Sometimes it hits with no warning; other times, it comes on with a slow burn. But every book lover knows that sinking feeling once it hits: you're in a reading slump.
We’ve all experienced this disinterest in reading from time to time, and while it's entirely normal for any reader to struggle to crack the spine of the book that's been on your nightstand for weeks, it’s frustrating nevertheless.
So how does one get back on track? Step one is recognizing how you got there. Do you feel too busy to read? Are you bored of your preferred genre and could use something refreshing? Are you experiencing a "book hangover," convinced another book could never compare to your most recent read’s collection of colorful characters, or gutted over an ending, convinced you could not weather another heartbreak? Figure out what put you in the rut to determine your best course of action.
It’s important to recognize that, sometimes, you just might not be enjoying what you’re reading. You may not associate with the characters, the author's prose, or you aren’t in the right mindset to enjoy it at the present time. And you might feel guilty that the book just isn't working for you, sending you further into your rut.
"That guilt can be crippling, as it forces us not to give the book the attention it deserves, and we almost come to resent the story,” wrote book blogger Fayth Brady on her website. To overcome this kind of slump, let go of the guilt and put the book aside to try again later, or instead pass it along to someone else who may enjoy it. There are so many great books in the world, and sometimes the current one you’re reading isn't right for you.
1. Read an old favorite
If you find that reading is becoming a chore instead of an enjoyable pastime, it’s often best to remind yourself why you like to read in the first place. Bring yourself back to the comforting familiarity of reading an old favorite or returning to a tried-and-true genre that you know you will enjoy. There's comfort in familiarity, and it could help you break out of your rut.
2. Pick a favorite from your “to-be-read” pile
Any die-hard reader will be the first to tell you that their "to-be-read" shelf is constantly full of books. Pull a few from your collection that most pique your interest. Keep your current headspace in mind; for example, if you feel that you could use a pick me up, pull books that you know will be happy and make you laugh.
If you're unsure which ones might interest you, try reading the first few pages to see what holds your interest. For some, choosing a short, quick read might be best. That way, you're not committing to a particular book but instead giving yourself a chance to try it out. Once you have a few viable options, place your stack in a visible location to hold yourself accountable and avoid the trap of object impermanence.
3. Track your progress
It can be gratifying to see yourself make progress through your reading list, so to keep yourself on track, set a goal to read a certain number of books or pages by certain dates throughout the year. Track your progress using apps like Libib that allow you to count your pages and books read, or make your own reading journal.
4. Try something other than a print book
If you're feeling overwhelmed by other responsibilities and would much rather read than do things like clean the bathroom, an audiobook might be the perfect method for you. You can still enjoy the pleasures of listening to your favorite stories while completing other tasks like chores, working out, or going for a walk.
Remember that you can access audiobooks easily through your local library or various apps. Find a narrator that you enjoy and relish in their abilities to bring characters to life, all while you accomplish other things. And, contrary to what some critics think, yes, audiobooks do count towards your reading goals, say the experts from Penguin. "You could even argue that listening to stories is a more natural state than reading – after all, humans have shared information orally far longer than we have in writing," they say.
Finally, try something new, whether it be a new series, genre, or author. You could be experiencing fatigue from your routine; try stepping out of your comfort zone and committing to something different. You may find a new favorite!
As 2021 unfolds, reading can keep us grounded, informed, and may evoke a more profound thought process. Don't let your reading slump nightmare take hold; take steps to move forward and breathe new life into your reading habits. Commit to making small changes in your routine to overcome your slump and move forward in your literary journey.