Simple Ways to Spend More Time Reading

A few years back I decided to make a conscious effort to revisit reading for pleasure. It’s a hobby that I’ve always enjoyed but was getting more difficult to prioritize as I grew older. I started thinking about the obstacles (both real and imagined) that prevented me from spending more time doing my favourite hobby. Most of my friends who read have similar complaints like, how do you find the time? Here’s some suggestions- some I’ve incorporated into my own routine, and some I think might help others, too.

If you can’t find the time…

  • Read during your commute. It’s a lot more fun than staring out into space. (Do not do this if you’re the one driving.)
  • Bring a book to read while waiting for an appointment, meeting or class to start. Also, make sure you have one nearby any time a call is on hold.
  • I keep a book in the kitchen for those in-between times when I’m waiting for the oven to preheat, the kettle to boil, or the coffee to brew.
  • Use your time at the Laundromat wisely by bringing a book, or treat your building’s laundry room like one so you can snag some quality reading time.
  • Read at work: during your coffee break, your lunch break, or if you’re waiting around. That is, provided all of your work is done and you’re doing it discreetly. Again, the key is discreetly. (And no, you cannot tell your boss I told you that.)

If you’re looking to make the time…

  • Consider cutting down on your screen time. I think twice before picking up any electronics- do I really want to play a fifth round of Candy Crush, or do I want to read?
  • Now cut down your other screen times as well. How many minutes do you lose every day browsing Netflix or turning on a show for the sake of just watching something? I limited my TV intake and now use that borrowed time to pick up my book instead.
  • Make it part of your routine. I try to read for an hour before bed every night, but you may want to read a few minutes every morning, or set rules for a family reading hour on a weekly basis.

The second biggest obstacle that I came across were reading ruts- you know, when you just can’t get excited about the book you’re reading. Sometimes I’d read a few ho-hum books in a row and think, what’s the point? Or I’d read tearjerkers back-to-back that left me emotionally drained and unmotivated to pick up something new. Here are some ways to snap out of it:

If you’re looking for motivation…

  • Tracking the books I read on Goodreads has really helped motivate me. I like being able to set myself challenges, and checking in with friends to see how they’re doing with theirs.
  • Join a book club, go to a book lecture, or attend a reading by your favorite author.

If you’re looking for a new approach…

  • Turn to reading as a coping mechanism. If I feel myself starting to unravel from stress or anxiety, I’ll give myself a time out to read a few pages until I calm down.
  • Make it portable. I’m not a huge fan of e-readers but if you’re looking for a way to incorporate more reading into your routine this format may be way more convenient. No more toting around giant books on the subway!
  • Try something new. There are so many books out there about virtually everything under the sun- you’re bound to find something that piques your interest. A new genre or author just might inspire your love of reading all over again.

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

Where to Read Books

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Books: they’re my favorite portable past-time. They’re light to transport (unless you’re like me and lugged the last installment of Game of Thrones all over public transit) and are easy to access and put away at a moment’s notice. If you have an e-reader, you even have the advantage of having hundreds of titles at your fingertips within a moment’s notice, as my Internet friends have so lovingly pointed out. (Read about why I’m still not entirely convinced here.)

People who are true readers read everywhere- it’s so much to live in a big city and see how many conversations you strike up with strangers about the books they’re carrying. From bars to cafés, from buses to subways-I have met the friendliest readers bopping around the streets of Toronto.

In the summertime especially it’s fun to see so many of the readers finally come out of hiding, like they’re following the beckoning of the sun. The neighborhood in which I live is very pedestrian-friendly and filled with parks and hidden green spaces where I catch people on the strangest variety of perches, their noses buried in their books. There’s even a waterfront with a man-made beach where you’ll often find me in the summer, lost in some tomb and working on my sunburn.

This season in particular reminds me of one of my favorite places to read as a child, in the crook of a Manitoba maple tree that sprawled wildly over the fence of my back garden. The tree itself was in the parking space behind the garden; going through the gate and ascending into its greenery felt like entering into another world. If I was feeling ambitious I’d bring provisions along in a knapsack and sit up in the tree for hours, every so often peering up from my book to look at way the sunlight danced through the leaves.

