7 Ways to Break Out of a Reading Slump

I cannot count the amount of reading slumps I go through in a year. They’re some of the most horrible things to experience, in my opinion. Each time I suffer, my eyes and thumbs scream at me while my screen time inevitably increases. It’s actually the craving for a digital respite that helps bring me back into the reading world.

Of course, that’s not the only reason. I read books to escape, to travel to different worlds and meet new characters, and, when I haven’t read in a while, I crave those worlds like I’m craving a holiday. But that doesn’t mean I find it easy to actually pick up a book.

We all go through these stages, where reaching out to a book is just too much effort. Sometimes, they’re just too hard to open, too heavy to pick up. So how do we break free and pull ourselves out of these horrible phases of our reading lives?

I’ve compiled a list of tips that have helped me out of reading slumps. Some might not work for you, while others might. If there’s anything I haven’t mentioned, something that’s worked for you, share it down below!

1. Take a book everywhere you go

Now obviously, this is a lot harder to follow now we’re in lockdown. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t carry a book everywhere; just take it with you around the house. Take it with you to your bedroom, kitchen, even your bathroom if you like!

If you’re working from home, keep a book near you for a quick two-minute screen break. Not only will remind you to read, but you’ll also be able to fully relax your mind before slipping back into work mode.

If you’re not working and are staying at home throughout the day, then you have even more time to read. Moving from your bed to your sofa? Take a book with you. Cooking? Read a page or two while your food sizzles away in the pan. Read in your bath or pop it up somewhere in your bathroom while you brush your teeth.

By simply keeping a book near you at all times, you’ll be reminded of your favourite stories, the fact that there’s a whole other world waiting for you. There are literally no excuses for not reading when a book is just seconds away. You’ll be surprised what the mere presence of a book can do for you – it’ll keep you coming back for more.

2. Get someone to read with you

This tip isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it made a difference for me personally. I’m currently reading the LOTR trilogy, which my boyfriend loved when he was younger. He still does now but hasn’t read the books in years (mostly because he doesn’t read -_- ). But his love for the books means that he’s interested in what’s happening, my thoughts on different chapters, so sometimes I’ll read to him while he’s cooking or playing guitar.

This activity connects you to the book more than you realise, and it’ll encourage you to keep on reading as you’re in it together. It doesn’t matter if your reading partner has read the story or not – that’s what’s makes it exciting! You’re both on the same reading voyage, experiencing many lives together.

If you don’t have anyone to read to, maybe try audiobooks instead?

3. Remind yourself why you love reading

We all have fond memories of reading. So when you’re stuck in a slump, relive those memories. Remind yourself why you love reading in the first place.

Did you start reading because you were bored and wanted a hobby? Or maybe you were going through a stressful time and needed a break from your own world? Or perhaps you started because your parents forced you to choose a book from the library when you were little, and you ended up falling in love with the story?

Or was it because of the way certain words made you feel? The images they conjured in your head? Was it because of that one great book that was so perfect it was obviously written just for you?

We all have our own reasons for reading. Use yours as motivation to pick up a book again.

4. Listen to podcasts

I’ve already mentioned audiobooks in this post, but for those who, like me, don’t really get along with them, podcasts are a great alternative.

There are some fantastic podcasts out there that explore the literary world for both readers and writers alike. I find that listening to book reviews, writers’ routines, people’s reading experiences, and more makes me want to snuggle up in a blanket with a book open on my lap. These podcasts remind me of my appreciation for books and the complexities of the literary world, which can make stories more remarkable than I thought.

You feel more involved with the podcast too, sharing the same reading experiences, as part of the community.

If you’re not sure which podcast to start with, I’ve listed my favourites here.

5. Create a reading space – and stick to it!

No matter how small your house or room, you can make yourself a reading nook.

Reading nooks are little spots of heaven, which can be personalised and as open or private as you like. By setting a designated reading space and making use of it as often as you can, you’ll train your brain into switching on reading mode as soon as you sit down in that spot. It’s a bit like setting up a home office – your mind associates the room with work, meaning you’re more awake and motivated than you would be if you worked in bed.

I’ve written a few tips over on UCAS on creating a cosy reading nook – take a look if you’re looking for a place to start.

6. Join a book club

Obviously, right now, you can’t join a book club in person. Still, there are so many ways to connect with fellow book readers virtually.

As a bookstagrammer, I obviously recommend that Instagram reach out to other readers, joining book challenges and hashtags, but that’s not your only option.

