Around the start of the new calendar year, many people make promises to themselves. Often, they are trying to better themselves with resolutions about their behavior. But, as many of us know, the best laid plans don’t often go according to, well, plan. We all have fallen short of keeping our new promises to lose weight or spend more time outdoors. But it’s never too early or too late to improve something you (hopefully) already do: read. Here, I offer eight things that every reader should do to improve their reading. By following a few of these steps you can enrich your reading experience. You’ll strengthen your relationships and gain a wider perspective of your world.
1.) Read From a Genre You Never Do
It is easy to get lost in a particular series or fall in love with a particular author. We all do it. We find something we like and we keep at it until we get bored or something new and shiny comes along. However, this can stunt our growth both as readers and as people. It’s important to get a variety of perspectives, and new genres allow for that. If you only read science-fiction operas, then consider reading a gritty romance novel. If you only read fiction, then try a biography of your favorite celebrity. Mix things up and get out of your comfort zone.
I read something out of my comfort zone every so often to achieve one of two results. First, I will usually find that I have been missing out on something fantastic. For example, I picked up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love a few years ago and fall in love with Elizabeth Gilbert and her writing. On the flip side, I will occasionally read a Harlequin romance novel. And while they serve a purpose in the literary world, I often find that reading one or two a year is enough for me. And reading something so far out of my normal realm makes me appreciate the genres and books that I do like.
If you are looking for a new genre to dive into and aren’t sure where to start, then just ask a friend. Or make a plea to social media or reading forums. You’ll quickly find new suggestions and a litany of ideas to expand your literary world. And who knows, it’s possible you might even like it.
2.) Inspire One Person to Read Your Favorite Book
Your favorite book is special to you for a variety of reasons. And since it is so special to you, you’re the perfect advocate for it. The world is full of books that aren’t that great. Share something you are passionate about and pass the joy you received on to someone else.
When I was in my late teens, I was a huge advocate for Jitterbug Perfume and Tom Robbins’s books. They were a game changer for me. My family and friends usually just ignored my incessant rambling. However, a few people picked up the book and actually read it. They enjoyed it and began exploring similar titles. Any time you can inspire someone to read more, you’ve done a good deed.
So share the wealth when it comes to a good book. Let them borrow your copy or encourage them to own a copy of their own. It will help to build your personal friendship with them. You can bond over shared interests in literature. Additionally, it may encourage the author of your favorite book to write more. After all, if you are finding them new fans, then they have more incentive to give you more of what you love.
3.) Discover Other People’s Favorite Books. Then Actually Read Them
When people read a good book, they will tell other people about it. It’s human nature. So you’ll often hear people recommending this book or that book. Most times it goes in one ear and goes out the other. The reason is usually because you’re busy with a different book. Or you simply just aren’t in a mood to take on new suggestions. However, reading someone’s favorite book is a great way to strengthen your relationship with them. Not only will you will have new things to talk about too, but they will often be grateful for your heeding their suggestion. You can also consider it a bonding experience akin to taking a vacation together. After all, good books often take you to a new world entirely.
My friend was a huge advocate of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. And about a year ago, I finally picked up a copy. I read it within a week and found that while I appreciated the writing, wasn’t a fan of the narrative itself. However, my friend and I still shared several great conversations about the book. And I began to understand his views a little bit better. Plus, the book has some great quotes and passages.
Reading someone’s favorite book will also help to tie you to them in other beneficial ways. It will allow you to gain a better perspective on how they operate or what social issues they see as important. Nearly every book covers some sort of social issue, even if it is on a very superficial level. The reason someone’s favorite book is regarded so highly is often because of a motif it holds. There are usually particular social issues between the covers of their favorite book. And these views and arguments on issues are ones that resonate with them deeply. Because of this, I’m a firm believer in that you can learn a lot about someone from reading the same books that they do.
