How to make reading a regular habit

Isabella Cipirska 13 April 2022

Love reading but can never find the time? With these tips you can finally dust off your bookcase

I’ve always been a bookworm. As an English Literature graduate, reading is one of the only things I feel truly qualified to do. There’s no place I’d rather be than buried in the pages of a gripping story; absorbed into another life, another world.

Yet lots of people find it difficult to fit reading into their daily routine. Many friends and fellow book-lovers have told me: “Oh I haven’t read a book in ages… I’m just too busy.” Life happens: we get swept up in work and commitments and that pile of books stacked hopefully on the bedside table lies quietly unread. Around a third of adults in England say they don’t read for pleasure at all.

This is despite the many benefits it brings. From a health perspective, regular reading maintains and builds brain cells, which can help stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s in old age, research has found. It also helps us relax: according to a 2009 University of Sussex study, reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by 68 per cent.

On an emotional level, readers “tend to empathise better with others” and “accurately predict what someone else is thinking or feeling”, says Book Therapy bibliotherapist Bijal Shah.

And of course, the right books can help us cope in difficult times, making us feel less alone. “Reading is more than just voraciously devouring words,” Bijal says. “It is the connection that we feel with the characters… the sense of comfort and the feeling of being understood.”

So how can we make reading a regular habit?

Dedicated reading time

Setting aside some dedicated time every day—whether on your morning commute or in the bath before bed—is a good place to start. Even just 15 minutes will see you finish an average-length book in 20 days.

Literary agent Molly Murray, who runs Seahorse Bookstore, says she and her husband were struggling to get through their book pile until they “turned off the TV and became intentional about fitting in time to read”.

Taking inspiration from their young son’s bedtime routine, Molly says: “Now we opt to go to bed early with a good book, and this has enriched our life so much.”

Listen to an audiobook

For those who find it tough to ring-fence time solely for reading, audiobooks allow you to multitask. Book blogger Amanda Chatterton, who reviews books on her site Bookish Chat, says she sticks in her headphones and ‘reads’ while going for an hour-long pre-work walk in the morning.

"For those who find it tough to ring-fence time solely for reading, audiobooks allow you to multitask"

They are such a good way to up your reading,” she says. “You can listen on transport, in the car, out walking, in the bath, doing jobs around the house or just sitting and relaxing.”

It doesn’t need to be expensive either: if you have a library card, you can download the Bolinda Books app and access hundreds of titles for free, while the BBC Sounds app also has a number of audiobooks in serialised form.

Set a challenge

If you’re the kind of person who is motivated by targets, try using sites like GoodReads to set yourself a reading challenge for the year (you can also add an element of competition by following what friends are reading).

Elsewhere,
StoryGraph has a directory of challenges you can sign up to, such as ‘read the world’, which tasks you with reading a book by an author from ten different countries.

Join a book club

Book clubs are a perfect solution for people who like to combine reading with socialising and need a deadline to finish a book. It can also inspire you to try new genres. Book publicist Alison Barrow already reads a lot, both for pleasure and for her job, but belonging to a book club where others choose what to read “stretches me beyond my habit of reading what's just out and what's to come,” she said.

Use The Reading Agency’s
online tool to find reading groups near you and advice on how to set one up.

Connect with book-lovers online

There are also plenty of ways to build up or discover a reading community online.

Finding that none of her close friends or family enjoyed reading as much as she did, Tracy Fenton launched THE Book Club on Facebook seven years ago and has grown it to over 13,000 members since then. “It's fantastic to be amongst like-minded individuals who love reading as much as I do,” she said.

"There are also plenty of ways to build up or discover a reading community online"

On TikTok, thousands of devoted book-lovers share their reading recommendations under the hashtag #BookTok, while on the subreddit r/books, you’ll find lively discussions about everything from author gossip to the best book-to-film adaptations.

Get a subscription

If you’re struggling with what to read, you can always have the experts pick your next book for you.

Daunt Books’ subscription service will see you receive one book per month, tailored to your tastes. Meanwhile subscribers to author and broadcaster Pandora Sykes’ new service, Pandora’s Books, benefit from a monthly book plus access to author interview events.

Making more time for reading doesn’t have to be a chore, and your life will be all the richer for it. As the novelist George R R Martin said: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads only lives one.”

Read more: The benefits of reading to your child from a young age

Read more: How to diversify your reading

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