Rediscovering the Joys of Reading: My Quarantine Journey

Many students spend their first couple of college years grappling over which major to pursue. I was fortunate enough to enter college with my mind already set on a major—English Literature. Please don’t ask me what I want to do with my degree after school, all I know is that I love everything to do with books and writing. At least, I used to… 

Growing up, I was a voracious reader, snatching up any book that I could get my hands on, and keeping extensive lists of all the books I had completed. However, I noticed a big change when I reached high school. The time that I had for reading and my overall interest in reading diminished before my eyes. Instead of reading 100+ books per year, I would be lucky to complete 5 or 6. What changed?

Well, for starters, I began taking a lot more English classes that involved reading multiple novels a month. None of these books were ever of my own choosing and I found all my time being eaten up by the mind-numbing works of Hawthorne and Melville. These books may have taught me something, but I could not find the same joy in reading them. 

The next hurdle was time. I was so focused on schoolwork, my job, and extracurricular activities that I no longer had 2-3 hours to dedicate to reading for pleasure. In many ways, it was a good thing that I was spending more time interacting with others. But instead of finding a balance for both school and reading, I completely eliminated something that I loved. 

Finally, the largest contributor to my lack of reading, was the fact that I got my first phone when I started high school. As much as time was an issue, I could have probably squeezed in a few minutes of reading instead of spending hours on Youtube and scrolling through Buzzfeed. My phone was something new and exciting and I—like many people—would easily get sucked into hours of nonsense. 

Long story short, I had forgotten the joy that reading for pleasure gave me and had inadvertently started hating a major that I once loved. In some ways, quarantine provided me with a gift—the time to reevaluate my life and re-spark an interest in my long-forgotten hobbies. I knew that I was not going to be changing my behavior overnight, so I instead relied on a series of small steps to reintroduce myself to the joys of reading.

1. Don't Set Unrealistic Goals

I set the realistic goal of reading 7 books over the summer months. The days of old when I could easily read 100 books a year are long-gone. I needed to accept that—as an adult—I have other responsibilities and cannot dedicate multiple hours of my day to reading. It was okay for me to put down a book after 20 minutes, as long as I made the effort to read a little bit each day.

2. Only Read Books that Spark Joy 

As an English major, I can sometimes get caught up in appearances and question my choice of reading materials. I was not going to spend my summer reading War and Peace because I thought it would please my professors and make me seem like an intellectual. I could read anything I WANTED and in doing so, rediscovered my love of teen fiction, found a new favorite author (Rainbow Rowell), and discovered new genres that interested me. 

3. Don’t Focus on What Other People are Reading

This kind of overlaps with my last point of only reading things that spark interest. For those of you who don’t know, there is an online platform called Goodreads where you can track your reading history, set new goals, write book reviews, and find new books to read. It is a great website, but one of its features is that you can also see what your friends are reading. I have a close friend who has somehow maintained her 100 books a year goal into college (power to her). I could not help beating myself up over my own reading record and thinking that “if other people can find the time to read so much, so should I.” It was hard to ditch this mindset, but I realized that if I wanted to find joy in reading again, I could not keep comparing myself to others.

4. Social Media Detox

With the onset of COVID, my weekly screen time spiked from 2 hours to 6 hours. I realized that I could easily dedicate some of this time back into reading. I was in no way giving up my phone (one challenge at a time please). It just seemed healthier to be reading a book for an hour, rather than scrolling through Instagram for an undistinguishable period of time.

 

Conclusion: I am happy to report that my little quarantine experiment was a success. I did in fact rediscover my love of reading and reinvigorated my interest in my major. Using these tips, I was able to complete 8 books over the summer (subtle flex) and have even set new goals for myself to complete over the school year. It might be hard to manage, but I don’t want to go back to only reading assigned literature. Even completing 2 or 3 books during the fall (alongside my schoolwork) would be a huge success. 

I hope that you find these tips from my experience helpful. No matter your major, it is never too late to reinvigorate your interest in reading or any activity that you love!