7 Strategies to Reignite Reading After Graduate School

I used to be an avid reader. Then graduate school happened. Recently, I got back into reading, and this post shares 7 strategies to reignite reading after graduate school. In this post, you will find the YouTube video discussing this topic and a full transcript of the video (with relevant links).

YouTube Video

YouTube Video Transcript

Here you will find the complete transcript of the video in the previous section. There are time stamps for every minute if you want to navigate to a certain part.

There are also relevant hyperlinks in the transcript. I use affiliate links for many linked products (see my Affiliate Disclosure for more information). If you click on one of my links and buy the product, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost. Thanks in advance for supporting this site 🙂

Introduction

Did you used to love reading? Do you remember your jaw dropping at an unexpected twist or reading a sentence and having an aha moment or even swooning over a certain character?

If you’re anything like me, my reading for pleasure plummeted during graduate school. I was constantly reading, not so engaging academic texts. And while I did learn a lot, it took me years after graduation to get into reading for fun again.

So if you’re looking to kickstart your reading goals, this video outlines seven strategies that you can experiment with to start reading again, especially for those of us who stopped reading for fun during graduate school.

Strategy 1

So the first strategy is finding one compelling why for yourself.

 So we all have different reasons for why we enjoy reading or why we enjoyed reading. So if you enjoyed reading before graduate school, Why was it fun for you?

Perhaps you craved the escapism or you liked learning new things.

Now, when I first started trying to read more consistently, I failed to bring in this reflection to the person who I was now.

Graduate school [00:01:00] changes us in many ways, and I found it change aspects of my reading motivation.

 For me, my compelling why had to do with managing my major depressive disorder,  reading was a really good tool to both distract and focus my brain on both good and bad days.

 So my compelling why was that I want to consistently read as a way to manage my depression in a productive and joyful way.

Articulating this framing to myself was a very compelling why, and it’s one that I return to often.

So I encourage you to figure out one compelling why that reflects on the person you were before graduate school and honors the person you are now after graduate school.

Strategy 2

Strategy number two, embrace the DNF or did not finish. You’re not in graduate school anymore. You don’t have to finish that book.

So oftentimes we have to read certain things for school, and they might not be the most engaging, but they’re important to what we’re studying. So we’ve trained that muscle on pushing through and finishing a text.

For me, I was a bit hesitant to embrace [00:02:00] DNF a bit because of pride and FOMO.

 Pride because I like to think that I can read anything, and even though I’ve already proved that to myself in grad school because I had to read things that I might not have liked, I still feel a little hesitant to embrace the DNF because I’m like, oh, maybe I should just push through.

The other part of my hesitancy. Was FOMO or “fear of missing out”. And that’s because I remember reading challenging texts in high school and college and graduate school that were challenging to get through but then I had this aha moment when I was reading them and I felt that that was really valuable for me.

So I felt that if I DNF-ed a book, I would miss out on those aha moments.

Now I had to come to an understanding for myself that my reasons for academic reading versus fun reading at this stage in my life were different.

For example, these days, if I need to slog through an academic text to research an article I’m writing, I will do it. However, when I’m reading for fun these days and if I’m not enjoying a book, I will not make the time and effort to continue reading.

Once I [00:03:00] realized that a big part of reading for fun was the actual enjoyment of reading it made it a lot easier to embrace the DNF as opposed to keep thinking, ” Oh yeah, I’ll totally get around to reading that book I should be reading.”

I still struggle when to let go. But one thing that’s really helped is that I’ve created this will return to one day list on my StoryGraph and GoodReads. And these are just books that I think I would enjoy, but I’m just not in the place to read them at this time.

So I place them on this list and maybe one day I’ll get back to them. But it does really help me keep moving along with my other reading.

So embrace the dnf or will return to one day list because life’s too short to keep reading a book, especially for fun, that you’re just not into.

Strategy 3

strategy three is to experiment with different books.

If you embrace the dnf, it makes it a lot easier to take an experimental approach and try out your different genres, book lengths, authors, et cetera.

Sometimes we have biases when it comes to different aspects of books. For [00:04:00] example, you might think Shorter books are not as good as longer books? Because longer books have more space to develop characters or plot.

Now that’s not true for me because one of my favorite fiction books is actually under 200 pages, and that’s the Cat Who Saved Books, which comes in at 198 pages.

It’s important to note it’s okay to have preferences , but being aware of one’s biases or potential biases is really important as you’re trying to build a reading habit.

