“Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams, and our memory. They also give us the model of self-transcendence. Some people think of reading only as a kind of escape: an escape from the “real” everyday world to an imaginary world, the world of books. Books are much more. They are a way of being fully human.” – Susan Sontag
Reading is the single best way you can improve your intelligence and exercise your brain. Books take us on journeys, they make us think, and expand our consciousness. There’s no other past-time that can so successfully stimulate the mind and cognitive skills, improve memory, reduce stress levels, and provide a free form of entertainment. I really, truly believe that reading can be accessible and enjoyable for anyone if they just believe that it can be. Trust me, I’m also a librarian =)
The first way to read more is to realize that you already are reading more. Information is everywhere in every form. Everything you read on the internet, in magazines, in the newspaper, is improving your reading skills and providing you with the quick benefits mentioned above. Start making a conscious effort to realize when you’re reading articles and what is of interest to you.
Not everyone is into reading novels and bestsellers. Try picking up nonfiction on a topic you are passionate about, or a biography or historical text. Nonfiction can be more realistic and appealing to some, and can provide context in which to understand the world and its history.
If finding time is the issue (trust me, I hear you!), grab a book on tape. Listening to books is reading. Say it. And repeat it. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that it’s not real reading. Most of us have a lot on our plates, and the time we spend in the car is often the only down time we get.
You can also make reading your “you time”. One of my favorite things to do is to just take five or ten minutes in the morning, with my coffee, and read some poetry or short passages. It’s a really relaxing and positive way to start the day.
If you have the time, try joining a book club. Just like with exercising, sometimes have a buddy or support group is the best motivator. Of course I feel this way, I was a lit major, but I really love the conversations that books allow us to have. Everyone brings something new to the table, and it can allow us to look at the story in a different context or get something out of a book that we otherwise wouldn’t. It’s fascinating, really!
This might seem obvious, but set a goal and keep track. There are so many book challenges out there, or you can set one for yourself. Even if it’s just five minutes, keep track of all the reading you do and see how far you come when you become conscious of it.
Read instead of watch TV. For most of us, screen time is excessive, and not mentally stimulating. Next time there’s nothing to do and nothing on TV, just pick up a book and start reading. I guarantee the boredom and monotony of the day will slip away.
My last little tidbit of advice is to stop reading books you don’t like. If you don’t like a book you won’t be excited to pick it up and read it, but, more often than not, you’ll feel obligated to finish it and force yourself into this reading stalemate. Just cut your losses and start reading something more enjoyable.
When you find something you enjoy reading, reading itself becomes more enjoyable. It’s addicting, actually. Because reading changes us, it changes the way we look at the world, and the way we think. It provides us with an escape from the real world, but at the same time, gives us a chance to really discover ourselves and how we look at things, and it’s a feeling you start to crave more and more with every book.