Why Can't Johnny Read?
August 3, 2010 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I don't read much anymore, and I don't like it. I used to read a lot (roughly a book a week), but my reading for pleasure has dropped at least 75% in the last dozen years. What have I replaced it with? Video games (large and small) and the internet; both of which give me fizzy short-term satisfaction, but with far less long term. Help me get my respectable hobby back.
posted by rtimmel to Computers & Internet (42 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
So when you were reading a book a week, what kind of books did you read? Do you have some idea about why your reading has declined? Did you find books were merely repeating things that you had already read previously? I know some really good books, but without knowing more about your own background I can't really say whether you would like them. However, for general advice, you may find it easier to read library books than to go out and buy them; there is less financial risk involved. And if you find that you totally love something that you read from the library, you can still buy a copy for your own collection.

Everyone should read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Have you read it yet?
posted by grizzled at 12:09 PM on August 3, 2010

I think you need to get back into reading by treating it like a required task. Find a book that seems interesting and before you read a page of it design a plan for getting it read by X date. On day 1, I will read pages 1-29, day 2, pp. 30-72, etc.

Though I'm not a fan of them, join a book group if that helps with the motivation.

I think if you stick to that and your brain gets back into reading for pleasure again, you can eventually drop the planning and just read.

Also, turn your video games off in a semi-permanent fashion.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:10 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was a hardcore reader until a few years ago, but then I picked it back up. What did you enjoy reading before?

Starting small helps. Read good short stories. Read 200-300 page books on a single topic. (Very Short Introduction books are terrific for this kind of thing.) Get back into the habit of getting pleasure from reading - get back into the habit of putting down a book and feeling like you've gotten something out of it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:13 PM on August 3, 2010

I'm kind of like you, although my "video games" usually consist of "doing random internet junk while watching TV." For me, it's been fun looking forward to the regular times when I'll read or be read to.

Even though we've majorly slacked off, my partner and I have read a chapter or two of a book to each other at night, starting with All Creatures Great and Small and moving on to A Girl Named Zippy. It didn't matter that I fell asleep in the middle every night; it just mattered that we were enjoying the words, talking about the book and looking forward to what would happen next. We made sure to choose books that weren't too heavy and had good stories (specifically, these have chapters that stand on their own pretty well), but the most important thing has been the great characters. We often found ourselves asking each other what Tricki-Woo might be up to tonight :)

I keep a couple of books in the bathroom -- again, not super heavy books, but ones that have nicely defined chapters and are pretty interesting. I often wake up naturally an hour or so before I really have to be up, or I'll come home from work and want to freshen up a bit, and during both of those times I really enjoy the feeling of comfortable solitude [if not the feeling of my bum falling asleep whilst reading on the loo :P].

When I'm in the living room, I don't have that same feeling. It's funny; I feel like I'm almost not doing something i should be doing if I'm only doing one thing in there! But on other occasions when I want to read for a longer amount of time, I'll come in the door and go straight to the bedroom, lying down in a way that's different from how I go to bed (because god knows I fall asleep way too easily) and getting immersed in some pleasurable reading.

Also, I joined BookMooch a few months ago (similar to Paperback Swap, if you know that one), and the steady stream of new books I've always meant to read has gotten me pretty enthused.

Finally, if you have an iPhone or Kindle, a commute is a great time to enjoy some more reading. I didn't think I'd be such a fan, but I really am!
posted by Madamina at 12:14 PM on August 3, 2010

Short stories! Short stories short stories short stories.

They will ease you back onto the reading wagon.
When I haven't read for I while, sometimes the thought of starting a whole book is daunting. What if I don't like it? Would I still have to slog through to the end? That's what I'd do if I had been reading a lot lately, but the first time reading again after a long break, it's hard to tell if it's dislike of the plot or the fatigue of reading causing me to not want to finish. Short stories solve this problem.

