When You Have a Love-Hate Relationship With Books… How to 2.0 Your Reading Life

When You Have a Love-Hate Relationship With Books… How to 2.0 Your Reading Life

Written by Guest Contributor

Topics: Productivity

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 readerespecially a multipotentialite readercan 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 readbut 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:

  1. I can’t seem to find the time, not to mention all the distractions that get in the way.
  2. Reading just doesn’t hold my interest. I’ve been in a reading slump since, like, forever.
  3. 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.)

Need discipline/routine?

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.

Need motivation?

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!

Your Turn

What are your current and all-time favorite reads? How do you make space for reading in your busy multipotentialite life?

Want other multipotentialites in your life?

The Puttytribe doors are open today, March 3 and we’re so excited to welcome a new group of puttypeep into our multipotentialite community! Come check us out and get advice and accountability for your projects from folks who get it:

Claire NylesAlyson 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.


  1. Valora says:

    As a life-long book nerd, I enjoy almost any genre and have no excuses as to why I should or shouldn’t read whatever I like. Unfortunately though, for me, reading is like a drug. (or so I imagine) When I start, it’s extremely difficult to stop, and I’ve been known to read from sunset to sunup. I can literally read for days, and get a weird ‘hung over’ feeling when I stop and re-enter the ‘real’ world.

    So as much as I LOVE to read, I actually try to limit myself as I have little self-control when it comes to reading.

    • Alyson Wagner says:

      Hi Valora, I can definitely relate to the feeling of reading as a drug. Occasionally I wonder if my obsession with books and reading is a bit over the top because like you, I sometimes have trouble stopping. However, I tell myself there are much worse things I could be addicted to, and at least reading expands my mind, my heart, and my universe. All good side effects, surely! :) One practical suggestion, if you haven’t already tried this…Clearly, you don’t have a problem making time to read. However, since you struggle with containing your reading time, maybe you can try blocking out a semi-regular reading marathon in your schedule. For example, let’s say you have a fairly open-ended weekend coming up with no major plans or crucial to-do lists on the horizon (I know, much easier said than done!). What would it feel like if you blocked out an entire Saturday, or perhaps even the entire weekend, to just allow yourself to read and read to your heart’s content? You would still have to stop at some point of course (because life), but at least you could give yourself a nice, long stretch of uninterrupted reading. This might allow you to knock out an entire book or perhaps even an entire trilogy, depending on your reading speed, and since finishing books is very satisfying for readers, it might also lessen the frustration of having to stop. I do a shorter version of this almost every weekend. Most Saturdays are my day of rest, which I set aside to slow down and unplug from the world. I only do minimal chores and let myself indulge in reading or any other relaxing activity I want to do all day. Of course, this depends on your schedule and responsibilities, but hopefully you can come up with something similar that will work for you. Let me know if you try this and whether it helps!

  2. Arcadia Page says:

    I think for me, reading fuels my multipotential. Usually I’ll read a book, and it’ll give me something new to add to my list of projects. If it’s a non-fiction book, my mind is like, “I want to try doing this thing from this book.” If it’s a work of fiction I think, “I want to write a story/poem/comic that’s kind of like this, but different…”

    Reading gives me projects to try and things to explore.

    • Alyson Wagner says:

      Hi Arcadia, I love that reading fuels your multipotentiality! I can relate to this experience as well. When I read great fiction, it makes me want to write my own. For example, I have always liked reading short stories, but I never really thought that much about writing any (although I had written longer fiction before) until I read Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. This imaginative story collection really opened me up in a way that I can’t quite explain, and I felt compelled to write my own short stories. So I wrote a story collection! I think because the author demonstrated that you can do so many more things with short stories than I ever imagined you could. They’re such a great medium to play with! And yes, I get similar inspiration when I read a really inspiring nonfiction book—depending on the subject, it either makes me want to change my habits/lifestyle for the better or try a new skill. Books are fantastic wellsprings of inspiration. Not that I’m a biased book nerd or anything. ;)

  3. Michael says:

    Thanks for the post.
    I can totally relate to the excuses and self-limiting stories we tell ourselves. Well, only the “I can’t start reading another book until I finish the one I’m currently reading.” doesn’t apply, as I have a huge pile of books I started, especially for my studies, which won’t shrink.
    For me book clubs help. They help diving into the topics in my study environment and also to explore new classics.
    In my book clubs the number of pages of a new book choice is limited naturally due to the limited time until the next meeting, as we always read the full book for ourselves and discuss it then together. This motivates me to read to the end.

