Home Arts & Lit The post-degree reading slump: fact or fiction?

The post-degree reading slump: fact or fiction?

How many books is too many books? Laurel Bibby contemplates the challenges of learning to read for fun again after finishing her degree.

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When I asked to write this article, I described my idea as ‘a piece about transitioning back to reading for pleasure now my degree is over’, but I’m going to be honest with you. At risk of sounding overly dramatic, the ‘transition’ has been a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I’m a final year English & Drama student, which means I’ve done more than my fair share of reading over the past three years of my degree. Having to read at least one novel a week – not to mention secondary reading – can become pretty exhausting, so I never blamed myself when it got to the holidays and the last thing I wanted to do was pick up yet another book and read for pleasure.

As the end of third year loomed, my friends and I began to chat excitedly about the first books we would choose to read for pleasure at the end of our degrees. Like the typical English student I am, I planned a trip to Waterstones the week of my final deadline as a post-dissertation treat, eager to finally be able to choose a book of my own to read. In case you’re wondering, the books at the top of my list at the moment are Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (my first book of choice from Waterstones that week), Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (one that I’ve admittedly had tucked away for a while).

after running a marathon, your body physically needs a rest – and that’s exactly how my mind seems to feel

When it came to the actual day, however, picking up a book and reading for fun wasn’t nearly as easy or enjoyable as I expected. After spending weeks agonising over the same 8,000 words and reading book after book for my final deadlines, my brain seemed to shut down. Instead of the blissfully relaxing reading experience I’d been hoping for, in which I imagined myself ploughing through the tens of books I’d missed out on over the past three years, my mind seemed to reject anything I tried to read for longer than a couple of minutes.

After talking to a few friends about my frustrations, it became apparent that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. When trying to explain the experience to one of my coursemates I rationalised that, after running a marathon, your body physically needs a rest – and that’s exactly how my mind seems to feel. For the time being, I’ve been slowly working my way through Dear Ijeawele, which is written in short sections and makes for an easier read than some of the longer novels I’d been eyeing up. Nevertheless, I’ve realised that it’s okay to take a bit of a break from reading after finishing a course – but the wonderful thing is that all the best books will still be waiting for you when you’re ready to come back to them.

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