Why and How To Read More Books In The New Year

You already know reading books is a valuable use of time. That’s not new news. But you may not realize why — or just how beneficial reading books is.

Reading helps you fall asleepreduces stressmakes you smarter and feel better about yourself. It improves your vocabulary, ability to focus and makes you more empathetic. It even protects your memory as you age.

And yes, we’re talking about reading actual books — not magazine articles, not e-books, not long and thought-provoking captions on Instagram carousels. You have a better memory of what you read in print vs. on-screen, and you glean deeper insights. Reading a physical book, as opposed to a digital one, before bed helps you sleep better. And your critical thinking skills benefit much more from reading books than from reading shorter pieces. You also get much deeper exposure to a topic or a narrative.

So: reading physical books is well-advised. But your time is limited, you’ve got a stacked podcast queue, books are expensive, and there’s a new series on Netflix everyone’s talking about.

Below, easy-to-adopt guidance on how to read more books each year.

Make a Reading List

First things first: start compiling a list of books you want to read. GoodReads is a great tool for this, but a note on your phone or doc on your computer totally suffices. Every time someone recommends a book to you, a book cover stands out at the airport bookstore or you read an intriguing review somewhere, add it to your list. The richer your to-read queue, the more likely you’ll prioritize picking a book and going for it. How else are you going to make your way through your entire list before you die?

Set a Goal

Pick a number, achievable but motivating, and calculate how many books you need to read each month over the course of the year in order to reach it. GoodReads can help you track your progress. Just make sure you record your goal somewhere. You’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

Make time in your life for more by discovering the solutions to everyday problems with New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss.

Get a Library Card

Books — especially tempting new releases in hardback— aren’t cheap. Used bookstores, sales and borrowing from friends or coworkers all work. But if you keep a library card in your wallet, and download your local library system’s app if they have one so you can discover and request new material wherever you are, you’ll never have the financial excuse for not reading. You’d be surprised how quickly libraries get new books on the bestseller list in stock. Plus, libraries are invaluable community institutions and you’re doing a good deed by supporting them.

Start a Book Club

Make it themed, include food and drinks, invite people you love spending time with, schedule it every other month to take the pressure off — however you can organize a book club to work best for you, do it. It’ll hold you accountable to keep reading a constant in your life, and the book discussions your group has will help you remember what you’ve read.

Create a Routine

Think about the opportunities you have in a typical day to squeeze in some reading time. Your commute, quiet time before bed or right after you wake up, on the bike at the gym. Select one of those time windows and commit to using at least a portion of those minutes for reading.

Stop fretting over the limited number of hours in a day and get to work – the smart way!

Explore Different Genres

If reading books isn’t currently a priority in your life, maybe it’s because you’re not reading stuff that speaks to you, fires up your imagination or teaches you something. Love romance novels? Try science fiction. Read only American authors? Try French, British, Australian, Scandinavian writers. Go mostly for books on “best books” roundups you find online? Pick something completely random off the shelf. Wary of the classics? Try one out — say, The Handmaid’s Tale or Fahrenheit 451 — that’s on the shorter side and culturally relevant right now.

You’d be surprised, as you embark on your “read more books” journey, how many true book lovers there are around you. You’ll become more motivated to read as you share and exchange what you’ve enjoyed, what made you think, what turned you off and what you learned. Explore book-related hashtags on social media to get reading inspiration, and write down quotes that stand out to you. The more you read books, the more you both give and get from the world. And what’s better than that?

Allison Stadd