    • Alyson Wagner says:

      Hi Michael, I’m so glad you found my article relatable. I understand having to read multiple books for your studies. This is unavoidable if you are taking a class, or several classes at once. It sounds like you also enjoy reading multiple books at once, however. And this is definitely ok if it works for you! I believe that reading multiple books (or articles, blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc.) can be wonderfully stimulating, especially for multipotentialites. In fact, I have a completely unscientific theory that multipotentialites tend to read multiple books more often than specialists, simply because of our insatiable thirst for learning many different things all the time. I could be totally wrong about this, but I like to think it’s true. :)

      That’s great that book clubs help you find the focus and motivation to finish books. Yep the only problem with reading multiple books at once is that it takes longer to finish them! But that’s not really a problem, as long as it doesn’t frustrate you too much. I find that reading shorter, easier books alongside longer, more challenging books can actually help me stay motivated. It’s satisfying to finish the shorter ones while I take more time to plow through the longer ones. And yes, book clubs are great. I just joined my first one last year and am enjoying it immensely. I don’t like other people telling me what to read, but my book club votes on monthly themes instead of specific books, so each member gets to choose the book they want to read. It’s fun and dangerous, because we get multiple book recommendations at each meeting. And often I want to read more than one book that fits the theme, haha! But yes, my book club is a great way to motivate me to read certain books that have been on my TBR for too long, and to encourage me to read other types of books that I may not have considered reading before. Best success in your studies, and have fun with your book clubs!

  4. Ryan says:

    Amen Alyson! I rediscovered my love of reading in 2007. I skip around from topic to topic and found so many rabbit holes to follow. I read so many health and nutrition books that I got myself healthy. My doctor was pleasantly surprised about how many non-traditional medical terms and philosophies I was familiar with.
    Reading is one of the best- and least expensive ways- to build mastery on a subject. Reading 5 books about a particular subject gives anyone more than a basic understanding. Reading 20 is essential a masters’ level eduction.
    Reading makes us more interesting. It takes us places we might never get to see in person and gives us insight to the great minds and deeds of those who shaped the betterment of our society who we cannot meet in person.
    Hooray to all readers!

    • Alyson Wagner says:

      Hi Ryan, what a lovely paean to all the virtues of reading! I echo just about everything you said. Yes, reading is a great DIY education for people who have limited time, money, and/or energy (raising my hand on all three of those factors). You can read almost anywhere, anytime, at your own pace, and now on almost any device. While not everyone has access to books, and not everyone has the privilege of literacy, I believe reading is one of the most democratic sources of information. The more people have access to reading, the better our world can be. And yes, like you said, I love that reading can take us to places both real and imaginary, both near and far, and it can also take us to the past, present, and future. A book is like a spaceship and a time machine rolled into one! There, that’s my paean. :) So happy to hear that you re-discovered your love of reading and have even read your way to improved health. Now that is an impressive side effect of reading. May you have many more exciting journeys through time and space on the wings of books!

  5. Tomas says:

    Another suggestion. Get an e-reader!

    I was struggling to find time to read and then I bought a Kobo. Suddenly I’d finished 5 books in a month. The fact it was portable and could have a number of books on it meant I wasn’t forced to choose which book to lug around, and it’s waterproof so I don’t have to worry about it in the bath or when my fingers are covered in muck from eating potato chips. It’s also easier on my eyes than a regular tablet so it makes long binges and late night reading sessions a pleasure.

    I bought the Kobo over the Kindle because it’s compatible with my Library. Now I often browse their selection of currently available books and pick what interests me. Book on how the brain heals? I’ll take that. Random sci-fi book? I’ll take that. Best of all I can do it from my desk at work!

