I was originally going to write a version of this post as part of a two-parter; the first being why you should read more, and then the second being about reading less.
I’ve decided not to write about why you should read more, because if you ask a search engine that question, there is no shortage of articles, blog posts, and lists extolling the reasons of why reading books is great for you. Some are scientifically based, others are more commonsense, and others are friendly encouragement (I like this Buzzfeed list quite a bit).
But what about the case for reading less? How can reading less improve our lives, especially if we love reading already or perhaps took the information about why we should read more a bit too close to heart?
Reasons Why Reading Less May Improve Your Life
Reduce Reading Clutter
Stacks of unread books overflowing from bookcases or piled up on tables or the floor is physical clutter. It encroaches on your living space giving you less space to move and less air to breathe. Even standing still with the windows open, all of those tomes with their colorful covers and wordy titles contribute to visual noise, distracting you from what you would otherwise be focusing on.
If you don’t have books sitting in your home waiting to be read, keeping a to-be-read (TBR) list is still clutter — it’s just mental clutter. A long running to-do list is stressful, even if what’s on it is supposed to be enjoyed in recreational time. (I’ve found TBR lists don’t work for me because I frequently add but rarely subtract, steadily increasing the stress factor.)
Read More Consciously
You can be more discerning about what you read, reading what you want when you want, even if that means reading nothing at all for a while. If you’re not trying to read as much as you can as fast as you can, you will be able to digest and enjoy what you read more fully, thus getting MORE enjoyment from doing LESS. If you’re not continually trying to knock down the number on your TBR or keep up with the bestseller lists, you’re left with more time to do other things as well, enriching your life with other (actual) experiences.
Simplify Reading Habits
Instead of feeling pressure to read more of certain types of books (like award winners, classics, “higher literature”, or book club picks) as well as what you actually want to read, you can give yourself more freedom. By choosing to read less, you have an excuse to only read your favorite types of books. This, again, will increase the amount of enjoyment you get from the time you do spend reading.
One of my favorite authors, Meg Cabot, wrote a great blog post back in 2009 on How to Foster a Hatred For Reading. Giving in to pressure about what — or how much — to read from others — or yourself! — is a recipe for discontent. Don’t worry about what other people may think of what or how much you’re reading and simply read for yourself.
You don’t necessarily have to read more, just read as much that is enough for you. You’ll recognize the right amount because it will be fun. 🙂
There’s no denying that reading is good for your brain, but taking a minimalistic approach to reading may just prove to be good for your soul.