8 Ways To Get Back Into Reading This Summer (+ mini life-update!)
When I was younger, our local libraries would do a children’s summer reading challenge every year; you’d be given a little booklet with illustrations and dotted lines for you to track your reads and ratings, and after you’d read seven books, you’d get a package of little goodies (a bookmark, notebook, a medal etc.). I absolutely loved it – it excited me to take new books out of the library and actually finish them, and in the process, solidified summer in my mind as prime reading time.
In the past few years, especially with more commitments, homework and just a lack of motivation, my reading habit had really slipped. I went from reading thirty-five books in a year to just twelve (and several of those were very short) and despite my best efforts, I barely got any books read over the summer.
One of my main goals this year was to get myself out of my long-term reading slump. I had completely forgotten what it felt like to be sucked into the world of a good book, to be obsessed with the characters, to stay up until 1 AM because I had to know what happened next; instead, I was forcing myself through stories I wasn’t at all invested in only to give them a three-star rating at the end. So I tried a few different tips and tricks and so far, they've worked! I’m glad to report that I am happily recovered from my reading slump, and although I’m still only reading slowly (as I always have), reading has once again bounced back as a favourite hobby.
So! Here are eight things that got me out of my reading slump and started off my bookish summer.
1. Pick a book you actually want to read
If you’re in a reading slump, it’s a terrible idea to start with a book you don’t really want to read, especially if you’re doing doing so out of a sense of duty – I know from experience that it can totally kill your love of reading. Instead, do a little research, or pick up an old favourite, and just challenge yourself to enjoy it and finish it. Even if it’s not aesthetic and trendy or classical and absolute literary genius, pick it up. Allow yourself to indulge in the pure enjoyment of reading; it really is an incredible God-given gift. For me, this involved revisiting Do Hard Things for the second time (which is a prime example of the fact that an excellent non-fiction book doesn’t have to be academic) and finally delving into The Promise of Jesse Woods (which was kindly sent to me by my good friend Sandrina when she heard I was at a loss for gripping books. She’s amazing ❤😂)
2. Get inspired
Make a Pinterest board with bookish aesthetic photos or watch a bookworm movie like Pride & Prejudice, Little Women or The Man Who Invented Christmas (I can’t recommend this one enough, especially if you’re a writer – I have never felt so seen 🤣). Remind yourself of what you love about reading!
Disclaimer: please only apply this step in moderation – it can be very effective when used wisely, but if overdone can easily become a form of procrastination.
3. Make a goal/join a challenge
Unfortunately, most of us are probably too old to join the children’s programmes at our local libraries, but that shouldn’t stop us from embracing a good reading challenge! Whether it’s joining an official event such as the Goodreads yearly challenge or just getting a couple of friends together for a book club, make a reading goal and stick to it. Sometimes the little competitive push is just what is needed to get the ball rolling and stop your lovely paperbacks from gathering dust. Of course, you could be very flexible with this, and it definitely won’t work for everybody (some people find the pressure of a challenge actually sucks the joy out of reading instead of nudging them forward) but for me, this has always been a favourite way to get started. Last year I started an annual reading challenge on my writing community where a group of us pledge booklists for the summer, have weekly discussions about our progress, and earn prizes for reaching our goals! We’re doing it again this year since it seems it’s been helpful for everyone, and it’s really fun to read together.
4. Connect with other readers
This leads on very naturally from the previous step; although reading alone is usually preferable (at least if you’re easily distracted like me), it’s always more fun if you have someone to share your reading experience with afterwards. If you’re able to, try to connect with some of the bookish people in your life – whether that’s with long or short-distance friends or even family – and share your reactions and favourite reads with them. Better yet, ask them if they’ll buddy-read a book alongside you, or read one of their recommendations, so you can share the experience of a good book together! Not only can they keep you accountable, but believe me, it’s loads of fun to watch an unsuspecting friend creep gradually closer to a huge plot twist.
5. Track your progress
For people like me, there are few things more motivating than a checkbox waiting to be ticked or a ‘finished’ button waiting to be clicked. Tracking your progress not only motivates you to keep going, but it leaves you with a record to help you remember what books you’ve read, when, and what you thought of them. I love using Goodreads for this, as you can update your page number/percentage progress as you make your way through your books. However if that kind of social media isn’t really your thing, you can use a paper reading journal; I used this one from Amazon for years, which has templates on each page for you to record your start/end dates and ratings. You could make your own paper or digital version, or you could even use a combination of both. Tracking can be as simple or as sophisticated as you like; do whatever works for you!
