How to read more (fun stuff) during your PhD

I love books. I love everything about them. How they transport you to another world, teach you new things or validate something about your life experience. How they feel to hold and how they look stacked on a shelf. And their smell... Old book smell is heavenly. 

Finding the time to read books for pleasure can be challenging for anyone but perhaps especially so for the PhDer. So much of your time is spent reading papers and books on your topic it can be difficult to then read more text for pleasure (especially when it's never been easier to binge watch a television series). 

There is usually at least one book on my bedside table/floor/couch; most months I'll get through 2 or more. Through trial and error I learnt a few tricks to keep practising my love of reading during my PhD:

Quality of work over quantity of hours worked = more time for fun

Early in my candidature I did a series of workshops with Hugh Kearns from iThinkWell (this is not a sneaky ad - I'm not that important!). From memory it was the 'Turbocharge your writing' course (which has an associated book you can buy should your university not host the course) that gave me the tools to increase my productivity, allowing more time for things like reading. 

Hugh emphasises that two hours spent producing lots of great work is much better than 8 hours at your desk spent mostly procrastinating. Tips from the course/book include: writing first and answering emails etc only after you have written, setting aside small blocks of non-negotiable time for writing (or if you have a baby like me, snack writing in your baby's naps), and writing complete crap (a zero draft)rather than waiting for the motivation fairythat you can edit later. 

Since incorporating these methods I've been more efficient for thesis-related things and use the extra time for other intellectual pursuits (like read or this blog) rather than working more on my thesis and risking burning out.

See the value of reading for pleasure for your work

When I read a book I love I become immersed in it. I think about the characters a lot (sometimes long after I've finished reading it) and I tend to adopt some of the language used into my everyday vocabulary.  I also find that reading fuels my inner creativity fire. I'm a much better writerno matter what type (academic, blogging, etc)when I'm reading. 

Read on the go

Whenever I leave the house I try to remember to take a book with me. Great opportunities for 'on the go' reading include: during your commute via public transport, at the hairdressers, and when your baby has thrown a surprise pram nap at you. I've not yet tried it, but have heard audio books can be pretty useful for commuting (especially at peak hour when book holding space is limited) and when exercising. 

Be book social

Join a book club or start one with your fellow students, or have a reading buddy. I have a friend who is also an avid reader and whenever I finish a book the first thing I do is pester her for her thoughts on that book and get a recommendation for the next one. 

I also follow other avid readers on my various social media accounts so my virtual world is swamped with book loving, reminding me how much I love books and motivating me to read more. I particularly like @girlsatlibrary and the #bookstagram on Instagram, and the book recommendations from the women at The New Normal podcast. Oh, and Roxane Gay's recommendations on Good Reads (a great website and app for keeping track of books you're reading and want to read) also regularly make their way onto my 'to read' list. 


Here are some books that I've read recently which I loved: 
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennet
  • Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
  • Heat and Light by Ellen Van Neerven
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer 
  • The Gulf by Anna Spargo-Ryan
I'm always on the hunt for new ones if you have a recommendation for me - let me know at Twitter or Instagram.

Kate xx

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