Now I think that the best way to attack any type of book type bias here is just to do it head on and acknowledge that you might have a bias, and then give those types of books a chance.

Now there are a ton of different types of books out there and it can be quite easy to get overwhelmed.

So how do you experiment without getting overwhelmed?

I have this internal checklist for myself that adopts the wedding phrase, Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, something blue. So with each of these categories, I have a different conceptualization

Something old could be an author or genre that I’ve [00:05:00] enjoyed before, or it could be an older book that’s not trending now.

Now an example of this in my own personal to read list is Agatha Christie’s – Murder in Mesopotamia.

 Something new is typically a new to me author or a new to me genre or a recent release.

 Now an example of this in my own to read list is a Frog in the fall, and this is a graphic novel and I usually don’t read graphic novels, and I don’t remember the last time I’ve read one.

And also the author is new to me.

So another aspect to the Something new list could be a topical area I’m not familiar with. So Esme Wang’s collected Schizophrenias would fall under this for me, because I’m not really well versed in schizophrenia and what it means to have that lived experience,

now the Something Borrowed list is typically something that someone has recommended to me or that I saw someone else really like on GoodReads. In my own to read list, that would be Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, I saw some of my friends read this and really enjoy it.

 Something Blue is a category that feels a bit random, maybe serendipitous but really encapsulates [00:06:00] that joy of just like finding a book and just being really intrigued by it.

Now I don’t have clear requirements for this category. Basically, it’s just a reminder to go ahead and try out that book that just caught my eye.

Strategy 4

So strategy four is exploring different reading mediums.

Now there are three primary mediums in which you could consume a book, and those are physical books, eBooks, and audiobooks.

Now I have friends who are hesitant to try out different mediums like audiobooks or e-books because they feel that it might take away from the reading experience that they’re used to in physical books. Now I totally hear you, and consuming books as e-books or audiobooks is a different experience.

 Now in taking an experimental approach to reading strategies, I’m gonna break down what I’ve noticed when I’ve read across these three mediums so you can decide if, when, and how to try them out.

Physical Books

 Now first up are physical books, and this is how most of us started our reading journey and our love for books. For me, physical books provide a tactile experience, which helps me know where I am in a book. I prefer physical books when I know I need to [00:07:00] reread certain pages or flip back and forth between pages for whatever reason.

Physical books also help me connect with the artistic design choices the author might have made, whether it be in the cover, art, images, fonts, or the organization. I find that if I love a book, even if I’ve consumed it as an ebook or an audiobook, I will end up buying a physical version.

Now, the downside with physical books is that I feel like I have to be in a certain head space to read them, and it makes it really easy to not read them. So I found that if I am having a hard time starting a book as a physical book, or maybe I’m procrastinating and I’m putting it off, starting it as an ebook or even an audiobook will help me kickstart reading that book and then I can return to it as a physical book. So I definitely keep physical books in my rotation. I’ve expanded to other reading mediums as well to help me read consistently.

E-Books

 So the next medium is E-books, and those are just books that are available in a digital format.

Now you can read these books on your phone, computer, a tablet, or even a dedicated e-reader. And I personally have a Kindle Paperwhite.

 I bought this about a year [00:08:00] ago, and I admit I was a very late adopter to the whole e-book experience because I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy the experiences as much of reading a book on, an e-reader, but I was completely wrong.

Now having an e-reader allowed me to access even more books, and I use an app called Libby, which is an app that allows you to freely check out e-books, audiobooks, and magazines through your local library.

Now for me, there are five key benefits of using e-readers and reading e-books.

 So the first is that having an E-reader and using Libby allowed me to try out more books. Books that I probably wouldn’t have tried out because they were essentially free. So all I had to do was search on Libby, check out a book, send it to my Kindle, and I could read a few pages to see if I was interested in the book or not.

The second key benefit was that I found I could read quicker because it was easy to adjust the font and the font size to something that was easy for me to read.

The third is that I found it easy to read at night. I’ve never found the perfect reading lamp, so I guess the Kindle‘s warm light is my favorite reading lamp.

The fourth reason is that it’s super [00:09:00] portable and I can take my Kindle everywhere. I can easily slip it into a purse, and I often take a traveling with me in lieu of physical books.

Also, the battery life lasts for weeks.

And the final reason is that my Kindle eBooks sync up really well with my Audible audiobooks. So if I start reading a book as an ebook, but then I wanna pick it up as an audiobook, it’s really easy to switch back and forth between the two mediums, which leads us really well into our next medium, which is audiobooks.