4.) Leave a Review.. or Two… or Many
Readers often don’t understand just how important reviews are to writers. Reviews help with sales algorithms and make it easier for the author’s work to get discovered during web searches. Reviews, also provide genuine feedback that helps the author improve their craft. Because of this, reviews are the life blood of a book and they help to give many books credibility. Unless a book is penned by a big name or is being heavily marketed by a powerful publisher, then it likely goes unnoticed by the masses. A book has to be vetted by others before many casual readers will even pay attention to it.
If you read a book, leave a quick review of a few sentences. It doesn’t have to be much, and it only takes you a few minutes. Plus, you get to voice your opinion! And if you are like most people then you likely love to have your opinion heard or made to feel like it matters. And as a writer, myself, trust me—it matters.
5.) Explore New Ways to Read
Some people only read hardback books. Others are avid e-readers. And then even more will refuse to acknowledge a book unless it is read to them by a celebrity on an audiobook. Some people only read at night, while others only read in the early morning before work. However, your reading abilities are going to atrophy if you don’t mix up how you consume the written word.
Some traditionalists suggest that reading a physical copies of books provides significant value. Reading a tangible piece of media does a couple of things for us on a mental level. First, if we read it in public, it gives us a sense of social pride and positive affirmation of our actions. Second, when we physically turn pages and finish a book, we feel a greater sense of accomplishment. We are able to see our progress better than when we are simply reading off our phones or e-readers.
On the flip side, if you’ve never listened to an audiobook, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys in life. There are some phenomenal narrators out there. And they will bring new meaning and light to some of your old classics. Being an Audible subscriber, I’ve found myself searching for new audiobooks by narrator rather than author. This has opened me up to new genres and books because there are just some voices that I would listen to no matter what they read to me. And one of the beauties of audiobooks is you can quickly consume it while doing other activities. Cumbersome chores becomes more enjoyable when you’re listening to narrators like Wil Wheaton or Charlton Griffin whispering in your ear.
And if you’ve been stubborn on adopting the new medium of eBooks, don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, you are missing out on an easy and cheap way to read. And eBooks tend to be cheaper because less physical production is usually required. Additionally, you can get eBooks anywhere you go so long as your phone has an e-reader app. So, open your world of reading to new possibilities and try a new way to read.
6.) Read Multiple Books at Once
Reading multiple books at once will encourage your mind to think more creatively. Not only will your imagination benefit but so will your enjoyment of reading.There are two trains of thought with this, however. Some people suggest reading two entirely different types of books. Others suggest you read something similar.
For example, some people argue that reading two fantasy young adult novels at the same time can increase your immersion into the worlds of both. It can also help to expand your views of the subject matter. It will give you a better footing for uncovering the conflicts often delved into with these types of books.
On the other side of the argument, some people suggest you should have a clear delineation between your books. They argue that you really need to read two separate types of books and that this is the only way to avoid meshing them together. My advice is to try both tactics and see what works for you.
7.) Improve Your Reading Habits
Some people only read at night. Others only read on their commute to work. Yet, many of us do things when we read that we shouldn’t. We strain our eyes when we forget to wear our glasses. We forget to take breaks and go outside. And most importantly, we sometimes fall into the trap of reading while in unforgiving positions. What I mean by this is that we often slouch or crane our necks as we read. The affect this can have on our health is marginal in the short term, but can have lasting effects on us over time. Take care of yourself while you read, and try to develop better reading habits so that you can continue reading for as long as possible.
8.) Stop Making Excuses
This is a simple one. Readers need to read. It can be so easy to make an excuse to not read at the end of a long day. We can complain that the book is too dense or too time consuming. We can argue that the material in the book is too stimulating and that we just want to veg out in front of the television. The problem with these excuses is that they suck. They aren’t any good. The literary world is full of different types and styles of books that can fit any occasion. Sure, sometimes you just need a break to go outside, but reading is like a muscle. If you don’t train those muscles then they begin to atrophy, making it harder to start back up again. Keep at it, and keep reading. If you’re really having a hard time finding time to read, reread the previous seven points of this post. Explore new genres, explore new ways or reading, and strengthen your relationships over a nice book. What are you waiting for? Go read!