Tag Archives: Reading

5 Reasons to Read Short Stories

A close up photo of an opened book being illuminated by warm, yellow light.One of the most consistent aspects of my reading preferences since childhood is that I’ve always preferred short stories to full-length novels.

Anyone who has paid close attention to what I review here may have already noticed that. For every 200-page novel that makes an appearance in my Thursday review slot, there are probably half a dozen short stories and novellas sprinkled between it and the next full-length work I finish.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some amazing books out there that convince me to commit my reading time for a few hundred pages, but short stories have plenty of advantages, too.

5 Reasons to Read Short Stories

They Require Minimal Investments of Time

A closeup of pink sand in a glass hourglass I often finish short stories in fifteen minutes. Sometimes I finish the shortest ones in less than five!

There’s something appealing about finishing a story in such a brief period of time.

If you end up with a story that you either don’t particularly like or find simply okay, you can keep reading with the knowledge that it will end soon.

On the flip side, adoring a character or storyline can be a big hint that you might love the rest of that author’s catalogue.

Sometimes writers even revisit the same characters and settings across multiple short stories in the form of serials or simply by revisiting fan favourites over and over again.

They’re Often Free or Inexpensive

Rabbit wearing spectacles and sitting next to an opened bookIf your book buying budget is small or if you prefer to try new authors before buying their work, short stories can be a fantastic way to expand your reading horizons.

Many sites have been specifically created for reading, sharing, and discussing short stories. I’m most familiar with the ones that focus on the science fiction and fantasy genres, but this sort of things exists for every genre.

I’ve also started sharing a list of free science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction books every Thursday on Twitter.

Last week’s list included the following stories, all of which were still free to the best of my knowledge when this post went live:

They Can Help End Reading Slumps

When I’m in a reading slump, the last thing I want to do is commit to several hundred pages of reading.

It feels so much more realistic to say let’s see what happens over the course of five or ten pages while I’m still getting to read the beginning, middle, and end of a tale.

They’re Palate Cleansers

Woman reading a book in a dark library. There is a bright light emanating from the book.Sometimes full-length books weigh on my mind long after I finish their final pages, especially if they have excellent world building and character development.

It can feel a little odd to jump from one immersive reading experience to the next. Short stories can help to bridge that gap by introducing new characters and settings that you already know will only be around for a short period of time.

This isn’t to say that short stories can’t have intricate world building and character development, of course, only that they have a smaller number of pages to do so.

They Offer a Low-Pressure Way to Try New Genres and Authors

Man using binoculars while sitting between two stacks of thick, dusty books at a large wooden table
For example, I used to think I wasn’t into the mystery genre because of some bland experiences I’d had reading full-length mysteries.

It was only when I tried a few short stories in this genre that I realized it does appeal to me after all. I never would have given it another shot by picking up a two-hundred page book, but I was willing to sit through a half dozen pages to see if my opinions had shifted.

This a pattern that has repeated multiple times in my reading history. Of course I don’t always enjoy the new authors or genres I try, but I have discovered some stuff I would have otherwise overlooked thanks to the low-pressure environment of short stories.

If you read short stories, what do you like most about them?

4 Creative Ways to Overcome a Reading Slump

A girl with a bored expression on her face reading a book.Today I wanted to share some tips for overcoming a reading slump and (hopefully) finding the joy of losing yourself in a story once again.

Most readers have probably experienced this phenomenon at one point or another.

You slowly, or maybe quickly, shift from your regular reading patterns to no longer feeling anticipation at the thought of picking up another book in your preferred genre(s).

Maybe you’ll start one book only to grow bored and wander away from it after a chapter or two. This can happen again and again during a slump.

I know I’ve sure found it harder to stay focused since this year began.

Stop Reading

Drawing of a perturbed black cat. The phrase "not entertained" is written next to and underneath it.I’m totally serious about that, too. It feels obvious to me, but so many lists on this topic seem to skip over this solution.