Audiobooks

I’ve been using audiobooks on and off for about 13 years. I’ve usually used it when I’m doing something that doesn’t need my full attention, so I can still pay attention to the book I’m listening to. In the past, I would’ve listened to audiobooks when I was digitizing maps or sorting ancient seeds and nowadays it’s more so when I’m driving around at home or in the field and I want to listen to something.

 Audiobooks really help me start and keep going with certain books that I might have DNFed if I was reading them as a physical book or an ebook.

Now there are two main things that really help me enjoy an audiobook. The first is one that I already mentioned, and that’s pairing it with an activity.

 For me, it’s not so much [00:10:00] about productivity or efficiency, it’s more about enjoyment.

For example, I don’t really enjoy driving around in Baltimore traffic, but if I’m listening to an audiobook, I don’t mind the traffic and the crazy driving as much.

Also, there are some situations in which I can’t do much. For example, when I’m flying on an airplane, if I have my toddler, it makes it really hard to watch a movie. And also I can’t really read on airplanes because I get nauseated. So audiobooks are a great way to pass the time.

 I also like pairing, listening to audiobooks with activities that I already enjoy, like going for a walk because it just makes the activity so much more enjoyable.

 I know there are more productive people out there than me who will really go hard and try to pair as many activities as possible with listening to audiobooks, and I think that’s great.

But for me, there are certain activities that I like to enjoy my quiet, and for example, when I’m gardening, like I just want to listen to nature essentially. So I encourage you just to try out different pairings and see what works for you, but don’t feel like you have to do it all the time.

The second thing that really helps me enjoy an audiobook is an [00:11:00] engaging narrator. Now, there are certain books that I probably would’ve DNF’ed , but the narrator just brought it to life that I just wanted to keep going.

So books like An Unnecessary Woman or Chatter were books that I probably wouldn’t have read, but listening to them made it really engaging and helped me finish the book.

 On the flip side, there are books that are fantastic, but the narration is not so great so that’s something to keep in mind.

Now there are also unicorn-like books out there where the book is already really great and the audiobook just takes it to another level and it’s just completely enjoyable. I’m thinking of Braiding Sweetgrass and Good Omens, like those are two books that I just love both as a physical or ebook and as an audiobook.

I think these unicorn-like books are really great if you want to reconsume or reread a book that you know you loved before.

So it’s like rewatching a show or movie that you love with a little something extra to it, but not something completely different.

Audiobooks have helped me not only consume more books, but also try out different genres in an engaging way.

 If you’re [00:12:00] curious about the different ways to listen to audiobooks, I have a whole blog post down below that goes through some options that might be useful for you.

Strategy 5

So strategy number five is budgeting in options.

Now it’s super easy to spend a ton of money on anything and everything related to books. And one thing that helped me was proactively budgeting in reading options. The idea behind this was essentially creating an environment where I could easily access books, read or not read them, and then just keep going.

Now this does take a bit of forethought as well as time, energy, and money, but it was a lot of fun to go on a contained shopping spree to kickstart my reading goals.

Now, if you’re fresh outta graduate school, you might have a lower budget, which makes this budgeting exercise even more important. But also, even if you landed that great job and you’re making a great salary, going for lower to mid-tier budget items is something that I recommend in general, just so you can experiment and see what works for you before investing into items that might cost more money.

 Now, there were three things that I budgeted for in the beginning when I started [00:13:00] reading again.

 The first was an E-reader, I mentioned already that I used a Kindle Paper White, and you could easily opt for a cheaper Kindle or a used Kindle or another E-reader altogether. There is an upfront cost to using an e-reader. Using my Kindle allowed me to access so many free books via Libby, which saved me so much money in the end. So given that an e-reader was quite cost-effective for me, and I did enjoy using it, it made me more likely to use it.

Now, in the beginning, I opted not to buy any eBooks because Libby was enough for me. But nowadays, I do buy eBooks now and then if I see a sale or if I just wanna make sure I have some eBooks on hand.

The second thing that I budgeted for were physical books. I knew I wanted to have some physical books on hand, so I did a Thriftbooks haul of about 10 books in the beginning.

So if you’re not familiar with Thriftbooks, it’s a platform where you can buy new and used books. And the used books are a really great value because they’re priced based on the condition that it’s in.

