Conquering Classics #2 – Classic book recommendations for beginners

Do you want to read more classics but aren’t sure where to start? Have you attempted to read classics before but felt they weren’t for you? If so, the Conquering Classics series is for you! This is the second post in an ongoing series with tips and advice on how to read classics for beginners. You can read the first post ‘Tips for Reading Classics’ here. In today’s post, I’ll be sharing five recommendations for where to begin with reading classics.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Subgenre: Gothic
Publication year: 1890
Synopsis: When a portrait is painted of the devillshly handsome Dorian Gray, he is forced to take a closer look at himself and realises that external beauty is rarely a precursor for the beauty within.

Despite being written over a century ago, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a very accessible read. The plot is straightforward and the exploration of morality, vanity and arrogance continues to strike a chord with modern audiences. It’s an atmospheric and haunting tale which provides an in-depth character study on Dorian Gray and has a very memorable ending.

1984 by George Orwell

Subgenre: SciFi
Publication year: 1949
Synopsis: Set in a post-apocolyptic Britain, Winston Smith grows disillusioned with the totalitarian, repressive political system under Big Brother and dreams of a new, better world.

1984 is the pillar of dystopian scifi fiction. Because it was published in the 20th century, the language is more familiar than that which is featured in many pre-20th century novels. Its depiction of dicatorship and government control is interesting and terrifying, and still plays on the fears many of us have today about the future of our world.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Subgenre: Gothic horror
Publication year: 1872
Synopsis: Laura and her father live a solitary and quiet lifestyle in the wilderness of Styria, until they offer refuge to Carmilla as their house guest. Mysterious and secretive, Carmilla is not all she appears to be.

Carmilla is a gothic horror novella which is known for being the main influence for Dracula. It’s short enough that it can be read in an hour or two and is the ideal read if you’re interested in Dracula but don’t want to commit to a 400+ page novel. Like all gothic novels, it’s atmospheric and slow-building with an open ending, but provides a flavour for the slower, more intentional writing style that’s common in classics.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Subgenre: YA
Publication year: 1967
Synopsis: Ponyboy and his band of misfit friends navigate the trials and tribulations of being teenagers in a this dramatic coming of age tale.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know how much I adore The Outsiders. It’s a heart-wrenching tale which is accessible for all readers because it’s targeted at a younger audience and was published in the late sixties. Although it won’t necessarily familiarise you with the style of earlier classics, it’s the ideal place to start if you want something that’s more reflective of modern day.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Subgenre: Romance
Publication year: 1818
Synopsis: Catherine is a romantic at heart who is obsessed with gothic novels. When she’s introduced to eligible bachelor, Henry Tilney, she gets swept away in her romantic fantasies with unexpected and hilarious results.

When you hear people speaking about Jane Austen you’ll hear a lot about Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Persuasion, but rarely Northanger Abbey. Yet I think this is the ideal place to start with Austen and a great place to start with classics in general. Not only is it the first novel Austen ever wrote, but it’s a short, charming and funny read. It perfectly captures the tone of polite Victorian society and satirical humour which is commonly featured in 19th century classics.

These five books introduced me to the classics genre and helped me to overcome my high-school aversion to classic literature. They’re all short, accessible reads which will enable you to familarise yourself with some of the language, themes and settings that can commonly be found in classic novels.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.


Conquering Classics #1 – Tips for reading classics

Do you want to read more classics but aren’t sure where to start? Have you attempted to read classics before but felt they weren’t for you? If so, the Conquering Classics series is for you! This is the first post in an ongoing series with tips and advice on how to read classics for beginners. For years I had an aversion to classics because of how much I disliked studying classics at school. I avoided classics because I thought that they simply weren’t the books for me, but classics aren’t something to be avoided. Classics can be accessible and enjoyable for all readers with the right approach. With that in mind, in this post, I’ll be sharing my top 10 tips on how to get started with reading classics.

Tip #1 Find your niche

Here’s the thing: Classics” is not technically a book genre, it’s more of a category of books that contains every genre and sub-genre within it. A classic is widely regarded to be a noteworthy book that has made a significant contribution to literature, but there’s no singular or coherent definition of what a classic is. The only thing that truly ties classics together as a category is that the books were all written 50 or more years ago. Beyond that, classics come from a broad range of time periods, places and authors, with varying writing styles, themes, literary devices and plots. The Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice are both classics, yet wildly different. So take some time to identify what you’re looking for in a classic and avoid relying on “The 100 Must-Read Books of All Time” type of lists. Classics cover every sub-genre that exists, whether it’s romance, sci-fi, crime thriller, fantasy etc., so you will always be able to find a classic that caters to your tastes.

Tip #2 – Start with modern classics (20th century)

20th century classics more closely reflect today’s world than books written pre-20th century, meaning you’re less likely to have difficulties in getting to grips with the setting, language, social norms, and themes. Well-known 20th century classics such as The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984 practically read like a modern text in terms of the language and writing style. They are also more likely to be shorter in length than the tomes of the 19th century, which brings me nicely to Tip #3.

