When I was a kid, it was rare to find me without my nose buried in a book. Ever car ride, every quiet lunch, every spare moment I would be engrossed in the latest Percy Jackson or Harry Potter book. Yet, over time — and in part due to school reading I found unrelatable or uninteresting — reading turned into a chore rather than a hobby. How could such a beloved pastime of mine disappear so easily?
I fell into the trap of believing that reading was something that must be done, rather than something I wanted to do. I found my passion fade as I started to read purely for the sake of checking off the list of intellectual books everyone said I should read.
Things finally started to change when I decided again to read just for me. It sounds simple, but that little revelation that I didn’t have to read books just because I thought I should read them entirely changed my relationship with reading as a (quasi) adult. Here are some words of advice I’ve discovered from trying to learn to love reading again.
Find your genre
I’ve tried to get into fantasy for the longest time. Most of my friends were semi-fantasy nerds and I love games like Dungeons and Dragons, so it seemed like a no-brainer that I would love to have some elves in my books. But after several failed attempts, I decided to give up and stick to my realistic and science fiction. Not everyone is going to like the same things, and that’s okay. It might take some trial and error, but it’s important to discover what you personally enjoy.
Appreciate books that are fun
While it is entirely possible I’ve somehow fabricated this memory, I have the vivid image of being about 16, sitting down and reading “The Salmon of Doubt” by Douglas Adams, my favorite author. And while I cannot find the particular essay, I remember there being an excerpt of an introduction he wrote about another author’s book in which he espoused its undeniable fun. Not its masterful use of the English language, not its genius creativity, but rather the way in which it managed to make him smile. That was a turning point for me. I realized then that reading doesn’t always have to be some deeply academic undertaking, it can just, simply, be fun.
Track your books
There’s nothing like the little serotonin boost of marking down an achievement. I’ve found that writing down the books I read allows me to both feel proud of myself and to better remember my thoughts and opinions about said book. There are several apps that can be used for this, with Goodreads probably being the most popular. My personal favorites are either using Candl, a non-social tracker, or simply writing everything down on a sheet of paper.
Surround yourself with readers
The best way to motivate yourself to read is to surround yourself with people who read. It’s natural social pressure, but with a positive spin. Starting or joining book clubs can be a great way to have some social time while engaging in a mentally stimulating hobby. They provide a structural backbone, and talking to people who have read the same book as you can often allow for deeper insights and varying perspectives. And even if you’re not in a book club, simply having friends or peers who encourage reading is an amazing boost.
I was once talking to someone who had read a seemingly endless amount of books, and I asked him how he managed to find the time to read so much. His answer was simple; he said “I make the time.” Making an active effort to put away time in your day to read is essential when you’re first starting to read again. Without doing so, it’s easy to put a book down and never pick it back up again. Whether it’s when you wake up in the morning, a study break in the middle of the day or before you go to bed at night, it’s important to block out a chunk of time. It takes willpower, but it creates positive habits that you one day won’t even have to think about.
Reading can be an incredibly fulfilling hobby. The possibilities are endless with so many books to choose from and ideas to explore. Books allow you to step outside of yourself for a minute and to see the world through a different viewpoint. Whether you’re reading for fun, escapism or intellectual pursuit, there’s a book out there for everyone.