Follow Melanie J Firth on Twitter Follow Melanie J Firth on Facebook Follow Melanie J Firth on Instagram

How To Enjoy Reading More

How To Enjoy Reading More

As a teacher, one of the huge priorities of my job is trying hard to ensure that young people are reading and enjoying great books. As a children’s author, I want young people to be enthusiastic about my own books and excited to keep turning the page to discover what happens next. For me there is nothing finer than seeing someone totally engrossed in the world of a book they love. It’s the cherry on the top if that happens to be one of my books, but any book that does it for you is wonderful. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Horror, Romance, History, Comics, Plays and Non-Fiction. There is so much out there to discover. On the flip side, nothing saddens me more than when one of my students tells me that they don’t like reading and that books are (yawn) boring. You just haven’t found the right book, I tell them, or – what I’ve come to realise lately – maybe, you’re just not playing the reading game right. Through four decades of being a passionate and avid reader, I have come to acknowledge there are things, other than just the book itself, which add greatly to the pleasure of my reading experience. I’d like to share these things with you in the hope that they will help elevate and accelerate your own reading journey. Maybe you already do a lot of these things, and maybe there are some you’ve never tried but will give a go. Find what works for you. But most importantly – enjoy reading, and read more!

Location

It really matters to me where I read. Being in the perfect spot makes all the difference. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely the type of person who will grasp the opportunity to read anywhere; the train, the doctor’s waiting room, a long coffee queue, an uncomfortable plastic stool on my snatched dinner break. But if I really want to get into the reading zone, as in it’s the weekend or the evening and I’m choosing to read as a designated pastime activity, then having the ideal surroundings is definitely key. Curled up in a comfortable armchair with padded cushions of a luxurious fabric. Recently we miraculously found an ancient antique throne discarded in a local trash skip, and my mum worked her magic to turn it into a golden shabby chic reader’s dream. If it’s cold, there should also be a blanket. Preferably a cream chunky cable knit throw. My home library where the walls are lined with stack upon stack of inspirational authors and mythical ornaments is my ultimate favourite place to be. But if it’s warm outside, the white iron Parisian Bistro set in my garden with the floral patterned parasol, is the next perfect position to lounge. Find somewhere that brings you joy and comfort in just being there. And then start reading.

Sound

It was during my re-read of The Lord of the Rings during lockdown that I really started experimenting with creating ambience through recorded sound. I can’t listen to music with words while I’m reading as I find the lyrics intrusive and off-putting, but classical and instrumental tracks which fit the mood and atmosphere of the book, really introduce a new depth to the experience. I have some albums which are themed around fairies and magical forests and I often use these when I am writing, but they are great for setting the scene when reading too. On YouTube I found people had already done the hard work for me and created soundtracks specifically for Middle Earth, The Seven Kingdoms and Hogwarts, and I also love the natural cacophony of waves, rainfall, wind and birds. The trick is to not have the volume too loud. It should be just faint in the background, so that it melts into the world of your reading but doesn’t distract from it. Let the sounds wash over you and transport you to the story locations. I also hear great things about audio books, though it’s something I haven’t had too much personal experience of just yet. I intend to rectify that by giving some recommendations a try soon. If you enjoy having someone else read to you, I know that there are countless talented performers who excel at audio delivery, and you could just sit back, relax and let them do the work while you reap the benefits.

Scent

Candles. Incense sticks. Wax melts. Essential oils. Having a beautiful scent wafting around you while you read is another must for me. When I discovered that there are actually small businesses online that dedicate their candle making to unique bookish themes, I could not contain my joy. Shout out to Midnight Flame and Ember Stag who I buy from a lot. You can see pictures of my purchases on The Faery Tales social media accounts. These amazing shops, among others, sell handmade soya candles which have been created to invoke the scents of specific literary settings and characters. From Ron Weasley to Katniss Everdeen to Mr Darcy. From Winterfell to Mirkwood to the Beast’s Library. It’s just another enjoyable and immersive gateway to the world you’re reading of. Plus they look lovely as decoration.

