Tuesday, July 28, 2015

From the Archives: Getting My Pleasure Reading Groove Back

I'm on family-reunion break this week, so I thought it might be fun to delve into the archives and pick some old posts to share again. This one was originally published on July 24th, 2014, when I was hugely pregnant and probably a little hormonally depressed. Still, has some good advice for myself.

Pleasure reading has always been my thing. And I mean, since like first grade I've ALWAYS had a book I was deep in the middle of, one I carried around with me and sneakily read under my desk when classes got boring (although after being a teacher myself, I realize I was probably fooling no one. I've even been annoyed by a few students who I knew were distracted by books under their desks, but then I would remind myself that, as an English teacher, that's exactly the life skill I was trying to encourage, and if my lesson that day wasn't interesting to them, well, that was my fault.) (Also, never tell this to my boss, but I used to keep a book hidden in my desk drawer when I worked in university administration., and would read when things were slow, only to slam my desk drawer closed whenever anyone walked by my work space).

Anyway, I've just always been the kind of person to have a book going, to be plowing through my to-read list, and to actually pace myself so I didn't spend ALL my time reading.

But recently? I don't know if this pregnancy is messing with my brain, or if I'm just losing it, or what, because pleasure reading has been way, way down on my to-do list. In fact, on our recent family vacation, I didn't take a single book with me. I'm not sure I even thought about it when I was packing. I had a few audio books on my phone, but considering that my phone was the go-to toddler-distraction-device on all our plane flights and car rides, I didn't actually get a chance to listen to anything. I can't tell you how many times I thought, "I wish I had a book with me." It was such a strange, out-of-character move on my part, that honestly I'm completely flabbergasted by it. How did I not pack even one book? What was I thinking?

But the truth is, I've just been struggling to fit pleasure reading into my life for a few months now. And this is not acceptable. This is not who I am. So I've been consciously working on a few strategies to get me going again, and I thought I'd share them here, just to remind myself in the future in case I ever go through this weird phase again.

1. Have lots of books on hand.  When I got home from that family vacation, I immediately went online and put about ten books from my to-read list on hold at my library. I've got about five now sitting on my bedside table, reminding me they need to be read.

2. Give yourself a deadline. I've found that I tend to read library books with more alacrity than the books I actually own, because I know I have to return them. That forced deadline works wonders on my motivation to start a book (whether I finish depends on the book).

3. Have different media options going at once. By this, I mean I need to have audio books, e-books, and good old paper books available to me at all times. In the first two years of motherhood, I totally converted to audio books, and tried to get my hands on the audio version of every book I wanted to read. It was just so much more convenient for multi-tasking with a baby. But recently, I've found that paper books are a little more convenient for this stage of my life (or really, my toddler's stage of life). And e-books are always handy for out and about (it's easier to slip my e-reader into my purse for the doctor's office waiting room than some massive hardback). Anyway, it's just good to have options, for whatever situation is at hand.

4. Read what you like. So, I've got a couple of books going right now that are "should read" books about pregnancy and parenting. Now, I'm a total advocate for reading books to stretch your mind, learn new things, and enrich your life experience. And these pregnancy books are very good and interesting and things I want to read. But in my current situation, where I'm struggling to find motivation to read on a daily basis, the dryer tone of these books isn't helping much. I found myself thinking the other day, "I just wish I had a really good YA fantasy to lose myself in right now." Ask and ye shall receive. I got an email the next day saying my hold for Dreams of Gods and Monsters was available, and I kind of dropped everything to indulge in it for a few days. When you're struggling with pleasure reading, read what is absolutely most pleasurable to you.

5. Make reading an established part of your routine. This is the one that's been the biggest culprit for me, because I feel like my routine has been all disrupted lately (i.e. sleeping so much more than I used to, it really takes a bite out of my reading time). I finally decided to let myself read a chapter or two before bed each night. This used to be a huge no-no for me, because of the ever-present danger of getting sucked into a book and then not putting it down until the wee hours of the morning. But it's a risk I'm taking now because most days, I don't find any time to read until I'm climbing into bed.

6. Make it a priority. This last piece of advice isn't as concrete as the others, but it's still important. I think pleasure reading has been falling off the grid for me because other things are feeling more important. Or generally because I just feel exhausted all the time (yay for being pregnant!). But when I stop and think objectively, I really want pleasure reading to be a part of my life. That's not just the kind of person I am, it's also the kind of person I want to be, even if I have to work a little harder at it. I just have to view reading time as important and worth the effort. Because it is.

Do you ever have reading slumps? What helps you get over them?


  1. Regarding your third point, I would love for you to do a post on the pros and cons of audio vs paper books. I am conflicted in my thoughts! Does it count as reading if we are just listening? Is reading just about the story or hearing the words out loud or actually seeing them in the page? Books are not all created equal and some lend themselves to one media or another. Is it always the ideal to consume a story in book form?

    1. Great idea for a post, I'll work on one. Short answer, I totally think audio books count, but it's true the format doesn't work for all books.