ack in August when my family came to visit us in Connecticut, my mom brought a book along titled: Read for Your Life: 11 Ways to Better Yourself Through Books by Pat Williams. When we ventured into New York, I decided to take it along for a subway ride. I quickly ended up reading the book in a few days and was so captured by the author’s main challenge to readers: commit to reading one hour a day for the rest of your life. Right then and there, I decided to take him up on that challenge. I was a reader when I was little and it seemed high time to get back to it. When I was younger, I devoured books. I spent my allowance on buying the entire collection of Roald Dahl stories one by one. I was a READER.
I kept reading through high school, albeit at a slower pace since I was so focused on being basically as perfect as I could be in all realms of academics and extracurriculars. (Yeah, high school was pretty intense for me.) College brought about lots of reading for classes but very little reading for the sake of reading – I feel like many people fall into that bucket, yeah? Then I moved to New Orleans and started teaching 1st graders. Most of my reading consisted of books that were AWESOME for 6 year-olds but not many that were satisfying to my 20-something brain. Trying to be a good, effective teacher took up a ton of time and effort on its own and I simply didn’t choose to carve out much time for outside reading during my down time.
After Bobby and I moved away from New Orleans though, I suddenly had more time to read. But did I? No! TV shows are just way too intoxicating! I mean, to reference Roald Dahl, we’re no family of Wormwoods (Matilda, anyone?!?)…but we certainly have a long list of shows that we’ve watched and loved. Netflix or books? I think it’s a trade-off that more than a handful of millennials are making.
It’s not as if I haven’t read a book for pleasure in 10 years. I wasn’t burning books in the fireplace. (All you book burners out there – shameful!) Still, I was far more apt to save reading for a vacation instead of incorporating it into an average day. During the times when I could have picked up a book, I gravitated toward SO MANY other tasks and distractions: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, blogs, podcasts, talking with friends on the phone, YouTube. It reminds me of a quote from Aziz Ansari which I heard during a Freakonomics podcast. (Podcasts! Here we go again!): “I spend so much time on the internet…I feel like I’m a million pages into the worst book ever, and I’m never going to stop reading.” If that’s not straight up TRUTH I don’t know what is.
Whenever I did read, though, I would be SO INTO IT. I mean, deep down I’m a reader through and through. It’s crazy how easy it is to lose parts of yourself like that to shiny distractions. So as I sat on the subways of New York and poured over Read for Your Life, I just got more and more convinced that I needed to get this habit back in my life. There are a million compelling reasons and statistics the author sites for why a hungry reading appetite will serve you well; by the time he issued his challenge for people to dive into a book for 1 hour everyday I was like, “YES, Pat Williams, yes. I am totally going to do that. From here on out, I am never again abandoning reading.”
So that’s what I’ve been attempting for the past couple months.
Full disclosure: have I actually been 100% successful with this new goal of mine? No. (I mean, have you SEEN the show Billions?!?!?!?!?!? It sucked Bobby and me in like the world’s most effective vacuum cleaner.) But have I read infinitely more since establishing said goal? Completely. Just having the bar set there has me reading infinitely more than I was before.
Reading for an hour a day lets me CRUISE through books. My mind has been swimming in so many ideas over the past few months because I feel like I’m inhaling non-fiction, self-improvement type books. Time management, money, vulnerability, morning routines – it’s all up for grabs. I tend to read those types of books in the morning for 20 or 30 minutes. Then at night before bed I try to read either a lighter non-fiction like a memoir or a fiction book.
Right now I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series so that I can actually read the seventh book and Rowling’s new stage play. (Gasp, I know, how did I read the first six books of the series and then stop right before the very end? Sheer madness. This summer my sister was talking about Harry Potter with my little brother and I was like, “DON’T SAY ANY SPOILERS, I CAN’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THE LAST BOOK!” And Leah was like, “Uhh, the seventh book came out nine years ago…how have you gone this long without any spoilers? Maybe it’s time you read it?” Okay, sister, okay. You’ve got me there.) Last night I spent some time with HP and his crew and then dreamed about meeting a friend’s baby for the first time and was thrilled to cuddle her little baby octopus boy. Books will do trippy things to your brain, man.
When I set this goal for myself, I wanted to establish some way of documenting each book I finished. My mom has been trying to get my 11 year-old brother to write book reports each time he finishes a book. He tends to resist this wildly – but he’ll appreciate them someday! I thought I should do some type of book reports as well. Having an artistic element to go along with the goal seemed to fit with my M.O. so I’ve settled upon an artistic book journal – what could be more literary and fitting than that?
I had stumbled upon this cute little vintage book while thrifting and was just waiting for the perfect project for it – and now I’ve found it with my book reports! The llama on the cover has my heart.
Now, each time I finish a book, I dedicate a page in my journal to it. There’s something about layering text on top of text that I love. My book reports might not always be the easiest to decipher but I’m okay with that. I include the title, author, date I finished reading, and either a summary, my thoughts, a quote I really loved…anything to try and capture the spirit of the book.
Here’s my report for the book that started it all…
And some others I’ve read since August:
Some of these turn out more beautifully than others but I’m just trying to be loose and free with them. Completion over perfection.
Sometimes I basically riff off the book cover, like I did for this gem of a book:
(Glennon is one of my absolute HEROES. So much courage and truth shines from that woman. You must read both her books if you haven’t yet.)
So there you have it! My new life habit. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of reading – or were never much of a reader to begin with – it’s never too late. Start today, even if it’s just setting aside the phone for 20 minutes and trading it for real pages that you can run your fingers and eyes over. (Or read on a Kindle – I won’t judge. Just start!)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do. :)