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Who is it that you’re reading for? It seems like an obvious answer (myself??) but this isn’t always the case. Around the end of last year, I realised that I was reading for others far more than for my own enjoyment.
Before starting university, I worried that other English Literature students would be far more well-read than me. I forced myself through books even if I wasn’t in the mood to read them. Take Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: it is an astonishing and worthwhile book, but quite heavy-going so you have to feel up for it. Even if I was too tired, I wouldn’t let myself stop reading until I had reached my ‘goal page’ of the day.
I realised that I was reading for others far more than for my own enjoyment.
I was on a mission to impress every other reader around me – blog viewers, book club members and future uni course mates. However, once I started uni I realised: nobody cares! The vast majority of the other English Lit undergraduates are far more likely to shoot you strange looks if you haven’t read Harry Potter than if you’re unfamiliar with a Shakespeare play.
This inclusive community of readers has caused a complete change in my mindset. I’m no longer bothered about whether the cover of my book makes me look erudite on the bus.
Any of this sound familiar? Here are my tips for bringing reading back to you again:
1. Don’t take recommendations too seriously.
If you don’t share someone’s taste in books, just be honest. They won’t be offended if you decline that novel they’ve offered to lend you!
2. Select book clubs and reading groups carefully
Joining a book club can be a fantastic way to expand your reading horizons. However, this shouldn’t mean feeling forced to finish a book you don’t enjoy. Choose a group that offers you multiple options to read each month, or is more informal and relaxed about whether people read the whole book.
Choose a book club that doesn’t make you feel restricted in your reading.
3. Break it up
Reading a slightly ‘harder’ book can be hugely rewarding, but I always break up classics (which usually require more effort0 with something lighter in between so I don’t get stuck in a rut.
4. Try reading multiple books at once
Part of studying literature means I often have to take on books that require more focus and concentration. If this is the case for you (whether it’s work, study or a personal goal), having a ‘fun’ book to read alongside it can be helpful.
I have a cut-off time: after dinner, the study book goes away and the ‘fun’ book comes out!
5. Follow your heart
It should be telling you “I can’t wait to read this!” and not “This will look great on my Goodreads feed, I guess.”
Blog/review/share/talk about books that you genuinely love, without trying to impress. Your passion will really shine through and help you to meet like-minded people.
7. Rise above literary snobbery
Here is a conversation had with a literary snob in one of my seminar groups. We shall call him Tim:
Tim: So you’ve never read Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
Me [brightly]: Depends – I’ve watched ‘The Lion King’, does that count?!?
Making light of it and not taking yourself too seriously will improve your reading experience tenfold.
Have you had a similar experience? How do you prevent others’ opinion influencing your reading too much? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!