Read Like There’s No Tomorrow: Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket

I love reading.

If I can say one semi-corny yet completely factual thing about reading, it’s that it is the greatest possible tool you have in life. I’d put reading before important life skills such as communication or public speaking. Reading has taught me more than anything else in life. Literally right this second you can choose to read a book on philosophy, science, sports, history, military, finance, psychology, medicine, engineering, politics, cooking, murder, traveling, etc. All written, in most cases, by experts in their field. How often can you casually learn about all those things in the span of a couple of months? Take notes, highlight, implement and learn.

I have loved the smell of a fresh book as long as I can remember. From reading nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss books with my parents, graduating on to Young Adult novels like The Series of Unfortunate Events, Holes, Harry Potter (reluctantly), and Hatchet, I’ve always loved losing myself in a book. The Scholastic Book Fair was the highlight of the year in elementary school. The discovery process brings in me an excitement nothing quite else can match.

It’s nerdy in a way. I love sports too. You can call that nerdy, but I have a passion for both. Is it nerdy or is it really just a passion for something you love? Anything you’re overtly passionate about can be considered nerdy, right? A cooking nerd, a running nerd, a bird nerd (that one rhymes!).

The most common question I get asked is quite literally “How do you read so much?” I think what people are really getting at is “Where do you find the time to read so much?” Often followed by:

  • Do you not talk to your fiance? What does she do while you’re reading?
  • Do you not watch TV?
  • Do you not work? Were you laid off?
  • Do you speed read? Skip chapters?

How do you find time for anything? You make it. As Tony Robbins will say about meditation or a morning practice, if you don’t have ten minutes you don’t have a life…

Also, please stop reading this post if I begin to sound like I’m lecturing you to watch less TV or stop looking at your damned phone. That is not the intention. I’m also guilty of watching too much TV and looking at my phone too much. We’re all guilty of it, and if you aren’t well you’re probably a mutant or someone who isn’t much fun to hang out with in the first place…

I read anywhere from four to seven books a month, so I understand where people are coming from. Even objectively speaking, that is a lot of reading. The average book nowadays is about 280 pages so if I read 6 books this month, I’d have read somewhere in the ballpark of 1680 pages of words. I don’t set any intention or goal to read a set number of books. But I do have a queued up list of sorts. I always know what my next book will be and purposely time my orders on Amazon to arrive just as I expect to be finishing my current book.

My favorite time to read has always been in the morning. I know it’s odd. My sixteen-year-old self would be embarrassed that I’m now a “morning person.” I actually don’t think I consider myself a morning person. I’m just a person who doesn’t want to speak to anyone for the first few hours of the day, which is probably why I like to read or write around that time. No one can bother me. I choose to get up in the morning because that’s when I know I’ll be alone and can get things done with little distraction. You may be the same way except you stay up until 3 A.M. There’s no problem with that – despite what your parents and teachers may have told you your whole life.

I’ll get out of bed, usually meditate first thing, stretch a little or bang out some pushups, make a cup of coffee and then plop on the couch and crack open a book. This is my DO NOT DISTURB signal to others. Sometimes I read for however long it takes me to finish my coffee. That can be 15 minutes, or an hour, depending on the quality of coffee and cup (which is a topic I can speak to at length). There’s no schedule really, it’s moreso that I allot this particular time of my day to reading. The morning is always for reading, just as it’s always for coffee or meditation. It’s something I don’t have to think about. I have a strict adherence to my routines, to the time I carve out for myself, and for the activities, I dedicate to those times. When I wake up I know that I will use the toilet, brush my teeth, have a glass of water, meditate, make coffee and read. The rest is beyond my control, but that much is in my control.

There’s no secret. Like most things in life, it’s discipline and cumulative effort. Like working out. You can’t run a marathon without the discipline to wake up every morning and put in your miles. With reading, there’s no end goal, but the metaphor still applies to anything in life, really. If you do want to set a goal – say read ten books this year, or finish three books this month – this is how it gets done. You need to carve time out for yourself. Be disciplined in your approach, and the freedom will follow.

