As soon as I learned how to read, until when I was about 14 years old, I was obsessed with books. This isn’t an exaggeration for literary purposes but quite an accurate reflection of the truth. I would spend hours reading in a single day. I once went on holiday for a few weeks and finished reading over 10 books. I wish it was a habit I had at least retained a bit of, it taught me a lot and I’m sure played a big role in who I am today.
The case with most people I know who have stopped reading is simply that they don’t have the time. Or a better way to phrase it would be that they don’t make time for reading, it is shoved to the end of the list and forgotten about. They might read an odd book or two in a year but that’s all.
With me, it was education I guess. First GCSE’s, then A Levels and finally university. There doesn’t seem to be any time to sit down and read, except the texts that are compulsory for my studies. Of course, this isn’t true. I have a lot of time, many hours I spend procrastinating or doing useless things to pass the time. So, I have resorted to blaming my laziness on how short my attention span has become. And I blame this deterioration of my attention span on the media.
Snappy headlines, tweets, short clips, TV shows full of action and minimal scenes of mere dialogue. All of this conditions us into becoming impatient, expecting everything in life to happen quickly. If you watch a film from the 90’s and compare it to a film from 2010, you’ll notice the decrease in still, slow moments in modern versions. And suddenly it takes so much effort to sit down, enjoy, and concentrate on a book.
Thankfully, my undergraduate degree (English Literature) naturally requires me to do a lot of reading. I know compulsory reading can often be a major put-off but I’ve come across texts which have actively encouraged my reading habits!
The Start of a Solution
You can’t really throw yourself into the deep end with reading. It would be extremely difficult to go from not reading regularly, to reading a book like East of Eden with 720 pages.
Luckily, for one of my modules we were told to buy multiple books which were all collections of short stories or poems. I know poems aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love them dearly. However, I think the short story collections are more appropriate for this post. For any of you who want to get into some poetry you can find the poetry collection I have here.
I’ve found that short stories are a brilliant way to gradually train your mind into enjoying reading. Some stories are a short as 4 pages whereas others go up to about 25. They’re just as meaningful and rich as novels, just shorter. I have two of these collections which I’ve used for my module, and I love the authors who have been chosen for both.
The first is Short Stories from the Nineteenth Century by David Stuart Davies. The title is pretty self-explanatory, it’s a collection of 15 short stories from the 19th century. The collection features great authors such as Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde and many more. From the stories that I’ve read so far, my favourites are: Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Bottle Imp and Thomas Hardy’s The Withered Arm.
The second of the collections is titled The World’s Greatest Short Stories by James Daley consisting of 20 short stories. I think what makes this book special is that is spans worldwide into many different cultures. The book includes great authors from Italy, Argentina, Nigeria, Russia and more. Although, this book and the previous one have some of the same stories in them (only about 2 or 3) so I’d be mindful of that. From this collection, my favourite stories so far are: Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, and Machado de Assis’ The Fortune-Teller.
Another good method to entice your mind into reading, is reading about something you actually want to learn about. There’s no point forcing yourself to read a world-famous novel if you’ve no interest in it.
Here are some of my tips to finding a book you’ll enjoy:
- Start by thinking of historical figures you have an interest in, they will most likely have a number of texts based on them such as autobiographies.
- Come up with general topics you’d like to read more about, whatever it may be. Random examples could be politics, art, fashion, food, manga, media, sports.
- You may also be interested in reading for a more personal gain, perhaps on your own culture and/or history.
I’ve purchased many books that I’ve been personally interested in, however the most recent one was purchased from Paris. Vincent van Gogh is an individual I’ve always been interested, and I also admire his artwork. When I walked into the Orsay Museum’s gift shop and saw many, many books there I knew it was time to invest in one.
Finally, if you’ve managed to read until the end of this post, I’m sure you can throw yourself back into the world of literature. I hope this has helped or inspired some of you to pick up/pursue a new book!
Thanks for reading,