Easing into Guilt-Free Reading: Getting Out of the Slump

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By Julia Corrie

I was a camp counselor in Maine this past summer, and I barely had any access to my phone. I had a whole lot of downtime, and I ended up remembering my love for reading. There was a box of books in the social hall, which had been untouched for years until I found it.

I picked up an average-sized novel with a pretty cover, and I started reading. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover was the first book I had read for pleasure in years, and I finally had time to actually sit down and read.

Many college-aged people do not see reading as a pleasurable hobby, but rather a burden as a graded assignment. There is not a lot of desire to read for fun, and it will end up being dangerous for our minds in the future. 

The attention spans of this generation seem to have amounted to that of a squirrel, or a 5-year old child. The influx in social media usage, as well as the transition from paper-based to technology-based learning, has been the cause of that.

To combat this, there have been multiple studies done on reading for pleasure, and why younger people have done away with it in recent years. The obvious cause is the influx of social media usage and less work being done with pen and paper, but there is something deeper to this issue.

Reading without the restrictions and deadlines of requirements gives readers the opportunity to perceive the language on their own time, and in their own way. Reading for pleasure can increase empathy for others, as research shows; It is also an easy way to start improving long-term emotional health.

Researchers have confirmed using MRI scans that reading ultimately strengthens the network of circuits and signals in your brain; over time they get more sophisticated.

Looking at the stack of books that have yet to be opened can cause something called “reading guilt,” and it is the reason why many people never want to pick up a book for pleasure again. The other side of the reading guilt spectrum comes with the dread of finishing an uninteresting, unfulfilling book. 

What readers may not understand, is that they have the freedom to close a book and try again with another one. That is one good aspect of reading for pleasure because no one is forced to read a book that they don’t want to.

The burning question is “How do I start?” Like any daunting task, the hardest part is getting started. There are so many books to choose from, and there tends to be some kind of pressure on readers to pick up the classics or nonfiction, there are too many choices to make.

Before the list of individual book recommendations, anything by Colleen Hoover is a great option to start the journey out of a reading slump. She often writes about relationships and the drama that comes with them, but they are also heartbreaking page-turners that the reader can never get enough of. 

Although some of his work is considered to be simple teenage literature, novels by John Green are very easy to read, and are a good segway to more thought-provoking work. Published in 2017, Turtles All the Way Down is one example, covering mental illnesses and the process of coping.

I have listed some book recommendations from a variety of sources, including a few Flagler students who are avid readers. These titles range in genre from romance to murder and mystery but are all great starting points to get out of the infamous reading slump.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her. The author reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

At school, Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers — one they are determined to conceal.

Ghosted by Rose Walsh

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted from his ground-breaking, critically acclaimed podcast, John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet – from the QWERTY keyboard and Halley’s Comet to Penguins of Madagascar — on a five-star scale.

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

This story follows Lily, a driven young woman freshly graduated in hopes of starting her own business and making her way in the world. When she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true. When her past comes back to haunt her in more ways than one, it is up to Lily to decide her own fate, even if there are devastating consequences.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and expertly executed. After a strangely affectionate speech from the Best Man, and some drunken confessions from guests, someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more importantly, why?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist and single mother moves to the close-knit suburb of Shaker Heights. Elena Richardson and her seemingly picture-perfect family end up intertwining fates with Mia and her daughter in complex ways. This story explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity and the ferocious pull of motherhood; As well as the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

For more book recommendations, Bookshop.org and Goodreads.com provide lists based on genre and popularity. They also provide purchasing links to support locally-owned and small bookstores across the country.

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