How long should this break last? That’s up to you. I think about my interest levels in reading in general instead of how much time has passed.

Generally, my breaks last between a week and a month, but I’d have no problem going much longer than that if needed.

The thing about being an avid reader is that you often eventually begin to see the patterns in the genres you read. It’s harder to surprise someone who has been reading the same genre for years or decades.

Reading also isn’t so much fun when one can predict what will happen next in a story, especially if you’re already feeling tired of this hobby in general.

Sometimes the best way to react to this feeling is to stop trying to make yourself enjoy reading and find something else to fill your free time.

What else can you do? Well…

Get (More) Active

Reading can be like exercise for your mind. Books can teach new words (or even entire languages),  challenge your pre-conceived notions of the world, and introduce you to sorts of people and situations you might never come across your daily life.

There’s definitely something to be said for switching between activities that challenge your brain and activities that challenge your body, so stay with me here.

Depending on your current fitness level, interests, and what equipment you might have access to, this could take a wide range of forms:

  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  •  Swimming
  •  Playing sports
  •  Hiking
  •  Weightlifting
  • Taking a long walk

If you’re already physically active, now could be a good time to increase the length of your workouts or try a form of exercise that isn’t part of your regular routines.

Try Something New

White rabbit wearing yellow sunglassesNo, I’m not referring to trying a new genre (unless you already have the urge to do so). It’s been my experience that this technique works best if it has nothing to do with books or reading at all.

There’s nothing like tasting a new food, buying something small you’ve been wanting for a long time, or visiting an autumn forest so filled with brightly-coloured leaves that it almost seems as if all of the trees themselves are glowing.

Sometimes the “new” thing I try is as simple as walking down a street I don’t normally visit to see what interesting landmarks might exist there or crouching down on the ground to observe a plant I’d normally walk past without a second thought.

This can take many forms, and it can be as thrifty as you’d like it to be. Honestly, most of my favourite memories in life involve intangible things that no store can ever box up for sale.

Perform an Act of Kindness

A rock painted orange that says "stay safe be kind." It is lying on a much larger, lichen-covered rock. It’s been my experience that reading slumps are often tied into how I’m feeling in general. I’m much more likely to have them when I’m dissatisfied with other aspects of my life.

There are many things that are out of our control, and many more that can only be changed after months or years of effort and a great deal of luck.

That’s part of the reason why I think that performing acts of kindness are so effective. For that moment, I’m pulled out of whatever is going on in my own head and only focusing on making someone else’s day a little bit brighter.

A random compliment for a stranger or a quick text to a loved one about something you know they’d love only takes a few seconds to accomplish.

That instant mood boost might eventually trickle over into other parts of your life as well. It often does for me! Even if it doesn’t work right away or at all, you’ll still have the satisfaction of knowing you had a positive impact on someone else’s day.

And who knows how far one act of kindness can spread?

One of my high school English teachers always paid the fee for the car behind her when she drove on toll roads because she wanted to make strangers smile. She once pulled up to the teller only to learn that the car ahead of her had already paid her fare, so she paid for the next two people in line after her!

I’ve often wondered if they kept that chain of kindness going. It’s nice to think that they did.

How have all of your reading habits been this year? What do you find effective when you’re in a reading slump?

Do Your Reading Habits Fluctuate By Season?

Green framed eyeglasses on top of a stack of three books My reading habits have followed a pretty predictable pattern for years now.

Summer

In early summer, I spend too much time outside enjoying the comfortable weather to read much. This period of time doesn’t last long, so I’d generally rather go hiking or do other outdoor activities that will soon become uncomfortable when the first heat wave arrives.

As the temperatures and humidity rise, so does my reading time. Sometimes I’ll go outside to read if I can find a shady spot for that. There’s something refreshing about burying your nose in a book while also catching a stray breeze and hearing the friendly rustle of leaves in the trees.