You can start your own book club on platforms like Zoom if you know a few people who love reading. It doesn’t have to be a large group – my friend and I literally have our own book club between us, where we read a book a month.

Reading along with other people makes you more motivated, it’s like you have a deadline. I personally cannot work to deadlines set by myself, as I know that I’m the one who set it, so I can extend it as often as I want! So a book club can help keep me motivated and make me pick up a book.

7. Hide. your. damn. phone.

In all honesty, I’m still working on this one. But I am getting better!

Phones are the most distracting things ever, the biggest productivity killers on the planet. How many times have you picked up a book, read a few paragraphs, then became instantly distracted by the sound of notifications coming through?

Yes, sometimes, phones can be useful. I track my reading progress with the Read More app and set an alarm, so I know when I have to get back to work. But usually they just interrupt your reading session more than anything. If you need your phone by you for whatever reason, then make sure to put it on silent or airplane mode. If you don’t need it, keep it in another room, or ask someone to hide it and not tell you where it is until you’re done reading for the day.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get back into reading – if you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments!

4 Podcasts I Can’t Get Enough Of

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that I’ve finally started listening to podcasts. I’ve become quite bored with music recently, and anyone who knows me knows that I really struggle with audiobooks, so podcasts didn’t generally seem like my thing.

But I decided to take the plunge. And now I can’t stop listening. I am picky with podcasts, though; they need to be good else I daydream and stop paying attention. It’s, therefore, because of this that this post covers only four podcasts – they’re the few that I’ve become absolutely addicted to.

So, these are the four that have captivated me so far:

Book Cheat

I LOVE this podcast – it’s my favourite one so far. Essentially, Dave Warneke, the host, reads a classic novel, so we don’t have to. In each episode, Dave invites two companions to sit down and listen to him tell the story of a classic, including themes and famous quotes. By the end of the episode, you can pretend you’ve read it (handy if you’re an English student trying to read 57548 books at once).

It’s such a simple podcast, yet it’s hilarious. We all know that classic novels are generally long-winded, dramatic, and many events could easily be avoided (cough, Frankenstein, cough). And on top of that, the sharp class and gender divisions just add to the circumstances. The three podcasters pick these out, mimicking their foolishness entirely, e.g., Anne (Persuasion)’s father disapproving of men with self-made wealth and preferring those born into money.

It’s a lighthearted podcast that takes a dive into the canon’s famous works and, in some cases, rips them to shreds while applauding them at the same time. And if that’s not enough, their Australian accents make everything sound fantastic.

FestCast

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’re likely aware of my love for the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Well, Cheltenham Festivals, the masterminds behind the lit, Jazz, Science, and Music festivals, started their own podcast last year, which showcases content from past festivals. There are episodes for readers and thinkers of all sorts, covering topics such as the idea of a gendered brain and the rise of extremism, as well as talks from famous faces like Hilary Clinton, David Mitchell, and J.K Rowling.

I have been inspired by so many talks from the lit festival, so having the ability to relive them brightens my day. As you can imagine, J.K’s talk is my favourite – she even mentions a few places from our home town!

The Guardian Books Podcast

This podcast takes a weekly dive into the world of the written word. Each episode explores the latest trends and movements, as well as recollective discussions of classic works.

Alongside this, authors regularly participate in interviews, focusing on their latest publications and writing routines. My personal favourites include the exploration of The Guardian’s top 100 books, which includes Harry Potter‘s influence on literature, and coverage of the Hay-On-Wye Lit Festival. That episode gave me the closest look at the festival that I’ve had yet.

Some of the discussions that take place on this podcast are so mind-boggling. I do recommend this series as it really makes you think of books in different ways, which you may have not considered before.

The Writing Life

This was the first podcast that I got into, and it’s the only one on this list solely dedicated to writing. Run by the National Centre for Writing, each week, we meet different authors and journalists of different specialisms and explore their writing journeys and techniques. If you lack writing motivation, look no further than this podcast.

My favourite episode is Sarah Perry’s Harriet Martineau lecture, where Perry discusses the ‘Essex girl.’ She looks at women from past and present, bringing forward those lesser-known who made a difference. It’s one of the most captivating and beautiful talks I’ve ever heard.

Following this, while I am not a fan of her novels, Margaret Atwood’s writing tips is a fascinating episode. She is interviewed by the Centre’s young ambassadors, and, as one of the bestselling authors to date, provides an insight into her writing life and encourages her interviewers, and listeners everywhere to get writing.

Episodes also include pitching to agents, becoming a productive writer, finishing your first book, and editing guides – there really isn’t anything this podcast hasn’t covered.

