The good reading habits to get into this January

Keen to make the most of the New Year? Finding some new ways to fall in love with books is a great way to kickstart the year.

An illustration of a woman against an orange background standing beneath a tree that is shedding books like leaves
Winds of change. Image: Alexandra Francis/Penguin

You can almost smell it: a crispness in the air, the whiff of new possibility, a determination to do things differently. A new year is a good reasons to get into your own good books with regards to reading habits. Perhaps you’re no longer reading as much as you used to, or are finding yourself uninspired by your bookshelves. Time, then, to kickstart some new habits.

Use a bookmark

This may sound rudimentary to some but the fact is plenty of us don’t use bookmarks. Of course, the intention may be there, but so often the bookmark isn’t. Writing as a page-folder, I confess that my policy of folding pages both to acknowledge nuggets to return to and my place in the book has got, well, confusing. High time to deploy a dedicated book mark. If you’re in the same position but not sure what to use, may we suggest this guide on the best makeshift ones? 

Organise those bookshelves and give some away

Shocking but true: the majority of people don’t organise their bookshelves at all. Think of all that alphabetising fun you’re missing out on! Even if the particularities of a self-defined Dewey system aren’t for you, having a sort out of your books can be galvanising. Take them off the shelves, give them a dust-down, work out which inspire excitement, nostalgia or interest in you, and which don’t. The keepers go back on the shelves, the rest don’t and can be passed on to friends, charity shops or community bookshelves to find new readers. Everyone’s to-be-read piles benefit! 

Start a reading journal and share your thoughts online

Remember at school how keeping records of your reading could motivate you to finish one book and move onto the other? The same applies even to grown-ups. Find a lovely notebook, grab a favourite pen, and keep track of what you’re reading. It could just be the date you finished a book, it could be a star rating or a few notes. It could be a whole review! If you find yourself enjoying the rating and the writing, perhaps consider sharing your thoughts online - whether through a Goodreads account or on your own dedicated books Instagram or Twitter account.

Visit your local library 

Books! For free! Libraries have had a tough couple of years which means it’s all the more important that we make use of their fabulous offerings. If you’ve not registered with your local library yet, why not start by getting a library card and checking out what you can borrow. If you’re an e-reader or like to listen to audiobooks, it’s even easier: you can download both from the comfort of home once you’re set up with an account - and yes, it’s free. 

Get your seasonal reading list ready 

Love it or hate it, we’re entering cosy season: the nights are drawing in, the mercury’s sinking, it’s time to snuggle up and get into a good book. For some bookworms, autumn is the perfect season to bunker down and read, and you can prepare yourself by compiling the ultimate seasonal reading list. Back-to-school reads in the shape of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History or On Beauty by Zadie Smith, or books for cooler climes such as Francine Toon’s Pine or, well, anything by Charles Dickens. 

Sign up for a book subscription box

If you’re feeling a little lacklustre or lost in choosing new books (to fill up all those gaps in your newly organised shelves, of course) why not consider a book subscription? All sorts of organisations and independent bookshops now offer subscriptions that aim to broaden your reading and introduce you to titles you’ll love, but might not necessarily choose yourselves, handily delivered to your door every few weeks. 

Mix it up and try different book genres

It’s a lovely thing for reading to be a part of your identity, but too often we readers self-define a little too rigidly: “I don’t read anything except fantasy”; “I can’t get into poetry”; or, heaven forbid, “I only read literary fiction”. Are you, by chance, limiting yourself in this way? Why not make now the time to challenge yourself to try something different? Perhaps there’s a doorway into the wonderful world of romance novels you hadn’t found yet, a crime novel ready to grip you, or a graphic novel that might just change your mind about comics. Now might be just the time to let a book change your mind

Get back into your audiobook habit while commuting 

With the return to schools and offices happening, the commute is officially back – and while it was gone, a whole host of releases made their way to speakers, headphones and ear pods. With new releases, of course, come striking innovations, too: Charlie Mackesy’s ubiquitous The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse made good on turning a visual spectacle into a sonic one, while 2000 AD did the same, turning comics (including Judge Dredd titles) into immersive storytelling with incredible voice acting and ingenious sound effects; mindfulness on your commute became easier than ever; and the classics remain just a download away, to be enjoyed anywhere you can take your phone. No bookmark necessary, either.

Join a book club

One of the greatest pleasures of reading (aside from reading itself) is taking the thoughts and ideas you got from the book and discussing them with people you love – or, at least, people who have read the book, too. Such a delight is it, in fact, that ever the pandemic didn’t stop the spread of book clubs – in fact, digital book clubs proliferated during lockdown. Whether you get some mates together via Zoom or link up in a friend’s living room, joining a book club is a lovely way to connecting and spread ideas and favourite reads. Here are a few great picks to get you started.

Alexandra Francis for Penguin Random House

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