Finding time to make it through the backlog of books I’m constantly accumulating always presents a challenge when keeping a media diet. Over on Lifehacker.com, Thorin Klosowski offers a series of suggestions to help you find you find time to read. His suggestions range from blocking off reading time in your calendar, to joining a book club and setting deadlines.
I’ve tried several methods over the years to get more reading done. Last year, I added books to my to-do list, and gave myself deadlines for getting them read. It didn’t work very well. To-do lists are great for short-term objectives, keeping track of errands, or planning the next stages in projects. Reading doesn’t lend itself to being imposed on a schedule. I was not very good at guessing how long it might take me to read a particular book. So I kept getting frustrated – April would arrive and I still hadn’t read Middlemarch, so I’d push it back to May, then June, then whenever (I still haven’t even started it). Another problem was that I’d get new books and want to read them first, pushing back all my other scheduled ideas.
This year’s I’ve made a bigger dent in my reading list by keeping a list of the books I want to read, in the order in which I want to read them. If I get a new book, I just slot it in the list in priority sequence. There are no deadlines for finishing a book, just a sense of what to tackle next. (As I get closer to the end of my list, I’ve started to look to other lists for ideas of what to read next, whether it is the 1001 books app, or Geekdad’s list of 67 books you should read your child before they turn 10).
It also helps that I’ve carved out reading time in my daily commute. I take the subway to and from work, and have decided that as part of my daily media diet, I’d spend my commuting time reading, instead of listening to podcasts, playing Angry Birds, or watching episodes of South Park I bought from iTunes.
Klosowski does mention one other point I’d agree with: you need to know when to give up on books you hate.
Sometimes your relationship with a book isn’t working out. In that case, it’s good to know when you close it up and move along to something you’ll actually enjoy. As someone who often has to rely on a lot of “best of” lists to discover new books, I’ve tried to force myself through giant 800 page epics just because they get critical acclaim or because a friend recommended them. In those cases, I would repeatedly find excuses not to read just because I wasn’t into what I was reading. Over time, I’ve learned to know when to back out and shelf a book for later. Read should be a pleasurable experience and if it’s not, find something else to read.
I struggled recently, trying to get through a bestseller by a famous Canadian author that I felt I had to read out of some sense of pop-cultural literacy. I just couldn’t get into book or the characters. I found my mind wandering during the commute. I eventually had to admit that I just wasn’t into the book.
Just as there’s no use forcing yourself to finish food that doesn’t agree with you, shouldn’t force yourself to finish a book that doesn’t agree with you.