About 300,000 books were published in the United States last year, but most of us had no time to read more than a few of them. A Huffington Post poll of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 40% had read between one and ten books in 2013, and 28% hadn’t read any! That’s too bad, because reading offers a nice break from TV, texting and the Internet (ahem, wasn’t that one of your new year’s resolutions?), improves your vocabulary, exposes you to new ideas and cultures, and enhances your memory.
It’s also a proven stress-buster: A University of Sussex study showed that people who read for just six minutes a day cut stress by 68%, more than listening to music or exercising. In a press release about the study Professor Louis Appleby CBE, National Director for Mental Health in England, confirmed that reading can offer therapeutic benefits: ‘When we hear that reading is ‘good for us’ we may assume that this is because it helps our education,” he said. “But reading anything for pleasure can also raise your spirits, offer an escape from everyday stresses, help you empathise with other people AND keep the brain ticking over. Reaching for a favourite magazine or book could well be good for your health.”
Convinced? Follow these tips for finding time to squeeze reading—and the social connection it can provide—into your fast-paced life.
1. Start or join a book club. Ask friends, family and colleagues. You can opt for current titles, classics, nonfiction, chick lit or literary fiction. And you can make the club as social as you want (no guilt). Book clubs are great because they give you a deadline for reading and expose you to books you might never have discovered on your own. In my current book club, I’ve read fictional books about the Jewish people at Masada (The Dove Keepers), parentless immigrant children sent out west to be adopted (Orphan Train), a twisty mystery (Gone Girl)…and a story of witches and vampires (A Discovery of Witches).
2. Get a library card. Besides the books you can borrow, most libraries offer free book clubs for adults that, like a regular book club, give you the motivation to read.
3. Interact online. Websites such as Goodreads and Book Glutton offer title suggestions and allow you to share your opinion with people around the U.S. and the world.
4. Check out Twitter. Yes, there are now Twitter book parties where you can offer your two cents in 140 characters.
5. Join Oprah’s book club. Now in its second incarnation, Oprah continues to pick winning fiction titles such as Sue Monk Kidd’s new book The Invention of Wings.
6. Listen to an audio book. Most popular and many classic books are available as audiobooks from websites such as audible.com. So if reading’s not really your thing, don’t let that stop you—you can still enjoy a book (and even join a book club).
7. Volunteer to read to older adults or the blind. You can kill two birds with one stone that way—do a good deed and read a good book at the same time.