Reading is HARD!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a discussion post (read my previous discussion post ‘Book Hype: is it ever worth it?” here) and recently I’ve been struggling with motivation to write, so thought I’d kick back and take it easy with a discussion post. And today, I want to talk about how goddamn hard reading is, because I feel like it’s something we just don’t talk about enough in the book community. Each month book bloggers, YouTubers, TikTokers and Instagrammers share their wrap-ups having typically read 5-15 books, portraying reading as an easy and chill pastime, but there’s a reason why most people I know don’t read regularly: IT’S HARD.

Even for a regular and seasoned reader, reading isn’t easy. It’s an ongoing challenge for me that requires high levels of energy, commitment and planning. It also constantly feels like I’m falling short of my goals and lacking in motivation and consequently not enjoying reading as much as I should. This year in particular has just been so MEH for me so far with reading and has become very challenging because of that. These days I find myself spending more time thinking about difficult reading is than actually reading 😂

Generally, reading requires so much time, motivation dedication and attention from a reader over a prolonged period of time. In that way it’s like any other hobby but I feel like reading doesn’t get the same recognition as for example playing a sport does. A sportsperson requires physical strength, skill and stamina, they need to commit to attending practice, strive to continue improving their technique and be mentally resilient. Physical strength aside, on a basic level reading requires all of the same things that playing sports does. Reading is a skill; one that needs to be practiced and honed over time, there are techniques one can develop to support their reading and boy oh boy, does it require a f*ck tonne of mental resilience. So although anybody that’s literate can pick up a book and read that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy or that they’ll retain what they’ve read or even enjoy it, because that’s much harder to achieve than the basic act of reading a text.

There’s little appreciation for how much is required to actually pick up a book every single day, read it, process it, engage with it and retain it. Before someone even reads a book thought has to be given to which book to read, and spoiler alert, there are A LOT of books out there to choose from. We talk about “choice paralysis” on streaming platforms like Netflix, but with books it’s an entirely different level. A quick Google search estimates that there are around 170,000,000 books in the world based on data from 2019 🤯 So even before you’ve attempted to read, the process of just choosing a book can be a challenge!

The proof is in the pudding when it comes to how challenging reading is, because so many (if not all) readers regularly experience reading slumps. There are hundreds of posts and videos online giving book recommendations and general advice on how to avoid slumps (you can read mine here) and the reason for that is because reading is hard. That’s literally the reason why I also did an entire series (check out the Breaking into Books series here) for new readers that focuses on the in-depth processes involved in becoming a regular reader. I know that for me reading slumps happen because I’ve lost energy, motivation and desire to read. That can be triggered by low mental health, being busy, reading a few books that have been duds, being distracted by other stuff (I’m looking at you Heartstopper 😂) and a million and one other things. But ultimately it comes down to the fact that (yep, you guessed it) – reading is hard.

This year so far I’ve read 14 books with an average rating of 3.36. It’s been a pretty slow and mediocre reading year so far which has been characterised by a lot of slumps and a general lack of joy in reading or motivation to read. I’ve been trying my hardest to find The Book (you know, the one that’s going to steal my heart and be a glittering 5 star read that pulls me out of my slump and restores my faith in books) and working to stick to my reading routine as best I can but it’s tough 😔

So I guess the point of this post is to say that no matter how much of a reader you are, how much you’ve read or typically read, whether you’ve been reading for years or have only recently started, if you’re struggling to find motivation to read or to meet reading goals or to just pick out a book to read, know that you’re not alone. Remember that reading is hard; it’s a challenging hobby to have and it requires its own unique skills and mental/emotional determination to make it a part of our daily/weekly lives. It doesn’t just happen and there are going to be times when it feels much harder than others. But no matter how hard reading is, the pleasure of reading is unmatched by anything else and it’s worth enduring and struggling through the slumps and demotivation to find that next magical read 🙌🏻

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Book Hype: is it ever worth it?

It’s been a while since I’ve done a discussion post (read my previous discussion post ‘Reading, Blogging and Mental Health’ here) and there’s a topic that has been on my mind recently that I wanted to chat about: book hype in the book community. As someone that came back to reading only a couple of years ago, I was thrust into the bizarre world of Booktube and engaged in various online bookish communities. Prior to this, my reading consisted of searching the library and browsing bookstores and picking up whatever took my fancy. But in this digital world, I, like most readers, now take the majority of recommendations from online spaces. What I quickly noticed when I joined these online spaces is that certain books would suddenly erupt with popularity and gain traction because creators across all platforms would create content about the books. Books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Song of Achilles, The Poppy War, Six of Crows, Throne of Glass, A Little Life have all been subject to this hype (and still are) and almost every reader will have heard of them regardless of whether they have read them or not. But the question is, are these books ever truly worth the hype they receive and what impact does book hype have on readers?