I recommend TC Boyle, Vonnegut, and any of the Sherlock Holmes stories to get you going. They're easy and interesting.
posted by phunniemee at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Here's how I got back into it -

i got bored one day and was browsing Amazon to see if my favorite author came out with any new books. He did not. So, I started browsing the "recommended" similiar books and found a couple that looked interesting and ordered them for a few bucks.

I didn't pick them up and read them right away - but brought one of them with me when I had a doctor's appointment. So, as I sat and waited - I opened the book and got through 3 or 4 pages that were awesome. I then came home and finished the book... and read more from that author and more of the same kind.

So, basically, when I was left to no other choice but to read the book, that's when my love of reading started up again.

I suggest carrying a book (in which you have an interest in reading) around with you or having it out in the living room or on your night stand. Bring it with you to work, too.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2010

I've had this problem too. It feeds on itself, because the continual distraction of video games and internet surfing cuts into the ability to focus intensely on a book. I have several solutions:

1. Pick up a book that really tempts you. Allot yourself only a certain number of pages (30?) a day, and read at a set time, like your commute or bedtime. This approach of taking small bites at a book makes you want to consume more, more often. With books you don't care for (e.g. On the Road currently for me), the knowledge that you have a fixed amount of pages to read keeps you focused on what is before you.

2. Try an ereader format, on a smartphone if you have one, or with an actual ereader like the Sony or Kindle.

3. Check out audible.com and think about listening to a book when, for example, you are taking a walk. Listening to books is a completely different experience from reading them, and even little snatches are satisfying.

At this point, at all times I have a regular book going, which I read at bedtime, a couple of books on ereaders, which I read whenever, for example, I'm standing in line at the store, and which I use for my vacation reading, and 2 books going in audio format, one of which I listen to in the car on errands and longer drives, and one of which I listen to on walks with my dog. I'm back to being immersed in books.

You need not do all these things. I'm -- er -- a serious book worm -- but at least one of them should get you back to soaking up real books.
posted by bearwife at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your first stop might be The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Atlantic writer Nick Carr.
posted by proj at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

Once I got an eBook reader, I started reading a lot more. Why? Because I don't have to wait to go to a library or a bookstore or for Amazon to ship me a book to start reading it. And once I start, I usually can't put a book down (not literally, but you know what I mean.)
posted by griphus at 12:21 PM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why do you think you should read rather than playing video games? If it's about 'respectability' rather than what you really want, this might not go so well. Feynman often said "why do you care what other people think?" (I'd recommend his autobiographies if you're looking for reading suggestions-- I'm not sure you are).

As far as long-term satisfaction goes, Bill Watterson said something to the effect that it's the message and the creator's skill, not the medium, that determine whether something is good or not. If you go from, say, reading Metafilter and playing Portal to reading Twilight, that would be a step down in my mind. (Easy introduction back to reading: Calvin and Hobbes. Then other comic books, like Watchmen.)

If you want to feel better about yourself, or have higher social standing, another option is to go directly for that: instead of reading more for pleasure, spend that time earning more money, building skills, or correcting warped thoughts about yourself. (Standard reading recommendations for this might include The Now Habit, Feeling Good, or Getting Things Done.)

I enjoy video games and the Internet, but I do often use them to procrastinate, like right now. I'm working on this. Good luck.
posted by sninctown at 12:24 PM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Have you considered Audible? I listen to audio books during my drive to and from work. It took me a little getting used to listening as opposed to reading, but now I enjoy it only slightly less than reading. It is great at filling schedule gaps in between things or while doing low-attention tasks like cleaning the house or taking a shower.
posted by Gainesvillain at 12:27 PM on August 3, 2010

Response by poster: My reading , for what its worth, was mostly fiction -- mostly 20th Century Literature (that's a capital "L") and genre stuff, usually SF and Mystery. my non-fiction reading was generally limited to things written by good writers, like John McPhee, I wasn't as interested in reading and learning about a particular subject.

