If there’s something I hate, it’s book snobs.
You know the ones.
The ones who give you 75 quotes on why every successful person on the planet reads 5 books every day so you should be doing it too. The ones who put reading books on a pedestal of “the ultimate, bestest way to consume information and improve yourself/your life”.
I love books and reading is an important part in my life, but I feel like people forget that reading should be accessible and easy and fun.
While sure, reading can make you more productive or intelligent or more empathetic or a more interesting person, it doesn’t have to be the end goal. I read because it’s fun. And you should too.
Because I wanted to get back into enjoying reading as much as I did when I was a kid, I’ve been setting reading challenges for myself. After two successful reading challenges in the last couple years, I’m finally on track to conquering 100 books for this year.
There’s a lot of advice out there online, but most of it seems to be for the more organized, hustle-culture, productivity-booster type of individual. I do not count myself among those. I’m more of a loosey-goosey, absent-minded, eccentric-art-teacher, later-in-life-diagnosed-ADHD kind of type.
And here’s what worked for me.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before: don’t run until you can walk, don’t bite off more than you can chew, slow and steady wins the race, ad nauseam. It’s cliche, but in this case, it’s cliche for a reason. Of course it’s exciting to set your first reading target to be 100 in a year. It’s an impressive number, but it can be overwhelming if you’re not already in the habit of reading regularly.
If you’re starting off setting a reading challenge, have it be relative to your starting position. For me, I started with 25, then 52, and this year 100, because that’s what felt feasible.
Build up to it. As you see your want-to-read list grow, you’ll also be motivated to take on more next time.
There’s no getting around it, you have to make reading a priority. Expect to significantly cut down on watching shows, movies, or spending time on social media.
It’s necessary to be mindful of what you’re reading when building in the habit to go for a book instead of… anything else. If you use other forms of media to unwind, don’t try to immediately replace them with books on gender or quantum theory. Try to go for something that you could see as being equally as entertaining.
Basically: you’ll have to get off that darn phone, but feel free to replace mindless scrolling with mindless fluff books if that’s your jam. Just make it a switch you look forward to.
Read what you like (and what you think you might like)
Start off by reading what you like.
If you’re not sure what you like because it’s been some time since you picked up a book or are deciding to start for the first time, this is where you brainstorm.
If you’re already a reader, go back to your old favorites and start there. If you’re not, there will be genres and topics you find interesting in other forms of media that you can carry over into the books you choose.
I love comedy, but never read funny books when I was younger. One of the first things I did when starting my first reading challenge was look up “funniest books” and tick off a bunch on that list. Even if your niche is “bleak Scandinavian detective shows”, there will usually be a literary equivalent.
Feel free to start exploring topics you’ve always wanted to know more about. I do enjoy non-fiction (despite what it may seem like from my tips), but only in very specific topics like illustration, gender theory, autobiographies, or marketing and communications – because I can apply the last one to my regular job.
If you suspect there might be a topic you could enjoy, add that to the list.
Do your research
What do I mean by the list?
The list will be the place where you put everything you want to read. This can include anything from:
- Book recommendations from friends
- Book recommendations from influential people you respect
- Books you’ve been wanting to read for a while
- Genres you want to explore
- Specific authors you enjoy and want to know more on
- People you find inspiring/interesting who you’d like to read about
- Topics related to professional development (your job, industry, productivity tips)
- Topics related to personal development (hobbies, self-actualization, philosophy)
- Anything and everything you could think about that you’d like to spend time on.
The list will be essential in meeting your reading goals.
Now that you’ve given some thought into what you’d like to read, jot them down. Organize it however works best for you – through Excel or through an automated platform.
Sometimes one of the biggest problems with reading is wondering what you’re in the mood to read. Take the guess work and mental strain out of figuring that out and just use your list as your go-to.