Why Jo March Is My Favourite Little Woman

SPOILERS AHEAD

When I first started reading Little Women, I didn’t expect to fall in love with Jo so much. I certainly didn’t plan on her becoming one of my favourite literary characters ever, along with Cathy Earnshaw and Elizabeth Bennet. The moment when I realised how much I’m going to like Jo was during the first part of the novel; she wrote a play for her sisters to act out on Christmas Day – I used to boss my sisters around when I was little as we put on performances for our parents, so it was undoubtedly a relatable scene!

So after that, my admiration for Jo continued to grow as the novel went on. Here are a few reasons why she is the best little woman, and certainly an unforgettable character.

She’s determined

One thing that I love about Jo is her determination. She’s determined to help her mother see her husband when he falls ill at war, so she shaves her hair off to sell it (even if it was not needed.) She is determined to see her novels published so she can send money home for ailing Beth. But that’s not the only reason why she writes. When reading the book, you can see her dedication to her stories, keeping herself away in her little corner of the attic, wearing her specific writers’ clothing (more on this later).

When she sets her mind to something, no can stop her from doing it.

She’s ‘masculine’

Throughout the novel, Jo often wished that she ‘was a boy’ and would swear, whistle, ruffle her skirts. She’s blunt and opinionated and can be clumsy, as shown by her setting her dress on fire while warming herself up. She struggles to remain within the domestic sphere, feeling angry when she can’t fight in the Civil War alongside her father.

One of my favourite scenes from the novel is when she and Amy call upon their neighbours, and Jo purposely shocks Amy with her erratic behaviour. Jo hates making calls (customary for women at the time) and so decides to have a bit of fun. When Amy tells her to be ‘calm, cool, and quiet,’ she says no more than a few words at a time. When Amy said she should speak more with the ladies, Jo is over the top and silly. Amy stops caring what Jo does, so she goes and plays with the boys, making a mess of her best dress. I found the whole scene hilarious as it’s Jo’s way of rebelling against the high-class, feminine tradition of making calls. She refuses to fit in and act a certain way – and if that means causing a scene, then she shall create a scene.

She’s relatable

Majority of the time, when you ask someone who your favourite character from Little Women is, the answer will be Jo. So I think that that’s because she is so ahead of her time, and so we can relate to her more.

As mentioned earlier, she doesn’t attempt to fit in with society’s rules for women; she instead embodies a strong, different type of femininity that I think applies to today’s gender ‘roles.’ She’s independent, chases her dreams and continuously works to better her talents. She accepts who she is, instead of whom the world wants her to be, and allows herself to grow and move forward, realising that she does love Bhaer.

She was considered to be imperfect because she was not a stereotypical woman, and that’s why she is a loved character. Her unladylike ways are flaws to her, and there are times throughout the novel when she is unhappy that she is not the proper lady. However, she accepts these ‘flaws’ and continues to do what she believes she needs to do. You just can’t help but be inspired by her.

She’s a writer

As a writer, I couldn’t write this post without including Jo’s literary talents. My favourite parts of Little Women are the scenes where Jo puts on her ‘scribbling suit’ and gets to work, isolating herself for hours.

What I love is the significance of writing for Jo – it plays such a massive part of her life. Her skills develop through the book as she regularly devotes her time to her craft, in her own private writing space, something that I wish I could have!

Writing is also a necessary act for Jo in a way. She’s a fiery character with lots of energy, and writing helps her release that energy and produce something that becomes extremely successful. It was also her way of letting go of her struggles, such as losing Meg to Jon, or the pressures of society to become the women she despises or Beth’s death. Her emotions are expressed through her words – I remember almost crying at the poem she wrote about her sisters and herself towards the end of the novel.

It is partly through her writing that Jo learns to be herself. When Jo tried to live as Beth did, Jo was not herself. Her mother persuaded her to write something, anything, it led to Jo’s writing success, and her creative energy that everyone adored returned.

Books that should be in every library

This post was inspired by The Librarian, in which the protagonist is a children’s librarian. Throughout the book, so many children’s’ books are mentioned and how amazing they are. It made me think about books that have impacted me, and why they should be read by pretty much everyone on this planet. I’ve tried to stick with children’s books, but it’s turned out to be an even split between them and adults books. It was so hard to leave any out!

Let me know which books you would include in this list!