I don't think I need book suggestions. A significant chuck of my internet time is still spent looking at books. And I still buy like I used to -- Amazon is my friend -- I just don't get around to reading it.

maybe i do just need to schedule time or reading -- that seems odd, but re-habitualizing myself is probably what I need.
posted by rtimmel at 12:28 PM on August 3, 2010

If you're fighting back against what I'll colloquially dub "situational acquired ADD," I recommend reading on the train or bus. Reading in transit is very easy and pleasurable, and it's what got me into reading for pleasure again.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:32 PM on August 3, 2010

My attention span for books had declined quite a lot in the past ten years - I was reading a ton of manga, because I could only sustain attention for about 20-30 minutes at a time, which was enough to finish a volume of manga, but not enough to hook me on a novel, but my novel and nonfiction reading had dropped dramatically from previously.

(I do understand that my "dropped significantly" number is other people's "I read a lot" number, but it bothered me.)

I'm somewhat improved now, partly due to being diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD, which helps me sustain attention, and partly due to weekend days where I don't turn the computer on at all, because it's far too easy to start in reading my email, blogs, and RSS feeds, and blow a couple of hours, and fully intend to pick up a book, but not get around to it until late, if at all. I check email with my phone, just to make sure there's nothing that needs to be dealt with, but settle in for reading or whatever else.

An ebook reader helps also, because I can carry it with me and read at lunch instead of surfing the net. Sometimes I'll sit in my car listening to podcasts or audiobooks. When I have things I need to do that don't require the word-processing portion of my brain, like cooking, cleaning, or driving somewhere, I listen audiobooks or podcasts.

I also had to change the focus of my reading: I used to read fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and some historicals and mysteries) almost exclusively but it turns out that part of my inability to finish a full novel is that my tastes are pickier now, and I can't stay with a book that's not doing it for me, like I used to. Increasing the proportion of nonfiction helped significantly, and I read mostly nonfiction now.

So I suggest you pick a day, or an evening after work, and don't turn on the computer or TV (getting a DVR has helped me manage my time that way!), but devote the time to reading, or perhaps browsing in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, taking the book with you to dinner and reading it there, then continuing at home. If you've got a significant other or dependents at home that's a bit harder to schedule, but I tend to use weekends when my boyfriend is glued to a highly anticipated videogame or out gaming with his RPG group to indulge myself. (And he knows that if I've got a highly anticipated book, I am Not To Be Disturbed except in case of emergency!)
posted by telophase at 12:37 PM on August 3, 2010

griphus: "Once I got an eBook reader, I started reading a lot more. Why? Because I don't have to wait to go to a library or a bookstore or for Amazon to ship me a book to start reading it. And once I start, I usually can't put a book down (not literally, but you know what I mean.)"

Yes! I used to read for pleasure like nobody's business. Law school and then small children beat that out of me. Then I got a Kindle. I can always find something to read and always have it handy. Thanks to my Kindle, I am well on my way to reaching my goal of reading 100 books this year - a number that used to be my total for 4-6 months, but that I haven't seen in years.

Seriously. An e-reader got me back to loving reading for the sake of reading.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to be a marathon reader. Now I have a kid & a job & a significant lack of time to focus the way I have always focused in to enjoy reading. I've had to completely re-think the way I read, because I no longer have time to "escape with a book." I have to be satisfied with reading in chunks, and to get satisfaction from that, I have had to adjust what & when I read.

I find reading happens when (
1) books & magazines are left in the bathroom (short, fun stuff is best, IMO)
2) books are left by the bed. (Longer material, but still not something I would cozy up to & forget the world with, since I'm not allowed to do that anymore & bad things happen when I don't sleep.
3) I engineer time away from my regularly scheduled life to spend an hour or three really enjoying something in one of those cozy chairs at the bookstore. (Can't usually finish in one sitting...learning to progress through a good story in installments is one of the adjustments I've had to make to continue enjoying reading.)

Perhaps some of those will work for you.
posted by Ys at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2010

Oh, you read exactly what I do--I also prefer an all McPhee and science fiction diet! Weird.

