Reading habits

Back in 2012, I decided to give myself a goal of reading 52 books.

I took the challenge seriously, aiming for at least 30 minutes of reading each day, and using a habit-tracking app to keep track of the days when I reached this goal.

This led to some interesting outcomes, like coming home late, still needing to read, setting a timer and then being woken up a few minutes later when I dropped the book on my face. In hindsight, the 30 minutes of extra sleep would probably have been more useful. But I stuck to it, eventually reaching and then surpassing my 52-book goal.

In most of the years since, I’ve managed to maintain a similar level of output, although I’ve become much less strict in both my reading habits and the way I actually read books. These changes have helped me keep reading while I have added responsibilities of work, family and children, and while I’m not doing anything special, I’m going to share my methods in case they can help anyone.

Embracing ebooks and the Kindle

I’ve owned 3 Kindles so far and they probably hold the title for the best cost vs value-obtained tech devices I’ve ever owned. For around £100 I have a convenient device that slips into my computer bag so I can take with me where-ever I go. And the built-in light makes it much easier to get some additional reading time in before I go to sleep.

I do still buy ‘regular’ books (there are stacks of new and unread books on the desk next to me as I write this), but this is usually only if the Kindle version is not available (for example, with Caro’s The Power Broker), or if the digital version has bad reviews (formatting can still be an issue with some titles). If I really love a book I will often buy a physical copy to keep at hand to pick up and read at leisure, but around 75% of the books I read are now on Kindle.

Reading multiple books at one time

A habit I picked up quite early was to read more than one book at a time (not literally the same time, but I’m sure you understand what I mean). I usually have 3-5 books on the go on a range of topics, dipping in and out as my interest level changes. It’s similar to how we watch TV – most people will not only watch one series in full before moving on to another, they’ll switch between news, comedy, drama etc as their mood changes. I find that forcing myself to try and read one particular book makes it easy to find an excuse not to read at all – having a few options prevents this.

Starting many, finishing less

I used to try and read every book from cover to cover and was very hesitant to stop reading a book once I’d started. I’ve done a complete 180 on this and I’m now happy to stop a book half way if I’m not enjoying it, or skip through sections that I don’t find interesting. Reading should not be a chore, and there are already far more books on my “to read” list than I’ll ever have the chance to finish so why waste time on something I’m not enjoying?

Reading books that interest me, not just books I “should” read In a similar vein, the style of books I’ve read has been changing. I’ve moved away from the more general business, self-help or basic pop-sci type books as I’ve found they tend to be very forgettable. They also tend to be much longer than necessary – for example there are so many business books that would be able to perfectly state their case in a decent blog post rather than beating examples into your head over 250 pages.

I’ve been working my way through more classic fiction and sci-fi – books that have stood the test of time (or in the words of Taleb, Lindy). When I do read non-fiction I’m trying to read more biographies, history and science books.

As you can see, there’s nothing groundbreaking here. While the changes I’ve made have helped me stick to my reading habits, the real key has always been to just pick up a book each day and getting started.

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