Tip #3 – Opt for shorter classics

The key with classics is to slowly build yourself up in terms of length, because those hefty classics take a lot of commitment and brain energy. When I first decided to try classics I picked out The Count of Monte Cristo which averages out at a whopping 1200 pages! Don’t make the same mistake as me; take it easy to begin with. I’d advise going for books no more than 300 pages, and if possible, stick with novellas. For novella recommendations check out ‘My Favourite Novellas’ post, it includes a bunch of classics. I’ll also be recommending five classics for beginners in the next post in the Conquering Classics series, all of which are on the lighter side in terms of page count.

Tip #4 – Read children’s classics

This tip fits well with Tip #3, because children’s classics are generally short in length. In addition to being short, children’s classics are familiar to most of us and make for light-hearted and enjoyable reads. It’s a useful way to introduce yourself to some of the language and writing style’s used in other classics. There are so many amazing children’s classics out there that I would recommend which are great for adults including Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan, The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. For more recommendations for children’s classics check out my post where I share my favourite children’s books.

Tip #5 – Read slow

Many of the larger 19th century classics were serialised at the time they were written, meaning they were designed to be read in chunks over a prolonged period of time. A Tale of Two Cities wasn’t meant to be binge-read, it was written to be slowly devoured, like many other classics. However, even with shorter classics, it’s worth taking your time to read them. Classics often tackle dark, serious and complex topics or themes and indulge in flowery prose and long descriptions, so allow yourself time to sit with them. If you try to rush your way through, you won’t be able to gain the full appreciation for what you’re reading or connect to the deeper meaning of the story.

Tip #6 – Use the tools available to you

Classics can be challenging to read sometimes, so if you don’t understand a word, look it up in the dictionary. If you read a chapter and you’re confused aboutΒ what happened, check out a chapter summary. If a reference is made that you don’t understand, do a little reading about the period/place it’s set in and familiarise yourself with it. There’s no shame in utilising the wealth of information that’s out there about classics to support your own reading of it. I often research classics I’m reading so that I’m aware of the key themes. Many classics also have introductions, notes and indexes to help readers to gain a firmer understanding of the book. If you’re reading fiction, you could also watch TV/film adaptations to get a general understanding of the plot beforehand, which I’ve found particularly useful for Shakespeare’s works.

Tip #7 – Buddy read or join a book club

Classics are the best books to read with others because there’s so much information, research and discourse surrounding them. These are the types of books that are designed to be at the centre of a discussion. Reading with others can help make the experience of reading classics fun and provide an opportunity to to critically engage with the book. Talking with others can also help clarify details you’re fuzzy on and gain a better understanding of the text through discussion and exchanging ideas/opinions with others.

Tip #8 – Let go of negative preconceptions

“They’re boring”; “They’re not for me”; “They’re too slow”; “They’re complicated”; “They’re overrated”; “I won’t understand them”. These are some of the reasons why I didn’t pick up a classic for pleasure until I was 25 years old, and are probably the same reasons others avoid reading classics. The problem is that like any other category of books, classics are so broad and varied that they can’t and shouldn’t be judged as a whole. Would you avoid reading every book written in the 21st century if you read one that you didn’t enjoy? No? Then why would you swear off every book written before the 21st century based on reading one book you didn’t enjoy? There’s no escaping the fact that classics won’t be for everyone and that some people simply won’t want to read them, but if you’re here reading ths then it means you want to at the very least try and to do that, so it’s important to let go of these preconceptions, or at the very least be open to challenging them.

Tip #9 – Appreciate classics for what they are

Building on from Tip #8, it’s important to take classics at face value. The way that authors write and the way readers engage with books now has completely changed since most classics were written. Entertainment has evolved, readers have different preferences and this means that it’s futile to compare classic literature to contemporary literature. Even if you read a classic from your favourite genre, it will be completely different stylistically to a contemporary from the same genre. With that in mind, if you’re picking up a classic for the first time ever or the first time in a while, go into it knowing that it most likely won’t be comparable to contemporary books. It’s likely that a classic will be slow in places and that there’ll be words you don’t understand or you have to go back and re-read a sentence because it was so long you lost track (I’m looking at you, Dickens πŸ˜‚), but it’s worth it to go on the journey of reading a book you love.

Tip #10 – If at first you don’t succeed, try again

Very few things in life that are worth having come easily, the same goes for reading. Reading takes commitment, time and patience, and classics require this arguably more so than any other genre of books. You might not love the very first classic you pick up, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find others that you love. Classics can be an acquired taste and sometimes it takes time to fully appreciate them and see their value. It took me months of reading classics before I got to a place where I felt like I was really enjoying them, and they’ve become some of the most rewarding and enjoyable books to read.

