So you find yourself steeping in ennui. Reading is a chore. Books are a chore (and too heavy to carry, anyway, and why even bother, and you don't even read them when you're out). Life is a chore and nothing makes sense anymore, and how did you ever even manage to finish a book?
The bad news is, you have been diagnosed with a troubling case of The Reading Slump (TRS for short). The good news is, you are in excellent company.
Also, there are ways to manage the condition and lessen its symptoms. The Reading Slump, while recurring, is not chronic. You might yet come out on the other side a reader again.
Regardless of the subtype (oh, yes - there are subtypes) or how you've come to contract one, there is one cure which applies to all. It has been passed on from generation to generation, from one reader to the next. Documents have been forged, and then burned to keep this secret cure safe. Alliances were broken. Wars were fought. Virgins were sacrificed. And now, at long last, the secret is out.
The first step in curing TRS is this: embrace it! In a committed reader's life, The Reading Slump is inevitable. Regardless of a level of dedication or commitment, regardless of the consistency of our characters, the truth is that the only things we do regularly are those which are inevitable. (So, avoiding breathing and taxes.) (And sometimes, we don't even do that regularly. Just ask the IRS, or the YA heroines who never seem to realize they're holding their breath for the duration of a whole scene.)
We are fickle creatures. Sometimes we just don't feel like reading in much the same way as we don't feel like cleaning our swords, going out, studying from awesome magic books, doing our homework, taming a dragon, or grocery shopping. Unless we embrace this as a fact of life, we stress. And stressing about TRS is only ever likely to increase it.
The Book Hangover
Symptoms: Incessant, pervasive thoughts about the book you recently finished and adored (optional: to which you've also built a shrine on your bookshelf). A complete derealization and an impossibility to understand how other people are living their lives without it. Pestering friends with said book. Pestering strangers with said book. Deeming all other books guilty of a crime of not being this book.
1. Give it awhile (as you join/return to Tumblr and feed your addiction)
One does not simply get over a book hangover. It's a process in stages. You will re-read the book which has sparked a hangover. You will open your mouth to ask something else and a character panegyric will come out. You will swamp the author with many a heart emoji. And then... you will discover Tumblr, fall into a rabbit hole of glorious fan art and equally obsessive fans, and you will stay there for a good, long while. This is as it should be. It takes awhile to get over the New Favorite Craze, and the only way out is through. We've done it, quite literally.
|First-ever Tumblr post. It always starts with a hangover.|
When the amount of Tumblr tabs in your browser has gone down to a point where the icons are visible, you are ready for step 2.
2a. Find a similar book
If the sheer notion of reaching for a different genre/style repulses you, there's good news! There are, in fact, books similar to the one you've read. Other books by the same author are a good place to start. In the event that this glorious book is the author's first and they are one talented, talented pumpkin - then your local library and Goodreads are both marvelous places to go hunting for similar books and ask for recommendations. Publishers also really love the comparison strategy (take a shot
of juice if you're a minor for
every time you've heard "For fans of The Hunger Games/Harry Potter/Game of
Thrones/the current trend").
2b. Find a completely different book
But tragedy has struck! All the similar books are just pale imitations to your beloved! They try too hard, they wear too much makeup, they fake-laugh and they aren't even funny, and you hate everything. This, too, is beatable. Brave that section of the library/bookstore which you rarely frequent and go for that beast you've always considered, but never dared pick up. This is the moment. Sure, it's daunting and giant and unlike anything you've picked up. But it's also sensibly dressed, it doesn't even know what a mascara is, and it's quiet and unobtrusive. It's just the rebound you need. You'll hit it off marvelously.
The Apathetic Avocado
Symptoms: Shoulderache caused by excessive shrugging. Indifference. Avoiding books and averting your gaze when near them. Movie marathons. Existential crises. A pile of books abandoned around page 5. Zombie gait. Laziness. Groaning.
For the sake of alliteration, and because they're so mild and chill, you are now an Apathetic Avocado.
1. Go on a break (this is miraculously allowed!)
While reading and you are on a break*, there are only ever two things that can happen. One, you give yourself the time needed to reflect on some of the books you've read and become curious about new ones. Two, the things you choose to do instead get so tedious that you begin to miss your dear, old flame. Everyone is a winner in this scenario!
Except those tedious things. But it's their own fault for
* Make sure the reading knows you're actually on a break as opposed to broken up. Unpleasantness may occur otherwise.
2. Fail as a writer
This piece of advice is otherwise known as just write a book. Regardless of the level of skill and your previous experience with writing, pretty soon you will find that your first draft is so bad and your writing so poor that you have to admire the authors you've read. They are rainbow-riding magical unicorns of talent and their work is unparalleled and glorious and give me all their books to read. And just like that, the reading slump is over. This is in part thanks to reading being a much safer alternative to writing, in part due to procrastination and in part due to a desire to puzzle out why those published books are so good and your attempt was so... not.
