Most people wish they read more. I know no one who says she would like to read less. I am constantly hearing people say that they want to read more often, especially books that impact them spiritually. (By the way, there are a great many books that will profoundly impact you spiritually that are not shelved within the “religion & spirituality” category. For example, Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas has said that Brideshead Revisited is the novel that made her Catholic.)
All that being said, carving out the time and space to read as much as we would like is a struggle for all of us, especially with many other responsibilities and distractions in front of us. So here are five strategies that I am trying this summer that might help you too.
We have heard it said for awhile: If you want to read more, turn off the TV. And that is certainly just as true as ever; commercial television can easily suck our free time and quiet moments. But it’s not just TV anymore; it’s our complete availability to any electronic interruption: social media, Internet surfing, email, texting. No matter what we are doing, it seems that we are always willing to stop and answer the “ding” of various cell phone notifications.
Why do we even have these notifications turned on? If we are constantly available to these electronic interruptions, then we will find ourselves with very few stretches of time to devote to meaningful activities, reading among them. I’m formulating a personal policy of being less constantly/mindlessly connected. I’m turning off most “notifications” and setting aside specific times for checking email, texts, social media — not just for more reading time — for more time to enjoy life and family uninterrupted.
Read more audio books.
Being a mom to little kids, a writer, and a professor, I never have enough time to read the amount that I want to read or to get through a book as fast as I would like. However, audiobooks are opening up more time for me, and I am getting through books on my 2016 reading list at a pretty good rate because of them. I listen while tidying up, folding laundry, doing menial computer tasks, cooking, and most of all…while driving! All of that time in the car, 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there, really adds up quickly. In just the time you spend running two weeks worth of errands in the car you can have an average-length novel read. And audio books are perfect for the pool, especially if you have little ones to keep an eye on and can’t have your head down in a book.
I have one caveat — do be discriminating about the reader of an audio book. A bad reader, or simply one whose delivery style bothers you, can ruin an otherwise delightful book for you. Of course there is always Audible if you have the budget for it, but there are three free apps to check first: Hoopla, Overdrive (both work with your public library account) and Librivox.
Always have a book with you.
I hear this advice all the time, and it’s proven true for me. You will never know when you get the unforeseen opportunity to read: stuck in line or in a waiting room, kids falling asleep in the car, etc. You can carry a physical book in your bag or leave it in the car; or you can be sure to always have an ebook or audio book on your smart phone. Do whatever works for you.
This also applies when at home. Leave your current reading in handy spots where you can quickly grab it if a moment of time opens up. Having a book readily available makes us that much more likely to read. For example, my youngest is almost one; so this year I have been breastfeeding. I have gotten into the habit of leaving my current book(s) on the table next to the chair in which I usually breastfeed. Because of this, I have capitalized on a lot of reading time while feeding my baby.
Redeem small amounts of time.
Do not think that reading time has to be idilic and extensive at all times. I love those evenings that I have nothing else to do and can sit for two hours with a cup of tea and read, but that is not going to happen every day. We often find our selves with 5 or 10-minute segments of time here and there throughout the day. I have found that if I keep my book handy, I can redeem those moments for reading. Moreover, sometimes those short snippets (especially with spiritual reading) can be just the life-giving charges that we need to meditate on or retain substantively in our minds for hours later.
Find a reading buddy.
This could be as formal as joining a book club or as intimate as asking a dear friend or spouse to read a book with you. When you read a book at the same time as someone else, you have the pleasure of getting to experience it and to discuss it with another human being. You will also have the added motivation of someone else relying on you to keep you dedicated to reading regularly. My husband and I often read quite divergently, but I think that we are going to start The Brothers Karamazov together sometime this year. I can’t wait!
These are some of the strategies that have been effective for me, and that I plan to use with greater intentionality this summer. Hopefully you will find them inspirational aids as you build your summer reading habits. What about you? Do you have any additional strategies that have helped you grow your reading life? Please share in the comments!