That concludes the firt post in Conquering Classics series. I hope these tips are helpful to those of you that have been considering trying to read more classics. The next post in the series will be ‘5 Classic Book Recommendations for Beginners’.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Breaking into Books #5 – Overcoming reading slumps

Breaking Into Books is an ongoing series I post every other Sunday with tips and advice for new readers. Last time, I shared tips for making bookish friends. Today’s post is the final one in the series and I’ll be discussing how to overcome reading slumps and maintain momentum with reading πŸ“š

Whether you’re a brand new reader, a reader returning to books after a break or an experienced reader, reading slumps are a universal problem that all readers face. A reading slump is a loss of motivation to read and often involves procrastinating reading, attempting to read but being unable to enjoy it and generally feeling meh about reading. Reading slumps can last days, weeks, months or even years. As with anything else, prevention is a better solution but in my experience it’s impossible to avoid a reading slump especially in the early days of reading.

Reading slumps are irritating, can suck the joy out of reading and hinder your progress as a reader. Although the number of books you read shouldn’t be your priority, the fun factor should and slumps completely drain any fun you’d usually get from reading. Slumps can creep up on you slowly or can hit you hard and fast without any warning and a lot of things can cause them; low mood, mental health struggles, stress, work commitments, family commitments, having a busy schedule, a negative reading experience with a previous book, tiredness and the list continues. Luckily, there are some relatively straightforward solutions to overcoming reading slumps which you can easily implement into your reading routine.

1. Read in short bursts

If you’re in the middle of a slump the chances are that you don’t mentally have the focus or motivation to read for long stints, so set realistic goals to read for short bursts. This makes reading more mangageable and less intimidating. Set a timer for 15, 20 or 30 minutes and read for that set amount of time. If you find that you’re enjoying reading and want to carry on great, but if not, stop after the timer pings and put the book aside until the next time you read.

2. Choose the right book

Now this probably sounds like an obvious tip, but I’ve lost count of the amount of times I fell into a slump because I was consistently choosing books to read that I wasn’t enjoying. Deciding what to read can make or break your reading journey and be the cause or cure for reading slumps. When you’re first starting out, there’s a lot of trial and error in choosing the right books, so slumps are usually more common. You can check out the second post in the Breaking into Books series about finding the right genre for you, if you haven’t already, which should help with choosing the right book. Other ways to choose the right book is to use sites like StoryGraph which generate book recommendations based on your preferences and mood.

When you’re in a slump taking some time to think about what you want from the book you read is so important. If you’re in a slump because you just read a 1000 page book which was a slog to get through, maybe a short story is the way to go. If you’re in a slump because you’re feeling low, maybe a light-hearted comedy or romance is the way to go. If you’re in a slump because you’re feeling crap about how mundane the 9-5 life is, maybe a fantasy is the way to go. Identifying what you need from a book at the time that you’re in a slump can help you to find the book that might just pull you out of it πŸ™

3. Maintain a reading routine

I already went in-depth about establishing a reading routine in the third post in the series and cannot stress enough that keeping a regular reading routine can be a life-saver when it comes to reading slumps. Having consistency in when and where you’re reading can prevent a slump and tapping into why you’re reading can pull you out of a slump if you’re in one. If you have reasons for wanting to read, reminding yourself of those reasons can often help combat a slump and increase your motivation to read.

4. Talk to your bookish friends

There’s nothing that lessens the burden of a reading slump than complaining to your bookish pals about it (I’m speaking from experience here πŸ˜‚)! Aside from getting the frustration and struggle off your chest, your friends can recommend books, give you encouragement and share their tips for getting out of slumps. Some of my friends have shared life-saving tips that have helped get me out of slumps in the past. I’ve even done virtual read-alongs with friends which works wonders for slumps, which brings me to my next tip nicely.

5. Do virtual read-alongs with friends

When I first started doing virtual read-alongs with my friends on Skype I thought it was a bit weird, but it’s actually brilliant. It’s COVID-19 secure and is a fun social activity. My friends and I would set a timer to read for 30 minutes and then chat for 30 minutes so that the reading was broken up by discussion. It’s like a focus study session except it’s with books, you’re doing it because you want to AND you’re not being graded, so what’s not to love? It holds you accountable and actively encourages you to read. Of all the tips on this list, read-alongs with friends is the only one that’s guaranteed to work almost every single time.

6. Read a children’s book

Understandably children’s books aren’t for everyone, but if you are open to reading children’s books they can work wonders for reading slumps. Children’s books are often easy to read, light-hearted, joyful and whimsical which makes them the perfect books to reach for if you’re feeling low or are in a negative mental space. A lot of children’s books are also short so can be read quickly and don’t require a big commitment, which is a must when you’re in a slump. Check out my post where I shared my Favourite Children’s books if you want some recommendations.

