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Now that we're all staying home for the next few weeks, look on the bright side: There’s never been a better time to catch up on your reading. Staring at screens gets old after a while—and contributes to eye fatigue and strain, according to Harvard Medical School—which means you'll want to come up for air from your laptop and Netflix queue every now and then.
When that happens—and you've already organized your sock drawer, cooked a few meals, and cleaned your living space from top to bottom—it's time to get into some reading material. Whether you’re actively plugging away at a book goal or simply want something to alleviate the monotony that comes with being confined to a much smaller space than usual, these things put escaping into a good story at your fingertips.
1. A Kindle Paperwhite to access any book wherever you are
Any e-reader will help you read more, but we think the Kindle Paperwhite is the way to go. It has a realistic paper-like display, which gives you the convenience of an e-reader without the glare of a screen. And, with 8 GB of storage space, it has enough room for thousands of Kindle books. It’s also water-resistant, so you have peace of mind if you read it with a glass of water or mug of tea in hand.
If you aren't looking to buy a new device, the free Kindle App for Apple or Android turns your phone or tablet into an e-reader, and gives you access to all the great books in Amazon’s Kindle bookstore.
2. An Audible account to listen to your favorite books
You don’t have to read a book to absorb its full effect. Listen to them instead with Audible, a subscription service that gives users access to one audiobook, two Audible Originals, and discounts on other audiobooks for $14.95 a month. You may miss the feeling of holding a book in your hand, but you get the benefit of hearing the books everyone else is reading when you’re doing chores or your home workouts.
3. A book club subscription to get cool books sent to you
One good way to up your book consumption? Have one shipped to you every month with a Book of the Month subscription. For $14.95 a month (and $9.99 for your first month), you can choose any one of five books selected by the powers that be at BotM—usually new releases from buzzy authors. If you want more than one of the books (ahem, for the first month at least), you can add another for a discounted price; alternatively, you can skip the month (and the charge) if you aren’t feeling any of the books or haven’t yet finished last month’s selection. Because BotM reduces the cost of new books and removes the research of finding a good book to read out of the equation, it’s a great deal for anyone who wants to read more but isn’t quite sure where to start. Sign up for a Book of the Month subscription starting at $9.99 a month
4. A library card to maintain your habit on a budget—and in isolation
If you buy all your books, reading can get expensive. And if you check out books from the library to save money, that usually requires leaving the house. But you don’t need to spend any money or break quarantine to be well-read if you take advantage of your local library's e-book catalog. If you use your library card in conjunction with Overdrive, Axis360, or Libby, you'll have access to ebooks, and audiobooks that you can download straight to your e-reader, tablet, or phone. There are about 116,867 libraries in the United States, according to the American Library Association, and many of them allow digital signups for library cards. Find the one closest to you, sign up for a card, and get reading.
5. Download free classics without a library card
Don't have a library card or a way to sign up for one right now? Use Project Gutenberg, a site that has over 60,000 e-books available for free (and legal) download. The books are free because their copyrights have expired—which usually happens to books 70 years past the authors' death or 95 years after its first publication—so your options will consist of works from authors like Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Edgar Allen Poe, rather than any hot new bestsellers. Still, as far as limitations go, this isn't a bad one, and it's a great way to get yourself to read the classics you haven't gotten around to yet.
6. Get more modern reads for free (at least temporarily
If your reading tastes align more with Jessica Simpson than Charlotte Brontë, you still have options. Scribd, a subscription service that offers access to unlimited ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines, is offering a 30-day trial period with access to its entire catalogue. (The platform is normally $8.99 a month.) You don't have to provide your credit card number to give it a try, so it's an easy way to get some entertainment throughout your period of social distancing.
Kindle Unlimited—Amazon's unlimited ebook service—also has its usual 30-day trial period open. This trial is through your Amazon account, so you will get charged for the next month ($9.99) if you forget to cancel it, but if you set a reminder on your phone or calendar you'll still get some reading in for free.
7. A reading pillow that offers you enough support for nighttime reading
Reading before bed is an easy (and proven) way to de-stress and fall asleep faster—but if your pillow isn’t up to the task of propping you up, your discomfort may overtake any de-stressing effects of your book. If you’re sick of slouching deep into your bed pillows, get a sturdier one designed for readers with armrests and solid neck support, like this Linenspa version.
