The holidays have always been my favourite time to catch up on all the books I say I am going to read and never even attempt to pick up during the school year. However, in recent years, even that goal has become formidable at times. Studying English tends to turn reading into work, no matter how much we enjoy it, and recently I have found it hard to want to read for fun after having read 16 books in one semester. Last year that led to watching a lot of movies with very few complaints. But this year, school is online and I am additionally developing an aversion to my laptop screen, so back to books it is. I have compiled a little list of strategies to address what I am calling English Major Reader’s Block. If you also suffer from this affliction, I hope this helps. 

1. Re-reading! 

Sometimes new information can be overwhelming. My brain is tired. I can’t learn anymore, but that does not mean I cannot read. When I am feeling especially tired, I have found it easier to return to old favourites and curl up with something cozy and familiar rather than try to absorb a new set of characters and plots. I recommend taking a day to reread  Harry Potter or Little Women or whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. 

2. Change up the Genre 

Unless you are taking a specialty course in graphic novels or YA fiction, the books that English majors tend to read can get a little repetitive and tend to stick to realist novels written between 1800 and 1980. I used to think the holidays were a great time to catch up on the holes in my knowledge and cross big titles off of my never ending reading list, but I have had very little luck with that. If you are able to read dense Russian realism after a semester of literature, I salute you, but so far I have had no luck with that ambition. That’s why my second tip is to change genres, try fantasy, sci-fi, graphic novels, mysteries, “trashy” romance novels or anything else that isn’t a part of the traditional literary canon. I used to love fantasy and dystopian novels, but I have neglected this first love for far too long—this winter break I am happy to be once again in its sweet albeit sometimes dramatic embrace. 

3. Take it Easy & Don’t Get Ambitious 

See my earlier point about dense Russian literature and extend it to Moby Dick and anything written in Middle English. This is not the time to take on ridiculously heavy reading materials or to try and tackle the whole of The Canterbury Tales. It is okay to read only one book over the holidays if that is what you have time for, or to only read a few chapters of one book. Or one poem. Or nothing at all. Big ambitious reading lists are the enemy over winter break and I have found the best thing for my reading has been to abandon them all together. This isn’t always easy, and I have struggled to just read when I want to (if I want to) without worrying about what I am reading or if I am reading enough. There is no shame in an easy read. Currently I am reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness because I saw the trailer for the adaptation starring Tom Holland. Yes, it is aimed at 13 year olds and one of the three main characters is a dog, and, yes, I am very much enjoying it. 

I hope this silly little list helps you pick up a book, any book at all, over the holidays. I enjoy reading, but I also enjoy making lists and since I can’t make a reading list, I have made a how-to-read list instead. In the past few years these strategies really have helped me to abandon my expectations for winter break and actually take advantage of the break from compulsory reading to just enjoy a good book. I hope this helps you and that you have a wonderful New Year, book in hand or not.

Madison George-Berlet

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