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Read Different, Not More

June is fast approaching, and most of us long ago abandoned our half-baked resolutions. In a notebook I have scribbled down be able to hold an hour-long conversation in Russian, eat more veggies ya vegetarian, and a few other lines that I can't decipher. But somewhere in there I wrote read more, crossed it out, and wrote read different.

I've never had to force myself to read (I was the kid trying to finish a chapter without the teacher noticing, and I'm now the wife that hums along like I'm listening when, really, my eyes are still scanning the page). This is probably due to my mom reading to me each night before bed, or my traumatic experience with Where the Red Fern Grows opening up the possibility of emotion outside of direct experience. Maybe I was too shy and used books as a way to escape. Hell, maybe it's all just genetics, I don't know.

But at some point my like of reading evolved into a need to devour every book I could get my hands on, and a few factors were at play.

I tried everything. I can't get into a tome about WWII, but a microhistory of the fishing industry? Yes please. I don't enjoy medieval fantasy, but sci-fi? Lay it on me. I've been trying (this year especially) to read outside of my comfort zone, and it's shown me a glimpse of how much I still haven't experienced.

I stopped caring. I was the poster child of dorkiness in high school: braces, thick glasses, and even a bottle of nasal spray tucked into my backpack pocket. So I never dared to pick up graphic novels, space operas, anything that would push me deeper into that hole. And you know what? I was still a dork, but now a dork that had missed out on some really cool stuff. Luckily I eventually learned that no one gives a toss what I'm reading.

I kept looking. Recommendations are everywhere. People who say there's nothing good to read are the same people griping that there's nothing to watch on Neflix: I promise you, there is. Most of what I read was introduced to me through Goodreads, book review blogs, or friends. But picking up a random book that catches my eye at the library works, too.

I admitted defeat. Yes, I prefer a physical book over an ebook, and an ebook over an audiobook. But living as an expat means English books aren't always in good supply. I own about fifty books that are special to me, but I stick to ebooks for metro rides and audiobooks for chores and walks. 🔎 Pro tip: Most local libraries have free ebook subscription apps.

I spoke up. Once I started recommending books to friends, or discussing what I'd learned with family, connections suddenly became richer. People like reading for lots of different reasons, and having a recent book to talk about or jumpstart conversation makes me want to go back for more.

Note what this list didn't include: writing reading time into my schedule, throwing out the television, devoting a chunk of my budget to books, reading bestsellers and anything and everything that looks popular.

The point? If you're looking to read more, forcing yourself isn't the answer. Just let yourself explore and find what you like. And don't start by giving yourself a numeric goal; it's better to read 5 good books than muddle through 50 really boring ones.

Reading is a way to learn, relax, and experience. Let yourself rediscover that joy.

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