The answer to that question is: yes and no. I’ve read a lot of books based on hype that I’ve enjoyed and others that were a colossal disappointment. Sometimes I dislike a hyped book precisely because it was hyped. When a book is widely popular and praised, it means that I go into that book with high expectations and therefore increasing the likelihood that it will fail to meet my expectations. Generally though, books that receive hype are hyped for a reason and have genuine merit. Inevitably, that doesn’t mean that they will suit everybody’s tastes because reading is subjective and a lot of the hype surrounding a book often stems from FOMO.

When we see others reading and talking about how incredible a book is, we want to become part of the conversation regardless of whether we like the book or not. Also, when a book explodes with popularity it’s fun to see the varying thoughts and opinions of a large audience of readers which we don’t necessarily get with other less popular books. It’s exciting to be part of the buzz in the community when a book is the talk of the town, but it also creates an unfortunate side effect in the community: echo chambers.

If multiple readers and creators are talking about the same books, those books continue to be recommended and reinforced in all bookish communities at the potential exclusion of other books. Since readers are increasingly likely to take recommendations from online spaces, this also means that the pool of books that people are reading is likely to become more narrow and discussions in the community less diverse.

Personally, I will always take recommendations from others in the community, because I value and trust their opinions and have found some of my favourite books of all time because of those recommendations. However, I do think it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of books that are continously promoted online are often hyped due to external factors (e.g. marketing, algorithms). From a creators POV, the bottom line is that content about popular books will always draw engagement across all platforms and this influences the books that many creators discuss on their platforms. This means that not every popular book is deserving of its hype, instead, certain books gain traction because content creators make content for those books to ensure their content is current and in-keeping with what is going on in the community.

Overall, book hype is like a double edged sword. On the one hand, it helps readers discover lots of new wonderful books and engages lots of readers into exciting discussions. But on the other hand, it creates echo chambers, limiting the breadth and diversity of books being read and recommended in the book community. As a reader and blogger, I’d like to make more of a conscious effort to reach for and explore books that are perhaps lesser known in the bookish world and broaden my horizons.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Audiobooks: Awesome or Awful?

Readers seem to conflicted when it comes to audiobooks – some love them, some hate them, some are indifferent – but there’s a general consensus that audiobooks are an amazing resource for accessibility and increasing the amount we’re able to read. They’ve opened so many people up to reading that may not have discovered the pleasure of reading without audiobooks. Personally, I have a complex relationship with audiobooks, so I wanted to explore this and share 3 reasons why I think audiobooks are awesome (pros) and 3 reasons why I think they’re awful (cons), and give my own verdict on what I think about audibooks.

(Before we get started, let’s take a moment to appreciate my genius alliteration with the title of this post 😉😂)

Audiobooks are Awesome Reason 1: They’re convenient

Audibooks are Awesome (pros)Audibooks are Awful (cons)
1. They’re convenient

Most of us lead busy lives with jam-packed schedules and as much as we’d love to devote hours every day to reading, it’s simply not feasible. Audiobooks are much easier to fit into your day whether it’s during the commute or whilst cooking dinner, there are endless times throughout the day where we can blast a few minutes of an audiobook and get some reading done with minimal effort.
1. They’re expensive

Subscription services like Scribd and Audible offer cost effective solutions to listening to audiobooks but audiobooks are generally still an expensive luxury. Prices vary depending on the book but the average price of an audiobook is between £20 and £30 which is double/triple the price of a standard paperback. For avid readers that read a lot or that are into epic series with multiple books, purchasing audiobooks can cost a small fortune.
2. A more immersive reading experience

With the right narrator(s), production, music and sound effects, audiobooks can completely transform the reading experience. I listened to an audiobook of The Hobbit last year and let me tell you, it was the best and most memorable reading experience of my life. The use of voices, sound effects and music brought the world to life and made me fall in love with the book and story in a way I might not have if I’d physically read it. Overall, audiobooks can jazz up a book, making it more entertaining, immersive and impactful.
2. Some audiobooks are poor quality

For all of the incredible audiobooks and talented narrators, there are some stinkers too. Whether it’s because they’re free or the narrator simply doesn’t do it for you, I’ve listened to many audiobooks that have been let down by poor microphone quality, noise interference, odd narration choices and casts of characters that are just too big (I’m cursed with an ability to distinguish voices from one another, particularly if they sound similar, so I’m forever confused by audiobooks with a full cast of characters). Unfortunately, readers that can’t afford to pay for audiobooks are more likely to land on free audiobooks which are poorer quality.
3. They make reading more accessible

