Novels have undeniably found stiff competition in the visually ambitious world of modern cinema, the compulsive drip-feed design of TV series and even videogames, which have evolved into a highly immersive narrative form in their own right. Yet arguably none of these mediums are as engaging, as challenging and evocative as fiction. The novel is less easily dated than other forms of storytelling, and in many ways is the most effective way of transporting us into another world.
But for one reason or another, many of us go off reading as we make the hectic transition into adulthood. For some the required texts at school would’ve extinguished whatever remaining joy they had for it. Still, many teenagers are drawn to books as a way to feed their growing minds and as an emotional retreat – it is only as they become jaded adults that they fall out of love with it.
After all, the adult world is one of ever-multiplying obligations and responsibilities, with lifestyles that don’t so much encourage broadening their horizons as apathetically shrugging at them. Some may develop an aversion to reading, since they feel less capable at it than they once were, or perhaps because they have convinced themselves that they were never good at it.
Findings over the past decade have revealed that reading intimidation affects all ages, however. Whether you are an ex-bookworm or a prose heathen there is no better time to start reading than now. Here are some ways to get back into it.
Give yourself the time: As our lives are consumed by jobs, domestic duties and having to keep up some modicum of a social life, in appearance at least, we realise we have very little energy left for many recreational activities. Books, after all, can be a commitment. Meanwhile, loud, easy, bite-sized entertainment practically begs for our attention.
The best remedy for having your attention pulled in a thousand directions is a schedule. Allocate a small amount of time each day (even 20mins at first) for reading and nothing else. This might be part of the time you spend on a bus train each day, or the first thing you do when you finish work, or the last thing you do before you turn off the lights at night. If it is a part of your daily schedule then you will have less apprehension in starting it. It may even become a good way of winding down.
Start simple: We stop reading books, so reading them becomes less intuitive, so we feel even less inclined to pick up a book. The way to break this cycle is by finding something that’s easy to read. Fiction can push and challenge us, but it can also be leisurable. Find something that’s right up your alley, by rereading a book you loved before, searching books by genre or using a website such as Goodreads. Pretty quickly this can have a snowball effect and lead you to gobbling up all sorts of books.
Try audiobooks: Though most people will gain more confident in reading as they make it a daily habit, it can still be a daunting, stop-start process. If you really don’t have the energy for reading, but still want to enjoy novels then it is worth trying out audiobooks. They have actually been found to boost reading comprehension, holding many of the same perks of reading.
Focus on you: Don’t be put off by those young whippersnappers who can tear through fifty books a year. Everybody reads a different pace: what’s important is that you are reading for enjoyment, not for sport. The imagination required for novels is what makes them so rich and absorbing when compared to other art forms, so take your time, and foster your own experience with a story – it can be immensely rewarding.
Keep it short: Short stories are not time-consuming, yet can be as satisfying as a longer work. There is perhaps no better way to get back into reading as starting with these, especially as one story will quickly lead you on to another – short story collections can be quickly devoured this way. Once you’re ready, try some novellas or more modestly-sized volumes – just don’t feel you need to hop right into Don Quixote.
Don’t force it: If you are really not enjoying a story, quit it. There is only so much time in our lives to get through even a fraction of the great books that are available to us. There are many reasons why we should read, but pleasure is foremost – so start with something that you won’t be able to put down.
Go to a bookshop: Whether or not you intend on buying anything, there are few nicer atmospheres to be found than those of bookshops. However, they also happen to be one of the best ways of discovering books, by grouping them by style and genre, while pointing your attention towards popular and acclaimed books. Though Waterstones is a great chain, there is a unique joy in perusing the crowded bookcases of a local or second-hand bookshop.
Join a library: Public libraries are free in UK, and applying for a library card is relatively simple. They provide a wide variety of books to loan, as well as a quiet spot for reading.
Try an eBook reader: Though traditionalists may turn their noses up at digital reading devices, there is plenty to recommend about them, especially for those who are trying to get back into reading. They are highly accessible, comfortable to read and hold, conveniently holding a large library to take with you wherever you go – while removing the need for bookshelves. A number of classics are free to download, which should get you started.
Slow down: Sometimes a loss of love for reading can be indicative of a greater issue in our lives. It might be that we need to carve out some space for ourselves, allow our minds a time to flourish, and redefine how we think about productivity. When we grant ourselves the liberty of reading, we are making a conscious bid to rehabilitate our senses, to break away from the multitude of demands and short-lived desires that distract us away from a sense of self. Not that every book will be able to change your life, but reading at least should be able to remind you that you have one.