Like most students, exam season has constructed a personal hatred toward reading. This has been through the constant annotation of textbooks, analyzing texts to the point of no return and the heavy weight of carting them around campus for too long. Hours of revision and studying have left us with consistent fatigue, stress and our beloved paperbacks gathering dust on their shelf.
A 2009 study, by the University of Sussex, found that reading can relieve stress by up to 68% (that's enough to forget that paper you are currently overthinking, certain that you've failed). Now that exams are over for most and the summer sun starts to peek through the clouds, mental health and wellbeing can become a top priority. Everybody should be somewhat proud of their stress, as it means you care, but rest is a well-deserved reward, and reading can offer the relaxation we all crave post-exam.
However, it is the motivation to read, not the interest in reading itself, we need to spark again — this being especially difficult when reading these past months has felt nothing but a chore. As a proud non-gatekeeper, here are a few tips I found useful when starting to read for fun again, to reignite the spark — all affordable, all enjoyable and all contributing to a healthy, relaxing, hot girl summer.
A Change is as Good as a Rest
You may find that one reason you do not desire to pick up a book is that you're already bored by your options. We tend to buy books on what we have enjoyed already, trying to guarantee the success of the story, but we all know that very well, a change is as good as a rest. I recommend changing the genre, the authorial style, or even its status as non-fiction/fiction.
You love light-hearted, fictional romantic comedies? Why not be like Dua Lipa and do a full 180 to a heavy nonfiction book about somebody's rather tragic experiences? I somewhat joke here, as this is probably too drastic of a change, but you get the idea.
Even if you dislike the changes you made to what kind of books you look for, at least you took the first step towards reading for fun once again. It could even have an indirect effect of making you crave the kind of books you have enjoyed in the past. In fact, re-reading a book you have known and loved may alight the feeling of wanting to read, a change therefore not being necessary but perhaps helpful in your search for motivation.
If you think changing what you read will be helpful, but do not have the budget to go around buying new books you might not like, try searching your local thrift/charity shops or the public library. Your library card could well become your best friend this summer, and if you don't want to get rid of a book, you could always save up to purchase it for yourself (making it that bit more special). Buying second-hand is a great option, as many trending books often end up in the charity bins, allowing you to try and understand the hype for a fraction of the price.
Aesthetic is EVERYTHING
Your space should be your first priority when starting to relax, ironic as cleaning can be rather stressful and something commonly procrastinated, myself being very guilty of this. I cleaned my room the first day after my exams finished, leaving the binmen with four bags of recycling and the vacuum cleaner filled to the brim. But it was all worth it to now have a lovely clean area to read and write in.
I recommend having a re-arrangement. Move a cabinet, or a mirror, put some posters up, and especially use Pinterest for some inspiration if you're feeling pretty burnt out from exams. Make the image of reading aspirational and desirable for yourself.
The great outdoors is integral to your mindset, so why not take a book outside and read through the hazy tint of a pair of sunglasses? You could go into your garden or to the nearest park, and why not get/make yourself a cute drink whilst you're at it? Although reading isn't something you need to trick yourself into if you're reading for fun, there's no guilt in making it a little more enticing by giving into the aesthetic of reading.
I have seen too many images on Pinterest and Twitter of book girlies reading in gorgeous outfits in pretty places with an expensive coffee in hand to not want to do the same. All you need to read is a book, of course, but anything that will contribute to putting your busy mind at rest and happiness is worth all the time and effort in the world.
— ❊ (@wandervoyage) June 8, 2023
Image via @wandervoyage on Twitter
Reading: a digital affair (do your research)
Perhaps you are reading this as someone who has simply just got the urge to read. Maybe you haven't picked up a book since Diary of A Wimpy Kid. Maybe Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the only book you've ever read and you don't know where to start.