7. Read a short story or play

When I’m in a slump I need short, snappy reads that require minimum commitment and time. Short stories and plays are a blessing for pulling me out of slumps because they can be read in an hour or two and remind me why I love reading. If you find a short story or play that you love enough, it might even encourage you to pick up another longer book πŸ˜‰

8. Don’t put pressure on yourself

So this isn’t a practical tip, but a very important one. You know when you have to write a 3000 word assignment and the deadline is looming so you begin to put pressure on yourself to work on it and then it creates a mental block where you can’t work no matter how hard you try? Well, it’s the same with reading. The more you tell yourself, “I need to read, I need to read, I need to read”, the less likely you are to read. You’re not obligated to read all the time. If you want to be a regular reader, the only important thing is to keep coming back to it and to persevere. Even if you just read in those small 15 minute bursts every once a while, eventually you will find that you actively want to pick up a book again. Remember that reading can be a challenging hobby to undertake, especially in the beginning and it won’t be a linear journey. It takes patience and practice, but if you focus on what you can get out of reading and why you’re doing it, you’ll keep reading and hopefully overcome every slump you ever fall into.

That concludes the Breaking into Books series! πŸ“š I had so much fun writing this series 😊

Thank you to those of you that have read and followed the series. I struggled a lot in the beginning of my reading journey and almost put the books down for good, so I hope any new(ish) readers that have followed the series found it helpful and inspired or motivated you to begin or continue your reading journey. Maybe even some of you experienced readers found it useful too!

You can find a full list of links to the previous posts in the Breaking into Books series below.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Breaking into Books #4 – Finding bookish friends

Breaking Into Books is an ongoing series I post every other Sunday with tips and advice for new readers. Last time, I shared tips for establishing a reading routine and today I’ll be discussing how to find and make friends with other readers πŸ“š

Whether it’s having a general chat about your reading habits, in-depth discussions about a book you love or even sending each other bookish memes making friends with readers and people in the bookish community makes reading so much fun. Reading can be enjoyed as a solitary activity, but it can also be very social and involving other people can massively improve your reading experience. I’d recommend all readers to find bookish friends because it’s a real game changer as a reader.

The benefits of having bookish friends in your life are huge, especially when you’re just starting out. It helps with motivation, recommendations, moral support, encouragement and so much more. Reading wouldn’t be half as much fun for me without the amazing people I have in my life that love books as much as I do. Whether you already have people in your life that read or not, there are lots of ways that you can involve friends in your reading experience to make it more fun and plenty places to find new friends that love to read, if you don’t currently have any, starting right here on this blog!

Where to find bookish friends

1. Your friends and family

The first obvious place to look for bookish friends is at the people that are already in your life. Do you have someone in your life that reads? Or perhaps someone that doesn’t read but would be up for giving it a go? Drop them a message or give them a call and ask if they want to do a buddy read with you. You might be surprised at how many people in your life will be willing to join you in a buddy read. Even if it’s only for one book, it’s a great motivator and way to get started with reading. It can also give you something new to bond over with somebody in your life that you love.

2. YouTube

YouTube has an entire corner of it devoted to reading referred to as Booktube. There are lots of great Booktubers that post book related content and offer communities that you can join. Whether it’s participating in discussions in the comments section on videos, joining Discord servers or Patreon’s, Booktube has spaces where you can make bookish friends. I’ll be making a post soon where I share my favourite Booktubers so keep your eyes peeled for that if you’re interested. But some good places to start is to search for a book or genre you’re interested in, check out some Booktubers that discuss it and find someone that appeals to your tastes.

3. Blogging sites

Now, admittedly I’m biased here πŸ˜‚ but WordPress is a fantastic place to find bookish friends. There are lots of book bloggers that are always willing to chat about books and make new friends (myself included!). In addition to WordPress there’s Wix, Blogger, Tumblr, Weebly and more! Browse online and you’ll be sure to find plenty of bloggers, both new and seasoned readers, to bond with over books.

4. Libraries

Most libraries offer book clubs and book events that you can join or participate in. Due to COVID-19, they might not be taking place right now but it’s worth checking out when libraries re-open. It’s also possible that some libraries are holding online community events and book clubs for their local community. Even if you don’t have time to get involved with anything specific, visiting a library and striking up a conversation with others that are there can lead to a beautiful bookish friendship.

5. Other social media sites

Social media in general is a great place to find and connect with new people that share the same interests. YouTube, Instagram and blog sites are the best places in my experience, but other sites like Reddit, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Discord are also worth checking out. There are multiple Subreddits that are particularly useful for readers to participate in book discussions including r/books, r/booksuggestions and r/literature.

6. The local community

Depending on where you live, your community may offer opportunites to network and meet other readers. Whether it’s literature festivals, author meet and greets, writer conferences, book readings, societies at a university (if you’re a student), there’s a variety of ways to get involved in book communities and events in real life as well as online. Once again, many of these things won’t be happening right now but it’s great to get involved in the future.

That wraps up my recommendations of where to find bookish friends. As a reader, I can’t emphasise how valuable it’s been to have friends that read. If I didn’t have my group of bookish friends I’m not sure I would’ve ever got back into reading fully. They encouraged, motivated and supported me every step of the way; shared in my excitement and enthusiasm, gave me great book recommendations and were generally a huge part of me falling in love with reading again. Even now, they pull me through slumps, let me gush about my favourite books and provide me with validation for my love of books.

