Most of us want to read more books. And we absolutely can.
The only problem is, reading can feel like a huge commitment if your schedule is packed — it’s much harder to motivate yourself to read lots of pages every day, especially if the book demands total concentration to understand the ideas the author is selling.
But you can build a steady reading habit, even if you have a busy schedule. Like with any habit, once you form even the simplest reading routine and stick with it, you’ll be amazed at how many titles you’re crossing off your list.
The reading habit has been shown to reduce stress, boost brain functioning and even improve empathy — not forgetting the obvious benefits of all the information trapped books.
If you can’t commit to reading many titles in a year, there is a surprisingly simple and easy approach you can use to read some of the best books.
Find and read “bite-sized” books and essays
Our reading life is increasingly onscreen today— and the demand is growing for books and content that are faster and shorter, “bite-sized.”
Instead of scrolling through your favourite social media feeds, whenever you have a few minutes to spare waiting for a train, taking a break, or waiting for your morning coffee, open up your reading app instead and start reading.
There’s a catch though — First, add “bite-sized books” to your list — short books made up of loads of small chunks that are easy to dip in and out of, whether you have two minutes or half an hour to spare.
Books that work well for this approach include essay collections and short stories. Bite-sized books encapsulate all the ideas you need to know about specific subjects, and they give you the most invaluable insights in less than two hundred pages. The shorter length is perfect for smartphone reading during snippets of time.
If books won’t work for you, and you still want to consistently build a reading habit, you subscribe here on Medium and follow amazing authors and publications who publish stories about your favourite topics — it’s a great way to commit to building a reading habit. Many longreads cover all the points intelligently!
Essays are a great place to start because they tend to be short and totally independent of each other — and they’re linked by a common theme. You can also save it for when you’ve got a little more time later. Not all books are big commitments. That’s why bite-sized books are a great way to kick-start your reading habit. You can even re-read books you love to help build the habit.
“Really, bite-sized books are what you make of them. I started out with a collection of interviews, gradually moved on to essays and short stories and finally, once I was in the habit of reading any time I had a few minutes to spare, straight-up fiction. Since I use the Kindle app on my phone, I don’t even have to think about carrying a book with me,” says Harry Guinness of NYT.
A reading format that works for you can motivate you to read more. If you find it much more convenient to read on a screen, rather than lugging a book around all the time, the bite-sized approach will work well for you.
It’s hard to predict which books you’ll like, but your best bet is to start with your favourite books and find something similar. If you’re either prone to ruthlessly abandoning books you choose to read, try the “Rule of 50,” — read the first 50 pages and then decide if the book — in the words of Marie Kondo — “sparks joy”. If it doesn’t, you can give it up.
The strategy was invented by the author, librarian and literary critic Nancy Pearl and explained in her book, Book Lust. Your attention is too precious to read bad books. The “Rule of 50” is one of the best ways to improve your chances of building a reading habit. If you don’t enjoy what you read, you are likely to abandon it after a few pages.
If the world’s most busy and successful people can manage to read dozens of books a year, you can too — at your own pace. Bite-sized books and essays are the perfect distraction in your spare time — not only will you be reading more, but you will also improve your brain and enhance your skills.
This article was originally published on Medium.