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7 Steps to Becoming an Avid Reader

7 Steps to Becoming an Avid Reader

You’re convinced that books are magical (they are) and you want to be part of the reading family (and why not) but there’s one small problem: Where do you start?

How do you turn an interest in books into a lifestyle that supports your avid reading? Or if you’re new to this whole reading-for-pleasure thing, how do you know which books are wins and which are wimpy?

Here are the steps you can take, gleaned from my 29 years of readership.

1. Start with topics or genres you love.

If you don’t care about it, you’re not going to enjoy reading about it. Why waste your own time? This isn’t school; there is no test. There is no official reading list.

All your friends love Jane Austen? That doesn’t mean you have to love her. Maybe all your friends are into sparkly vampires, or young sorcerers, or heroines with a thing for archery, but… that’s just not appealing to you? No problem.

Start with what does appeal to you. What do you love talking about? What do you love learning about? What do you love doing? What kind of people do you enjoy talking to? What topics do you never, ever get tired of?

Jot down a few of those and then go on a book hunt.

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2. Hunt down the books that you like.

Back when I started reading, in the 1980s, the Internet was not around so much. We had a little thing called a card catalog at the local library.

Lucky for you, Dewey and his decimal system do not have to figure into your search for the perfect book.

Instead, use some of these great websites to find a book that you will love:

  • WhatShouldIReadNext.com: start with an author or book you love, click the closest match from the list that pops up, and then this site will generate a list of books you’ll probably like based on your initial author/title. Pretty cool.
  • GoodReads: This is social networking for readers. Join (you can use your Facebook credentials) and then find friends and see what they’re reading, find interest-based groups, search book lists, or join a discussion.
  • BookBrowse.com: The “Read Alikes” service here is similar to WhatShouldIReadNext but the lists of comparable books is handpicked by other readers.
  • WhichBook: Choose your book by mood or other fun factors, like Happy or Sad, Beautiful or Disgusting, Conventional or Unusual.

3. Use these book lists for even more reading options.

You can also make use of the plethora of booklists available to you. I’m currently reading through NPR’s Top 100 Sci Fi & Fantasy list with some friends.

Here are some great lists you can use to find your next read:

4. Skim, baby, skim.

There’s a classic book on reading, aptly titled How to Read a Book, written by the illustrious Mortimer J. Adler. In it, Mr. Adler gives a recommendation about how to approach a book you’re about to start reading:

“First, you do not know whether you want to read the book. You do not know whether it deserves an analytical reading. But you suspect that it does, or at least that it contains both information and insights that would be valuable to you if you could dig them out. Second, let us assume—and this is very often the case—that you have only a limited time in which to find all this out. In this case, what you must do is skim the book, or, as some prefer to say, pre-read it. Skimming or pre-reading is the first sublevel of inspectional reading. Your main aim is to discover whether the book requires a more careful reading. Secondly, skimming can tell you lots of other things about the book, even if you decide not to read it again with more care.”

What’s neat is that, O Internet Reader, you already know how to skim; it’s what you do on social media and sites like this all day long.

Use that skill on each book you pick up. Read the introduction; scan the paragraph headings; flip through and a read a line or two here and there; read the back cover; look at the blurbs.

Does it sound interesting? Do you want to know more? Then start reading. But what if it doesn’t sound interesting? Put it down and find another book. There are plentyout there.

5. Use the 50-Page Rule.

Once I’ve skimmed a book enough to know that I want to read it, I put this little rule into place. This is a personal rule I developed as I found that sometimes a book looked great but just really didn’t do anything for me; but I would feel weird about quitting the book.

As if the book cares.

I also have found that sometimes a book that is a little difficult to start can turn out to be amazing if I just stick with it.

Hence, the 50-Page Rule.

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50 pages is usually a good enough chunk to know whether this book is worth it or not. If you’re so into it at 50 pages that you don’t even notice you’ve passed the fiftieth page, well, awesome! Keep reading.

But if you’re struggling to stay interested, or to keep up with the vocabulary, or to relate to the characters, or understand the backstory, or care about the information, give it a full 50 pages. If you still don’t care when you hit page 50, you’ve got a legitimate case of “Not a Good Fit” and you can pass the book on to someone else, knowing you gave it a fighting chance.

6. Start a Reading Notebook.

This doesn’t have to be an actual notebook. It could be a Pinterest board, a note on Facebook, a list on your phone, a folder of photos, your GoodReads account etc.

Or it could be an actual notebook.

There are two lists I recommend keeping in your “notebook,” whatever format you use. The first is a list of books you’ve read. Pin an image on your board, jot the title on your note or list, or take a photo of the cover, or write it in your notebook. Give it a rating, and, if you feel like it, a few words about it: what you liked or didn’t like, anything that stood out, a quote or character, whatever.

The second is a list of books you want to read. The more you read, the more you’ll discover new authors, genres, and series that you want to dig into. Keep track of these, somewhere, because it’s oh-so-easy to forget. If you have a list handy, though, you can always refer to it when you’re at the bookstore, going by the library, or ready to download another ebook

7. Find the time to read.

You don’t need a lot of time to read. You just need to start using those in-between times.

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How many times a day do you need to check Facebook, really? Do something better. Read your book.

The key is to have your current read with you at all times. Throw it in your bag and next time you’re on the train, on the bus, waiting in the office, waiting at the restaurant, or enjoying the sunshine for a few minutes… pull out your book.

Wind down at night with a book. Studies show that the blue light of computer and tv screens can actually disturb your sleep.

You know what doesn’t disturb your sleep? A book.

Unless you get so interested you can’t put it down, and find yourself still awake at 4 a.m. because just one more chapter. Yeah, that could happen.

But hey. That’s why we have coffee… which, you know, is really perfect to sip while reading a book.

Featured photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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