I hope this helps those of you that are new to the bookish community to find new spaces to share your love of books and make friends that you can be a nerd with πŸ€“πŸ˜‚ feel free to message me anytime about book related things and I’ll always reply (maybe with too much enthusiasm)!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Breaking into Books #3 – Establishing a routine

Breaking Into Books is an ongoing series I post every other Sunday with tips and advice for new readers. Last time, I shared tips for finding genres that you’ll love and today I’ll be discussing how to establish a good reading routine πŸ“š

Reading is like exercise. When you’re out of practice, it’s difficult to get started and you might be super pumped in the beginning but then the motivation tapers off quickly and your enthusiasm dwindles. But with perseverance and a good routine you can seamlessly integrate reading into your daily life. Routine is probably one of the most important aspects of becoming a regular reader. There’s no right or wrong way to establish a reading routine, but there’s a few questions to take into consideration when creating a reading routine which will help you to set yourself up for success: when, where, how and why are you going to read?

WHEN are you going to read?

Your existing schedule and commitments will probably dictate when you can read. Personally, I read everyday but that might not be realistic for some of you that have extra busy lives, so you may want to set aside a few hours in your week or month for reading. It doesn’t really matter how often you’re reading, the most important thing is to be consistent. By that I don’t mean that you need to read at the exact same time every single day/week, but that you’re regularly devoting time to reading. Set a goal and stick to it. For example, if you’re going to read three times a week it doesn’t matter what day or time you do it, but try to stick to your main goal of reading three times in that week.

Consider when you’re least busy and can squeeze in some reading time. Even if it’s only 10 minutes, it still counts! For most people, the ideal time is going to be right before bed. But for others, it might be during your lunch break at work or when your child is having a nap or you’re going for your daily walk. There are so many savvy and effortless ways to fit reading into your day. Here are some of the times/activities in my day that I use to get a chunk of reading done:

  • The commute to work
  • Getting ready in the morning
  • Walking/exercising
  • Lunch break
  • Chores/housework
  • Cooking

Some people are night owls, others are morning people, so that will also influence when the best time is for you to read. I’ve personally found that I have a better reading experience in the morning because I’m more awake and able to absorb what I’m reading better than when I’m tired right before bed. Remember that WHEN you read can effect comprehension, focus and your overall reading experience, so try reading at different times and see what suits you best.

WHERE are you going to read?

This is something I didn’t even consider when I started reading again, but boy, let me tell you – where you read makes one hell of a difference to your reading experience. Reading can be a tedious task and it’s easy to get distracted by discomfort, your surroundings, tired eyes and what’s going on in your head. Being in a comfortable, distraction-free environment with the right lighting means that you can become fully immersed in what you’re reading and have a more fun reading experience. For me, nothing beats sitting in an armchair with my earphones to read. When I read in bed, I find that one second I’m too hot so I’m throwing the covers off, then I’m too cold so I’m pulling the covers back on, then I’m tossing and turning to find a comfortable position, I’m dropping the book onto my face and it all becomes a bit of a palava that ends with very little reading actually getting done πŸ˜‚

Don’t be afraid to switch it up and have lots of desginated reading spaces at home and in public. Having multiple spaces to read in can really help with “reading fatigue”. It’s rare that I can sit in one spot and read for more than an hour because I grow restless and/or tired. Changing location helps to refresh and re-energise so that I can keep reading. Outdoor spaces can be particularly great for this. There’s nothing quite like sitting in the garden for half an hour with a book, the sunshine blaring down on you πŸ₯°β˜€οΈ

HOW are you going to read?

Now this one probably sounds like an odd question, but what it means is how are you going to access books and which format are you going to read them in. HOW you’re reading – whether it’s via physical books (paperback or hardback), ebooks or audiobooks and whether it’s by borrowing from the library, purchasing or using subscription services – will impact the WHEN and WHERE of your reading routine. For example, audiobooks are going to give you the flexibility to read when you’re doing chores or driving or cooking, but a physical book is probably going to pose some problems πŸ˜‚

Similarly, the source of where you’re getting your books from will also impact your reading routine. If you’re borrowing books from the library, you may have to place reservations and wait weeks for a book to become available, you’ll also have to read it within a certain time-frame (7-14 days). If you’re purchasing books, you’ll be able to get any book at the touch of a button and have freedom to read at your own pace. If you’re using subscription services, there may be restrictions on access to certain books or formats of books. Essentially, how you’re acquiring the books you read will have an impact on your reading routine and needs to be factored in.

WHY are you going to read?

The WHEN, WHERE and HOW is going to help you to plan your routine, but the WHY is going to help you actually stick to your routine. Everybody that reads, reads with a purpose and the reason why you’re reading is going to be what motivates you to establish and stick to your reading routine. You can create the most detailed reading schedule ever but if you lose sight of WHY you want to read, you’ll lack motivation and won’t maintain your routine long-term.