Special Editions

I used to be happy with any old copy of the book, and if I owned a tatty, stained, beat-up version of a text, providing it was readable, I classed that as owning it and would never have dreamed of buying it again. Then I learned that publishers are experts at luring you in with exquisitely beautiful, new and updated super special editions. Hardback. Leather bound. Sprayed edges. Foiled titles. Golden accents. Ribbon bookmarks. Illustrated dust jackets. These copies feel like actual magic in your hand. The phrase Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover may be true, but I’m a sucker for special editions. I had the entire Song of Ice and Fire set in mass market paperback, but that didn’t stop me spending up to £30.00 a time on replacing them with the deluxe illustrated versions when they came out. Same with the Autumnal shaded leather Tolkien collection. Same with the multi-coloured House copies of Harry Potter. Same with the Barnes and Noble classic fairytale volumes. I can’t say that it doesn’t feel different and make the reading so much more exciting if you have something truly beautiful to hold in your hand. It’s also fun to collect lots of different versions of your most favourite books. I think I must have every single jacket variation of The Hunger Games trilogy that exists. So don’t feel guilty for treating yourself to the most special version of your book. Owning a ridiculous amount of fancy decorative bookmarks is included within this category as well.

Shared Opinions

It’s so good to find someone who shares your passion for reading and especially someone who is interested in the same genres and authors as you are. My two nannans were the ones who gifted me a love of literature when I was a child and we used to chat about stories for hours. Sometimes you meet someone unexpectedly and are awarded a nice surprise when you find out they enjoy the same books as you. When I got a brand new Year 7 tutor group at school this year, and on the first day one of the boys pulled out the full tome of The Lord of the Rings as his chosen book, I was ecstatic. We now chat about our joint love of all things Tolkien all the time. Nowadays we are so lucky of course to have the additional world of the internet at our fingertips. With a simple press of a button we can be connected to a universe of people who think like we do. Bookstagram and BookTube (the book themed influencers on Instagram and YouTube) bring me daily joy with the wealth of rich bookish content they offer. The Goodreads app is also a newfound favourite of mine. When you have read and enjoyed a book, getting the opportunity to rate it and discuss your opinions about it really elevates the whole reading experience. So connect with others and spread the love of books around and around.

Adaptations

If a book has been turned into a television programme or a film, I will always try to read the book first. But once I have, I’ll be desperate to see the screen adaptation. Sometimes I think they are wonderful recreations, like with the Tolkien films, the Potter films, and A Game of Thrones. Occasionally they can be disappointing and miss the mark, but it’s still lots of fun to experience what you’ve read in different formats. I recently re-devoured all The Hunger Games books, so am currently enjoying re-watching all the films of those. I love artwork of books too. I turned the guest bedroom in my house into a themed Enchanted Forest and bought some stunning wall hangings of Lothlorien, Rivendell, Mirkwood and Fangorn. It feels so magical when you step in there and reaffirms my love of those stories even more. I also collect Funko Pops of book characters and have them sat on my library shelves alongside their texts. There are the candles I aforementioned, and some amazing subscription companies like Fairyloot that monthly turn out exquisite literary merchandise from socks to water bottles. When you find a book you love, wrap yourself up in everything about it, and continue to rediscover it in all its glorious facets.

Make It a Game

Because I love to collect books for my home library, I am surrounded by ever-growing tottering piles of pages to be read. You might have seen in some of my photos that I even took to sticking some of them to the ceiling! As a result I decided to devise some fun games to help get me through the momentous task of choosing what to pick up next. With an old pickled beetroot container, I lovingly crafted a pretty TBR jar and stuffed it with tiny folded scrolls of paper listing the books I’ve been meaning to get to for years. Now I involve the whole family in picking one out for me and it is so very exciting to hold your breath in anticipation of what the title will be. I’ve also designed my own Bookopoly Board – a take on Monopoly where you roll a dice and move round the board to see what genre you land on. There are additional instructions on there to throw in some extra twists, and again it adds a whole new dimension to the simple act of choosing a new book. BookTube is full of Reading Tags where you can take up different challenges each month. Some are seasonal, like the obvious example of reading something scary for Halloween, or a story with a winter setting for Christmas. But others you can partake in at any time. One I’ve seen that I’d like to have a go at is reading a series of books that begin with each of your initials, so for me that would be one starting with M, one with J and one with F. See if any of these games take your fancy, and have some fun with them.

In Your Own Time

Finally, a reminder to take your time and enjoy reading at a pace that suits you. It isn’t a race or a competition. Unless you’re playing a readathon game with a friend, or trying to meet a TBR target, and even then you don’t want to spoil your enjoyment by just blazing unconsciously ahead to the finish line. Everyone reads at a different pace, and some books just demand to be read differently too. There are those written in a style you can sail through, and those you need to breathe deep over and sit with for a while. You’ll intuitively feel what is right for you and the story you hold. Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether it takes you one week or one year to read a book, as long as you are enjoying the experience when you’re in it. So find your perfect spot, play the music, light the candle, stroke the golden cover, purchase the Funko Pop, share that you’re reading it through a carefully executed picture on Bookstagram, and I think you are good to go. Happy reading my lovely friends.

Copyright © 2022 Melanie J Firth