After an extended slump in reading, motivation and momentum often begins to slowly dwindle  – perhaps with a book that you just can’t finish. You promise yourself that you’ll try again tomorrow, or start reading something else to freshen up, a last-minute ditch-effort to remember why you  wanted to read anything in the first place. But it never happens, and then you blink and it’s been a week, a month, or even a year since you read anything other than the backs of cereal boxes.

Some of us have been in slumps since we were forcibly dragged through various classics during GCSE or A Level Literature. (Nothing kills passion for reading like making Tess of the D’Urbervilles essential to getting a university education). It makes sense. The end of school and the start of University doesn’t leave much time for expanding your reading world. However, let’s go through some ways to get ‘back on the wagon’.

A brief Google of this article’s title conjures up some less than ideal methods. For some, joining an app like Goodreads, Bookworm or StoryGraph can be motivational. But others may feel dread as friends and acquaintances’ yearly totals rise while their own stats stay ‘shamefully’ low. Before downloading, consider how comfortable you are reading at your own pace, despite how fast others might read. If it’s not for you, try a private account or physical record of books read, like a notebook or wall chart. 

One method seems very popular online: forcing it. Posts recommend giving yourself a target of ten pages or so a day, which could certainly help if you are a more goal-oriented person. However, I am broadly against the industrialisation of reading, believing that it should be fun. Breaking out of the shame-inaction cycle is essential to getting out of a slump, and becoming your own year four reading record does not seem conducive to this. Instead, I’d advise you to start taking a book with you throughout your day – we’re all Sussex students with spacious tote bags, after all – and picking up a book during a time usually spent on your phone such as whilst on the bus to University. Make reading a break in your day.

Then there are, of course, audiobooks. Spotify Premium now offers one free audiobook a month for subscribers. Alternatively, another quick, easy, and free option is the BBC Sounds app, which is currently offering various classics (without it I would never have gotten into Jane Eyre, now one of my favourite books ever), as well as contemporary fiction and non-fiction hits like How to Kill Your Family, Yellowface and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. To reduce a slump, incorporate listening to a book into your commute, trip home or time at the gym.

Finally, there is the reading equivalent of a plunge into freezing water: compulsive reads. Books that you consume in one sitting, hunched over, unable to stop reading. For myself, these include Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, a short, beautiful story about trans lives in late twentieth-century Japan; Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, the author’s personal meditations on grief; and the aforementioned Rebecca F. Kuang novel Yellowface, a funny, compulsive thriller set in the cutthroat world of modern publishing. 

Most importantly: be kind to yourself. Reading for pleasure must be just that, not a labour or something that generates anxiety. Keep trying and you will get there. Happy reading!

Categories: Arts Books

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