How to read more books
Every year, many of us make a solemn promise that this will be the one we shake off those terrible bedtime scrolling habits, instead spending the nights reading to ourselves in a sweet sleep.
The battle between our phone screen and focusing on something else is understandable: devices are designed to drop us into a maze that seems impossible to leave. The longer you click, drag and press, the harder it is to find the exit. Reading is therefore an act of rebellion from your phone, and one that should be treated as a personal commandment rather than a rushed task in the last moments of your day, like taking out the trash. If you don’t take the time to read or give yourself the time to find your way through a book, the pleasures and benefits of reading will always remain elusive to you.
Ciara McEllin is always asked how she reads so much and tips on learning to read more. Perhaps frustrating for those looking for a hack, the advice is very simple. “I think it’s a discipline,” says McEllin, an agent’s assistant at Watson, Little, who reads more than 100 books a year, in addition to a long list of submissions and new manuscripts for the job. “I watched The Sopranos recently and loved it, but it was a battle to not be on my phone. In the same way, I like the fact that when I read, I make an effort to be absorbed in one thing.
Set a timer
Before the pandemic, she did almost all of her reading on her commute, making a point of not pulling out her phone when she sat down and opening a book instead. These days, with that hour that’s been baked into his day, McEllin sometimes has to search for time and not let it take over. The bath is often where she reads much of her reading, draining the tub in small increments and enjoying a place where, once you’re in, you’re in. weekend and put a timer on my phone and read for an hour, she said. “I do this when I want to read, but know that if I sit down and my phone is out, I’ll start everything else.”
The Timer Board is also recommended by Kate Lotfus–O’Brien, literary scout for television and film, and founder of KLO Scouting, which offers a wide range of fiction and non-fiction to production studios, as well as reading for pleasure in his own time. “For professional reading, I definitely put a timer on my phone and block out an hour,” she says. “I read 100 pages of three or four different things, and it helps me focus on having a time when I won’t be checking my email.”
Notice how time passes differently when reading
Actively disengaging from screen time is something Loftus–O’Brien was made more aware of after reading Jenny Odell’s 2019 book, How to do nothing: resist the attention economy, and has become more relevant in recent years as we spend precious little time away from our screens. In the book Odell writes that “platforms such as Facebook and Instagram act as roadblocks that capitalize on our natural interest in others and an ageless need for community, hijacking and frustrating our most innate desire, and taking advantage of it.” Reading it made Loftus-O’Brien realize that “attention is currency and it is finite,” and that where we spend it should be an active decision, otherwise the choice is taken away from us. “There’s something about the way you interact with your phone that cuts down on time. I feel like it’s all happening at the same time and it’s quite unpleasant,” she says. “Whereas if you’re reading, you almost feel out of time in a pleasant way.”
McEllin also knows how much nicer time is when spent reading, where, instead of “realizing you’ve spent an hour and done nothing but flick through a app to another and open a few long-standing articles”, when you read for an hour “time seems much slower and more elongated.”
These ideas may already sound familiar if you’ve spent an evening reading and felt a calm settle around you, where you’d normally be surrounded by a feeling of mania as you scroll, but how do you make it a strict nocturnal habit and not a single -disabled? “You have to train your attention span,” says Loftus-O’Brien. “Think, ‘This is going to be rewarding and helpful if I pay attention to it and I’m not really going to get into it unless I give it that time. “”
Ditch the books. Not really
McEllin and Loftus-O’Brien are ruthless when it comes to giving up a book they don’t like. This means they maintain the momentum of their reading, rather than going back to the same chapter every night for months and reading through gritted teeth. Loftus – O’Brien has a three-episode rule for the TV she watches for work, at which point things should be long enough for you to know if something is for you. “I think something similar is applicable with a book,” she says. “I’m a firm believer in giving up a book if it doesn’t grab your attention. People feel like it’s their moral duty and imperative to their education to finish books.
McEllin also thinks that not only is it okay to give up things you don’t like, it actually means you’ll end up buying more books. “When you read something you love, it makes you want to read something else, whether it’s by the same author or something similar,” she says. “If I have a month where I read 15 books, when I look at them they will all be relatively similar and I can see the links, whereas last month I read three and they were a bit sporadic and I couldn’t figure anything out.
Alternate between fiction, essays, non-fiction and short stories
Mixing up what you read is another helpful tip to keep your reading varied and engaging. Having multiple things going is something McEllin often does in order to break down a long non-fiction book, which she can then read over a longer period of time, as well as using short stories and collections of essays as “palace cleaners” so she can “read a few and then come back to something heavier or longer”. It also means you can split up collections of essays rather than swallowing them whole, letting you slowly dive into the bits and get more satisfaction out of them.
If you’re not sure where to look for your next book, Loftus–O’Brien recommends taking stock of what you’ve enjoyed in the past as a starting point. “I love reading interviews with writers and often what they say has inspired them is something I want to read,” she says. “People need to indulge their curiosity and dive deep into what they loved before. Then figure out what credentials the authors of those books relied on.
Write down what you read
Keeping track of what you read is another useful tip for getting an idea of what you liked and also for having a reference point for when you want to find your next book. “I take a picture at the end of the month of everything I’ve read and like to remember where I was and why I was reading those books,” McEllin says.
Remember, this is not homework
The desire to read more is one of the most common resolutions people make at the beginning of the year, in a list of aspirations for self-improvement in addition to losing weight and being kind to one’s self. in-laws, but if you really want to become a reader then changing the common perception of it as a duty is the first step. Few would bring themselves to watch more TV to get better, but Loftus-O’Brien thinks reading “can be really relaxing and entertaining in the same way that watching TV can be.”
Removing the pressure of feeling like we’re going to be tested on text also makes room for that fun, McEllin says. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember the book. If you read something and don’t have an opinion, or if you liked it and someone says something about it, but you don’t know what they’re talking about, that’s fine too.
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