An illustration of a blue staircase against a red background
An illustration of a blue staircase against a red background

*A huge swivelling chair spins around*

Oh! Hi. I didn’t see you come in. Let me put down this book I’m reading – it’s the 22nd book I’ve read this year.

What’s my secret? Well, it’s not a secret, is it: I’ve been in lockdown. For a full year, I barely left my flat, so it’s been easier than ever to find time to get stuck into reading. I’ve read a host of lengthy classics, some incredible debut novels, some must-read non-fiction, and a few poetry collections, too.

But what, you say, about now? With lockdown coming to an end, and pubs, parks and people threatening to draw you away from your newfound reading groove? I’ve had a few fears, myself; I’ve been enjoying where books have taken me.

With that in mind, I’ve assembled a host of tips from folio friends, page-turning peers, book buddies and reading rivals, alike, to take the steps toward preserving the groove. Here’s what they suggested.

Take a book to the pub – you may need it as a conversation-starter, anyway

Books are mates, too, so why not cosy around the pub booth with a few old faves? You could even theme your pub visit: Have a Smiths-only pub night (Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Dodie Smith, you’re up!), or a canine literature extravaganza. If you must meet up with real people, your book just might be the conversation-starting lifeline you need.

And on your commute or holiday

You were already doing this, I bet. Obviously. See you on the tube, the train or – someday – the airplane. And pack a backup book, just in case you finish on the way.

Embrace audio…

These days, audiobooks are doing pretty special things – turning works of illustrated beauty into soothing sonic storytelling, and comic books into audio action-adventures – and a whole collection can fit right in your pocket. I’m doing the big shop, and I’m reading at the same time – is this how it feels to be a god?

…or a new genre altogether

There are a million genres of books, all of which offer a fresh perspective that might change the way you read – and possibly the way you think. Never got into poetry before? Think crime isn’t for you? (The genre, not the act, mind.) Why not shuffle up your reading pattern? You might just find the gateway book you didn’t know you needed.

Enjoy a shorter read

Sometimes, you just need a short reading burst to help maintain the habit. Why not dig into a short story or two? If you find yourself in a reading rut, a quickie might just be your ticket back to reading town, population: you. And me. And, I guess, all the other people reading at that particular moment.

Read before bed

There have been enough studies by this point to suggest you should put your blue light devices – phones, laptops, and the like – away well before sleeping. "But however will I pass the time before falling asleep?" you ask. Don’t be silly. You and I both know the answer.

Attend a literary festival…

Starting soon, we’ll be allowed to attend outdoor events (and indoor ones, too) just like we used to, wild and free and possibly without wearing a mask or awkwardly bumping your elbow to their fist! Why not head to a literary festival or book event? The book world is back at your real, live fingertips, and nothing is more exciting than toting a freshly autographed tome back to your flat to crack open.

…or go to a bookshop

Remember these? They arranged the books on shelves, often alphabetically, to help you find what you were looking for! They smelled incredible! And you, um – well, I just always bought something, even when I wasn’t looking for something specific. No, you have a problem.

Tell your mates you’re busy when you're actually just reading

In the world of mental health, this is called: boundaries.

…or start a book club

Right, yes, of course. Why not read and get together with mates? You might have plenty of wonderful ideas for where to start, but if you’re seeking inspiration for that summer book club, look no further.

Quit your job so you can read all day

Ok but you didn’t hear it from me.

What did you think of this article? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

Image credit: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

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