Self Care

Best Books to Start a Reading Habit for Adults (2024)

December 8, 2023

I'm Jess. This blog is a collection of everything I've learned as I rebuilt my self-image from a burned-out-extrovert-wannabe to an at-ease-introvert-bookworm.
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When I was younger, reading was my everything. But then life got in the way, and between work, stress, and introvert burnout, I lost the ability to enjoy it. Picking up a book felt indulgent, and I’d tell myself I had “better things to do.” But when I finally hit a turning point in my life, I decided to give reading another shot. And I realized… I’d been missing out all along. In this post, I’ll share the best books to start a reading habit for adults. I’ll also share how you can make a reading habit stick in 2024 and beyond.

Is Book Reading a Good Habit?

In my recent post about reading benefits for introverts, I touched upon some of the key benefits of reading as a way to recharge your energy:

  • It’s immersive without being draining.
  • It’s a constructive and relaxing challenge.
  • It’s a great way to disconnect from the outer world.
  • It can be therapeutic.
  • It engages your brain (versus passive hobbies that numb you).

Psychology also points out a lot of benefits to reading as an adult; MRI scans have confirmed that reading strengthens the neural network in your brain. It also enhances empathy, builds your vocabulary, and helps you understand and process a wide range of emotions through the eyes of the characters.

So, if you’re ready to start reading, but you aren’t sure how to make a habit of it, don’t worry. I’ve put together this post that will help you get started. We won’t just discuss recommendations for the best books to start reading — we’ll talk about how to build a regular reading habit that feels good and works for you.

When thinking about the best books to start a reading habit, consider how excited you are to read a book. Excitement will help you succeed at building the habit.

Is It Too Late to Start a Reading Habit?

Maybe you’re well into adulthood thinking, “I’ve missed my chance.” But it’s never too late to add rewarding, new hobbies into your life.

As adults, we’re prone to giving up things that give us joy in favor of more “mature” and “important” things — like work.

But if you give up all the little things that make you feel good, do any of the important things you’ve prioritized really matter?

If they did, you wouldn’t feel burned out, anxious, or stressed all the time. It’s like society has conditioned us to think that once we hit adulthood (i.e., over the age of 25), we need to swear off fun in favor of being productive all the time.

It’s a toxic belief that so many of us fall for, but guess what? You can break free and find joy by rediscovering small habits that bring you joy. Reading can be a major source of joy — and you aren’t limited to memoirs, classics, and all the other adult-y books we think we “should be” reading.

How Do You Develop a Reading Habit for Beginners?

The first thing to do is start small.

Like, really, really small.

Start by reading a sentence or paragraph every day before moving on to an entire novel.

Reading little by little is a better way to build a habit. It helps you avoid falling prey to unhealthy expectations that have the opposite effect on your brain. Did you know that psychology research has found certain types of expectations decrease your willingness to do something?

Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy theory proposes that when you have lower belief in your abilities, you’re less likely to feel motivated by your own expectations. So, if you think you can’t commit to a reading habit or that it’s too hard for you, you are less likely to even try.

Set small goals to keep yourself motivated, trigger your brain’s natural reward system by celebrating your accomplishments (even the small ones), and keep reading fun.

The best books to start a reading habit are those that suck you in and keep you engaged. There’s no “bad” genre- whatever captures your attention is best!

Top Tips to Make Reading Easy as an Adult

  • Read what you want. It’s okay to skip the classics or “grown-up” novels (unless that’s what you’re into).
  • Start tiny! Read only a sentence, paragraph, or page at first. Then, add on little by little.
  • Read books that are page-turners for you — yes, even if they’re young adult or romance novels.
  • Keep the books simple at first. Avoid any major fantasy genres with heavy world-building or non-fiction books that drain you.
  • Set aside a daily time to read.
  • Carry a book with you everywhere.
  • Celebrate yourself every time you read.
  • Follow a reading influencer for inspiration. #bookstagram or #booktok are great hashtags for finding pages that motivate you.
  • Create a Goodreads account to track books you want to read and discover new titles.
  • Download Libby, a library app that lets you check out books and even audiobooks for free.
  • Look up audiobooks on YouTube — you can sample the first chapter of many popular titles and decide if they’re for you.
  • Join a book club or reading group if that’s motivating for you.
  • Annotate freely. Make a connection with your book by highlighting, writing, and making notes in margins. If you can’t bear to mark-up a page, try sticky notes and highlight strips!

