Ask a Literary Lady: How Do I Pick up Reading Again?

Dear Literary Lady,

Have you ever stopped reading for a long period of time because of work, or school, or family, or just life? If so, what motivated you to start reading again? I haven’t picked up a book in ages, and I really need a kick in the pants.

– E.G., Milwaukee, WI

Dear E.G.,

I’ve had my fair share of bookless stretches, and I know how tough it is to snap out of it when you’re just buried in the day-to-day.

The descent into literature-less madness is slippery and sinister. It begins when you realize how busy you are. You start worrying that there’s something you could, or should, be doing instead of sitting down with a good book. Time and again, you put off reading in order to do something “productive.” When you miss the comfort of curling up with a book, you reassure yourself that you might not have time to read right now, but this too shall pass and you’ll get back to cracking spines. But it doesn’t pass. You just get busier and busier. Eventually, reading fades from your routine and you forget that it’s even an option.

But fear not! You can get your readerly ways back even when you’re short on time, energy, and inclination.

First, get thee to a bookstore. Look at all the pretty people reading. Smell the coffee. Feel how warm and cozy it is. Note how neat and orderly the stacks of books are, with their crisp white pages. Even if you only have ten minutes to spare, browse around the new bestsellers. You’ll find that you can’t tear yourself away.

Second, feed your FOMO. Ask your friends what they’re reading and join conversations that coworkers are having about books. Browse book blogs, read book reviews in the paper, or listen to literary podcasts. Surround yourself with evidence that others are reading voraciously and having a grand ole time without you.

Next, return to an old favorite. When you’re mentally and physically drained, an old book can be comforting in its familiarity. You don’t have to worry about finishing the novel or following the plot closely because you already know what happens. You can skip forward to your favorite parts, or rediscover an old phrase that you used to quote. In fact, if you’re short on time, just open your favorite book to a random page and start reading.

Don’t forget to ask for help from your bookworm friends. If you don’t know what to read, or you don’t have anything to read, reach out to them. Ask them for suggestions, ask them to lend you their copy of an old favorite, or trade a whole bunch of books with them at once so you have some fresh reading material within arm’s reach.

Lastly, treat yourself to one book. Just one. I know, it seems counterintuitive to just buy one, but it’s important to think of it as buying a gift for yourself. You’re not buying books like you buy groceries or paper towels. You’re forcing yourself to narrow your purchase down to one book. One perfect, glorious book. As you weigh your options, flipping through pages and comparing book jackets, you will find that you want to read them all.

Love and paperbacks,
Literary Lady

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