Regaining My Reading Mojo
Booker Talk is welcoming two additional members of the team this year.
In her first post for Booker Talk, publishing student Cerian Fishlock bemoans the effect doing a literature degree had on her enthusiasm for reading
Growing up, I was the avid reader stereotype. I would arrive at school every day with at least one non-syllabus book in my bag. My tutor encouraged my passion, asking for recommendations, and marvelling at the (ridiculous) number of texts I consumed in the holidays.
I was the real-life Rory Gilmore.
Yet, at some point something changed.
I went to university to study English and History. And to be perfectly honest, I would be slightly ashamed to reveal the number of books that I’ve managed to read in the past 2 years.
Don’t misunderstand, I genuinely loved university. But I’ve only recently realised the damaging effect that it had upon my relationship with the books that I once loved.
I can’t possibly speak for all subjects, but I can say the amount of reading English and History departments require is, frankly, ludicrous. At least one book per week for English (often two, and more for single honours), and probably five or more accompanying chapters. For History it was ten to twenty academic texts a week. These were upwards of 60 pages, and incisive notes were expected – plus your other work. I only had 5-10 weekly contact hours, but I was still in the library daily between 9am-6pm, pouring over the pages and pages spread over all surrounding desks.
As I said, I loved university, so I’m genuinely not trying to complain. But when your time is spent reading for work, it’s difficult to read for pleasure.
You can no longer just be absorbed by a text. Now you subconsciously consider all possible meanings behind every syntactic choice. Books I used to adore I haven’t touched in years. I’m unable to detach them from the indecipherable notes scrawled down whilst my tutor shared his wisdom whilst going a million miles a minute.
There are the books I didn’t like, those I had no say in reading. In my first year I had no influence at all over the English modules taken, and they were often not my taste. I enjoyed them at the time, but that’s a year spent on texts I will never revisit, never look back on in fondness.
Although I hate to admit it, the lack of reading for pleasure whilst studying may have had something to do with the fact that it was around the time I went to university that Netflix really took off. When the options are either struggling through a translation of Middle English or watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black, I think I’ll go for the latter. The thought of reading too much else outside of these hours was just fairly exhausting.
So how am I trying to move on?
Firstly, I’m only reading the books I truly want to. If it’s recommended and sounds like my cup of tea, great. If not, I won’t pretend it’s going on my ‘To Be Read’ list.
Secondly, I’m making a note of all the titles I find interesting, so that when the mood strikes, I’ll be able to take my pick – rather than aimlessly wandering Waterstones, slightly overwhelmed by all the options. (Please don’t say I’m the only one this happens to?)
Finally, I am setting myself personal targets. These are just for me, and will be adjustable to reflect the realities of the rest of my life. Don’t worry I won’t be popping these on GoodReads, I’d probably end up feeling inferior!
I still love books, I’ve never stopped. I think I just had to take a break for a while, to regain my senses. As I’ve said, I really did love university. I just hate that it temporarily ruined my relationship with literature, without me really being aware it was happening.
32 thoughts on “Regaining My Reading Mojo”
Thank you for sharing this! I can relate completely. I am a university student studying IR so a lot of History, Poli Sci etc. I only got back to reading for pleasure when I started working full time in my break and it made me realize how much I missed it and how much needed it is in my student life.. Its sad that it is not encouraged in college and almost inhibited by coursework reading. Something that’s helped me is using my breaks to read whatever I like, no pressure of reading recommendations or anything. Also using Goodreads to track progress and have interaction with fellow bibliophiles is a good incentive. Good luck – I’m sure you’ll gain your reading mojo back in no time! Check out my experiences on: http://www.kamalkibaatain.com
I’m hoping to go back to uni (as a mature student, I’m 33) in the autumn to study English Lit, and I’m a bit apprehensive that this will happen to me too, especially as medical issues have complicated my concentration and love of literature in recent years. But I guess the only way to find out is to try! It’s reassuring to hear you have no regrets, at least. Best of luck in regaining your reading mojo — I’m sure you’ll be in love with books again in no time. 🙂
Well done for giving it a go. I admire anyone who decides to return to education after a break of a few years. It will probably take a while to get into the studying habit -just don;t be too hard on yourself and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it.
I went through a similar phase after leaving Uni, and it probably took me a good two or three years to get back into the groove of reading. Best of luck with your plans for moving on – it sounds as if you have some good steps in place for the future.
What did you do in those years Jacqui – not read at all or read ‘easy’ kinds of books??
Lots of light, comfort reading – mostly vintage crime and some relatively commercial stuff like Nick Hornby. His ‘Fever Pitch’ was one of the books that got me back into reading again.