When I went off reading, I got back into it by abandoning books and only reading on my iPhone. Now I read every day--because there's always a book in my pocket, and because I'm always in the middle of a book. I also read every night while falling asleep, because the iPhone, dimmed, is perfect for dark room reading--and is small enough to fall out of my hands when I pass out without waking me up.

I don't miss books in the slightest. I was in a bookstore last night and wasn't tempted to buy an actual book at all. And I'm glad I'm reading again. I was feeling strangely bad about myself!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2010

When I started reading a lot again, I found it difficult to read more than 20 minutes at a time. I had gotten used to the mental candy on reddit and its ilk. After a couple short story collections and a couple weeks, I was back to being able to read for hours straight.

The focus required for reading takes a little practice and feels a lot like relearning to ride a bike. It is definitely worth it, though. To relearn the habit, I found convenience was key. Two to three novels sitting around, two ebooks to read on the computer, and some bookmarked magazine articles work well for me. It lets me choose to focus on one work or bounce around if I'm getting bored. Depending on the day, I read a little of everything or bear down on one.

You can use BlockSite add-on to block timewasters. Check out Longform and Kevin Kelley's to find some worthwhile magazine articles. The Kindle seems to work quite well for a friend of mine and I do have some gadget envy. Check out Project Gutenberg for free ebooks.

Also, it may be that you need a new subject or genre. Last, a big epiphany for me was learning the ability to jump ship on a book or article and not feel guilty about it. I hate slogging through another 300 pages just because a friend recommended it or people say it's a classic.
posted by just.good.enough at 12:41 PM on August 3, 2010

I stopped reading as much when I started graduate school, in favor of dicking around on the Internet and watching TV. Then, when I started my 3rd year of graduate school, my boyfriend (now husband) and I got our own place and we couldn't afford cable anymore. Our reading (as well as other good habits, like cooking our own food and going outside for exercise) dramatically picked up after that. Now we both read all the time and we're each a good 60-something pounds lighter, and I kind of don't want to ever have TV or Internet in my house ever again.

It's a drastic solution, but clearly effective in both our cases.
posted by kataclysm at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2010

A couple of suggestions:

I had the exact same problem and I found a rather nifty solution. I suffer from some insomnia, so what I did is that I removed any media-device from my bed-room: no tv, no radio, no cell-phone, no music player, no video-games, nothing. The only things I have there now is an alarm-clock, a few books and a nightlight. So now when I go to bed, if I want to fall asleep, I have to read. This has several advantages: my brain doesn't get stimulated by a bunch of lights and sound, I read much more than I used to, and reading can really tire you out, so I sleep better.

I really can't recommend it high enough. If you have problems sleeping and/or wish to read more, remove all stimulants from your bedroom (well, not all stimulants, girlfriends/boyfriends/husbands/wives can stay) and add a book.

If you've lost the habit of reading, try reading something that is really readable, even if it isn't necessarily "great" literature. Put down Anna Karenina, and pick up Harry Potter. The books are engaging, funny and interesting, and boy are they page-turners. You'll be done in a jiffy. Pick up books like that, where the process of reading is both easy and enjoyable.

Also, advice from the left field: join a book-club. Social pressure are great motivators for doing things.

Good luck!
posted by gkhan at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2010

I went through a similar reading drought a few years ago, between starting a new job, the internet, video-games, and movies, I just never felt I had time.

What finally got be back on track was the fact that every day, I had to take a lunch at work; my boss mandated it, couldn't skip it, couldn't work through it.

So, for a couple of weeks I'd watch TV, but that got old, so I brought in a book off my bookshelf that I hadn't read in a while, and that quickly revitalized my love for reading. Now I look forward to that hour away from my desk as one of the best parts of my day. I suspect that the key thing was that brief time of forced media deprivation. It reminded me of how wonderful some of my old books could be, which, of course, had me clamoring for new books.

And I've just this year discovered the awesomeness that is audiobooks. It's completely redefined the experience of commuting in to work each day. (They are also fantastic for exercising, and yardwork).
posted by quin at 12:46 PM on August 3, 2010

I have kids, insomnia and ADD. I enjoyed reading but it is difficult for me being tired and prone to hit TV or the internet if I have any time.

