When is the last time you picked up a book just for fun? Prior to the past couple of years, I hadn’t turned to a book for leisure reading since early middle school with the Percy Jackson series. As I went through high school and early college, I always felt consumed by assigned reading from textbooks or classics required for English class (let’s just say that East of Eden is not my cup of tea).
However, reading has recently provided a much-needed distraction from quarantine life. Breaking back into reading was no easy feat, it almost felt like I was retraining my brain to enjoy it again. But like all habits, the more you engage with reading for pleasure, the more effortless it will become. Do you want to get back into reading for fun? Let me share how I eased back in.
In addition to its entertainment value, reading can benefit both physical and mental health. According to Healthline, a study found that 30 minutes of reading can decrease blood pressure, heart rate and overall stress. The National Institute on Aging recommends reading as a way to stave off cognitive decline as you age.
Find a genre you enjoy
When I was younger, I always felt pushed towards fiction books —hence the Percy Jackson series. I read fantasy and mystery books like it was my job. While I enjoyed it at the time, I grew less interested in these genres, and fiction in general, as I got older. As I rediscovered reading over the past couple of years, I learned about my love for nonfiction. Autobiographies and memoirs are my absolute favorite because they give you an in-depth look at the author’s life. I suspect that Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming was popular for that very reason — it allowed readers to see the former first lady as a raw person instead of simply a poised figure in formal interviews.
My favorite memoir so far is Tan France’s Naturally Tan which describes his hardships and triumphs growing up Pakistani in England, and breaking into the fashion industry before landing his major role in Queer Eye. If you have someone who you look up to or find interesting for one reason or another, check if they have a memoir you can read.
Build a habit gradually
You know when you’re trying to start a new habit and you go too fast too quickly? This is often the case in creating a diet or exercise routine. You wouldn’t start off by running 10 miles on your first day, so don’t set an unrealistic goal for reading right off the bat either.
I started off with a goal of reading 10 pages per day. (This may cause you to have flashbacks to your high school reading quizzes like it did for me.) Just remind yourself that your ultimate goal is to get into the habit of reading, and you’re not being graded on your efforts.
Starting off by reading 10 pages per day will help you progress through books faster than reading 100 pages a day and getting burnt out. I like to read at night before going to bed for two reasons: First, it’s time spent away from my phone screen that allows my body to settle into the absence of blue light. Finishing my 10 pages also leaves me with a sense of accomplishment in being able to complete one final task before closing out the day.
Paula Ayala, a fifth-year at the University of Puerto Rico, says that she sets aside time to read each day to maintain a schedule despite being inside most of the day. “I usually schedule half an hour to an hour purely for reading,” Ayala says.
Xandie Kuenning, a Northeastern University alumni, borrows books from the library to stay on track with her reading goals. "I'm getting books from the library so the due dates are big incentives,” she says.
Switch up the platforms
Audiobooks and eBooks are convenient ways to read as well. You may turn on an audiobook while cooking, working out, or doing laundry to get your reading in when you don’t feel or have time to pick up a physical book. eBooks are highly mobile — you can read on the subway, during your lunch break… The opportunities are endless since your book can go with you anywhere your device goes.
Katie Farrell, a Queens University of Charlotte alumni, says that she has been turning to audiobooks and eBooks to read.
“I've noticed that audiobooks and even eBooks are gaining popularity and can be super helpful! Audiobooks let you do multiple things while you're listening, so you aren't just sitting in one place, and eBooks are easier to read,” she says.
You don’t have to be the same type of reader every day. Switch up your habits: read in the morning instead of at night, try out a new genre, or join a book club with friends. Xandie says that she keeps a few different books on hand, both fiction and nonfiction so that she always has a book available to fit her mood. Pick up that first book and start reading — a habit will follow.