Don’t wait for January to come around to set an unrealistic resolution of reading 100 books in a year. September is the best month to break the reading slump and rediscover the vast world of books. The days are still warm, and you’re not burdened by looming exams and post-Christmas blues. But when was the last time you actually read a book that wasn’t required reading? It’s all too easy to be lured in by a visual book cover, only for it to inevitably gather dust on your shelf. We’ve collated the best tips from our contributors to create the definitive guide on how to make reading your new hobby.
Set yourself regular goals
Once you’ve found the books you want to read, setting yourself achievable goals will help you to feel accomplished. Of course, personalised goals will be most effective as you can base them on your schedule and reading style. Try setting yourself a certain number of pages to finish before completing one of your daily tasks. This will teach you to make time for reading in your routine. Personally, I challenge myself to read one chapter before I get out of bed and another before I go to sleep to ensure I make progress. I understand this goal might be impractical if you have early morning lectures and if you don’t know how much time the reading will take, but you can easily change it to finishing five pages, or perhaps even one. (Amber O’Connor)
Invest in a notebook and write how much you aim to read across a day or week. When you’ve finished the first few books, make a list to avoid forgetting what you’ve read. Motivation and organisation can be cultivated easily when visualising your list of books. For virtual lists, Goodreads is a useful app. After creating a profile, books can be added that you would like to read or have already read, encouraging your progress. (Colby Thompson)
Start with an easier read
Unless you’re an English Literature student there’s no obligation to start on a heavy classic. Instead, start by reading lighter books, especially if it’s been a few years. You could read some teenage fiction. There’s no shame in picking up The Hunger Games trilogy or Harry Potter, for example. It will help you to remember how enjoyable reading can be. When I’m in a reading slump, I tend to gravitate towards light autobiographies. Celebrity autobiographies can be very entertaining given the unique stories they contain. Lily Allen’s My Thoughts Exactly is emotionally touching and funny simultaneously in recalling her days of fame, motherhood, and trauma. Many comedians have also written about their lives and they guarantee a laugh. In Happy Fat, Danish comedian Sofie Hagen recorded her life story with a stance on weight stigma in society, which is both witty and informative. Reading books by people that already inspire you can be a great way to establish a habit. Once you’re confident reading ‘easier’ reads, you may feel inclined to improve your abilities and the habit will be firmly planted. (CT)
Join a book club
Book clubs normally expect participants to have read the book being discussed at each meeting, meaning you will have deadlines for your reading. Signing up to a book club, and following its timescale, means you are committing to reading regularly. It will transform your solitary reading experience into a group activity, giving you a place to share your reflections and seek different opinions once you have completed books . You will gain a purpose for your reading beyond your own immediate enjoyment. If you are looking for one to join, the University has its very own book society (BookSoc) which holds monthly meetings before heading down to Interval. Alternatively, if you can’t attend the meetings or fancy reading something else, Waterstones run monthly, genre-based groups, and offers their members 20 per cent off the chosen titles. The Orchard Square branch, in Sheffield’s city centre, has fiction, crime, and thrillers book clubs, and even one for sci-fi and fantasy. (AC)
Or an Online Book Club
Online book clubs, often found on Goodreads, like their real-life counterparts, help to encourage frequent reading. However, they involve less pressure which can be a relief when university workload piles up. If you don’t like the club’s current pick, or you haven’t always got the time to read, you can skip the discussions without your absence being noted. Since several online clubs have a big presence on social media, you can also follow their pages and connect with other readers throughout the month, helping you to stay motivated. For example, Reese’s Book Club, created by Reese Witherspoon for Hello Sunshine, an initiative that celebrates female storytelling, is one of the most popular examples, with currently 1.2 million Instagram followers. Meanwhile, Emma Watson runs Our Shared Shelf, a feminist book club inspired by her work with UN Women. (AC)
Quit books that don’t catch your interest after 50-100 pages
