Whenever I mention reading to my friends and acquaintances in real life, most people seem to be firmly divided into two categories – those who want to read but can’t seem to find the time and those who think reading is a boring habit. I do appreciate the honesty of the second group but if you are reading this, you probably already know reading is good for you. This guide is for the first group of people who want to build a reading habit but can’t seem to for a variety of reasons.
Step 1: Set a clear reading goal
This is the most basic step in cultivating any habit. Talking about reading is well and good, but actually sitting down to do it may feel daunting. As a beginner, you may have no idea what an achievable goal looks like for you.
Let me give you an example on how to solve this. Have you used the Google Fit app to track your health? When I started using it, I set the recommended World Health Organisation numbers for my goals. After a few days, as I entered my data, it prompted me to increase them. The same principle can be applied here – start small and build up from there.
Starting small can mean different things to different people. For beginners, a realistic reading goal can be one book per month of your choice. If you are looking to build a consistent reading habit, you can set aside 30 minutes in your daily schedule instead.
Accountability plays a big role in sticking to your goals when it comes to building new habits. The best way to do this would be on social media or asking a loved one to keep track of your progress or using online tools to help you stay on track.
Goodreads is a great place to keep track of your reading habit if you have a number of books type of goal. I have found the Goodreads Reading Challenge year-on-year useful to motivate myself to read.
Do you like to keep track of reading with beautiful pie charts to look at your stats? Fadwa @ Word Wonders, the queen of organization, recently published her 2020 reading tracker spreadsheet that you can copy and play around with to help you do just that. Click here to have a look!
Step 2: Identify the right genre
It’s human nature to prefer some things over others and it holds true when it comes to reading as well. As you can probably tell, I’m partial to fantasy and science-fiction genres over others.
It is important to understand how the books are written depending on the target audience. Adult books have darker themes and explicit content that is mostly absent in young adult and middle grade books. There is also a difference in the way heavy themes are handled and presented. The major age ranges are children’s books, middle grade, young adult, new adult and adult.
If you are a movie buff or watch a lot of TV shows, you will have a fair idea as to what kind of stories are your cup of tea. Brainstorm and come up with topics you would like to learn more about or elements that you enjoy in fiction.
Do you love Disney princess movies? Middle grade fantasy may be a great place to start! Do you like a complex plot that keeps you guessing? Maybe try an adult thriller. If you are in need of help, talk to a reader friend, a librarian or a bookseller.
Are you into gaming or love the idea of virtual reality? Check out these 10 book recommendations that will suit your taste and help you get cracking on building a reading habit.
If you’re a fantasy fan like me, enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons or had heart eyes when you were watching The Lord of the Rings, Justine @ I Should Read That talks about her adult fantasy favourites, which you can use as a starting point.
If you’re not into SFF at all but looking for books that will motivate you, help you build better habits and transform your life, check out the 20 best motivational books to read by the Developing Good Habits blog.
Step 3: Make a TBR (To Be Read) pile
Once you have identified a genre and age range, find out the most popular books in that. This is where a website like Goodreads will come in handy. Book blogs are also an amazing option. You can also go to a library and get the librarian to help you choose.
I’d suggest going through the popular book lists online and shortlisting a few. After reading the synopsis, narrow it down to three books that grab your attention. Try reading the first few pages of all and continue with whichever book you are most entertained by.
I’d also recommend going for shorter books such as novellas or short story collections if you can’t set aside a big chunk of time to read. If you believe that long sections of text don’t hold your interest, check out graphic novels or illustrated editions of books.
If your command on the language is quite basic, try to look for books that are written for middle grade or young adult age ranges. Books published a long time ago used a lot of flowery language, so classics may not be the best fit for you.
Here are my favourite people from around the book blogging universe whose book recommendations I trust –
Step 4: Get the right format of the book
The way in which we read has dramatically changed over the years. Physical books, although still popular, are being taken over by e-books and audiobooks. If you’re the kind of person who has very little time to read, consider getting the e-book or audiobook as they are so much more convenient.
I’m gravitating towards audiobooks these days because I don’t want to stress my eyes after a long day at work. If you are an auditory learner, this could be a better option as well. My favourite thing about audiobooks is that they increase the accessibility of books to a wider audience.
E-books have become a staple for me since I started book blogging. I use a Kindle device, the Kindle app on my smartphone and my laptop. What I love about this format is that I can always have a book to read no matter where I am. E-books are generally priced lower than hardcovers, so I highly recommend giving them a try.
Bookstagram seems to heavily lean on the trend of owning hardcovers or exclusive editions that cost a fortune. However, I firmly believe buying a cheaper edition like the paperback is also completely valid and should be normalised on visual mediums like Bookstagram and BookTube. Always go for the edition that you are comfortable with rather than spending unnecessarily to embrace a fad.
Are you new to the concept of audiobooks? Are you unsure where to listen to them and how to stay focused while reading them? This guide to audiobooks by Catriona @ Little Book Owl will answer any questions you might have.
If you are looking for a platform in India that has a good collection and also doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, check out my favourite reading app these days, Storytel. For a reasonable fee every month, you get access to all the e-books and audiobooks in their collection. I’m happy to report that I have over 150 books from my favourite genres on my Storytel TBR currently!
Are you based in the US and searching for a good audiobook service that helps out your community? Look no further than Libro.fm, a small business that helps you buy audiobooks from local bookstores. Check out this step-by-step guide to help you discover a new way of reading.
Step 5: Refine your reading habit
The last and final step is to fall in love with reading, which is the easiest of them all. As you begin to enjoy the first few books you read, try other books by the same author, similar books that have been released recently or retellings – the list just goes on and on.
Once you have been going strong for a while and you find that one book is easily doable, measure how many you can finish per month on an average and change it to that number. If reading every day was your goal but you had to miss a day because of unavoidable reasons, don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to make up for it another day or transform your goal to a certain number of hours per week or per month.
To get more involved and keep yourself motivated, begin discussing what you’ve read and learnt with like-minded people online or join a book club. Support the local library or bookstores near you. You can also attend author signings or literary festivals so you can connect with the bookish community.
However, please remember to be kind to yourself as a reader, be it for the amount of books you manage to read or for the kind of books you enjoy or even the fact that you love books. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail a few times. Just keep trying and tailoring your goals to fit your daily schedule and life situation.
Stars and Sorcery is a monthly book club on Twitter dedicated to reading SFF by authors of colour. If you are passionate about diversity and looking to add some magic to your TBR every month, fill out the form linked in the bio. There are monthly chats discussing the chosen books each month, giveaways and other fun stuff!
South Asian Reading Challenge is a year-long reading challenge that aims to hype up books by authors of South Asian descent. With monthly themes, Instagram challenges and spotlight on new releases, it has a bit of something for everyone. This isn’t a stressful reading challenge with a hundred prompts, so it is ideal for those just starting to build a consistent reading habit.
Are you inspired to review books and set up your own book blog? Check out this comprehensive guide from Christine @ The Uncorked Librarian to get a thorough understanding of what it takes and how to go about it. If you do start a blog inspired by this post, don’t forget to leave a link in the comments section so I can check it out!
I hope that this post has given you the confidence and tools to build a reading habit that sticks. If you’re already a book lover, what more would you like to add to this? Do you remember which book turned you into a reader or got you into your favourite genre? Let me know in the comments section down below. Have a stellar weekend, readers from Earth!