How I developed a reading habit

Ashley Chang
4 min readOct 22, 2023

Recently, one of my friends told me I read and write more than anyone he knows. “That can’t be”, I thought. For years, I never picked up a book to read for fun. Yet, I really looked up to people who always had a book they worked through during their free time. I spent years wanting to become an avid reader but not doing anything about it.

Somewhere between whatever we consider to be childhood and adulthood, I lost the proclivity toward independent reading. Speaking amongst my friends, this weird transition seemed to have affected many of them, too.

Books go back to literally 500 BC and have been the ultimate vehicle for knowledge transfer between people. It transcends the typical barriers of geography and time. These days, there are other formats of knowledge transfer, but books are really the original.

There are two reasons why I wanted to become an avid reader:

  1. To learn from different perspectives
  2. To have more interesting conversations

In general, it’s a no-brainer as to why reading is a good habit.

The challenges I experienced when I tried to read more

  1. It’s hard to pick up a habit.
  2. It’s different from more modern content consumption formats.
  3. I was picking the wrong books.
  4. It wasn’t fun. It’s hard to start reading for fun if, well, you don’t think it’s fun.
  5. Reading requires a certain level of engagement and energy that I didn’t always have.

How I did it

  1. To combat picking up a habit — In addition to doing a year-long exercise in forming new habits, I also set up daily reading time. Even if it was just ten minutes of reading, I tried to make progress in my book every day.
  2. To get used to this format of entertainment — Getting used to books for entertainment can be difficult because they are not as obviously stimulating as television.
  3. To find the right books — I started reading books relevant to my life on the things I was thinking through daily. I actually attribute the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S F. Heller to the revival of my reading habit. I picked up the book attached during the summer of 2021 when I was working through some internal turmoil within the context of my relationship. It taught me a lot about the science behind the feelings I was experiencing and gave examples of relatable people. More importantly, I wanted to pick it up whenever I had free time or struggled with attachment.
  4. To make it fun — I had to unassociate reading books with doing homework, an association I learned through many years of being a full-time student. Understanding that I could get entertainment out of reading and that I was doing this for myself with no external pressures, deadlines, or limitations helped me see reading as a fun thing I’m choosing to do for fun.
  5. To have the mental energy to pick up a book — I am not as busy and drained as I once was. I put in a lot of self-exploration to find a balance in my schedule that doesn’t wipe me out. I also typically have two or three different types of books I’m always working through. I often am not in the mood for certain types of books depending on how much energy I have. Essentially, having this choice lowered the activation energy I needed to put into picking up a book and starting to read it.

Is it worth it to develop a strong reading habit?

It was worth it for me! My life has become exponentially enriched because of the books I’ve been reading!

  1. I have certainly learned from different perspectives. Reading books written by experts in the respective field is particularly useful. I used to be weary about reading these types of books in my free time because I always struggled reading through dense textbooks. But there are actually several formats I’ve found quite entertaining and easy to read, like memoirs and other first-person accounts of a person’s life work.
  2. I have also found my conversations to be more interesting. Through reading, I’ve been exposed to several ideas I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. Many of these ideas have led to much reflection and discussion among my friends. I’ve formed lots of new opinions and I feel like I have more substance backing these thoughts.

My purpose behind sharing this is not to convince anyone to read more but rather to share my personal experience with reading and how I went from being insecure about not enjoying reading to feeling like I don’t have enough time in the world to read all of the books that I want to. It’s been a fun journey, but it’s not over. My reading habit will always be something I adjust to fit my schedule and needs.



Ashley Chang

22-year-old NYC-based software engineer | Writing about the life lessons I'm learning along the way.