Horror can be a fun genre to dive into at this time of the year. I also tend to start feeling more interested in history books during the summer for reasons I’ve never figured out.

Autumn

Autumn is gorgeous here once the heat of September melts away. My reading rate slows down once again as it becomes more feasible to spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying the autumn colours and cooler weather.

When I do feel the urge to read, it tends to be science fiction, fantasy, history, or, my personal favourite, ghost stories. The closer we get to Halloween, the more likely it is I’ll want to read something in homage to my favourite holiday. Biographies can be okay in small doses, too, although I tend to stock those titles away for the truly cold days to come.

Winter

To put it generously, I am not a winter person. The cold, dark days here make me feel sad, especially after the winter holidays end and we still have more than three months to go until any semblance of spring weather might appear.

This is the time of year when I read ravenously. I tend to avoid horror and very dark subject matter until I feel happier, but I’ll dive into literally anything else: poetry, the classics, fairy tales, mysteries, science fiction, biographies, history, and even the occasional romance novel! This is also when I tend to reread old favourites.

Spring

This season often gets a slow, muddy start in Ontario, so I like to read anything that reminds me of the warmer days that are sure to follow…eventually.

As the temperatures warm up, my reading rates slow down again because it’s finally warm outside again and I want to enjoy the outdoors before summer arrives.

Books about food and cooking become more interesting to me in early spring, and that only increases over time. Maybe it’s because I’m dreaming of all of the delicious food that will soon be in season?

I also tend to read less fiction during this season, especially anything speculative like science fiction or fantasy. Nonfiction is usually most appealing then, although I curiously don’t feel as compelled to read history books or biographies until cold weather returns.

Do your reading habits shift throughout the year like mine do? If so, what patterns have you noticed?

Stay Home and Read

Woman holding a book and smilingA few days ago, Toronto learned that someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 had taken several trips on the TTC, our  public transportation system, after they began coughing and showing other symptoms of that disease.

Our local media has been publishing many stories on the Coronavirus outbreak these winter alongside their regular winter features on cold and flu season. While I have some mixed feelings about how they’ve reported on this new outbreak in particular, it’s difficult to ignore all of the new information pouring in about COVID-19 and how regularly new cases have been diagnosed in Ontario lately.

Like the rest of the world, Toronto is nervous about this topic. There have been so many folks stocking up on toilet paper and other supplies that some stores here have actually put limits on how much of those items you can buy at a time.

I happen to be part of an age bracket that is at very low risk of developing complications from Coronavirus, much less dying from it. I also don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions that would make it harder for my body to fight this illness. If I were to develop it, chances are excellent that it would be no worse than a bad cold or the flu for me if I even developed symptoms at all.

Three piled books on a white wooden table. Still, I’ve found myself staying home more often these days. I’d hate to accidentally spread this illness around to people at high risk of complications if I’m one of those young, healthy people who have it while showing few to no symptoms of it.

When I do go out, I’m noticing that our libraries, stores, and malls feel a bit quieter than usual. My guess is that other folks are cutting back on spending time in large crowds when possible as well.

Since most of my favourite places to visit are outdoors and I’m trying to reduce my time spent in crowds, reading seems like the perfect solution.

March is a chilly, sloppy time of year in Ontario anyways. Might as well read until the weather improves and the spread of this disease is hopefully slowed down while scientists work on a vaccine for it.

This means that you may be seeing more book reviews on my site over the coming weeks. I love writing them, but they take up so much time and energy that I generally can only get through a certain number of them in the average month.

There are only so many TV shows I can watch and hours of Minecraft I can play before needing to do something else with my free time, though, so reading it is.

I already have my first review of this semi-quarantine season ready to go for next week! Thank goodness I still have a big pile of library e-books to plow through as well.

How have your daily routines changed this cold, flu, and coronavirus season? How are your countries and communities reacting to COVID-19? Are you all staying home and getting more reading time in than usual these days, too?

The Evolution of My Reading Habits

My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time.