6. Plan a reading session if you can’t focus
This is a huge hack I learnt from studying; if you intentionally make the effort to set a time and place for doing something, it’s so much harder to procrastinate on it. Plus, having a cosy reading session is one of the most relaxing activities ever, in my opinion. Here are some of my favourite elements to include:
Pick a new reading location; find a place you love to read and make the effort to go there. The act of moving location with the intention to read often helps you get less distracted from your book, and it’s a good way to change up your scenery if you work a lot in one place. This could simply be sitting in your garden, moving to a favourite armchair, or even taking a trip outside of the house. Make use of the weather – if it’s raining, use it as a chance to open the windows, light a candle and enjoy the natural rain ambience. If it’s sunny, take to the outdoors with a picnic blanket. One of my favourite things so far this summer has been to take a walk down to our nearest beach before dinner and read for 45 minutes. It’s so beautiful down there, and it allows me to read with minimal distractions and a lovely view. If you don’t happen to be near the coast, you could try a coffee shop or your local park!
If you find it hard to actually sit and read for a good chunk of time, you could try a read-with-me video. They act as a kind of aesthetic accountability timer, and you can challenge yourself to read until the video ends. Here’s a playlist of some of my favourites. (just a note, I’m not endorsing any of the books or the channels themselves – most of these YouTubers are reading books I personally wouldn’t, but since they never actually talk about them, don’t find it does any harm). If videos are too distracting, try just setting a timer – and don’t be afraid to go over it if your book suddenly gets super interesting.
If you’re a fan of having music while you listen, look up some reading playlists to have on in the background! There are lots of general ‘for reading’ compilations, genre-specific collections or even book-specific playlists – like this one I listened to while re-reading Jane Eyre for school. However, if you know music distracts you from reading, feel free to ignore this one – I only use music on certain rare occasions since I find it does cause my mind to wander.
You could do all of these at once, or simply try out one or two! When I’m reading at the beach, I find I don’t tend to need timers or music because I’m just enjoying the atmosphere and the quiet. It’s relaxing, so I actually don’t want to do anything other than reading – which is ultimately what you want out of a good reading session.
7. Make it a habit
If you’ve done any research into productivity, you’ve probably heard of the idea of ‘habit stacking’, originating from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. The concept basically states that if you want to solidify a new habit, it helps to pair it with an existing, pre-formed part of your routine. If one of your problems is that you find it hard to make time to read, try giving it a regular place in your daily life. I’ve done this by starting to read a chapter or so while eating breakfast, instead of scrolling on the Internet or checking my emails.
I also still try to read in the evenings (which I’ve done on-and-off since I was little). Some days I have an early lesson or I’m going to bed late, so I’m not able to read, but on the days that I am able to do this, it sets me up for a good reading day – after all, it’s sometimes overcoming the resistance to picking the book up in the first place that’s the greatest challenge. Most of us have busy lives, and we don’t have time to sit down and read for two hours at a time, so I find this is a great way to sneak a little reading in every day.
Another practice to make more time for reading is to swap it for your screentime. You don’t have to follow the YouTube trend and match your 3hrs of cat videos with a 3hr reading marathon (unless you want to); it could be as simple as keeping a book in your bag or by your charging station, and picking it up instead of your phone when you have a spare five minutes. Even tiny chunks of time add up, and in the long term, you’ll be glad you went for a the book instead of your screen.
8. Don’t only read when the conditions are ‘perfect’
This point may be the most important, especially if you’ve just read all of the previous points and are starting to feel overwhelmed. Reading shouldn’t be about aesthetic Instagrammable shots or the amount of books you read in a year, but about what helps you to read what you want to read. This was one of the biggest things that held me back last year – I told myself that I’d only read when I could sit down for an hour with the perfect conditions. Instead of helping me, it meant that I wasted a lot of time.
It’s not about how many books you read but how much you get out of them; books aren’t meant to be sped through (necessarily). Neither is it about reading as many books as everyone else, or reading the fashionable books or getting massive hauls (just one or two new books at a time is often good enough). It’s about experiencing the joy of a good book – which can be as simple as getting sucked into a story on a thirty-minute bus journey.
Let me know in the comments what your reading plans are for the summer: are you going to read loads of books, just a few specific ones, or none at all?
