The Fastest Way to Get Back into Reading Books (When You’ve Lost the Habit)


Do you miss reading? Here’s how to get back into reading books. Get out of a reading rut and embrace your inner bookworm again with these four tips.

Reading a book in bed

Get back into the habit of reading

Ten years ago I entered a Literary Dark Ages in my reading life. On average, I’d read about six books per year, and even that small handful was a struggle. This was a sad state indeed, because I’d been such a bookworm as a child.

I blame many things for my literary dry spell: College burnout, new jobs, and watching more T.V. because I was an adult and flush with new freedoms. But it didn’t feel right, this life without books. It wasn’t me. I had cut myself off from a source of knowledge, imagination, and whimsy that was vital to my being.

Finally, after my first son was born, I entered an Enlightenment period when books became magical, necessary, and doable once again. I forget what sparked this. Maybe it was because I was nursing around the clock and so I read during this newfound “time.” Maybe it was thanks to our push to live more simply and intentionally. Regardless, my reading life gained traction, snowballed, and became happily ever after once again.

So if you find yourself in a Literary Dark Ages right now, I get it. It happens, even to the most voracious bookworms. But it doesn’t have to last.

When you’re stuck in a reading rut, I have a few tips for getting back into the reading habit quickly.

How to Start Reading Again

1. Read a YA novel or a thriller

Even if these aren’t genres you normally read, I recommend starting with thrillers or Young Adult novels when you’re in a reading rut. Why? They’re engineered to hook your interest almost instantly. Momentum is key to getting out of a reading rut, and it’s hard to find momentum in a slow-build reading experience like a Dickens novel. So keep it highly accessible.

Books to get back into reading:

And of course, re-reading The Harry Potter series is always a great segue to a revitalized reading life!

2. Read the first three chapters of any book right away.

Even quick-hooking books can take a couple chapters to get into. For this reason, you should only start a new book when you know you can read the first few chapters without being interrupted. Save that new book for when you’re home alone, or after the kids are definitely in bed. Turn off your phone. Your job is to get immersed in the writing so that the next time you have a free moment, you’ll be inclined to keep reading rather than drift to a different activity instead.

Printable Reading Journal in a 3-ring binderWant to reclaim your reading life? Take a look at The Book Lover’s Companion, a printable reading journal and treasure trove for all the bookish things you want to keep on paper! Created by yours truly(:

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3. Treat reading like a multivitamin.

Make books something you do every day, even if it’s just in small doses at first. You need to grease the gears to get the reading mill turning again, and that only happens with regular maintenance. Read when you first wake up, read during your lunch break, read for twenty minutes in the evening before you turn on the T.V. or open your laptop. If the multivitamin turns into a meal, great, but if not you’ll at least have some progress and you’ll be reinforcing your new reading habit.

4. Keep a running list of the books that interest you.

Let’s say you get fired up to read again. You burn through a book, feel really proud of yourself, and then…..the habit just flickers out again and it’s a month before you pick up the next book. This is a very real danger for the erstwhile bookworm, but you can avoid it by always having a “go list” of intriguing books on hand. Any time you hear of a book that sparks your interest, capture that title.

I like to keep my go list/TBR in my reading journal, and divide my To Be Read list by short-term and long-term reads. Short-term reads are for books I want to jump into SOON, and long-term reads are for books I’m interested to read eventually, but maybe not right away.

When my current read is almost finished, I browse my TBR list until a few books jump out at me, check them for trigger warnings, then put the requests in at the library. I like to have my next reads on the shelf and ready to go so there’s never any forced downtime.

Are you a mom of young kids who wants to make reading for pleasure a priority again? Here are all the places I fit reading time into my day, to give you some ideas!

Stack of books on a pretty windowsill

The TBR Paradox

As I left the Literary Dark Ages behind I began to experience an interesting phenomenon. Initially, I was petrified by all the books I felt I needed to read. My TBR (To Be Read) list was long, and I almost felt there was no point in tackling it, because I’d never get to everything anyway. Plus, my TBR kept getting longer as I learned of new titles and authors.

But you know what happened? Something weird.

The more books I read and the more often I read them, the less daunting my TBR became…even though I was constantly adding to it!

I call this The TBR Paradox.

Let’s say you only read about five books per year. The time comes to choose your next book, and because you read so few of them, each book feels like a massive decision. There’s a lot riding on your choice when you know it’s one of only five titles you’ll encounter that year. You feel like each book has to be the most interesting, best choice possible.

BUT if you read dozens of books a year, each individual choice becomes less drastic. You might read a few duds each year, but no worries. You’ll read plenty of stellar books to make up for it. Your TBR will keep growing, but it won’t overwhelm you because you can look back on all the books you’ve read and see that you’re constantly making progress.

So if a hefty TBR is holding you back from jumping into reading again, do it anyway and see if this paradox holds true for you, too! Having a long TBR will be a promise of good things to come, rather than a burdensome checklist.

