I don’t want to be a quitter, so I used to always finish reading books. However, as my responsibilities grew with marriage, motherhood, and full-time employment, I changed my reading policy. Now I’m more than glad to drop a book I don’t like.
I couldn’t agree more when Gretchen Rubin, the best-selling author of “The Happiness Project,” said that one of the best ways to become a better reader is to quit reading boring books. “When I let myself abandon a boring book, I have more time to read what I love,” Rubin wrote in an article for Publishers Weekly.
Below are some ways that help me read more books I like and appreciate each book better. Give them a try!
#1 Give a book a three-chapter chance. If a book is really bad, I have no problem quitting after the first page or chapter. If I’m lukewarm about a book, I will give the author a fair chance by reading up to chapter three. After that, I make my decision to continue or quit. I can still quit at any point if the book fails to engage me.
#2 Join a book club. Last year, I joined an in-person book club organized by my local library and an online book club. Hands down, the former is better in every way. I love the company of fellow bookworms. For some people, the club’s choice for the month will guarantee that they will read at least one book in the next four weeks. For me, it guarantees an additional book on top of my own reading choice. So, it doubles my reading output.
#3 Make a distinction between serious and light reading. From the get-go, I will decide whether a book is “serious” or “light” reading material. Making the distinction helps me set the number of hours and the amount of effort I will spend in reading the book. I don’t linger on a word or a sentence if it’s light reading, whereas I will jot down notes if it’s serious reading.
#4 Always bring a book to read. Whether it’s digital or hard copy, don’t get caught without a book. The 30 minutes I spend waiting after getting an allergy shot (a monthly ritual) is an important reading time for me, in addition to the time I spend waiting before getting the shot. I carry a book wherever I go; that way, I don’t resent waiting at a hair salon or a dentist’s office or the post office.
#5 Keep a reading list. I have a running list of books I want to read. I track the list via Goodreads, where I maintain “want to read, “currently reading,” and “read” lists. It feels good to check off a title from the list after I finish reading.
#6 Set aside a time to read. I reserve at least 30 minutes every day for reading. I can’t go to bed without first reading a book, whether it’s only three pages or three whole chapters is beside the point. When I find myself juggling more than one book (refer to #2 about joining a book club), I add about 20 minutes of reading time early in the morning before I tackle work email messages.
#7 Listen to audiobooks. I’m not into audiobooks myself, but I know other people who love them. They like to listen to books while commuting or doing the laundry or exercising on a treadmill. If you can multitask that way, give it a try. As for me, the experience of seeing written words is half the pleasure I get from reading, so audiobooks are not for me. But maybe they’re right for you.
#8 Challenge yourself. Goodreads has a reading challenge every January. I don’t participate because I already have a running list of books to read (see #5), plus I tend to rebel against imposed pressure. However, a reading goal works for many people. See if you have the temperament for it.
Note: This article was first published on my old blog on June 12, 2015. I’ve updated it, from five to eight tips.