By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
Sometimes we have to read books we don’t like. Such is life. This post has eight strategies for how to get through required readings that you’re just not loving.
Quick little PSA: If you’re reading a book for personal enjoyment and you’re not … personally enjoying it … then for goodness’ sake stop reading it.
This article is for you if you have a book you must get through, but reading it is painful because it’s boring, irrelevant, difficult, or uninspiring.
How to get through a book you don’t like
1. Stop fighting it.
You might hate this strategy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Required reading means you have to do it. Plain and simple. YES the book might be boring. YES the book might be absolutely insanely awful. But you have to read it anyways. Complaining that the book stinks will not make it stink less.
2. Make a reading schedule.
If reading a book you don’t like is painful (for lack of a better word), then you can lessen that pain by planning for it. Make a simple reading schedule using this strategy so you know exactly when and for how long to spend on your book each day. When you know how many pages to read per day, you give yourself a definite end-point to your pain, which has positive psychological benefits.
3. Change up the media.
Novelty is one of the primary ingredients of motivation. To add novelty (newness) to your reading experience, change the format of your book. If you’re reading a physical copy, try listening to the audiobook. If you’re reading an e-book (pdf or Kindle), then get the physical copy.
4. Do your research.
We learn new information by connecting it to what we already know. This is literally how we learn. If you’re reading a book about something that’s totally unfamiliar to you, it makes sense that your brain is going to reject it. The solution is to do some research about the book, the time period, and/or the author before you start reading. By “research” I mean Google it. If you’re reading a book about the American Industrial Revolution and you have no idea what that is, Google the Industrial Revolution. Watch a video about it. Get some context. Look at pictures from the time period.
5. Let WHY you’re reading the book guide your reading.
There’s a purpose to the book you’re reading. Your teacher or professor assigned it for a reason (no, not to torture you). If you know the purpose, then you can read for that purpose only. For example, if you’re reading The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution by Charles Morris for the purpose of understanding the competition between British industrialists and American industrialists, then focus on and annotate for that information only. Got a test coming up? Here’s exactly how to read a book you’re going to have a test on.
6. Optimize your reading environment.
Don’t read boring books in bed or you’ll fall asleep. Avoid reading challenging books in loud places. Make sure your seat is comfortable but not toooo comfy, and avoid slouching or reclining positions (these postures elicit drowsiness). Consider taking your book to one of these 4 oddly satisfying study locations.
7. Take care of your physical needs.
You’ll never get through a bad book if you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, in pain, over-energized, or stressed out. If you don’t prime your body with proper nutrition and sleep, even the best book will seem awful. Worst case scenario, use these tips to get through studying when you’re exhausted.
8. Stay metacognitive.
Metacognition is the ability to think about thinking. It’s a superpower. (You CAN improve your metacognition! That’s the entire purpose behind my Executive Function Journal. Check it out.) If you’re reading a boring or irrelevant book, you will probably zone out here and there. This is normal, but the key is to recognize these moments RIGHT when they happen, and then do something to refocus. No, “keep reading” is not a good strategy. But these are.
Knowing how to get through a book you don’t like comes in handy for high school classes, college courses, professional development classes in the workforce, and even in adulthood when you’ll have to read and fill out endless pages of forms for basically everything ever.