If you’re someone who claims to not have enough time to read books, you probably have distractions to eliminate in your constant battle for more and more ‘me time’: Email. Cellphones. WhatsApp. Facebook. Netflix.
The time has come to accept it: ‘Me time’ is the new oil.
As our lives get increasingly packed with gym-time, work-time, family-time, commute-time, mall-time, the hours we spend on just ‘me time’ will shrink considerably. We’re seeing this happen all around us.
Personally, ‘me time’ has always meant spending time with books. I used to be an avid reader. I remember reading obsessively, even in my hour-long commutes in Mumbai’s crowded local trains. Longer commute times are a blessing in disguise, since you get to read more.
The hours devoted to reading slowly reduced over the last few years, and 2017 in particular, was the worst. I cringed when I noted that I’d barely read 5 (out of the targeted 25) books in my Goodreads challenge, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine being the standout novel.
I was shocked. How did things get so bad? Around me, I could see people reading endlessly. Some even read 60-70 books a year! How did they do it? That’s the subject of another piece.
Coming back to my reading plague, this year, I decided to be a bit more serious about leisure reading.
We’re in September now and it appears I’ve done better (11 books read out of 24 in the Goodreads challenge at the time of writing this piece). Not bad at all.
What did I do differently?
A couple of months ago, I signed up for an audiobook subscription. It was a significant change to how I read books: after all, it would mean I’d now listen to books. In the last month, I’ve listened to 5 audiobooks — not a big figure, but the power of habit is such that it looks like I’ll successfully accomplish my goal of listening/reading 24 books this year, perhaps even more.
The subject of whether listening qualifies as reading is not something I’m keen to explore in this piece, but I’d like to share how I made time for it. In the morning, on my drive to work, I easily get about 60-odd minutes to listening time. Ditto in the evening, on my way back home. Later, before I tuck in to bed, I get another 30-40 minutes: a practice that has a calming effect and helped me sleep better. (No more post-lunch lull at work!) Some days, when I’m up at 6 a.m. but not in the mood to get out of bed that early, I listen some more, say about 30 minutes. All together, that’s about 2.5-3 hours of listening every day.
The average duration of audiobook is in the range of 7-11 hours. Since narrative non-fiction is my cup of tea, this experience is immensely enjoyable. (In several ways, narrative non-fiction is a genre tailor-made for audiobooks. Some recommendations at the bottom of this piece.)
Yes, there are times where my mind tends to wander while listening to an audiobook. But I can always rewind and play those portions again.
An added bonus is that audiobooks are easy on the pocket. My audiobook subscription costs Rs 299 a month, just like a library membership, cheaper than a Netflix plan, and I have complete access to all books on the platform. Data plans on cellular network are now ridiculously cheap (call it the Jio effect) and I can always download the book and listen to it offline. It’s always an immersive experience.
Bottomline: Instead of moaning about the fact that there’s barely any time to read (which most of us do), I’m glad I’ve managed to make time for it in a way that’s kept me engaged, informed and entertained.
Now, I understand that audiobooks may not be everyone’s thing. You may be more of a p-book reader than a Kindle junkie. And you still want to read more. (Let’s even forget the Goodreads challenge for a moment.) You used to read a lot once upon a time, but now you barely have the time. How can you get back your mojo? Read on.
My wife, an HR professional, is an avid reader. She certainly reads a lot more than I do and I’ve now learnt how she does it: in short bursts.
She reads every time she has a few minutes to spare. In the car. In the loo. In the lobby, waiting for a cab. At the parlour. At the doctor’s clinic. In the Delhi metro. She probably reads not more than 5-6 pages on each occasion, but if calculated at the end of the day, she’d have read about 30-40 pages — and that’s a solid number per day for a working professional.
Many of us imagine reading time to be a certain form of escape, a retreat we’ll go to only after all chores are done, all emails answered, meals consumed. Which is why, we often do it for an hour or so before bedtime (a perfect time to read indeed), or on weekends. But if you’re keen to read more, our lifestyle and other interests will always come in the way. What you probably need to do instead, is to read in short gulps, whenever you can. Instead of flipping open your phone or checking Facebook and WhatsApp every time you’re taking a break, flip open your book or your Kindle, and start reading. You will be surprised how much you’ve read when you take stock of your reading progress a week later. Of course, the basic requirement to achieve this is to always carry a book/Kindle with you.
And if you’re like me, plug in your earphones, and listen.
Here are some recommendations to get you started:
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Written by Mark Manson. Narrated by Roger Wayne
Bullshit Jobs: A Theory
Written by David Graeber. Narrated by Christopher Ragland
The Harry Potter series
Written by J.K. Rowling. Narrated by Stephen Fry
The Handmaid’s Tale
Written by Margaret Atwood. Narrated by Joanna David
The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World
Written by Brad Stone. Narrated by Dean Temple.
Written by Roald Dahl. Narrated by Kate Winslet.
The Amityville Horror
Written by Jay Anson. Narrated by Ray Porter.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
Written by Brad Stone. Narrated by Pete Larkin.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind
Written by Yuval Noah Harari. Narrated by Derek Perkins.
Alibaba: The Company that Jack Ma Built
Written by Duncan Clark. Narrated by Jim Meskimen.
Screenshots courtesy: Storytel. Featured image courtesy: Hacker Noon