Low commitment literature

Image credit: Harry Clarke

With exams being all that everyone can seem to talk about, whether they’re prelims or finals, it doesn’t seem like Easter term is a great time to read for pleasure. A full novel is often seen as a time commitment that it isn’t worth committing to, and reading itself isn’t a priority when even basic levels of functioning, like eating and sleeping, seem to be difficult to fit around either revising or preparing for the term ahead.

However, there are many other ways to enjoy reading that don’t take up much time – why not try spending ten minutes with a book or comic before you go to bed, when you would normally be scrolling mindlessly through social media? Here are some suggestions for ways to enjoy a casual relationship with reading, without signing your life and freedom over to a brick-like novel.

Poetry is the ultimate way to read in bite-size chunks, with the freedom to pick it up and put it down whenever it’s convenient for you. Two works which are particularly popular at the moment are salt by Nayyirah Waheed, and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, which even has beautiful illustrations in it. However, you don’t have to feel confined to 21st century poets – explore different types and eras of poetry, and find out what suits you.

Short stories are the gateway drug into reading longer works of fiction, so if all you need is a small hit before bedtime, they can fill the gap. For something darker, read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, or Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, which can both be found online as PDFs. For stories with a lesson at their heart, try Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ or ‘The Selfish Giant’.

No, strictly speaking, spoken word doesn’t count as reading, but if you find page poetry difficult to read, understand, or enjoy, spoken word could be for you. A lot of it is on important topical issues, and so it can be a good way to get an insight into another person’s world, as well as to see their passion bursting out on stage. My particular favourite slam poets are Andrea Gibson and Sarah Kay, but there are hundreds of videos on YouTube for you to peruse.

Comics may be seen by literary snobs glorified picture-books, but they are a great way to read a physical book to escape the demands of the world for a while. The obvious choices are the Asterix and Obelix series, or the Tintin comics, but it’s worth investigating more recent works too.

The slightly edgier cousin of the comic, zines are often more personal and individual, as they showcase work and art from writers who are keen to get their work published, but aren’t necessarily seeking fame and glory. For convenience, you can find a lot of zines online, including ‘Womanzine’ and ‘Shabby Doll House’, which are ones that I enjoy reading each time they update. Zines are often distributed as paper copies too – why not see what you can lay your hands on?

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