Reading is great…mostly, and if you’re on an English based course like I am, you’ll know that reading is not so much a fun, leisurely pastime as it is a necessity. I don’t know much about other courses reading requirements, but what I do know is that at one point or another, we all have to read a pretty boring book…or two…three…ten?
The problem here is, that when you read for fun, if the book doesn’t grab your attention straight away, or a couple of chapters in you just cannot for the life of you get into it, you can simply put it down and pick up the next on your list of want-to-reads. When you’re required to read for a course, however, it’s not that easy (unfortunately).
I study English Literature, and for one of my modules, I am currently reading Emma by Jane Austen, and after battling my way through Moll Flanders and (most of) Evelina, I feel a little bit like I’m dragging my feet through quick sand. Anyone else?
So, for that reason I’ve taken a break from my dear friend Emma, to jot down some ways to pull myself, and you, through those ridiculously boring books we all have to read.
Okay, so, number one is to give the book a serious go. Some stories take an unholy amount of time to get to the point. Have a rule. Mine is 60 pages. If by page 60, I’m still bored out my wit, then the next steps might help.
Grab your calendar, or your planner, or whatever it is you use, and start by figuring out how many days you have before you absolutely HAVE to have the book read. Now divide the number of chapters equally amongst the daysyou have, so that you have a clear goal of. For example, if you have 7 days to finish a book, let’s say The novel has 54 chapters, that’s 7 chapters a day, which yes, seems like a lot, but when you then realise that each chapter is only (roughly) 5-8 ish pages, that’s only really between 35-56 pages a day, which is perfectly manageable! Not only that but having a stop point gives you something to look forward to, rather than just idly reading and wondering when it’s going to end.
Yes, you read that right, ditch it. And your laptop, your iPad, your PlayStation and whatever else you are currently using to put off that terrible book you have to read. Put everything on silent, put them in a drawer or another room, turn the TV off and get to reading. Having distractions around you and readily available will only make your life harder. Trust me, Call of Duty, Fifa and even Crash Bandicoot can wait.
How many of you have tried reading when you’re tired? It’s not going to happen. You’re going to be falling asleep at the wheel, struggling to concentrate, getting frustrated, and you’re probably going to be even less interested in what you’re reading than you were to begin with! Try to get some early nights, eat breakfast, and try not to be too that won’t help either.
BONUS: This is good for your overall physical and mental health too!
Once you’ve got a goal for each day, that doesn’t mean that you have to reach that goal in one go. If you have to read 7 chapters in a day, break it up, let your mind wander and think about other things in between your reading sessions so you won’t get so sick of it so quickly. Do some baking, watch an episode of The Great British Bake Off, eat some cake, find a new cookie recipe.Yes, I like baking. And cake. And Paul Hollywood.
But back to the point. Don’t overdo it all in one go.
I know this sounds like a bit of a silly one, but trust me it works. When you come across a quote you like, or a point you find interesting, highlight it in your favourite colour (obviously only do this in your own books!). This will draw your attention to that particular quote or paragraph on the page, and that’s what will stick in your mind. Make the best of a bad situation and find small things that you do like in a text that you don’t. As well as this, actively looking for words that you aren’t sure of can give you a break from reading to look it up, and also make you feel like you’ve gained and learned something from the read. A sense of accomplishment in one form or another is always a good way to pull yourself through.
After each chapter you read, grab a pen and paper and just scribble down some bullet points; what was the chapter about? Did you find anything particularly interesting? What were the key points? Which characters were introduced/involved in the chapter? It doesn’t have to be a full blown textual analysis, just a quick list of referable points, so that when you come to want to think or refer back to a particular point or event in the narrative, you can scan over your points and find the chapter it’s from.
BONUS: This will also help you retain more information from the novel!
Is the plot poor? Are the characters badly described? Are the points and themes explored in the narrative not interesting? Is it something in the way the book is written? I realise this might seem like you’re focusing on the negatives of what you’re reading rather than trying to, as I mentioned earlier, make the best of what you have, but this will be a really useful set of ideas and points if you later have to analyse and criticise the text. You already have a starting point!
Still bored? Well, when you (finally) finish, rather than jumping straight on to Facebook and doing a quiz to find out which Disney princess you are or which Hogwarts house you belong in, (although I am partial to reinforcing my dream of being Belle and playing tricks on the muggles with my Slytherin buddies) try and find a quiz based on the book you read. Trust me there are tonnes!
BONUS: You could even write the quiz for yourself as you go along. Write a question or two for each chapter, and when you get to the end, try to answer them or quiz a friend who has read the same book!
WOOOOO! You finished! GO YOU! Now get some ice cream, cake, sweets and chocolate and binge watch some Netflix (I highly recommend Stranger Things, Once Upon a Time and Fresh Meat). Forget all about that terrible book you just spent the last 7 days trudging through. That is, until you have to do an assessment on the damn thing.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS, build a fort out of blankets, and fill it with pillows. Now Gather as much junk food and fizzy drinks as you can carry, turn off all the lights and add some fairy lights. Forget the rest of the world exists and just read.