The thing that has worked for me is going to bed early and reading. I get to read AND get to sleep earlier than I normally would - it being much more likely to linger TOO late on the internet or in front of the TV.
posted by beccaj at 12:46 PM on August 3, 2010

Oops, what gkhan said.
posted by beccaj at 12:47 PM on August 3, 2010

I'll tell you what worked for me, and maybe it will be helpful for you.

I was commuting to my job about 45 minutes each by car. Public transportation would take about 1:15 in, and 1:30 out, so for a while I just wrote it off as too inconvenient (my commute is already long enough, dammit!). But then I decided to give it a shot, and took a book to read. Since then, I have been looking forward to my commute everyday, where I read constantly. I've become so addicted that I have been spending a lot of time reading at home as well.

One thing to keep in mind is that I don't own a fancy phone or an mp3 player, so I have no distractions to keep me from reading on the bus/train. I imagine if I did have these things, this would not have worked out the same way at all.
posted by where u at dawg at 12:51 PM on August 3, 2010

Everyone seems to be suffering from this.

I've knocked off a couple of books in the past two weeks simply because my girlfriend had to go out of town on business and took her laptop with her, which is the only computer we have. So without access to the internet at home I've found it quite easy to put a dent in the hundred or so books I have lying around that I've been meaning to get to.

So, I would say that carving out a specific time to read and a place that's away from the internet and video games is key. Personally, I like a place like Starbucks for this. If that's not for you maybe just try a park bench. The only distraction is people-watching, but I'm fine with that.

Also, sell whatever video game system you have. But that's coming from someone who's never really been able to get into video games.
posted by fso at 12:57 PM on August 3, 2010

gkhan: Also, advice from the left field: join a book-club. Social pressure are great motivators for doing things.

I was going to say exactly that. I've been part of a book club for over six years, and with some exceptions, I have consistently finished at least one book a month because of it. It's a genuine and pleasant motivator for me. I think I'm the sort of person who benefits from an externally imposed deadline; maybe you are too.

Book clubs aren't for everyone--I know many people who have not had good experiences with them--but three things make this particular book club enjoyable for me:

1) I am friends with the other people in it--I like them as people and enjoy their company outside of the book club.

2) All of us have similar, but not identical, taste in books. While I like some of the books more than others, I can be almost certain no one is going to suggest (what I consider to be) utter crap. But because we have slightly different tastes, I've been introduced to some wonderful books I would not have otherwise discovered.

3) We all have similar expectations of what we want out of a book discussion. It helps that we're all teachers or librarians, but I find the level of discussion to be satisfying without being pretentious.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:08 PM on August 3, 2010

1. Always have a book with you -- if you carry a backpack, keep it in the backpack, if you carry a purse, keep (a small paperback) in the purse.

2. Do you subscribe to any newspapers or magazines? Cancel them. That's what did the trick for me.
posted by escabeche at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2010

I think that internet and video games are probably examples of supernormal stimuli. Minute by minute, they're always going to be more exciting than a book. So I think you gotta remove your internet and video game capabilities from the house for a while. Then your only option will be to read. Once you have a good reading habit formed for a few months, start your internet service back up. I've done this before. It's always a relief.
posted by sunnichka at 1:31 PM on August 3, 2010

Response by poster: But what about metafilter??! And TF2??!

The whole supernormal stimuli, The Shallows idea makes sense. If I am bored, or just looking for something entertaining to do, I know that the internet and/or video games will grab my attention quickly and completely. Its time to forcefully shut them down.

its interesting to see the comments re: the Kindle and other electronic readers. I have a Kindle, and was a little concerned that it was actually slowing my reading down. I have no idea why that might be the case, but the change in form is so dramatic that I figured that it must have some impact. Its nice to see that the concensus here is that that is not the case.
posted by rtimmel at 2:04 PM on August 3, 2010

