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If you’re someone who’s been wanting to start a reading habit but have been having trouble making it happen, then you may be making some common mistakes.
You probably understand the value of reading–it’s why you’re making the effort to start–but for one reason or another, you’ve struggled to make it a habit and therefore a hobby.
In order to make books and reading a natural part of your daily life, start by making it easy to succeed.
The mistakes below may not make or break your reading habit, but they can make it more difficult to get started.
Mistake 1: Choosing Classic Novels
Are you choosing classic novels that you just think you should read?
My advice: don’t start with the classics. They tend to be long. They tend to be more difficult to read. The language can be challenging.
In short, it’s easy to get discouraged if you’re not loving a classic novel. And if you’re a new reader, you don’t want to start off frustrated.
Classics have their place and some people love them. There are certain classics that I love. But I don’t actually read them very often. Classics are just not my favorite type of book.
Once you feel like you’re more in the groove of reading, it’s fine to return to those classics that you truly think you’ll like.
Keep them on your reading list–but be real about the ones you want to read vs. the ones you think you should read.
You may find that classics are actually your favorite type of book, but if you’re someone who already struggles with reading, I suggest saving them for later.
Mistake 2: Choosing the Newest Buzzy Books
This is the flip side of the classics argument, but I don’t recommend choosing the very newest book that’s getting tons of pre-publishing buzz.
It can be fun to read new releases, and their popularity could indicate that they are worth reading–but it could also just mean that they have a big marketing budget behind them. When they’re still brand new, they haven’t yet been vetted by many readers.
So before you go out and grab that newest book that everybody’s talking about, maybe just give it a little time.
Let other people read it. They may point out things that could be triggering for you or that are just generally problematic (think of what happened with the huge buzz around American Dirt and the subsequent backlash).
Of course, you encounter those things all the time in the world, and it’s not that you can’t handle them in a book, but you’re trying to create a positive experience around reading.
Popular commercial fiction can be an excellent choice for new readers, but there are tons of amazing books that have come out in previous years that are always worth reading.
Choosing books that aren’t brand new to the market will give you plenty of opportunity to check out reviews and find books likely to work for you.
Mistake 3: Finishing Every Book (Even if It’s Not Working)
This is important: it’s okay to not finish a book.
It is so easy to feel like you have to finish every book that you start, but you do not.
There are millions of books in the world and you’re just not going to like all of them. You do not have millions of hours to read, so spend your time with books that you enjoy.
Don’t feel bad for not finishing a book. Just put it down and pick up another one.
I have to admit to feeling momentary guilt when I put down a book, but that guilt always eventually goes away. I always try to remind myself that the number of books I’ll get to read in my lifetime is finite, and smaller than I would like.
Once I start another book that really hooks me, I know I made the right choice.
I also believe authors would rather have readers who like their work, not readers who feel obligated to suffer through it.
Also worth noting: if you are inclined to post a negative review, please remember one thing: don’t tag the author.
This has happened to a lot of authors in recent years, and it can be crushing. Authors are people and they work very hard on their books. Most of them do not write full-time.
So, sure, share your honest thoughts to help other readers make decisions, but leave the author out of it. (Unless you loved it and want to tell them–they would certainly appreciate that!)
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Mistake 4: Setting Reading Time Goals
The next mistake is setting time goals for your reading.
Reading time requirements are common in schools (my kids have been required to read 20 minutes per night, for example), and that may be why many people think it’s a great approach.
But reading time goals can be good or bad, depending on your relationship with reading.
If you plan to go from reading zero minutes in a day to reading 60 minutes in a day, that’s probably not going to work very well for you for very long.
And with a a short time goal, if you find yourself watching the clock and it starts to feel like a chore, the goal is defeating the purpose because you’re never actually getting into your book.
But if you don’t struggle with clock watching and a short time goal actually gets you into reading, then it can be a good way to get started.
A lot of people use this approach to get started working out–they promise themselves they’ll do five minutes, but they have permission to stop if they’re not feeling it. Usually, once you get started, you keep going.
But again, if it becomes more about getting the time in than just getting started reading, then the time goal is not working for you.
I sometimes set short time goals for myself. If I’m having a frazzled day, jumping from task to task and getting sucked into my phone, I try to tell myself that I’ll just read for 10 minutes.
I find it’s a great way to reset, stop the scroll, and settle back into my book–and I always read for more than 10 minutes.
Mistake 5: Obsessive Reading Tracking
The next mistake is tracking too closely. There’s actually evidence that tracking your leisure activities makes them less enjoyable.
I think this can be different for everyone. Some people find tracking really fun and really motivating, and if it doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the actual reading, it’s fine to track.
But if the tracking becomes more about the numbers and it keeps you from enjoying longer books or books that with a slower pace, then you’re missing the point.
Counting the number of books you read is pretty meaningless and it goes against the point of what you’re trying to do.
So tracking is fine, but just remember the point is the actual reading, not the numbers.
Mistake 6: Overthinking Your Book Choices
The next mistake is overthinking the books or genres you choose.
I do recommend looking at some book reviews, but don’t get stuck in a cycle of scouring reviews in search of the perfect book. There’s no perfect book out there.
Choose a book, give it a try, and if it doesn’t work for you, just put it down and try another one.
Also, don’t overthink the types of books that you actually like. Don’t be embarrassed about your reading taste.
If you like a particular genre like romance, then read romance novels. Pick up a variety and see what kind you like.
If you like fantasy, get into that genre. There are plenty of other people who like the same things. Authors are writing those books and they would love to have you as a reader.
Just try not to get frustrated if you’re not finding the perfect thing right away. Part of the fun is discovering your favorite authors, your favorite books, and even learning what doesn’t work for you (you might even discover some very particular tastes–a love or hatred of a trope, for example).
It’s not a perfect science, and even lifelong readers have trouble finding the right books at times.
How to Start Reading if You’re Struggling
If you’re struggling to get started with a reading habit, these posts might help:
- Create a Reading Habit: How to Read More and Love It
- 27 Highly Readable Books to Jumpstart Your Reading Habit
if you’ve managed to start a reading habit, please share in the comments what’s you’ve done to make reading a part of your daily life.