Start your journey toward being an avid reader
It is hard to get started with reading.
When you spot a book in the store, you feel inspired by the idea that you will read it one day. Holding a book in your hand is uplifting — to caress the cover with your fingers and run a thumb through all those pages and imagine the day when those words would be inside your head.
But, as time goes by, you start to feel daunted, as if this book was not meant for you.
But deep down, there is a darker, more debilitating fear in your heart: what if you were not meant for this book?
What if you are not meant for any book?
Let me tell you this: even if you have not read a single book in your life, it is possible to become an avid reader. It will take some dedication and sacrifices on your part, but if you want to, there is no force in this world that can stop you from reading more books.
In this article, I am listing six tips designed for beginners to get them into the habit of reading. A lot of my friends who asked me for advice on how to get started with reading found these tips helpful. I am sure you will too.
1. Work On Your Concentration Gradually
It would be illogical to expect a beginner reader to finish off a 500-page novel as their first book. When you are starting, it is best to work on expanding your attention span gradually.
Start with short stories
Reading short stories is the perfect way to get started with the habit of reading. As this format of fiction mostly deals with a full-fledged plot, well-developed characters, and an intriguing narration in barely 3000 words (4–5 pages at max.), they are an excellent way to get you started and keep you hooked throughout.
Some of the writers whose short stories I would recommend are:
- Roald Dahl (Champion of the World, Mrs. Mulligan, The Bookseller and Taste are some of my favourites)
- Jeffrey Archer (The Collected Short Stories)
- Edgar Allen Poe (The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart)
- Truman Capote (Music for Chameleons)
Proceed to novellas
Novellas are short novels under 100 pages that you can finish reading in a day. After you have read enough short stories and familiarised yourself with the habit of reading, you can proceed to novellas. These books focus on the plot with no fillers, and you would be hooked throughout without having your attention diverted.
I have written a post covering ten of the most interesting books spanning several genres that you can finish reading in a day. Have a look through the list; you might find your next favourite book among these.
2. Have A Variety Of Options
When you are starting, do not pick up one book and force yourself to complete it. It is best to have a lot of choices while picking up your first book. Once you read through the first few pages of a number of books, you can choose to continue with the one that resonates the most with you.
Don’t feel compelled to finish every book you start. Have your options open and don’t hesitate to move on to another one if the current book is not working for you.
For example, if self-help books bore you and put you to sleep, you can try a psychological thriller. Or if you feel fiction is not your cup of tea, you can pick up a non-fiction book related to your field of interest and see how things go.
One way to have access to a lot of books is to always ask for books whenever someone enquires what they should get you for your birthday. Or you can take part in book giveaways on Twitter and Instagram (search for the hashtag #BookGiveaway on these platforms and you will be surprised at the number of authors offering free books in exchange for reviews).
You can also resolve never to walk away from a bookstore without buying yourself a book. You will be surprised at how much your life gets enriched by this simple decision.
3. Find Your Comfort Genre
One of the perks of flipping through multiple books before settling on one is that you get to explore your taste as a reader and decide on a favourite genre. After you complete your first book, try to find another one of the same genre.
- You can look through book lists sorted by genre on Goodreads.
- You can also ask a reader friend for recommendations.
When you are starting as a reader, it is important not to stray too far from your comfort zone, as reading books that might not hold your attention for long enough might cause your new-found interest in books to fizzle out.
I know it can be disheartening not to be able to continue on a journey you just started, and this is why it is essential to not be too adventurous at the start.
Once you have settled in comfortably into the habit of reading, you can venture into trying other genres, but till then, play safe and read on.
4. Experiment With Different Mediums
My partner was never much of a reader, but because I talked so much and so lovingly about books, he wanted to try out. I gifted him several books to get him started, but he could never proceed beyond the first few pages.
I let him borrow my Kindle and tried to get him started with eBooks, but even that failed.
When I was on the verge of giving up hope, we found an Audible deal that let us have a free trial for three months. We got it without hesitation, and he started listening to Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.
Now that is not a book I would recommend to beginners because the language is complex and the themes dealt with are dark and heavy. But this was narrated by the author herself, and since my partner was interested in Indian politics, I thought maybe he could have a go.
I woke up the next day to find a string of text messages telling me how much he loved this book. It was like listening to the joyful exuberance of a kid who just discovered their favourite toy store gave them an all-access pass for a month.
I was beaming from ear to ear and told him just how pleased I was because he finally stated his journey toward being a reader, that too, with a book by an all-time-favourite author of mine.
The point of this story is: if you cannot read paperbacks, try eBooks and audiobooks to find the format that fits the best with your lifestyle. Gone are the days when people used to call “audiobooks” as not real books.
With several talented voice actors and authors stepping into the narration game, quality audiobooks are just a finger’s tap away. I have already written a post about you can get the most out of an audiobook.
5. Make Reading A Part Of Your Routine
Make an active choice to fit books into your life.
Keep books within easy reach
Have a book by your bedside table so you can get some reading done before you go to bed and after you wake up in the morning. This way, you can incorporate books into your morning and night routines — an excellent way to minimise the time wasted by scrolling through your phone in the wee hours.
Have a book with you at all times
Whether it is a paperback in your bag or an eBook or audiobook on your phone, make sure you carry a book with you wherever you go. That way, you can fit in some reading whenever you get a chance to scroll through your phone.
Have a designated reading nook
Just like you designate time from your life to reading, make an effort to assign some space in your home specifically for reading.
You can have it near your bookshelf so you can pick a different book if the current one does not suit your taste. Have a comfortable seating space and lights to suit your mood. You can also turn on light music to aid you while reading.
My friend Nayanika Saikia has created a picture-perfect space in her room for reading. Here is a picture (wouldn’t such an aesthetically decorated place just make you want to read and read and read?):
When you get to your reading nook, your brain will automatically get into the ‘reading mode’ and help you spend some quality time with your books.
Get rid of distractions
Keep your phone away when you are in your reading zone. Use a physical dictionary if you have to look up meanings of unfamiliar words. Under no circumstances, should you let a message or dial tone from your phone distract you.
When you read, you enter into a world the author has created especially for you. Do not let the stresses of your everyday life pull you out of this world. There is a time and place for everything; this time and space are only for reading.
6. Make Goals
Once you have settled in comfortably into the habit of reading, it is time now to set a goal of the number of books you will read in the year.
Make sure the goal is achievable and not too ambitious. Also, when you make a commitment, stick to it, and don’t take it too lightly.
You can use Goodreads to challenge yourself to complete a number of books in a year. Or, you can write this down in your journal. If you keep getting distracted by movies or other plans, you can also write your reading goal on a piece of paper and stick it in your room in a place you see each day after you wake up.
This will keep you grounded and make sure you don’t forget your commitment. Here is something else you can do to help make this easier:
Hold yourself accountable
Post about your reading goals all over your social media profiles, so all your followers know about your commitment. In a way, you are accountable to them to finish reading that many books.
Talk to your friends, keep track on Goodreads — tell everyone about your reading plans. If you don’t stick to your goal, the world will know you’ve failed. You don’t want that happening, do you?
If you have always wanted to be a reader but never found the courage or the heart to stick to a book long enough to finish it, I hope this article gave you the push (or sign from the Universe — whatever you like to call it) that you had been looking for.
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