Now if you’re interested in thrift books, I have a link below, but definitely no obligation. But it was a really easy and cost-effective way for me to have some physical books on hand. So if [00:14:00] I was in the mood to read a book, I didn’t have to wait to go to the library or the bookstore or wait for a shipment of books to come in.

 The final thing that I budgeted for were audiobooks via Audible. Now I do access a lot of audiobooks on Libby because that’s free, but sometimes there’s a long wait time for an audiobook, or the audiobook doesn’t exist in my library circulation system, so that’s why I opt to keep my Audible membership going.

I do have a couple personal hacks for myself to make Audible more affordable. So if you’re interested in that, I can make a video. So just let me know in the comments. But basically, when I started reading again, I made sure to have at least three Audible audiobooks in my library that I could access at any time in case my Libby audiobooks weren’t available.

So basically, I intentionally budgeted in certain items and made trade-offs in certain places so I could immediately start reading and keep it going without blowing my budget.

Strategy 6

So strategy number six is engage in communities of practice.

So in graduate school, a concept that my advisor and a lot of her students, including myself, used a lot, was ” [00:15:00] communities of practice. So it’s basically a group of people who share a common interest, concern, passion, and they interact regularly to learn how to do the thing better, and then they do the thing. So I have some links below in the description that talk a bit more about the concept if you wanna learn more about it. But basically the key here is finding other people who like reading, interacting with them on a somewhat regular basis to keep learning, and then to keep reading.

 For me, it just started by being a bit more active on GoodReads.

So I added a few friends. I started following some people. If someone posted that they started a book or finished a book that I was curious about, I would post a comment or a question, and I honestly found a lot of new books to read in this manner.

I also made it a point to reach out to certain friends to just talk about books. Now it doesn’t take much nudging to get book lovers to talk about books.

I also made it a point to talk about books with people who are archaeologists or in archaeology-adjacent fields.

 I don’t mean to suggest that only people who went to graduate school can talk about books with one another. It’s just that if [00:16:00] graduate school was the reason for your hiatus and finding other people who also went through graduate school and now love reading, it could be a source comfort and inspiration.

They might have perspectives or experiences that you can easily relate to. So for example, a lot of my friends who went to grad school, we have no patience for professor-student romance plots in like romance novels. On the flip side, if there is an archaeologist mentioned or some type of archaeology field work mentioned in a book, we’re really excited to talk with one another about it to see how maybe it accurately portrayed the experience or where there was some artistic license taken. Most importantly, just find people that you can interact with in an engaging way that gives you energy and you wanna keep reading.

Now for me, communities of practice were important in the beginning and interacting on GoodReads and talking to friends one-on-one was enough for me.

However, if this is a strategy that you think could be super helpful, you can dive a bit deeper into this. You could join an in-person or virtual book club. There are also plenty of Discord servers that talk about [00:17:00] books. You could even start a social media channel, like BookTok, Bookstagram, or BookTube where you can share your reading experiences and your thoughts on books as well.

 So basically, find people, interact with them so you can keep learning and reading.

Strategy 7

Now the seventh strategy is to research different and additional strategies.

Now as a researcher and social scientist, I know my strategies that I presented here today have their limitations.

 If you made it this far on this video, I assume you’re open to watching more YouTube videos, so I encourage you to exercise that research muscle that many of us trained in graduate school and start looking for content that provides different perspectives to ones that I’ve mentioned, as well as questions that I might not have even addressed.

So, for example, if you’re looking for creative ways to engage with reading, check out Merphy Napier’s video, which I’ll link below. If you want a different perspective on comparing reading mediums and technologies, check out Ali Abdaal’s video, which is also linked below. And if you’re coming across a lot of popular books and some [00:18:00] of them seem problematic and you might want alternatives, definitely check out Jesse on YouTube’s video for that, which I’ll also link below.

Outro

The important thing is at some point we have to stop researching and start experimenting and start reading to see what works for us. Now if one of your questions is, well, what should I read? I have a whole video that I’ll link somewhere here that ranks some of the recent books that I’ve read. I hope this video provided some useful and actionable strategies that you can experiment with, especially if you stopped reading because of graduate school. That’s all for today’s video, and I’ll see you in the next one. Bye!

Credits

Thank you to Noor Hanania for editing this video! Thanks to Tessa McKenzie for her cameo and Zahid Ibrahim for feedback on an earlier version.


If you enjoyed this post, check out my book channel for more book videos.

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Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.

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