Reading Slumps

Books in the Douglasville, Georgia Borders store.

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Everyone that reads, especially if you blog about your reading, hits a reading slump.  I seems to hit a slump of one variety or another about once every three or four months.  Sometimes the slump expresses itself as a lack of desire to read.  But more often the slump is expressed by extreme ADD reading.  Nothing seems to satisfy, nothing seems interesting.

I have tried a variety of methods.  First, and I think most important, it to remove obligation from your reading if at all possible.  This is the main point of Alan Jacobs’ recent book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.  If you are a student, obligation is a part of reading.  But throwing in the occasional book for pleasure is important to keep yourself balanced.  As a book blogger, I have cut back the number of books I review for publishers and primarily blog about books that I choose.  That means that I have to buy them myself and they are often, not the newest books on the market, but reading on ‘Whim’ (to use Jacobs’ word) creates a happier reader.

While removing obligation helps slow down slumps, it does not by itself remove them.  Sometimes you just need to walk away and do something else.  Take a week or so off, watch some movies, listen to music, go camping.  Reading for me is about processing.  I am very introverted and a significant way that I process what is going on around me is to read about it and think about it and eventually write about it.  Sometimes the brain just needs time for the processing to occur.  So walking away and using different methods of processing stories often works well.

What is most effective for me is changing reading pace.  Because I primarily reading non-fiction, usually theology, I tend to read fiction when I get into a slump.  I have solved several reading slumps in the past by reading Christopher Buckley novels.  He is a great fiction writer.  He is funny, has a bit of romance, always sarcastic and biting, but rarely mean.  However, I have read most of Buckley’s books so that option is less available.  I have tried Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen, but while I like both of those authors, they just are not Buckley substitutes for me.

This reading slump I have been reading some of the classic young adult novels from my own childhood, the Wrinkle in Time series and the Book of Three series.  This probably will not work for me often, because there really are not many series like these two that marked me as a young reader.

The fourth thing that has consistently helped me through reading slumps are spiritual biography/autobiography.  This is more than just changing pace of reading. I often forget that what I am doing by reading is not gaining knowledge (or at least what I should be doing is not gaining knowledge), but seeking after God in a variety of ways.  Well written spiritual biography and autobiography have a way of refocusing me away from my wants and desires to God’s wants and desires.  Through the lives of other Christians that have gone before me, and often stumbled and been quite broken themselves, I can see that God can use me, not as someone that strives after the unattainable, but as someone that consistently seeks after the next small thing that God want for me.  Some very good examples of this are The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor, Dorsett’s biography of AW Tozer, and Brennan Manning’s new memoir.

Finally, I have realized that I am going to go through ups and downs in desire to read and what I want to read.  It is not a big deal.  I just have to work through it and accept it.  I will either get out of the slump, or I won’t.  In the end it is not really that big of a deal.

What has worked for you to overcome reading slumps?

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