Reading for Pleasure during Grad School and Other Tips

Hello everyone from another Friday night here in Jakarta, and I’m writing after a day of class. Today we learned the techniques of note-taking, citing sources and paraphrasing to actually acquire an in-depth understanding of our reading material instead of merely copying words down on the page. There were some brilliant tips, such as using notecards. So, once again I’m declaring that reading for graduate school is an entirely different realm.

However, for this post, I’m not going to ramble some more about it. This time, I’m going to ask and try to answer this question the best that I can: “How do I actually set some time aside for actual reading…you know, like, for fun? Any tips?” Now I absolutely adore reading and I have to admit it’s quite the challenge to spare a few hours for it on top of other things we have to worry about such as eating well, maintaining a social life, getting enough sleep and so on. Still, I managed to work out a few things that have worked for me, and I hope it can help you. It’s not impossible, girls and guys! Here we go.

  1. Reward yourself

This could just be the easiest tip to apply daily. When you’ve got a lot of assignments to be completed, take a deep breath. Pour yourself some tea, a sachet coffee, or any kind of warm, guilty-pleasure-esque beverage of your choice and work your way through it firsthand. However, while you do that, think about the current book that you’re reading, place it somewhere in plain sight while you work and think of it as your reward after you’ve finished your task. Better yet, pick a book that you know you’re going to enjoy, whatever genre it may be so you’ll work through your assignment with no burden whatsoever. Once you’ve finished, stop thinking about your research, your journal review, or your current essay after 2 hours of making that first draft because why, you’re done! So, pick up that book and start reading. You’ve earned it.

  1. “Keep it small, keep it going!” a quote from one of my favorite Indonesian authors, Dewi Lestari. Ages ago I went with my friend Farah to Dewi or Dee’s talk show in Jogja, and that was her ultimate tip when it comes to writing and I feel like this works for reading as well. If you, like yours truly, need an extra push every day, there’s absolutely no harm in setting small, yet realistic reading goals for yourself that you know you can follow through. First, you can start by committing to one chapter per day, or 30 pages per day because once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you might start changing your routine to 2 chapters a day and more!

  1. Short stories!

I think in a previous blog post, I have mentioned that short stories were once the bane of my existence because I thought they were dull, lacking in substance and all that jazz (such a know-it-all, huh? haha). But now, they’re starting to grow on me especially after reading a bunch of Ken Liu’s in The Paper Menagerie and I salute writers for being able to pack so much punch into a few pages. First of all, they are totally manageable with usually no more than 30 pages or so. Second, you could easily get a grip on the common thread that’s intertwined in each story such as theme and characterization that you can’t WAIT to read more. Third, there’s no guilt in closing the book after one story to carry on with your day because you won’t be missing out on anything. Therefore, try picking up short story collections, the ones that you’ve somewhat ignored in your bookshelf or pile to get you started and read between assignments.

So, those are my 3 main methods and now let’s move on to other tips that can help keep that love of reading alive during this period of your academic path.

  1. Listen to instrumental music! 

This might not work for everyone, but I find that listening to songs with lyrics on them distract me from enjoying the actual words on my book. Instead, instrumental music, lounge, Jazz or café music helps me get in the mood and lately, I’ve been loving some Jazz from Bill Evans.

  1. Read in libraries or cafés

I’m telling you, this works like a charm for me, especially when I’m sitting near windows a.k.a as much natural light as possible. Besides, here in Jakarta we have a new National Library with 27 floors to enjoy.

I understand if you asked, “Isn’t it better to work peacefully and quietly at home?” Well, it’s perfectly fine, but the different ambiance and atmosphere places these places have give me an extra boost of motivation. For libraries, in particular, there’s usually less distraction because of how quiet it is, and the fact that you’re not surrounded by your TV, stereo or Xbox, haha.

Of course, a trip to the coffee shop may not be something you should do on a regular but once in a while, do go there if say, you’ve got a book that you’ve been saving up for (thanks, luxury product tax) or took a delay of reading due to pouring assignments. Take it to your favorite spot and have some quality alone time.


Alas, we’ve come to the end of this post and I hope you found some of these tips helpful and applicable. See you on the next one and happy reading!