Rekindling a love for reading: five easy ways
As a child, I wanted to become a doctor. My cousins, however, were deeply convinced that I would never be able to. They would tease me that I'd leave my patient midway through surgery on the operating table, to go read the latest issue of Gokulam (a popular children's magazine in the 90s)! My love for reading was legendary. They were so right, I never became a doctor. My bibliophilic lifestyle took a nosedive too, sadly. The lure of screens, the burden of responsibilities, and waning interest left a huge pile of books unopened and unexplored on my shelves.
Yet, like a homing pigeon, I would try to return to my books ever so often. After all, my sense of identity was so tied in with my reading habit that it was hard to let go. I failed miserably each time. I tried libraries, certain book clubs, different bookstores, you name it. Each time, I hit rock bottom, consistently. It needed a drastic shift in perspective for me to salvage the dregs of my habit and even now, it's a work in progress. However, there are a few things that I know for sure will work.
Here are five ways to rekindle your lost love for books and reading.
It's okay to not read. At all.
From being a person who believed that reading was the one crucial skill for success, I now believe that we all have unique ways to experience the world around us. If reading served you once, but is no longer relevant, feel free to let it go. It needn't be another version of 'intellectual snobbery' amidst all the myriad forms that already exist. Personally, when I let go of the pressure to read, I started enjoying what I read and have finished more books since. Reading has many benefits, but it's not the panacea to all ills. It's more important to enjoy what you read.
Replace one of your habits with reading.
This is something I picked up from the Tiny Habits website. It involves making baby steps toward your goal. For example, I used to go to bed reading random articles on the www (I was still reading myself to sleep, but in an unhealthy way that often sent me down the rabbit's hole). I replaced my phone with a book. I am still reading random stuff, but hey, I am reading! If you always experience a slump after lunch that you spend scrolling through Instagram, try replacing it with your favorite book. You'll get out of the slump without hurting your ego ;).
Keep it light.
Getting back to reading need not mean reading War and Peace from cover to end. It can just be a simple one that you read out to your child. It can be a magazine, a recipe, or anything. Just like you have a few comforting recipes for those days when you don't feel like cooking, keep a few comforting books that you enjoy, no matter what. For me, it's Sophie Kinsella. Her writing is so witty and so relatable. Every time I pick a book of hers, I finish it. That's a win for me. I may not have read many classics, but reading is very personal. Read what makes you feel happy. I also like graphic novels these days: the images and the short sentences mean that you'll finish the book faster.
If you don't feel like finishing a book, don't.
Finishing a book should not be a chore. It should leave you with a sense of elation and a buzz of thoughts in your mind. Forcing yourself to read a few more pages of a book you hate takes a toll. Let go. There are so many more books to read. Think of it like a bad relationship. Every moment adds to the stress. Forgive yourself, read the summary or the ending online, and forget.
Especially for those of us who want to get back to reading after a hiatus, having a #tbr (to be read) list really helps. There's a lot of satisfaction in ticking off the boxes after each book. One thing I do is write down the names of books I've read in my journal. This gives me a clear picture of my reading in a year and a sense of accomplishment. I also add a few notes, favorite quotes, and doodles to keep it interesting. Don't skip this step, because it really does keep you going. Otherwise, we just forget, given the constant bombardment of messages that keep coming our way.
Bonus Tip: Don't feel guilty about buying more books! Even if you don't read them right away, you'll pick them up soon enough. It's like stocking your fridge with healthy snacks, so important. When the craving strikes, you have the right snack to dig into! I totally believe in Tsundoku.