It doesn’t matter how many years ago you stopped reading books–you can always become a reader again. The best years of your reading life may not be behind you after all!

Did you used to be a big reader, but stopped? What one book or genre helps you climb out of a reading rut?

More posts to help you fall in love with reading again:

I’m passionate about the topic of learning to enjoy reading again! Here are some posts I’ve written on making reading part of your life.

For a lovely, short eBook on reading as a form of self care, check out The Literary Medicine Cabinet by Haley Stewart. She includes some excellent reading suggestions and lists, too!

The Fastest Way to Get Back into Reading Books (When You\'ve Lost the Habit)

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  1. Thankfully I got out of my post-college reading slump a few years ago! This is very solid advice, ESPECIALLY part about TBR’s. It’s so nice to no longer feel the pressure to pick exactly the right book for fear my momentum will collapse.

    1. Yay for getting out of reading slumps! I’ve also found that I can return to longer classics again, knowing I won’t be “stuck” in them for weeks on end.

  2. Good post! Yes, BREEDER will suck you in right from the first page! Love that book. Well-written middle-grade novels are also a great way to get back into reading, with their blessedly short chapters and resonant themes of adventure, loss, friendship and coming-of-age. In MG, Tuck Everlasting is one of my very favorites.

    1. Tuck Everlasting is a beautiful book, so simple yet captivating. Another compelling middle grade I enjoyed recently was Beyond the Bright Sea.

  3. I like “the TBR paradox.” I never thought of it that way before! I read around 100 books/year (b/c I’m retired and the kids are out of the house), and you are right: there are some duds. But most of the books I read are enjoyable and enrich my life.

    1. When I am retired I am going to read and read and read! That sounds lovely! With so many books read, a couple of duds don’t matter so much, do they?

      1. Not too much. I just wish I hadn’t purchased so many books impulsively. I’m trying to be more intentional in my buying these days.

  4. Hi, great website and a cracking idea! Well done!

    I was a voracious reader and come from a family of voracious readers so not reading has been a drag. Truth be told, it has been distressing.

    It has been a while…and I think it was the (only way I can express it) mourning I entered in to on finishing Bel Ami (de Maupassant).

    You might add to your list of reasons for putting reading aside: age and illness – and these probably require further research. Frail people just can’t hold books…I’m not sure if their attention span is there. It’s possible that Kindles and audio books might help but I am not an expert, just an observer!

    I am going to take the medicine suggested!


    1. Thank you! I hope you are able to get swept back into the reading current! Good point about age and illness. My great grandmother was a voracious reader until she started going blind, and I know she really missed reading. Audiobooks weren’t as big of a thing at that point; she would have a lot more options if she were still alive on Earth today! I think audiobooks are certainly a boon, although I can’t help feeling that when you listen to someone else read you have a little bit less control over your reading experience, and that’s a loss.

  5. It made sense when you said that reading more can help choosing our next book seem like less of a big decision. My daughter hasn’t been reading as much since she graduated from high school last year. Maybe I’ll look for some romance books written for young adults since that could help kick-start her into reading more frequently again!

  6. I’m glad you talked about how reading the first three chapters of a book helps you keep reading it. Recently, I noticed that I stopped reading as many books as I did. I’ve tried to get back on track but failed, so I’m hoping by following your advice, I’ll get back into my reading habit. I appreciate your tips about how to get back to reading.

  7. The bookshelves I have room for are filled! There’s quite a few there that are TBR. I find myself reading online all the time, but that’s not the same as a book! So, I need to take you advice. Thank you !

    1. I like reading articles, too, so sometimes I set aside dedicated time to just read online articles! That’s what I did last night…just read through a bunch of articles and blog posts I’d collected. For me, giving online reading its own designated “container” of time helps ensure that it doesn’t crowd out my book reading.

  8. Well, if I can learn to be more mindful or organized like that , I will really have achieved something! Haha! I have some level of ADHD and too often fly by the seat of my pants. So, how often do you read from your collection?

  9. Thanks for writing this / sharing this content, especially about the TBR Paradox. I notice the moment I “need to finish the book”, it becomes a task, chore, and don’t want to read anything on my shelf. However, if I am interested simply in reading 2-3 pages only because I hold a small interest in learning something new and for that reason only, I usually will pick up a book a few times a day, and read a few pages. Naturally that method pulls me in to read for the sake of reading, whereas the “need to complete the book” defeats the purpose of why I was interested in reading in the first place! Apparently there is a Yin/Yang push/pull method to overcoming this paradox. Thanks for this refresher. -Mike

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for the comment! Yes, we have to work with our psychology a bit in this area, don’t we? I’ve definitely noticed that if I get stressed by various aspects of reading–like keeping up with books I’m “supposed” to read–I fall into a reading slump. And then I’m more likely to take the easy way out and just scroll my phone…not a great use of time!

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