Most of these genres are still things I like to read at least occasionally. With that being said, I do not read the older ones as often as I once did.

Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales

“A Fairy Tale” by J. H. F. Bacon

The first genres I ever fell in love with were nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

My uncle had a book of fairy tales that he left behind when he went off to college. I read that collection every time I visited my grandmother’s house, and it made me yearn for more stories about dragons, royalty, and people who were rewarded for the good things they did when they thought no one was paying attention.

The tales in my uncle’s collection were the sorts of things you’d see in a Disney movie. They were missing the dark endings that they’d often originally had.

A few years later, I began stumbling across fairy tales that didn’t always end happily ever after. For example, the original version of “The Little Mermaid” ended with the main character’s death instead of her wedding.

I did go back to preferring the more cheerful spins on these stories after a while, but I appreciated having those glimpses into what had happened to them before they were cleaned up for modern audiences.

30 Books in a Month

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was homeschooled for the first several years of my education. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to read after my lessons were finished. There were times when Wyoming was far too snowy and cold of a place for a child to be wandering around outside in, so I read the entire afternoon and evening away on some of those wintry days.

All of this reading time had an interesting effect on me once I started public school and people who weren’t my parents or siblings began noticing my habits.

My fourth grade teacher once gave us an assignment to read three books a month. We were supposed to turn in little slips of paper with the title and author of what we read to her so she could keep track of them for us.

Reader, I didn’t finish three books that month. I read thirty of them.

Those three slips of paper we’d been given were almost immediately replaced by notes from my mother listing everything else I’d read after I fulfilled the original requirements.

When our teacher announced the number of books each student had read that month a few weeks later, most of my classmates were in the single digits. It was pretty funny to see how they gasped when they realized I’d quietly blown everyone out of the water.

A Passion for Poetry

I no longer remember which genres I read during that thirty-book month, but I do remember the genre I became obsessed with shortly after that: poetry.

My fifth grade teacher did a unit on the many different types of poems out there, and I took to this topic  immediately. A lot of the stuff she had us read reminded me of the nursery rhymes I’d loved a few years earlier.

Shel Silverstein was the first poet I loved, but I quickly moved on to poets who wrote for adult audiences like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.

The thought of compressing what could be an entire story into a few short lines impressed me. I was always excited to find poets who could create strong imagery of what they were describing to the audience while using as few words as possible.

There was about a decade there when poetry was regularly part of what I read for fun. For a long period of time after that, I still returned to it regularly when I needed a break from other genres.

I’m slowly losing interest in this genre, and that makes me a little sad. I wish I could find the same thrill in it I did twenty years ago.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

“Martians vs. Thunder Child” by Henrique Alvim Corrêa.

My interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres has always been intertwined with the other things I’ve read. Long before I entered high school they became genres I returned to over and over again.

While I do take breaks from science fiction and fantasy to recharge sometimes, those feelings have remained constant to this day. No other genre has managed to keep me coming back for more for as long or as consistently as these two have.

There is something so interesting about taking a modern trend and extrapolating it to some distant future where robots really do run the world or when climate change has altered our planet so much that future generations can no longer imagine what life was like in a cooler, more stable climate.

I’ve come to prefer hopeful speculative fiction over the darker, apocalyptic stuff, but I think I’ll continue reading some sort of sci-fi or fantasy for many years to come.

Leaning Towards Nonfiction

Over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more interested in nonfiction than I ever was before. My favourite high school English teacher used to talk about how much she enjoyed reading about things that really happened.

I didn’t understand why she’d say that at the time, but now I relish the opportunity to read books about history, astronomy, archeology, ecology, medicine, the biographies or autobiographies of people who have accomplished all sorts of things, and many other topics.

We live in a world that is filled with more information than any one person can digest in a lifetime. I accept the fact that I can’t learn everything, but I also want to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in this lifetime.

How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.

Edited on May 5 to add Bjørn Larssen’s response.