Do you remember how much you read while growing up?
I do. I read anything that caught my eye, from novels to product labels. I was a lonely only child. I stole all my dad’s novels, including the ones I wasn’t supposed to read. After lights out, in the stillness of the night, I would wait for my dad’s loud snores from the other end of the house, then sneak to the corridor and turn on the kerosene lamp. I would read all night sleep throughout the morning after completing morning duties, then read some more.
Then I became an adult, like you.
If you opened this link, then, chances are you are not reading as many novels as you would like. These days, along with working for a living, there are so many distractions that make going through a handful of books per year a particularly daunting prospect. Our reading wishlists keep piling and piling.
“Maybe when I have more time.” “Maybe next weekend.”
Then you hear people like Chinwendu and Shammah boasting about reading 200 books last year. Yes, you read right.
No, they are not using jazz. Yes, in this our Nigeria. Yes, they have lives, busy ones at that.
What if I told you that reading a lot of books is not that much of a big deal? I read 26 books last year while finishing up a degree, travelling cities for volunteer work, and hustling to earn a living, and I feel that’s low. In retrospect, I could have read a lot more. This year I am going to double that number at the very least, and it’s not even that difficult. I am already in my second book as of writing this article.
You can actually get to read way more books than you think, with these few not-magic tricks. You’re welcome.
Stop Giving Excuses
If you love the idea of reading books, used to love reading books, are a former bookworm, or just an aspiring bibliophile looking to cultivate the habit, you have to stop making those excuses. I hear people complain about lack of time and roll my eyes so vehemently I have to take Panadol to ease the resulting headache, because, isn’t this same person who spends hours and hours on Facebook each day or can binge watch all the episodes of Stranger Things in three days? If you put half that time into reading an actual book, you’ll be surprised at how much you’d have covered. Reading is a habit that needs your time, practice and dedication in order to blossom.
Set a Short-term Reading Goal
Reading is like every other habit; you have to cultivate it, grow it and sustain it to a point where you cannot do without it. It is not a superpower Heck, even superpowers have to be honed, developed. Set realistic daily reading targets. You can start with 30 pages if you are a very busy person. Or read half an hour in the morning and another half at night while winding down. Reading a beautiful book can be very relaxing. If you read 30 pages a day, by the end of the first week, you would have read 210 pages. That’s about half most books. If you follow this plan, you’d be completing two books per month: that’s 24 books per year. Not so difficult again, eh? For an even bigger challenge, divvy up the book into sections. For example, you could divide a 400-page book into 8 parts of 50 pages each.
If you’re really feeling the story, you are allowed to read a few more pages.
Get Great Books
Reading is actually as not difficult as people generally think once you get hold of a great book with a compelling story. I personally prefer books to films and TV because motion picture leaves very little to my imagination, but I’m not about to start another book vs movie argument here. If you are lacking motivation, find great recommendations. Most of the best books I’ve read in this life have come to me via recommendations, for example Behold the Dreamers, Born a Crime, The A Song of Ice and Fire series, Americanah, Here Comes the Sun, A Thousand Splendid Suns, This is How You Lose Her, et cetera (see what I did there?). Find someone (or somewhere) that you can trust for recommendations. SynCity blog is a great place to get great book recommendations and share your thoughts—follow us really. For starters, aside from those books I’ve already mentioned, here are 5 great books we can’t wait to lay our hands on this year. There are book clubs online and offline that you can join as well. You will have a steady stream of books to read.
E-books might seem like the handiest way to read these days, but think about all the times that you couldn’t resist the temptation to peep in Facebook and ended up spending hours with your data on. I typically read 10-20 minutes before I get another urge to check my messages again. This thing is hard.
Stop cheating on your books. Get paperbacks. People like to complain that physical books are expensive, but they are not actually when you consider how much work is put into publishing them, and the fact that you probably spend a lot more on other (sometimes, less important) endeavors. Reading is a way of adding value, so think of buying books like a personal investment. Then again, there are so many really good books between the N1000 – N3000 range. Used books are a cheaper alternative.
Always Have a Book Handy
There are always those quick moments when you could leaf—or swipe—through a few pages. So, always keep a book in your bag—or in your smartphone. I know I said to prioritize buying paperbacks, but chill abeg, don’t stress me! Variety is the spice of life. It’s no harm to buy an e-book if that’s your element. Just don’t be a cheapskate; download or share illegally.
Waiting for a meeting? Time to read a few pages. Waiting for the rain to stop? Time to read a few pages. Stuck in Lagos traffic? Hell yes, perfect time to read a few pages. These reading bursts can add up significantly in the grand scheme of things, making you finish books faster, especially if you live in a certain Nigerian city where more than half your life is spent in traffic jams.
Keep a Reading List
You will doubtless feel a sense of pride tracking the books you’ve read. Keeping a reading list also does great for motivation, alongside serving as a reference point. You’ll want to see your precious list grow so you’ll want to keep reading more. I will be doing a book challenge soon. You can follow me on Instagram to join in.
It’s Okay to Drop a Book
If a book is boring, uninspiring or becoming a drag, stop reading it and move on to the next one. There are millions of books in this world, so do not waste your time on a book you are not feeling. I have a personal policy of ditching any book that hasn’t been able to hold my attention in the first 20 pages. Sometimes, if I’m feeling patient I stretch it to 50. Never beyond. While it’s brave to want to finish every book you pick up (especially if you bought it, because hey, your money cannot come and go and be wasting na), it’s really not necessary especially if you are pressed for time. If you’re not reading to pass an exam, I don’t see why you should stress yourself over any book that’s not to your taste. Reading is only fun when you want to read, not when you have to.
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Have a bookish year ahead!
About the Writer
Ama Udofa is the editorial manager of SynCity NG. Also a graduate of Biochemistry, yet, having been enchanted by remarkable storytelling, he has decided to pursue a lifelong romance with the craft. He mostly writes and edits marketing and critical content for a living freelance, and dabbles in literary stuff at his spare time. He is a recipient of the Igby Prize for Nonfiction, has been longlisted in The Writivism Short Story Prize, and recently earned an honorable mention at the 2019 Icelandic Writers Retreat Alumni Award. He has works in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Kalahari Review, AFREADA, Praxis Magazine Online, First Culture, and The Bagus. He hosts RHYTHMIFY, a periodic performance poetry concert at his alma mater and is currently at work on Safe Landing, a short story collection on gender and the self. When he’s not writing or reading, he’s pining over women he will never have a chance with.