Evie, a second year UCL English student, shares her advice on how to make time for leisure reading whilst studying.
With students knee-deep in assessments, essays and exams, many confess it can be difficult to find time to read. Reading is a dear hobby for many of us: it allows us to escape from the realm of university responsibilities and enter the world of whichever fictional creation we are engaging with.
Read whilst you are travelling or on the move
I’ve been commuting most days from my London flat to use one of the many UCL libraries for a change of scenery and a boost of productivity. I’ve been surprised by how much reading I can fit into my tube journeys. Using your commute into campus is a great way to increase your daily reading hours and get through books more quickly during this busy time.
Have multiple books on the go
It’s important to ensure that reading remains an enjoyable and relaxing activity, as during stressful periods it can often feel like a chore. Reading multiple books at once means you can choose your read depending on your mood. I usually read one work of fiction and one non-fiction book at the same time, and this allows me to read for different purposes: I love reading fiction to discover new characters, worlds and stories, but I equally adore non-fiction such as biographies and collections of essays or speeches, as ways of enhancing my day-to-day learning and knowledge of contemporary issues.
Read what you enjoy
Thinking in retrospect, it took me quite a while to discover what kind of books I really loved to read. The first year of my English Literature degree at UCL introduced me to an incredibly wide range of literature, from Greek epics to contemporary works of literary fiction, and at times it was overwhelming. But now, having just finished the end of my second year, I’m starting to consolidate a sense of what my literary passions are. Even as someone who reads daily as part of my degree, this process of self-definition as a reader has been slow, and one which is still ongoing. So read widely and challenge yourself with what you read. Exposing yourself to as many writers, styles and stories will make you a more well-rounded, informed and confident reader.
Decrease your screen time, increase your reading time
It’s no secret that Millennial and Gen-Z youngsters have become hooked to their screens, and I myself am guilty of spending far too much time glued to my MacBook. But swapping out that daily screen-time for a book is easier than you think. Perhaps you use your phone before you go to bed, or when you first wake up in the morning. So, instead, pick up a book: you could get your brain working and analytical mindset started in the morning by reading something non-fiction, or you could switch off from your busy day of revision to immerse yourself in the world of the novel you currently have on the go.
Little and often
Many people have a long list of books they would like to read, but reading can feel overwhelming as a student, like a hill that seems far too difficult to climb. The main solution to this challenge is little and often. You don’t have to read all day, every day, to make your way through the books you want to. Dedicating 20-30 minutes every day solely to picking up your book can make the world of difference in helping you to hit your bookish goals.
As many of us near the end of our exam period and look forward to a few months of normality during our summer break from university, it’s a great time to start thinking about what you want to read over the summer, and the kind of reading goals you’d like to set (reading Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is the main contender for me!). The sheer power, beauty and mastery of books never ceases to amaze me, and I’m certain in my belief that reading makes us who we are. As I’ve started to rest and recharge now that my exams are over, I’m really rediscovering my love for reading not just for analysis and study, but for fun. I hope that the summer break encourages you to discover or reignite that same love.