How 2020 Became the Year I started Really Reading Again

Let me know if this sounds familiar.

I used to read all the time as a kid, I’d get through books like nobody’s business. But these days I find it hard to find the time. I try to read when I go to bed but most days I’m just too tired.

It’s a fairly common statement. You don’t have the time you did as a kid or the passion of a teenager. There are lots of other things to occupy your time, like the big 3, Netflix, social media and gaming.

I was sad to realise it had happened to me. To the point where my Goodreads “currently reading” was just a reminder of what I had abandoned.

But now, at the start of 2021 I’ve blasted through lots of books in a couple of months and 5 more this January. So how did it happen?

1. 2020 happened

Ok, it’s not quite what you think. This wasn’t a case of “I’m stuck inside so I need something to do”. Though there may be a bit of that, I’ve not quite felt like I need to occupy time.

While others had more free time in 2020, I actually had way less. My job continued (and actually got busier at the start of lockdown) and there was something happening in my personal life draining much of my time throughout the year.

The real big change for me, was that I was working from home again. Which meant that when I went to bed I was less concerned about going to sleep at an exact time because I didn’t have a train to catch the next morning.

Essentially my bed time remained the same but I allowed myself more time for reading because my anxiety wasn’t estimating the amount of sleep I’d be getting.

2. I discovered BookTube

This is a big one and I’ve been kicking myself for not discovering it sooner. For years I’ve lamented the fact that I found a book podcast that I enjoyed but gave up on because they mainly focused on YA, something that just doesn’t click with me.

In the way of YouTube I came across someone via the algorithm, Leena Norms. Someone who covered a range of topics, including feminism environmentalism and other social issues as well as books.

I realised how nice it was to watch a person talk about books and I went looking for more. I soon found a number of them including Daniel Greene who focused on fantasy, my favourite genre.

Before I knew it I was building my TBR list beyond a vague “I should probably get around to reading that” or in the case of earlier this year “I kinda just want to reread my old favourites”.

I was excited about reading again. And now I’m racing through books not just because I’m enjoying them but because I can’t wait to get to the next thing on my list.

3. Changing up the environment

My drive to start going through my new TBR list did a lot of the hard work, to be honest. But there were some other things I did to encourage myself to read beyond the bedroom.

While on the sofa I’ll stop myself when I’m mindlessly looking for something to watch and instead pick one of those cafe music or live lounge jazz channels. Then with some soothing background music I’ll grab a book and start reading. (It also helps that so many new shows at the moment have hour-long episodes that I can’t be bothered with).

Not all the time, but sometimes I’ll change seats to one that faces away from the TV and has better light for reading as well. It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do for your brain, even if it’s just a different chair.

I’ve actually started to take this idea further and am now determined to make myself a little “Reading Nook”.

4. Setting my Kindle to show pages rather than percentage

I’ve been a big advocate for e-readers since they became a thing. But reading so many digital AND physical books back-to-back has taught me a lot about what personally motivates me to read more.

I found that counting the pages I’d read, really helped me feel like I was making progress. A percentage should help do that too, but it never matched up to how I would treat a physical book. So I changed it so the kindle would show it’s aproximation of how many pages I had read.

If you like that feeling of progress and achievement, you might find it a better option for you as well. It’s the closest a digital book can come to that feeling of staring at the placement of a bookmark and seeing it slowly travel down the book as the hours and days go by.

5. Turn your phone on silent or off

This doesn’t need much explaining. If my phone’s pinging a lot I stick it on silent for a bit. If I’m too tempted to scroll on twitter I’ll put it out of reach so it’s not an easy automatic motion anymore.

There are also apps that will help you concentrate on something else for a set amount of time. So if struggling to make time is still an issue for you, try one where you can set a timer to 30 minutes and just give yourself that half hour to read. The forest app is a popular one for this.

6. Moving to Storygraph

I’ve never been fully commited to my Goodreads account. I have a lot of pet peeves when it comes to the platform. So I was delighted to see that all of my problems had been solved… by another platform.

Storygraph is still in BETA but you can essentially use it as if it were fully live. (Just be aware that BETA means some features may change or even disappear). And I love it because I can select multiple books for the “currently reading” section, letting me multitask to my hearts content.

There is also an option to mark a book as did-not-finish. What a revelation! There are a few books on Goodreads I’ve had to mark as read or delete when I failed to reach the last page.

7. Mix it up (book wise)

Switching between books can be a good way to avoid getting burnt out. This can either mean selecting something quite different from what you’ve just finished. Or if you’re in the middle of a 1,000 page fantasy monster, it can be nice to have something smaller to grab when you need a break.

I recently read The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson and while I absolutely loved it, reading the same thing for 2 hours+ can start to be feel a bit dull. So don’t feel bad if you pick something else up as a palette cleanser.

This will vary depending on the person as I’m sure there are people who will happily binge through a book as they would a Netflix show. But the thing is, I don’t even binge TV all that much anymore. A few episodes in, or less if the episodes are long, and I’m looking to switch it up a bit. So it makes sense that books would be the same.

8. Love small books too

As I’ve mentioned already I will happily pick up the chunkiest books I can find. Make something over a 1000 pages and consider it a personal requirement to at least give it a look. Plus as a fantasy fan, it’s basically part of the whole schtick.

But grabbing short books and even novellas has helped with the aforementioned palette cleanses. A book of short stories about Tokyo was a great break from the epic fantasies I’m reading through. They can offer stories in a neat and satisfying package, letting you quickly explore new characters and situations without commiting too much time.

If the tip about changing your Kindle settings struck a chord with you then you might also appreciate short books as a way to rack up those numbers for your 2021 reading goal. And no, they are not cheating.

But only if you want to…

Intellectually and emotionally I know that the act of reading shouldn’t amount to a Clickbait thumbnail where you show off how you read over 100 books in a year. I know that it should be done for just the enjoyment of it.

But the last couple of months has taught me that a part of me is still the child that likes to show off how much of their book they’ve managed to read in a day. And there’s something about the feeling of progress and accomplishment that encourages me to read more and more. It just makes me feel really good about myself.

This isn’t to say I haven’t had other benefits from reading either. The achievement aspect is mostly a motivation. The rewards are the incredible stories I’ve gotten to experience as well as the calm focus that comes with the activity. 2020 was the perfect year for reading because it was a year I needed to ignore for a little while each day.

9ish A final note on audiobooks

If you’re wanting to read more, audiobooks are a fantastic option for that. They let you read while tidying the house, driving or cooking. They just haven’t made it to my personal list because I’ve pretty much decided they’re not for me. I think part of that is because I enjoy podcasts so don’t really need another format of entertainment where someone talks at me from a speaker or headphones.

The other is that when I’ve tried them in the past, my mind might wander sometimes and I would miss a line. If that happens while reading a book on paper or digitally I can just scan my eyes back to the section I didn’t take in properly. But with an audio format I end up going back way further than I need to as I try to figure out where it lost me.

So that’s my personal weirdness regarding audiobooks but I would still recommend trying them if you’re keen to read more but just can’t imagine where they will fit in to your day.

Writer of the dystopian-fantasy novel The Darwin Solution, Social Media Exec, part-time streamer and LPer. #gaming #books #writing #tabletop

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