Show of hands: how many of us are finding it extra difficult to finish novels right now? It’s hard, right? There are any number of articles out there about the psychology of why we can’t concentrate amidst the pandemic. But if you are anything like me, you need a reading escape more than ever. So, here are a few strategies that seem to be helping me get back on track.

1. Give yourself some grace
Not gonna lie, sometimes I break one of Jae’s cardinal rules of reading goals and I start to stress about how much I’ve read. If I find myself doing that, I remind myself that reading isn’t about hitting some arbitrary number for the year. It’s about my love of stories. It’s about self-care. It should always be stress free, especially in a time where there are plenty of other things to stress about.

2. Try Audio
In a time when I have an awful lot of nervous energy, it can be hard to sit still to read. Thankfully, I can read while cleaning, while cooking, while sewing, while practicing hand lettering, while walking outside. While doing whatever else I need to do. The ability to move while reading helps me digest books right now, more than ever. Funny, I find it hard to sit down and listen to an audiobook just like I find it hard to read. But I love moving around and listening. I cleaned my kitchen and scrubbed floors while listening to Fred the Vampire Accountant regale me with stories about his life. And bonus, with Overdrive I can still get library content despite the library closure.

3. Read fluff
I can’t handle anything heavy right now. For me, this basically means I’m reading a lot of romance and chick lit. I need some fluffy, feel-good escapism. For example, my current read, Red, White, and Royal Blue (on audio) is making me so happy that I’m afraid for it to end.

4. Try short stories
Admittedly, I have spent a lot of my reading life forgetting that short stories are a thing. But this week, I read a relationship-related short story collection, Paris for One, by JoJo Moyes. Actually it was more like I devoured that book. The short stories held my attention enough that I was able to finish the book at my usual pace. That felt like an absolute feat. Not having the burden of following a story for hundreds of pages seemed pretty freeing right now. Getting to the point in one sitting seemed like a revelation. I will be trying some more short stories.

5. Reread Harry Potter
If all else fails, reread Harry Potter. I mean, this is just a good general rule for life. I’ve spoken with a few friends that are either reading their fave Harry novels or are working their way back through the series. Similar to short stories, I don’t have to struggle to follow the plot of a familiar favorite. I don’t have to weigh how I feel about new characters or wonder where the story is going. I can just enjoy the ride. I know that Harry, Ron, and Hermione (and Hedwig) will never let me down. And for double easy reading points, the audio versions are delightful, too.

I hope one of these tips helps you get back to the joy of books! If you have a tip you want to share, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

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