THE 8 STAGES OF A READING SLUMP

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I love reading. Obviously. But as much as I love it, there are times when it just does not work. These are the dark days, my friends. Also known as: The Reading Slump.

There are a lot of things that can spark a reading slump. Maybe you read a couple bad books in a row (or just one real doozy). Maybe you got busy and out of the habit of reading and it stopped feeling right. Maybe you were stressed or sick or not sleeping well and didn’t have the energy required to truly devote to a book. Or maybe there wasn’t a specific cause, but here you are, right smack dab in the middle of a general disinterest in the written word. There’s usually a feeling of panic that hits after 4 or 5 days of this – about the time it takes to realize this is not just a bad day. This, my friends, is serious. 

Like grief, the reading slump has stages. The stages are probably different for everyone, but for me they go a little something like this:

1. The Ennui Stage

Normally picking up a book comes with a little tingle of anticipation as you prepare to dive back into battle alongside Deuce and Fade or enjoy a pint of butterbeer with Harry and the gang. This little frisson is part of what makes picking up a book such an attractive prospect. But then one day you pick up a book and… nothing. It’s just ink on paper and your surroundings are distracting and the characters aren’t speaking to you and the world feels flat….

At first you think maybe you’re just having trouble focusing. So you relocate and try again. But after awhile, you realize you just don’t want to be reading. At this point it doesn’t feel that bad yet, so you put aside your book and go do something else. You might even assume it’s the book and try another one. But then you find that you’re making excuses to avoid reading at all. You start cleaning the house rather than curling up and flipping pages. This is when alarm bells start ringing. Because no one actually wants to clean their house. Not when they could be reading instead. Not unless there’s something seriously, scarily wrong.

2. The ADD Stage

Which leads to a flurry of panicked reading, trying to find the “right” book that you can sink your teeth into and really lose yourself over. But the book you thought was going to do it for you just… didn’t. So you try another. No dice. And another. And another. Next thing you know, you’ve gone through the first 50 pages of 6 books in two days and none of them are working for you. This, my friends, is where you begin to suspect the truth. The books have turned on you.

3. The “How-Could-You-Do-This?” Stage

Look, books are, for many of us, our best friends. Or at least dependable friends. So when all of a sudden they just don’t seem to be working with us anymore, it hurts, man. It really hurts.

4. The Rebound Reading Stage

When the books we thought would totally work for us just fail to produce that certain je ne sais quoi, our eyes begin to wander. This stage is a lot like being in the bar after a particularly bad breakup and having just enough drinks to make that wildly obnoxious dude in the corner look good.

Sometimes this means chick lit or re-reading the easiest, least-challenging books you can find (hellooooo Harry Potter for the 20 billionth time). Other times, it’s the opposite. With nothing left to lose, instead of picking up the Wolowitz of literature, we set our sights on something we’d normally never even consider. Suddenly those beautifully-bound, hardcover editions of classics seem totally readable.

This is kind of like the first week of school when your textbooks seem exciting and full of promise, right before you open one and realize that you don’t understand a single. fucking. word. You think, “Hey, they’re classics. So they must be good. And how often am I looking for something to read? Maybe now is the perfect time to tackle those tomes.” (Spoiler alert: it’s not).

So we pick up Anna Karenina. Or Moby Dick. Or (recently in my case) Ulysses. BIG mistake. Because they never work out. Like trying to pretend an ill-advised, drunken one night stand was actually the beginning of something and suffering through a tediously sober dinner date, reading one of these books is a lot of work. I mean, relationships are hard to figure out with someone you actually have stuff in common with and when it’s the best of times. These are decidedly not the best of times.

5. The Pizza, Beer and Bad TV Stage

When this last ditch effort fails to drag us back into reading (and in fact, likely pushes us further from our bookshelves), we become disillusioned. If some of the greatest tales ever penned failed us, if the stack of chick lit didn’t draw us in, if the most recent novel by an author we’d usually wait in line in the middle of a blizzard to get our hands on got DNFed, what’s left?  

Scandal, that’s what. Or True Blood. And hey, what’s happening on Teen Wolf these days, anyway? You see where this is going. A steady downward spiral towards an ill-advised foray into the world of Reality TV. Which inevitably leads to….

