How Lockdown changed my reading habits

Are you leaving lockdown wishing you had read more? The experience of lockdown across the world lead to a kind of ‘reading revolution’ as we all had more time on our hands, but will this continue?

Our reading habits may have changed for better or for worse during this period, but in this post I am going to share with you how lockdown altered my habits, with the hope that it may encourage you to reflect on yours.

1. Treating reading like a job

This could be interpreted as positive or negative, but lockdown meant that I have not been at work and I had to take up something to fill the empty days with.

I started reaching out to people, became a member of NetGalley and all of a sudden had more opportunities to review books for people and companies. Working to deadlines and reading less of what I wanted has made it feel like more of a job, but definitely not a chore.

Reading has therefore, become more like a job, but one I have come to love.

Image: Violet Daniels

2. Abandoning TBRs

I love making lists of any kinds and I have always had some form of TBR going.

Having more review requests has meant I have strayed away from my personal TBR list, which I have come to realise isn’t a bad thing.

Reading habits change all the time and so do the books we want to read, sometimes it feels counterproductive to have a list to stick to. Sticking to this wholeheartedly could close down books we expose ourselves to. Everyday we learn about new books and it becomes easy to stray away from our reading plans. But so what?

I still have my TBR but I am definitely not following it strictly.

3. Realising less is more

Lockdown has played havoc for my concentration. I have found that I can only read for 15-20 minutes at a time before I start to lose focus. But on the other hand, I find myself actually picking up books more times in the day – so they probably balance each other out.

Previously, I used to try and read as much as I could in one session, as I probably only had one opportunity every day to read whilst working. But now with my time being more flexible I can read less but more frequently, which I like.

Image: Violet Daniels

4. Diversifying my reading choices

The exposure of the Black Lives Matter movement has made me realise how white my reading choices are.

I am now making a conscious effort to read more by authors of colour, especially women of colour who are majorly underrepresented in the literary industry. I am aiming to read at least one book written by a BAME author per month in an effort to diversify my reading habits.

Last month I read My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and this month I aim to read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. These are small actions but a step in the right direction, which I would encourage everyone to take.

5. Using a Kindle more

As I am receiving more books to review, these are usually in the form of e-ARCs which means I am using my Kindle a lot. I’ve also been reading outside more and Kindle’s are perfect for this.

They are lighter and easier to hold whilst being out and about and I have been enjoying using it. Obviously, it’s no replacement for the physical book, but definitely a game changer for being able to carry so much reading material on the go.

6. Books are my perfect form of escapism

Some people watch TV, films or play video games to switch off, but I read. I think I have always known this, but lockdown has really shown I do turn to alternative worlds to escape the present.

Whether it’s fiction or non fiction, I have found reading takes me away from the present and the unrelenting news cycle that can cause havoc for anxious people like me. It is perfect one to one time, a form of self care, and a break from everything that is going on.

So those were reflections on how my reading habits have fluctuated during this period. I think it’s important to remember that habits will always shift during our lives. We should never beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our own standards or stray away from our goals, but acknowledge it when it’s necessary and go from there. Have your reading habits changed, if so, how?

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How and Why to Read for Pleasure

Image: Pixabay

The common response to not reading is nearly always lack of time. This may definitely be true in some cases, however, when I think about how much time many people spend on their phones, on watching Netflix, on browsing the web and online shopping, I can’t help but think these activities could be substituted for reading (if they wanted to be).

Reading for pleasure is not a luxury and shouldn’t be dismissed as so.

I have had a love hate relationship with the rise of E-readers and Kindles – when I was younger I ardently opposed them and thought their use would see the end of the physical book. Alas, since 2007, when the first Kindle was released, the sales of paperback books have still been thriving. (I know this, having worked as a bookseller…)

To kindle… or not to kindle?

The Kindle and other e-readers offer something great – which is being able to take your bookcase with you everywhere. Books can be bulky and feel like an effort to take with you on your commute or travels and thus, a Kindle can save this burden.

I finally succumbed to being a Kindle user last year – although I have (and never will) abandon reading and buying physical books. I see the benefits of both and cannot see why readers shouldn’t use both. Moreover, I simply do not have the space to keep all the books that I want to read. Rather, I am far more selective about what books I buy now. Which is good for me, and the trees.

Fundamentally, Kindle’s make reading more accessible than perhaps the physical book. For one, many E-Books are usually cheaper than your average £7.99 paperback or £20 hardback, and they are great for people who have poor eyesight, with the adjustable font size and brightness.

Upon using a Kindle for the first time back in September, I really was surprised at how much it felt like I was reading physical pages. (This is not a sponsored post I promise, I just really like my Kindle….) Still not convinced?

How to make time for reading

  • Make it routine – this is the best way to make it a habit. Usually spend 10 minutes before bed scrolling on your phone? Switch your phone off and substitute it for a book. Your eyes and sleep will thank you for it.
  • Start small and build up – find the idea of spending an hour with a book daunting? Then don’t. Give yourself small goals, like reading one chapter at a time, or reading for 10 minutes every other day. This also works for the size of your books.
  • Stuck with what to read? Use the web There are some great websites out there – such as Goodreads, Fantastic Fiction and Literature Map. Or, you can do it the old fashioned way and go to your local bookshop and chat with a bookseller – they will be more than happy to assist! (Trust me!)
  • Don’t feel guilty – it may feel like self indulgence to switch yourself off from the world and your surroundings, but it isn’t. Reading for pleasure is a great way to improve your own mental health, imagination and knowledge.

Why you should make time to read

  • Taking a break from social media – reading has always been about escapism, but in the digital age it can be great to detach yourself from social media, especially before bed. If you have an iPhone, change your app settings to restrict your access – and then let yourself indulge in a book.
  • Benefits to mind, body and spirit – a good book will make you think and challenge you beyond your comfort zone. On a personal level, I also find that reading is good for my mental health and makes me feel more relaxed (especially when in the bath!)
  • Self indulgence is good – from time to time, it is good to self indulge and have that one-to-one time with yourself. This is something you should never feel guilty about. With reading, it’s just you and the book. Reading for pleasure as a form of self care is something that should be championed in the 2020s.

I hope this has been somewhat uplifting for anyone that is stuck in a reading rut or struggling to find time to read. Now that I spend more time reading, I do feel better in all senses. Happy reading!

V 🙂