Throughout childhood and into my teens I always had a book on hand—they were my greatest pleasure, and most of my all-nighters in high school were the fault of compelling novels rather than term papers. Then I came to college and something shifted. Thrown into a new environment and adjusting to so many new lifestyle changes, recreational reading fell a long way down on my list of priorities. If I read at all, they were textbook chapters and assigned books for my classes. Unread novels began to pile up on my bookshelf. Instead of cracking open one of the books I’d brought from home, I spent my evenings binge-watching Netflix or cracking jokes in the common room. Even after I’d adjusted to the rhythm of college life, my lack of reading had become a habit of its own and the number of books I read annually took a noticeable dive.
Some people are fine with this kind of reading volume. Maybe you get your stories from movies or television without any internal compunctions. This is a totally valid way to feel about books. Stories and creative stimulus are not confined to literature. Drama, film, performance art, etc.—all mediums of storytelling are fulfilling in their own way. But if, like me, unread books lurk at the back of your mind, if you feel guilty every time you walk out of a bookstore, if you grow increasingly frustrated every time you look at your bookshelf, or feel you are losing a valuable part of your identity, read on to discover how you can reclaim a love of books this summer.
SET ASIDE TIME TO READ
If you want reading to be part of your life, you need to make time for it. When people say “I don’t have enough time to read”, they are not approaching the problem correctly. They’re probably thinking about the cumulative amount of time it might take to finish a book, to flop down on a couch for a few hours with a new read and finish it in one sitting. Nobody has that kind of time anymore—the trick is to teach yourself to read in small bites. Maybe you don’t have a couple of hours to spare, but what about half an hour? Read on your lunch break or for 30 minutes at night in bed before you go to sleep. As an added benefit, reading a physical book instead of looking at the blue light from a computer or mobile device before bed may help you sleep more soundly!
READ OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
If you really can’t carve out any time at home for reading, let those spare minutes find you instead, and be prepared for them. Books, after all, are a uniquely portable magic. Waiting rooms, checkout lines, airport terminals—all were made for reading. Carry a book with you wherever you go. And don’t count out time while you’re driving! Audiobooks are growing in popularity, and thanks to services like Audible and iBooks they are more accessible than ever. By being flexible with when and how you read, books have more opportunities to capture your interest and integrate themselves into your daily routine.
READ INDULGENTLY, NOT RESPONSIBLY
Read books that you want to read. This sounds like a no-brainer, but for me it was a lesson that bore repeating. While I was in my book rut I was trying to read books like Paradise Lost or the collected letters of Robert Penn Warren. They were long, academic books that I felt I ought to read, that I wanted to have read, but when it came down to it I was not particularly interested in actually reading.
Recreational reading should not feel like work. If you’re struggling to finish a book, or find it all too easy to forget about it for days at a time, set it aside and find something new. There are too many books in the world to waste time on a boring one. Read what you like, whether it’s graphic novels or YA series or romances or science fiction, and don’t let yourself settle for anything that doesn’t excite you.