books, so take your time. It’s like enjoying good food, or good sex: better savored, not rushed.

Some recommendations.



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