To Kill A Mockingbird

It’s a heart-wrenching book that oozes powerful themes such as racism, prejudice, adolescence, cruelty – ideas that are still relevant today. The life lessons that Atticus preaches (and practices himself – one of the many reasons why he is the best character in the novel) are just priceless.

Alice in Wonderland

It’s not hard for a child to become wrapped up in Lewis Carroll’s fantasy world of Wonderland. It’s a whimsical yet incredibly-crafted tale in which Alice gradually learns to see things in different perspectives. The book is filled with charming and memorable characters whom Alice doesn’t judge, but she accepts that each one is different, even if she is taken back by this whole new world at times.

Carroll also comes up with some beautiful, relatable quotes. Here are two of my favourites:

‘Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality’ – Cheshire Cat

You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants a magical solution for their problem and everyone refuses to believe in magic.’ – Mad Hatter

I feel that it’s worth reading this book for statements like this alone.

The Great Gatsby

Another adult book, but seriously, if you haven’t read The Great Gatsby yet, why the hell not? This book provides a timeless insight into society and the people who are part of it, even if Fitzgerald’s novel is set in the 1920s. The issues explored are still relevant today. It’s a love story, a rags-to-riches tale, a warning of corruption and money. Also, yes, it’s 10000x better than the Leo DiCaprio film.

The Secret Garden

There’s just something magical about The Secret Garden that keeps you entice for pretty much the rest of your life. Whenever the title pops up, you instantly think of the thousands of roses, the determined character of Sarah, who learns to take care of herself and eventually discovers the magic of the natural world. Also, you cannot forget about Martha, the Yorkshire servant who is possibly the sweetest character in the novel. It’s a different kind of book in which the goodness of seemingly unlikeable characters is revealed without the guidance of adults.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

No matter how old you are, I think that every person alive should read this book. Anne was an extraordinary girl with a good way of thinking. Through her diary, not only do you get a first-hand account of the effects that WW2 brought, but you also experience her adolescence, her perseverance to get through this haunting period and her desire to live life the best way that she can.

For me, the most saddening thing about her life is that Anne died only months before the camps were liberated.

Harry Potter

I feel like pretty much 90% of the population has read the Harry Potter books, so in this case, I’ll keep it short. This isn’t just a story about wizards and witches; it’s a tale of bravery, friendship, and childhood – there are so many life lessons hidden amongst the magical tale. It amazes me that someone could conjure up a world as intricate as this, so many details that create this illusion that there really is a Hogwarts nestled in Scotland.

Macbeth

I think that everyone should read a Shakespeare play at least once in their lives. Not just study it, but actually read it. And not only because of the supernatural elements that make it a perfect read for autumn. There are so many themes throughout this play that have captured readers since the dawn of time – thirst for power, the meaning of life, and what lies within people’s hearts. The characters themselves are based on real people, And, most importantly, behind the fancy language, there’s a fast-paced, enticing story!

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice isn’t just a love story. It explores the stereotypes that people are constantly faced with – it’s literally about people who are proud and prejudiced. Characters judge each other thanks to influences around them, and they find that they’re wrong, once they’ve taken the time to actually get to know each other (if you’ve read this book, you’ll know that it’s not that simple, but it’s the best of way to explain it without any spoilers!). It’s a message that can still be applied today.

Wuthering Heights

I couldn’t write this list without featuring one of my all-time favourite books. Wuthering Heights is great because the characters in this are flawed; Heathcliff is cruel and horrible, and Cathy is selfish af. But yet, Heathcliff loves her anyway. I won’t call this book realistic because it most certainly isn’t and dark as hell in some parts, but the fact that you can’t decide on which character to like as your opinion of them changes throughout the story is something that we should learn to expect in real life. That, and Bronte’s writing is brilliant.

review: The Librarian

SPOILERS AHEAD

I have been procrastinating with this review a lot, simply because, as sad as I am to say it, I was a little disappointed by The Librarian. I’m not saying that it’s a bad book, I still enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favourite and definitely not as exciting as I thought it would be.

I loved Salley Vickers’ message throughout this book – libraries matter. I agree, I used to love going to the library when I was little, I still carry my first ever library card in my purse! I volunteered at the library for a few summers before I went away to uni, helping out with the Reading Challenge, organising events for families while encouraging children to read. So Sylvia’s plan to bring the children’s library to life resonates with me. It’s what made me buy the book. It was lovely to read how the children of East Mole acquired an interest in reading and fell in love with the children’s classics that Sylvia recommends, and reading about the beauty of children’s books:

‘Maybe [ . . . ] it’s because children’s authors can write about magic, other worlds, and be taken seriously’

The library also proves to be a catalyst for Sylvia. The theft of Tropic of Cancer from the restricted section, a dissatisfied boss and neighbour, an affair with the doctor – whose daughter regularly visited the library when Sylvia was working – risk Sylvia’s good-heartedness and her career.

