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Remember being in fifth grade and being an absolute fiend for reading? Going home for the day? Time to read. Got a free moment in school? Time to read. Got an entire two-week long break off of school for the holidays? Sick, two weeks for reading.

It’s safe to say my lackluster reading habits that I’ve had since middle school would make me a complete stranger to my fifth grade self. Besides assigned school reading, and even that barely so, I’ve picked up maybe I mean maybe one book a year. And I’m not even sure if I finished any of those half-hearted attempts. This year, I set a goal for myself that I would be different. This year…I made the daring attempt to start reading for fun, and somehow it actually worked.

As of November 2021, I have read 14 books this year. Fourteen!!! If I had continued my old habit of reading it would have taken me till 2034 to read that amount, and honestly I just don’t have that kind of time. It took me a few months to get myself motivated, but now I read at least a half hour every day, and I have an entire list of what I’d like to read next. If you want to start reading for fun, or even if you just want to read more in general, here’s my realistic guide to get yourself reading.

1. Think about what you actually want to read, and think about what you actually will read

When I started wanting to knit during mid-2020, I spoke to someone who had been knitting for a very long time. They told me, “Learn by working on a project you’re really excited about. Don’t just find any one and try to power through, otherwise you’re just going to confuse and bore yourself, ” (well maybe they didn’t say it exactly like that, I have slept since then, but pretty much like that). I think this exact same quote can be applied to starting any new hobby. 

Start by making a list of books you want to read. If you don’t have any particular titles you’re already set on that’s completely OK! Think about the kinds of stories or subjects that interest you. If you want to appeal to your former reading-fiend-self, think about the stories you always wanted to read but never had the chance to. Do not stress about them being at a certain reading level or being “high brow” or anything, just choose a book that would make you, and only you, genuinely interested in reading it. There might be some book that’s everyone’s currently reading, or is a famous classic, but ask yourself if that’s a book you’ll really want to keep turning the pages in.

2. Try out books you’re interested in for free through the library

Now that you’ve got a few books in mind that you’d like to read, it’s time to get your hands on them: either physically or digitally. Since it might take some trial and error to figure out which book you want to read past its first chapter, I recommend the most wonderful, risk-free option of them all to get books: the library! It’s free and oh-so easy to sign up for a library card with the Houston Public Library, and you don’t even need a Houston address. They have many locations around the city you can visit, and if you don’t have the time or means to go in-person they have countless ebooks and audiobooks you can borrow right off of the app or website. The University of Houston Library is also a great resource.

3. Start off slow and build a routine

I mentioned earlier that I read at least 30 minutes a day now, but it took some dedication to work my attention span up to that amount. For a while, it was difficult getting myself through half a chapter without checking my phone or giving up all together. Start off with setting a goal amount to read each day that’s actually doable. 5 minutes? 10 minutes? One chapter? Anything works as long as it works for you! The most important thing is to get yourself used to reading every day, and once you’re comfortable with that you can increase the time.

4. Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks

Getting into audiobooks has perhaps been my biggest “hack” of sorts for getting reading done. After a long day where you just want to sit on the couch and turn your brain off, it can be hard to get yourself flipping through the pages. With audiobooks, you can listen while you’re driving, cooking, doing chores, etc., and BAM before you know it you’ve made it through two whole chapters of your new favorite book before you even finished your trip to Trader Joe’s. There are quite a few days where I just get my 30 minutes of daily reading in by listening on my drive to/from work every day.

There are tons of free ways to get audiobooks into your life. You can borrow them onto your phone or computer from the library, look them up on Youtube (search for the “title” + “audiobook”), and/or seek a free trial membership with the audiobook app Audible.

5. Incentivize yourself and make yourself feel accomplished (because you are)

Even if I’m reading the most interesting book on the face of the planet, sometimes my little monkey brain can only be motivated by giving myself a treat for working hard. When it comes to reading, one way I’ve done this is through getting on the all-things-book-related platform Goodreads. It’s a social media site but … just for books. After you’ve finished a book, you can add it to your “Read” shelf on your profile, and it is just so satisfying. Reading a book, especially if you don’t read often, is hard work, and it deserves to be celebrated!

6. Have interesting thoughts and conversations about your latest reads

After you’ve successfully finished a book (congratulations in advance by the way), it is so fulfilling and thought-provoking to talk with others and ourselves about the book. Being a part of the conversation, exercising our critical thinking, and gaining a new appreciation for something in the book or in life is so rewarding. 

If you want to talk with others, look for Reddit, Twitter or blog communities to hop in on the discussion with other fans of the read. If you’re more into analyzing and hearing other people’s takes on the book, try searching for articles written about the book, or video essays about it on Youtube. Looking for more of a solo-experience? Search for “(insert book title) book club questions” to give yourself a few starting points on gathering your thoughts and hot takes.

That’s all of my advice! 

Remember to be kind to yourself in this process. It can be hard for a while to get started, but once you fall into a routine and discover books you love it’s so magical. Fifth grade me, and current me, is routing for you!

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