Top 5 Tips for How to Read More Books

Do you wish you had more time to read? Life is hectic and most of us feel as though we could do with more downtime in our days. The all too easy distractions of social media and streaming services mean that even with the best intentions, many of us don’t read as much as we’d like too. Reading is great for broadening the mind, entertainment, relaxation and practicing mindfulness. Here are the top five tips to read more books.

Tip #5 Join a Book Club

Book clubs are a fantastic way for people who share a love of books and reading to get together, share insights and compare reads on a regular basis. The added bonus is that the structure of book club and the expectation that everyone will have read the book by the next meeting is a great motivator to prioritise your reading. Starting a book club can be as easy as getting a group of friends together who have a shared interest in reading and agreeing to get together once a month or every six weeks – whatever timeframe is realistic for everyone. Set some ground rules and be prepared that like anything worthwhile, book clubs require some work and a level of commitment from everyone in the group in order to be successful.  The benefits are that you are reading more regularly, extending your reading interests and have a great excuse for regular, social catch ups with a group of like-minded people.

Funny meme which reads 'At my book club we drink so much that nobody has noticed I'm completely illiterate'. Image of a lady holding a cocktail and looking to one side. Meme accompanies tip on joining a book club as a way to read more books.

Tip #4 What to Read

Sometimes just finding a book you want to read is half the battle. Subscribe to a book blog (such as The Reading Edit http://www.thereadingedit.com) and follow The Reading Edit and other #bookstagrammers on social media (@the.reading.edit). Search Instagram using popular tags to find a Bookstagrammer with similar reading interests to you and follow them for recommendations:

#newrelease
#whattoreadnext
#bookstagramaustralia
#fiction
#thriller

Pop into a bookshop and support independent book sellers! As well as loving to chat all things books, independent book sellers often have a wall of best sellers or popular fiction in store. Alternatively, you can browse their websites for details on new releases and sign up to receive their newsletter. Don’t forget your local library is a great resource too.

Tip #3 Eliminate Distractions

Be prepared to put the phone down and turn the TV off. Leave your phone in a different room if you have too. At night, use the Settings app on your phone and set a regular, pre-determined time for the Do Not Disturb function. On the subject of eliminating distractions, it’s important to acknowledge that there will rarely be a time when there are no distractions at all, so don’t wait for the conditions to be perfect or you’ll never get to that book. Try to unwind at regular intervals of 10 – 20minutes throughout the day (or even longer if you can). Think of all the times during the day when you are scrolling through your phone. What if you picked up a book at some of those times instead? What a great example we would set for our children if they saw us picking up a book instead of picking up our phone.

A funny meme to accompany an article on how to read more books. The meme features a lady relaxing on a couch with the words 'The quickest way for a mother to get her children's attention is to sit down and look comfortable'.

Tip #2 Try to fit some reading into every day – and don’t wait until bed time!

Do you get into bed exhausted at the end of the day, pick up your book, read two paragraphs and fall asleep? Time to move that book off the bedside table, take it out into the world and show it a good time! Carry a book with you throughout the day and you’ll be surprised how many opportunities present to do some reading. Even a 10minute window can be an opportunity for a few quick pages. Don’t begrudge only reading two or three pages at a sitting. Each time your brain switches into reading mode, you are also switching it into mindfulness mode and the more you practise this, not only will you get better at reading, but you’ll reap the benefits of mindfulness practise. In addition, taking the opportunity to read several times throughout the day is also great for keeping you engaged with the story. Try these tips to get more reading into every day:

  • Set the alarm 20 minutes earlier in the morning, make yourself a tea or coffee and enjoy the serenity of sitting outside with the birds and a book to start your day.
  • Go to bed half an hour earlier, make sure you phone is on Do Not Disturb and enjoy unwinding with a book. You’ll sleep much better and have better engagement with the story.