3. Be a sociable strawberry
If every book you approach plays dead, then the time is ripe to find their more interesting counterparts. This can be achieved by actually crawling out of the blanket fort long enough to interact with other humans. Talk to avid readers about what they recently loved. Open Goodreads recommendations. Read book blogs (we're partial to this one, for obvious reasons which are obvious). Watch Booktube videos. Haunt local libraries/bookstores and read the back cover synopses of books. Eventually something will sound so good that oh my god, what do you mean ninja pirates in space? Must get it now!
4. Grab something short and easy to get through
To dip your toes back into the ocean of marvelousness that
was is reading, choose a short, engaging
book that's on the light side both on
the outside and the inside. This is not
the time for a Dostoyevsky classic. This is the time for a cozy mystery /
cutesy contemporary / fanfiction / a re-read of an old favorite. They seem
sweet on the outside, but they can suck you in faster than any chunky,
complicated literary masterpiece. And soon enough you will once again be
swimming through your never-ending TBR of Right Now!
The Busy Bee
Internal and external shrieking. Owning three separate bags which you take with you everywhere. Which are all full. And heavy. A TBR pile joined by the to-do pile joined by the chore pile. All of which are dull. And heavy. Taking five naps to avoid everything. Being late to five things due to the five naps. A mounting sense of guilt. Which is soul-crushing. And heavy.
1. Procrastinate with books
Fortunately, as the saying goes, if you want something done, give it to a busy person. But wait! Before you shriek and make a mad dash away from here, read this through. We are not about to add more chores. We are instead about to give you a beautiful place to escape other than your dreams: fantasy. Find a magical book, a whimsical book, an otherworldly book which has as little as possible to do with your life. Then dive into it headfirst, Alice-in-Wonderland-style, and never ever leave to do anything else ever again. Sound good? Off you go! Just don't tell anyone we sent you.
2. Retroactively skip 1st grade math when they taught you to count
Who needs counting, anyway? If you've never learned to count, then you can't possibly know how many books you've read, or how many books you have left to read. You also can't know just how many tasks you're avoiding by doing it. Ignorance is bliss, and being math-impaired can be even more so. Time turners, anyone? Please?
3 (What is this weird shape that looks like an inverse E?). Readwalk
The art of readwalking is as old as time, perfected only with practice and kneepads/full-body armor. The final result, however, is worth it. Many a book has been read while cruising down the street to the chorus of watch where you're goings and excuse yous. When you score a headless chicken comment - welcome to the pros. When the alternative is walking and doing nothing / walking and stressing, then the art of readwalking begins to sound mighty appealing. And all of a sudden, you're sucked into a book forever. Or at least until you reach your destination. A safer alternative with less bodily harm possibilities is an audiobook.
Backache/shoulderache caused by the size of your book bag. 500+ books in your Goodreads to-read list. Reasoning that reading a book per day year-round shouldn't be that difficult and you're just a failure for not managing it. Nightmares about losing a race to a giant bookshelf. Nightmares about anything that involves racing inanimate objects.
1. Take a chill pill
Not literally, though. Unless it's prescribed. To you. (Though if your bookish anxiety is that severe that you need perscription pills, we suggest a trip to Narnia/Hogwarts/Eden for a proper break from it all.) Yes, life is short, and yes, books are plenty. But the thing to remember is: a good portion of them are really, really bad. (Trust us, we know things.) Another good thing to remember is: a good portion of them you aren't even interested in. And another good thing to remember is: wear a seatbelt while racing.
2. Branch out
TBR begone! With overachievers, the problem is that they don't air out their TBR piles enough and they go stale. Our reading tastes are tricky little imps which change infinitesimally, gradually, slowly, but all the time. What you felt like reading in January might not be what you feel like reading in December. And if you aren't sure what your reading tastes have morphed into, nothing (except people and inanimate objects) is stopping you from venturing into a bookstore with your eyes closed and picking at random. Or better yet, settling on a genre. Choose a similar genre to the movies you've been watching recently.
3. Lower your literal and figurative expectations
Regardless of how competitive you are, there is exactly no shame in lowering your daily/monthly/yearly/the dreaded Goodreads TBR goal. This does not mean surrender! This is the readernet, after all. What it means is that you've set an achievable expectation which you can now meet (or surpass and increase again) and feel mighty good about yourself. Which might actually make you invested in what you're reading. There's nothing quite like (a) being ahead, (b) yelling neener, neener in your head at those behind you, (c) meeting a goal, (d) surpassing it, (e) setting a higher one, (f) meeting that one, too, (g) and another one, (...z) and running out of letters.
Feed us advice! Feed us your insight! Feed us pizza! What kind of a reading slumper are you and what are some of the tips that help you escape from their clutches? Leave us a comment below, or track us down on our social media where we battle slumps in an eternal quest for world domination.
TRS (THE READING SLUMP): SYMPTOMS, TYPES AND TREATMENT
4/ 5Oleh The Honest Bookclub