A quick guide to reading more in 2023

Five tips for increasing your leisure productivity


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One of the keys to reading more is to read books that interest you.

Adam Coil, Life Editor

Whether you’re looking to buff up your Goodreads statistics or just need to become more efficient with schoolwork — if you want to read more in 2023, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some simple tips to bump up your reading productivity in the new year.

1. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

A common mistake is expecting to be able to read too much, too soon. This blunder sets you up for disappointment and burnout down the line. For most people, it takes a while to (re)develop the ability to sit down and concentrate on a book for an hour or two at a time. It isn’t a skill that most people need anymore, so it has become, more or less, a dormant vestigial organ. It can improve over time, though. Be patient, and don’t be discouraged if you start out at a slower pace.

2. Read multiple books at a time.

I know many people who refuse to start reading another book before they finish the one they are currently reading. Do not do this! If you want to maximize efficiency and minimize burnout, it’s best to keep multiple books in the rotation. When you start getting bored or grow tired of one author’s writing style, move to another book to keep things fresh and engaging. I like to read fiction when I first wake up and nonfiction before I go to bed — a personal preference, but maybe it will work for you, too. One way to expedite this process is to stow different books all over the place — by your bed, in your backpack, on your desk, on your computer or in your bathroom. Get comfortable traversing different texts in different locations — it’s fun and cool and groovy.

3. Read books that interest you.

Going along the same lines as tip number two, if you aren’t enjoying a book, you don’t need to finish it! The amount of time at your disposal to spend reading is scarce and precious, so don’t waste it. Unless you need to read a particular book — for school, work, impressing a crush, etc. — you should not feel bad about giving up on a book that isn’t doing it for you. A good rule of thumb is the 50 pages rule or the one-third rule. If you’re not feeling it at that point in the story, it’s in your best interest to cut the cord. Seriously, I’ve done it to “Ulysses” three times now (2023 is finally going to be my year).

To minimize the number of duds you pick up, it is important to look for potential stories in a variety of places. When it comes to nonfiction, magazines and journals do a great job of tracking and reviewing contemporary releases. For example, The New York Times and The New Yorker are great places to start determining whether or not a book is for you. Personal recommendations are great, as well. Believe me when I tell you that the professors here at Wake Forest know about some good books, and if you’re willing to chat with them for a while, they can point you in a specific direction. Even places like TikTok and Reddit can be good for finding the right book. I like to read a lot of short story collections which provide me with a wide variety of authors and styles. They are a great way to get a feel for an author to help you determine whether you would enjoy their books.

What’s most important, though, is whether the subject is interesting to you — as in, are you willing to read 300ish pages on the topic?

4. Carve out time specifically for reading.

While not always possible, the best reading is done in a quiet location — alone. This is not to say that you should cut out noise altogether — personally, I almost always listen to ambient music or white noise while reading — but you should not be in an unpredictable or erratic soundscape. Consistent noise is the best noise for immersion in a text. Reading around other people is both externally and internally distracting. You never know what noises they are going to make, and it can be pretty difficult to not get self-conscious while reading around other people.

So instead of going halfway, make time dedicated to reading. This means putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, finding a quiet location and clearing your brain for 30 minutes or so. I have found that this is the best way to develop reading stamina. Otherwise, the brain has a difficult time relaxing and focusing on the text.

5. Have a purpose.

If you’re reading this list, you might be someone who, like myself, doesn’t find reading fun or effortless. It’s much easier and gratifying to scroll through TikTok, play video games or binge-watch a TV show, after all. The ultimate pitch for reading, though, is that it is profoundly impactful on you as a person. Whether you want to become more knowledgeable, more empathetic, more creative or you just want to see the world in an entirely new light, reading has the power to make it happen.

It’s much easier to put in the work of moving through a powerful book when you keep in mind just how much good stuff you’re getting out of it. Keep in mind that the process is only as fruitful as the amount of effort you put into it, which is why active reading is crucial. If you are mindful of why you chose the book and what you expect to get out of it, you’re more likely to be successful than if you get lost in the sea of words.