Reading is like running. It might seem hard at first – you can’t concentrate, you have trouble finding the time, there’s too many distractions – but like running, the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

Tip #1 It’s a Matter of Priorities

How do some people get up at 5am to go to the gym before work? How do people find time to volunteer? To play club sport? To study as well as work a full-time job? It must be because they’re not as busy as the rest of us, right? They must have help – grandparents, cleaners, a better boss etc.
WRONG.
Everyone is busy. And yes, some people are busier than others, but how we spend our time each day is a matter of PRIORITIES. You get up an hour earlier to go to the gym because exercise and good health is a PRIORITY for you. You study while working full time with a young family because obtaining that qualification to get a better job, earn more money and potentially have a more successful career is a PRIORITY to you.
It’s the same with reading. People who read a lot of books do so because reading and the escapism, relaxation, broadening of the mind and the entertainment they get from reading is important to them.
So, if you want to make more time for reading in your life, it has to be a priority over other things, such as scrolling through your phone, mindlessly watching tv for hours and doing boring chores like cleaning the house. We are always told to make time for ourselves and the things we love and the various benefits that result when we do so such as improved mental health, better sleep and increased productivity. It can be as simple as picking up a book.

A funny meme to accompany an article on how to read more books. The meme features an image of a woman relaxing in an armchair and reading a book with the words 'I was going to clean the house, but then I realized...this book isn't going to read itself.

So there you have the top five tips to read more books. Now, if only I could get up at 5am to go to the gym….
Happy reading!

Controversial or Captivating?

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Image of the cover of the book American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins to accompany the book review by The Reading Edit on the same page. Cover image features a repeated pattern of blue birds and barbed wire against a white background.

Right from the very first chapter, American Dirt is a thrilling and captivating read. It begins in Acapulco, Mexico as Lydia and her family host a backyard party to celebrate her niece’s 15th birthday. During the celebrations, while Lydia and her son cower in the bathroom, all 16 members of their family are gunned down by a notorious drug cartel, seeking to make an example of her journalist husband. 

Immediately following the brutal attack, Lydia and her eight-year-old son Luca are on the run, fleeing for their lives with targets on their back and no idea where to head next. Lydia soon learns that the reach of the cartels runs deep, with roadblocks on every highway and police and migration officers in their pay. She quickly realises that in order to make it to the Mexico/United States border as quickly as possible, the most dangerous route is also the only route. And so begins a heart-stopping journey riding illegally atop the freight trains, known as la bestia, with thousands of other migrants just like them who will risk everything in the desperate hope of starting a new life in the United States. 

Despite its harrowing storyline, American Dirt was nowhere near as violent or confronting as I was expecting. There is a constant thread of fear and sense of urgency throughout as Lyndia and her son struggle to flee Mexico to the assumed safety of the United States. Lydia’s fear of the cartel discovering them propels her and Luca forward into dangerous, unknown territory daily. At every turn, Lydia is forced to make hasty decisions that rely on instinct rather than careful consideration and rationale. Together as they flee for their lives, Lydia and Luca must suppress their grief for the loved ones they have lost, their only goal each day is to stay together and survive.  

Upon the release of American Dirt in 2020, the hype machine went into over-drive. The author earned a much publicised seven-figure advance from the publisher, it was endorsed by high profile authors such as Stephen King, it was selected as an Oprah Book Club pick and the film rights were sold to Imperative Entertainment, the studio responsible for Sierra Leone civil war drama, Blood Diamond. But the hype was soon followed by extensive criticism. It was labelled as stereotypical and culturally insensitive and there was much pushback from Chicana writers about the author, Jeanine Cummins, who identifies as white, writing a story about a Mexican migrant experience. Chicana writer, Myriam Gurba, expressed that with American Dirt, Cummins has ‘‘identified the gringo appetite for Mexican pain and found a way to exploit it’’. Ouch. 

Cummins insists her intention was to put a human face to the story of the Mexican/US border and to give a voice to the marginalised migrant community. She acknowledges in the author’s note at the beginning of American Dirt:  

“I was worried that, as a non-immigrant and non-Mexican, I had no business writing a book set almost entirely in Mexico, set entirely among immigrants. I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.” 

Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt

In American Dirt, Cummins reminds the reader that migrants are human beings, not criminals and their reasons for fleeing are diverse and complicated. For reasons good and bad, American Dirt has certainly got people talking. Ultimately, if it makes people aware of the danger and desperation faced by so many migrants, not just in Mexico, but all over the world, then stereotyping or not, it is an important book.  

Despite all the criticism, American Dirt is a compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking read. I was right beside Lydia every step of her heart-stopping journey to freedom. 

Reference: Jane Sullivan, Sydney Morning Herald, February 11 2020

Published 2020 by Hachette Australia, 352 pages. 

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