Want to read more books in 2021? Here's how to stick to your goal

Every January I vow to myself that this year will be the year I read voraciously.

Books in my family were something you bought at an airport Waterstones twenty minutes before your flight to Italy. Even as a child, while the rest of my friends devoured the Harry Potter books cover to cover, I patiently waited for the films.

It’s a habit I’ve always wanted to crack. There are so many benefits to reading daily, whether it be increasing your vocabulary and comprehension, fighting off cognitive decline in old age or even sharpening your emotional intelligence.

It’s a challenge I’ve set for myself as long as I can remember, but one I only managed to tackle last year. 

In 2020, a lot of us struggled to concentrate on our reading. It’s natural that the fear and anxiety that comes with living through a pandemic has hindered many of our attention spans. But if you’re determined to beat your 2021 Goodreads challenge, here are a few tips I learnt from my year of (improved but my no means extensive) reading.

Read what you want to read, not what you think you should read

It sounds obvious, but it’s important to read what you’re interested in and not what looks the most impressive on the Tube or on your Instagram feed.

And if a book doesn’t grab you after 100 pages, ditch it. I only read one classic novel all year, because I don’t really like them. That’s fine.

If you like page-turning true crime thrillers, read those. Or if you’re partial to a celeb biography, go right ahead. It’s easier to get into a regular reading routine with material that you enjoy, and introduce the challenging stuff later on if you feel like it. 

Bulk buy to stop the next-book dithering

This year, I’ve found it most useful to buy books in groups of four or five. I know then that these books, depending on length, will typically last me two months. This totally eliminates the opportunity to spiral into a time-wasting rabbit-hole searching for your next book.

Screenshot recommendations when you see them, make a wishlist and only after you’ve read one group, bulk buy another lot. It also fights the urge to buy books constantly and let them build up unread.

If you’re looking to wean yourself off Amazon, too, Bookshop is a great alternative that tries to financially support local businesses.

Set a bedtime app-blocker on your phone and carve out specific reading times

On the weekends, I don’t have a reading schedule. I can happily read all afternoon and watch TikTok all evening.

But every other day, my reading needs to be condensed into that small time frame between getting into bed and going to sleep.

At the start of the year, I usually lasted 20-30 minutes.

But once you get into a rhythm, and maybe even if you find an incredible book, you’ll find yourself going to bed earlier and earlier to fit in those extra pages. I promise.

Like with all things, comparison is the thief of joy

It’s best to not compare your personal reading target with someone else’s. It (usually) only ends in disappointment and could even throw you off from achieving your goal.

There are a million reasons why someone is able to read more than you, such as how much free time they have or whether they have dependents to care for. You are only in competition with yourself.

Audiobooks are not cheating

Some get very puritanical over the place of audiobooks in a reading challenge. I’m in the camp that believes they are a great tool for those who can’t afford the luxury of sitting down for an hour or two.

Put on an audiobook as you do the ironing or walk the dogs and you’ll have met your goal in no time. For maximum comprehension, after I’ve listened to an audiobook I’ll write down a few notes on the parts that stood out to me the most.

Shopping independent is always important, especially with physical footfall down thanks to new tier restrictions. The Feminist Bookshop has a great website to order from, as does Golden Hare, Daunt Books and lots more. Happy reading.

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