fb-pixel
GLOBE MAGAZINE

If you want to read more, you don’t need to start with Shakespeare

Take it from a librarian: You don’t have to impress the literary crowd with your reading list.

Illustration by Jason Schneider for The Boston Globe

As a librarian and book reviewer, people take for granted that I have the whole reading thing figured out. In fact, I’m like you: overworked, overwhelmed, and — much to my professional chagrin — often terribly under-read. But I’m working on it. These are the strategies that have helped me create more time for reading in my life.

Forget about hitting a number. Websites like Goodreads encourage people to “challenge” themselves to read a certain number of books in a year, which — to this librarian — seems like a way to feel hopelessly behind on your resolution before you’ve even begun it. Instead, aim to rediscover an experience. Aim to read like you did when you were 10: selfishly, voraciously, obsessively. Aim to find a book that engrosses you so completely that you forget anything exists beyond its pages. And remember: If a book is not grabbing you, you are allowed to put it down to find something that does.

Advertisement



Forgo prestige in favor of pleasure. When you have limited time, it is easy to put pressure on yourself to dedicate it to The Very Best Things. But this reading habit you’re building is for you. It’s not meant to make you a more impressive party guest or a more informed Fresh Air listener. If what makes you happiest is rereading your favorite Agatha Christie novel, don’t assign yourself Thomas Pynchon. Go to a great independent bookstore and talk with the staff or — even better — ask to do a reader’s advisory session with a local librarian. These pros should be able to hear what you find addictive in media of any kind and hand you a book that provides the same experience.

Make reading part of a practice of unplugging. One of the best things that reading regularly can bring into your life is a little peace and quiet, spiritually speaking. Books — even e-books — do not come with push notifications. So try to give yourself reading time that’s free from notifications, too. Put your phone on airplane mode for 60 minutes on a Sunday evening. Pour yourself some wine, climb into a bath, or put on a record — think of it as a deliberate choice to live at a slightly different pace for one small part of the week. You will be amazed how restorative it can be.

Advertisement



READ MORE ADVICE ON STICKING WITH YOUR RESOLUTIONS:

1. How to set a goal to save more money this year

2. Six ways to be a better friend in 2020

3. If you want to read more, you don’t need to start with Shakespeare

4. Waste less time on your phone with this simple trick

5. Exercise made easy: The hidden power of taking a walk

6. How to be kinder in Boston, America’s fifth rudest city

7. What’s more important than a barbell for exercise? A pencil

8. Four realistic steps to eating healthier in 2020

______________

Margaret H. Willison, a librarian, culture writer, and podcaster, is co-creator of the Two Bossy Dames newsletter. Send comments to magazine@globe.com