Wednesday, 11 June 2014

How to Find (More) Time to Read

It's no secret that I'm a bit of a book nerd. I always have been, but a few years ago I stopped reading books for pleasure, and there were three reasons:
  1. I was studying a lot and the time I would normally dedicate to reading was taken up by writing essays. 
  2. I got a smartphone and drastically reduced my reading time, by developing a terrible habit of tweeting in bed or reading blogs and articles on my phone.
  3. I watched a lot of TV shows, usually while surfing on my phone and writing essays at the same time.
All of that left no room for books. Sad for the books.

However, in early 2013 I joined a book club, and this got me back into reading in a hardcore way. Now I read books for pleasure almost every day and regularly finish a book a week. This change didn't happen overnight though, nor am I some sort of witch who has more hours in the day than everyone else. It happened gradually, through making a series of small changes in my life.

When I tell people I've read 30 books so far this year, they look at me like I'm insane. I wanted to share some of the ways I find more time to read, and hopefully you might find them useful too.

Stop taking your phone and/or laptop to bed
There are a bunch of studies that say you shouldn't be doing this anyway, so I'm not going to bang on about that, but seriously, stop taking tech to bed with you. If, like me, you're in bed for a while before falling asleep use that time to read a book and you'll soon start to get back into it. You'll probably sleep a little better too.

I sometimes break this rule because I often read on the Kindle app on my Nexus tablet, but I make sure it's not connected to the internet so I don't get distracted by other stuff. 

Watch less TV
It can be really hard to give up shows that you feel invested in, that's the reason I made it all the way to the dismal finale of Dexter. My recommendation here is just to stop picking up new shows. Stick with shows you love until the end, give anything else a miss. Or at least save them for winter when weekends are perfect for firing through a box set.

Be prepared for it to take time to adjust
At first it was hard to read a book for a solid chunk of time. I'd get distracted by my phone or by any kind of noise. If a sentence sprawled too far I'd get confused and have to read it again. My brain had adjusted to absorbing condensed information, reading tweets and news and blogs and not much else. Switch off your notifications, disconnect from the internet and keep at it. It might take a while to feel comfortable doing only one thing for more than 10 minutes, but the pay-off is worth it.

Make reading part of your routine
Try reading on your commute, or listening to an audiobook if you walk or drive. Read a few pages every lunchtime. I try to read for at least 30 minutes as soon as I get in from work, a period of time I used to spend just pottering about or browsing online. I also read in the bath, which means I take a lot more baths in the evening and then sleep better. Wins all round!

Join a book club
Nothing will motivate you to read more than knowing you have to hang out with people and talk about it. Not only will you start reading at least one book a month but you'll get recommendations from like-minded people, and probably some free books too if they're a nice bunch of people who like to share. If a book club sounds like too much for now, just find a friend or a workmate who likes to read and start having more discussions with them.

These five simple ways to read more haven't just gotten me through a lot more books, they've transformed my life. I sleep a lot better by not being online until the moment I close my eyes, and I've made some incredible friends through going to a book club. If you want to get back into reading, give these tips a go and make sure you let me know how you get on!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

What I read in May

May didn't feel too busy but as I only managed to finish 3 books, I have to assume that my social life ramped up a gear. The things I do remember doing are a) London whisky festival, b) Cambridge beer festival and c) an engagement party where approx 60 bottles of fizz were consumed (no lie). I suppose those may have slightly reduced my reading time a tad. Anyway, I read three books, very varied this month; historical fiction, YA and a war autobiography. Who says I'm not cultered? Nobody, nobody says that.

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent (Paperback) 8/10

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this by The Reading Agency so I could take part in their Bailey's Prize readalong. Set in Iceland in 1829, this is the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, who has been sentenced to death for the murder of her lover. While awaiting her execution she is sent to stay with a farming family, in a barren and brutal landscape. There's sadness, mystery and even a bit of humour sprinkled throughout Agnes' story, and in time her hosts find out there is more to their guest than they first suspected.

I really enjoyed this book and was hooked from just a few pages in. Kent's descriptions of the Icelandic landscape are so evocative that I felt transported to the early 19th century every time I picked it up and I've since given it to my sister who finished it in 2 days. Unfortunately it didn't win the Bailey's Prize but I remain adamant that it was a worthy choice for the shortlist.

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart (Kindle) 9/10

Cadence Sinclair spends every summer with her extended family on a private island near Martha's Vineyard; swimming with her cousins, picnicking on hidden beaches and planning their privileged futures. But two years ago she suffered an accident which has left her memories of the island loosely pieced together.

This is definitely one of those books that is more enjoyable when you don't know much about it so I won't say more than that except to say it's excellent and I am urging everyone to read it. Technically it's YA, but any fans of heady summer mysteries will love it.

I've got a real soft spot for books where families are reunited for a trip so this was always going to be a winner for me. It reminded me a lot of Tigers in Red Weather, one of my favourite read from 2013 that I'd also recommend if that's your thing too!

A LITTLE HEADS UP! We Were Liars is only £1.89 on Kindle right now. Seriously, go get it.

Goodbye to All That (Penguin Modern Classics) - Robert Graves (Kindle) 4/10

With this being the centenary year of World War One, my book club opted to read some war literature this month. I've never studied WW1, and only studied WW2 up to GCSE so this is probably the first time I've read about this war in over a decade. 

It's a hard book to say that I liked, mainly because of the subject matter but also because the author wasn't very likeable in my opinion. I was quite shocked at how blasé he was about the many deaths he witnessed, the tragedies surrounding him boiled down to an off the cuff remark. It's impossible for me to know what that experience was like though, and in reality I expect that was just Graves' way of dealing with what happened to him and his friends.

Worth picking up if you are looking to commemorate the centenary with a book or two.

Today I'm off to Spain for a week as my little sister is getting married over there. There have been various discussions in this house about what books to take and at one point I think I'd packed about ten! Have whittled it down now though, but get set for June's round-up which should hopefully be jam-packed!

Leave me a comment or tweet me and let me know what you've been reading lately.