Image credit: Bino Storyteller/Unsplash.
Recently I discussed the value of reading books on a regular basis. It's a topic important to me. Reading books is something I wish I did sooner and more often. There is no telling how much more knowledge could have been acquired.
In the last post about reading books, I talked about "shortcuts" - or lack thereof. In my experience, speed reading and other gimmicks for absorbing books faster and more efficiently don't do much to help. In this sense, there are no easy ways to read more.
However, after thinking about it for a few days, I decided to amend my aforementioned declaration a little. No, I am not a born-again speed reader. Instead, it occurred to me there are many things in modern life which essentially discourage us from reading more. Whether environmental or just mental, adjusting these factors will promote more reading.
Optimize the experience
In many situations, men and women aren't reading books as often as they'd like to simply because conditions are not conducive. By improving the experience, especially at home (where conditions can be controlled) folks stand a better chance of reading more books more regularly.
Seating: Reading books can be a literal pain without someplace comfortable to sit. Couches and beds are okay, but the former is surrounded by distractions, the latter can lead to falling asleep, and both are anchored to their one and only location. Homeowner friends of mine have had good things to say about bean bag furniture for comfortable reading, particularly comfysacks.com bean bags. They're easily movable, allow for a variety of sitting/laying positions, are made to last, and look great.
Lighting: The most underrated component of an optimal reading experience is lighting. If it's too bright or too dark, it's hard to read, simple as that. If you plan on reading outdoors (one of my favorites) make sure to bring sunglasses just in case. Floor lamps are ideal for reading indoors, but it's important to think about the kind of bulb to use. In general, the older we get, the more wattage is needed to read. Furthermore, ambient light, whether from the ceiling lamp or the windows, ought to be of similar brightness to prevent contrast-induced eye fatigue.
Setting: We are likely to do most of our reading inside our homes (or whatever we're calling home at the time) but familiar surroundings are said to make it harder to concentrate on what's being read. Therefore it's encouraged to find parks, cafes, and libraries to go and read from time to time. Factors such as smells and temperature are also likely to impact a person's ability to focus on reading, so these ought to be considered as well when finding an outside the home setting.
Disable the distractions
No matter how compelling a narrative or topic, it's hard to knock out lots of pages at once if there are a barrage of distractions lurking nearby. Disabling them before reading can increase the productivity of the session.
Noise: There is a reason libraries are notoriously quiet. Silence helps us stay focused on reading. Finding quiet places to conduct reading sessions is not always easy, in which case an investment in noise canceling headphones may be in order.
Social Media/Texts/Internet/Etc: We all know how distracting our mobile devices can be when we're trying to get things done. Reading is no different so turn off the phone and other internet enabled devices for an hour or more. It may be difficult to accomplish this goal when using a tablet to read an ebook, but then that's why traditional books remain the superior choice. In fact, young adult readers prefer printed books to ebooks, likely because it's easier for them to focus and absorb the material when not a click away from Facebook.
Appetite: Try not to commit to reading on an empty stomach. Maybe it's just me, but if I'm even just a little bit hungry when reading, it seems to feel like I'm starving after about 20 minutes. If the book mentions food in any way, matters are made worse. Before I know it, I'm thinking about satisfying my appetite rather than focusing on what I'm reading. So, in short, eat before you read. If this isn't an option, try and chew gum instead. Anything to keep the stomach from growling and eyes on the page.
Don't feel bad stopping, but keep starting over
We've all been there: a book no longer becomes absorbing about halfway through, sometimes earlier. Some of us feel pressured to finish it, but giving up on a book is not a crime. It indicates the reader has specific tastes, and there's nothing wrong with being selective. The key is not to give up on trying to find a book worth reading to completion.
Genre: While literary fiction has been shown to improve empathy, novels aren't for everyone. If readers can't seem to find a captivating yarn, they may want to switch over to non-fiction. Give new genres a try and it's likely one will stand out as a favorite - not that the others ought to be ignored.
Author: Sometimes the genre is fine, it's the author that isn't captivating the reader. Try reading the works of several different fiction authors before swearing off novels entirely. Conversely, it may not be that a notable person's life story was uninteresting, but rather a single biographer failed to capture it with zest.
Subject: If a particular topic matter seems consistently fascinating no matter what genre or author is involved, don't feel bad about sticking with it. While a variety of book types is encouraged, there's nothing wrong with focusing on a single subject. It may turn you into a sort of "amateur expert" if you'll forgive the oxymoronic phrasing.
Most people want to read more books than they presently average per year. While there is no "easy" way to speed read or otherwise consume books faster, there are certainly ways to encourage oneself to read more throughout the week. By doing so, readers can consume far more books than they otherwise would over time.