Seven things to do to make reading a real habit

May 20, 2021 3:38 PM

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Book displays at Brookline Booksmith. Photo by andtheywerebookmates via Instagram.

Book displays at Brookline Booksmith. Photo by andtheywerebookmates via Instagram.

Were you an avid reader as a child, told you were gifted and had the comprehension of several grades higher than you? Did you go through a phase in middle school when you became too busy with friends, sports and extracurriculars? Do you now seem to be unable to pick up a single book without feeling the weight of your other obligations on your shoulders? 

Me too. 

Even with over six years of avid reading, reviewing and blogging under my belt, I felt really burnt out and stagnant during the quarantine. I have, however, recently had a reading kick. Maybe it has to do with our one-year anniversary with the lockdown, or maybe it’s just that I’m spending all my time writing, but I feel more motivated than ever to enjoy the written word as well. 

Whatever your reason may be, reading is a worthwhile pursuit. Perhaps you’re struggling to get out of a book slump. Or maybe you’re a reader newbie looking for a way into the community (though you’re not ready to commit to the 100-book trackers that are floating around on Pinterest). If you’re any of these people or even someone in between, this guide offers seven things to do to make reading a real habit.

1. Use Goodreads

Using Goodreads allows you to set year-long goals, digitally track the books you want to read, organize virtual shelves to keep a record of your books, stay up to date on the latest releases and join communities and have virtual friends to keep you accountable! 
Goodreads is the best starting place for anyone looking to get into reading or making reading a habit — it’s free, takes only a few minutes to set up, and is such a user-friendly tool to keep you in the loop.

2. Peruse BookTube!

BookTube is a category on YouTube swarming with bibliophiles and the most gorgeous bookshelves. It’s such a wonderful place to help your reading motivation. Not only is it filled with readers eager to finish their own TBRs (to be read lists), it’s also a great source of inspiration for finding new favorites. And hey, gazing at beautiful shelves and dreaming about one day accruing a collection of your own is definitely a part of the hobby. 

My personal recommendations include:

Books with Chloe - If you’re looking for a BookTube all-rounder--bookish unboxings, hauls, reading sprint streams, vlogs, journaling...Chloe has it all! 

Clockwork Reader - If you’re looking for YA recommendations and the most relaxing content! 

Jesse the Reader - If you’re looking for high-energy and engaging content to get you out of your seat and into the bookstore! 

thisstoryaintover - If you’re looking for some versatile content with great recommendations and TBR lists that have you grabbing your phone to make your own on Goodreads. 

jaime’s library - If you’re looking for all the chillest vibes and budget-friendly book hauls (hello, library round-ups!). 

3. Join book-related Discord servers. 

Engaging with fellow readers on Discord is such a wonderful way to network and make friends in the book community! 

These spaces will usually have channels for you to discuss your thoughts about books with real people. It’s just like real life, except you have a basically infinite web of friends, and they’re all obsessed with books! 

Illumicrate, a bookish subscription box based in the UK, has its own server with hundreds of active members messaging each other daily about new releases and old favorites.

4. If you don’t have friends to do reading sprints/talk bookish with, tune into a live reading sprint! 

Sprints are less intense than read-a-thons (long periods (think 24+ hours) of straight reading). They are super helpful if you lack the motivation to pick up a book yourself. Many sprints will follow the basic Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of reading, 5-minute breaks). 

I love live reading sprints because the environment is always super relaxing. Even if you can’t make it to a stream, there may be replays for you to watch on-demand! All you have to do is open your computer, and suddenly you have a few reading buddies and the ambiance of silence and the flipping of pages to keep you company as you traverse fantasy worlds.

5. Join a book club. 

One of the best ways to keep yourself accountable is to put a deadline on your reading. Book clubs are a great way to keep up with your reading and to socialize with other bookworms who have a similar reading taste as you! 

(Goodreads is a wonderful place to start searching for bookish communities to join.)
The one caveat to this tip is that if the club selects a book that doesn’t interest you, don’t feel obligated to finish the book. There are too many stories and not enough time — so if you find yourself floundering, put the book down! Momentum should be your top priority, and anything that has the potential to thwart that needs to go.

6. Subdivide your books! 

Setting goals for yourself every day is a pivotal part of making reading a habit. 

For me, this means reading 100 pages a day. Since I’m such a visual person, I like to physically paperclip my subdivisions off. I also like to reward myself for achieving these goals. In my reading notebook (yes, I have a reading notebook, and no, it’s not because I’m the stereotypical Virgo…), I have a calendar with all the days in the month. When I read on that day, no matter how little or how small, I get to color in the box. This helps me focus on a smaller goal — finishing my subdivision — rather than being daunted by a 500-page book that I’ll never be able to read in a single sitting.

I personally love following along to Books with Chloe’s journaling — she has the prettiest spreads!

7. Visit a physical bookstore. 

Maybe it’s the fairy lights or the creak of the ancient wooden floors or the smell and crinkle of new paper, but physical bookstores completely elevate the experience of selecting your next read. Not only do they offer a breath of fresh (and delicious) air from being stuck at home, but they also will carry the New York Times bestseller you’re No. 347 in line for at the library. Trips to the bookstore, whether or not they conclude with a paper bag full of new releases, are the most invigorating experiences. 

If you live in Boston, I highly recommend the Brookline Booksmith (not only do they have all the latest releases hot off the press, they also have a basement full of affordable used books to explore).

Okay, so even in an ideal world, not all of us are ready for the high-stakes commitment. We are not all going to be able to read 100 pages a day or track every chapter with Goodreads. The reality is that not all of us are going to spend every waking moment chatting on Discord with friends and attending live reading sprints. It’s fun but impractical for many of our schedules.

Then again, if you really want this habit to happen, you’ve got to put in the work. Start slow. Work steadily. And hey, maybe one day you’ll see your progress through the pages of your reading bullet journal, your Goodreads logs and the reading buddies you’ve made along the way.

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