Funny how crime seems to be one that we – and many other literature fatigued readers – turned to
I don’t know the figures across the country but two years ago 5 of those in our county became volunteer led libraries
I totally understand where you are coming from. After college it took me a long time to find my pleasure of reading again. I loved what I had to read for my English classes but all the other stuff that I had to read for my other classes just made it near impossible. I am glad that you are finding your love again. Great post!
How long did it take you to rediscover the pleasure? A few months or years….
I went through a similar phase after Uni. Now that I write for a living, it is again difficult to just get lost in a book–I’ve begun to read like a writer.
I get tempted these days by easy-to-read books, and that’s why I have taken to reading two books in parallel–one that I want to challenge myself to read, and the other just to have fun. This system is working out well so far. I’ve put everything on Goodreads, and feel that it is a good way to keep me on track! It helps me not be stressed by everything that is out there–I just focus on my list, and that’s about it.
All the best with your reading, and I’m glad you’re beginning to work out a system that works for you.
What an interesting approach to trying to solve your dilemma. Hope it works for you
My husband studied history and geography in University. Once finished he didn’t read anything for at least 25 years. I was worried he’d never read again. But one day he began reading and now at age 70 is still reading. I never stopped reading through uni but I was in the sciences and health professional areas and was busy learning theory and anatomy. Reading was an escape from the human body. Being in science field for years, it is only in retirement I am visiting arts and literature so I feel at quite a disadvantage in this area. We are just never happy! Haha.🤠🐧
So lovely to hear that your husband found his love for reading again! And it’s definitely not a disadvantage to be getting in to arts and literature at this point, we’re a welcoming bunch 🙂
Do not worry. You will learn to love reading again.
I taught in the English department of a small college. What bothered me was that there was no communication between each student’s professors. Every one of them assigned books as though they were the only professor in the world. The result was more books were assigned than anyone could possibly read. There was no excuse for that.
I was a victim of that kind of joined up thinking because I did a joint honours degree – the professors never thought to talk to each other re timing of assignments let alone reading lists
I studied history and literature at University and lost the ability to read for pleasure for such a long time. The amount of reading required for both courses was never ending. Like you I loved University, I felt at home there, like I belonged, but I didn’t read for pleasure, rarely if ever and that continued for ages after. I never regretted my time at University, but it altered my relationship with reading for many years.
I shared my house with scientists who spent days at lectures and initially thought I had it easy only having a few hours lectures a week. They soon realised our work loads were the same, just that mine involved much more self study.
Your relationship with books and reading will come full circle. Mine did ❤
Sounds like you’ve had a very similar experience! It’s rather comforting to know I’m not the only one who has experienced this – and I also had to convince the scientists and mathematicians I knew that I was also working hard, but they soon realised when it got to essay season!
Your definitely not alone x
Yes! When I graduated from my English degree all I could read for ages was magazines, then Arthur Ransome novels! It will come back, I promise.
I think for the first six months after I finished my lit course all I could manage to read was crime fiction…. I needed to get those classics and ‘worthy’ books out of my system.
As a fellow English major I completely understand. So much required reading needing to be analyzed and picked apart. If I did get time to read for fun I found myself picking those books apart, too. It was awful. Has taken years to work beyond that mindset. I hope your love and passion for reading welcomes you back with open arms. ❤️
That analytical skill you acquire is pretty difficult to abandon. You never completely lose it but thats a good thing because it means you are reading intelligently
One of the reasons I really regret the demise of the small independent bookshop is that it doesn’t overwhelm the browser in the same way that a large multiple tends to. I am much more likely to find something interesting in my nearest independent (sixty miles away) than I am in the Waterstones twelve miles down the road.
trouble is with the large stores is that you have to fight your way through all the promotional tables first…
Both high school and college had a negative impact on my reading too. Now that I am so many years past that part of my life, it seems that it was also just life that got me distracted: boys, marriage, having kids, etc. It took me years to get back to reading but ever since I did, I have not stopped. Freedom of choice in what I read is for sure the main factor though that finally brought it all back.
Freedom of choice just counts for so much, doesn’t it? Hoping that I don’t stop for a while but, as you’ve said, life does tend to distract you for a while!
When I finished my master’s degree I definitely took a holiday from books. It took me a few months before I was ready to pick up a book, even just for fun, so I totally understand!
Currently my MA is encouraging me to read more than take a holiday, but I may be eating my words when I start placements! Glad to know it’s not just me!
I started college with an English major, but luckily (IMO), I switched to Psychology. Now I just analyze the characters in my books. LOL.
Thanks for sharing.
A fortunate change of direction Laurel