The whole world is coming to a halt while simultaneously seeming to speed up: It’s corona time, baby! While we’re living in a time that is probably just the beginning of this pandemic, many people are forced to change their daily life and routines due to public life restrictions and the general request to #stayhome. Hence, social media platforms show an incredible amount of people listing things to do at home, preferably for free, like reading. Seems like I’m not the only one eyeing their evergrowing pile of books that “I’m going to read super soon, like also daily, and I’m going to need more books after that”… Ahem.
Whether you’re someone who can’t have enough books and needs more during a time when it might be hard to buy or check out new ones, or you’re someone who hasn’t even read the mandatory books in high school but desperately want to start somehow – I got you covered. Keep reading for some ideas and tips!
My Background on & Goals for Reading
First, I want to share where I stand on the spectrum of people who love/hate reading.
For years, I wanted to do reading challenges, read a certain number of books in a year or month, or simply count how many books I did manage to read. Usually, I started keeping track with a tally chart and ended up forgetting which book I already added by June or maybe August… Might wanna write the titles on that notebook page, too. So I sat down today to make a list of “all” the books I read this year. To my disappointment, I counted two and a half. Oh well.
Seems like it’s too easy nowadays to use the neverending stream of movies, shows and videos on Netflix, Prime, YouTube, and the like. While there are different motives for consuming any media – be it a book or a tv show – in media psychology (see “Medienpsychologie” by S. Trepte & L. Reinecke, published by Kohlhammer, Stuttgart), I mostly notice myself seeking escapism from the real world or simply my daily life and stress. Which is easier to do by pushing a button on a remote instead of actually having to read something.
When I was younger, however, I used to read like there was no tomorrow. Yes, I had access to a tv and a gaming console, but I would spend hours and hours devouring all the books my mam had kept from her childhood, the books family friends with older children wanted to get rid of, and everything else I could lay my hands on. I would read literally whenever I had at least 2 or 3 minutes to spare, not put a book down until it was finished, read while eating and so on. Other kids would get grounded or a TV ban when they didn’t do their homework or misbehaved, I got a ban on reading.
I think I owe my grammar-nazi-like spelling skills (at least in German) to these years, as well as my passion for writing that led me on my current professional path. What I absolutely don’t understand, though, is when and how this reading frenzy got lost. I could be the female Elon Musk now if I had kept that up…
I also collected some knowledge and ideas on how to get your hands on more cheap books, as well as tips on how to get yourself to read more.
Book-Lovers: How to Get Your Hands on More Books Without Breaking the Bank
Buying books can get real expensive real quick. Here are my favorite ways to get books cheap or even for free!
More and more towns and cities have public shelves where you can donate books you don’t need anymore and take new ones that you either keep or bring back after you finished them. Some of my all-time favorites were once discovered on one of those shelves. Wherever I lived, I always tried to scout out a nearby shelf and paid it a visit on the way home, to the grocery store or on runs.
Before you start buying everything you want to maybe only read once, get a library card! If you’re in university or school, you might get a free one. Also check out small-town libraries instead of the big city ones – they are often cheaper and still offer the essentials.
Free books on the street
I often see people giving away books on the street by simply putting them in a box outside their front door for passersby to take them home. Keep an eye out while you’re heading somewhere in town next time.
Much like a chain letter, there are book chains you can start or take part in, where you post on social media, send out a copy of your favorite book to someone on a list, and receive several books in return. I took part in one once and received only one or two books, but it was still worth it.
Book swap party
Heard of fashion or clothing swap parties? Try one with books! Grab your friends, everyone brings one or several books they don’t want to keep anymore and finds a new home for it. This also works digitally by posting pictures of the books in a group chat and sending them via post, just FYcI (for your corona-information).
Cheap deals online
If you do want to buy a book or are hunting for a specific one, try online. Websites that are buying old books usually sell them very cheap, and they often also offer paperbacks for only a few cents (plus a few bucks for shipping) on Amazon.
Let me know if you have more book hunting tips!
Book-Haters Who Want to Read: How to Start Reading More
Now on to the other end of the spectrum. Like when you have too many books on a “to read” pile and can’t seem to get yourself to start. Or you simply want to make reading a habit (because hey, if it helped Elon Musk become successful, it can’t be that bad).
Designated time of the day
Pick a time of day, like during your morning coffee or before going to sleep, and swap out the social media scroll or goodnight audiobook for a few pages.
Make it a ritual
Much like designating a time of day to reading, make it a ritual. This could be weekly, like cuddling up every Sunday morning on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book, or daily, as a part of your morning or night routine.
