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This article was written by Melody Simpson. To visit Melody’s blog, visit Hollywood The Write Way.
There are so many ways to enact self care but today, we’re going to talk about reading.
If you love reading, this is for you. If you don’t enjoy reading, this is also for you. As a matter of fact, this is especially for you. There’s something out there for everyone to connect with and one of the ways that we can grow intellectually while also enjoying ourselves, is reading. Whether this entails reading graphic novels, romance, or works of nonfiction, the experience that is gained from reading is like no other and thus, highly recommended.
So how do you get into reading or shake things up if you’re in what some would call a reading slump?
Well, there are plenty of ways to find your way in. First, let’s talk format. When you’re on the go, late for your workout and you still have to run to the store to pick up coconut oil that you ran out of, that would be a good time to listen to an audiobook. Now all audiobooks are not the same. The narrator can really make or break the story. Luckily, places like Audible (where you can buy audiobooks) and Libby (Library App) allow you to sample the narration before buying or checking the book out.
If you haven’t downloaded the Libby App and connected your library to the app, I highly recommend doing so. You can check out audiobooks and ebooks as well as put them on hold when they’re currently taken out. I also recommend downloading your local library’s app and seeing if you can place physical books on hold so that you can simply stop in to pick them up.
Before you do any checking out, might I suggest making sure in your settings that you’re default time limit for the books is as long as possible. This takes pressure off of you to scramble to finish reading in case something comes up. Books like Becoming by Michelle Obama may have a bit of queue but what a great surprise it will be when you finally get an email notification weeks after you’ve forgotten that you put the book on hold, that your time has come to have Michelle Obama’s voice in your ears for 19 hours.
Also read: Why Self-Preservation is Important
Once you’re all set with the format of your book, another thing to consider is genre. Have you been reading so much in one genre that you’ve grown bored or need a break from it? Good news, there are plenty of other genres to go around. Check and see if your favorite celebrities have memoirs. Oftentimes, the celebrities will narrate their books themselves, so their audiobooks have the potential to be books that you finish reading much quicker than you thought you would. Might I suggest We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union, So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta, and The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir by Jenifer Lewis.
If you enjoy true crime podcasts, consider picking up a memoir or nonfiction along the same lines. Want shorter pieces that you can pick up whenever you want without the pressure of finishing a book? Try a book of short stories or essays like Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay or Color Outside the Lines: Stories About Love by Sangu Mandanna. Are you looking for something that both you and your young child can enjoy? Consider Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison or The Crossover series by Kwami Alexander.
What gravitates you in other fields of entertainment can also meet you in books.
Whether you’re looking for humor or sci-fi or historical fiction, a story with multiple points of view, a nonlinear story, a story in verse, an epistolary story, a standalone, a series, etc… there is a book out there just waiting for you to find it. If the thought of picking out a book feels overwhelming, check out the NYT Bestseller’s List or USA Today’s Bestseller’s List and see what stands out to you. Head to your local independent bookstore and browse the aisles or find out what the bookseller’s recommend. Pick up that book you always meant to try out during book club but didn’t have the time for. Challenge yourself to read a book that’s older than you or a book by an author that is new to you.
Read the book that was recommended or gifted to you and might be collecting dust bunnies.
The most important thing to remember when finding out what books work for you is being okay with the fact that you will not click with every book and that is perfectly okay. If you do not finish a book, there is no reason to feel guilty about it. Reading is subjective so even if you know that a book is technically good, it may not be right for you. It’s fun to get caught up in the latest Oprah Book Club pick, Shondaland recommendation, latest book to movie adaptation, and hot book of the moment but don’t put pressure on yourself to finish or like a book that is simply not working for you. You’re not in school anymore, no one is forcing you to read something that does not bring you joy.
Find out what brings you joy and go for it. Marie Kondo was onto something. She has a point when she talks about pinpointing what brings you joy and not giving space for the rest. If that means reading books that are under 200 pages and don’t feel overwhelming, then go ahead and do that. If that means reading one book all season long that’s over 500 pages, that’s perfectly valid. Your choices are valid so remember that as you enter into a new year of reading. You may have some false starts but I’m hoping that I can help reduce that with some recommendations such as anything written by Jacqueline Woodson, Phoebe Robinson, or Tiffany D. Jackson to name a few.
We talked a bit about reading widely but it is also okay to read only Romance or only Young Adult Sci-fi or Middle Grade Fantasy if that’s what you want to do.
Understand though that this isn’t a find your lane and stay in it scenario. You are more than welcome at any time on your reading journey to discover something new. Discovery is what reading is all about. So even if you stay in one genre, make sure you’re reading books that aren’t all written by straight white Christian men from the United States. Check yourself because the world is greater and you deserve to feed yourself with more than that.
Maybe you want to take a year to buy all of the cookbooks that you’ve been eyeing for what feels like forever and you want to try the recipes in there. Do it. Educate yourself. Learn about the food that you’re putting into your body. Learn about what works for you and how your body changes and reacts when you treat it like you care. Bookmark those pages in the cookbooks and make those new to you recipes.
Are you interested in learning a new language or advancing yourself in a language that you are already learning?
Consider finding one of your favorite books translated into that language and reading it this way.
Also read: How To Be In Control Of Your Happiness
Perhaps you’re interested in going to more author readings in your area. See if you can sign up for updates at your local bookstores so that you know when authors are coming to a town near you. This gives you time to catch up on their past books as you gear up to hear them read an excerpt from their newest. Invite a friend and go out for a bite to eat afterwards. Reading is often a solitary experience but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to make reading a social activity. Start a book club amongst your friends or a book group chat with a few people to keep each other updated only on books. Fall into the rabbit hole of BookTubers, readers on YouTube talking all about the books they read and why or why not they clicked with those books.
Your relationship with books is going to be unique to you. Take your time to fall in love with books or fall in love again. It’s perfectly okay to read what you want, when you want, and take breaks from reading. But when you read a book that transforms you, the best gift that you can give is recommending that book to others.
Because why would you want to keep the gift of what that book gave to you all to yourself?
Who says self care can’t be shared?
Find what brings you joy and share it for that one other person whose life will be changed because of a book that you discovered and talked about. Because self care starts with us, for us, but still, in the end, it’s so that we can better affect those around us. So what do you say, what will you be reading next?
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