On Reading Slumps

My Life in Middlemarch

You love reading. It’s what you love to do in your free time. Losing yourself in a different world, feeling as if the characters are people you know, learning new things on a subject you love. But suddenly, none of your books hold any appeal. You try to pick one up but just can’t get into it and put it down after a few pages. You do that with another book. And another. And another. You just don’t want to read any of them and you can’t quite say why. You’re in a reading slump. And it’s the absolute worst.

I go through a reading slump at least once a year, often in March and April. However, this year mine came in June and July, which is odd since I usually fly through books during the summer. I’m finally starting (hopefully) to get out of it, but it has got me wondering: what causes me to fall into a reading slump? After thinking about it for a while and examining the last few years, I’ve come to a few conclusions. These are the three main things that cause my reading slumps.

1. Genre Fatigue

While I would say I read a wide range of genres, I do tend to read a bunch of books in the same genre one after another. It’s kind of inevitable that I would get sick of them. Since I read a lot of YA and fantasy (and as a result, a lot of YA fantasy), this tends to happen the most with those genres. I start finding the books predictable and cliche and end up becoming annoyed with characters, plot points, and tropes that would usually delight me . I then get put off of reading any books, even ones that aren’t in that genre.

2. Putting Pressure On Myself

Though reading is supposed to be my fun, relaxing activity, I’m a perfectionist and constantly put pressure on myself about everything and anything. I often pressure myself to read certain books, whether they are new releases, ARCs, or classic and literary books that I feel I should read. Since I run a blog, I also have the pressure of writing reviews and other bookish posts. And all this pressure sometimes causes reading to feel like a chore and so I avoid doing it, which in turn makes me feel both guilty and miserable.

3. Struggles with Mental Health

Unfortunately, I struggle with some mental illnesses and when they are acting up, reading gets hard for me. This is the biggest problem I’m dealing with in my current reading slump. My depression tends to act up in March and April because they are bleak and horrible months (February is equally bleak, but at least it’s short), so it makes sense that my slumps often fall in that time frame. However, this year, my mental health really started to decline in the summer after social distancing for several months. Depression zaps me of the will and energy to do anything, even as something as seemingly effortless as reading.

After identifying the problems, it’s natural that I would want to figure out the solutions. These are obviously not one size fits all, but they do work for me. If you’re trying to get out of a reading slump, try a few of them out to see if they work for you too.

1. Switch Things Up

Try a different genre or even a whole new medium. After feeling burned out with novels and not in the mood to read, I picked up a graphic biography of Charlotte Brontë and flew through it. The change in genre and format almost seemed to lift me right out of my slump. I’ve also been consistently reading and enjoying audiobooks during this entire slump. I’ve just been able to focus on them in a way I haven’t been able to with a lot of print books.

2. Take the Pressure Off

If you find yourself pressuring yourself to read certain books and write reviews only to get so stressed out that you don’t do any of it, take a break. Read what you want instead of what you think you should. Don’t write reviews for the next book or two you read. Sometimes you need to take that pressure off to find your love of reading again. During this slump, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed by my list of ARCs on NetGalley, so I decided to take a little break, and it’s helped me a lot.

3. Revisit an Old Favorite

Picking up a book you’ve loved forever or loved when you were younger can really help get you back into the reading mood. It helps you rediscover your love of reading, which sometimes feels completely lost in a slump. This month I decided to reread Twilight, which was one of my favorite books in high school. I whipped through it and had so much fun. I’ve done this other times in the past with various books, and it almost always works for me.

4. Take a Break

But sometimes to get out of a slump, you need to take an actual break from reading. If you truly aren’t in the mood, don’t force it. It’s always hard for me to admit when I need to take a break from reading because it is so enmeshed with the identity I’ve created for myself. I’m a bookworm. Reading is what I do. In fact, it’s my favorite thing to do. But I have other hobbies; I play the piano and I’ve recently taken up embroidery again, which is something I did as a child. Focusing on these other activities helps my brain reset and get back in the mood for reading.

What do you think causes your reading slumps? What are your tricks to get out of them?

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