Um, why not just read books or short stories online? You're here anyway so take advantage o it. Go to a writing website and scope the good and bad of struggling authors, or - since you have Kindle, download Kindle onto your PC and read your books there. Or, go to Project Gutenberg or other websites and read the free ebooks. You're still online but you're reading.
posted by patheral at 2:20 PM on August 3, 2010

I don't know if this is considered cheating, but when this started happening to me I (without consciously thinking about it) moved toward thoughtful periodicals--more The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, Gastronomica, Paris Review, American Scholar-type stuff than Newsweek or Allure. It doesn't have the long-term satisfying rewards of a really involved novel, I know, but it's still reading that opens and challenges your mind long after you've put it down. I also noticed it does not work to just tell yourself you'll read that stuff for free online--I have to have it in bed with me, in print, on the couch wherever. Usually I just don't have long chunks of unbroken time to get immersed in novels like I did, but there's a sense of less time demanded and stress, that it's non-commital when you pick up a periodical even though then you get sucked in and it's not. Taking the weight off like that really helped. And on the plus side, if you go with most of those aforementioned you'll find a million books from them you'll want to find the time to read anyway. It seems like college is great for reading because you're constantly finding out about new ideas and writers or theories you want to read about, you're in the loop. Reading said periodicals keeps you closer to that than normal.

And YMMV but for some reason things that don't feel "big" or Literary in other ways work too for me--absolute best example is food writing and historical cookbooks. They're just as important and interesting to me (Claudia Roden, Harold McGee, and Waverly Root blow me away), but I never feel weird pressure to get into them which then makes me put them off subconsciously. I sort of go "eh, it's just a cookbook, it's for kicks and nothing but fun!" and lo, once in I find it's way more than that. If genre jumping does that sort of thing for you it might be worth a shot.
posted by ifjuly at 4:06 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I read different kinds of books in different situations: I have short story books in the bathroom (Dürrenmatt, Harlan Ellison, Böll, etc.), a paperback book of essays in my car (in case I have to wait somewhere for someone), and a novel in my briefcase (currently The Red and the Black by Stendhal). Usually I read the novel in the evenings before I go to bed, too.

I do play video games and watch some TV, but sparingly. Usually I catch up on the week's Daily Shows and Futurama on Saturdays and Sundays. I listen to podcasts when I am at the gym during the week. I have been playing Doodle Jump and Radiant on my iPhone pretty often, though.

I don't watch anything during the week and I limit my time spent in front of the computer by keeping my books somewhere else, such as next to a comfortable chair. MeFi and Something Awful don’t count for me as reading, but Instapaper does.
posted by vkxmai at 4:47 PM on August 3, 2010

I usually read between 100 and 150 books a year without putting aside any special reading time or constantly having my head in a book. The secret? Always have something enticing to read and never, ever leave the house without it. Like most people, I spend far too much time watching tv or pfaffing around on the interwebs. I also spend a lot of time walking between my house and the train station (boring!) or waiting in lines (boring!) or hiding from my colleagues on my lunch break (boring!). I'd much rather read while doing this stuff instead of staring vacantly at the wall or something. I actually prefer catching public transport to driving, even though it takes longer, because it's my reading time.
posted by Wantok at 5:08 PM on August 3, 2010

Don't neglect getting an eye exam. I stopped reading books a while ago, but still surfed around as many described. But I could increase the font size of the web page if necessary, and when I got tired I chalked it up to other things than eye fatigue.
After I got an exam and new glasses reading books became alot easier and more enjoyable. I never realized.....
posted by TDIpod at 5:43 PM on August 3, 2010

It's just a habit you have to get back into, like healthy eating or exercise. It takes a bit of discipline at first, but after awhile it's pretty effortless and enjoyable once again.

I basically have had to schedule reading "dates" with myself. It might be one or two evenings a week at home where the laptop is totally powered down and put away, phone is turned to silent or off, and my beverage of choice is poured. Or it might be me and my book at a coffee shop or park or some other semi-quiet place, just the two of us. I feel way, way better about how I spend this time than when I mess around online for endless hours.

