I’ve been a book nerd for nearly my entire life—ever since I learned to read. However, I realize that for many of us, being a reader—especially a multipotentialite reader—can be challenging in this age of information overload. In preparation for a reading workshop I gave at the Everything Conference, I conducted a highly informal poll. Turns out that quite a few multipods resonate with the struggle to make reading a part of their lives, for one reason or another. How about you?
Maybe you have no problem diving into a hundred other activities, but you don’t know where to start with reading. Maybe you haven’t read regularly in a long time (or ever) and developing a new habit feels daunting. Maybe you do read—but it feels difficult, and you’re not getting much satisfaction from it.
If any of these ring true, you’re not alone. In my poll, I asked participants about the obstacles they feel get in the way of a happy reading life. Here are three that resonated with a lot of us:
- I can’t seem to find the time, not to mention all the distractions that get in the way.
- Reading just doesn’t hold my interest. I’ve been in a reading slump since, like, forever.
- I don’t know where to start. What would I enjoy?
Luckily, I’ve picked up a few helpful tips from other readers, the amazing bookternet (it’s totally a thing), and my own experience as a lifelong book nerd. If you’ve been wanting to get more reading in your life—whether that means reading more regularly or reading a greater variety of content—here’s how to start!
Keys to a happy reading life
There are so many ways to read, and there has never been a better time to be a reader! Here are three keys that can help you work through those pesky obstacles and start living a happy reading life:
1. Create some space
Think about where you feel squeezed for space—your physical space at home, space in your schedule, your head space, etc. How can you free up some of this space to make room for reading? Here are some ideas for you to try:
Need more time?
Look for pockets in your schedule where you can squeeze in a bit of reading. Carry a book in your bag, or load up your phone with ebooks/audiobooks, and read a page or two while riding the subway, standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting for your latte at the coffee shop. (Tip: With audiobooks, you can also read while driving, doing laundry, washing dishes, cooking, exercising, or walking your dog.)
Schedule time to read—it can be as little as 15 minutes a day, or as much as two hours every Sunday.
Need a quiet place?
Create a special reading nook at home, visit your local library, or find a coffee shop where you feel comfortable and relaxed.
Set a reading goal that is both fun and doable. For example, “I want to read one new graphic novel a month,” or “I want to try three books by an author I’ve never read before,” or “I want to re-read a favorite series, one weekend at a time.”
Need accountability and/or sociability?
Join a book club. (Tip: Go to Meetup.com or check at your local bookstore for information on local book clubs—there are many different kinds!)
2. Give yourself permission
Many of us have self-limiting notions about how we should live our lives. These narratives keep us from being true to ourselves and can be the source of unhappiness and frustration, including in our reading lives. Here are some self-limiting stories we tell ourselves about reading:
I have to read the entire book, even if I hate it or it’s boring me to tears.
I have to read X because everyone says it’s a must-read.
I can’t start reading another book until I finish the one I’m currently reading.
I can’t read Harry Potter because I’m a grown-up, and grown-ups only read John Grisham or Nora Roberts.
I can’t read popular authors like John Grisham or Nora Roberts; I should be reading something “literary” like Margaret Atwood or Jonathan Franzen.
Says who? Unless you’re doing required reading for a school or work assignment, you don’t HAVE to read anything you don’t want to, and you CAN read whatever sparks your interest. Give yourself permission to read what you want to read, at your own pace and in your own way. Give yourself ALL the permissions you need to be a happier reader. No one is grading you.
If you just can’t get into reading right now, that’s okay. Take a break for a while. “A while” can be as long as you need—a day, a week, a few months. Explore other activities that you enjoy. If you really want to nurture your bookish soul but don’t feel up to reading, try a reading-adjacent activity such as decorating your reading nook at home, buying yourself a nice journal to organize your TBR (To Be Read) list, or making your own bookmarks (get creative with materials!).
3. Explore! Discover!
There are so many options available to you in this wonderful world of reading we live in today. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself if there’s anything you’re curious about. Pick the first thing that comes to mind, just one thing: a certain author who interests you, a topic/skill you want to learn, or that monthly poetry slam you’ve been meaning to check out at the coffee shop down the street. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Take a chance on a genre you’ve never read before
How about memoir, fantasy, science fiction, humor, mystery, or historical fiction? Ask a friend, neighbor, or co-worker for recommendations, or join an online readers’ community such as Goodreads or Litsy. (Tip: A great way to sample a new genre or author is through short story collections.)
Not into full-length books?
For fiction and creative writing, try poetry, short stories, or graphic novels. For non-fiction, try long-form articles, blog posts, or podcasts.
Read more classics, without plowing through an 800-page book that weighs a ton
Try the free Serial Reader app, which sends you daily issues of classic literature that you can read in manageable 20-minute chunks on your mobile device.
Schedule a date with your local library or independent bookstore
Give yourself at least an hour to browse the shelves without any particular intention. Notice what draws your attention or rouses your curiosity.
Go on your own scavenger hunt. Scan the shelves for any book covers that intrigue you, regardless of the title or subject matter. Take a handful of these books from the shelves, sit down for a few minutes, and look at your finds. Or choose five books at random and read the first paragraph of each book.
You can also ask your librarian or bookseller for their top five recommendations and read the jacket of each rec. If you ask nicely when they’re not too busy, your librarian/bookseller may also set you up with a “blind date” book. Tell them you like to read romance, or WWII history fascinates you, or you’re into rock climbing, and they can send you home with a book you might really hit it off with!
Expand your reading universe without exploding your wallet.
Look for free events at your local library, author readings/panel talks at your local independent bookstore (note that some author events may require you to purchase the author’s book as admission), and book clubs in your community. Place a hold at your local library for new authors or series you want to try; if you don’t like the book you borrow, you can DNF (Did Not Finish) that sweetheart goodbye without any love—or money—lost.
I hope these tips and ideas will help you 2.0 your reading life. Still feeling overwhelmed? Start with just one idea. If it lights a spark, great! If not, try another idea until you find a book that excites your multipotentialite imagination. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to read, only what works for you. Happy reading!
What are your current and all-time favorite reads? How do you make space for reading in your busy multipotentialite life?
Alyson Wagner has been a book nerd ever since she learned how to read and a writer ever since she learned how to string sentences together. She is fascinated by the entire process of book publishing and has been on a lifelong quest to integrate her love of books with her favorite skills of writing, editing, and graphic design. A native Texan with Japanese heritage, Alyson has lived in Japan, England, and Northern California and now lives in her hometown of Austin, Texas. To learn more about her book nerdiness and her other multipotentialite passions (there are always more!), visit her website at alysonwagner.com, on Instagram at @alysonimagines, and on Litsy at @alysonwrites.