How Should I Start Reading Again?

When you were younger, everyone knew you as the bookworm. They probably asked you for recommendations, and there was never a time you couldn’t envision yourself curled up with a good story.

Life happens, though. I get it. And it’s not uncommon for us to lose touch with things we used to love. The good news is we can always go back! You don’t have to feel guilty for all the external pressures that distract you.

You also shouldn’t see reading as a status symbol or title. Nothing is stripped from you if you don’t read for a while or don’t meet certain standards. Reading is supposed to be a joy, so you should do it when it works for you and feels good.

Consider changing your expectations. Are you comparing yourself to how you used to read? Your attention span may have changed, you might have less energy, your tastes might have shifted, and that’s all 100% okay. Work with who you are now, not who you used to be.

When we’re younger, we often have a lot more free time to focus on hobbies. So devouring three books in a week may have been great during college, but as busy adults, we can’t put aside everything else to read 24/7. And that’s fine!

Reading doesn’t have to be anything other than what you want it to be. Books are there for you when you need them, and they expect nothing of you. They just want to share a story and help you relax.

Common Traps to Avoid

  • Bookstagram (Instagram’s book community) and BookTok (TikTok’s book community). They’re great for inspiration, but keep your exposure in small doses if you’re prone to achievement dysmorphia or overspending. Avoid following too many accounts or getting lost in the tag. They can encourage overconsumption and even make you form unrealistic or unhelpful expectations around what reading has to look like.
  • Thinking one genre is better than the other. Whether you love romance, fantasy, young adult, or even middle grade novels, there’s nothing wrong with reading what makes you happy. There are so many children’s books with beautiful illustrations and heartwarming stories that can be far better for you emotionally than a more popular novel. It’s interesting to note that all the so-called frivolous novels tend to come from multi-million dollar industries.
  • Focusing on quantity. Reading one book a year compared to zero? I’d call that an achievement. Some people read over 100 books a year, and that’s great for them! But that doesn’t have to be you. Read when you can, when you want, and read what makes you happy.
The best books to start a reading habit are those that you want to read, not those that you feel obligated to read. Give yourself permission to try genres, authors, and books you’ve always wanted to read.

Easy Ways to Make Reading More Affordable

Buying books outright is costly, and it can be a waste of money if you wind up not liking some of the titles you read. Also, I’ve found buying too many books at once can even make it harder to read, because that huge pile can feel like another to-do list.

Instead, consider reading more by:

The Best Books to Start a Reading Habit

Now that we’ve gotten through the tips to start reading, let’s check out some of the best books to start a reading habit. These are my top picks for new readers or those rekindling their love for reading!

These are feel-good page turners that will make you excited to read. We’re steering clear of heavy topics or plots that, although intriguing, can weigh you down.

If any of these genres entice you, you’ll be happy to learn there are dozens of more novels out there for you to discover – and there are even amazing books with introverted main characters.

Contemporary Romance

Fantasy Romance

Second Chance Romance (aka Emotional Rollercoasters)

Small Town Romance

  • “Whispers of You” by Catherine Cowles — Her long-lost high school sweetheart comes back to town just as the ghosts from their past come out to haunt them.
  • “Indigo Ridge” by Devney Perry — She moves to a small town for a new job and to be closer to her grandfather, and accidentally breaks her “no sleeping with the locals” rule on night one. This one’s a murder mystery as well.
  • “Flawless” by Elsie Silver — A professional bull rider who needs major PR help gets assigned a chaperone. It just happens to be his agent’s daughter who is totally off limits yet someone he can’t resist.

Final Thoughts

Even though these are the best books to start a reading habit in my experience, there’s no wrong answer!

Remember to have fun choosing books that really speak to you, and don’t be afraid to put ones down if they don’t resonate.

Keep exploring, have fun, and make reading a part of your life little by little.

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