Oh yeah, my gateway back into pleasure reading were Raymond Carver's short stories. Freakin' addictive.
posted by medeine at 6:51 PM on August 3, 2010

For ereaders, use the applications for the computer and phone. They basically make your books something you carry around with you. The Kindle PC app icon directly sits across from the WoW icon, making them competitors for my time. I choose the book more often than not.
posted by zabuni at 10:17 PM on August 3, 2010

Everyone should read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.

Everyone should read whatever they feel like reading. Telling people what they should have read by now or should read is really offputting. Better to enjoy ten trash novels than slog miserably through a heavier work.
posted by mippy at 6:08 AM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

^ for pleasurable reading, that is. If you have to read The God Delusion to pass your module in something or other, then step to it!
posted by mippy at 6:09 AM on August 4, 2010

Why do you think you should read rather than playing video games? If it's about 'respectability' rather than what you really want, this might not go so well.

This. Have you read Everything Bad is Good For You, or Jim Rossignol's This Gaming Life? (Not a bad idea, by the way, to start reading on gaming and internet culture as this is something you currently enjoy.) It can be misleading to think of games as some kind of junk food for the mind. Don't feel guilty about enjoying them.

I have struggled to read since having to take daily medication, and I have other hobbies that take up spare time.(I also struggle to watch long films or TV series, so I'm only just catching up on some things.) What I found was forgoing the commuter newspaper - it annoyed me anyway - for a book helped.

Also, doing this to begin with with stories that were much more about plot than character/good writing - this doesn't mean you have to insult your intelligence, but there are gripping bits of genre fiction out there that will keep you turning pages. Get a library card and use it to take out the books that you might feel embarrassed to have on your bookshelf. Don't think less of yourself for reading chick-lit or thrillers, unless you happen to pick up one that's really, really crappy. It's just for now and you may discover gems that book snobbery would have caused you to pass over. Remember literary fiction is a genre too.

I also find non-fiction easier to read. Ethnography and biographies of non-famous people with interesting lives are really easy to get into and more fascinating than any series or novel.
posted by mippy at 6:20 AM on August 4, 2010

I go through intermittent phases where I just can't sit down and read a book. Although it's one of the main things that I do, sometimes (and it can be years) I'll just not be able to concentrate on more than a page at a time, so that's when the magazine phase takes over. But I've always got a book on me. During these fallow times, I make sure it's a book that I loved in the past and something that needs a revisit.

Anytime you might be inclined to stare into the distance whilst you're waiting for something, whip out the book. You'll eventually finish that one because queues and/or waiting are inevitable and sometimes you just don't want to talk to people around you and if you make sure you've got a good one to follow up with (if it's not grabbing you pretty much immediately, ditch it and get a new one. You're getting back into reading books, go with immediate gratification) then you're on the road to getting your book habit back. Books go very well with spaces in between real life.

Once you've got back into the habit of always having a book with you, you'll start looking for new stuff. I'd definitely go retro to begin again, though.
posted by h00py at 6:25 AM on August 4, 2010

Back when I had easy access to bookstores and lots of time on my hands, I used to go to a bookstore or library, pick up a book, read 20 or 30 pages, and take it home if it got my attention. I stumbled across a lot of stuff that I never would have found otherwise.

Now I'm in a place where it's much harder for me to browse for books. I basically stopped reading, only picking up books when I got a specific recommendation from a friend or saw a really fantastic review. And if I got stuck on a book I really didn't enjoy, I might not read at all for months.

Recently I started a conscious plan of ordering boxes of 10-12 used books at a time online. There are lots of bottom-of-the-barrel places that will do this for $25 including shipping. I read bits and pieces of all the books, but only actually finish about half. It's sort of like having a library in my house!
posted by miyabo at 6:36 AM on August 4, 2010

Oh, and if you're a Reader, and it seems like you are, there's a certain inertia to it. Once you manage to finish a book you'll want more of the same sort of stimulus and keep reading. Each one becomes easier to start and get into than the last.
posted by griphus at 6:42 AM on August 4, 2010

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