We’ve all been there. There was a time when you used to read 4-8 books a month. A month! And now… now you can barely make yourself read a Facebook status let alone a 400-page novel. It starts small.
First, you finish an awful book. Then you finish another awful book. Then you pick up another, and the first thing you do is check the page number and you progressively choose thinner and thinner books until you’re basically reading picture books.
There are so many reasons why readers go through a reading slump. Time, stress, general laziness or even mild depression; the thing is we all reach a point in our lives when we need a pastime we can finish quickly.
So what do we do? We watch YouTube videos, binge on TV shows, and watch films rather than read books. When you realize your relationship with reading is not so hot anymore, you feel kind of hurt and guilty and you want to go back to the way things were. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of advice on how to break reading slumps, and most go something like this:
- Don’t pressure yourself (don’t read if you don’t feel like it)
- Take a walk (to relieve stress)
- Mix things up (pick a genre you normally wouldn’t)
- Reorganize your shelves (this is a popular one and one that makes me anxious the most; it just makes you feel guilty you haven’t read most of your shelf)
So let’s suppose you did all this. You took a break from the deep end, you’ve walked the shoreline for awhile, and now you’re ready to dip your toes in the water. I’ll give you specific guidelines (i.e. what my reader friends and I do) for battling slumps.
Read a funny book
So, you want to start light. Take a book equivalent of a comedy. But, have you ever noticed how people flaunt the word funny and its synonyms on movie posters as a marketing scheme?
Funny is a word used too often. Most of the time, you see it in the blurbs on the back or even in the front. Here is my copy of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
I love this book. It’s smart, complex, and wonderful. But it’s not hilarious. It’s not funny. It doesn’t even draw out a chuckle. How many times have you read a book advertised as funny and you found yourself hugely disappointed to discover it was a book covering too serious a topic for the mood you were in.
And when you’re in a slump, you need something light and laugh-out-loud funny. Well, I’m here to share not just one, but two books that do just that.
Happyslapped by a Jellyfish by Karl Pilkington and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson are one of the funniest I’ve recently read that you might have missed. The former is a travel book of sorts, written by Mr. Pilkington who complains… a lot.
If you’re not familiar with the life and work of the author I urge you to watch the Idiot Abroad series. Karl is annoyed with everything and his stoic pessimism is so endearing you’ll find yourself saying aww a lot. This is a short, light, clever read that will put you in a good mood.
The latter was written by Jenny Lawson, a blogger who suffers from anxiety and she had a weird life, to say the least. In anyone else’s hands,
this book could’ve been very heavy. But she has a sense of humor that is so up my alley. She is cynical, self-critical, and hilarious. This book will make you feel better about yourself, and it is so fast paced you’ll be surprised it has as many pages as it does.
One has a jellyfish in the title and the other has a taxidermied mouse on the cover. What more do you need?
These two are not 100% factual but they are not fiction either. There is no heavy plot, just a couple of smart, funny people writing about themselves. They are clever and witty, and they can be described as the book equivalent of an ice cream.
There are a lot of books written by comedians hitting the shelves in the past few years and I have a small list of these I want to read when the mood strikes. I’ll keep you posted, of course.
Read a thriller
Now, we come into the unknown. If you don’t reach for thrillers very often, you should if you’re in a slump.
Why? I have no idea, but it works. Maybe it’s the straightforwardness of it all; there’s a mystery or a murder, and a detective who follows clues and brings the villain to the inevitable justice.
Most thrillers follow this simple formula giving the reader enough intellectual food for thought to keep them interested and lower their stress levels, and a satisfactory ending they won’t dwell on too much after they’re done. I know a few people who have turned to thrillers when things got rough at work or in their personal lives.
There is no one book I can recommend. If you’re looking for something darker go for the Scandinavians such as Jo Nesbo or Stieg Larsson. If you want something lighter, go with the British Isles such as Ruth Rendell and good old Agatha Christie and if you like ‘em weird, I recommend South African Lauren Beukes.
Keep it short and sweet
When I was a little girl, I read Grimm’s fairy tales and stories by Hans Christian Andersen. Now, I’m not talking about the illustrated, Disney versions. I’m talking about the severing of limbs, cannibalism, misogyny, abuse and poverty, raw, unfiltered fairy tales of days of yore. Greek mythology was also on the repertoire with Gustav Schwab’s Greek Myths and Legends.
When I was too young for novels (or to fully grasp the horrors of these sick puppy stories), these were the things satisfying my short attention span. When all else fails, go back to basics. The storytelling of myths, legends, and fairy tales is straight to the point. It’s strange, wonderful and engaging and you’ll be surprised how fun they are.
If you were a kid (or an adult) like me and you need a reminder of how awesome these stories still are, give them another try. If it never occurred to you to pick them up, go ahead and thank me later.
Also, when it comes to slumps, short story collections are the way to go. One story before bed, every night. I’m serious. You’ll finish each one fairly quickly and have a sense of closure before you go to sleep. You can skip the ones that are boring without feeling guilty. Choose something familiar and close to you, a genre you’re most comfortable with.
For horror I recommend Clive Barker and Harlan Ellison, for SF and fantasy, George R R Martin’s Dreamsongs vol 1, Gabriel Garcia Marquez for all you magic realism fans and Abby Geni’s The Last Animal for those who don’t like speculative fiction since it covers everyday people in amazing, heartbreaking and relatable situations.
(See our article: 15 Books You Can Read in Under 1 Hour)
Your eyes are tired? You don’t feel like wasting time on a huge, long audiobook that takes forever to finish? And let’s be honest, audio books are just different versions of the very same thing you’ve been avoiding in a slump – books.
Try podcasts. I’m not going to go into too much detail, there are literally dozens of fiction podcasts out there and even more non-fiction podcasts, but if we assume you’re getting back on the fiction wagon, I have two words for you: The Truth.
Similar to radio drama, this podcast is expertly written and produced and each episode is different and relatively short. No matter what genre you’re into, you’re going to find a story you’ll love. From the weird and creepy, to love and life stories, this podcast is a treasure trove you can get lost into.
There are 10-minute-long episodes for us who have little time or energy, and half-hour-long ones that feel like they are just a couple of minutes long. I love the versatility of this podcast and how it doesn’t get old no matter how much you listen to it.
What methods/books would you recommend for pulling out of a reading slump? Let us know.