Turning a new page

Practical habits for being a better leisure reader in the new year

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

For someone who firmly classifies herself as a book lover, I sure spend a pitiful amount of time reading.

Don’t get me wrong — this job requires an immense amount of reading. I keep plenty busy with research for my writing, but court documents, county code and other news outlets do not make up my wildest literary dreams.

Courtesy photo.

I want to — no, need to — read for fun. Leisure reading seems to evade my life in recent years, and it is time I do something about it. Luckily, the start of a new year is the perfect excuse to form new habits, and there’s no better time than a sloppy, cold North Idaho almost-winter to crack open a book.

However, like most efforts to develop a healthy habit, it is easier said than done. Our productivity-over-everything society has me fully indoctrinated. The thought of reading on the couch when there are dirty dishes in the sink or work emails to be answered? The self-sabotaging, self-created guilt is immediate. 

To truly become a better reader in 2022, it’s going to take some concrete tips and tricks. For this, I first went to the internet.

My favorite advice came from an NPR article titled “How to Read More Books” — a Life Kit story from 2019. I might see my goal as to “become a better reader,” but NPR put it more simply, and realistically. I want to read a damn book for fun. Possibly several. Now how can I do that?

The NPR piece featured three keys to accomplishing this goal: read in the morning; read wherever, whenever; and tailor the book to the situation.

I am a habitually early riser, even on the weekends, and I almost always reach for my phone or laptop first thing as I’m waking up. Maybe a simple swap for a book is a good idea.

Reading “wherever, whenever” mostly has to do with keeping a book on you at all times and consuming pages throughout the day as you’re able.

“We have in our imagination, like ‘oh, reading time is like this luxurious thing and I’m in my armchair sipping scotch,’” Kevin Nguyen, a literary critic, told NPR. “You have to make it a more regular habit than that because if you just wait for all those moments you’re never gonna finish a book.”

OK, Kevin, I hear you.

Finally, tailoring books to the situation may mean reading more than one book at once. If you think that sounds blasphemous, you’re not alone. But maybe the lighthearted novel we read at the beach isn’t the same as the nonfiction work we read in bed at night. It might be worth a try.

I also made an effort to reach out to consistent readers in my own life. Utilizing a Facebook “book club” group created by my older sister, Cassie, I asked members their own tips and tricks for reading more for fun.

Cassie told me she makes a goal to read 50 pages a day. A personal challenge to compete against? I can work with that.

Others chimed in on my post to share that they seek out anthologies of short stories; they set an allotted amount of time before bed to read; and one works through author names at their local library in hopes of discovering new gems, checking out a book from either end of the alphabet each month.

A popular suggestion among my friends was to ditch your cell phone in favor of a book during select parts of the day — especially at bedtime. 

The phone tip, combined with a daily page goal, will be my initial game plan for being a better reader in the year to come. Please wish me luck in this new chapter.

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