- A Little Life Update -
It’s been a good long while since I managed to post on here, so I thought I’d add a little life update! Easter was beautiful this year – the sun shone, the hymns we sang were like joyful reunions, and Spring sprung in all its resurrection glory. Alongside that, Sight & Sound’s production, Jesus, left me absolutely stunned. I’m so glad the recording was made free for the Easter weekend (if you’re ever able to see it, it’s 1000% worth it!). It started me on my journey of rediscovering just how beautiful and lovely the Gospel story is – but that’s another article for another time.
After I finished up my last GCSE (I can’t believe they’re finally over! I still have a stack of maths homework over two inches thick and I can’t decide whether to burn it or not 🤪🔥), our family went on our first holiday to Wales. We stayed in a cabin the middle of the woods, and I took it as an opportunity
to disconnect from my phone and read, write and learn Welsh on Duolingo (which was on my phone but I thought it was a little different. I only got about as far as saying my name, but it’s something!). We hiked up Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales, visited the waterfalls nearby, and even got to drop into Hay-on-Wye (the first book town) on our way home! It was excitingly eclectic, an array of quirky
bookshops stacked with new books and rare editions. I could have spent hours there, and I hope to return someday. My favourite bookshops were Green Ink and Richard Booth’s, where I found this copy of Dearest Josephine! I also picked up a copy of The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien. Aren’t they just beautiful? 😍
Aside from a very fun sleepover with some old friends, an intense declutter of my bedroom, attending my first single-artist concert (Andrew Peterson!) and my first swims and surfing trips of the year, the rest of early summer so far has been pretty quiet. I’m going to try to embrace the slower pace this year, and use it as a good time to study writing craft, read (which I’m sure was not obvious at all) and enjoy the outdoors while rain is a scarcity. Although another thing I’m actually loving at the moment is warm, heavy summer rain – it’s so cosy, and since rain is so important (especially here in the UK if we want things to actually stay green) I’m learning to appreciate it more.
- What I’m Currently Reading -
After finishing my Do Hard Things reread and The Promise of Jesse Woods, I’m on the second book on my list, The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder. It’s steampunk, which is a completely new genre to me, and while the writing style could be better, I’m totally invested in the two characters, Arbrook Huxley and Sylvester Carthage. It has all the good-old YA vibes that I was looking for, and I’m excited to see how the story plays out!
Now then, enough about me! Despite my own inactivity, some other wonderful Christian bloggers and creators have been releasing fantastic stuff - so I thought I'd share some of my highlights below! (inspired by the 'community' section from Karynn Heckler's email list - which you should totally subscribe to if you love aesthetic, fun and thoughtful content!)
❤ Pearl Christine shared this easy soft pretzel recipe on her blog that I absolutely had to try. They were so easy, included no weird chemicals, and tasted incredible, so I 100% recommend you check them out!
❤ My friend Vella Karman is launching her new book review blog this month! If you're anything like me and you're desperate to get some good reading in over the summer but you're not sure where to start (or where to get recommendations that won't have you DNFing for content) then I can't recommend her website enough! I can already tell that it's going to be amazing. Click on the image below to visit her awesome new site! (and click here if you want to read my guest review!)
❤ Francie Lenhart launched her gorgeous blog a few months ago, which you can find here! While I don't know Francie personally, I love her mission statement and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
❤ Another friend, Rachel Leitch, recently had her beautiful story accepted for Wild Blue Wonder's anthology, Springtime In Surrey! Her story, the Odd Duck Society, sounds right up my alley, and perhaps it will be up yours too. I mean, with springtime vibes, the English countryside, fun female characters and a mystery involving letters to an old tea shop... what's not to love? 😍
Jessamy Aubertine is too much for her university classmates, too little for her overstressed mum, and nothing in between. In an attempt to make herself useful, she takes on a spring holiday at her childhood home in Box Hill to sell the family's fading tea shop and somehow work out how best to tell her mum that she's switching study plans. When mysterious letters signed by famous authors show up, can Jessamy and an unlikely pair of comrades find the writer behind the missives--and perhaps discover themselves as well? Or will their friendship fade with The Muses at the end of spring holiday?
If you want to get the scoop on all the news before all the stories are released on the 25th July, be sure to follow Rachel on Instagram at @racheljleitchauthor & her publishing house at @wildbluewonderpress for info!
And that's it! Phew, that was a long one. Hoping you all have a blessed summer!