Tips, Not Prompts: a guide on how to build and keep the reading habit - hosted by bibilly

📚 Don't wait for the desire to read, make reading desirable: my subdivided TBR and my DNF rule
Or: commit to the reading habit, not a book. You can give up on the book, but not on your reading streak. Break it once, but no twice.

The most difficult part of any task for me is starting it. That's a rule even for the things I like. I believe, however, that the best method is always action, at least for anxious people like me. We might love to read and think books are essential, but a lot of times we subconsciously feel like they're too complex for us or not that much fun, and instead of start reading them we open twitter. So I have to make everything as easy as possible to start in a way I can just fucking do it, because once I start something I rarely find it as difficult or boring as I thought. And how does that work? I break things down into smaller parts to see them not as monsters to be defeated through sheer perfectionism but as tasks to be done or small goals to achieve in order to make me lighter or happier or just better. In this case, I subdivide my TBR based on genre, mood/taste, length and goals — not as a subtasked obligation, but as treasure chests.


If you open my profile page, you will notice that I don't have many books added to my to-read pile. This feature is kind of useless to me (on Goodreads, I use it for unreleases). My TBR is too big, and adding it to an app like Storygraph or Goodreads will only make it more overwhelming. And although I could search books by genre on my to-read pile, for example, it's more likely for me to pick up a book if I go over my TBR on my kindle (besides the fact that I've been using this method since before finding out about Storygraph, which, granted, has some nice shelf filters). When I'm interested in a book/author, I prefer adding it to my personal priorities lists and/or collections on kindle — divided into genres, goals and other categories defined by my own taste/situation in life. To give some examples: I have collections of big "genres", like foreigner classics, brazilian classics, fantasy, sci-fi, etc; and outside that: historical romance, contemporary romance, LGBTQIA+ rep, fat rep, bipoc rep, etc; plus collections for different types of priorities or reading goals/challenges (like tbr of the month). Making my TBR this personal has been really helpful, especially because when I open these collections, I only see the titles that interest me at the moment since I don't download everything from my cloud.

That's even more helpful if you subdivide a little more, creating a personal "currently reading" to optimize your routine (see tip 3). This is what does the trick, because it depends a lot on the life you live and the person you are. For each reading time you've created on your routine, make a category that fits that moment of your day/week and also your tastes. Then, choose at least one book for this category from one of your TBRs/lists/kindle collections. One category can be applied to more than one reading moment, and you can use more than one category in each moment depending on your day and reading mood, besides changing them up whenever needed. You can also apply different categories to different rooms of your house to tackle your physical TBR (e.g., classics on the desk, anthologies or poetry collection next to your bed, romances in the living room, self-help and nonfiction in the kitchen, grouped in small piles as not to make it overwhelming). I wouldn't recommend the number of categories/books to be more than 5, but it's totally up to you, especially because you don't have to read all of them simultaneously — they just have to be at your disposal. That's where the e-reader makes all the difference. If you read/carry only one book, you limit yourself to just that one type of story and writing for the whole day/week/month, and sometimes you just won't be in the mood for it. Even if you already read a lot, I believe the one-book-at-a-time type of reading makes it easier to fall into the famous reading slump. Give yourself more options, even if you don't intend to read more than one book at a time, so you don't have to find the desire to read that specific title you've bound yourself to. 

Don't forget that habits are automatic actions, actions we don't think about and simply do. If you spend too much energy on something, your brain won't want to do it again. Therefore, for reading to become a habit in your life, you have to think about it as little as possible while keeping it enjoyable and interesting to >you<.

To make it more clear, this is what my current "reading" TBR looks like

I have only a few books on my physical TBR, so I put one on the desk in my room. I also always have some titles downloaded on my phone for when I forget or have to leave my kindle at home. My fixed reading times are after breakfast, before dinner, before bed and on the bus. I'm currently getting into audiobooks, which makes for one of my "sub TBRs". This one is divided into audiobooks I want to listen to while reading the ebook and audiobooks that I want to try to listen to without following the text. I can only listen to the first one at night, before bed. The second one goes to my bus rides and housework. These are two categories and at least two books at my disposal. Currently, I can't dedicate much time per day to reading. That means I can't pick up long books or books that I probably won't stop reading until I finish; however, I can't just stop reading either (and audiobook is not my go-to format), so for this "no commitment" category I choose books I can easily put down or on pause without getting anxious about it. Right now, they're coming from my anthologies and Kindle Unlimited TBR's, but at the moment my audiobooks also have to fall into this category. I can also pick books from my "rewards TBR" that aren't long but that I really want to read. This category, as for now, is filled with romances. Finally, I establish a "priorities TBR" filled with a few classics or other books I feel I should get to as soon as possible, but only when I have the time to dedicate myself to them properly. Each of these books fits at least one prompt from my reading challenges (see tip 5), and all of them can be DNFed. That's one more reason to have multiple books at the forefront of your mind or on the reading pile/kindle collection, so you never go out of >good< options.


Learning to abandon books was a big step for me as a reader. I used to be obsessed about finishing everything I started, which was exhausting. Giving up, however, is not just freeing but also efficient, as I learned that by DNFing more, I read better. You have to know yourself as a reader, though; you have to know when a book will NOT do it for you, at least not at that moment. The exact criteria for deciding what's worth finishing vary from reader to reader, but I have a rule for when I should decide if the book meets these criteria or not: the story has to convince me before the 10% or 15% mark on my kindle or audiobook app. If I continue to read, I will probably finish, but even then, I don't force myself (at least not with non-academic reading). And the books that disappoint me after the 15% mark are the ones I shelf as DNF here and on Goodreads; before that, it's only a "test drive". You see, I never open a book for the first time with the mindset that I have to finish reading it; that may come after the book "proves" itself to me. That's not to say I only continue books I loved from the start, just that I'm not bound to any of them. And unfortunately, I don't have the time to finish every book I pick up, definitely not for every book on my TBR. They're just options among options: some of them I prioritize, like classics (and not all of them), while others can probably be substituted by better versions already listed on my TBR. If you're not a literature student, you probably don't have to finish any of the fiction books you start reading.

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