In a uni-induced reading slump? Here’s how to find your way out

University is where bookworms go to die. We are forced to read stuff which is an utter butchering of the English language, told to write in clear and concise English, and then bombarded with works, reading which is like moving through treacle, often from academics within our own departments. What’s worse, is that going down the route of intellectual history took me to Hegel: I advise against this unless you’re genuinely interested or a masochist.

The problem with university is that it seems designed to cause reading slumps, to make you hate books, and reading in general. But academic tomes don’t have to be dry, dull, and dense, there are plenty of good examples out there. David Landes is a wonderful historical story-teller who packs his history with anecdotes even making reading about the history of time, time-keeping, and clocks interesting. AJP Taylor was a fantastic writer of history, and Adam Tooze can turn the driest of financial histories into readable and informative works. Instead, we get lumbered with nonsensical words designed to gatekeep, books which could easily have been a single page, or articles that run in circles. There is often nothing joyful to university reading, quite the opposite at times, and that is why it has been the cause of reading slumps for many students.

The best advice is to be hopeful that somewhere out there you will find that book for fun, or an academic book which will show you the joy of reading

Prior to university I never had reading slumps; I had the odd book I could never finish, such as sadly Inkdeath which has languished for an entire decade half-read as I couldn’t finish it. One day perhaps. The best advice is to be hopeful that somewhere out there you will find that book for fun, or an academic book which will remind you of the joy of reading. It is all about hope.

Beyond that, the best solution in university reading is to pick essays, or preferably make your own titles, that directly appeal to you and you are passionate about. This not only is more fun and makes reading less of a chore, but usually leads to better marks too. My personal examples were essays on the English School of International Relations and the concept of Englishness in the English Civil War in second year, and now my dissertation too. If you have read my articles before you may have noticed many subtle or overt references to Bernard Mandeville. My advice is to make sure your dissertation is on something you love, that way reading for it will never be dull.

So, if you happen to fall into the trap, drag yourself out, find some fun fiction to read, or alternatively take a breather altogether and return later

Regarding general reading slumps, for me they have been caused by university reading. To escape, I always turn to my favourite series, to show you that reading is meant to be a joy, not something to get frustrated over. For me, my go-to series to rekindle the desire to read is Chris d’Lacey’s Last Dragon Chronicles, of which the first, The Fire Within, is my automatic read in hard times, or whenever I need to cleanse my mind of anything from stress or lethargy.

I get constant comments from my family and friends asking if I read for fun anymore. It is in those moments that I realise that even I have been subsumed by the university reading malaise, where all you read is your university stuff and reading becomes a chore. There is nothing worse for enjoying reading than university-level reading lists.

The way to escape is to step over bad readings where possible and realising there is better stuff out there. The sheer level of ungodly jargon and pretentious nonsense is what makes university bad for reading. So, if you happen to fall into the trap, drag yourself out, find some fun fiction to read, or alternatively take a breather altogether and return later. And don’t add to the problem by cramming essays with niche and weird words that have no place outside the tiny sub-section of your discipline, if at all possible.

Reading need not be a chore, it should be fun regardless of the content. Even trying out something entirely new is an option to show you that not everything has to drive you into a reading slump. From someone who hated poetry thanks to GCSE English, as soon as charity shops reopened I made a trip. I purchased a collection of English poetry, a book on international relations, even though I don’t do that anymore, and E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful. I won’t be letting university keep winning on reading slumps: I will try out something new, go back to books or topics I love, and hopefully conquer the beast.

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