I’ve always been a rabid reader, right from childhood. For 2019, I set a personal goal to read 250 books, and having finished number 176 yesterday, I’m right on schedule. When I talk to friends and colleagues about reading, I often hear, “I’m just not a reader” or “I wish I read more” or “I can’t ever find the time to read”. I’m constantly encouraging others to read more, because in addition to being a great mental escape, it’s good for your brain, decreases stress levels, and improves communication skills (for more on the benefits of regular reading, check out this article from Lifehack).
The first step to reading more is to get your hands on something that appeals to you. You might think that with all the reading I do, I don’t have any trouble finding great books. I wish that were the case, but burning through books so fast means I’m constantly on the hunt. With so many options, finding the right one for you can be really daunting. However, it’s completely doable:
Step One: Figure Out What You Like
Reading is going to be more interesting if you follow your interests. I read mostly fiction, but I do keep an eye out for nonfiction about things that genuinely engage me. Are you a movie fan? Consider a biography of a favorite director, a book or article going behind the scenes of a favorite film, or maybe a book about cinema history. If you watched a documentary or took part in a conversation on a topic that piqued your interest, dig a little deeper on the subject. I’m a longtime circus fan, and that interest has led me to read a lot about circus and carnival history (which, by the way, is a fascinating subject). If you’re looking for a starting point, try a collection of essays (I frequently recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, which has engaging examinations of topics ranging from advertising to condiments to the difference between choking and panicking). You can also look for biographies of people you admire, self improvement books on things you want to change in your life, or books on your professional field.
Focusing on your interests also helps when selecting fiction. My aforementioned interest in the circus led me to Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, one of my favorite books of all time, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever encountered, and even Stephen King’s Joyland, which is actually about an amusement park but had some of the same ambiance. Outside of the circus connection, these books have very little in common, but I thoroughly enjoyed all three. In fiction, you can also focus on genre. What kinds of stories do you like? Romance? Science fiction? Fantasy? Horror? Military fiction? Historical fiction? Another genre entirely? A genre based search is a great way to find books that will appeal to your personal taste. If you aren’t a big reader, start with movies. The kinds of films you really enjoy will help point you towards the kinds of books that will hold your attention. My dad, who isn’t a huge reader, enjoyed watching Jack Reacher so much that he read the entire series-more than 20 books. After that, he went looking for similar thrillers and discovered a lot of other authors. A friend of mine enjoys romantic comedies, so she got into chick lit.
Step Two: Find the Book
Ok, so you know what kind of book you want. Now how do you find it? There are lots of ways to hunt down that perfect title, including:
- Visit a library or bookstore. Wander the aisles or go straight to your preferred genre section. Pick up what catches your eye, read the blurb, and flip through. Talk to librarians and employees and get their recommendations. Browsing an online bookstore or library site also works, but be sure to read the sample before you make a purchase.
- Web resources. Goodreads let you browse titles and reviews in several ways, including genre, or you can check out their lists (one of my favorite features) to see collection of books that fit a particular interest. If you sign up for an account and enter things you’ve read and a start rating, the site gives you personalized recommendations. I also really like What Should I Read Next, where you enter a title or author you enjoy and receive suggestions for other titles.
- Get personal recommendations. If you know someone who’s a reader, ask him or her for suggestions. Be sure to specify your interests, so you don’t end up hearing all about a book you’ll never want to read.
- Check out book blogs. I follow quite a few, and other people’s reviews often point me towards books I might have missed, or help me determine whether or not a book is for me. For example, I had no intention of reading City of Girls until Kristin’s review changed my mind, and Beth and I share so many of the same tastes that a recommendation from her is as good as gold.
- Keep an eye on the bestseller lists and look for titles that appeal to you.
So go find your next great read, and on the next post we’ll talk about finding the time to read it.
Read any good books lately? What’s on your interest list? Facing any reading hurdles?