How to make reading enjoyable again

Photo by Darien Funk

Most students, especially those in disciplines that require an extensive amount of reading, have not made their way to those disciplines by accident. There was a time when these avid readers would read solely for enjoyment. And then high school came along and mandated that they read a few books. But now, in university, it can be hard to escape academic texts and delve back into the hobby that many of us used to adore. 

I’m sure that most readers or former readers understand the battle between being a book-reader and a book-buyer. Personally, I have felt the latter pulling ahead slightly, so this article can be my self-serving way to narrow the lead. If you, like me, discover that you too are in this position, I may be able to offer some advice. 

First, you must figure out what you are willing to read. When selecting a book, do not overestimate your abilities. Sure, I could read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. It’s a book I would like to read. But which scenario is more realistic? Will I trudge through its cryptic pages every time I want something fun to do, understanding half of it if I’m lucky? Or is it likely I will get about 10 pages through and give up on the whole endeavour? Don’t overestimate yourself. Put down the Kant. Grab the Spike Milligan. You might even finish it. 

So now you’ve got yourself a book you can actually stand, where are you going to read it? I would suggest the strategy of having one location per activity. For example, if every time you do schoolwork, you sit at a desk, the two ideas will coexist in your brain. When you sit down at the desk, your brain will know the task at hand, and you’ll study productively. I’m not saying a spot for reading has to be all that formal. But finding a comfy chair in your house or apartment, or a table on the library’s silent floor, might be the flip of a switch your brain needs to focus on reading. 

My final word of advice would be one applicable to many areas of life. Be easy on yourself. If you get 20 minutes into reading a book, and you’re not enjoying it, that doesn’t make you “not a reader”. Put the book down, go outside, and come back to it later. And if you don’t come back to it, that’s okay too. Many of us have been too focused on getting class readings done for years that it’s hard to imagine that reading can be fun again. It can be. It’s just going to take some practice. So, grab a book you think you might enjoy, find a warm spot on a couch, and read for a little while. Who knows, you might even enjoy it.

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