zen habits : breathe

The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books

By Leo Babauta

I have to admit, reading online has dropped my book reading in the last couple of years. It’s hard to resist the pull of clickbait titles and fascinating longform articles.

But a few small habits have changed that for me, and I’m now reading books more. I’m now reading Don Quixote (such as awesome book!), and recently finished War and Peace, Madame Bovary, Musashi and The Goldfinch. I recommend all of them.

Let’s take a brief look at what has helped me read more:

  1. Create reading triggers. Tie your new reading habit to different triggers throughout your day. For me, that has been 1) reading after I stretch and meditate, first thing in the morning, 2) reading when I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 3) reading as I go to bed. That’s five triggers a day, and at four pages per session (or so), that’s about 20 pages per day. At that rate, it’ll take me about 45 days to read Don Quixote. Other ideas for triggers: commute on a train or bus, using the bathroom, breaks at work, every time you want to check your email.
  2. Enjoy the reading. Don’t look at reading books like a chore that you have to rush through to get to more urgent things. If you do, you’ll stop reading. Instead, look at the reading sessions as a treat, a spa break in the rush of your day. Let yourself become immersed in the world of the book, and let the new experience transform you, give you new perspectives, see things from fresh eyes.
  3. Only read books you enjoy. This is a corollary of the item above, but try to choose books that sound delicious to you. If you’re bored with a book after a few days (give it a chance), drop it. There’s no virtue in plodding through a book you dislike. It’ll just turn you off from reading.
  4. Always bring your book. Wherever you go, bring your book. I recently read a lot when I was waiting by my dad’s side at the hospital, but I also find times when I’m on a train, in a waiting room, or in line, and those are golden opportunities to read. I should note that I’m now reading paper books, because I find it a better way to read long books, but the Kindle or other ebook devices are also great (especially because of their built-in dictionaries).
  5. Use a closet. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: close your devices when you read. Their notifications and such will just distract you. If you have to, put your phone and laptop in a different room, in a closet, under the piles of stuff you’ve been wanting to declutter.

Enjoy your books, my friends. Also on my reading list for this year: Ulysses, Infinite Jest, The Divine Comedy, and In Search of Lost Time.


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