Create a cozy environment
If picking up a book doesn’t come easy to you, at least make your surroundings enjoyable. As I mentioned above, cuddle up on the couch or in bed. Have hot beverage with it. (Try not to spill.) Turn on fairy lights. Go sit on a park bench or by a river or lake. (After the pandemic, duh).
Read on public transport
When do you have (mostly) uninterrupted time to kill? During your commute! Depending on what kind of public transport you take and how often you need to change, this can be a pretty good way to get some reading in. I used to have to take a bus for 30-45 minutes to the office several times a week. Makes a whole hour or more of reading time every workday!
This is actually how I get my university readings done. I can’t seem to get myself to sit down and read that stuff at home, but my university is in another city which means a 2-hour commute each way and often a whole hour uninterrupted on a train.
Set a timer for X minutes
If all else fails and you just NEED to get your reading in, treat it like a task. Write it on your to-do list to read a certain amount of time each day. Set a timer, and then just do it, like (home)work or chores.
Choose the right book
If you seem to be struggling to get through a book, consider changing the genre. As much as I love self-help books, for example, I often have a hard time getting through them. Hand me a classic or a fashion novel, and I’ll read the whole thing in a day. So start with some light reading, or set that tough thing aside for a while and pick it up again after a literary treat that comes easy to you.
Don’t force yourself to finish everything you start
I think many people start a book because someone told them they absolutely HAD to read it, struggled with it, and never picked up another book again. As I mentioned in the previous tip, go find something else. If you want to just read, it doesn’t matter WHAT you’re reading. And you don’t have to read every book in the world or (another extreme) finish every book you started just because you never not finished a book before.
What I’ve Been Reading Recently
To round this whole thing off, I want to share a few books I read recently. While I did find myself reading more in the past couple of weeks, because I have finally settled into a new apartment, new job, and all social obligations are currently canceled, I included books I read last year – since my 2.5 books from this year are maybe a bit weak.
Catching Up On Some Classics
There are many, many books that appear on many, many lists of “Classics You MUST Read in Your Life” – I’m sure you’ve stumbled across one or two of them on some blog or self-improvement website. Some of these books are usually read in school, depending on where you attend said educational institution.
In Germany, sadly, I have to admit that things changed a lot in the past years, and fewer classics are covered in school. An example: One book that was a key part of my finals, the Abitur, comparable to English A levels, in 2015, was read by my mam’s class of a lower educational level school back in the late 1970s. (The German school system is a bit hard to explain here, but I hope you get what I wanted to say: We read less of these books.) So I decided to read some of those classic books on my own as an adult. Also try to re-read some of the books you hated in school, because BOY, sometimes you only start to get them once you’ve escaped the somewhat carefree teenage years.
“The Metamorphosis”, Franz Kafka
I visited Prague last November, so naturally, I had to read some Kafka to get in the mood. What better way to start exploring his huge literary heritage than this often-interpreted classic, forming your own opinion and discovering your own interpretation?
I personally see a lot of parallels to mental illnesses in the “monster” that is becoming alienated from its family.
“Homo Faber”, Max Frisch
Tragic storyline aside, I absolutely love re- and re-reading the first bits of the book. Frisch’s way of using words to paint this picture of a very no-nonsense, unemotional scientist, as opposed to the emotional experiences of others, is fascinating.
“Man in the Holocene”, Max Frisch
I actually read the whole thing (it’s a novella, so not too long) today. And I gotta say… Not the best pick for a time when the world seems to end sometimes and many people are isolated and alone in their homes. Or maybe that makes it all the better. Other than that, the pieces of encyclopedias and handwritten notes scattered in between are an interesting touch, and the story of a man getting old is heart-wrenching.
While I’m typing this… If I had any idea where I put my copy of Goethe’s “Faust”, I would re-read it…
Non-fiction Instead of Escapism
Over the years, I slowly started to get more non-fiction in between all the books I devoured in order to get lost in their worlds.
“Deep Work”, Cal Newport
Oookay, I gotta admit, this is the half book on my list. I’m only halfway through. However, I like the approach on work the book describes. And social distancing or self-isolation might be the perfect time to develop a working routine like his.
“Reasons to Stay Alive”, Matt Haig
This book is worth so much more than its weight in gold for everyone who either struggles with some sort of depression or is close to anyone who is. Matt Haig’s personal experiences are super interesting and the book is easy to read, with lots of chapters consisting of lists or similar styles.
That concludes the most notable books I recently came across. On to the next one on top of my pile…