How to read more: a lover’s guide


in Beyond the Basics, Tools & Techniques

There’s no question about it. Reading and listening are essential for language development. You probably know that. But if you’re like a lot of people, sometimes you need a little nudge and a little encouragement to keep you going. This should do the job!

A few weeks ago I ran across How to Read More: A Lover’s Guide on Leo Babauta’s web site. He obviously loves to read. And, if you follow his suggestions, so could you. By the way, what he says about reading could also be said about listening to audiobooks.

Please note: Most of Babauta’s post appears here as he wrote it; I have, however, made a few changes to adapt it to the Successful English audience.

Babauta writes:

Reading a good book is one of my favorite things in the world.

A novel is a time machine, a worm-hole to different dimensions, a special magic that puts you into the minds and bodies of fascinating people, a transporter that lets you travel the world, a dizzying exploration of love and death and sex and seedy criminal underworlds and fairylands, a creator of new best friends.

All in one.

I read because I love the experience, because it is a powerful teacher of life, because it transforms me.

I am not the world’s most prodigious reader, but I do read daily and with passion.

Lots of people say they want to read more, but don’t know how to start.

Read this. It should help.

1. Don’t read because you should — read for joy, for pleasure. Find books about exciting stories, about people who fascinate you, about new worlds that you’d love to visit. Forget the classics unless they fit this prescription.

2. Make time. We have no time to read anymore, mostly because we work too much, we over-schedule our time, we’re on the Internet all the time (which does have some good reading, but can also suck our attention endlessly), and we watch too much TV. Pick a time, and make it your reading time. Start with just 10 minutes if it’s hard to find time, but do it regularly. Then try 20 or 30 or more.

3. Do nothing but read. Clear all distractions. Find a quiet, peaceful space. It’s just your book, and you. Notice but let go of the urges to do other things instead of read. If you must do something else, have some tea.

4. Love the hell out of it. You’re not doing this to better yourself. You’re doing it for joy. Reading is magic, and the magic will change everything else in your life. Love the experience, and you’ll look forward to it daily.

5. Make it social. Find friends who love to read, or find them online. There’s a world of readers on the Internet, and they’d be happy to make recommendations and talk about the books you’re all reading. Try a book club as well. Reading (and listening) is solitary, but can also be a social act. Goodreads (for reading) and Audible (for audiobooks) are great places to start.

6. Make it a habit. Pick a trigger in your daily routine, and consistently read exactly after that trigger each day. Even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes. The more consistent you are, and the longer you keep the streak going, the stronger the habit will become.

7. Don’t make it a chore. Don’t make it something on your todo list or schedule that you have to check off. It’s not part of your self-improvement plan. It’s a part of your Make Life More Awesome Plan.

8. Give up on a book if it’s boring. Reading isn’t something you do because it’s good for you — it’s not like taking your vitamins. You’re reading because it’s fun. So if a book isn’t fun, dump it. Give it a try for at least a chapter, but if you still don’t love it, move on.

9. Discover amazing books. I talk to other people who are passionate about books, and I’ll read reviews, or just explore an old-fashioned bookstore. Supporting your local bookstores is a great thing, and it’s incredibly fun. Libraries are also amazing places that are underused — get a card today.

10. Don’t worry about speed. Speed reading is fine for some, but slow reading is great too. The number of books, and the rate of reading them, does not matter. It’s not a competition. You’re reading to enjoy the books, so take your time. It’s like enjoying good food – better savored, not rushed.

Thanks, Leo!

Warren Ediger


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Amadou November 16, 2012

Hello it’s very interesting the advise and thanks for all the support that you give us. I want again to mention that your web side is very wonderful and interesting.

Sima Kavand November 16, 2012

Thanks Warren, I was encouraged to read by your website. I follow your posts and articles regularly and use all your recommendations. They really helped me.
Thousands thanks,

Andreu Martínez November 21, 2012


About reading there are two things that I would like to share with all the readers of this site.

The first thing is that some people who I know are surprise when I tell them that I only read in English. For more info my native languages are Spanish and Catalan. Even people who have a very good level of spoken English confess me that they couldn’t do what I do. I like one sentence that once I heard, says something like this: “Even the longer journey starts with the first step”. I started 6 years ago reading novels only in English and wasn’t easy. I put the first step and today I can say that I’m enjoying the way.

The second thing is that reading a lot gives you at the end some kind of not totally aware knowledge about spelling and grammar. Let me explain a little more and better. I work with an international team and therefore most of my emails and docs are written in English. In the last 6 months I’ve been leading a project with a consultant. It turns out that the consultant level of English is good. He had to written all the docs and emails in English. I had to read them and in doing so several times I told him about some words or grammar that sounded strange to me. I couldn’t be 100% sure but when I looked up in a dictionary I was OK. This obviously gave me a lot of confident about the goodness of reading. Could this be related with thousands of hours of reading? I think so because I don’t have other answer.

I hope these comments can push you a little more and help Warren article to encourage you to start reading or keeping on reading.


Ed. November 24, 2012

Hi Warren, you always came with interesting and useful information abut language acquisition. Your web site should be bookmarked by every ESL/EFL learners.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: