I meet a lot of librarian stereotypes. I love cardigans. I occasionally rock the bun and glasses combo. And of course, I love to read. I believe reading opens doors and allows us to have experiences we wouldn’t have otherwise. It puts us in other people’s shoes, and helps us grow in empathy. However, at least once a year I still go into a reading slump. When my preferred genres seem old and tired, and literary plot devices seem over-used, I know it’s time to shake things up. In case anyone else out there also suffers from the occasional reading slump, I thought I’d list a few strategies that usually help me overcome it.
Try a New Genre
I read to relax and decompress, so I usually prefer fiction over non-fiction. But last year when I hit a reading slump I turned to non-fiction as a way to get interested in reading again. I read about art, cryptology, food, photography, and sports. I read motivational books, true crime, histories and memoirs, and I loved them all! Changing what I read opened my world up to new possibilities, and it got me out of my reading slump.
Revisit a Favorite
Sometimes I just want to read a book I know I’ll like. For that, I have my old standbys. Re-reading a favorite book is like visiting a beloved place I haven’t visited for a while. Recently, in honor of the movie release, I re-read A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle—one of my favorite books when I was growing up. It was great to get to know Calvin, Meg and Charles Wallace again and a relief to find that this childhood favorite also holds its appeal for Adult Me.
Try an Audiobook
Confession: I’ll sometimes keep listening to an audiobook not because I like the book, but because I like the narration of it. An example of this is READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. I gave this book a chance not because I love gaming and 80s pop culture references, but because Wil Wheaton’s narration of the audiobook is superb. Listening to audiobooks also works for me because I can do something else while I’m listening. I can run errands, clean my house, and cook dinner, all while listening to a fascinating story. And since I’m occupied with doing other things, I’m sometimes less critical of the story I’m being told, and I get more enjoyment out of it. So listening to an audiobook is a great way to push me out of a reading slump.
By the way, if you haven’t done so already, you should really download the Libby by Overdrive app. It makes listening to audiobooks a lot easier.
Use a New Source for Getting Book Recommendations
I have favorite places I go to look for book recommendations, but sometimes my usual sources offer nothing but duds. That’s when I try looking at different book lists and blogs, and asking around for suggestions. Here at the library, we’ve done a lot of that work for you by compiling our own favorite lists and posting reviews of books we like on our book blog. You can also ask us for a personalized reading recommendation, or even stop by one of our reference desks and ask us for recommendations.
Practice the Rule of 50
Librarian Nancy Pearl originally came up with the Rule of 50, which states that you should give a book 50 pages before you decide if you should continue reading. At the bottom of page 50, give yourself permission to either keep reading, skip to the end, or put the book down.
Learning of this rule was a revelation for me. I’m a completionist, so there have been a lot of books in my life where I’ve soldiered on and reading wasn’t enjoyable for me. Using the Rule of 50 gave me permission to realize that I wasn’t in the right headspace for the book I was reading, and I needed to put it aside for the moment and read something else, whether I was on page 50 or on page 350.
Stick With It
I realize this is the exact opposite advice from what I just gave above, but some books just take a bit longer to get going than others. An example of this is actually one of my favorite books of 2017. Reading the first four chapters of ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman made me think that maybe this book just wasn’t for me. But in chapter five all of that changed, and I loved the book wholeheartedly from then on.
The next time you fall into a reading slump, don’t go months and months without reading. Instead, give yourself permission to stop reading a book you’re just not enjoying. Seize the day and find the book that’s right for you. Then come tell me what you read, because I’m always looking for suggestions!