Are bookworms secret superheroes? I don’t know about that, but most superheros are super-smart, brainyacs. I bet Wonder Woman loves to curl up with a cozy mystery when she’s not off fighting crime. And Bruce Wayne seems like a Clive Cussler guy. Or could you imagine a book club meeting with the Avengers discussing something like Farenheit 451 or Atlas Shrugged?
So how does an ordinary mortal become a world-class bookworm and join this elite group?
1. Visit your local library and get a library card
Seriously. You’re going to be reading a lot of books, and with that kind of volume, you need to begin with the library—at least until you can handle the pace and budget. Plus, the library is amazing. Have you been there in awhile? They offer lots of services in addition to the books, and they’re great people. Look them up.
2. Browse the shelves and determine your favorite genre
This step can be overwhelming. You have so many choices. In YA fiction alone, there are subgenres of fantasy, romance, historical, thriller/horror, sci-fi/distopian, crime/mystery, and contemporary. What do you like? What interests you? If you don’t know where to start, sample a few pages and see what resonates with you the best. Maybe you’ll discover that you like something new that you’d never heard of before.
Maybe you like Steampunk—or Mannerpunk.
3. Pick your favorite medium: Print or Electronic
Most libraries offer both formats on books, so if you want to check out a digital copy of your selected title, go ahead. However, if you want the “look” of a world-class bookworm, you will need the physical asset to carry around with you. No one ever gives much credit to the guy waving his phone around and claiming to be reading Les Miserables on it—even if it’s true. When he’s lugging that weight around with him, you know he’s truly committed to the thing.
4. Check out lots of books
This one should be obvious, but don’t leave the library without actually checking out some books. This step requires you to fill out the paperwork for a library card if you don’t have one.
5. Find some reading buddies
Your local library probably has some book clubs in the genre you enjoy. Join one of them and find friends who want to read and talk about books too. Book clubs are a great way to explore new authors and titles and enjoy good conversation—and also practice your skills as a budding world-class bookworm. Most of the members of the book clubs will be veterans, so you can pick up tips by asking questions and listening to them. Don’t be intimidated if everyone seems super funny and intelligent except you. You have lots to say, and you will gain confidence.
Many cities also have Meetups for book clubs if that appeals more to you. These book clubs gather in informal settings like coffee shops instead of libraries, but the agenda is the same:
1. Meet the group
2. Talk about the book
3. Read the next book
Book clubs may also include food and, depending on the age of the book club members, adult beverages.
6. Get a Goodreads account
You’re an introvert. I understand. Many world-class bookworms are. That’s why they prefer to escape into the world of books for hours at a time.
If meeting and talking to actual human beings sounds completely overwhelming at first, you can start with social media. Sign up for Goodreads and start by making friends there. You can join Groups and Buddy Reads, track the books you read, share titles with others, and set a reading challenge for the year. Goodreads is an excellent tool for keeping up with all the books you’re reading, which is important because a world-class bookworm reads hundreds of books and tends to forget whether or not they’ve read a given book before. A tool like Goodreads comes in handy for answering questions like A) Yes, I read that book and B) No, I didn’t like it.
7. Create your own reading nook
A craftsman needs a place to work, and you are no different. Reading books requires a quiet space. You won’t do your best if you’re in the middle of the family room surrounded by other people, barking dogs, a blaring television, and electronic devices.
Find a room where you can be alone for awhile and be comfortable. A fluffy throw blanket and pillows might entice you to go there often, or maybe it’s a well-worn chair and a window that overlooks a nice yard. (But not a yard that’s too distracting.) You want a space with good lighting because you’ll be reading. If you need reading glasses, leave a pair there so you don’t have to go searching for them.
8. Read every single day
You brush your teeth every day, don’t you?
A world-class bookworm reads every day. It’s a habit. For bookworms, not reading would be like not brushing their teeth. A foul smell would hover around their head, and they would have a slight slur to their speech.
If you’re just starting out, you might pace yourself to short sprints: a half hour at lunch and a half hour before bed. As you build your reading muscle, you might add another half hour in the morning and also read during spare time throughout the day. Alternatively, you might set page counts as your reading goals: 20-30 pages every day, for example.
Here are a few tips about reading to help make reading a compulsion. Some of them might seem like no-brainers, but new readers can get hung up on them:
Give yourself permission to abandon a book that’s not engaging you. Are you thirty, forty, or fifty pages in, and every time you think about reading, you want to clip your toenails instead? There are too many books in the world. If this one isn’t working for you, break up. Shelve it. “Sorry, it’s really you, Mr. Book. You have to go.” Yes, even if it’s an author you love.
If you choose books in a series, you might read more books faster. This rule assumes that they are good books, of course, but if they are, you are guaranteed good reading material for awhile.
Find an author you like who has also written several books. Then you have a lot to read. If you like their style and type of book, you will have a lot of good reading material.
Listen to audio books too. They count as reading, and that means you can cover books while you’re exercising or traveling.
The most important thing is to read. This step cannot be skipped.
The next two steps are advanced.
9. Visit a bookstore and buy lots of books
Once you know what you like and enjoy reading, you may want to own physical books—especially the titles that you want to re-read. (Re-reading is a trait of world-class bookworms.)
Warning: Bookstores are dangerous vortexes.
You may consider visiting a bookstore with cash only to limit yourself to a budget or visit thrift book stores to maximize your purchasing power.
Side Note: eReaders are equally dangerous because it’s too easy to click the Buy Now option in the middle of the night when you are half-asleep. Buy ebooks only when you are fully awake to minimize credit card shock.
10. Carry a book with you everywhere
Once you begin acquiring and carrying your own physical books, your transformation into a world-class bookworm is complete. Your bookmarks are tattered, and ideally, ironic or not even bookmarks at all—but random bits of paper.
11. Wear glasses
A world-class bookworm wears reading glasses even if no prescription is required—at least in public. It’s part of the “look.”
That’s it. If you follow these steps, you’ll find yourself among the distinguished group of individuals who call ourselves bookworms. Like many superheroes, we live in plain sight among mere mortals.
Are you ready to join us?
Start today by exploring some new authors of contemporary YA.