If you’re trying to get back into reading, something must have caused you to fall out of the habit; don’t let dull books – which do, unfortunately, exist – allow you to do so again. Most authors introduce the main plot, characters and themes within the first 50-100 pages of the book. Even if a drastic change occurs later in the text, it is unlikely that the story or style you failed to connect to at the beginning of the book will become appealing to you. Once you have read enough of a book to know that it doesn’t suit your reading preferences, any further reading wastes times and can discourage your efforts. You don’t need to feel bad about closing a book; you are reading for fun. (AC)
Read reviews before choosing a book
Reading a couple of reviews before you choose a book can help you gauge whether you’ll enjoy it. A review should offer a glimpse into what the book will offer. Whether it will be funny, interesting, or thought-provoking, and whether it lives up to the claims made on the cover. You can find user-generated reviews for most books on Goodreads, which usefully allows its reviewers to hide spoilers in their posts. (AC)
If you’re not sure where to start looking for a good book, I suggest taking a look at what critics are recommending. Great sites dedicated to all things books include The Millions, Literary Hub and The Guardian Books. (Kate Procter)
Follow book-related social media communities
Book-focussed YouTube channels, collectively known as “Booktube”, has been my way out of a reading slump numerous times. Watching people share their love and passion for reading is guaranteed to put you in the mood to do the same. It is a community that you can turn to at any time and find people talking with an infectious enthusiasm about the book in your hands. It feels like you have your own little book club inside your room! The fantasy-loving PeruseProject, the Shadowhunter-obsessed EmmaBooks, Ashleyoutpaged, Jessiethereader, BooksandLala, or NayaReadsAndSmiles are just a few of the booktubers you will find constantly raving about books. Or, you could start your own like I did! (Anastasia Koutsounia)
There is a whole community on Instagram, sometimes referred to as “bookstagram”, dedicated to reading, reviews and curated pictures of books. I recommend following @ladieslitsquad and @thebohemianbookshelf, or having a look at publishers’ own accounts, such as @penguinbooks and @wayfarerbooks. You can search the hashtag #bookstagram for books to read and people to follow. However, as with all social media, avoid succumbing to comparison. Some accounts will make you feel less adequate for not reading the same unrealistic amount. Stay away from shaming accounts to create a space that inspires you to pursue reading. (CT)
Experiment with book genres
One of the best things about reading is the variety out there. If you enjoy watching films, find a book with a similar genre to the last movie you loved. If you enjoyed watching the recent movie It: Chapter Two, try a book by Stephen King, for instance his latest release, The Institute. Were all the last books you tried fiction? Perhaps give non-fiction a go.I knew nothing about artificial intelligence until I read Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0 last year, which truly fascinated me. You can build upon your current interests by reading a book in that field or learn about a completely new subject – the choice is yours. (CT)
Where to find cheap (or free) books in Sheffield
Unfortunately, maintenance loans don’t budget for books – spending the little amount you do have on textbooks for your degree leaves you with little left for leisure reading.
Luckily, Sheffield is a great place to find inexpensive reading material. I had been awaiting the release of Tiffany Francis’s Dark Skies earlier this month. On the release date, I was pleasantly surprised to see her book stocked in the Sheffield Central Library, saving me £13 on a hardback. You might have never visited a public library – unless you include the mobile library that visited your primary school – but getting a free library card is one of the best ways to save money.
If you have concerns about being charged for overdue books, the University libraries also stock a good range beyond academic texts.
Alternatively, if you prefer a personal copy, second-hand bookshops are your best friend. Oxfam on West Street is dedicated entirely to books. I picked up Anna Burn’s critically acclaimed Milkman for only £1.60 a few weeks after its initial release. Blackwell’s at Jessop West on the University campus also stocks second-hand books. If you buy books from hive.co.uk, a percentage of the sale goes to an independent bookshop of your choice, whilst bookbutler.co.uk lets you compare the prices of thousands of titles sold by online retailers.
Finally, browse your friends’ book shelves – you might share similar reading preferences. Ask them if they have a book you could borrow and chat about. (CT)
Featured Image: Kate Procter