6. The Self-loathing and Generally Feeling Sorry for Yourself Stage

Well of course it does. There’s nothing less stimulating to a reader than sustained bouts of TV with nary a book in sight. It’s like consuming nothing but empty calories. At first all that beer and all those potato chips are delicious. But by the fourth or fifth day, you start craving a salad. Possibly one with kale in it. But the fridge is empty except for a couple of limp pieces of two-day-old pizza and a wilted, floppy carrot. So we wallow.

7. The Giving Up and Stumbling Over Something Awesome Stage

Now days, weeks – or even months – have passed. You’ve given up. You’re never going to read a good book again, all books hate you, and you’re just going to watch TV forever and try not to look at bookstores anymore. You’re not okay with it, but you’ve done everything you can and you just have to accept that you can’t call yourself a reader anymore.

But much like love, great books find you right when you stop looking for them. Maybe a friend presses a beloved, well-thumbed, dog-eared copy of their favourite book into your hands while squealing, “You have to read this! You’re gonna plotz!” Or maybe a forgotten yet highly anticipated pre-order finally arrives in the mail. Or maybe you decide to give one of the books on your shelf one more try and for some reason, this time it clicks. And you’re back in business.

8. The Shhh I’m Reading Stage

We’re done here. Go away. //<![CDATA[ var sc_project=10144299; var sc_invisible=1; var sc_security="82f610c9"; var scJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://secure." : "http://www."); document.write("”); //]]>

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10 thoughts on “THE 8 STAGES OF A READING SLUMP

  1. M.

    I love it when I can feel a slump coming on, but I manage to pick the perfect book or books to stave it off. Such a sense of relief! I haven't heard of Mapp & Lucia… going to look it up now!

    Reply
  2. M.

    I love it when I can feel a slump coming on, but I manage to pick the perfect book or books to stave it off. Such a sense of relief! I haven't heard of Mapp & Lucia… going to look it up now!

    Reply
  3. M.

    Yeah – I found I had more frequent (and severe) reading slumps when I was in school, because the very act of reading became associated with work. I basically read junk food books and re-read favourites for the majority of end of my degree. It's not easy – in the end I more or less abandoned being a hard-core reader for a couple of years post-degree and only got back into it a year or so ago. It can be really hard, and you can't really force it. I say rant away!

    Reply
  4. M.

    Yeah – I found I had more frequent (and severe) reading slumps when I was in school, because the very act of reading became associated with work. I basically read junk food books and re-read favourites for the majority of end of my degree. It's not easy – in the end I more or less abandoned being a hard-core reader for a couple of years post-degree and only got back into it a year or so ago. It can be really hard, and you can't really force it. I say rant away!

    Reply
  5. rooth

    I totally went through this this past spring – it was a looong spell of mediocre “meh” books. Typically when that happens, I'll reread one of my faves (Mapp & Lucia anyone?) but luckily, I had a few anthologies save my butt right when things were starting to look desperate

    Reply
  6. rooth

    I totally went through this this past spring – it was a looong spell of mediocre “meh” books. Typically when that happens, I'll reread one of my faves (Mapp & Lucia anyone?) but luckily, I had a few anthologies save my butt right when things were starting to look desperate

    Reply
  7. Karolina Z.

    I feel you. There are two stages to my reading: I either read 2-3 books a week, or 1 every 2-3 months. There is no in-between for me. Once a reading slump hits it will not go away. I am in the middle of one right now and it is just so tiring! I see everyone else blog and read and enjoying their life and the only thing I can do is think, shit, why can't that be me? And then I want to go on the blog and write rants about all things bookish which are pissing me off at the moment, but I remember that no, I need to control myself and go back to studying. Gosh, my life sucks.

    I go through many of the stages you mentioned. However, not the giving up and stumbling over something awesome one. I usually have heaps of books waiting and I always know exactly which one I will read once I have the time and will to do so again. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Karolina Z.

    I feel you. There are two stages to my reading: I either read 2-3 books a week, or 1 every 2-3 months. There is no in-between for me. Once a reading slump hits it will not go away. I am in the middle of one right now and it is just so tiring! I see everyone else blog and read and enjoying their life and the only thing I can do is think, shit, why can't that be me? And then I want to go on the blog and write rants about all things bookish which are pissing me off at the moment, but I remember that no, I need to control myself and go back to studying. Gosh, my life sucks.

    I go through many of the stages you mentioned. However, not the giving up and stumbling over something awesome one. I usually have heaps of books waiting and I always know exactly which one I will read once I have the time and will to do so again. 🙂

    Reply

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