The conditions seemed ideal. Extra time on my hands, and a set of books I received from my family members on my birthday.
I had plans to do lots of reading, but for whatever reason, I was having trouble getting through the books. I felt like I had lost my motivation to read.
And then lo and behold, a story in today’s Wall Street Journal offers a bit of explanation and some suggestions as to how to get back into the reading habit.
In 2020, the NPD Group recorded the best year of book sales since it began tracking comparable data in 2004. Yet even as people are buying more books, many are reporting they’re having a harder time getting through them. A study of British reading habits during the pandemic conducted this summer by researchers at Aston University in Birmingham, U.K., found that while people were reading more—citing more time to read, a desire to distract themselves, and more time spent reading with children—they were reading more slowly. Many of the survey’s 860 participants said they were distracted, and that this lack of concentration was making it harder to progress, according to Abigail Boucher, a researcher on the study and a lecturer in English Literature at the university.
That last part seemed to apply directly to me. I was thoroughly enjoying a book I was reading, but it was taking much longer than it should have to complete.
Reporter Elizabeth Bernstein suggests that it’s difficult for your brain to focus on a book when it’s constantly scanning for threats so it can keep you alive. That’s exactly what’s been happening to most of us since March—our fight-or-flight response has been consistently activated.
She then offers the following suggestions on how to get back into your reading habit:
Start short! choose an engaging short story, maybe by a favorite author, and allow yourself to get immersed.
Read something relevant. If the topic is relevant to your life or current events, it’s also more likely to hold your attention.
Return to something familiar. find an old favorite book to read again
Make reading a habit. Pick a favorite spot. Brew some tea. Read at the same time each day.
Go inward. Look for “quieter,” more introspective books, such as memoirs, books on mindfulness, and poetry.
Read the way you did as a kid—sprawled on a bed, on your back on the floor, under the covers with a flashlight. (the reporter used to read in her closet.) Maybe I need to go sit in my car…
Read first thing in the morning. I don’t think I could do this; I would be stressing about not getting ready for the day ahead.
Try listening. Consider an audiobook. You can multitask, turning one on while you’re driving, exercising, or doing chores. I just don’t think audiobooks are for me; I don’t think I would be able to fully concentrate and would worry that I missed a key passage or two.
Put down the book if you’re not getting into it. Life is stressful and unpleasant in many ways right now. Reading shouldn’t be one of them.
Start a new book as soon as you finish the previous one.