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How to start reading – and find it easy!

Last updated: 28 July 2023

A person reading and smiling widely in the corner of a library

We know that reading for pleasure can have important impacts on who people are. When we find the right author, genre, or characters to connect with(this link will open in a new window), reading can transform our lives!

But we also know that many people struggle to find the time or mental energy to dive into a book, especially when stressed or fatigued(this link will open in a new window), and as a result of the pandemic lockdowns(this link will open in a new window).

At Scottish Book Trust, we want to help inspire people to read for pleasure, to promote equality of access, and to connect people and organisations across Scotland. We hope this article can give you some pointers if you want to kickstart your reading but don't know where to begin.

What's stopping us from reading?

Research from the Royal Society of Literature (2017) shows(this link will open in a new window) that the most common reasons people cite for not reading are: not having enough time; being too busy; and not liking reading.

However, in the same study, people noted that the factors most likely to encourage them to read were: recommendations of what to read; cheaper books; and more local libraries. This indicates that aside from time constraints, people also struggle to get access to books, and even when they do, they don't always know which kind of reads they would enjoy.

How to start reading

Visit your local independent bookshop

Scotland is lucky to have some of the most incredible independent booksellers around, and indie bookshops are always eager to find the book for you! Popping in to your local independent bookshop and seeing what they have on offer is a great way to start feeling inspired to try something new.

The Skinny recently published a list of the best indie bookshops in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Inverness(this link will open in a new window); similarly, VisitScotland has prepared a list of indie bookshops outwith Edinburgh and Glasgow(this link will open in a new window) – including St Boswells, Grantown-on-Spey, Broughty Ferry and Dumfries & Galloway.

If you can't make it to these bookshops in person, many of them will have recommendations updated regularly on their websites, for example, The Orcadian Bookshop(this link will open in a new window) will offer advice to anyone looking for a bespoke recommended read!

Over the pandemic many indie bookshops also set up book subscriptions by post to reach those readers couldn't access them otherwise. Examples include The Portobello Bookshop's Porty by Post(this link will open in a new window); Lighthouse Bookshop's subs(this link will open in a new window); and Category Is Books' tailored subscriptions(this link will open in a new window).

Join a book club (online or in-person)

Talking about what we've read with others is a great way to make reading a bit more social and can help us feel more motivated to engage with it. Some fantastic community-based book groups around Scotland are already up and running and would love to see you!

Some of these include Glasgow Women's Library digital book club(this link will open in a new window) and Story Café(this link will open in a new window); Golden Hare Bookshop's book group(this link will open in a new window); and Lighthouse Books' Women in Translation(this link will open in a new window), Nature in Colour(this link will open in a new window) and Other Fruit(this link will open in a new window) reading groups.

Open Book Reading, a charity that organises and runs over 1200 shared reading sessions (and creative writing workshops) each year, has links to libraries, community groups, multicultural groups, sheltered housing/care homes, prisons, island groups, and many more, all over Scotland. Their active groups are listed on the OpenBook website here(this link will open in a new window).

And of course there's the Big Scottish Book Club with BBC Scotland(this link will open in a new window), where Damian Barr chats to authors and prompts readings in a cosy hour-long episode that you can watch on playback.

Read what you like; leave aside what you don't

Rather than putting pressure on yourself to 'get to the end' of a book, which can make it feel like a chore, allow yourself to abandon a book that's not keeping your interest. Not every book can appeal to everyone who reads it, even the best sellers. If you don't feel like finishing a book, it's not necessarily a reflection on you or your focus – maybe that one just isn't for you! Giving ourselves permission to abandon a book without judgement frees us up to go out in search of the next one that might capture our imagination.

Follow your instinct. Read for you first!

Try out different formats

Sitting down with a doorstopper Dickens novel is not the easiest way to get into reading, especially if you're trying to squeeze it in on your commute or your lunch hour.

Audiobooks are increasingly popular as a means of multitasking, allowing you to 'read' while doing other things. More and more bestsellers are making audiobooks available alongside the hard copy, so you can choose which format you want to work with when it suits you. You can access audiobooks from your local library or Audible.co.uk(this link will open in a new window).

Similarly, comics and graphic novels are not always the first choice for new readers, but just as there are spectrums of material within classic fiction, comics and graphic novels cover every subject you can think of and often feature meticulously beautiful visuals. Popular titles include Alan Moore's Watchmen(this link will open in a new window); Art Spiegelman's Maus(this link will open in a new window); Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis(this link will open in a new window); Neil Gaiman's The Sandman(this link will open in a new window); Alison Bechdel's Fun Home(this link will open in a new window), and Alice Oseman's Heartstopper(this link will open in a new window), to name a few!

Try a #readingchallenge

Earlier this year, Penguin published a webpage with 13 reading challenges(this link will open in a new window) to choose from, along with suggested book recommendations. They include everything from completing a book series; reading all books by one author; getting a list from your local librarian; reading books only from one decade in history; working through 100 classics; or delving into award shortlists, like the Women's Prize for Fiction(this link will open in a new window).

These challenges may be daunting for those starting out, but for curious readers, they provide a community and a motivation to prioritise what you enjoy!

Websites like Goodreads(this link will open in a new window) help you track your reads and share with a community you can build with your friends and family, as well as offering recommendations for books similar to those you like.

Join the conversation #MyLifeAsAReader