How To Prevent Thinking About Books from Getting in the Way of Actually Reading Them

I love books. Mostly, I love reading them. But I also l love organizing them. I love fiddling with my Goodreads account. I love any and all spreadsheets that have to do with books. I love browsing books in all ways possible—in the library, at bookstores, all over the internet. I love reading book blogs. I love talking about books and instagramming about books and writing about books—if this paragraph hasn’t made that obvious.

All of these reading-related activities are pleasurable in their own right. I get a little thrill every time I hear about an awesome new book and then rush over to my library’s website to put it on hold immediately. There is a particular joy in moving a book from my ‘to-read’ shelf to my ‘currently-reading’ shelf on Goodreads. My reading spreadsheet provides me with many absurd but delightful statistics. For example: I can go around telling people that so far this year, I’ve spent 22 days listening to audiobooks.

But as wonderful as all these activities are, they are not reading. Don’t get me wrong—I love my reading-related activities. But I love them because I love reading. If I’m not actually reading books, there’s no point in having a stellar reading spreadsheet and beautifully organized Goodreads shelves. So I’ve come up with a few handy tricks to keep reading-related activities from crowding out actual reading. Sometimes I still find myself staying up way too late browsing books on the internet, but on the whole, my reading life is much more balanced, and thus much more satisfying.

CREATE SPECIFIC, SEPARATE TIME FOR READING-RELATED ACTIVITIES 

Instead of scolding myself for spending an hour researching micopresses when I could be reading, I simply allow myself to enjoy what I’m doing. I create time in my week to read book blogs, research books, and browse the library just for the hell of it. I treat reading-related actives like anything else in my life I love that isn’t reading. When I’m having dinner with a friend, I’m not thinking, “Gee, Laura, you really oughta be reading right now, stop wasting your time enjoying food with people you love!” Seeing reading and reading-related activities as two distinct and different things has helped me carve out time for both of them—separate, not overlapping.

DNF BOOKS AND READ BEAUTIFUL FLUFF

If you’re not into a book, it’s a whole lot easier to give into the urge to toss it aside and spend twenty minutes obsessively checking the status of your library holds/adding new books to your Hoopla favorites folder. It happens to me all the time: I settle down for a few precious hours of reading, but twenty pages in, the book is just not doing it for me, and my computer is right there, and I could just pick it up and…

If a book isn’t working for you, drop it! Sometimes I straight-up DNF books. More often, I’m reading a book that’s hard/challenging/slow (in a good way) and I just can’t read it for more than a little while without getting bored/tired/worked up. So I read twenty pages, and then, instead of picking up my phone and getting lost in bookstagram, I switch to something fun. Beautiful fluff has saved me from many afternoons of waking up from a screen-induced haze, wishing I’d spent the time reading instead.

NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES IN THE BEDROOM

I have a strict no-electronic-devices-in-the bedroom-policy. No phones, computers, or tablets enter the bedroom sanctuary. My Kindle is the only exception. It leaves me only one option when I get in bed: read. It’s such a relief to get in bed and not have to fight myself not to check my email one more time. I just read, and then I fall asleep. This rule has become so ingrained in me that sometimes I sneak into my bedroom to read on a weekend afternoon—it’s the one place in the house where I know I won’t get distracted.

TREAT READING LIKE A TREAT

I never used to schedule time for reading the way I might schedule a visit to a museum or an afternoon hike. But recently I’ve started treating myself to planned reading time. I make an event of it. I take myself to my favorite coffeeshop and order a pastry, or I indulge in a sandwich from my favorite bakery and go to the beach. I don’t bring my computer. I turn off my phone. I wear nice earrings, like I’m taking myself on a date. There’s something magical and indulgent about turning reading into an outing, and when I do, I never want to spend the time doing something else.

A woman checked out a book called How to Win a Local Election. And she did. Listen to Annotated on Apple Podcasts or Google Play to hear her story.
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