Growing up, I read like crazy.
Not to brag, but I used to read almost one book a day as a teenager.
Then in my late teens I lost interest and motivation to read.
Eventually in my mid-20s I rediscovered my zeal for reading, and stumbled back across that inner calm and happiness I’d missed out on.
Here’s how you can motivate yourself to read, whether you were once a reader like me or whether you’re just starting out!
1) Decide why you’re reading
What’s your motivation for reading?
Is it to pass the time? Increase your vocabulary? Relax? Laugh? Cry? Read about touching love stories?
Maybe it’s to find out more about a historical era that touched your family or relates closely to your family tree…
Perhaps reading is also a way for you to physically relax and let yourself lie down in a hammock or on your bed.
Maybe it’s more to calm down before bed and get sleepy so you can have a good night’s rest.
Whatever the reason, if you have a strong motivation to read you’ll be able to stick to it more.
When you know why you’re reading and what is meaningful to you about them then you can really drill down and focus on your reading.
You’ll be able to sit and find a lot of enjoyment in it as well as intellectual and emotional development.
In my case I often had a habit of starting many books and never finishing them, which is another reason I recommend picking one book at a time so you get more of a sense of completion as you finish it.
If you’re trying to find motivation to read and decide what you want to get out of it, I recommend trying out this free exercise from Life Journal.
Coach Jeanette Brown gives you a free values checklist where you can find out the values that are driving you and motivating you. I’ve found it especially helpful for deciding what to read and why I want to read.
2) Find your genre
Growing up, my favorite genre was science fiction. I’d devour books by Isaac Asimov, Kim Stanley Robinson and Mike Resnick.
My favorite genre now is historical nonfiction and autobiographies. On the fiction side I have an interest in action and political thrillers as well.
If you want to know how to motivate yourself to read, you have to find the genre that gets you turning pages.
All of us are different: you may love romance and historical fiction, or drama and horror may be more your cup of tea.
Another person is going to love reading self-help books, or books with a spiritual focus such as Hackspirit founder Lachlan Brown’s recent book Hidden Secrets of Buddhism.
Try reading books in a variety of genres until one “clicks” and you find yourself loving it and wanting to read more like it.
That means you have found your genre.
Don’t worry if you like more than one genre or subgenre. There’s a lot of choices out there and fascinating books to read, from antique travel journals all the way up to new autobiographies and works of fantasy.
3) Read at your level
It’s also important to read at your level. You can certainly try out more challenging material, but don’t jump straight into James Joyce and Marcel Proust.
Start with some work that’s more in line with previous literature or nonfiction you’re accustomed to.
If you do take on more difficult material, pace yourself and read it slowly instead of trying to devour it all at once.
Remember, reading is not about finishing the book or about quantity, it’s about quality and how you learn, grow and feel while reading.
If you do come across words you don’t understand, consult the dictionary, and if you are finding entire passages extremely confusing, try to look up a reading guide.
Many well-known books have a reading guide to help with understanding them.
These aren’t just for high school reading class and can be enormously helpful for adult readers, especially when you come across archaic terms in an older book or descriptions of industries or practices which no longer exist in modern times.
For example, Joseph Conrad’s masterful 1900 novel Lord Jim describes a seafaring way of life which no longer exists, at least not in the same form as the book describes and recounts.
4) Find a comfy reading nook
Whether you’re reading physical books or on a Kindle or reading device, you’re going to want a comfy place to read.
Many people read sitting or lying down, although the posture you read in is entirely up to you.
I recommend creating a reading nook. This can be a comfy sofa area with stacked pillows or a place by the window where you create a comfortable area to sit.
It may also be a rocking chair next to a small TV table where you can put a cup of tea or a few reading snacks.
Creating your reading nook is highly satisfying and gives you a geographical orientation to the activity of reading.
When you’re going to read, you head to your reading area with a cup of coffee or a box of crackers and some thinly sliced cheese all ready to go.
Creating a reading nook outside is also a great idea and you can create a beautiful small garden area or place with flowers and even flowing water in a flow-form.
Wherever it is you choose to read, you can do so in a comfortable and revitalizing place where you feel connected to nature.
There’s a special and specific ritual to all of it and your activity becomes associated with comfort, pleasure and familiarity.
5) Get out a highlighter
The next tip I recommend is to buy a highlighter or use the highlighter function if you’re reading on a device.