Write down a few goals you want to achieve or reaons why you’re reading. It could be to learn something new about a specific topic, to diversify your language, to find a character you relate to or to read a classic – it can be literally anything! Writing down the reasons you want to read will help you to focus on the value of reading for your personal enjoyment and development, which will mean you’re be more likely to actively want to read on the days/times that you set aside for reading.

Once you’ve answered these four questions – WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHY you’re going to read – you’ll hopefully be in the perfect position to establish a reading routine that works for you and also have a list of reasons why you want to read to motivate you to stick to the routine long-term. The important thing to remember, is what I said at the start: reading is like exercise. Our brains are muscles just like our bodies and if you haven’t read before or have had a long break from reading, it will be difficult to maintain the routine at first but the more you practice and exercise the muscle, the easier it becomes. At first, I found it really hard to read everyday, but after a few months I realised that I couldn’t go a day without reading because my day felt weird and incomplete without it. Now, most days I pick up a book without even thinking. The moment I have a spare second in my day my brain automatically screams, “READING TIME!” πŸ˜‚

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Breaking into Books #2 – Finding the genre(s) you love

Breaking Into Books is an ongoing series I post every other Sunday with tips and advice for new readers. In the first post of the series I shared my five top tips for breaking into books and today I’ll be discussing how to find the perfect genre(s) for you! πŸ“š

Finding the right genre of books is likely to involve experimentation and trial and error, but is essential because taking the time to find the genres that appeal most to you will be key to your reading success and enjoyment. When I speak to people that don’t read one of the most common complaints I hear is that reading is “boring” and my response to that statement is always the same – if you find reading boring, you’re reading the wrong book. When you find your niche with books, reading is fun, exciting and immersive.

Since there are so many genres out there it can be difficult to know where to start. The best place to start is as broadly as possible and ask yourself: what type of TV shows and films do I enjoy watching? This should give you a strong indicator of where to look.

Next ask: what do I want to get from the books I read? We all read for different reasons and have various motivations, so consider what you want to gain. Are there certain topics that are important to you or that you identify closely with?Do you want books to provide a means for entertainment or escapism? Do you want to educate yourself on topics that impact your life and the world around you? Perhaps you want the books you read to provide all of this or none of it. Only you can decide.

Leading on from there you can begin to answer the question: do I want to read fiction or nonfiction or both? Some of you will instantly know that you have a preference for either fiction or nonfiction, but if you want to read both that’s okay, it just means you will have even more variety of books to choose from! Once you’ve decided if you want to start with fiction or nonfiction, it’s time to narrow your options down a little more and look at some of the main genres in nonfiction and fiction.


  • Academic
  • Biographies and Autobiographies
  • Education
  • Crime
  • Health
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Science
  • Self-help
  • Sociology
  • Travel

Note: This is not an exhaustive list.

My nonfiction recommendations

  • Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters (Biography)
  • African American Experience in Vietnam: Brothers in Arms by James E. Westheider (History)
  • This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (Autobiography/Health)
  • Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes by Diane Reay (Education/Sociology)
  • Eloquent Rage: a Black Feminist Discovers Her Voice by Brittney Cooper (Autobiography/Feminism)


  • Adventure
  • Classics
  • Fantasy
  • Graphic novel
  • Historical Fiction
  • Horror
  • Mystery
  • Plays
  • Poetry
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Thriller

Note: This is not an exhaustive list.

My fiction recommendations:

  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Historical Fiction)
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Classic)
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction)
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery)

Some of these genres will likely jump out at you, so go with your gut. Bear in mind that finding the genre(s) for you can be a long process (I’m still discovering new genres and learning more about my tastes everyday) so be patient, experiment and do your research. You may decide to read one genre exclusively or you may choose to read 10 different genres – whatever you choose is fine, because it’s all about doing what’s fun and works for you.

Finally, there’s lots of great resources online with book recommendations based on genre which are invaluable resources. Goodreads, StoryGraph and What Should I Read Next? are great places to start but the best way to get recommendations is from book bloggers like myself or readers that you know IRL, because in my experience, it always produces the best book picks.

I hope you found these tips helpful! The most important thing when starting with or returning to reading and trying to find the right books, is to remain open-minded, persevere and enjoy the journey. As humans our likes and dislikes, moods and mental states are constantly evolving and generally our book tastes evolve with those changes, so follow your gut and I promise that you will find a book(s) that you love which will transform your reading experiences 😊

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Reading on a budget

Once upon a time reading was a pastime reserved primarily for the elite and privileged, but thankfully today reading is accessible to everyone regardless of background or bank balance. However, like most hobbies, reading can still be pretty bloody expensive. Whether it’s buying a shiny copy of a new release, a pretty and rare edition of your favourite book or a well-narrated audiobook, readers can potentially fork out hundreds or thousands of pounds a year on books.

