The Discipline of Reading

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Updated: 5/13/17

People always tell me that they wish they read more but that they either don’t really enjoy it that much or they just don’t have time. The first thing I’ll say is that you make time for things that are important to you. Did you have time to binge watch The Office or get a new high score on Candy Crush? Then you have time to read.

Secondly, there are two easy ways to add reading into your day and to start to get through some books. The first way is to just set aside 15-30 minutes before going to bed to read. Do you spend time scrolling through your Facebook news feed or checking up on you Instagram accounts before turning out the light? Then you have a bit of time to read before sleep. And actually it’s way healthier to read a book before sleep than to stare at a screen. Apparently, yet another sleep study has shown that looking at screens before you go to bed causes you to get less sleep because the side effects of the engaging, stimulating screen keep you wake. Reading a book on the other hand is relaxing, generally. You may start to nod off and that’s when you put the book down and you will fall right asleep. If you take this option, I recommend that you set aside a longer time to read on the weekends. Furthermore, if you fall asleep easily while reading at night, you may want to start by reading in a chair and then move to your bed and continue reading after you’ve completed the allotted time.

Another way to add some discipline to your reading is to set a page goal for each day. 10 pages a day is pretty doable and you can increase this goal on the weekends. I often take a look at the number of pages in a book, decide when I want to be done with said book and do the math. If you avidly watch some TV shows make sure you have met your page goal before turning on Netflix. Or relegate Netflix to certain evenings.

If you carry a purse or bag around with you, keep your book in it. If you find yourself out and about with a bit of free time, such as waiting at the doctor’s office, you can take out your book rather than being glued to your phone. If you don’t carry a bag but drive a car, you could bring your book with you in the car at least.

Start with reading what you enjoy. Find your genre, your style, your subject matter. If you read what you enjoy, it’s easy to get into the habit of reading. Once you’ve established reading as part of your life you can then branch out. I don’t always read what I enjoy reading but I always go back to my favorite kind of reading to refresh myself.

To increase your reading self-esteem and motivation you should keep a reading log. I have an excell spread sheet of all the books I’ve read. I keep track of my reading in two different ways. I have a page on the spread sheet for genre. I have another page to list my reading chronologically. So if I want to see what I’ve read in science fiction, I’ve got that list and if I want to see what I’ve read in 2014, I’ve got that list as well.

A further suggestion for serious readers is to keep a notebook full of quotes from books and/or a journal of your thoughts on a book after you’ve read it. That’s essentially what this blog is for me: A way to keep a record of all my book reflections. So, when I want to remember what I thought of The Fountain Head or A Farewell to Arms, I have only to type it into the search bar of my blog to pull up my thoughts once again. If I read a book again, I can compare my first reading to my second reading. Writing a short summary or synopsis of the book is also just a good comprehension and writing excise to keep your mental skills sharp.

Books (and literature in particular) are the doorway to a life time of learning. They are the doorway to the past, the present and the future. They are full of history, art, psychology, sociology and philosophy. They can be be scientific or imaginative. They are the world at your fingertips. If our society loses its love of reading then we have lost our mind and our heart. Reading keeps us critical and empathetic. It teaches us how to understand the world of other humans and relate to them. It teaches us to stay alert and responsive to our present times. Without serious, quality reading our society will fall prey to poor leadership and faulty ideologies, and our ability to be generous to the Other will be impaired. We have seen this begun already. Is reading the solution to all our social ills? Certainly not, but its a good start and a solid foundation for anything.