Written by: Cathy Huang
“Curling up with a good book” is a lot like its siblings, “taking long walks on the beach” and “going on adventures.” They’re all pretty ideal hobbies, but many of us don’t have the time. Especially when you’re a student, reading pages and pages for AP Lit, it can feel impossible to find the fun in reading.
But here’s the thing: the only wrong way to read is to not read. Don’t worry about the aesthetic ideal of the reading nook with the oil lamp and earl gray tea (though, if that’s how you’d like to read, go for it). If you have a book and even a scrap of time, you can get back into reading for fun.
Reading is a muscle that needs to be trained.
If it’s been a while since you’ve picked up a book, the first few pages are going to feel slow. You may feel like your comprehension is clumsy, and by the end of the prologue, you’re ready to put the book down and do something else.
Much like how we can’t expect new athletes to immediately sprint a marathon, new readers can’t read for very long. And that’s completely fine. Start with ten minutes of reading. After ten minutes, you can stop, even in the middle of a chapter. Next session, increase the time by five minutes, until you find your comfortable reading time—and if you have the right book, you might not want to stop.
Some people like to read for hours on end, from midnight to sunrise. And other people find their reading time where they can, while riding a bus or waiting for class to start.
I’ll tell you a secret: I don’t read for very long. I’m the type to move, pace around, pick up a task, put it down. So I make time in the morning and evening, for about half an hour each. The rest of my reading time is scattered throughout the day, from five minutes to an hour.
Reading habits are never a “one size fits all” deal, so find what works for you.
Make reading easy and accessible.
Did you know you can rent audiobooks from your local library? Or download the Kindle app onto your phone? Digital reading can sometimes get a bad rap, and while it certainly doesn’t work with everyone, it’s worth trying for its convenience.
Audiobooks in particular have their unique benefits. I love listening to them while I’m cleaning, driving, or cooking, so even if I don’t have the time to sit down with a book, I can still “read.”
As for physical books, I recommend carrying one with you. I tend to keep nonfiction “pop science” books in my bag: something easy to pick up and put down. While I wouldn’t advise bringing a Dickens novel with you to the grocery store, I certainly won’t stop you.
Read what you want.
Reading shouldn’t be medicinal. The books assigned in your English class come with lessons and analysis. But the books on your nightstand don’t have to (unless, of course, you enjoy literary theory).
When you’re just getting back into reading, it’s important to find the genres and styles that you enjoy. If you need a place to start, look at the movies, TV shows, or video games you like. Coming-of-age? Epic fantasy? Retro sci-fi? Don’t feel obligated to read the classics if you don’t find them appealing.
You can also engage with a book beyond its pages: leave a review on goodreads, see what others say about it, or look into author interviews. If you’re artistically inclined, you can use it as inspiration for a piece. Enjoying a book doesn’t have to stop once it’s closed.
Reading is versatile. Make it work for you, whether you read for a thrilling adventure or an intellectual endeavor or a bit of both. And if you don’t know where to start, here are some recommendations:
If you want…
A vibrant fantasy world: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab
An explanation of what we eat and why: Gulp by Mary Roach
A coming-of-age teenage romance: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
A collection of short stories about robots: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov