Reading Tips: Reading with ADHD

My ADHD journey is relatively new: years ago, I had a therapist in college mention the possibility of ADHD in addition to my anxiety, but at the time I dismissed it, having fallen for the common stereotypes (constantly hyperactive and disruptive).

Several years ago, I sought treatment for PTSD after my divorce (see Looking Back at my Year), and my primary doctor mentioned that some of my symptoms also sounded like ADHD – being easily startled by loud sounds, and how hard it was for me to return to my work after. I once again dismissed it. For me, it took my older sister’s input – she was in pursuit of an education degree, and recognized a lot of the symptoms in herself, and ultimately, in me as well.

Last year I was officially diagnosed, and I am still learning about all the ways that it has affected me over the years without me realizing it. Most of these tips, therefore, I developed pre-diagnosis, but if you have a hard time starting and/or finishing books, then hopefully something here will help you, too.


This is far and above my most helpful workaround with reading struggles. I love reading a physical book – I love the feel of it in my hands, I love the smell, and I love being surrounded by books. But I still have a hard time actually finishing the books that I buy. I have trouble making room in my schedule to sit down and read a book, and even when I find the time, I still sometimes get distracted by other things.

Audiobooks are the real key to reading as much as I do. There are so many opportunities to put on a speaker or some headphones and listen to an audiobook – on my commute to work, while I’m at work, on a walk or at the gym, while doing dishes or doing laundry, or even sometimes when I just want to listen to a book and play a game on my phone. I have an active Audible subscription as well as two apps that let me check out books from my local library (Libby and Hoopla), and audiobooks have saved me so many times when I get in a reading slump.

Permission to Give Up

It took me a long time to get to this point, but another useful tool is simply giving myself permission to give up on a book. I am fairly selective on the books that I start, but even once I start a book, I am more willing now to give up if I don’t like the character, or the setting, or if the pacing is off, or if it just doesn’t capture my attention.

There are so, so many new books published every year, and fantastic older books that I haven’t gotten to. I’m not going to waste time on a book that I’m not enjoying, when there is so much out there that I will enjoy.

Taking Advantage of Different Formats

One of the best things about reading for fun these days is the freedom of hopping from one format to another. Most of the time I have a book going in every format – an ebook, an audiobook, and a physical book. That way I can read no matter what I’m doing, especially if the mood strikes.

The same goes for genres – I will typically have books started in several different genres so I can pick something up and read, no matter what kind of mood I’m in.

Reading Tracking and Goals

This is probably my biggest tip, and perhaps the one that’s most counterintuitive: I find that tracking my reading and setting reading goals accordingly really helps drive my reading habits. It helps keep me focused on the things that are most important to me.

I do this with a combination of Goodreads and a spreadsheet, where I log the books I read as well as some statistics about them. It does add some work, and I don’t always log things consistently, but it adds a lot of value and intent to my reading, and makes the entire experience more worthwhile.

One thought on “Reading Tips: Reading with ADHD

  1. Interesting. I’m always amazed by people who can listen to audiobooks, because the format just doesn’t work for me. I have yet to find a more effective cure for insomnia. Listening to audiobooks has a 99.9% success rate at rendering me unconscious in under 5 minutes.

    But I wish I had the ability to give up on books I’m not enjoying. Sadly, once I start reading a book it’s more or less guaranteed that I will finish it, no matter how long it takes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s