Hit the Books: Resolve to Read More This Year

In second grade, our teacher gave us each a photo album with a brief personal description on the cover. While home for the holidays last year, I came across mine. The description read: “Susan is an avid reader.”

I’ve always considered myself a reader, but seeing that statement brought up some questions: Am I still an avid reader, and can I really be a writer if I’m not? I decided that I wasn’t reading enough books anymore. Somewhere along the way — probably in college, when the last thing I wanted to do was read more books — I had stopped reading for pleasure. And that made me sad.

I wanted to return to my grade-school roots, so I aimed to become an avid reader again in 2015, making it my goal to read two books a month for a total of 24. With 2015 now in the rearview mirror, I can say that I succeeded in more ways than I ever realized.

Here are some of the main benefits I took from my newfound devotion to books:

I Slept Better

To turn reading into a daily habit, I decided to read every night before I turned out the lights. I already spent 10–15 minutes journaling before bed, so for my new goal, I began reading for 10–15 minutes, as well. Thanks to this ritual, I now spend about a half hour before bed reflecting and relaxing — rather than looking at my phone. This routine actually helps me fall asleep more easily, which has had an immensely positive effect on my well-being.

Setting aside this time meant I could read books that had been on my list for years, such as “House of Sand and Fog” by Andre Dubus III, one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. Similar to how Dignity Health encourages you to Take Back Your Morning by not immediately grabbing your smartphone when you wake up, reading before bed has helped me take back my evening.

I Boosted My Career

As a writer, not reading much is rather embarrassing; it’s like being an architect and never looking at other buildings. Sure, I read online content all day, but there’s a big difference between that sort of material and actual books. The latter takes time and attention — from both the writer and the reader — and exploring other writing styles is one of the best ways to improve your own.

I found Marina Keegan’s “The Opposite of Loneliness” particularly inspiring, as she was a young writer with a blossoming career before she tragically passed away in a car accident. Her words pushed me to work harder and further my career.

Even if you’re not a writer, reading can certainly help you expand your interests and viewpoints. I read several books on entrepreneurship, for example, that helped me build my freelance writing business.

I Became Happier

I realize this is a bold statement to make. How could reading more make anyone happier? For me, the biggest effect came from wasting less time on the Internet. As compared to scrolling through mindless celebrity gossip or photos of people I barely know on Facebook, I felt good about how I was spending my time.

In “Essentialism,” another one of my favorites, Greg McKeown recommends stripping your life down to what’s really important. Last year, I learned that reading and learning are two of those things.

The craziest part of this challenge? I didn’t even meet my goal. I finished 19 books in 2015, which was 24 percent less than I wanted. Given this year’s results, you can bet that I’ll be finishing all 24 in 2016!

Do you wish you read more? How many books do you hope to read this year? Let us know on Twitter!

Image source: Bigstock