Tackling the Big-Bad monster: The Reading Slump

A few tips on how to get out of a reading slump.

If there’s anything readers despise more than running out of cups of caffeine, and books, is getting into a reading slump. What is it, you ask? It’s when the reader has saturated his/her ability to read, and regardless of the efforts, is unable to read. There can be several reasons for this tragedy to befall on you. Maybe you’ve read too much at a go, maybe the book you’ve read was so good that you can no longer drag yourself out of it or maybe a book you’ve read was terrible, and now you want your life back. Whatever the reason, not being able to read can get quite frustrating. But sometimes, getting out of a reading slump is easier than you think. Let’s see how:

  • Rereading: Going back to books that have provided comfort, and are your favorites is the surest way to get out of a slump. The familiarity of the words, the rekindling of love with your favorite characters, and knowing how the story unfolds, helps your mind unravel. Remember, you’re unable to concentrate and pay attention to the story because you’re burned out.  Not having to focus and knowing how the story unfolds helps to get in the flow.

 

  • Shorten the length: Pick up shorter novels. Most of the time the thickness of the book intimidates you. The mere sight of them is enough for you to discard reading anything at all. Go for short stories or novellas or Graphic novels or comic books. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel after finishing these books will encourage you to read more. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here, right?

 

  • Mix up the genres: It’s time to shuffle that TBR of yours. Monotony can be lethal. Step out of your comfort zone and read something you’d never dare to. I’ve realized that reading non-fiction always helps me beat the reading slump. It’s really weird and often baffles me. So if you’re someone who always reads historical fiction, go for a thriller. Not only will you fly through the pages, but you will also discover new genres.

PRO TIP: If you can’t find a particular book you seem to be interested in, I’d suggest reading the first two chapters of different books. Now depending on which one captures your attention the most, start with that one. (I only recently started doing this, and it works. Well, mostly. )

 

  • Listen to the words: Audiobooks are the new cool. In a time where people are always busy and on the go, listening to books has been a life-savior. There are several apps that have free audio-books available. Just choose one that perks your interest, and listen away. My go-to app is storytel.in. Storytel app

 

  • Making reading time fun: The ambiance you’re in plays an important role in helping you get into the reading mood. Make yourself a cup of tea, light a few candles, dim the lights and set some soothing music. You’ll find yourself winding down, your nerves starting to settle, and within no time you’ll be immersed in the book. You can also go to a café or a park to give you some alone time.

 

  • Buddy read: There’s no better way to read than to read with your friend. You will get the motivation and encouragement you need. Pick a book you both want to read and plan a reading marathon. To spice things up, hold reading discussions. This will easily help you beat the slump. If you’re the competitive type, you’ll immediately get to work.

 

  • Give yourself some break: It’s important to realize, reading isn’t a competition. It’s one of life’s most simple pleasures, one that cannot be made into a routine. If you feel worn down, take some time off. Bing watch on Netflix, or maybe movie-adaptations of your favorite novels, or go on YouTube and check out what other book tubers are up to. Take this time to journal and write down what’s happening in your mind. Whenever you’re in a slump, take this opportunity and write reviews of all the books you’ve been putting off. Just because you’re not reading doesn’t mean you’re not going to at least talk about it. I recently went on a social media detox that lasted for almost a month. It was refreshing, and I returned with a lot of enthusiasm and eagerness to read and blog.

 

Hope the above tips help you overcome your reading slump. Remember to take it one day at a time. If your reading slump still persists, I’d suggest buying books you don’t need. The guilt will make you do things you never anticipated.

 

 

Top reads of 2016

Some of my favourite books of 2016.

By now you must have already read a thousand posts on top books of 2016 and won’t care about what I have to say. But let’s just pretend you were waiting for this blog post? Okay?

2016 was a good year for me in terms of reading. I read some really great books while a few weren’t up my alley. 2016 was also the year I discovered what genre sparks my interest the most. I explored a number of psychological thrillers and historical fiction. I completed my Goodreads Reading challenge of reading 30 books “flips hair.”. Well, I know some of you nerds are going to be like, ‘Haha, I read 100 books last year, such a loser’. But for the first time in years I stuck to my plan. THAT IS LEGENDARY. This year, however, I have upped my game and I’ll try (emphasis on TRY) reading 50 books. If I fail, i’ll talk about it here on my blog because what’s better than public humiliation? To be honest, it is doable if you really want to read. Time management is tricky but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. I’ll talk about time management in my next blog post.

