Reading for pleasure (and why it’s important)

Like most literature students, I love books. I could spend hours in Waterstones perusing the shelves if someone let me, and hearing other people’s current reads and what they think of them is my idea of interesting conversation. But I think I speak on behalf of most literature students when I say that sometimes reading just isn’t your idea of fun when 90% of your time is spent pouring over novels that are on module reading lists. Ironically, it is our love of of books that got us to this point, but when your ‘hobby’ or ‘downtime’ activity turns into work, it can sometimes make picking up a book a loathsome task. Something which is disheartening when you’ve spent so much of your life compiling ‘to be read’ lists and being excited about new book releases.

I think the issue is that it’s very easy to get in the mindset of ‘oh, I’ll read that new book when I have time‘ or ‘that’s going to be a summer read’ but summer rolls around and I have time, but all my energy and enthusiasm is sadly, gone. I don’t want to pick up a book – why would I when I have just spent twenty-four weeks reading novel after novel and the criticism to go with it? However, after two summers of finishing around two books max, I am fed up of my own attitude when it comes to reading for pleasure and I am on a mission to make time to read for pleasure (even during term time).

Here’s why I have decided to make a change:

  1. Sometimes, I just need to remind myself why reading is important to me and why I want to study a lit degree. I think it is very easy to get sucked into module reading lists and forget why and how you ever enjoyed any of this. I have recently been struggling a lot with one of my masters modules and subsequently have lost a lot of excitement for a genre I know deep down I adore. It’s heartbreaking but after talking about it with various different people I realised that I can’t blame it entirely on the module – I need to read around my reading list more and remind myself why I love the genre again. It’s a problem that can somewhat be rectified by picking up some short stories and reading something that isn’t ‘work’.
  2. Reading is actually relaxing!! I sometimes really do forget how nice it is to sit with a book and a cup of tea and just read. It sounds so so simple, but just picking up a new book, whether it be the latest Man Booker Prize winner or a trashy romance novel a book is a book and the comfort of sitting down to unwind with one should not be underestimated. (ever!).
  3. Reading for pleasure allows you to read around what is considered ‘canonical’, ‘a classic’, or ‘a modern classic’ (wow, what a terrifying thought!). I love ‘classics’ but sometimes I feel that I read so many for classes that I actually don’t have a clue what has been recently published or which novels are new bestsellers. I have relatives (knowing I am a lit student) asking what is new that they should read and I genuinely don’t have a clue! I’m like, “uh, idk, I heard The Great Gatsby has some pretty good reviews!” – it’s not ideal.
  4. Rediscovering my enthusiasm for writing. I used to do so much creative writing (I even joined the creative writing society in my first year of uni with the good intention of keeping it up) but that quickly fizzled out when the full extent of my weekly reading kicked in. (lol, first year me thought those reading lists were big – she would have cried at my current weekly reading). But on a serious note, I recently started writing again and immediately found that I had the urge to also pick up a book. Reading and writing will always go hand in hand for me and reading for pleasure really helps me to pick up a pen and get writing (whether it’s total rubbish or not!).

I think reading for pleasure in general is something that sadly has become a little low on people’s agendas. Why spend four hours reading when you can watch the film on Netflix in two? It’s about having the time, and always will be. In my heart I have always and will always know the value of reading a book for pleasure. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be a new favourite, I have gained everything by just picking up something new.

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