Avoiding Book Burnout as an English Major

Recently someone asked me in a comment how I avoid burning out as an English major–in other words, how do I keep from getting sick of reading? It might sound implausible that a bookworm could get tired of reading, but it definitely happens. When the line between work and play is blurred, it can suddenly feel like what was once a hobby is now homework–because it is. 

For each term at Oxford I had to read about sixteen novels, plus secondary reading during term itself. For my senior seminar at Wheaton right now I have to read about a dozen novels by Philip Roth–and that’s in addition to all the reading for my other English class, history class, and Honors Thesis. Needless to say, studying English literature involves a lot of reading. When you consider the sheer amount of pages being turned, it’s easy to imagine how someone could want to do something else in their sparse free time besides open even more books. 

So how do I avoid burning out? Here’s my advice:

Switch things up.

One of the problems I’ve encountered studying English literature is that the genre I would usually read for fun (classics) is precisely when I have to read for class. Instead, I try reading different genres, particularly children’s or young adult books. Because they’re different enough from what I read for class, my mind isn’t so quick to associate it with doing work.

Listen to audio books.

Listening to audio books is my favorite way to get extra reading in during the semester without feeling like I’m doing more work. I love not having to feel like I’m spending even more time with my eyes glued to a page, as well as the fact that I can get other things done (like laundry, cleaning, etc.) at the same time).

Make it social.

Join a book club. Read the same book as a friend. Be more active in the book blogging community. Sometimes adding a more social aspect to reading helps it feel less like homework and more like something you’re doing in your precious free time.

Take a break.

Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that bookish burnout is unavoidable without taking a bit of a break from reading for fun. Whenever I feel this tiredness coming on, I usually switch to listening to podcasts, knitting, or some other activity instead. Taking a break from reading doesn’t make you a “bad” bookworm in any way–partially because such a category doesn’t exist. There’s no denying that the reading you do for class is still reading, even if it’s not what you would choose to read on your own.

I hope these quick pieces of advice are helpful! Studying English literature can be surprisingly tricky for self-proclaimed bookworms, and it’s nice to know that it’s not just you falling out of love with reading–sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. 

How do you avoid burning out as an English major or college student in general? Let me know in the comments section below!



23 thoughts on “Avoiding Book Burnout as an English Major

  1. Awesome post, Holly! I’m not an English/Literature major, but I’m studying languages, and I do have to read at least one book for English class every semester, and then I might have to read some other books for some other classes (especially Culture classes). This semester, I also have to read a book for French class. I’m trying your “make it social” advice, since I’m doing a buddy read for Winter and even though it takes time, it definitely helps. I’d love to check out podcasts though (audiobooks don’t really work for me). Do you have any recommendations? 🙂


  2. These are all great suggestions! I was an English major and will admit that after I took a Shakespeare class I never wanted to read that bard again! It took me a loooong time before I even wanted to see a movie adaptation. I wish I’d chosen so e of these options, maybe things would be different! Great post!


  3. This is such a great post, Holly – and one that can work out for any reader reading a ton of books, too and not only English majors 🙂 I majored in litterature too, and I got a bit sick of reading at times, and switching things up and reading other kind of books helped me, too. Also, this trick helps me whenever I’m feeling a bit tired of reading too 🙂 Wonderful post! 🙂


  4. All of these things are good suggestions. I know when I was in college I was way too busy doing other things so I didn’t feel like I really had any free time to read. So I don’t think I had to really worry about book burnout as much.


  5. Switching up what I read definitely helps me, along with audiobooks! Even though I tend to read the books alongside audiobooks anyway, they help me get through the books faster and keep me motivated. I struggle not to feel bad when I read a book for pleasure rather than for my uni course because there’s always more uni reading I could be doing instead, but it’s definitely important to get a small amount of your own reading in from time to time to keep that passion there!


  6. this post is so important and I love it so much!!!!!! I used to read audiobooks at night, while relaxing before bed, and it was such a mistake bc I would fall asleep????? I had to start listening while cleaning etc. and now I love audiobooks sm morrreee c: c:


  7. That’s really interesting because being tired of my own major never occurred to me. :p But I do agree with mixing things up. I didn’t read a ton of classics for fun while I was in school because I was always reading like 4 a month for school, so I read YA and other stuff in my free time. I read classics “on my own” since I’m not in school now.


  8. I have heard other people say that studying English made them sick of reading, particularly in grad school, because it did turn into work. But I never had that experience, somehow. Reading for school was so enjoyable that it almost didn’t seem fair I got to do it and have it count as work!


  9. That is so great! I love this post, Holly! One of my friends is an English major and she just told me she feels completely burned out from reading… I think I’ll send your post to her! I didn’t know what tell her, plus I’d just gifted her a book for the bday… aiai. Anyway, great post and thank you for sharing!


  10. This is an awesome post! I’ve often wondered that myself. I didn’t get a chance to take a single English class during my degree, which I partially regret but am partially thankful for. I didn’t really like required reading in high school and didn’t want to repeat that. Also, when I was in university I didn’t read much recreationally, so I think being forced to read so much for school would not have helped me get into reading after the fact.


  11. I wasn’t an English Major, but being a History Major was all reading all the time too, and I couldn’t agree more with that you’ve said here. While I love fantasy novels, they’re largely based in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (my concentration). College was when I fell in love with John Green, who felt NOTHING like Islamic Expansion.


  12. It’s been so long since I was in college that I can’t remember if I continued to read books just for myself. However, during my Junior and Senior year of undergrad I know that I was about 60% English and 40% history. All the history classes required a lot of reading that wasn’t so much textbooks, but like books of essays. For me the biggest burnout aspect was just my NECK. My neck could not handle any more reading. I honestly don’t know how I got through that time. Other than just continuing to read and trying to hold my head up straight. I don’t think there was quite as much access to audiobooks then, so I never even thought about listening to an audiobook for a lit class.


  13. Hi Holly! This is all great advice 🙂 Joining book clubs and the book blogging community has definitely helped a lot in preventing book burnout for me, but I have experienced a few times in my life where I just had to stop reading & take a break, which is totally fine as well. Great post!


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