The books I read were in no particular order of publication. I randomly chose to read them. Here we go:

  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga: Never have I ever read a book that is brutally honest, irresistible and merciless. Aravind Adiga is a master storyteller. He painted a true picture of India’s poor, a brilliant satire on the miseries of the privileged and less fortunate. His story is well-crafted and has been narrated in retrospect. This book was published in 2008 and went on winning the 40th man-booker prize. White Tiger is a book I often think about. It’s not a love story, it’s not a psychological thriller, it’s not about magical realism. The story only tells the truth. The truth, however, can be right or wrong. But as one of my professors’once said, “There is no right or wrong, there are only consequences.”

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  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: Speaking of psychological thrillers, you gotta love Gillian Flynn. I think she’s a brilliant writer, one of the best of our times. If you like dark, twisted, unreliable narrators, then Sharp Objects is the one. Bonus: You can also read Gone Girl, Dark Objects and The grownup by Gillian Flynn. I think I’ll read anything Flynn throws at me. Total fangirl.

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  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:  This book will haunt you and it’ll make you cry. It did haunt me and I cried. Words fall short whenever I try to talk about The Book Thief. It’s a historical fiction set in Nazi Germany. Throughout the book I was in fear. Fear of the inevitable. I knew what was going to happen and I wasn’t prepared for it. Sometimes you read a book which takes away a part of yourself. The Book Thief is one of those books. Highly recommend.

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  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh: Shortlisted for the Man-Booker prize 2016, Eileen deserves all the praise. It’s a psychological thriller with a character that’s no where close to normalcy. The unreliable nature of the protagonist made the read even more interesting. It’s sad, weird, traumatic and fast-paced. I loved it. You can read my review of Eileen here: .Review: Eileen

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  • Before I go to Sleep by S.J.Watson: By now you must have realised my love for psychological thrillers. Well, this one is as good as the rest. It is now a motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong. The book keeps you on the edge and it can be the most annoying thing ever but also one of the best reading pleasures for someone who mildly suffers from ADHD (kidding). I wanted to know what would happen. My mind makes scenarios of the ending and i’m usually always right. BUT THIS GODDAMNED BOOK PROVED ME WRONG. I slept like a baby that day. You should definitely pick this one up. You can read my review here:  Review: Before I Go To Sleep

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  • On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni: One of the most underrated books of the century. I think it is a powerful memoir of separation, loss, heartache and uncertainty. I feel really privileged to have read this book. The story of a 9 year old who due to tragic circumstances has to live alone in an alien country. His struggles, presence of mind and resilience help him survive. There’s just heartbreak written all over it. I wanted to give the book 10 stars. Just a pro tip: Keep tissues boxes handy. You’ll need it. Review is here: Review: On Two Feet and Wings

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  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda: Easily one of my favourite reads of the year and for the years to come. Set in post-war Nigeria where religious intolerance and fanatisicm  coupled with social unrest were at an all time high, Ngozi painted a dark picture of the lives of people living with domestic violence. Chimamanda is a gifted writer and this being her debut novel marks her as one of the best women writers the world has ever seen. I can’t wait to read more of her books. Americanah is my next pick.

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  • The Secret Scripture by Barry Sebastian: The Secret Scripture is a beautiful poetic novel about a 100 year olf woman, Roseanne, who has been in a mental hospital for almost 40 years. The events leading to her psychotic disposition are unknown, but as Roseanne writes her tragic story, her psychiatrist, Dr.Grene tries to unravel hidden parts of her life which leads to a shocking revelation. The poetic style of writing truly makes Sebastian Barry an expert in storytelling. No wonder this book won the Costa Year Award in 2008 and was also shortlisted for the Man-Booker prize.

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  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: 2016 was the year I plunged into the beautiful world of classics. Wuthering Heights is hands down my favourite. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this novel. You probably have read it by now. If not, then stop what you’re doing and READ.

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  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Another favourite classic. Dickens is a maser storyteller and it’s safe to say it is one of Dicken’s best novel.

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Excited about 2017? I have a feeling it will be a year of great books! Do you see any of favourites here? Let me know.

