Level up your reading: Top tips for reading more

With 2023 well underway, perhaps you’ve found that your New Year’s resolution to “read more” is gathering dust on the shelf (alongside the books you’ve been meaning to pick up).

Life undeniably gets busy, and it can be hard to carve out some quality reading time. However, there are ways to boost your book count and recapture some motivation for reading. I was lucky enough to read more last year than I had in any other given year, primarily because I made a conscious effort to change when and how I read. Here are a few tips that helped me:

Have multiple reads on-the-go

In the past, I would pick up a book and try to read it cover to cover before starting the next. But this method often sucked me into a dreaded reading slump: if the book wasn’t catching my interest, I would lose all motivation to read. I’d find myself getting distracted, reading and re-reading the same paragraph over and over again until I inevitably gravitated towards the nearest distraction (TV, mindless social media scrolling, etc., etc.). 

It all changed when I decided to read what I wanted whenever I wanted, regardless of whether I was currently in the middle of another book. Funnily I found that, as overwhelming as it initially seemed, having a number of books on-the-go had me enjoying reading more than ever. If I didn’t feel like reading one particular book at a particular moment, I could simply put it down and choose another that seemed more appealing to myself at the time. 

Not only does this method keep things interesting, it’ll likely expand your reading tastes too. In order to prevent confusion between books, it's helpful to read over a range of genres and formats. You may find that different kinds of reads appeal to you at certain times of the day, or perhaps it’ll change depending on your mood. And you could just discover your new favourite genre! 

Figure out what kind of reader you are

Discovering your reading tastes will make reading all the more exciting for you. Too often we slowly and begrudgingly push through books that we have little to no interest in, simply because some list says it’s a great book. But why not make reading fun - and something you actually want to do - by reading books that you want to read? There’s no point making what should be a hobby into a chore! 

Not sure where to start? There are a bunch of fantastic tools available to help you figure out your reading habits:

  • The Christchurch City Libraries website contains our handy Genre Guides, both in fiction and non-fiction, which display a range of the very best reads for you to check out. Or ask our fabulous team of Reader’s Advisory Librarians to develop personalised recommendations for you.
  • You can also use the NoveList Plus website, free of charge with your Library card. I personally love their appeal mixer, which lets you search for a book based on heaps of features including character, pace, storyline and tone. Whether you want an intricate plot or unreliable characters or a lyrical writing style (or all those things!), they’ll find the pick for you.
  • For fiction you could try to figure out which of the "Four doorways" (or which combination of them) appeals to you - story, character, setting or language -  and then let that steer your reading choices. Librarian, Nancy Pearl explains the appeal of these four components in the video below.

If you don't like a book, put it down

The completionist in me always wants to finish everything I start, but honestly - not finishing a book I've started is less painful than forcing myself to read the whole thing. You're probably not going to get anything out of a novel if you have zero interest in it. If, after about 50 pages, your reading experience has been thoroughly unenjoyable, it's unlikely it's going to get much better. Don't waste your time: just move onto something else!

Bring a book with you

Despite our busy, modern-day hustle and bustle world, there are many times when we’re simply waiting. Waiting in line for an appointment, waiting for the bus, waiting for friends to arrive at the restaurant - whatever it is, when faced with this kind of waiting, we often feel the urge to pull out our phones and jump on social media. But why not try pulling out a book instead? Not only will you get some valuable reading time in, but it’ll also make you look super intelligent and artistic and mysterious to the rest of the public.

Don’t have the space in your bag for a heavy tome? There are convenient alternative formats, like eBooks and eAudiobooks. (If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the Libby app - simply connect your Library card and you’ll have access to our electronic catalogue to download). 

Try audiobooks

Until the second half of last year, I was firmly in the “against” camp regarding audiobooks. I loved to physically read words on a page, and besides, having a story told to you… that somehow felt juvenile. However, once I sucked it up and gave audiobooks a go, I found myself loving all the benefits. Firstly, the convenience! I could listen to a story whilst doing my chores, or play one in the car on the way to work, or go for a run and let the narrator distract me from my pain. There are so many opportunities to listen to an audiobook where a physical or eBook just wouldn’t cut it.

Audiobooks also bring back the fun of narration. I recently listened to an audiobook version of Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - a children’s classic that I perhaps wouldn’t have picked up in physical format - and found myself absolutely enthralled by the fantastical tale. Perhaps, through my obsession with reading words, I forgot about the original tradition for storytelling - orally. People have told stories since the dawn of language, and it’s nice to revisit that magic.

Howl's Moving Castle

Finally… get excited about reading!

I find I become the most motivated to read when I surround myself with books - either by visiting a library or a bookshop, leaving a book on my coffee table to pick up throughout the day, or chatting with my friends about what they’re reading. I also like to take a look on the Christchurch City Libraries website to see what new titles we have, or what our Selectors have picked. Goodreads, BookTok (Book TikTok) and BookTube (Book YouTube) are easy sources for popular recommendations. Hearing about all the amazing material out there makes me want to dive into it as soon as possible.

You could also try joining a book club. Reading becomes an even more immersive and enjoyable experience when you can share it with others. If you already have plenty of bookish friends, why not set up a time to catch up and discuss your latest page-turners? Otherwise, there are plenty of reading groups in the community - take a look and see what might work for you.

Reading is not only entertaining - it's also a fantastic work-out for your brain, and a great way to learn something new. Sure, we may only live one life on earth, but books give us a doorway into a thousand lives. We can explore diverse perspectives, open a time capsule to the past, or speculate about the future. We can embark on journeys across worlds, whether real or fantastical. It's a pretty incredible experience from simply looking at printed words on a page. All in all, I think there's merit in picking up an extra book or two this year.

Reading resources