Today I thought I’d write about how I manage to keep reading for pleasure and not just for my research. (For advice that’s probably better than mine you should watch this video, which by a happy coincidence came out two days before I had planned to write this.)
Last year, I read 100 non-PhD-related books. (I have no idea how many I must’ve read for my PhD, but given that it was my first year…probably a lot.) My actual goal was 60, but I just ended up reading a lot more than expected. Admittedly, I do read pretty quickly compared to most people, but I guess some of my tips could still be useful!
Firstly, I do almost 100% of my reading on public transport. I take the metro and the train to university – an hour in total – and if I didn’t have those two hours everyday, I would only read a fraction of what I do. Sometimes I read the newspaper in the morning, and sometimes I’m too tired to concentrate on words and I just listen to music, but the majority of the time I try to read on at least one of my commutes each day. If I’ve finished my book or don’t read, I find that I just waste an hour staring at my phone and that usually leaves me feeling a bit bleh.
Next, this may sound pretty obvious, but I also make sure I pick books that I actually want to read: by which I mean, not ones that I feel I should. Of course, I try to read a mix of classics and larger books, and thinner and easier ones. But especially if I’ve been in a bit of a rut, I want something that I am going to actually want to pick up and read. For me, re-reads often serve that purpose – at the moment, I’m reading Bill Bryson for the umpteenth time. Last year, I also got into the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett: each book is reasonably short, light reading, and still interesting enough that you want to pick it up again.
I also find that setting goals through websites like Goodreads, which has annual reading challenges, motivates me to read more (although numbers aren’t everything, because reading one long book can take far longer than several small ones). Joining online book clubs forces you to read one book a month, and the extra push from the book club or Booktube community can help add a bit of extra motivation too.
Finally, I try not to beat myself up if I don’t read for a while. Like everything, there are weeks when I want to read non-stop (the last time this happened was with the Kingkiller Chronicles, which I cannot recommend highly enough – although I’m now waiting impatiently for the third book in the trilogy). And there are weeks when I don’t feel like reading books at all, and I’d much rather skim the newspaper or read articles on Snapchat. In the end, the number of books you read is just that – a number – and the most important thing is the pleasure that comes from the reading itself.