Whenever you think of childhood, do you remember playing in the sun with a bunch of kids or curling up in a corner with a book?

I belonged primarily to the latter category.

There were very few kids in my apartment building and so, my best friends when my school friends weren’t around, were books. I was a voracious reader who gobbled books up in no time. School library, book exhibitions, local lending libraries, book stores and second-hand book stalls were never left in peace and raided with my pocket money. Why I’d even go to my neighbourhood junkyard to sift for books!

It was a friendship that was deep and I was blissfully happy with it. In today’s parlance, we were “totes BFFs.”

But then, there came the trial by fire!

As I grew older (and supposedly, wiser, although this is debatable), I found less and less time to curl up with a book. There were tomes of physics and economics to be read and later quizzed on. There were college entrance exams to be written. And somehow, my friendship fizzled away. Apart from the occasional book that managed to completely absorb me, my reading dropped from nearly 40–50 books a year to a meagre 3 or 4.

I am sure many of you reading this can completely relate to this situation. How often do we give up reading or some other favourite hobby to the hands of time? We want to read more but are distracted or unable to find the time.
But let’s be brutally honest — these are excuses at the end of the day. A big part of ‘adulting’ is to take responsibility not just of life and its routines but also of the things that matter the most to us.

Reading is a rewarding experience. From exposing us to multiple perspectives alien to us to help us hone our vocabulary to express ourselves better, reading is a gift that keeps on giving.

The only way to get back to reading is simple — we need to pick a book and start reading. This may sound ridiculously simple, but we all know how tough that actually is in a world of instant notifications and Netflix!

Four years back, I struggled to read. Being a writer, reading is so crucial. And without the inspiration of the giants in writing, my own words were sounding stale and trite. Scared that I was going nowhere, and egged on by the encouragement of some of my wonderful bookish friends, I decided to pick up my reading once again. This is what happened:

The year 2016: 13 books
The year 2017: 24 books
The year 2018: 48 books
The year 2019: 16 and counting…

Today, I can safely say that no matter how busy my life is, I always find time to read books. They have become my priority and I know there is no going back. It has improved my writing, my concentration on the task at hand and enriched me with glimpses of many parts of the world and beyond.

How did I — who couldn’t read a page without refreshing my phone back in the day– manage to multiply my reading manifold?
The answer: By employing a number of simple tricks and tips. Here they are for you to try them out so that you too can delight in the joys of reading once again!

Create a good reading environment

Switch off your mobile phones or keep them far far away. Finish all your pending tasks so they don’t buzz around your head. Make a cup of coffee or pick up a beverage of your choice. Find a cosy seat and only then, pick up your book.

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Take it one page at a time

Looking at a mammoth novel of 378 pages might dissuade us from reading it. But why don’t we shift our perspective here? Let’s take a book one page at a time just like many of us take one day at a time to get through our routines and hardships. As long as we take these baby steps, we are sure to complete it. One page will lead to two and so on.

Set a target

Many people I know love to set a target in the form of a number of pages to read every day. If you are the kind who is goal-driven and see tremendous results that way, do set a number of pages to read. The key is to make sure that this number is achievable so that you don’t get demotivated right at the beginning. You can always keep increasing this number slowly to push your own capabilities.

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Try different genres

When I began reading, I was dedicated to fiction. I sneered upon non-fiction. “It is not for me,” I used to declare pompously. However, over the years, I have realized, thanks to Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, that the more categories of books you read, the better it is for your own life. Why? You empathize more with the lives of others. You begin to appreciate the techniques and ideas that others apply to their lives and business. You discover new ways of self-expression (why to write only with words? Why not create a graphic novel!) Overall, reading wider and harder hones your personality in impressive ways. So the next time someone tosses a manga or a food book, give it a shot!

Size matters, some times!

As we have clearly established, big fat books are scary! Which is where thin volumes of poetry, anthologies of short stories and novellas come to the rescue. If the size of the book is daunting, pick up a slim volume to encourage yourself. And when you finish three such volumes in a month, pat yourself on the back. It counts!

Read with a bunch of friends

Misfortune is not just the one that loves company, reading does too! While reading itself might be a solitary task, picking up reading as a habit with a bunch of friends might help you read more. Simply put, this works on the same principle that helps you work out more when you have a partner who is equally invested in their health. I definitely got back to reading thanks to my friends and so can you! So, hunt down friends who already read a lot or attempting to pick up their reading. Set a group target, hop on Goodreads or note down the books you read on a sheet together and begin!

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Read across different mediums

I love holding books. But the one thing that has helped me read more is my Kindle. Let’s face it — we cannot carry all our physical books around the world! The only way to do this, in essence, is to carry them as e-books on our e-readers. Invest in a good e-reader, if your excuse is that books are heavy to lug around. At the end of the day, it is important to read. It does not matter HOW you read it. So, take up a new motto — “If I want to read, I’ll read however I can.” I took it a step further — downloaded the Kindle app on my phone and laptop and read across devices!

Do you only have to “read?”

How about listening to an audiobook instead? The meaning of reading is to encounter another person’s ideas within a book. While I personally prefer reading the entire book myself, my recent brushes with audiobooks have been a revelation. It is super easy to plug in when on the move or at the gym and listen to an audiobook. Be it Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic or Scarlett Johanssen reading out Alice in Wonderland or good old Stephen Fry’s Harry Potter rendition, audiobooks bring back the delight of listening to a storyteller with rapt attention.

Pick up a challenge

Sometimes “what to read” is the biggest problem. This is where the many reading challenges come to our rescue. The aforementioned Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge is brilliant and helps you explore new genres and types of authors. Read The World challenge replicates reader and author Ann Morgan’s act of reading books from each country around the world. Goodread’s reading challenge helps you set a number of books to finish every year. 52 books in 52 weeks is quite self-explanatory. Choose a challenge that appeals to you and get reading. For a quick reference, check out this exhaustive list of reading challenges of 2019.

Read anytime and every single time

Read a page in the mornings, on the pot, in the nights before bed, while you travel, when you wait for the coffee to brew or whatever little time you have at hand. If you make up your mind to read, you can read anywhere!

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Find your own style, but be kind when you fail. Simply try again, but in a different way. My journey back to reading harder, wider and more was not easy, but I managed to cross the hurdles and make it into a habit once again. It is a tough uphill task, but if you give it time and have the will to try, you can definitely read more!

October 22, 2019