    Putting holds on books helps a lot too. When a book becomes available I suddenly have a deadline and that helps me focus on reading, and helps make the choice of what to read for me :)

    • Alyson Wagner says:

      Hi Tomas, that’s an excellent suggestion! I love e-readers, too. Although I will always love physical books, I tend to read mostly ebooks nowadays because they’re more affordable, more compact, and more easily accessible on the go. And yes, like you said, ebooks solve a lot of problems with books that are made of paper. I had to laugh at your mention of “muck from eating potato chips.“ So true! Even as a child, I got upset if I stained or damaged my books in any way (I was—am—a little intense). Dog ears and broken spines make me cringe. Ebooks are freeing in that way because you don’t have to worry about damaging them, and I also love being able to highlight as much as I want without making a physical mark. I almost always read while I’m eating, and with ebooks I never have to worry about potato chip muck, soy sauce stains, or anything else, although occasionally I have to wipe my e-reader or smartphone screen, ha ha!

      Another great benefit you mentioned about ebooks is that you can take an entire library with you wherever you go, so if you finish the last chapter of a book on your lunch break, you can immediately start a new book. No more having to wait till after work to get your hands on another book! And since I already own so many physical books, I love being able to collect as many ebooks as I want without creating a fire hazard or becoming a hoarder who can’t get out of their own house. Lol.

      During the week I mostly read ebooks on my smartphone (for convenience and portability), but I totally agree with you that e-readers are more relaxing, and I use mine on nights and weekends to unwind, especially at bedtime. Isn’t it great, too, that when you read in bed with an e-reader, you don’t have to worry about how to keep a physical book open without getting arm fatigue? It takes the awkwardness out of reading while lying down.

      And yes, putting books on hold at the library is also a great suggestion for keeping yourself motivated to read and finish books. Thank you for sharing your reading tips with us!

  6. Tomas says:

    So true! I love not having to figure out how to keep a physical book open at night! I especially enjoy that when I’m eating and my hands are mostly full.

    That said I do agree that physical books can be fantastic too. They’re still my preferred way to read graphic novels. And there’s something inspiring about having your favorite books visible on a bookshelf.

  7. Maryske says:

    Well, the article certainly doesn’t resonate with me – I read a LOT! Much of my free time goes up on reading – and even more so these past two months or so. I was going to take a German language exam, but I don’t even live in the country. So what I did, was reading German novels on my kindle. The collection was varied: thrillers, science fiction, young adult novels, short stories, sociology, popular physics… It worked a charm – I passed the exam with very good grades! :-)

    Anyway, for those who have trouble finding time to read, I’d say: get yourself an e-reader, stock it with a bunch of books that caught your interest (yes, YOUR interest – not because other people said you had to read it), and from now on, whenever you’re inclined to take out your phone and surf around facebook and twitter and the likes, take out your e-reader instead and READ!

    • Alyson Wagner says:

      Hi Maryske, I’m glad you don’t need the tips in my article—that means you already have a happy reading life. Yay! :) That’s so amazing you were able to ace your German language exam by reading German books on your Kindle. Way to go, super reader! And that’s a great suggestion to carry an e-reader loaded with books to take out as an alternative to checking social media or other distractions on your phone. Another benefit of e-readers and ebooks in general is that you can read whatever you want and no one else can see the cover, so you don’t have to be self-conscious about other people judging your reading choices. Not that you should spend a single moment worrying about what other people think of your reading choices, of course. But this is a great solution for those of us readers (like me) who sometimes feel self-conscious about reading, say, kid lit in public (you’re never too old to read kid lit, though!).

  8. Jaime LoUnoyLoOtro says:

    Gracias por tu artículo, me ha parecido muy adecuado a nuestro forma de ser.
    Yo personalmente estoy buscando lecturas nuevas continuamente, que me sirvan para la actividad que este desarrollando en ese momento y siempre cojo varios títulos.
    Lo que yo hago, es pasar de uno a otro, incluso antes de poner en práctica lo aprendido e incluso la mitad de los que leo no logro acabarlos. Siento la necesidad de encontrar otro del mismo tema o incluso voy saltando varios temas.
    Esto me genera una frustración muy fuerte! Además que llevo varias actividades a la vez y no termino de sacarlas adelante a ninguna de ellas. No logro terminar de consolidarlas

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