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I love to read, but I never make time for it. When I was younger, I would finish books that were several hundred pages in length in a matter of days. Now, I am lucky if I pick up a book once every six months.

What happened?

Maybe I spend too much time on my phone or watch too much TV; maybe my parents are right about social media shortening my attention span. Another likely explanation is that I lost some of my passion for reading once my high school English classes turned it into work. It is also more than possible that I am simply busy, and like most college students, I do not have a ton of free time on my hands with classes to navigate, extracurriculars I am involved in and a social life to maintain.

Even though I am unable to identify the exact cause of my reading slump, I do know that I want to pick my old hobby up again. Not only is it an activity that I enjoy, but it is also a great way to de-stress. A 2009 study found that 30 minutes of reading results in lowered blood pressure, heart rate and decreased feelings of psychological distress among students enrolled in challenging postgraduate health science programs. Additionally, reading can boost your communication skills, empathy and concentration

Ultimately, I decided that getting back into reading would make me happier and be a fun, achievable goal. So I did a little research on the subject and compiled what I have learned.

Finding the right book

The most valuable piece of advice I encountered is that you don’t want to be overly ambitious when selecting your first book. It is important to build your way up to more challenging works instead of tackling a super lengthy text the first time around. That means “War and Peace” is probably a no-go. The sites that I visited recommend choosing shorter books that are fast-paced and have plenty of action to draw you in. Graphic novels fit this criteria nicely, so you might consider seeking them out in particular. It is also a good idea to stick to your favorite genre — in this instance, staying in your comfort zone is actually encouraged.

Now having a better idea of the type of book you are looking for, ask friends or family members for recommendations. If you do not know many bookworms, the Internet is filled with resources that can help you find your next read. Goodreads is the best site I have visited so far. You can browse books by genre, read reviews or view lists such as Books That Everyone Should Read at Least Once and Best Books of the Decade: 2000s. Plus, if you create an account and rate 20 books you’ve read before, Goodreads will generate book recommendations for you.

Sometimes browsing in store is the best way to find what you are looking for. I would recommend stopping by Half Price Books, which sells high-quality secondhand books and has three locations in the St. Louis area. It is a good place to find reads that won’t break the bank. 

Picking the right reading medium / establishing a routine

Once you’ve found the perfect title, it is a good idea to think about setting aside a specific time to read each day. Several sources I read recommend reading right before going to bed to wind down at the end of a long day and signal to your body that it is time to sleep. 

If you feel like your schedule is totally packed, you might consider downloading an ebook on your phone. This allows you to read anywhere and any time: while standing in a long line at Qdoba, while waiting for class to start and so on. Ebooks are also a good way of replacing the time you might spend scrolling through social media with reading time. If you enjoy audiobooks, you might consider listening to a book when you go work out at the gym or during your commute to work or school as a way of multitasking. 

When you start a book, try to get through at least the first few chapters in a single sitting. This allows you to fully invest yourself in the plot and characters. Once you have done this, you are much more likely to pick up the book again and keep reading. However, if you start a book and realize it is not for you, it is perfectly acceptable to put it down and not come back to it. If you are trying to get back into reading, struggling through a boring or unpleasant book is only going to make you associate reading with unpleasant feelings. I used to try to finish every book I started, but I realize now that this was a mistake. Life’s too short to spend reading books you hate, and learning to give up on a book can feel really liberating.

Keeping the momentum going

Having finished that first book, take time to celebrate your accomplishment, but try to jump into another book within a few days. According to Healthline, it takes 66 days to form a habit, so don’t let that forward momentum fade away. As with any new habit, consistency is key.

Good luck and happy reading!

Elizabeth is a freshman at Saint Louis University. She enjoys reading, spending time with friends, and drinking iced coffee.
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