Obviously, a library or your local bookshop are great places to begin, but social media is a brilliant tool in the search for literary entertainment. BookTok and BookTube are sectors of TikTok and Youtube respectively, which have endless hours of content of people's opinions and recommendations on books. Authors like Colleen Hoover, Aiden Thomas and Ali Hazelwood have gained extreme popularity through these platforms and the notion that reading is becoming a 'trend' among younger generations is refreshing to see. Although lots of books that have found their fans through social media have been scrutinized as much as they have been celebrated, reading is never and will never be a bad thing. I recommend accounts like @brandos.books on Instagram and Haley Pham on Youtube, but there are so many creators out there catering to your book needs — just do your research!
Via Haley Pham on Youtube
Maybe you've always been more of a movie geek, but books are starting to whisper sweet nothings to you. A great way of lighting a reading spark is finding movies that have been based on books, the books usually being better. If you love curling up and watching Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or The Hunger Games etc. and haven't read the books, I strongly recommend it.
Due to the time limits on films, there are often large plot points that are left out and sometimes entire characters are changed to fit the film producers' agenda. In regards to Harry Potter, they made Ginny Weasley's character much tamer and I'm sure you've heard the entire 'Hermione's Yule Ball dress was blue not pink' debate if you've done the slightest bit of research into BookTok. Reading books that have been made into movies you know you love is a good way to guarantee interest and get you out of the little reading slump you're in.
If reading itself is what's stopping you, things like dyslexia making it hard for a lot of people to enjoy reading, why not try audiobooks? Audible offers a 30-day free trial in which you can get credits and listen to books at home or on the go. If you're a music nerd like myself and love a good rock star autobiography, lots of the ones on Audible are narrated by the rock stars themselves (take Dave Grohl's book The Storyteller)! Audible is, however, a minimum of around £8 a month, but there are lots of other websites that have audiobooks of classics for free (again do your research, Google is your best friend).
Sharing is Caring!
Reading is like tapas — it's made to share. The best part of reading for me is being part of a new community with each book I open. Storygraph and GoodReads are platforms where like-minded readers, like yourself, can express their ideas on books and recommend others, definitely platforms to look into if you need more personal motivation to read. On the topic of sharing, definitely ask your friends about books they've read and enjoyed, maybe even arrange a little reading picnic (even though every time I've tried this, we end up talking for hours instead). I thought, to hopefully motivate anyone who is struggling in their reading slump, I'd share with you some of my favourite books to either get you reading again or find a book that you'll enjoy.
- Beautiful World Where Are You, Sally Rooney (Deep, romantic epistolary fiction): One of the most beautiful books I've ever read by the astounding author of Normal People. This was the spark that got me reading again, it was the kind of book I rushed home on the bus for and the book I recommend to anyone who asks.
- Emma, Jane Austen (Romantic classic fiction): If you like Pride and Prejudice (I mean who doesn't), you will love Emma. If you enjoyed the 2020 film with Anya Taylor Joy, the book is a sure-fire guarantee. It's also a good excuse to get into classic literature if you need one. Austen has a rather forward-thinking, witty style that has definitely stood the test of time.
- The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (Sci-fi, fiction comedy): This book is such an eccentric yet easy read, that has also been made into a film, and is good for people who aren't that familiar with science fiction but want to explore a new genre. Spoiler: it will tell you the meaning of life - and it's not what you think.
- I'm Glad My Mom Died, Jennette McCurdy (Memoir, non-fiction): I chose not to read this book when it came out, instead, I waited for the audiobook. Narrated by McCurdy herself, there is a lovely sense of peace created in the use of such a light perspective on rather dark and traumatic topics. Audiobooks allow you to know the book on a personal level, it feels like it's invading your bloodstream in the best way possible — making it perfect for autobiographies like this one.
- The Virgin Suicides, Jefferey Euginides (Young Adult, dark mystery fiction): Okay, so I am guilty of judging books by their covers, and this one had the prettiest cover in the bookstore at the time. But I was positively taken aback by the mature and sobering themes in this novel. It was like nothing I've ever read and definitely, one you have to discuss with others after reading.
Image courtesy of myself
I hope these recommendations and tips either reignite a love for reading or discover one you didn't know you had. Everyone deserves to relax post-exam season, so let's make this summer the biggest book fest yet. What are your favourite books? Let us know in the comments as it could help a fellow reader out of a reading slump and into the most imaginative and relaxing summer of their life.