Go on a reading retreat
The next time you check your emails or scroll Twitter, ponder this: you devour more information in a single day than a person in the Middle Ages would have consumed in a month. No wonder you’re struggling to find the headspace for a book as well. What you may need is a reading retreat.
There are lots around, but the usefully-named Reading Retreat is a good example. A ‘fully pampered getaway in the country or by the sea’, their sole priority is to give you space and time to read. Starting from £450 per person for a 3-night stay, they'll cook for you, brew tea for you, keep sofas free for you and even offer a ‘device sitting’ service for your smartphone. They also welcome an author to join guests for dinner to discuss their latest book. Unplug, unwind and just... read.
Try a new reading technique
‘A rambler needs different techniques if she wants to climb a mountain, and the same applies to tackling big books.’ That's the counsel from Penguin Classics Editor and author Henry Eliot, in an article he wrote for this website in April about tackling the canon.
You could devise a structured reading plan that splits your time into manageable chunks, read a book alongside your partner (or other reading companion) to keep you energised through the bumps and slumps, or even read a book on location. For the latter, Eliot prescribes, among other cures, walking with a group of friends from London to Canterbury, reading and discussing Chaucer's Canterbury Tales along the way, in the same locations as each is told. Or if you really want to treat yourself, how about Paris?
Looking for a zombie comedy that tackles climate change? Or a romantic thriller set in a submarine? How about a pastoral whodunnit that ends with a kiss? Use the #AskPenguin hashtag on Twitter to make a request before midday, and Penguin's dedicated team of book bods will send you a personalised reading recommendation based on your mood, the theme you're interested in or other books you've enjoyed. If it exists, then Penguin will find it. And if it doesn't, they'll find you something close.
Start a book club
Listen, book clubs don’t have to be dull echoes of your last English Literature class. They can be fun. They can be edgy. They can even involve alcohol. They can basically be whatever you want them to be, so long as you have friends, a kitchen table and a bounty of snacks and wine.
You could theme them, like only allowing sci-fi books, or ones recommended only by the African American Literature Book Club. How about a bilingual book club (you'd need to agree on a language in which to discuss, of course)? You can do them in pubs, front rooms, parks, picnic areas or a haunted house if you like. A fun option is to switch up the location based on where each book is set – easiest to do in a large city, of course, but it could be as simple as books set in parks, or on farms, or in fairgrounds.
For some, book clubs are an excuse to read something they never would on their own; for others it’s the chance to climb between the lines of a book by bouncing around ideas. And for you, dear reading slumpee, it'll force you back into reading by way of the most motivating of all British fears: embarrassment.