This entire post is inspired by a video that’s stayed with me a lot, and that is Kristina Horner’s How to Make Time for Reading in College. Equally useful was this video I saw later by PeruseProject called How to Read More During College/School. I suggest you check them both out, not only because they are great videos but because both of them are excellent booktubers.
So yes. College – or university, as I will call it because, well, I’m English. Everybody knows once September/October rolls around any momentum built up over the long summer holiday comes crashing to a halt with the advent of essays and seminar preparation and the dreaded (or not so dreaded, if you’re lucky) required reading. Reading lists can be a drag, especially when you realise a few weeks into term that you chose module options that aren’t quite to your taste – if you did this buckle up because it’s going to be a bit of a slog to the finish line.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how much you might like or dislike your modules, required reading has a funny way of utterly sucking the fun out of reading. When it gets to 9pm the night before class and you still have 200 pages of that novel to finish, well, something’s gotta give and sadly, sometimes, the thing that’s gotta give is savouring the novel. Instead it becomes a race to see how fast you can get through those last chapters, maybe you’ll end up speed reading, maybe you’ll skim. But it’s all for the greater good because then you can go to class the next morning knowing you have actually finished the required reading. Hallelujah etc.
How, then, is it possible to still enjoy reading?
Have a clearly demarcated ‘leisure read’
For me, as a literature student, I like to have very different approaches for how I read during term time. My required reading always has to take priority, always, and yes I could do with remembering this more often than I do. Unfortunately, if I’m not careful, this means that any leisure/non-assigned reading becomes re-reading or aimless wandering between 3 books at any given time. This is a trap I fell into at the start of this academic year. I think, however, I’ve become more mindful of my tendency to do this and have adjusted my reading strategy accordingly.
I would advise to have very clearly demarcated ‘leisure reading’ and time set aside for these books only. For example, my light reading at the moment is George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. It’s hardly a light read; it’s not short, it’s not simple, it’s not a quick read easily devoured in one sitting but, in a way, this is precisely why I chose it. It has short chapters, told from various characters’ perspectives so I can read a chapter or a couple of chapters when I have a spare minute. Which brings me onto the next tip…
Read in the easily wasted moments
I don’t know about you but the minimum time I spend cooking on an evening is 15 minutes (5 minutes for water to boil, 10 minutes for pasta to cook) and I like to pick up my book in that time and get some reading done. There is no point in me picking up an assigned book in this time; often the kitchen is busy, there are other people, other distractions, and I would only just get into the text before my pasta would be cooked and I’d have to break off reading in order to, oh you know, eat. So 15 minutes of reading something not for school is the strategy I choose instead. It may not sound like a lot but if you think only of the time wasted when you wait for water to boil and pasta to cook, that’s 15 minutes multiplied by 7 every single week. That’s 1hr 45mins every week that you could be reading, at the very least. That’s not taking into account other meals, or other wasted moments, like the few minutes it takes for a kettle to boil or a toaster to work its magic. Ever arrived to class early and found your professor still not there? Could be 5/10 minutes wasted, could be 5/10 minutes gained in reading time. It sounds simple but it’s all too easy to forget those moments that pass by, largely wasted, whilst we wait for things to happen. Don’t waste them, identify them, and utilise them. However, beware…
Do not force yourself to read
If you don’t feel like reading, don’t. Goodness knows you’re being told to read so much anyway – essays, articles, chapters, novels – that the worst thing you could do is turn leisure reading into another obligation. If you want to watch an episode of Modern Family instead of reading before you go to bed, do that instead. Book fatigue is a very real thing and you don’t want to turn down time into yet another thing you have to do because otherwise your TBR will be staring pointedly at you from across the room. Ignore the glares, turn on Netflix, hit play and relax. There’ll always be tomorrow.
Don’t read leisurely at the detriment of assigned reading
All too often, I have fallen into this trap. It might seem good, in the short term, to take a break and dive into the latest page-turner rather than struggle through a tome like, oh say, Paradise Lost but wilfully and repeatedly ignoring your required reading in favour of your leisure read will only result in problems further down the line. Sure, by all means, dip into A Game of Thrones one night because you’re just not really feeling that 40-page article on Early modern bodily regimens, but do not do this repeatedly over a week or a fortnight. It will catch up with you and yes you might have successfully completed a book from your TBR pile but you won’t have prepared for class and will then be playing catch-up with your assignments. It’s a very, very slippery slope to ruin, trust me on this, for all reading is fun, try not to succumb to the short-term gratification to the detriment of your studies. After all, I can only assume you’re there to get a qualification, at the end of the day, and you can’t do that if you’re consistently ignoring readings – they are assigned for a reason, your professors don’t just hate you. So, and I know it’s hard, try to prioritise university reading first and foremost. And then you can enjoy that latest page-turner without guilt once your assignments are done – think on how much more you’ll enjoy it if you don’t have those looming over your head.
Obviously, take all these with a pinch of salt and yes I could do with taking my own advice (particularly on the final tip), but I think it’s really important to try to maintain that fun/entertainment aspect of reading when in college because, like I said, assignments sure have the potential to suck all the fun out of any text and half of that is because you’re frantically trying to finish them in time for class. I think that’s actally the most important point I could ever decide upon with this subject… try to keep reading fun!