Have a list of books to read before the new school year starts, but don't have the motivation? 

You are not alone – it’s easy to get trapped in a lazy, hazy summer vortex of sleeping in, lounging by the pool and hanging out with friends. However, if you have a summer reading list nagging at you, better tackle it now – otherwise, your last week of summer break will be no break at all.

Here are my top 5 ways to conquer your summer reading:

5. Consult Outside Materials

Before we go into this, let me share an anecdote from my past. An old English teacher of mine was fed up with my class one day. The level of discussion and insight we offered was subpar – it was obvious people hadn’t read the actual text and instead relied on a book summary. As a response, the teacher brought in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We were stoked. A day off and we get to watch a classic comedy! He started the movie, then proceeded to fast forward through the whole thing. He was trying to illustrate the point that, when you just read reference materials you don’t get the whole picture—you don’t get all the nuance that the writer worked so hard to develop.

So while I’m all in favor of, “just read the book, dummy” I understand that a lot of people get trapped in the quicksand that is literary fiction. It’s not always evident what the writer was talking about when they go on for pages describing a dinette set. If you’ve read through the chapters and done your due diligence in trying to understand things, you can (and should) augment your understanding of the text. Don’t be afraid to look online – resources like SparkNotes and Shmoop exist for a reason.

4. Make Notes

One thing I love to do is buy used books. Not only is it cheaper and important to fund second-hand stores, but you also have the opportunity to read someone else’s notes! Note-taking in books is one of the best habits that you can pick up and a great way to make your reading more enjoyable. Being able to transfer your inner thoughts to the margins of the page is powerful. It makes the analysis real and it also makes you smarter. You’re more likely to remember the plot of the Count of Monte Cristo if you’re constantly asking questions, making comments and predicting the narrative throughout the whole book.

3. Read On-the-Go

I went to a party last week where nearly every guest was talking while staring at their phones. Putting how much that bothered me aside, it got me thinking—all the time we spend reading texts, tweets, posts and looking at Instagram could be spent reading something more substantial. Old-fashioned as that may sound, there are so many ways you can “carry” your books around with you without it cramping your style (or arm). It’s easy to get a digital version of your text and read it on your smartphone or tablet (and many classics are available as e-books for free!). Whether you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or stuck at a lame party, you’ll always be able to knock out a few pages of reading.

2. Break It Up

Forcing yourself to sit down in an uncomfortable spot and scan hundreds of pages at one time is just going to make you hate the act of reading. Breaking up your reading over a period of time is the one trick I know will make things easier and more enjoyable. First, figure out your daily limit. If after 30 minutes your eyes glaze over and you just can’t go on, shoot for that timespan every day. Even better, take the number of pages in the book and divide it by the number of days you have at your disposal. Read that little bit every day and you’re guaranteed to get it done.

1. Audiobooks

I’ve previously touted the wonder of audiobooks and the wonderful people at Librivox, but I’ll say it again: audiobooks make reading fun again. For those of us who find it hard to sit down and focus on reading words on a page (or screen), audiobooks turn reading into a more passive but even more enjoyable experience. Whether you’re downloading from the volunteers at Librivox or paying for Audible’s professional service, you’ll find a new joy in driving across town or to and from work, listening to someone tell you a story.

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