Reading Rut? Tips to Get Out of One

You may love reading, but sometimes it’s just plain difficult to get it done!  Book lovers who grew up with the internet know the struggle of choosing the book over the screen. My peers and I all thoroughly enjoyed reading in our elementary and middle school days, but found it increasingly difficult to keep up the habit going into high school. The idea of spending a Saturday afternoon in a fictional world put one at risk for some serious FOMO (fear of missing out) at that age. But according to recent polls, millennials are now reading more than any other demographic. The poll of 6,000 Americans found that “some 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79 percent of those older than 30.” Good news, right?

Despite all the distractions of the modern age, younger people are making time for good ol’ fashion books. I’m here to provide some tips on how to get back into reading after a hiatus.

Tip#1  Read what you want to read

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Nothing sucks the fun out of reading like imposing a curriculum on yourself. Reading lists are for school, and school is what ruined reading in the first place (for many of us). If you’ve been to college, you know how maddening it is to have your brain jammed full of a million irrelevant ideas of what constitutes “good” or “literary” work. Clear your mind of all that before visiting your local book store, and give judging a book by its cover a try. Pick up something with cool artwork, or a cool title. Pick up something you’ve never heard of. READ WHAT YOU WANT.

Tip #2  Relax

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Go somewhere you’re comfortable sitting for a long period of time. If you don’t trust yourself near a TV or laptop, then try going to a public place like a park or cafe. If going out just makes you antsy to get back home, then stay home. Wherever you are, you should not be itching to leave every five pages. This summer I’ve taken to reading in the park just before sunset. Perfect lighting. Perfect temperature. And there’s nothing better than walking home in the sunset’s glow, with your mind animated by a great read.  

Tip #3  Keep up a good pace

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One of the more bizarre things about literature as an art form is that the art isn’t in the thing itself, but in the levers it pulls in your brain. We all know words and sentences are just useless scratches and scribbles if you stand far enough away. But reading is like being put under an author’s spell, and for the spell to work, you have to lose yourself in the rhythm and beauty of the language. That’s why you should read fast. Language doesn’t come to life when you’re constantly re-reading and underlining and looking things up. Every author has a distinct voice, and it will only come across if you tap into their tone. Don’t worry if you don’t know every single word an author uses, or if you miss a couple plot points the first time round. You can always read it again.

Tip #4  Read it in less than two weeks


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Philip Roth once said while lamenting societies’ declining interest in reading, that if it takes you longer than two weeks to read a book, then you didn’t really read it. This seems a little hyperbolic, especially coming from a literary master who probably has freakish reading abilities, but there is something to it. Reading rewards patience and persistence, so you’ll always be better off trudging through the difficult bits to keep tempo. If you put a book down for too long, you risk never being able to return, which is not a good thing if you were really amped to read it in the first place.  

Tip #5 Read Everything, Everywhere


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This one is a slight contradiction to #2, but you won’t always find that you’re environment is commensurate with the ideal reading experience. Most of today’s world is a cacophony of distraction, and you might have to work your concetration muscles if you want to keep up with your reading. So bring your books everywhere. Read on the bus, in waiting rooms, at the laundromat, everywhere you might find yourself sitting still with nothing to do. By establishing the habit of reading at every spare moment, you make the acitivity a lot less daunting. A lot of the time I avoid picking up a book because I’m afraid I won’t be rewarded for the work it requires, or that I just plain won’t get it. But so what?  Not every book will change your life. Not every sentence of what you’re reading is going to nourish your soul.  Getting back into reading is about building up stamina, so lower your expectations and get reading!

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