I like to read before work. Obviously, there’s the commute, which is ample time for reading. But for me, it’s too distracting and easy to lose focus on the commute. This is why I prefer to read on my couch before I even leave for work (which is now my living room, so bye-bye commute). But I like to read for anywhere from 20-45 minutes depending on how good the book is and how focused or distracted I’m feeling that particular morning. In that time, I’ll get through anywhere from 20-50 pages – again, depending on the type of book, the subject, and the font (I loathe writers who decide to print their precious words on page in the tiniest of fonts).

You read when you can. Whether it’s small sips or large swallows. If you have a hectic morning for whatever reason, read a few pages during your morning poop 🙂 Carry your book with you when you go to the doctor’s office and sit in the waiting room. Bring it with you on long car rides, Ubers, or wherever you can squeeze in some reading over just scrolling through Instagram. The Amazon Kindle literally can fit into the back pocket of your jeans. Audio books are great too. Listen on your run, during your workout, or just throughout the day while you’re doing dishes, cooking up some eggs or brushing your teeth. There are plenty of ways to carve out time, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there. They add up.

I’ve always adhered to something called the Pomodoro Technique, which is really just a fancy term for taking the HIIT exercise approach to other areas of life (it’s named after the Pomodoro kitchen timer). On for 25 minutes, off for 5 minutes. This is something I’ve done since elementary school. It’s the way I studied or did homework through high school and college. Twenty or so minutes of intense focused work followed by a break – maybe even a cookie!

When I pick up a book, I’ll read for 20-25 minutes and then put the book down for 5 minutes and rest. I don’t do this consciously. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. It’s whatever you feel at the moment. I’ll go to the bathroom, make a sandwich, look at my phone, give Lauren some attention for once, or just look out the window and pretend a sad song is playing.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

– Stephen King

Since there really is no “end” to the workday anymore, I try to manufacture it by plopping on my couch around 5:30-6 and reading while dinner is being cooked in the oven. That’s another 20 minutes or so.

And since I’m human, I’ll watch a Netflix show, a movie, a long YouTube video – something other than reading for an hour or so. I never was and never have been one of those people who shun the television either. I think TV is just as important for learning and keeping up with pop culture, developing humor, etc.

Around 9:00pm I’ll read for another 30-60 minutes. When you add it all up, that’s almost two and a half hours of reading per day, at the minimum it’s about an hour and a half. That means each day I can range anywhere from reading 40-100 pages. If you do that for a week, that’s 1-2 books finished right there.

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.”

– Descartes

I’m not trying to persuade you into reading, I’m merely telling you what I love and what has worked for me. In the same way people say “I’m not saying you have to watch Game of Thrones, but you fucking HAVE TO WATCH GAME OF THRONES!” The biggest difference between books and television to me is that books allow you to enter a different world all on your own. If there’s a character, we all may picture him or her a bit differently. The world they inhabit may look a bit different in my imagination than it does in yours. That’s the coolest part to me. It’s telepathy. We can all read the same thing at the same time and think in similar worlds of our own unique thoughts.

Harry Potter is a perfect example. The movies are excellent. But I think we can all agree those books are magical and just pure fun. Those books may be the most spectacular feeling you’ll ever get from a book. And I’m not even a fan of that genre. It is an undeniably spectacular series and an example of how a book can transform your headspace into a different stratosphere.

Books will keep you forever curious. If there’s one gift in life – it’s the ability to keep your mind open and always be curious about new things. Read books on subjects you’re curious about, explore ideas you’re curious about, learn the vocabulary of a new author you’re curious about understanding, be curious about why “the classics” are considered “the classics.” As the great philosopher, Plutarch says “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

Kindle that fire, youngblood.

“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”

– Malcolm X

 

 

 

2 Replies to “Read Like There’s No Tomorrow: Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit”

  1. Pre-lockdown I would make a point of getting to work an hour early just so I could start the day with an hour for quite reading, journaling and coffee before beginning the day, it set me up to deal with whatever the day threw at me. I like the idea of the pomodoro technique, I think I also follow that pattern.

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