Arts & Culture

8 tips for making and reaching your reading goal in 2016

So you want to read more in 2016. If you're anything like me, your to-read list and the increasingly dusty stack of books on your bedside table (mine has migrated to the bedside floor) are growing at alarming rates. Yet it's difficult to find time to cozy up with a good book, what with all those TV shows to binge-watch, errands to run and all the other adult-ish things that get in the way. Here are a few tips to make your resolution a reality. 

1. KNOW AND OWN YOUR READING SPEED
Hey, not everyone's a speed reader, and that's totally fine. If someone blows through a shelf of books in the time it takes you to read one, good for them—and good for you, too. Reading isn't a race, and the last thing you want to do is turn it into a chore you feel like you *have* to do.

2. SET A REALISTIC GOAL FOR THE YEAR
Are you really going to read a book nearly every week in order to reach your 50-book-a-year goal? If you're busy every other weekend, is reading a book every two weeks doable to get to 25 books by Dec. 31? No matter what magic number you decide on, choose one that fits your reading speed and lifestyle.

Pro tip: Give yourself a little (or a lot of) leeway for all the times you won't want to read. After all, that Netflix queue isn't going to watch itself.

3. DON'T BE SNOBBISH ABOUT AUDIOBOOKS
I used to be a book purist (someone who stuck stubbornly to the ink and paper variety) until I "discovered" audiobooks and got over the idea that it's somehow cheating if your eyes aren't looking at words on paper. Sure, physical books look very pretty on a shelf, but they're less pretty when they're weighing down my bag, and they're pretty useless during my hour-long drive to and from work. Audiobooks are perfect for multi-taskers—you can go about your everyday business and basically read a book at the same time.

Pro tip: If you're new to audiobooks, stick to books with simpler prose and ones with some/lots of action as you adjust. Many celebrities-turned-authors record their own audiobooks, so be sure to check those out too.

4. DON'T BE SNOBBISH ABOUT EBOOKS
These are perfect for vacation books (more suitcase space!) and basically any time carrying a physical book would be inconvenient. And if you find yourself unexpectedly stuck somewhere, boom! Instant entertainment.

Pro tip: If you need to take notes or search for a specific word or phrase in a text, ebooks are made for that. Also, if the content of the book is complex or unfamiliar to you, Google is only a few taps away.

5. READ A FEW BOOKS AT A TIME, ACROSS MULTIPLE DEVICES
Most of us are following more than three TV shows at a time, so why not three books? I usually have three books going at any given time: a physical book on my bedside table, an audiobook on my iPod and an ebook on my iPad. The different formats help keep you from getting confused, and you can keep reading at a steady pace as you jump from commute to chores to chillaxing at home.

Pro tip: Trying to read the same book across different formats (i.e., listening to a book when going for a run, and then switching to its physical or ebook version when you're laying around) is not only costly, but also time-consuming, as you'll waste a lot of time trying to find where you left off.

6. CHECK YOUR MOVIE THEATER FOR READING RECS
Nothing motivates you to hit the books more than having a deadline. If you're in school, it's the semester final. If you're not, then the premiere date of a book-turned-movie/miniseries will have to do. You'll want to finish the book before it hits the screen and the risk of spoilers grows exponentially. Besides, you'll be ahead of the curve when a movie pushes a book into the mainstream, like "The Martian."

Pro tip: Don't be the one who whines, "But that wasn't in the book!" No movie or TV adaptation will be so faithful to the book that the two could be interchangeable (except maybe the 1995 BBC adaptation of "Pride & Prejudice," but I digress).

7. GET SOCIAL
I'm a faithful user of Goodreads, aka Facebook for books. It's how I keep track of all the books I own, the ones I've read and the ones I want to read, and it also recommends books based on how you've rated other books. Some of the best books I've read in recent years have come through Goodreads recommendations.

Chances are you're not best friends with someone because they have the same taste in books as you do. It's hard to find someone IRL with similar reading interests, so social media can be great for that. There is also no shortage of reading blogs and websites out there (themillions.com and bookriot.com are just a couple of the ones I follow). Tumblr is great for letting loose your inner fanboy or -girl (though my favorite Tumblr blog is a general book-related one, problemsofabooknerd.tumblr.com). And many authors have embraced social media sites as a way to connect directly to readers.

Pro tip: Goodreads hosts a yearly reading challenge, which allows you to set a reading goal for the year and keeps track of how you're progressing. (I'm currently two books behind, which is an improvement from a pretty bleak period earlier this year when I was 13 books behind.)

8. READ WHAT YOU WANT TO READ
Once you're out of school, required reading isn't a thing anymore. I've wasted a lot of time and energy trying to get through "literature" because I wanted to live up to my English lit major, and I got little satisfaction out of it other than being able to cross one title off So-and-So's Top 100 Novels Ever Written list. Turns out I like historical fiction with good doses of romance, mystery and/or espionage.

Pro tip: If you're 50 pages in and still bored out of your mind, move on to the next book. Reading is a time investment, and do you really want to waste time on something you hate? Besides, there won't be a quiz after.

 

ekdelossantos@redeyechicago.com  |  @elisekdelo

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