How to keep a reading resolution
At the beginning of each year, “reading more” crops up on many people’s list of resolutions. Unfortunately, many fail to keep the promises they make to themselves. M Shelton discusses how to re-ignite one’s love for books while avoiding the dreaded reading slump.
Like many people, I was an avid reader throughout my childhood. I raced through the latest Jacqueline Wilson books, sometimes getting through a book a day during the holidays, and visited the library every week to pick out new reads. Also like many people, I had completely fallen out of the habit by my late teens, and even hauled a ridiculous number of books into my first-year halls only to leave them on the shelf all year.
So, what changed? How did I become a reader again? It all began with turning my phone off. And honestly, I think I had forgotten that it even had an off button. Whenever I had a free moment, it was second nature to open Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest. Even Reddit, in desperate times. But the truth is that scrolling isn’t a fulfilling activity. Instead, it gives us little dopamine boosts that keep us going back for more, which is why many of us end up being shocked by our screen time statistics. Meanwhile, those same apps wreak havoc on everything, from our attention spans to our moods.
My journey back into reading, therefore has been dependent on breaking my social media and phone addiction. I started by creating a new routine: I turn my phone off at around 10pm, get ready for bed, and only turn it on again in the morning after I’m up and dressed. Yes, that does mean that I use a physical alarm clock like it’s 2005. It also means that rather than scrolling before bed, I grab a book and read for half an hour instead.
I missed reading and, as it turns out, I do have the time for it. I can live with spending a little less time scrolling through Instagram reels
I won’t lie, it takes commitment. Giving myself “just five more minutes” on my phone has tripped me up more than once. I’ve had to learn to be strict with myself, fuelled largely by my resentment that a little electronic rectangle has been stealing away precious hours of my life. But I am happier for it. I missed reading and, as it turns out, I do have the time for it. I can live with spending a little less time scrolling through Instagram reels. If a bedtime routine doesn’t work for you, try reading on the bus, between lectures, when you get home from uni, or any other time that you’d normally reach for your phone. Audiobooks count as reading too, and they’re great for when you’re on the go!
The second half of the equation is your reading material, and I suggest choosing carefully. As much as I love The Lord of the Rings, books like those are a big undertaking and not so easy to keep up with. I am unashamed to admit that revisiting childhood favourites was essential to my journey back into reading. Easy reads like The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis can entertain without requiring any mental energy. I then moved on to some of the books I had collected but had yet to read, including Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli and The Martian by Andy Weir, both of which I loved. Now that I’m hooked, I’m picking up new books: I’ve recently read The Beach by Alex Garland and Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre, the latter of which has become one of my all-time favourites.
If you’re struggling to stick to your reading, try something different. You don’t have to finish a book if you’re not enjoying it. Some of my friends struggle to get stuck into fiction, but get totally absorbed in non-fiction. I love old books, but sometimes don’t have the energy for old-fashioned writing styles. If you’re a fan of crime documentaries, there are plenty of fiction and non-fiction books on the subject. Look out for “based on the book by” messages on your favourite films and TV shows. If educational TikToks are your thing, see if you can find books on the topics you’re interested in.
If you’re struggling to stick to your reading, try something different. You don’t have to finish a book if you’re not enjoying it
To get your hands on some books, your first stop should absolutely be the library. If you want a specific book, they can usually get it in for you, or simply have a wander and pick something off the shelves. Seeing as it’s free, you have nothing to lose if you don’t like a book! If you find something you love and want your own copy, then eBay, charity shops and second-hand bookshops are your most budget-friendly options. EBooks are usually not too pricey either, and there are always discount codes or free trials available for Audible.
Reading, for me, is the ultimate escapism. It’s the only thing that completely quiets my mind and brings me away from my worries. It’s almost meditative. When I’m having a bad day, reading always helps me to relax and gain some much-needed perspective. In fact, reading has been proven to benefit our sleep, wellbeing, vocabulary, empathy, and more. There’s also a certain satisfaction in adding completed books to my Goodreads account, which I would recommend doing for some extra motivation. All in all, I reckon that reading more is a resolution worth sticking to.