“Before I go to bed I like to read a book to wind down,” writes a reviewer. “I used to struggle doing it on my back or on my side, but since buying this I haven't had any trouble at all. It is so comfortable, I've even fallen asleep on it a couple of times.” Get the Linenspa Shredded Foam Reading Pillow on Amazon for $39.99
8. A reading lamp to reduce eye strain
Another key to reading more: Sufficient lighting. Reviewed’s managing editor of core content Meghan Kavanaugh loves her Philips Wake-Up Light. In addition to its gentle morning alarm, the lamp has a sleep timer feature that you can set at night to stay lit for a certain amount of time before fading out, which gives you time to finish your chapter without feeling tempted to check your phone to see what time it is. (If you want to keep reading, it’s easy to re-up the timer.)
If you share a bed with someone who wants to go to sleep before you can read, a small reading lamp should do the trick. Amazon reviewers like this Energizer LED clip-on light, which shines a small but intense beam on the page to ensure you see your pages, but other people don’t. Another targeted option is a simple headlamp, which lights up the pages of your book without any complicated clipping or pinning required—it’s a solution that lifestyle writer Jessica Kasparian swears by.
- Get the Philips Wake Up Lamp on Amazon for $93.94
- Get the Energizer Clip-On Reading Light on Amazon for $7.78
- Get the EverBrite Headlamp on Amazon for $9.99
9. An artisan bookmark to hold your spot
In a pinch, you can dog-ear the pages of your book or hold your spot with a receipt from the last time you went grocery shopping. Or you could use a bookmark that has over 1,000 five-star reviews—e.g., this one from Peter Pauper Press. It’s made of durable card stock and has a beaded tassel on the end so you always know exactly where to open your book. It also printed with a nice quote—“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars”—that may just motivate you to surpass your reading goal this year.
“I've had this bookmark for years and it's still in perfect shape,” writes a reviewer. “I love it. It's so pretty and sturdy.”
10. Noise-canceling headphones to tune out the rest of the world
If you live with a noisy family or roommates who are now suddenly around all the time, it can be tough to get a moment of peace and quiet that allows for proper escapism. One great way to block out the cacophony is with a pair of noise-canceling headphones, like our favorite pair from Sony. These over-ear bluetooth headphones mute extraneous sound, whether you’re listening to something or not, and feel soft and comfortable on the ears when you're reading, listening to an audiobook, or doing work.
Plus, once you make it out of the house again, you may remember that planes, trains, and other modes of public transit are great places to get your reading done—in theory. In practice, those places are loud, busy, and full of distractions, but with the headphones, you might just feel like you're back in self-quarantine.
11. A bookshelf that inspires you to read more
Keeping your books on prominent display may just be the key for turning your to-be-read list into your already-read list. E-commerce editor Courtney Campbell likes this pyramid-shaped bookshelf, which serves as a cool decor piece and provides ample space for books, plants, picture frames, and so on.
“I had to use a drill, but it was very easy to assemble,” she says. “I wouldn’t put anything super heavy on it, but it holds a ton of books and plants and knick-knacks. I get a ton of compliments on it.” Get the Universal Expert Abacus Ladder Bookshelf on Amazon for $143.85
12. A system to keep track of your reads
Keeping a list of the books you’ve already completed is a sneaky way to get yourself to read more—if you can’t brag about having finished several books by the year's halfway point, how are you going to tack more onto the list? Fortunately, doing this is simple. If you have a smartphone, all you need to do is keep a list on its Notes app function. You can also consider signing up for Goodreads—a book cataloging-slash-reviewing website that also recommends books to you based on your ratings—to always have a digital list of your books close by.
Pen-and-paper traditionalists have options, too. One is a regular notebook, in which you can jot down every book you finish. Or get a journal designed for logging books, like the Book Riot’s Read Harder Reading Log. Reviewers love that it has dedicated spaces to write down every detail about the book, including when you started and finished it, your review, and notable quotes, to make your reading experience more mindful (and possibly help you kill more time while social distancing). It also includes 12 reading “challenges,” which prompt users to read different kinds of books than they might normally pick up, like ones originally published in a different language or by an independent press.
“I love the details! Each book gets two pages,” writes a reviewer. “I particularly like that the pages for the challenges ask you to specifically reflect on the challenges. I tend to forget to do that when moving through a reading challenge, checklist-style. The pages are thick enough that pens won’t bleed through. There is a ribbon bookmark and an elastic strap to keep the journal closed.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.