5 Ways to Read More Books This Year Without Giving Up TV and Twitter

By J.D. ECARMA 

You may have seen a click-y little article about reading going around recently, headlined “Read 200 Books This Year by Making This 1 Tiny Change to Your Routine.” Yes, please, you think. And you click because we all want to learn the One Weird Trick that will magically turn us into voracious readers and give us “Good Will Hunting”-level smarts.

I’ll save you a click. The main gist of the article was the idea that you can take the hours you spend watching TV or scrolling through social media and put that time into reading a book instead. It’s not that hard, and we should all feel very bad for not following this example.

While I agree in theory that we could all spend less time staring at screens, I don’t think TV or social media time can be so easily transferred to reading time in practice.

First of all, everyone reads at a different pace. The numbers crunched in the piece aren’t going to apply to everybody in exactly the same way. Second, the kind of focus, attention and energy needed to absorb a book can’t be so easily swapped in for time spent chilling in front of the TV time or reading conversations on Twitter.

Sometimes, reading is more relaxing than social media; picking up a favorite book is lot more fun than feeling that you “need” to be on Twitter to network because that’s how you got your last two jobs. But casually checking Facebook to see pictures from your brother’s engagement is going to be more laidback than focusing enough to read a book. It gets much trickier for parents. Does putting on your kids’ favorite TV show so they’ll be quiet while you make dinner count as screen time? What about watching a Disney movie with children too young to appreciate long chapter books yet? I don’t think these levels of attention are so easily interchangeable.

That being said, I think we can all find small tweaks in our everyday routines that give us time to read. Last year, I switched jobs and no longer had a 90-minute commute, so I had to re-learn how to get myself to read without sitting for hours on the metro every week. I kept track of how many books I read with the goal of reading 100 books. I didn’t quite make it there (70 was the final count), but it was fun to keep a running list of my eclectic selections and track my progress. A lofty goal of 200 books isn’t helpful to most people, but I hope these practical tips are.

Here are a few simple ways to read more:

Keep a book with you at all times.

No matter how busy you are, everyone has odd moments during the day that can be used to read a few pages. Keep a book with you for when you’re standing in a long line, stuck on public transportation, waiting on a friend who’s running late, etc. I like to keep my Kindle in my purse so I always have a source of reading material, but find what works for you. Paperback books are also an underrated option, lightweight and easy to slip into a bag or coat pocket.

Embrace “fun” reading.

I believe that within reason, reading something is always better than reading nothing. I read “The Handmaid’s Tale” last year, but I also read Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” and Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad Is Fat.” If life is extra stressful at the moment, read purely for pleasure for a while. It’s better than not reading at all.

Rediscover childhood favorites (or find new ones).

I reread L.M. Montgomery’s entire works just about every year. I loved “Anne of Green Gables” as a kid and as a teen and now, I love it as an adult. Classic children’s books like “Anne” are definitely not just for kids. Did you love “The Wind in the Willows,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “Five Children and It”? Get them out and reread them. Last year, I rediscovered the fun of Edward Eager’s “Half Magic” and also read “Watership Down” for the first time after somehow missing out on it as a kid.

Get creative.

In his book “On Writing,” beloved horror author Stephen King advises bringing along a book to the gym and reading while you walk on the treadmill if you can’t find another time to read. Find the easiest way for you to access books, whether it’s reading while getting in some exercise, listening to audiobooks in the car or getting books on Kindle so you don’t have to make an extra trip to the library.

Redefine how you relax. 

Reading is a win-win because it’s a way to relax that also comes with a sense of accomplishment. A favorite movie or TV show can be a needed break from the real world. but try to think of reading in the same way. Maybe you’ll find you enjoy reading during lunch to get a break from the office, or perhaps relaxing after work and putting on some background music while you read at home is more your jam. You don’t need to stop watching TV, but maybe you can feel better about your next Netflix session if you get in half an hour of reading first.

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