How to read more in 2021

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. There, I said it.

January is hard enough without the tradition of keeping your favourite things at arm’s length or deciding that your body isn’t good enough because you’ve enjoyed the seasonal festivities. The culture of starting anew and being bombarded with advertisements about ‘really going for it this year’ are enough to make anyone feel awful when they can’t quit something cold turkey or commit to an insane exercise regime for more than a week.

I am all for starting new things, but resolutions don’t have to revolve around inviting loss into your life. I like resolutions that invite us to look after ourselves in different ways, to invite good and useful things into our day-today lives. Maybe not an insane exercise routine, but just getting out for a walk on your lunch break for some air and light for you mental health, or starting a few mornings a week with a quick meditation, taking more time to do the things you love.

I think one of the things we all rediscovered this year was a love of reading, and in 2021, I want to commit to incorporating it into my routine in a meaningful way. With the vaccine on the way, it’s going to be too easy to slip back into that non-stop, always on the go lifestyle. But if lockdown has taught me anything, it’s the happiness that can be found in slowing down, in having an excuse to stay in and say no to invitations, and simply settle down with a good book. I don’t want to lose this habit, as it’s something that has brought me joy in a dark and confusing time in my life and I’m sure it has done the same for plenty of you.

With that in mind, I’ve created a master guide on the advice available out there for cultivating or continuing your reading habits in 2021...good luck readers!

Read what you want to read.

I hate when people say they hate reading and have only ever read the books they were forced to read in school. Of course you hate reading if the book was picked out for you for educational purposes. Or worse, you’re reading a book because ‘it’s a classic’. Just because it’s a classic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something you’ll like. I’m an English major and I don’t particularly love Herman Melville or Yeats (there I said it). By reading what we want to read – whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, thriller or romance – we automatically become more invested in the habit. Take pride in your favoured genre or style and dig in!

'The world belongs to those who read'. – Rick Holland

Always have a book with you

You never know when you may have a spare few minutes here or there throughout your day. Waiting in a long line at the bank, the doctor’s office, the journey to and from work, are all opportunities to stick your nose in a book for a few hours. If you have time to take out your phone to scroll through Instagram, you have time to check out a couple more pages of your book.

'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.' – Mason Cooley

Set aside time for it

It’s all well and good to get snatches of time here and there while you go about your day, but to make real progress, fully immerse yourself and reap the calming benefits of reading, there needs to a be part of your day that you dedicate to reading. Even if it’s three days a week, take the time you usually spend on your phone before bed or grabbing a few extra minutes snoozing after your alarm goes off to get into your book. Do you really need to watch Gilmore Girls or Friends again for the fourth time? Is it not time to spend that effortless Netflixing doing something both entertaining and useful?

'Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.' – Charles Scribner Jr.

Keep a list

Write down the books you hear about, the books you want to read, the books you have read and tick each one off as you get through it. This is not to rush you through them or to make it feel like a race, but to create a sense of achievement. This time next year, looking back on that list, you will have a head full of new worlds, ideas and perspectives that all came from slowly chipping away at your list.

'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; The man who never reads lives only one.' – George R. R. Martin

Thrift shop

Books are expensive – trust me, I know – but there are so many places supplying secondhand books these days. There are amazing finds to be found amongst the bargain stacks. There’s usually stacks in the back of charity shops, which are especially good for bestsellers and romances, but if your genre is a little more specific, there are some great bookshops with second hand sections to check out like Vibes and Scribes in Cork, Charlie Byrnes in Galway, Chapters Bookshop in Dublin and plenty more all around the country.

'Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes place for that.' – John Green

Create a space in your routine for reading

Make this time a treat for you. Have your favourite hot drink nearby, a small treat for yourself and a do not disturb sign on the door. Put your phone on silent or airplane mode so you don’t get distracted and fully commit to having this time just for you and this book.

'When trouble strikes, head to the library. You will either be able to solve the problem or simply have something to read as the world crashes down around you.' – Lemony Snicket

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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