Imagine you want to save your top 20 favorite parts of this book that impress, shock, offend, amuse or confuse you the most.
Use the highlighter to select them so that you can remember them and come back later to look more deeply into these sentences or this paragraph.
Having a highlighter to mark up your book may lower its resale value, but part of the fun of motivating yourself to read is truly making it your book, unique to you.
You are leaving your mental and emotional imprint in this book.
Feel free to also take it a step further and get a pen or pencil to write in the margins if you want to make notes as well.
You can explore more about the ideas in the book and find out more about what it means to you and to others who have read it in the past.
Reading isn’t just a one-sided activity: consider it an ongoing conversation between you and the book!
6) Schedule reading hours
Schedule reading hours for yourself that fit neatly into your work day and the rest of your duties in your life.
Make sure that these reading times more or less fit the rest of your schedule and try to aim for at least half an hour per day.
The key is not to think of these times as an obligation, however, but as a voluntary time out that you’re taking to sit down with your book and enjoy it.
I particularly recommend taking a go at your book early in the morning or before bed, but many people also do enjoy an afternoon siesta with their book by their side.
Test out a few times of the day and see which works best for you in terms of how you feel and making sure you get everything else done as well.
7) Start slow and pace yourself
One of the best ways for how to motivate yourself to read is to start slow and pace yourself.
Don’t try to read Moby Dick in one setting or the collected works of Charles Dickens in a week.
If you want to give your eyes a rest, consider trying out an audiobook instead of a visual book.
Or if you want the best of both worlds, pick up both a text and audio version of the book you wish to read and have both of them.
This way you can start the book in audio and finish in text, or vice versa.
Alternately, you could first listen all the way through and then read in text, or vice versa.
Whatever way you decide to read, take it slow and pace yourself. Take a day off if need be and don’t push yourself when you’re feeling overly anxious or preoccupied about something else.
Remember to motivate yourself by always keeping reading a voluntary and enjoyable activity, not something involuntary.
8) Challenge yourself
At the same time as I’ve emphasized not pushing too far beyond your boundaries in reading, it is a good idea to challenge yourself somewhat.
What this means will vary for each person, but in general it means to step a bit outside your comfort zone in reading.
Try out a new genre, a new author or a new topic. See how it goes for you.
This guide on how to read difficult works from Benjamin McEvoy is something I found very helpful in this regard.
The general point is to move beyond the boundaries you’re accustomed to but not all at once.
Break books up into chunks and steps that are manageable to you and get help understanding their context and meaning in ways that will greatly broaden their horizons for you.
9) Make reading a family activity
Another great idea which I like about how to motivate yourself to read is to make it a family activity.
Sit around as a family and read a book. Practice reading aloud so that you can also try out different character voices and points of view.
You’ll find that it becomes almost a type of performance and is very enjoyable.
Even better is that you only read for a few minutes and then pass the book on to the next person.
In such a way, reading can be a group activity enjoyed and shared by all, rather than purely solitary in the way we may sometimes picture it.
Even better is that portions which one person may not understand can be explained and elaborated on by other family members and lead to fascinating and lively discussions.
A related activity here is to read books as a couple and practicing reading to your partner and vice versa, which can be highly romantic and interesting.
10) Join a book club
Another great option for how to motivate yourself to read is to join a book club.
The benefits of a book club are that you are with other people who love literature as well and you learn a lot.
You also have weekly and regular benchmarks where you can check in on your progress and see how the book is going for yourself and other people.
When you are working on a book with other people it gives you a lot more motivation.
You will feel happy about it and be ready to tackle the next chapters as they come up.
“Book clubs are another way people of all ages enjoy reading.
“An estimated five million Americans belong to a book club, and even more belong to online reading groups, with some sites boasting 40 million members.”
The yearning to read
Ultimately, the yearning to read has to come from inside.
I remember skimming books I’d been assigned in university mainly for the fact that I felt obligated to read them and that turned me off.
The truth is that reading a book has to come from your own free choice and your own desire.
Make sure that you find your genre, create a place to read and tackle books that speak to you and are meaningful for you.
Also make sure to read in moderation. Some books are going to get you hooked and have you staying up late reading – and that’s not a bad thing! It’s part of the reading experience…
But overall, try to read a moderate amount daily or weekly so that you save energy for the rest of your life and also keep your motivation to pick up a book the next time or start a new one.
Reading is truly an exciting journey, welcome aboard!