How and Why to Read for Pleasure

Image: Pixabay

The common response to not reading is nearly always lack of time. This may definitely be true in some cases, however, when I think about how much time many people spend on their phones, on watching Netflix, on browsing the web and online shopping, I can’t help but think these activities could be substituted for reading (if they wanted to be).

Reading for pleasure is not a luxury and shouldn’t be dismissed as so.

I have had a love hate relationship with the rise of E-readers and Kindles – when I was younger I ardently opposed them and thought their use would see the end of the physical book. Alas, since 2007, when the first Kindle was released, the sales of paperback books have still been thriving. (I know this, having worked as a bookseller…)

To kindle… or not to kindle?

The Kindle and other e-readers offer something great – which is being able to take your bookcase with you everywhere. Books can be bulky and feel like an effort to take with you on your commute or travels and thus, a Kindle can save this burden.

I finally succumbed to being a Kindle user last year – although I have (and never will) abandon reading and buying physical books. I see the benefits of both and cannot see why readers shouldn’t use both. Moreover, I simply do not have the space to keep all the books that I want to read. Rather, I am far more selective about what books I buy now. Which is good for me, and the trees.

Fundamentally, Kindle’s make reading more accessible than perhaps the physical book. For one, many E-Books are usually cheaper than your average £7.99 paperback or £20 hardback, and they are great for people who have poor eyesight, with the adjustable font size and brightness.

Upon using a Kindle for the first time back in September, I really was surprised at how much it felt like I was reading physical pages. (This is not a sponsored post I promise, I just really like my Kindle….) Still not convinced?

How to make time for reading

  • Make it routine – this is the best way to make it a habit. Usually spend 10 minutes before bed scrolling on your phone? Switch your phone off and substitute it for a book. Your eyes and sleep will thank you for it.
  • Start small and build up – find the idea of spending an hour with a book daunting? Then don’t. Give yourself small goals, like reading one chapter at a time, or reading for 10 minutes every other day. This also works for the size of your books.
  • Stuck with what to read? Use the web There are some great websites out there – such as Goodreads, Fantastic Fiction and Literature Map. Or, you can do it the old fashioned way and go to your local bookshop and chat with a bookseller – they will be more than happy to assist! (Trust me!)
  • Don’t feel guilty – it may feel like self indulgence to switch yourself off from the world and your surroundings, but it isn’t. Reading for pleasure is a great way to improve your own mental health, imagination and knowledge.

Why you should make time to read

  • Taking a break from social media – reading has always been about escapism, but in the digital age it can be great to detach yourself from social media, especially before bed. If you have an iPhone, change your app settings to restrict your access – and then let yourself indulge in a book.
  • Benefits to mind, body and spirit – a good book will make you think and challenge you beyond your comfort zone. On a personal level, I also find that reading is good for my mental health and makes me feel more relaxed (especially when in the bath!)
  • Self indulgence is good – from time to time, it is good to self indulge and have that one-to-one time with yourself. This is something you should never feel guilty about. With reading, it’s just you and the book. Reading for pleasure as a form of self care is something that should be championed in the 2020s.

I hope this has been somewhat uplifting for anyone that is stuck in a reading rut or struggling to find time to read. Now that I spend more time reading, I do feel better in all senses. Happy reading!

V 🙂

Reading in progress: Ducks, Newburyport

Image: Galley Beggar Press

I am almost four hundred pages into Lucy Ellmann’s 2019 Booker prize shortlisted work, which would usually be pretty much near the end of a usual paperback. However, it feels like I have a life time to go before I reach the final end. Trust me, I am enjoying it really (in bouts).

I was drawn to reading the novel, I admit, slightly because of its reputation but more because of its standout title and appearance. Featuring a blue cover with a rubber duck on the inside jacket, accompanied by the prestige of a Booker prize nominee sticker – I thought, what could go wrong?

The truth be told – I have gone through waves of loving and hating this book. However, one thing is for sure, I have never read anything like it and I definitely admire it for its attempt to re-work the barriers of fiction and the message it is trying to convey. In sense, I feel connected to it as the main character has all the types of worries and weird thoughts as I do.

And it feels especially relatable at the moment, considering Donald Trump’s recent actions in Iran.

Overall, despite its (at times) frustrating lack of format and order; I am drawn to the Ohio housewife’s critique of the world; especially contemporary American issues, however, I admit, I am missing the traditional structures of the novel. Chapters, dialogue, charaterisation and background. But I can’t help thinking, perhaps that’s the very point?

Upon finishing, I will update in due course.

Is Instagram a force for good?

Image: Pinterest

Huddled in the dark, wrapped in my duvet cocoon, I used to spend my evenings in bed scrolling through Instagram. I would obsess over people I knew, people I didn’t know and form goals for the person I wanted to be, based on a snapshot of someone’s life. Simultaneously, I was aware that nothing on Instagram was the reality of peoples’ lives, but at the same time I used it to make comparisons about my own life and what I had achieved in that day.

Instagram works for some people, but it never quite worked for me. In all aspects of my life, I have the bad trait of comparing myself to others. Instagram, the platform that likes to sugar coat the daily lives of others around us, and the celebrities we ideolise, was thus, never a good use of my time. However, it took several years for me to realise that.

