If you’re anything like me then in high school you were a ravenous reader. You tore through books because you had a lot of time, you were ahead in your courses. Whatever the reason may be, you spent a lot of time, and a lot of money, at libraries, bookstores, and used book sales.
Then when you got to college that seemed to stop. The siren song of procrastination, Hypnos lulling you into your bed’s caress, your friends encouraging you to come out, or just having to go to class and get assignments done—your reading dropped off. And for me—an English student—this was pretty embarrassing. I took pride in the fact that I had read a lot of books and that I had consumed a lot of literature. Reading made me a better person, but self-improvement doesn’t stop, it only plateaus.
Luckily, I found some easy ways to kick start my reading schedule again.
Your erudite and stuffy professors might argue that listening to an audiobook and reading are two total exclusive things. But they’re not—studies have shown that, depending on the book, the experience is just the same. And I can tell you as someone who worked retail mornings during college that audiobooks have saved my sanity. Rather than endure the mind-numbing task of stocking shelves at 5:00 am, I whisked myself off to 19th century Russia and listened to one of my favorite novels, Anna Karenina. Audiobooks are a great way to get your reading in when you really don’t have the time to sit and read. Whether you’re walking to class or running on the treadmill you’ll find yourself engrossed in your reader’s voice and the story being told.
There are a few ways to go about getting your audiobooks. A list should not start without mentioning Audible.com. They provide audiobooks in fiction, non-fiction and even some of your favorite magazines and newspapers. Audible is like the Hulu of audiobooks—you’ve heard of this already, this should be simple. Their readers are fantastic, they have a vast and ever-growing selection. There’s no reason that you should not pick up and start a free trial.
Another resource I’d recommend is Librivox.org. This was suggested to me in school and I found it a treasure-trove of good reads. Librivox is completely volunteer driven—the volunteers read and produce their own recordings of classic literature. You won’t find anything terribly modern here—Librivox’s works are in the Public Domain, which allows the readers to not get in hot water for producing free audiobooks. If you’re like me at all and had to take a lot of older literature courses, or are just interested in the classics, then you’ll find this incredibly useful (and cost-effective). You can use the RSS feed on every page to pull it into your favorite Podcasts app or download the entire collection and add them to your favorite mobile device.
I experimented with this when I was in school. I took a romantic literature course (The Romantic period, not the steamy stuff), and we were assigned Northanger Abbey. It was the end of the year, I had exams and I was traveling on top of that—so I decided to listen to Northanger Abbey instead of sit down, annotate, flip back-and-forth, and fall asleep at my desk. I found that I actually paid a lot more attention to the characters and found that I was able to retain a lot more minute information that normally would have disappeared into the ether.
When I entered college, I found myself woefully behind when it came to classic literature. Even in my Chemistry courses my professors would drop a reference to Dickens that would completely sail over my head. And as someone who felt he wanted to study this literature to some extent, I knew that I needed to beef up my reading resume.
Enter the 100 Novels in a Year Challenge. 100 Novels. 365 days. 52 weeks. Not a lot of time, but a hell of a lot of fun. By setting a goal for myself I found myself incredibly interested in competing. I didn’t care that it was only for myself, But that it was something that was difficult and rewarding. I read a lot of books that I never would have picked up this way.
There are some easy ways to do this. My first 100 Novel Challenge, I did it in a pretty slapdash kind of way. I wrote down the book I read in a text file and counted as I kept going. This raw way of doing keeping track was not only truthful but compelling. It started off as a short list, but it grew and grew. The first time I had to scroll to see the whole thing I felt like a marathon runner. And when I finished, I felt like I finished an Ironman.
Another way is to go and create an account with Goodreads.com. Goodreads is a powerful resource for those of us that like to read. It can track what you’ve read for the year and suggest new books that you might like based on the things that you
have read so far. If you get your friends involved, then you can see what they’re reading and compete that way.
Normally when we think of book clubs we conjure up images of musty old rooms filled with musty old people reading musty old books. But creating your own group or even just a reading partner can be fun.
But by partnering up with each other and take it chapter by chapter, it was far easier. Not only that but it gave me a reason to read. I was accountable for someone else’s enjoyment—we had an
excellent time going through the book, so much so that we did it with several other novels. Eventually our group grew from two to three, and then from three to five. We had inspired a lot of our friends to come with us on our literary journeys. Goodreads.com is another invaluable resource here. Not only can you keep track of your own readings, you can also keep track of your friends. A friend of mine and I both felt like we wanted to read a really difficult book.0—James Joyce’s Ulysses, a literary titan. Lauded and hated by many this behemoth is a doorstopper, and not just for its page count. Ulysses is notoriously hard to read, even for an academic.
In this busy modern world we still often find ourselves in a situation where we have nothing to do.
I recently had to get a new social security card. Little did I know that the Social Security Office is nothing more than a DMV with a more windows and different chairs. I had to wait for over an hour. I neglected to bring anything physical to read, which made things even more difficult.
Luckily, thanks to a little foresight, I was able to enjoy Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, without any need to worry. I had made use of my iPhone’s iBooks app. iBooks is a great way to tote around thousands of books just in your iPhone. I simply bought my book on my phone and was able to read it anywhere that I had my phone (i.e.: everywhere).
And since we’re a resource for college students, I’ve got an even cheaper solution. For those of us that enjoy free books and enjoy being able to read wherever, Project Gutenberg is a wonderful resource to take advantage of. Project Gutenberg is the Librivox of text. They digitize and archive Public Domain books and publish them for all the world to read. These books include the great classics of literature, but also some recent and even some fringe texts.
Pro Tip: Drop your downloaded books into a Dropbox account (free) and you can really take your books everywhere. You can read them on your computer, then take them on your phone, then snuggle up with your e-reader at the end of the day.
Don’t get caught in line with nothing to do but read tweets or rotting your mind and teeth playing Candy Crush (level 453 and counting nbd). Exercise and energize your mind with books. Being able to read is one of the greatest gifts that the education system, your parents, society, has given you. Make use of it!