• Bijal Patel

"Recommend a book for me to read." No, find it yourself.

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

A lot of people ask me to give them a book recommendation but to be honest, I'm not a book guru who holds knowledge on every single book in the world and you might not like my recommendations. I'm not Matilda, I don't spend my days reading all day long. So my answer is simple, find the book yourself.

I’m guessing you’re here because you have an interest in books and want to read something new or want to start reading… or I sent you the link to this blog post and forced you to read this. I ardently hope it’s not the latter. You may be thinking how I eloquently write the way I do… how does she formulate these sentences or use big words? (I’m obviously exaggerating and had to overthink the words I just used.) It’s because I read and, in this post, I will be talking about the benefits of reading, how you can choose your next book and how you can read it.


So, why should I read?

Your daily reading habit probably consists of scrolling past endless tweets and Facebook posts but putting *proper* reading into practice reaps many benefits.

Reduced stress and improved memory

It’s always nice to remove yourself from the present and sink yourself into a good book that will distract you from your busy day and mind. It’s likely to clear your thoughts and allows you to relax you mentally but also physically. A 2009 study and the University of Sussex shows that stress can reduce up to 68% by reading and although this may be a temporary fix, it’s still a fix in general. Reading for as short as 6-10 minutes can calm your heart rate! So, whilst you’re reducing your stress, you’re also improving your memory. By reading about many characters in a different environment, you tend to pick up on pieces of information and hold onto it in your day to day life. The reason you remember Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Play) or Lennie and George (Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck) so well is because you read the texts and processed the information. By incorporating healthy reading habits into everyday life, you are likely to remember your shopping list or tasks to complete at work in your head.

Increased knowledge and analytical thinking skills

Whether you realise it or not, you pick up on valuable information when reading, increasing your knowledge. Authors are often inspired from something or somewhere and context lies behind the ink on the page. My previous post ‘Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi’ is a perfect example of this. The story may be set in a fantasy world, but it carries teachings that can be applied to real life such as politics, poverty, race, gender etc. Alongside this, reading takes you on a journey of completing a puzzle. Trying to line up the plot, the resolution and character journeys are a part of using your thinking skills. By thinking about these things, you are using your emotional knowledge as you attach yourself to some characters or detach yourself from them. The traits a character has is an example of a real person, applying this thinking to people or environments you come across can improve your betterment.

Better writing skills and concentration

Your writing and speaking skills will improve overtime with consistent reading and this doesn’t mean you have to read 50 books in a year, pace yourself with a chapter a day and watch your language change. Picking up on a word or two and searching the definition or implementing it into your language is handy for opportunities such as job interviews or speaking to new people in general. We are so used to speaking in our unique ways and saying “wanna” instead of “want to” or “yeah” instead of “yes.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be yourself around people but let’s admit that some adjustment is needed to fit into certain environments. In a world that is obsessed with multi-tasking and normalising ‘being busy,’ it is easy to cook a meal in the kitchen whilst checking your e-mail and swallowing your daily vitamins. Such tasks lower productivity and increases stress, this doesn’t allow you time to relax. You can improve this by picking up a book for 20 minutes.


Now that I’ve convinced you to start reading, you may be thinking…

How do I choose my next book?

Compile a list of books you come across on your notes app. I use the app ‘Goodreads’ because I can keep track of what I want to read, what I’m currently reading and what I’ve already read. By doing this, you are narrowing down your book options and can research reviews and find out if the books are actually for you.

What genre are you in the mood for? Search the top 10 books within that genre! Again, you can download the Goodreads app, search on the Waterstones website, look at other blogs with a quick search on Google: best psychological thrillers, best non-fiction, books by Black authors etc.

If you prefer non-fiction… what are your current interests?

  • Finance

  • Self-help

  • Politics

  • Science

Research through booktubers (videos of YouTube,) they will go through suggestions in depth and I find their videos very inspiring. By simply listening to them talk about books or look at their bookshelves, I am motivated to read. Check out my favourite booktubers:

Ask a friend so they can recommend something to read. Always research the book before buying it by reading spoiler-free reviews and checking its overall success. How many books have been sold? Has the book won any awards?

You may have come across a book you really enjoyed. If you enjoy a book it’s likely that you’re a fan of A) the genre or B) the author’s writing style. What other books has the author written? Do any short summaries or premises draw you in?

Check Instagram accounts, they recommend popular books and you can often join a book club where readers discuss the text. You don’t have to join the discussion but reading other people’s thoughts engages you to view the book differently or agree with points said. Here are some Instagram accounts that you can have a look at:


So, you’ve picked your next read.

How should I read it?

A mistake I often made when I was young and am guilty of doing now is speed reading, I want to finish the journey quickly either to:

  • Move onto my next book

  • Find out what happens to characters at the end of their journey

  • I am tired of reading and the experience is becoming dull

Whilst doing the above may spoil your reading experience, it’s okay to skip pages or put the book down quickly. Read when you’re in the mood to read and don’t force yourself to do it. When you come across the right book, you’ll be hooked.

As a literature student, I’m obviously bias when it comes to this but the author has so much information to offer such as context or new words and speed reading or skipping lines/paragraphs can be a waste of time. Scanning over lengthy descriptions and tending to only read dialect seems like you’re following the storyline but you’re not. If you read dialect, you’re better off reading a script from a stage or screenplay which are widely available for free on the internet. You’ll notice that you can’t visualise the story in your head as the characters faces and scenes/setting will be blurry. Read the excerpt below and decide whether description is important to you or whether you can scan over some words:

Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult.

“What were you doing behind the curtain?” he asked.

“I was reading.”

“Show the book.”

I returned to the window and fetched it thence.

“You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals as we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense. Now, I’ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they ARE mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and windows.”

I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough, however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.

“Wicked and cruel boy!” I said. “you are like a murderer – you are like a slave-driver – you are like the Roman emperors!”

{Excerpt from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë}

It is obvious that Jane Eyre is abused by her stepbrother for reading his books, but you may miss the extent of the abuse or the foul words she uses to insult him. He does not just hit her; he hits her with a book, and it cuts her. This cut will leave a scar and his abuse will be indented into her forever. She is a poor girl who isn’t allowed to read, knowledge is limited to her and it is clear that she means no harm. It is clear that there is a villain and victim in this scene but how much can you pick up from it if you skim and scan the pages? Maybe I’m overthinking it or reading into it too much, but you may miss parts of the story if it’s not read properly. And I’m not suggesting that there’s a ‘proper’ way to read… or maybe I am?

Happy reading nevertheless!

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