How to read more books in 2018
Will this be the year you hit the treadmill for an hour every day, make all your meals at home, learn a new language and max out your retirement savings accounts? Perhaps. But more often than not, New Year's resolutions are abandoned before the first gym payment goes through on your credit card.
This year, make a better resolution: Read more books. In fact, think of it less as a resolution, and more as a belated holiday gift to yourself.
Reading more was my resolution back in 2013. I realized I'd read maybe three books in the previous year. I joined Goodreads, a social media site for book lovers and got an L.A. Public Library card. I asked for an e-reader for Christmas that year. I joined a book club.
I set a goal to read 36 books. I wasn't too hard on myself as to what counted as reading a book. Audiobooks counted. Cookbooks counted, if I had read through most of the recipes. Graphic novels and comic books counted. Books I got halfway through and then abandoned for lack of interest counted.
Getting back into reading books has been one of the singularly most rewarding things I have done for myself in my adult life. I carry my Kindle everywhere, which means I always have something to do when I'm in a waiting room. And getting into a warm bed with a good book is one of life's singular great pleasures.
So do it. Read more books. Here are some ways to help you get started.
Buy an e-reader
I love my e-reader. I have a Kindle that uses e-ink instead of backlighting, so it doesn't hurt my eyes or keep me up at night. I bought a cute cover that protects it inside my bag.
You can download thousands of free e-books from Project Gutenberg and other sites. Download a bunch and peruse them at your leisure.
Use the library
The public library is your secret weapon for reading more. I'm always surprised at how many people don't realize the library carries new releases in addition to classics. In just this year, I checked out and read new releases that include Roxane Gay's “Hunger,” “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid, “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders, Lindy West's “Shrill” and “Artemis,” the new novel by Andy Weir.
I regularly read book reviews, and when I see something I like, I put it on hold. It's not always immediately available, but I can use the LAPL's site to track where I am in the holds list and see when my book is on its way. If a book you're excited about is coming out soon, you can put a hold on it before it's released and be at the top of the list.
(Sometimes I forget I put the book on hold at all until I receive an email saying it's on its way, which is the free equivalent of getting a package you forgot you ordered from Amazon.)
Many libraries lets you check out e-books with a program called Overdrive. You put a hold on the e-book you want, and when it's available, you just click a couple of buttons and it sends it to your e-reader. You never even have to go to the physical library. The book lives on your e-reader for three weeks — or indefinitely, if you turn Wi-Fi off.
Join a book club
Book clubs encourage you to try books you might not have picked otherwise, and are a great way to make new friends. In L.A. they can be found at Skylight Books, branches of the L.A. Public Library and at downtown bar the Edison, where PEN Center USA hosts a monthly book club with special guests and sometimes the author.
If you'd like to be around other readers but not interact with any of them, you can always attend a meeting of the Silent Book Club.
Make your phone reading-ready
Download e-reader apps to your smartphone, and if you have Wi-Fi enabled on your e-reader, you can move between the two. Put down your book before going to bed and then, while you're waiting in line for coffee the next morning, open it to the same page from the app on your phone and read a few pages.
You can connect a GoodReads account to your Facebook page, or make a separate one. Set your goal for 2018, and it'll tell you how far ahead (or behind) you are in your goal. Whenever I put my book down for the night, I note which page I was on and update Goodreads the next day. I also look up books I'm interested in reading to see whether any of my friends have reviewed them.
Get great deals
I subscribe to some email lists that send out the best deals on e-books. I've picked up a bunch of newer and classic novels and nonfiction reads for just a couple bucks.
If you use Goodreads, sign up for its Deals alerts. Any book you add to your “to read” list that goes on Kindle sale will send you an email alert.
Plenty of independent bookstores are still in business in L.A. Buying a new book at one of them supports a local business. If you've never visited, make sure you check out the Last Bookstore in downtown L.A., Skylight Books in Loz Feliz, Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, Book Soup in West Hollywood and Diesel Books in Brentwood. Local stores often host author signings and other lit-centric events.
Phones can enable reading, but they can also be a distraction. When you're trying to immerse yourself in a book, put your phone on silent — or better yet, “Do Not Disturb”— and take the opportunity to pour your full attention into reading.
Jessica Roy is a Los Angeles Times writer.