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.

Best Books of 2016

I’ve had the same New Year’s resolution for a few years running now (if you haven’t been following along, check out this post here). To recap: I was sad about giving one of my favorite hobbies such a low priority in my life, and I wanted to challenge myself to include more reading in my routine.

I use my Goodreads account to track and rate all of the books I read, and to encourage myself to keep up the pace on my reading challenge. (This year’s goal: read 60 books.) I’m not affiliated with Goodreads in anyway but I find having a visual way to monitor my progress very beneficial.

However, I’ve since discovered something that’s helped me even more.

It’s this blog, and more importantly, you guys (the readers). There has been nothing more special to me as a bookworm than to find a community of kindred spirits like yourselves to share all my deepest, bookish thoughts with, and to commiserate on all of the books we’ve read, both good and bad.

I’m amazing too, to connect with people across the globe, regardless of race, religion or age. We all have something that brings us together in spite of our differences and I think that makes us pretty special.

So thank you, my dear readers, for making this year a great one, both in blogging and reading adventures.

Here are some of my favorite titles that I’ve read this year:

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Fiction

For someone who relies so much on their sight to read, it seems a little ironic that two of my favorite books of this year were about blindness. For instance, the appropriately-titled Blindness by José Saramago resonated so much with me that I included it on my list of reads that have shocked my poor sensitive system. Just imagine if everyone in your city started going blind- you’d be shocked too.

A little less scary, but no less interesting or beautiful, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is about a blind girl struggling to survive through World War II, and a treasure hunt that will leave you wild with excitement.

If modern-day horrors scare you even more than post-apocalyptic worlds and war, be sure to pick up a copy of Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That. It’s one of the many books this year that really made me stop and think, and its darkly humorous take on a family devastated by cancer made it another contender on my list of books that you should read at your own risk.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is another controversial, albeit more gossipy book, about the aftermath of a suburban barbecue where a parent slaps a child that is not their own. No matter where you stand on the discipline issue, the secrets and lies that unravel as a result made this book hard to put down.

Among the serious titles I’ve read this year, I’ve come across a couple of favorites that are a little more light-hearted. The Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg turns the Scandinavian crime genre on its head with the role of the scheming villain played by an aging pensioner just looking for better treatment. (Ok so maybe it’s a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at the way we treat our elders, but it still had me in stitches all the same.)

Finally, one of my favorite fiction books of the whole year has to have been Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It’s everything a good book should be- funny, bittersweet, thoughtful and surprisingly compelling considering it’s actually about a super-long walk across the English countryside.

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Poetry

Once in a while a book of poetry finds its way to my shelves, and my list of favorite books this year wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention how much I loved this slim volume of poetry and creative prose by Canadian author (and now friend!) Joel Thomas Hynes. Straight Razor Days is a collection of thoughts about nearly everything in Hynes’ life- his hometown, his childhood, his relationship with his son- and even though it seems like he uses just about anything that crosses his mind as material, the works here still maintain a sense of cohesion. It’s beautifully written, so even if poetry isn’t always your thing, I still suggest that you check it out. (And he doesn’t even know I’m telling you that!)

Update: This title isn’t currently available on Amazon, so I encourage you to hunt it down in your local bookstore, or check out some of his other titles. They’re all good!

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Non-Fiction

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman was a great education for millennials like me in how global events in the 80s and 90s have shaped the interconnected world we live in today. Keep in mind I was just a young’un when a lot of these changes were taking place, and this book helped shed some light on some of the things I didn’t fully understand.

I can’t say enough good things about Elizabeth Gilbert’s creative manifesto, Big Magic. I won’t go on too much about it because of the gushing review I wrote here, but if you’re anyone who has ever felt inclined to do any artistic thing ever, you will find this book valuable.

Do Over by Jon Acuff will forever go down in history as the only career-related book that got me in the feels. If you’re looking to make a change in your career, or just tired of accepting the status quo at your current job, this one is for you. (Don’t believe me? Read the review I wrote about it here.)

KBwB-BFlower-50What were some of your favorite books that you’ve read this year? Send me your list at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or better yet, let’s be friends on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s virtual bookshelves. Want to see even more of what I like to read? I love talking about books here, here, here and here. Or comment below and let me know what you think of my list. How many books have you read this year? I need to know it all!

 

On (Not) Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

2015 was the year for me. Not that I’m much of a goal-keeper- I never have been- but I was determined to keep my New Year’s resolution of reading 50 books in a year, a challenge that I have been attempting to track using Goodreads for an embarrassing total of three years running.

Last year was the year I got fed up. When I was younger I was a voracious reader and I missed that feeling; I couldn’t remember the last time I had whiled away the hours of a rainy afternoon lost in a novel, sometimes two. Even the task of reading an entire book felt daunting, accomplished only by stealing hidden moments of time here and there. I wasn’t enjoying it. I longed for my old self.

Maybe that’s why I ended up being so disappointed when I only managed a grand total of 45. Falling short of my goal would surely mean that I had failed to reclaim that lost part of myself. I hadn’t returned to being a “bookworm”.

“That’s still a lot of books,” a friend reassures me over coffee. “I manage maybe one a year. And it better be a good one, too, or it turns me off of reading for ages.”

Maybe bookworm is a relative term- what counts a year’s worth of reading for some people would take others mere weeks or days to finish. My younger self would be surprised at how little I read, but she also had more free time and fewer responsibilities. She wouldn’t cherish reading time as the precious commodity the way her older self does today.

Statistically speaking, I’ve read more in the past year than I have in the two previous years combined, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Forcing myself to sit down and relax with a book is a difficult task but it’s one I’ve managed to complete at least forty-five times. I may not have reached my goal but the effort it has made me put into my own self-care has meant so much more. I’d forgotten how much I loved it. I’d forgotten how much I loved to share that love.

So it’s 2016 and this year I’m trying to read 60. It’s a lofty goal, but I’m feeling really good about it. There’s a giant stack of new books on my bookshelf, full of dozens of new stories, and all of them are calling my name.

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Inquiring minds want to know: what New Year’s resolutions have you broken and kept? And how do you manage just to read one book a year anyway? If you have the answers I’m looking for, comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

Love reading almost as much as I do? Track my progress on Goodreads, or read more about what I’m reading here. Having trouble starting off on the right foot this year? Here’s some advice I gave awhile back about procrastination. (And here’s the addendum.)