I liked that there were so many different characters in this novel, all with a range of personalities. I found it interesting that Sylvia never quite fits in with each one, there’s always some sort of difference between the characters she engages with.

What I didn’t like about the book was how jumpy the narrative was. Not in terms of plot (although the last chapter jumps ahead about seventy years, something that I found unnecessary), but in terms of scenes and conversations. Usually, the speech is written without stating who’s saying what (which isn’t a problem as it’s easy to follow on’ but Vickers does not include the movements that the characters are making at the time. An example of this is when speaking with the doctor (I’ve completely forgotten his name, oops), he suddenly changes conversation by asking ‘Why are you laughing?’ This changed the narrative for me, as I had no idea that Sylvia was laughing – it was not indicated anywhere in this section – and I was not imagining her that way. So it took me out of the novel slightly. (disclaimer – I don’t have the book with me at the moment, so if that is not the exact speech, I apologise!)

This is not the only instance when Vicker’s writing put me off – I personally found some of the descriptions quite flat and plain at times. I was unable to paint a clear image from her words during some scenes, which is the most important thing when it comes to writing for me.

Finally, I really wasn’t a fan of the time jump at the end. I felt too disconnected from the characters (granted this is 70 years on, so they were different, but it was like they were complete strangers), and I just didn’t find much point to it. Once it mentioned that Sylvia had married (someone who we never met) and passed away, I wanted to put the book down. I felt like, after spending so much time with this lovely character, I would have liked a bit more detail on her husband and family life.

The Librarian is definitely not the worst book I read, and I loved so many aspects of it, the story itself was sweet. But I personally could not get on with Vicker’s style of writing. This book has been quite successful, so it appeals to other readers, clearly, but it just wasn’t for me.

Reading is Power

Yesterday was World Book Day, and this year’s theme was ‘Reading is Power.’

I don’t believe that this holiday should be just for primary schools, as you don’t need to be in school to appreciate books in all their greatness. If it were allowed, I would have walked into work dressed up as my favourite book character (I was genuinely considering dressing up as Alice or Cathy…)

I’ve read many books that have made me feel empowered, that made me want to fill up my flask with tea and then get out there and right all the wrongs in this world. Because, after I’ve finished reading a book, I’ve either learned something new or reminds me of my life goals. It’s like each book gives me a goal that I need to accomplish, and I am confident that I can. There are only a few books that I’ve read that have made me doubt myself.

Harry Potter taught me never to give up, Jacqueline Wilson’s books made me realise that no one’s lives are perfect and that fact alone brings us all closer, and The Chronicles of Narnia told me that growing up isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

One of my favourite quotes is: ‘All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen.’ It’s from Matilda, another book that taught me some valuable lessons, but the main thing that I took from it is that reading can take us to worlds far away from this one, dreamy respites that bring us happiness (and sadness, shock, and some serious fictional crushes it’s that good a book). The things we take from these worlds resonate with us when we’re living our everyday lives. I find that it’s hard to stay mad at a world when you can see the beauty in it, when the vivid descriptions that we read echo in every little thing that’s around us.

Furthermore, I find that reading gives you a sense of morality, and opens your eyes to what is happening in this world. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’d know that historical fiction is my favourite genre, and that’s because it helps me see how much progress has been made regarding things such as equality, racism, money, but also how there is still so much to do.

I recently read The Familiars (review coming soon) and was struck by how oppressed women were. One line that I can remember is ‘I wouldn’t wish a girl’s life on anybody’ (if that’s not the exact quote I’m sorry, I’m writing this on the train and don’t have it on hand!). It made me realise that yes, we’ve made an incredible amount of progress and we’re lucky to be living now instead of back then where we would all most likely be either married, worked to the bone or dead, as blunt as that sounds. However, there can be times where we are still looked down upon, made subject to disgusting comments and not treated with respect. Many books are being published now, (not forgetting the ones that have been around for centuries, of course!), that are trying and bring out a woman’s voice to emphasise these issues, and I think it’s one of the main reasons why we are currently as aware as we are.

Reading can initiate a change in thought, a call to action and anything in between. Reading makes us feel empowered, and gives us the confidence to, excuse the cliche, be the change we want to see in the world. And I can’t think of anything that’s as amazing as that.