How to Jump-start Your New Year’s Reading Resolution Advice and tips from Baltimore’s best bibliophiles

How to Jump-start Your New Year’s Reading Resolution
Image via Unsplash by Thought Catalog

With a new year comes a chance to explore new things. Why not add reading more books to your list of new habits for 2021? We spoke with four local bookstores and libraries to learn the best ways to jump-start your reading resolution.

Explore advice from The Ivy Bookshop’s Emily Rosen, outreach manager, and Hannah Fenster, special projects manager; Julia Fleischaker, owner of Greedy Reads; Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books; and the Baltimore County Public Library’s Jamie Watson, collection development manager, and the library’s collection development department.


Find connections in the books you love

“Are they printed by the same publisher? Do they have some of the same people write the blurbs on the back? Is there a common theme in them? Do they have similar characters? Focus on what’s most common in your recent books and use it to determine what your next read will be. If you have one book that you really love, then see what the publisher or people who blurbed it have recommended.”—Emily Rosen and Hannah Fenster, The Ivy Bookshop


Set a reading goal for yourself

“Goodreads is a great place to (set a reading goal)—they’ll keep track of it for you! I stretch to 100. Last year I missed it by two, but that’s OK. One of my staff members has a goal of 300. That’s a real stretch. Or keep it small. My sister reads one chapter a day. Books with short chapters—or chapters that end on cliffhangers—will make you beat your goal every day because you won’t be ready to put the book down!”—Jamie Watson and the collection development team at Baltimore County Public Library


Carve out time to read

“I used to do most of my reading in the evenings before I went to sleep, and I still try to do that. Now, I usually try to get up a little early to read in the morning while I have a cup of coffee. Usually, I try to read a few minutes each weekday morning and an hour or two on weekend mornings. Just set aside some regular time when you can be engaged in a book—y’know, just like exercise.”—Benn Ray, Atomic Books


Subscribe to newsletters

“Baltimore has a number of independent bookstores that have their own unique personalities. Subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social media. Check them all out and see which most closely matches your interests and aesthetics. When we at Atomic Books post about a book, it’s because it’s something we’re legitimately excited about or interested in.”—Benn Ray, Atomic Books


Find a book club

“It’s a really powerful thing to have a book club with friends or strangers. Especially in the pandemic, we’ve noticed how formative that experience is. It can open up new topics of conversations with friends and is great to freshen and deepen those relationships. Plus it helps to have other people keeping you accountable without it becoming a chore—reading should never feel like a chore.”—Emily Rosen and Hannah Fenster, The Ivy Bookshop


Check out social media

“Follow authors you like on Instagram. Elin Hilderbrand is exceptional about recommending books she’s loving. Or use the hashtag #bookstagram to find more.”—Jamie Watson and the collection development team at Baltimore County Public Library


Book swap with friends

“Who knows you better than your friends? Why not let one pick your next read from their bookshelf? You can include however many people you want. Do it through the mail or, if you’re local, drop off on stoops or even arrange a central pickup place and time where you can stay socially distanced but still come away with a new great read.”—Julia Fleischaker, Greedy Reads


Read short stories or articles

“This is the best way to feel like you’re reading a lot while keeping it manageable. You can read for 10 minutes then do something else. Children’s books are great because they’re short and often the authors are really wise so you can still learn about life and yourself.”—Emily Rosen and Hannah Fenster, The Ivy Bookshop


Don’t feel guilty about not finishing a book

“Put it down and pick up something else. Life is too short to force yourself to finish books you aren’t into. I used to force myself to finish books that I didn’t like or found dull. You know how many of those redeemed themselves in the end? None. All that time I could have spent reading other things ….”—Benn Ray, Atomic Books


Try reading a physical book

“Personally, I find using paper books and turning off devices is best. The temptation to wander off to another part of the internet is always too tempting when I’m reading electronically. Envision yourself with a cup of tea in front of a big window watching snow come down and open your book. Don’t you feel better already?”—Jamie Watson and the collection development team at Baltimore County Public Library


Explore bookstore sales

“We regularly have sidewalk sales (weather permitting) and also put out boxes of free books from time to time. I would imagine other local bookstores do too. Pass by local bookstores when you’re out and about and see what they have going on outside. You never know. If all else fails, you can always try and steal books from large corporate chains. I’m kidding! Don’t steal books.”—Benn Ray, Atomic Books


Listen to audio books

“Audio books. They totally count! Again, multitask by listening in the car, while doing housework or while working on routine tasks. A cool bonus of audio books is getting to hear how things are pronounced and how names are used. I love hearing celebrities read their own memoirs: it’s like riding around and hearing good stories in a voice you know. True audio book listeners will start searching for narrators as much as authors!”—Jamie Watson and the collection development team at Baltimore County Public Library


Make friends with libraries

“We love libraries. We cannot say enough about them. The Enoch Pratt Free Library offers so many different, free ways to read. They’ve done an incredible job during the pandemic to make books accessible. Support your local library as much as your independent bookstore!”—Emily Rosen and Hannah Fenster, The Ivy Bookshop

“Libraries are still getting new books and going strong with curbside checkouts. If you miss browsing, at Baltimore County Public Library, you can try one of our ‘Be Surprised’ kits and let someone do the browsing for you!”—Jamie Watson and the collection development team at Baltimore County Public Library


Reading Sources

Both Baltimore County Public Library and the Enoch Pratt Free Library have audio books and e-books available for download.

Ray, Rosen and Fenster also recommend exploring, which offers a range of audio books and splits the profits with the independent bookstore of your choosing.

Click here to check out BCPL’s “Be Surprised” kits.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here