This is undeniably the biggest perk of audiobooks. Whether someone doesn’t have time, struggles with comprehending physical texts, has a visual impairment or other disability that makes reading impossible/difficult, audiobooks provide the opportunity for everyone to read. Personally, I don’t have difficulties with physically reading but audiobooks have been a saving grace for me on more than one occasion when I’ve been too busy to read or unable to read for mental health reasons.
3. They’re harder to comprehend

Ironically, whilst some readers turn to audiobooks to improve their comprehension, audiobooks massively decrease mine. I’m not an auditory person so concentrating on an audiobook, comprehending and retaining what I’ve heard is a huge challenge for me. I’ve listened to some audiobooks and couldn’t tell you the first thing about those books beyond the basic premise because I’ve forgot. Generally, when I look through my back-log of books that I’ve read there’s a clear correlation between my memory of books and the format I read them in, and audiobooks are consistently the books I remember least.

Verdit: Are audiobooks Awesome or Awful?

They’re alright. They’re neither awesome nor awful but somewhere in the middle. Some books are better in an audiobook format and audiobooks provide more flexibility and accessibility for reading. However, personally, I will opt for a physically copy over an audiobook 9 times out of 10 because it provides a better reading experience for me.

What are your thoughts on audiobooks? Do you think they’re awesome or awful or somewhere in between? What are your pros and cons for listening to audiobooks? I’d love to discuss this more in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Reading, Blogging and Mental Health

Today’s post is a little different from my usual content and is a discussion post around the topic of mental health and how this impacts reading and blogging. I’ll be sharing my personal experiences of mental health and how this has impacted my reading, particularly over the last couple of months. If any of you are also struggling with mental health, know that you’re not alone and you can reach out to me any time. There will also be resources at the end of the post for more mental health information and support ❤️

I, like so many others around the world, have felt the impact of COVID-19. It wasn’t until recently that I recognised how much my mental health has taken a hit because of this second lockdown (which is finally coming to an end, hooray!). Ironically, the thing that helped me to recognise my poor mental health was my reading habits. Usually, I read every day, even if it’s only for half an hour and I average about 7 books a month. This month I’ve read only three books and have gone days and days on end without even picking up a book. This complete lack of motivation and ability to read really highlighted how much of a negative space I was in mentally and emotionally.

During the first lockdown last year, reading was my saviour. It gave me something to focus on and was a means of escapism; it’s what I turned to when I was feeling anxious or lonely. But recently, I’ve found the opposite happening and my low mood and poor mental health has turned me away from books. As much as I’ve wanted to read, whenever I’ve picked up a book I haven’t been able to focus and find myself reading the same lines over and over again but not comprehending or retaining anything I’ve read.

Because I consider myself a proud reader and books have become such a huge part of my life, I’ve constantly berated myself for my inability to read and my lack of inspiration or creativity to create content. But over the last week or so something clicked in my brain and every time I’d put myself down about not reading, I reminded myself that I’m not obligated to read and that I’m not failing as a reader or a book blogger by not reading every day. My mantra and belief is that reading is and should always be primarily about enjoyment. But unfortunately, I found that I’d fallen into the trap that so many other content creators do of feeling an obligation to always be reading and creating and hitting certain numbers.

Other bloggers and content creators have spoken openly about mental health and the impact it has on us as readers and creators, and I appreciate that so much because we need this type of transparency. We’re not machines, we’re human beings. Most of bloggers, like myself, create content for free in their spare time in addition to juggling other responsibilities like work, studying and caring for a family. It can be tough and we shouldn’t feel pressure or feel like a failure for taking a break or focusing on other areas of our lives.

The main purpose of this post is to say to all of my fellow book bloggers: I see you and you’re not alone. If you’re struggling with your mental health and are unable to read or create content for any reason, that is perfectly okay and you are still a valuable and loved part of the book community. Take some time for yourself and remember that sometimes when our mental health is low, reading and blogging becomes an impossible chore. Every single one of us has mental health just like we have physical health and it fluctuates and has its ups and downs. The most important thing is to take time to re-center at those times when our mental health is low and not put pressure on ourselves to read and/or create content. To get the most out of reading and blogging, we need to feel strong and healthy both mentally and emotionally.

I’m working towards improving my mental health with meditation, journaling and socialisation, and gradually I’m feeling the benefits. I’m already starting to want to read more and I’m feeling better in myself. But an important part of this process for me was letting go of reading for a while and understanding that although reading helped my mental health in the past, on this occassion it didn’t and that’s okay. Books will always be there for me to come back to but sometimes prioritising myself and other parts of my life is necessary.

I hope you are all safe and well ❤️

If you would like any more information about mental health support please check out these websites (UK):

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.