How to Start Reading

A step by step guide to start reading.

The secret to reading or reading more is extremely simple:

You pick a book and READ. 

No, really. I can’t make this any easier.

I get asked a lot about my reading habits often by people who claim to have read only one book a year or people who can’t seem to get around reading because they usually fall asleep. It’s okay, no judgement there. But if you really want to cultivate a reading habit you have to be sincere about it.

Habits are formed when you continuously work at it. Much like going to the gym or eating healthy in order to lose weight. It is the sum total of everyday routines that you religiously follow. Although reading isn’t as strict.

Know why is it you want to read. Is it because you want a hobby or you want to improve your writing skills or is it because you want to do well on your SAT scores or CAT examinations. Whatever the reason, go forth with it as something that will improve your way of living, expand your horizon while getting your mind off of everyday worries. It’s not something you HAVE to do or you’re forced to do. Reading is a solitary experience but one that is comforting. It is a fun thing to do and besides book nerds are the coolest people you’ll meet.

For you to get into the habit of reading, remember you have to take out time to read. You might have your bookshelf stocked with every bestseller possible but if you don’t deliberately go out of your way to read, there’s not much that can be done..

So now that you want to read and are ready to spend time on it, here’s how you can start:

  • The beginning: Since you’re reading after a very long time or reading a novel for the first time, it is essential that you choose a book that is of your liking. If romance is your genre, go ahead. If you like reading fantasy, pick up a fantasy novel. If there’s a book you read as a child and loved it, why not read it again? As long as the story sparks your interest, you’re good to go. Remember to start with books that are not lengthy or complicated. Go for novels that are fast-paced yet easy to understand. If you don’t want to start with novels, you can always opt for short stories or Graphic novels to give you a kick-start.
  • Time management: Now that you’ve chosen the book of your choice, you need to decide what time suits you best. You can read 10 mins in the morning before going to school/college/work or while having breakfast  or maybe before going to bed. The idea is to read every day; doesn’t matter how long or how much.
  • Reading slump:  Most of the time even though the book that we’re reading has been our choice, we seem to struggle getting through it (also known as a reading slump). Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Pick up another book and give it another try. Or wait for a day or two and come back again to the previous book.
  • Prioritising: Sacrifice watching Tv or sleeping more than necessary or staying on your phone( everyone’s guilty of this).  This doesn’t mean that you should stop watching TV altogether but instead of binge watching 10 seasons, just watch 9. (See, I am making it as easy as I can). Most of the time, I don’t read for days and often times I binge read but it works for me.Here, I don’t mean sacrificing study time to finish a book or neglecting responsibilities but ensuring you squeeze in a little reading time in your busy schedule. As long as you continue reading, you’re good to go.
  • E-books: I’ve realised that I read faster on my phone. I don’t have any scientific explanation for this but I tend to analyse and read ten times faster to the point where my eyes start hurting and burning and I’m half blind (Don’t attempt this, it’s unhealthy). Anyway, the point is if you are like me, you can download books on your phone. This way instead of being on social media you can instead use your brain to soak in some literary knowledge.
  • Travel Companion: Try to carry a book with you everywhere. You might get labelled as a first class nerd but then you should own that label and read even more. On a serious note, it’s not physically possible to carry books at all times, but you’ll realise how much reading you can get done when you’re waiting in your car or bus or have an off period in school/college. For instance, when I was doing an internship, my office was almost on the other side of the city and it took me an hour and a half to get there. So in total, I always had 3 hours of pure idleness. I used to get a lot of reading done. Most days, I used to stare out into oblivion but on other days I used to read.
  • Find a reading buddy: If you know anyone who is an avid reader, join in a read-along with them. You two can read certain chapters together and discuss the plots or maybe invite other people to join in and create a book club. Having people around you with similar interests gives you the motivation you need. Alternately, if you can’t find a reader buddy, join online book clubs or book sites. For instance, Goodreads offers a host of reading suggestions, author reviews, quotes and reading challenges. Seeing people being so passionate about reading will give you the much needed boost. Befriend people, follow what they’re reading and enjoy the whole reading journey.
  • Audio-books: If you still can’t get into the reading habit which is again absolutely fine, you can try Audio books. They’re easier to read since all you have to do is plug in your headphones and listen to it while driving or doing household chores. (I haven’t tried it out as yet but from what I’ve researched, it’s a hit amongst readers and non-readers)

 

Following are some of the books you can start your reading career with (I made that sound so official):

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Neven
  3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  4. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
  5. Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
  6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  7. The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska by John Green
  8. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  9. On Two feet and Wings by Abbas Kazeerooni
  10. The Good Girl by Mary kubica
  11. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

I have on purpose not mentioned any classics because I personally find them a little intimidating and also because I haven’t read much on the classic front. (I am working on it).