As a postgraduate student working part-time finding affordable ways to read has been a priority for me ever since I started reading regularly in 2019. With an average price of around Β£10 for a standard paperback book, if I’d have bought a physical copy of every book I read in 2020 (110 books in total), I would’ve spent a whopping Β£1,100! Fortunately, by using some savvy tricks I ended up spending actually spent a fraction of that in 2020 at around Β£100.

Disclaimer: Since I live in the U.K. some of the tips I share in this post may not directly apply to those living outside of the U.K.

Use your local library

Libraries are every reader’s best friend and a true blessing. They provide us with access to hundreds of books, comics, magazines and archives for free. It’s the ideal solution for books that you only plan to read once or if you’re unsure whether you’ll like a book. Going to the library not only saves you money but also helps to support local libraries. If you don’t already have a library card, I’d highly reccommend getting one. Unfortunately, due to current COVID-19 restrictions you may not be able to physically browse your library, but you can place holds on books online and use the click and collect service or access the library catalogue online (if your library has one).

Download the Overdrive or Libby app

A fantastic alternative to the click and collect service is to access your library’s resources online. Overdrive and Libby are apps that can be downloaded on Android and iOS that provide access to your library’s collection of e-books and audiobooks. You’ll have to check which app you’ll need to access your local library, but as long as you have a library card you should be eligible to register. You can then borrow books for 7-14 days and place holds on books that are unavailable.

Using Libby has completely changed my life and I cannot give it enough praise. I have two library cards – one for the area I live in and one for the area I work in – so have access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks. Since audiobooks tend to be pricey, this is a very cost-effective way of listening to audiobooks.

Sign-up for subcriptions to book platforms

Platforms like Audible and Scribd offer monthly subsciptions in exchange for access to their libraries. Personally, I’ve tried both platforms and didn’t find either to be particularly cost effective since I can access a majority of what’s on offer on Audible or Scribd via Libby for free. However, if your local library doesn’t have an online library or isn’t available on Overdrive or Libby, this is a good alternative. Both offer free trials, so I’d reccommend that you try before you buy.

Buy second-hand books

A pretty simple solution, but why buy a book brand new when you can get it second-hand for a fraction of the price? You can buy second-hand books on a variety of sites such as eBay, Amazon and Abebooks. Personally, my favourite place to buy second-hand books are charity shops. This scratches my book shopping itch by allowing me to browse the shelves and physically plough through books. Generally, charity shops will rarely charge anything above Β£2 for a book, so it’s a real bargain!

Borrow from friends and family

Some readers can be very protective of their books and reluctant to lend them out to others (understandably so), but it’s always worth asking people, particularly if they plan to pass it on in the future. If you know a friend or relative has a book that’s on your TBR and they’ve read it once and don’t plan to read it again, ask if you can have it. Over the years, I’ve acquired a lot of books from friends and family who were going to donate them to charity shops or local libraries. Taking those books on yourself saves them a trip and you some pennies, so it’s a win-win situation.

Ask for book vouchers and gift cards as gifts

Now, this one is definitely cheating, but when it comes to reading on a budget it’s very handy πŸ˜‚ Instead of spending Β£10 on a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine (both good gift choices, but not as good as books!), ask your loved ones to buy you a simple book gift card or voucher for birthday’s and other special ocassions. If you have a particular book in mind, it’s also worth asking for it, but book vouchers provide more flexibility and give you time to decide which books to invest in.

Take advantage of copyright-free classics

If you’re a classics reader, even physical copies will be cheap and cheerful, but there’s little point in wasting your money when they’re available for free. Many classic novels are copyright-free due to the authors having been dead for 70 years or more, so there are lots of free copies of them online. My favourite apps for reading free classics are iBooks on iOS and LibriVox which has access to hundreds of classic audiobooks. No Fear Shakespeare is also a great website and resource for reading Shakespeare’s plays.

Don’t be afraid of e-books

Ask any reader what their preferred format of book is and I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that physical copies (paperback or hardback) would come out on top. Admittedly, the old-school way of reading provides a unique and satisfactory reading experience, but when it comes to reading on a budget e-books are where it’s at.

As a Kindle user, I primarily buy e-books from Amazon and it’s very easy to save money by keeping up to date with daily and weekly deals. If you’re interested in a book, add it to your wish list and wait until it goes on sale. By doing this, I’ve bought books on sale for 99p that were originally Β£10!

P.S. Amazon Prime members can access a selection of audiobooks for free via Prime Reading.

Be selective about what you buy & avoid hauls!

This is probably one of the most important tips in this post, because being conscious of when, where and how you’re spending on books allows you to make cut backs. When you’re looking at your TBR and deciding what to pick up next, it can be very tempting to buy a physical copy of every single book you plan to read in the next couple of months. We’re inundated with book hauls and readers showing us their lovely new books, giving us book envy and the urge to go out and buy like crazy. Admittedly, it feels good at the time and gives us a rush of dopamine, but in my experience, it leads to excessive and unnecessary spending and a house full of books that you’ll never get around to reading or will read once and never again.