My parents told me that the Manitoba maple is a pesky tree- its seeds propagate and travel on the wind until they happen to land on a place where they may hopefully root themselves and grow into a real plant. In essence, the Manitoba maple starts its life as a weed, and it amazed me to think that such an inconsequential little seed had grown into such a magnificent tree. When I was up there it made me think that if one little weed had such enormous potential then maybe I could too; I was still growing, and didn’t know what I could become. Books were my windows into all of those possibilities. I could go anywhere in time, do anything I wanted. There was power in that tree.

I still think of that tree often, and still count it as one of my favorite places to read. Although I’m sure you’ll catch me with my face full of book at one time or another while behind my desk at work, or on the bench outside my favorite coffee shop, please know this: in my mind, I won’t really be there. Instead I’ll be miles away in some far-off land, or solving a mystery in another era, or just remembering the sound of my mother’s voice calling me for dinner as I crawled with cramped legs down from my tree perch. Books just do that for me.

And, my dear readers, I hope they do that for you too.

KBwB-BFlower-50Books, books, books. Books all the time. I just love reading, and if you’re reading this blog, maybe you love reading too. F.Y.I., sometimes I review books here, I share my what’s on my bookshelf here, and I get all philosophical about reading sometimes here. If that’s not enough books for you, I list all of the million, gazillion books I want to read over on my Goodreads profile here. I’d love if we could make that list a zillion, trillion.

P.S. I am no tree expert, but what I say about the Manitoba maple is truth. If you’re a tree nerd, click here to get the real deal.

Manitoba maple image courtesy of Herman, D.E. et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Admin., Bismarck, ND. – USDA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1008755.

 

Bookstore Buddies

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Fact: I am the worst person in the world to go into a bookstore with. This is not an embellishment. People who know me know better than to ask if I want to go inside a bookstore if we pass one while out and about. I got into some kind of book-induced coma and literally cannot form a coherent sentence until physically removed from the store. The sight of me emerging all slack-jawed and blinking isn’t unusual. Or worse, some unfortunate bookstore employee will choose the wrong moment to engage me in conversation and will find themselves locked into an hour-long debate about whether or not it’s better to read the book before watching the movie or after. (Before. Always before.)

That’s ok, though. I actually became good friends with some of those bookstore employees; I count one of them among my closest friends because we have known each other for almost nine years. It kind of makes up for all of those friends I ended up losing after dragging them into a bookstore. (I’m kidding. Kind of.)

It’s why I was a little reluctant to tag along when my sister suggested checking out the opening of a new used bookstore just a few blocks down the street from where I live. I had visions of myself slumped over the books drooling and glassy-eyed but I figured she’s my sister, and she has to love me no matter what. Right?

It turns out, there really is such a thing as choosing a great bookstore buddy. I think I’ve finally found one in my sister. She’s the type of person who enjoys reading enough that she’s happy to spend time browsing alone while I wander zombie-like among the shelves. Being a well-read person also helps, as she was able to coax me out of my stupor once in awhile to ask a question about the book I was studying, or to show me another title she thought I would be interested in.

Best of all, my sister makes the perfect bookstore buddy because we trade virtually almost every book we read back and forth, which means that we went in on our purchases together knowing that some of our choices would compliment each other’s collections perfectly. Plus, my sister is cool enough to want to try some of the weirder, more eclectic titles that I’ve been meaning to read. In fact, she’s got a few of them of those on her wish list as well.

Even though most people shy away from a bookstore outing with me, I’m grateful my sister was brave enough to drag me out because it turned out to be a pretty great bonding experience. Trapped between shelves during a crowded bookstore opening actually got us talking- and I mean really talking- about the different books we loved, the books we wanted to love, and how much all of these different titles meant to us.

It took me years to find my perfect bookstore buddy, but I finally think I’ve found mine. She was right under my nose this whole time. But I’m sure my sister will forgive me for not noticing sooner- said nose was probably buried deep inside a book.

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Are you able to enter a bookstore like a normal person, or am I the only one with this problem? Have you found a bookstore buddy to accompany you to ensure your safety as well? Give them a shout-out by commenting below or share your most embarrassing bookstore experience by writing me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com

Want to see some of the things that I’ve been reading for the past little while? Visit what’s been on my bookshelves here, some of the non-fiction I like to review here, and if that’s not nearly enough reading for you I have a to-read list that’s like 10,000 miles long on my Goodreads profile found here.