As a lifelong bookworm, it saddens me greatly that a lot of people around my age don’t find the same enjoyment in reading as I do. It occured to me recently, though, that the reason why a lot of college students don’t read for pleasure is because they’ve simply forgotten how. From the time we’re in sixth or seventh grade, reading is a largely prescribed activity–I remember having required summer reading in middle school and being assigned books to read for English class in high school. Another major reason why people don’t read is because they can’t find books they enjoy, and I think we can all agree that years of assigned reading really inhibits one’s ability to develop their own taste in books. So, if you want to make an effort to read more, but don’t know where to start, here are some tips:
Read the synopsis
Reading the synopsis is one of the easiest ways to determine whether or not you’ll enjoy a book. It’s a short, spoiler-free overview of the book that provides general information about the characters and plot. If you’re looking for a specific genre or type of book, the synopsis of a particular novel will tell you whether or not it fits the bill. Synopses are really easy to find online, and sometimes they’re even printed on the back cover or jacket flap of a book. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge it by its synopsis .
Look for honest reviews
You might notice that a lot of books have those little one-sentence reviews on the cover from popular magazines and newspapers singing all of the praises about it. Sure, someone who writes for The New Yorker may think the book is a “masterpiece”, but that doesn’t mean you’ll think the same. A quick Google search of a book’s title will come back with dozens of reviews from blogs and websites. Look for reviews that aren’t sponsored by or affiliated with the author or the publishing house that published the book, as they’re more likely to be unbiased and opinion-based. Some books are controversial in that some people love it and some hate it, but if I happen upon multiple reviews that echo similar sentiments about a book (good or bad), I pay attention.
Don’t equate hype with quality
A book could be hyped for a lot of reasons, and not necessarily because it’s good. Usually, it’s because the author is well-known or because the book promises to be original or groundbreaking in some way. Some books receive as much criticism as they do hype. For example, Twilight is a New York Times bestselling series, but it’s still criticized a decade after its publication for its sloppy writing and cringe-inducing storyline. Peer pressure is very real though, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading hyped books just because everyone else seems to rave about how amazing it is. It’s better to form your own opinions about books by reading synopses and reviews.
Pinpoint what it is that you DON’T like
This sounds counterintuitive, but by weeding out the books you don’t think you’d enjoy, you can more easily find the ones that you’d like. In my experience, everyone has at least one narrative trope or character archetype that they can’t stand. Common ones include love triangles, weak female characters, and slow-moving storylines (I personally hate all three). A synopsis or honest review of the book will likely be able to tell you if a book includes something you don’t appreciate before you pick it up. Once you determine which books you won’t like, you can get on with finding ones that you will.
Follow publishing houses and authors on social media
If you feel as though you’re out of the loop as to which books are available and coming out, social media can help keep you up to date. Many authors and publishing houses post regularly on various social media platforms (mostly Facebook and Instagram) about the books they’ve published or that are coming out soon. They may even post links to order or pre-order their books. For example, I follow the publishing company Penguin Random House on Instagram, and on the first day of every month they post a photo featuring all of the books that they will be releasing that month. Once you know about what books are out, you can start looking up synopsis and reviews.
Deep down, I think we all know that reading is beneficial: it opens our eyes to new perspectives, engages our imagination, and improves our vocabulary. Years of having books chosen for us makes many think that reading is a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. If you choose a book with a storyline and characters that you like, it can be as as fun as binging a TV series or watching a movie.