Aside from the news, the content of The Boar and the menus of various Leamington kebab shops, it would be fair to say that I don’t really choose to read for fun. It would be easy to put this down to laziness, or a lack of time. Some have even suggested that constant academic reading for my history degree has turned any form of it into a chore. I’m not convinced. I think there is something more fundamental stopping me from reading.
A Level English was definitely the point at which I started to fall out of love with reading. I found Pride and Prejudice no more stimulating than a regular episode of Jeremy Kyle, and the poems in The Bloody Chamber only made me wonder what kind of twisted person could write such a thing. It wasn’t just the fact that I disliked the books. It was more that people couldn’t comprehend my dislike of them. ‘But it’s a classic!’ is all anyone could utter with horror whenever I complained. I really don’t care if Wuthering Heights defined a genre – I couldn’t get into it and I wish we could get over the idea that some books just have to be loved.
The real issue for me is that I don’t know how to find something good to read
I am not one of those godawful people who claim they can find ‘nothing to read’. There are billions of books out there. The real issue for me is that I don’t know how to find something good to read that fits my interests. A blurb is never quite enough to reel me in and pales in comparison to film trailers, and I dread the idea of investing time in something I may end up hating.
Part of the problem is definitely my own impatience, and as someone who struggles to sit through a film, reading is difficult. All I would say however, is that I’m still willing to be won over.
As a second year English Literature student, a decent chunk of my term time studying is spent reading. People often say to me that I am living any book lover’s dream: my full time occupation is reading, rather than having to fit it around a full time job, or around my science textbooks.
While I completely understand this point of view and do love my degree, my experience of studying literature hasn’t been what people often expect it to be. In fact, I’ve found myself almost unable to enjoy reading in term time.
I currently take a lot of modules focused on earlier literature from the 17th to the 19th Century and naturally these don’t often make for light reading. I have chosen these modules of course because I find these periods fascinating, and love learning about how the literature fits into the historical context. However, they involve such focused attention that they make me feel like reading is something that requires energy and focus, rather than something I can do at the end of my day when I am tired.
Due to the nature of my course, I have often struggled to see reading as still pleasurable and something to do in my leisure time. This is frustrating as reading used to be something that helped me to relax in my spare time.
I can read on the beach or in my bed or in a car, as well as the library
Having reading as my full-time occupation indeed has many perks: I can read on the beach or in my bed or in a car, as well as the library. However, the association of reading now being work is hard to turn off when I choose to read for pleasure.
As well as being a great way to learn new things, numerous studies have suggested that reading is extremely good for your mental health. Doctors often even prescribe reading for their patients and yet, in periods of stress, reading feels like the last thing you want to do.
Last summer I realised that I wanted to get into reading for pleasure properly again, and it was successful. I got back to experiencing what I did when I was younger when I didn’t want to put my books down.
For the students experiencing something similar, I thought I’d come up with a few tips to get back into reading after it becoming a chore:
Start by reading something trashy. Although this may seem counterintuitive, sometimes you just need to read something easy that you can get through quickly. You don’t want it to be a struggle to get through, or for you to be able to over-analyse every sentence. Try something contemporary and easy. You might even want to try a YA novel.
You could find other works by the same authors
You could also try looking back over your books from the past couple of years that you have enjoyed and you remember getting into. You could choose to reread these if you like rereading, or you could find other works by the same authors. This will help you to get through the books initially, as you know what is coming and can be more convinced that you’ll like it.
Once you’ve got through a couple of books, it might be useful to change it up a bit and try something new. I’ve recently got into dystopias for the first time, something I didn’t think I would have enjoyed. It is definitely worth trying something new and sticking through the first few chapters and seeing if you can get into it.
You could setting a goal to read every day as a New Year’s resolution, or just for a shorter period to help you get into it. They say it takes 40 days to make a habit, so try to get reading into your routine. The benefits to reading every day are huge for your mental health and stress levels, so starting to read every day is sure to make the coming term easier.