Automate keeping track of what you’re reading
If you’re not on Goodreads already, get on it. And for those who don’t want to support Amazon (Goodreads is owned by Amazon, in case you didn’t already know), StoryGraph provides a great alternative that gives you even more data on your books, like mood, average length, and difficulty.
Either of these platforms will give you a great place to input what you’re reading, let you set a reading goal, tell you if you’re on track with it, and a place to dump your want-to-read list. Plus, you can categorize and rate each book, which will lead to more book recommendations.
If you’re looking to switch over to StoryGraph, you can even export your Goodreads data into StoryGraph so you don’t have to manually input everything.
Physical books, tablets, and e-readers, oh my!
You don’t have to stick to physical books during the entire challenge. If you want to save money and space, combine them with a tablet and/or e-reader.
Having several devices for reading is beneficial because each has their own benefit:
- Physical books can be great to read at home, especially if you’re reading before bed.
- Physical books are easier to read if you’re prone to getting distracted.
- E-books are cheaper and take up less space than physical books.
- E-book libraries are much more accessible than physical libraries since you don’t have to worry about physically returning anything.
- If you’re traveling, an e-reader or tablet is more practical than carrying around books. Plus, if you get bored with your current read, you’ll have many more available.
Not limiting yourself to one medium means that you can read whenever works for you. Yes, this means you can still have screen time and read at night and sacrifice your sleep. We’re focusing on how to read more. If you’re already going to stay up late, you might as well replace your phone or TV time with a book.
VARIATION. IS. KEY.
Don’t stick to just one genre or author. Combine short books with long ones. Switch up difficulty levels: combine dense novels with easy breezy reads. Go for fiction and then non-fiction.
Read several books at the same time so you can hop between them in case you get stuck on one and don’t be scared to keep on turning to the list and mixing things up.
If you’re not easily bored, you can skip this one. But, if you’re like me, keeping things varied will make sure you don’t feel stagnant. Following up a marketing book with a graphic novel may seem odd to some, but it can help keep the challenge exciting.
Variation keeps things fresh.
Keep a mini-library
Make sure you’ve got a pile of books ready to be picked up. This goes for both physical and digital copies.
It’s almost inevitable that you’ll reach point where you don’t know what to read and you want to make it as easy for yourself as possible. If you have pre-selected options to choose from based on the list you made, you’ll be more likely to keep going.
If you’re feeling stuck, going out to buy a new book could be an extra mental hurdle that leads to procrastination. If it’s already there, you’ll be less likely to resist the idea of starting a new book because it’s glaring back at you to read it.
So keep your e-reader stocked with options and stop vilifying the unread stack of books piling on dust in your house by using and replenishing it.
It’s more than fine if you fall behind
I’ve already professed how great I think Goodreads is, but I must admit that sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship. Goodreads will let you know if you’re on track for your reading challenge. And it feels great when you’re ahead.
But when it shows you that you’re four books behind (like I currently am at the moment of writing) it can be a teensy bit anxiety-inducing. I want to read and achieve the goal of 100 books, but I know if I panic, I’ll end up procrastinating.
Then I remind myself that I set this goal for myself and no one else and that the whole point is to have fun with it. And I also know this has happened before and I can catch up – I just have to prioritize reading a bit more for the next couple of weeks.
Remember: this is for you and it’s really all about reading more, not about hitting that magical number 100. Don’t stress if you’re behind. Enjoy the journey and read as much as you can.
Part of what led me to challenging myself to read more were some key encounters with old friends. Right when I’d resigned myself to reading less (the motivation wasn’t there anymore) quite a few people in my past started bringing up the fact that they became interested in reading because of how voraciously I read.
The reasons why? Up until then 1) they didn’t realize that reading being fun was an option and 2) they thought to be an avid reader you needed to be on some higher level of self-improvement, or some intellectual path.
That’s really what it took to get the fire going again. A reminder from some old friends of something I’d almost forgotten: reading should be fun and accessible.
If you want to know what didn’t work for my disorganized brain, head here.
Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.