Dear College Grads Suffering From Reading Fatigue: You Can Learn to Love Books Again

If you're a recent graduate who formerly loved to read and now can't bear the thought, here are some tips to get you started again.

By Liberty McArtor Published on June 11, 2018

A few summers ago I was a brand-new college graduate. After years of textbooks, I was thrilled to have time for pleasure reading again. But then something happened. I just couldn’t pick up a book. I panicked. Did college destroy my love of reading?

No, but it did give me a bad case of reading fatigue. Stories from peers proved I was not alone.

Are you a recent college grad suffering the same condition? Not to worry! You will learn to love reading again. But it takes some time and deliberation. Here are four things that helped me.

1. Switch Up the Medium

After months of Netflix reruns in my free time, I was desperate to consume books again. But looking at words on a page was still difficult. So I tried audio books.

Have you tried audio books and found they aren’t your thing? Perhaps hundreds of pages bound together in a traditional book still seems overwhelming. If so, try e-reading. Books can seem more palatable that way, because you only see one page at a time. You needn’t even buy an e-reader device. You can download e-reader apps like Kindle and others for free on your smartphone or tablet.

I know, I know. It’s not the same as holding a hardback, smelling the pages and drinking in the words. But when picking up a book triggers college cramming mode, it’s a good idea to try an alternative medium. 

Audio books worked great for me. I didn’t have to carve out extra time; since I had a long commute, I listened on my way home from work each day. I went through books fairly quickly. And I loved having literature in my life again, despite not technically reading.

(For audio books, I use Audible. The monthly cost for a membership is around $15 — well worth it if you listen to books frequently. It takes only seconds to download a new book to your smartphone.)

2. Develop a Routine. Then Stick To It!

Part of my struggle post-college was that I feared if I picked up a book, I would never finish it. Probably because I’d gotten so many assigned books in college I wasn’t able to finish.

Want ideas for what to read as you get back to the books? Check out The Stream’s suggestions for summer reading. Many of our editors and most popular writers will be sharing what they’ll be reading this summer.

So I developed a routine. My drive home from work (about 45 minutes) was for audio books, and nothing else. I also didn’t pressure myself to listen to audio books at other parts of the day.

Purposefully keeping my reading (in this case, listening) time fairly short prevented me from getting overwhelmed or feeling guilty if I didn’t push for more. It also gave me something to look forward to at an otherwise mundane part of each day. And before I knew it, I’d finished one book and was downloading another. 

So make a routine and stick to it. Listen while you’re doing mindless tasks, like morning chores, eating lunch or getting ready for bed. Don’t push yourself beyond that routine just yet. Leave yourself wanting more.

3. Start With Easy Stuff

I also didn’t start by listening to long, difficult books, but a familiar genre: youth fiction. I loved the stories, and they didn’t require a lot of thought. 

What’s something easy for you? A favorite children’s series? Mystery novels? You may feel like you should read the latest political autobiography or new theological book everyone’s talking about. There’s time for that later. Allow the old faithfuls to do their work. 

Whatever you do, don’t give up! You will learn to love reading again, like I did. But it takes some time and deliberation.

For me, kids’ books were just enough to reignite my love for books themselves. And after a few months, I was ready to branch out. I began listening to novels, biographies, memoirs and inspirational books, and enjoyed them all. 

4. Buy Books, And Carve Out Time to Read Them

After slowly relearning to love books via audio, I wanted to read again. To smell the pages and drink in the words. I still enjoyed audio books, but they were no longer enough.

So I picked a few titles off of my “to listen to” list and asked for hard copies for holidays. When I received them, I didn’t pressure myself to tear through them at the pace I once might have.

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Instead, I carved out bits of time, and made it a point to relish the entire experience. On weekends, I’d curl up with a book, blanket and coffee and read just as long as I felt like it. Before bed, I’d read one chapter under the soft glow of my lamp. The more I carved out time for actual reading, the easier it became. And the more I read actual books, the more I wanted to read them. 

These days, things are back to normal. It took work to rekindle my love for reading, but it was well worth it. 

So if you’re experiencing reading fatigue, don’t despair. Give yourself time to decompress before starting this process if necessary. But then start. Before you know it, you’ll be the reader you always were.

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