I hope the above tips were even remotely helpful and that reading won’t seem as tedious anymore.

9 Study tips to ace your exams

DISCLAIMER:  Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear that I’m no expert or know-it-all when it comes to effective studying but the following are a few tips or hacks that helped me during my university exams in college. If you’re someone who studies at the last-minute, then keep on reading! Also, all the tips are very subjective. Some might work for you, others may end up being a total fail.  It all depends on the kind of learner you are. 

 

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First things first, it is extremely important that you don’t panic. I understand that’s not possible but stressing out makes it all the more difficult. You have to take an exam in 2 days and you haven’t started studying or even worse you don’t even know what’s in the syllabus. So what? Try to relax , take a few deep breaths and forget about what “could” happen. Focus on the task in hand which is figuring out what you have to study.

 

  • Stop Procrastinating: STUDY. KEEP YOUR PHONE DOWN AND STUDY. It’s crunch time and you hardly have any time left. You should understand that you’ve wasted your entire year on TV shows and eating  and now is the time to get your act together.

 

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  • Study smartly: If you’re a Calcutta University student, you’d be familiar with the pressure and load that the syllabus entrails. Do not get intimidated and be practical. It is not humanly possible to study everything (unless you have a photographic memory then why are you even reading this?). Choose the topics that you think are important. Usually the professors inform you of the chapters that are more significant than the others. If you’ve accidentally paid attention in class then brownie points for you! If you didn’t, like most of us, then figure out what needs to be tackled first.

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  • Study Partner: Having a friend or a study partner or a study group makes studying a lot more easier ( I wouldn’t say fun because let’s face it you have an exam in two days). If you’re stuck, your friend can always help you understand the topic in a better way. I realized this worked best for me because I knew I wasn’t alone and also constant motivation and break from rigorous studying.  Here’s a little picture for motivation 😉

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  • Refer to previous years’ question papers: One of the most essential studying tips is referring to past years’ question papers. Understanding the question pattern is half the battle won and looking back on earlier questions gives you a decent idea of what the probable questions can be. I’m sure you did this for your board exams back in school so just continue with this tradition.  I’d suggest looking back at last 5 years’ questions.

 

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  • Understand more, cram less: Mugging everything from the page number to the index of your book without understanding is NOT going to fetch you marks, leave alone getting good grades. Cramming is an ineffective study method. You’re not a parrot who is to repeat everything in exact form. Try to grasp the content that you’re seeing, make your own interpretations and remember the key points. It not only saves time but helps you broaden your mind about the subject. If you’ve understood the topic well, you can write.

 

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  • Time Management: The most common pre-exam mistake we all make is studying for hours at a stretch. Stop it right away. Take a topic, study for an hour at first. Try to finish majority of the portion in that one hour. After that, take a break of say 5-10 minutes and then continue again. Start another topic, study for an hour and take a break. The break helps you retain what you have learnt and allows your memory to take in more. It is essential to stick to your time schedule. You learn faster and retain better. Remember the break should not be more than ten minutes. (Utlilise your break by checking every social media possible because social obligations)

 

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  • Write and Learn: I’m aware that writing and learning a few days before exams is impractical but it has helped me immensely. I’m a visual learner and I prefer jotting down everything I’ve learnt. Writing down what you’ve studied means putting down all the key points from your memory. I think it’s a great exercise as you find out how much you’ve learnt and at the same time you have effective notes prepared that you can leaf through on the big day!

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  • Mnemonics: “A system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something.” What am I even talking about? Well, Mnemonics means associating things to a particular pattern or events or names that assists in memorizing better. It improves memory. If there are sub-points that you need to remember but are having difficulty retaining then you can associate them to an event in your life or any pattern. Let’s take an example:

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