I have a rule that I can only purchase a physical copy of a book if I’m 99.9% confident I’ll love it or if I’ve already read it and it’s a favourite. There’s very little point in spending money on a book that I’m only going to read once and is then going to sit on my shelf gathering dust. I want to spend my money on books that are going to be read over and over and give me joy for years to come.

Also, consider when is the right time to buy new books. If you’re drowning in books at home and your physical TBR is in the hundreds, it’s probably wiser to go to the library or purchase an e-book rather than add to the ever-growing pile!

I hope you found these tips about how to read on a budget useful. Using these methods has been a god-send for me and enabled me to cut down the costs of my reading to pittance. Consequently, I’ve been able to read more books in a variety of formats that I wouldn’t have been able to if I was buying all/most of my books.

For any readers that are students like myself and/or working with a tighter budget, just know that you can still find lots of cheap ways to read whether that’s physical books, e-books, audiobooks, comics, graphic novels or magazines 😊

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Breaking Into Books #1 – Tips for new readers

Did you read lots as a child but haven’t picked up a book in years? Have you never been a big reader but are looking to get started? Or recently started reading after a long break? If you’re a less experienced reader or looking to get started with reading, the Breaking Into Books series is for you! This is the first post in an ongoing series posted every other Sunday with tips and advice for new readers or readers that have recently returned to books after a long break (like me!). As a fairly new reader myself, I know how intimidating and overwhelming it can be to get started, so here are my top five tips for where to start with reading and how to break into books πŸ“š

Tip #1 – Discover the genre(s) you enjoy

There are millions of books in the world so narrowing your choices down by focusing on specific genres is essential. Fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, historical fiction, literary fiction, non-fiction, romance, thriller, graphic novel, adventure… the list of genres goes on. Generally, you should be able to pick a few genres that are of interest to you based on your other interests. Reflect on the films and tv shows that you enjoy, what genre are they in? Also take time to reflect on themes or topics that are important to you and what you want to get from a book. Do you want to educate yourself with facts on real-life topics? If so, non-fiction might be the right genre for you. Do you want to immerse yourself in an entirely new world? If so, fantasy might be the right genre for you.

Do some research into the genres, write down 3-5 genres that interest you and choose one book from each genre to read to get a feel for which one(s) you enjoy. It’s going to involve a lot of trial and error (I’m still feeling out the types of books I love), so be patient and don’t be afraid to give up on a book that you’re not enjoying.

Tip #2 – Establish a reading routine

All readers will struggle with the motivation to read (slumps are an ever threatening presence in all of our lives!), but when you’re a less experienced reader, lack of motivation is even greater. Setting aside specific times in the day/week which are devoted to reading will help you to tackle this. Even if it’s just 30 minutes every day, it’s a relatively small commitment but will enable you to read a good chunk. When I first started reading, I really struggled with motivation and getting into a rhythm with it massively helped. Eventually, reading became a part of my daily routine to the point that it felt weird if I had a day where I didn’t read. Like anything else, it’s about practice. The more you read, the more it will become part of your life and who you are as a person.

Tip #3 – Prioritise quality over quantity

Goodreads challenges and increased participation in book blogging, booktube and bookstagram has created a datafication culture amongst readers. We all want to know how to read more and read faster. But when you’re just starting out with reading and are already struggling with motivation, the pressure to read more can decrease motivation even further. Reading should be about enjoyment and reading one book in a month that you love is more worthwhile than reading 10 books that are just okay.

Tip #4 – Find bookish friends

Reading is generally considered a solitary activity, but making it social completely elevates the experience. Being part of a book club will motivate you to read a book each month and having discussions with others will immerse you more into the reading experience and the books you read. If you don’t know anyone IRL who reads, there are plenty of online book clubs and spaces in the bookish community that you can get involved with. Having a group of bookish friends will give you an outlet for discussing what you’ve been reading and also provide peer support when you’re slogging your way through a tricky book or you’re struggling with motivation.

Tip #5 – Don’t give up!

Reading is a time consuming activity which requires lots of focus and dedication. In this era of technology, distractions are abound and personal circumstances, mood, mental health and work commitments etc. can all impact reading. Our attention spans are limited and particularly when you’re not in the practice of reading, sitting for a long period of time to read can be a challenge (I still struggle with this now). If you have a day or even a month where you don’t read anything, don’t be hard on yourself. Perseverance is key and if you follow Tip #4, hopefully you’ll have have bookish pals to support and encourage you through those times! Above all, reading should be something you do because it enriches, entertains and educates you. If you go into reading with this singular goal in mind, you won’t give up because it’ll be worth pushing through those slumps in order to experience those books which have a impact on you and steal a piece of your heart.

Those are my five tips for new readers, I hope you found them useful! 😊 I’ll be sharing more tips and advice in future posts in the Breaking Into Books series and will be expanding on the tips mentioned in this post, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled πŸ‘€

What tips would you recommend for those that are looking to get started with reading?

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.