Browse through the archives of the Lulu blog and you’ll find a ton of content about writing and designing books. We don’t talk as much about reading and developing good reading habits. But it is well known and understood that writers benefit from reading consistently and often.
The challenge, which I think we all know, is the gulf between knowing we should read regularly and actually reading books. Because reading takes time.
For a long time, the standard assumption is that we read about 300 words per minute (WPM). But a study published in 2019 looked to compile some past research and concluded we’re actually closer to 238 WPM. Let’s do some quick math.
The average word count for a ‘book’ varies, so let’s say 80,000 words. At 300 WPM, that’s about 267 minutes (or 4.45 hours) to read the book. Nonstop. Constant reading at that rate. Now consider 238 WPM; the total read time stretches to 5.6 hours. An extra hour and more time to finish that one book!
Reading takes focus and concentration; it demands a chunk of our time to be dedicated to a single activity. Which, in this age of distraction and constant stimulation, can be a real challenge.
How To Make Reading A Habit
The best, and in my opinion, the only effective way to start reading more is to form a habit. To make reading a daily activity and to develop a strategy to integrate time for it into your day. That might mean joining a book club to create accountability for yourself or simply setting aside an hour every day until the habit forms.
We have to learn to read with regularity. It’s not something that just happens. It takes practice, dedication, and a plan.
While I can’t really help you be more dedicated and I can’t practice reading for you, I can offer my own methods for reading more!
1. Dedicated Reading Time
This is the most important reading strategy for me. I’ve got a couple of times throughout my day that I use just to read.
- Weekday morning ~ 30 minutes
- Before bed ~ 40-60 minutes
- Weekend morning ~ 1-2 hours
These aren’t the only times I crack open a book; they’re not even all times I’m buried in a book! My weekday reading session is often articles that pertain to work (so publishing, printing, and book marketing content) or news-related articles.
In the evening and weekend mornings, I do make a point to set aside anything ‘real’ and give that time to reading fiction. Partly because I love fiction, but also because I spend a lot of time reading and researching ‘dry’ topics. I need that fiction time to cleanse my reading palette.
2. Always Have Something To Read
This used to mean literally carrying a book around with you everywhere. Which I still advocate for. But thanks to technology, we can easily bring our reading with us anywhere and everywhere.
For example, I’ve got a short story collection as an ebook. I bought this volume and initially downloaded it to my Kindle. But with the Kindle App, I can jump right in from my phone. That means I can fill a 10-minute wait in the middle of the day with that same collection I was reading at home without bringing anything extra with me!
Most advice about building focus around your reading habit will tell you to avoid technology. The distraction potential is huge. But we can also lean into our technology. The challenge is to stay with that book when you’re staring at your phone and not becoming distracted by all the other (cough social media cough) apps available to you.
3. Cultivate A To-Read List
People who read a lot do so because they solve one major hurdle: knowing what to read next. As I write this, I have been reading comic books on my tablet for a week because I got to the bottom of my to-read list before another box of books arrived.
The classic solution to this problem is to have a stack of books waiting to be read. For the most voracious readers, this stack is often growing more than shrinking. The glorious to-read pile.
Thanks again to technology, we can (and should) keep a virtual to-read list too. Goodreads has been at the forefront, but there are some other cool options (like the Storygraph beta).
However you do it, the key to becoming a consistent reader is always having your next book ready.
4. Set Goals
To build up a to-read list, you’re going to need some book recommendations. That means scrolling your Goodreads feed and chatting with your friends about what’s good. You can also follow awesome newsletters like Bookbub’s daily ebook deals.
With your to-read list ready, it’s time to set some reading goals.
Start small. Maybe one or two books a month. Maybe graduate to a list of the best books of all time in your favorite genre and read through the list.
Goals fuel motivation and if you really want to build a reading habit, you have to work at it.
5. Log Your Books
Logging your read books is another great way to motivate yourself to read more. I started using a notebook to write down books I’d read. Then a spreadsheet. Now we have Goodreads making the list easy to track and share.
All three methods helped me keep reading. Just the act of tracking your progress helps build on the habit. Plus you can always go back to the list and look for more books by your favorite authors!
6. Turn Off The Internet
Okay, you don’t literally have to turn off the internet. Maybe just set your phone out of reach for a while.
The point is to avoid distractions. Reading is a sort of meditation. You can’t read deeply if you’re distracted. It can take some willpower to disconnect and sink into a book.
That’s why you have to work at it, to make reading a normal habit. Now, I can sink into a book on my phone with almost no distractions.
You can think about it as similar to exercise and dieting. You need to flex your reading muscles and cut out the waste calories (in this case, social media mostly).
7. Read Fun Books
You have to enjoy reading to build a habit of it. And you won’t always enjoy everything you read; creating a potential problem. If you’re not enjoying what you read, it’s going to be tough to keep up your reading.
What I do is keep a shelf of ‘fun’ books. Most of them are from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and they represent books that are just fun for me to read. So if I read something that was dry or that didn’t do a great job of holding my interest, I’ll use a book off the fun shelf as a sort of literary aperitif.
It keeps me excited to read and I get to revisit my favorite stories!
The point of building up and maintaining a reading habit is to be happier, wiser, and maybe write a little better, right? But without a strategy, you’re going to struggle. Create your own habit to keep reading and share it with us below!
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.