BY KARINA MERCEDES MARTINEZ
The summer is almost over, and if you’re like me, you never got around to reading that book you said you would. You know, that book you impulsively purchased towards the start of the year, when you were too busy with work to make time for leisure reading anyway.
Soon enough, June rolled around and “summer reading” became half-skimmed articles or other. Maybe you toyed with the idea of finding a book worth your time, felt the impulse to uncover an amazing summer fling, but you didn’t know where to meet this perfect book, so you gave up searching. Maybe you opened up a novel, but it didn’t open up to you. Now, here we are, a few weeks from fall, and for a long time most of what we read will be assigned to us. No more choice, no more freedom.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a season though, and the fact of the matter is that you are not alone. There’s no need to be discouraged by what you were or weren’t able to do. The first step to reading for fun is simply accepting that you want to. The second step is starting. But why, for so many, is that leap from step one to step two such a challenge?
There is something extremely critical about reading for pleasure. Taking the time to set yourself aside and delve into written words is proven to increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce symptoms of depression, and improve overall well being. There are endless reasons to read for fun, and I’d love for you to discover them all, but before that’s even possible, you have to find a book and read the damn thing!
So, here are seven tips for anyone not quite sure how to start:
FIND YOUR PERFECT ATMOSPHERE
If you already have a book in mind, or in hand, all that’s left is a place to sit down. But often times, finding an environment that allows you to become fully absorbed in your reading can be difficult.
A well practiced reader will have a much easier time zoning out distractions and losing themselves in their reading, no matter where they are, because they’ve had practiced doing so– just as one who meditates very frequently will find it much easier to relax. Your brain is like a muscle in that it can be trained to transition from different modes of attentiveness and focus.
Therefore, if you’re not used to reading for pleasure and you’re very easily distracted, getting ten pages deep into a novel might not feel pleasurable at all. In fact, it might feel impossible. But if you know what’s good for you, don’t put it down! Find a calm, quiet atmosphere, disregard everything else, and give it another shot. You’ll be shocked at how much faster the world in those words can absorb you.
Let’s say you have an idea of where you could read, but you still don’t know what. I offer you my best suggestions (in no particular order):
BROWSE A BOOK STORE
Visit a used bookstore or a Barnes & Noble, whichever atmosphere interests you more, and take your time browsing the bookshelves. Find something that catches your eye. Whether it be a book’s title, the color of its spine, or the enticing description on its back cover, there’s a reason you feel drawn to certain things over others, and I think that’s worth exploring.
Picture a room full of texts on hundreds of different subjects, from different decades, written by people with all sorts of backgrounds– I can guarantee you there’s something there for everyone. Treat it like a blind date.
Have a favorite book? As in literally just one? Maybe you’re hesitant to read something new, because you’ve only had a select few positive reading experiences. If that’s the case, do not hesitate to reread!! There are still plenty of benefits in doing so.
You never know what you might find between the lines. You might like it twice as much and for reasons you didn’t before (isn’t that what happens with our favorite shows and movies?).
Then, when you’re done, take that excitement and use it as the momentum you need to find another book you will really enjoy.
START WITH A CLASSIC
For those who want the best of everything new they try, for all my high-brow friends and proficient readers, I encourage delving into a classic. Do a bit of research first. Classic literature can be transformative and it can be draining– it all depends, on the book and its reader.
My personal favorite is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, because losing your youth and beauty is a terrible thing, but selling your soul is much worse. Another great one is Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell, because totalitarianism isn’t just a nightmare fiction of the future– it’s reality for millions today. Classics are classic because they shaped our culture and left long lasting marks. Just keep in mind that there is as much value in discovering what you don’t like as there is in knowing what you do.
BEGIN A SERIES
Lots of amazing books come in pairs, triplets, or like Harry Potter, groups of seven. Some series are so long, you can collect them like memorabilia (Goosebumps, Magic Tree House!?).
If you aren’t afraid of commitment, try starting a series– if you love the first book, odds are you’ll like the second, and the third, and so on.
JOIN A BOOK CLUB
For those who need a bit of extra motivation, sign up for a book club (or MAKE one)! Every reading group is different, meaning they read different things and thus attract different people. There are communities online, and groups that meet in person. If you’re the type who likes a sense of community and mutual support, I highly encourage you to look into what books clubs are active around you. Sit in on a meeting. Dare to participate.
When it comes to literature, there is something for everyone. Learn about what interests you. Whatever you pick up, dive in and don’t hold back.
Summer flew by like pages in the wind, and fall will do the same. Find some time to read about the facts, the fiction, the fiction in the facts, the facts in the fiction… You will thank yourself later.