9 Ways to Reclaim the Reading Life You Had Before 2020 by Roni Loren


[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Roni Loren guest posting on the site today. She has some great tips for learning to love reading again. Take it away, Roni!]

At the start of each new year, I can’t wait to open to a fresh page in my reading journal and list which reading challenges I’ll be doing that year. That sense of possibility fills my nerdy heart with bookish joy. In a lot of ways, I map my year by what I was reading at the time. I remember sitting on the beach in June while reading this. I remember waiting in the school pick up line in September while reading that. Reading is completely intertwined with my daily life, and is a predictable, comforting part of it. Or was…

Then 2020 happened. 

Nothing has been predictable this year—except maybe the onslaught of awful news—and my reading life was not immune. When I clicked onto my Goodreads account to check the status of my annual reading challenge, a challenge I’ve done every year since 2011, I saw that I was significantly behind the 70 books goal I had set. 

My inner straight-A student was probably more disturbed by this than a person should be, but the deficit got me thinking. I read 75 books last year without having to push. Why was I so behind this year? Also, the types of books I was reading were different. I’m a romance author but had only read a handful of romances. I’d read more horror, more memoirs, more non-fiction. I’d read things I normally don’t reach for—classics, poetry, literary fiction. Who was this reader?

But, of course, it’s 2020. Why wouldn’t my reading life be upended like everything else?

I reached out to my reader group to see if others were experiencing the same thing, and overwhelmingly, the answer was a big YES. Some readers had read significantly less than their norm, some had read a ton more. People were reaching for different types of books or different formats. Some were choosing to reread favorites as a comfort. Others were putting down a lot more books than usual and not finishing them.

The changes in people’s reading lives were varied, but what was consistent was that their reading lives had changed in 2020. The stability of knowing how that habit worked in their lives had been upended. Kids doing virtual school meant less quiet reading time. No longer having a commute meant no time for audiobooks. Doomscrolling all evening replaced picking up a book—or the opposite, avoiding the news meant reading more. Lack of energy made it hard to pick up a new book. The normal genres someone liked suddenly weren’t fitting the bill. Some were drawn to scary books in a scary time. Some wanted only escapist, uplifting reads. That sense of “life is too short” made many give up their finish-every-book-even-if-I-don’t-like-it mentality. Some lost their reading habit altogether.

In the grand scheme of things and the state of the world, reading seems like a small thing to worry about, but for a reader, it’s just another reminder that life isn’t “normal” right now. So, if you’re one of those readers who’s had a weird reading year, here are some things you can do to reclaim your reading life:

Read what you’re drawn to–even if it’s not in your normal reading zone.

We sometimes take on our reading preferences as an identity. I am a romance reader. I am a mystery reader. That can get us stuck when we may need something different. I’m a romance author, but this year romance is only a quarter of my reading. I found myself craving scary books and books about food. Don’t judge the urge. Chase the whim. Read what sounds good even if it’s something you normally wouldn’t pick up.

Consider other formats if your usual one isn’t working for you right now.

Just like we can get stuck on certain genres, we can get stuck on familiar formats. If you’re home chasing your kids around and can’t get a minute to sit down, maybe give an audiobook a try. Fiction audiobooks don’t work for you? Try non-fiction. It’s like listening to a podcast. If you’re used to reading on your phone but can’t stop checking social media or the news, buy a paperback and unplug. Change it up.

All reading counts.

Novels aren’t the only game in town. Don’t have the energy for something long? Try a short story collection, a novella, or a book of essays. Read a graphic novel, a cookbook, or poetry. Reread of a favorite. All reading counts.

Stop the doomscrolling to reclaim some energy

Often when we feel like we don’t have the energy to read, it’s more about mental energy than physical tiredness. Watching terrible news and scrolling negative social media act as energy vampires. Consider limiting the input. I’ve switched to watching the PBS NewsHour at night (a calm, straightforward broadcast) and my local nightly news. If I want more about a topic, I read long-form articles through my online New York Times subscription. Corral the mental noise.

Listen to a bookish podcast or read book blogs to get excited about reading again.

Hearing other people talk about books they love never fails to get me excited about reading. So, if you’re feeling unmotivated, this is a good way to reenergize your reading life. I enjoy Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next? Podcast, and I like reading all the bookish lists on the BookRiot website. 

Do a buddy read

We’re all a little starved for social contact—even introverts like me—so it can be fun to get a friend or two to read a book along with you. I recently did a buddy read of Rebecca with two of my friends, and it was nice to have them to text with as I read it. Also, the accountability of knowing your friends are reading too can help you stay on track.

Lean on your library to try new things.

Sometimes we’re afraid to try new genres or authors because we don’t want to waste our money on something we’re not sure we’ll like. Here’s where the library can help you out. Even though many are closed for in-person, you can access their ebook and audiobook collections online. This gives you a chance to be more experimental with your reading picks. If you don’t like it, just stop reading and return it. Which leads me to my next point…

You don’t have to finish a book if it’s not capturing your interest—really.

I used to be a chronic finisher, but I’ve recovered. There are too many books in the world to waste time reading something that either is not for me or is not for me right now. There have been a lot of “not for me right now” books during this pandemic, and I’ve put them back on the shelf for another time. Otherwise, if you try to finish a book that’s not capturing you, you end up getting stuck and not reading anything at all.

Don’t stress if you’re not going to meet your reading goals or complete your reading challenge for the year.

If ever there were a year to give yourself grace, it’s this one. We’re all doing the best we can.

Happy reading, everyone!–Roni Loren

About the Author:

Roni Loren wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. She holds a master’s degree in social work and spent years as a mental health counselor, but now she writes full time from her cozy office in Dallas, Texas where she puts her characters on the therapy couch instead. She is a two-time RITA Award winner and a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Visit her online at roniloren.com.

Yes & I Love You by Roni Loren, out now!

A beautifully emotional and unforgettably steamy new contemporary romance from New York Times and USA Today bestseller Roni Loren

Everyone knows Miz Poppy, the vibrant reviewer whose commentary brightens the New Orleans nightlife. But no one knows Hollyn Tate, the real face behind the media star…or the anxiety that keeps her isolated. All her life, Hollyn’s tried to hide her true self behind an online façade, but when her boss tells her she needs to reveal the truth to the world or lose her job, she’s forced to rely on an unexpected source to help face her fears.

Enter Jasper Deares: actor, newly minted fake boyfriend, and way, way out of her league. Hollyn thinks Jasper must be joking when he offers private lessons to help overcome her fears. Getting up on a stage? Hello, worst nightmare. But Jasper’s infectious charm has her saying yes despite herself. They’re only supposed to be playing a few improv games, but as the lessons run longer and the lines grow blurrier, Hollyn can’t help but wonder if she’s acting at all…or if a relationship with Jasper might help give her the confidence she needs to say yes to every imperfect part of herself.

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