By Oliver Tearle
Finding the time to relax with a good book can be difficult, but there are a few practical steps you can take which might help to increase your book-reading productivity in 2020. We’re sceptical of lists which promise ‘sure-fire ways to guarantee you’ll read more this year’, since ultimately all that can be proffered is sound, sensible advice, but these are particularly useful tips for those seeking to maximise their book-reading in 2020.
Read every night before bed, no matter what. It’s well-known that looking at a well-lit screen on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop just before retiring to bed isn’t a good way to induce a good night’s sleep. By contrast, reading a good old-fashioned book is a good way to relax you before sleep (and, of course, a print book often provides the added bonus of a bit of bibliosmia, or pleasant book-smell). Make it your mission for 2020 to read for at least 10-15 minutes in bed before turning out the light – or until you find yourself nodding off…
Have a lot of unread books on your shelves? Pick out the shortest unread classics and set yourself a target. The Japanese language has a handy word many readers will identify with: tsundoku. It means ‘buying a load of books and then not getting around to reading them’. I’ve had Candide in my possession for years, having picked it up at a charity shop when I was about 17. Why have I never read it? It’s barely 150 pages long, and a classic. I’ve made it my aim in 2020 to pile up all those unread short classics I feel I ought to have read by now, and to read a new one every week. It’ll only take a few hours out of my busy week, and by the end of the year I’ll be able to add 52 famous novels and novellas to my other bookshelf, holding all the books I have read.
Read more poetry. As initiatives like Transport for London’s Poetry on the Underground demonstrate, a poem makes for ideal reading when you’re commuting to and from work on the Tube, or travelling on a crowded train. There are lots of great anthologies of short poems available, with many funny and moving lyric poems being less than a page long. This means they’re the perfect thing to read (and perhaps even re-read) while commuting on public transport. Some poetry anthologies I’d particularly recommend can be found here.
Finally, the best way to try to ensure you read more this year is to find things you really want to read. As Samuel Johnson put it in one of my favourite quotations, ‘A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.’ Read more novels; read more plays; read more poetry; read more non-fiction. But stop reading Twitter. And Facebook. Get offline in general, for several hours every day. Apart from Interesting Literature, of course. I think you should read them.
Oliver Tearle is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University and the author of, among other books, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History (Michael O’Mara Books).