Tips for getting (back) into the habit of reading for fun

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Through the end of my sophomore year in high school, I was an avid reader. Back then, once I picked up a novel, it was impossible for me to put it down. I’d take my books to school to read during the commute on the bus or during rare free periods, during which interacting with other students was not allowed. As a child, I was praised for reading well beyond my years, and it was a habit that was well appreciated. But come junior year of high school, I became so busy with academics and extracurricular activities that I no longer found time to read. And slowly, the habit disappeared except for an occasional book here and there.

I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of reading again, and it has not been easy. Sounds familiar? Here are some of my tips to get you right back into the habit of reading!

Make a plan

Like you would for any other goal, it’s important to make a plan for this one as well. For the longest time, I’d just think to myself after staring at all the unread books in the family bookshelf, “It’s time for you to pick up a book and start reading again.” For that one day after a spout of inspiration, I’d read a little before reverting to the status quo of not reading. That’s when I realized that for this to work, I need to set SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Instead of telling yourself to simply start reading again, make goals such as “I must read for 30 minutes before bed every day for a month” or “I must finish novels x and y in a month’s time.” This way, you are creating specific tasks in a time-bound manner that ensures you are progressing to your goal.

Start small

If you choose a 1,000-page book to begin with, you’re doomed to get disillusioned and give up after a couple of chapters. Start with something more easily digestible, such as short stories. Short stories are just the right length so that they’re not overwhelming for a new reader but also maintain intrigue. Be sure to check out some of the classics, such as “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Last Leaf,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger.” Jeffrey Archer’s short stories are also among my favorites.

Choose a familiar genre

If you are picking up a book again after a long hiatus, choose something from a familiar genre or one that you like! I personally love murder mysteries and thrillers. I’m usually hooked from the get-go and eventually read way more than originally anticipated in a single sitting. You could also choose a book that has a movie adaptation, such as “Gone Girl.” With the premise already under your belt, you might find it easier to read! This gets the momentum going, which then allows you to face more challenging reads.

Find a community

We’re all human, and sometimes, we lack motivation. The issue is when this short pause stretches on for days and then months and you’re suddenly back to square one. To hold yourself accountable, create your own online book club with like-minded individuals, or join one of the many public online clubs. I joined an online reading circle created by UC Berkeley students over the summer but unfortunately couldn’t attend the meetings due to the time difference. However, it was still helpful, as I stayed in the loop of what books were being discussed and was exposed to new, contemporary works that I was previously not familiar with.

Lastly, have fun with the process. Think about why you want to get back into the habit of reading and enjoy it!

Contact Nandita Radhakrishnan at [email protected].