How To Get Back Into Reading If You've Lost The Habit

Remove the pressure and rediscover excitement with these tips from independent booksellers.

You’re reading Here, Try This – our month-long plan encouraging you to try something new every day.

When ‘Corona’ was just a beer and ‘tiers’ were reserved for cakes, I used to enjoy reading. I always had a book stuffed in my work bag and I’d read a bit – even just a few pages – on the commute home, to let the day drift away. Without that routine, my reading ground to a halt.

I found it impossible to concentrate on the page in the early pandemic and in 2020, I only finished three books. That’s very few for me, and even they were a slog.

Wanting to get back on the horse, I asked for some easy but delicious reads for Christmas: Olive by Emma Gannon and Home Body, the latest collection of short poems by Rupi Kaur. They’re helping already.

Knowing I’m not alone in this, I asked independent booksellers across the UK for their top tips on getting back into reading if you’ve lost the habit.

Here’s what they recommend:

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Read what feels good

“Getting back into reading is very similar to getting back into exercise – if you go straight to the difficult or challenging, you will probably not enjoy it and are liable to give up quickly,” says Marie Moser from The Edinburgh Bookshop.

“We like to suggest that people limber up gently at first: re-read an old favourite like Jane Austen or John Irving or, perhaps, try some Crime or Spy Fiction.

“Once you are back reading again, remember to keep your book diet varied. By all means stretch yourself but do enjoy a little ‘junk food’ now and then! Reading should be fun!”

Find new books that excite you

“Reading can be really hard at the moment, and I know many people have struggled to focus over the last 12 months. But, if you allow yourself a little time to browse and research books, I’d say don’t try starting one until you find something that really makes you feel you just have to read it,” says Jack Clark from The Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh.

“If you’re still able to get in touch with them, your local bookshop could always help you find something based on books you’ve enjoyed in the past.”

Switch up your reading time

“I’ve found that I struggle to read last thing at night now, so I’ve started to get up earlier, before anyone else in the house is awake,” says Gill Edwards from The Ripon Bookshop in Ripon, North Yorkshire.

“I make fresh coffee, light a fire, leave my phone in a different room and enjoy an hour on my own with my book. I open the blinds so that I can see the world coming to life outside.”

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Go short

Instead of a huge novel, “try a novella, poetry or essays”, says Mairi Oliver, form Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh.

Emma Corfield from Book-ish in Crickhowell, by the Brecon Beacons, adds: “I found My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, with its short chapters and wickedly dark characters, a brilliant book to ease me out of a slump.”

Make reading sociable

“Joining a book club is a great way to get back into reading,” says Chantal Farquhar from The Little Bookshop in Cookham, Maidenhead.

“Not only will you discover great reads, but you’ll make new friends and the passionate book-chat will get you enthused. Most book clubs have continued online via Zoom.”

If reading groups seem a bit overwhelming, find a ‘book buddy’, adds Emma Milne-White from Hungerford Bookshop in Hungerford, Berkshire. “You can share the book between you and discuss it on your walk together.”

Give kids free rein

If you have kids who are struggling to focus, let them choose for themselves what they want to read.

“Parents are often surprised by the choice their child makes, but if it ignites a love of reading there’s no such thing as a wrong choice,” says Kerry Marriott from Boggledybook Children’s Bookshop in Cantley, Doncaster.

“Non-fiction is just as popular as fiction when children choose for themselves, which often surprises parents, but as long as they enjoy what they’re reading I don’t think it matters if it doesn’t have chapters!”

Remember the benefits of reading

“It’s okay to be too tired or anxious to read, but I have found that when I have picked up a novel and read it cover to cover, the world became an easier place and sleep came quickly,” says Gracie Cooper from Little Toller in Beaminster, Dorset .

“So this year I will be reading far more and not just manuscripts for work but novels for myself. Top of my list is The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex and A River Called Time by Courttia Newland. Both these books will be on the front table of the shop when we’re open with many other novels that I read last year, that reminded me how important and good for the soul reading a book is.”

This new year, we focus on fun, not denial (because we’ve all had enough of that). Follow our month-long plan, with a new ‘Here, Try This’ idea each day, spanning easy ways to engage your body and mind, inspiration for your food and home, and tips for boosting how you feel – inside and out.