Civic Innovations

Technology, Government Innovation, and Open Data

Moar Reading in 2023

In the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to read more books.

I was always an avid reader, ever since I was a kid. But starting in roughly 2008 or so I noticed that I had slipped out of the habit of picking up a book and reading it. It bothered me for a while.

There were a few things going on in my life at that time that probably contributed to my decline in reading. My professional life was pretty intense at the time. My wife and I were starting a family. And, of course, I had an iPhone which I quickly integrated into my life and stared at. A lot.

I read sporadically through the early and mid 2010s, never really picking up the habit again in earnest. Then about 3 years ago, I decided to become a committed reader again. It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, and way more rewarding than I had anticipated.

In 2022, I managed to go through roughly 30 books. Not too shabby. Here’s what I did to pick my reading habit back up. Maybe one of these strategies will work for you if, like I once did, you miss being a reader.

Get a library card. Probably the most powerful and important tool in your toolbox as a rejuvenated reader. If you have kids, get one for them as well. Use it often.

Put down your device. I made a conscious effort to try and reduce my screen time, and it has helped me find more time to read books. I also try not to read books on my iPhone or a device of any kind because it makes it easer to make a clean break from my device. But if you do like reading on your device, that’s OK too. You are in charge of how you read.

Mix up the genres and authors. It’s easy to try and justify the time you spend reading by making it “about work” or making it something you feel is weighty or important. And while there is nothing wrong with reading about history, politics, or tech, reading is supposed to be fun too. Move outside your comfort zone. Try some things that are different. Look for new authors. Pick up a book in a genre that you might not typically choose. There are so many good books out there, and your old biases and hangups might be keeping you from a read that will change your life.

Mix up the formats. I listened to more audiobooks in 2022 than ever before. It’s a great way to spend time while you are walking the dog, shoveling the driveway, loading the dishwasher, etc. I almost don’t mind folding a basket of clothes when I have a good book to listen to. Almost.

Don’t be afraid to not finish. I used to feel like, when I selected a book, that I had to muscle through it – even if I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. Don’t be afraid to switch it up if a book isn’t working for you. The only judge that matters on what is good and adds to your reading enjoyment is you. No one will judge you if you don’t finish.

Read more than one book at a time. This is the ultimate pleasure of reading in my opinion. Who says you can’t have multiple books going at once? No one fun, that’s who! Be promiscuous with your reading if you want to. You are the master of your own reading habits. Do what brings you joy.

These strategies have worked for me and made me an avid reader again, and I’ll never go back.

I hope they help you too.

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About Me

I am the former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia. I also served as Director of Government Relations at Code for America, and as Director of the State of Delaware’s Government Information Center. For about six years, I served in the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS), and helped pioneer their work with state and local governments. I also led platform evangelism efforts for TTS’ cloud platform, which supports over 30 critical federal agency systems.

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