I used to love Instagram for being able to see parts of the world I haven’t yet explored; through travel accounts and immersive photography platforms. I also used to love it for cooking inspiration, art and fashion. Despite all its many uses, I have had to abandon it to prevent the comparisons I would always make – between their lives and my own. Comparison for me, has never helped me to achieve good mental health.

Additionally, in hindsight, I believe there is something dangerous about the platform. Either consciously, or subconsciously, it encourages us to boast about our lives, our clothes, our wealth and our fortune, whilst others can be left feeling as if they do not fit in with the culture it perpetuates. The more you have, it seems, the more you can post. Instagram and its culture of fostering “influencers,” bloggers and celebrities, pays homage to the tide of modern capitalism’s dream. Sponsored posts by those which we are infatuated by; bear the remnants of global capitalism and its longstanding legacy. We are encouraged to want and to buy.

But moreover, we are always encouraged to do things. To be constantly around people and then to boast about it. Instagram can be used as a platform to encourage certain conversations; about mental health, the environment and period poverty are to name just a few. But I feel that it is selective about the conversations it gives space to. It doesn’t talk about the social stigma that is still attached to loneliness, it is still a foreign social media phenomena to like being alone with yourself and to engage in simple things. It doesn’t allow for a simple, fulfilling life, this is something it will never be able to perpetuate.

It was a platform that I knew was not good for me in some ways, but one which I still used, partly because I felt compelled to. Everyone else uses it without a problem (or so it seems). I remember telling some people I had deleted it and them seeming genuinely shocked as they echoed, “but why” to my response. Well, this is exactly why.

I’m not saying this is what everyone should do – but it is something that has worked for me. I now spend most of my evenings huddled in bed with a book, which offers little room for me to form toxic, idealistic comparisons. But it is a way in which I can switch off from the real world, the blue screens and picture perfect lives of people I barely know.

Social media can be irrevocably useful and a tool for inspiration and connectivity. But it can also be a toxic one, showcasing picture perfect lives and the imaginary reality of daily lives which do not match up to our own.

July in books

Image: On Chesil Beach (film adaptation, 2017)

Although two and a half books in one month is not a lot too most people – it is more than I have read for a while! Earlier on in the month I told myself I wanted to read more for pleasure – and I guess I have succeeded. Next month’s target will be three books – which should be more achievable as I will have finished my exams!

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007)

The first book I chose to read this month was one of the most harrowing books I have read for a while. I feel in love with Atonement when I was studying A-Level literature and have always wanted to read more McEwan and this didn’t disappoint. I read the short novel in about two days and was at once taken back to the writing style which made me fall in love with literature. McEwan has such a rich palette for detail and makes every scene come alive. On Chesil Beach follows the account of a newly wed couple on their honeymoon evening. Flipping from their student days until the present, McEwan tells the story of their upsetting struggle. Subtle but innovative, the story is compelling but nonetheless devastating. A perspective not often covered in literature, but tackled with beauty and elegance, the reader can almost feel the tension prickling through the pages. 4/5

Autumn by Ali Smith (2016),

Considered to be the first fiction book written in response to Brexit, this book (and following series) follows a contemporary criticism of Britain in the aftermath of the 2016 vote. Written in the third person, in prose somewhat resembling poetic voice, it offers a stark criticism of the feeling of Britain in a post-Brexit world. Although being fiction, one cannot help but interpret Autumn as symbolic of Britain’s Brexit sentiment as a historic moment. Leaver or remainer, upon reading Autumn, readers should agree that it is a remarkable work of fiction based on a current, real life political event that everyone should read regardless of political persuasion. Autumn is a set of four books which include Spring, Summer and Winter. Each is a reflection of the moments following the Brexit vote. Stark, yet wonderfully written and reflective. (5/5)

Saturday by Ian McEwan

I cannot really write a review of this as I am only half way through, but I thought I would include a some thoughts anyway. As I was impressed by Chesil Beach, I thought I would continue the McEwan theme. Saturday is set in the post 9/11 age and offers a subtle reflection on British politics in the 2000s; the threat of nuclear war with Iran and urban life in modern London. As expected, McEwan intricately describes every nook and cranny of the life of the protagonist, the neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne and his family. It is a novel set in one single Saturday, but the intricacy makes it feel like a lifetime. I am very much looking forward to reading more of it!

falling back in love with reading

Image: Pixabay

With every passing year, I make the resolution to read more. Which sounds ridiculous if you knew what I was like ten years ago. I was one of those children who used to stay up at night with a book under the covers and a torch. Not even sunny days could drag me away from the comfort of printed pages.

I used to read until my eyes got sore and my joints got stiff from holding the heavy weight of thousands of words.

Every year since I started university (three now) I have made the resolution that I really must read more. Which is ironic as I study history and my days revolve around reading. But reading for pleasure has been out of the question since 2016.

Reading for pleasure can often feel like a selfish indulgence – especially with fiction books. Often, they’re not really adding much to your life (or you intelligence) and feel as if they are a sinful indulgence. That’s what my relationship to them has been recently anyway. After failing last year’s Goodreads reading challenge I set for myself, and the one before that I really want to start enjoying reading again.

Because reading should not be categorized as a form of guilty self indulgence, even when our busy lives are jam packed – who can’t spare ten minutes a day? Reading is so important for the mind and maintaining a mentality of freedom and imagination.

So for this month (during my revision for exams!) – I have challenged myself to read more fiction. I am on book number 2 so far. A follow up ‘books I have read this month’ will be on the horizon soon.

V.