I’ve fallen into a reading rut

For the better part of three months now, I’ve been in a reading rut. HELP!

Here’s what my rut looks like: I get on the train in the morning and, instead of reading, I listen to music—sometimes I willingly listen to “Despacito,” even though I hear it four times a day through ambient street noise. I take the train home after work and, instead of reading, I think important thoughts, like “I hope the good taco place doesn’t close early” and “Better skip the gym just to be safe.” I settle onto my couch in the evening (tacos in tow) and, instead of reading, I watch television—satisfying my inner nihilist by “ironically” expending more emotional energy on reality shows than IRL North Korea. I climb into bed at night and, instead of reading, mindlessly scan social media, burrowing down rabbit holes of internet beefs and Instagram braggadocio while sending myself nonsensical Slack messages like “fall fancy Friday” and “animal weekends??” On Sundays, instead of reading, I binge-watch Sons of Anarchy.

Managing two book clubs keeps me from falling completely off the wagon, and I’ve finished some great stuff recently—The Three-Body Problem, Lincoln in the Bardo, Oreo—thanks to those (lovely!) obligations. But they are only a select few books, and most of them I read hurriedly in the few days before the meeting. On the whole, it’s been awhile since I flew through a great read without a deadline (often self-imposed) hanging over my head.

When I do have the time to kick back and read, I find myself fidgety and easily distracted. I feel like there are other things I should be doing, or that reading, like any other task, can be tacked onto the to-do list and handled later. It’s strange to discover I’m procrastinating on something that is supposedly my favorite hobby.

To be sure, there is a lot of Thinking out there about whether to make your passion your job, or whether doing so ruins it as a passion in the first place. None of that conventional wisdom is applicable here—this isn’t a job—but there is something to be said for the anxiety-inducing effect of attempting to read and review a book every week, even if the only person who cares about that attempt is me. Even when I do finish books these days, I get stumped on what to write in a review. Perhaps I’m avoiding the whole shebang as a way of rebelling against my own overly ambitious ideas.

Anywayyyyy, I’m in the market for thoughts and advice on breaking out of this reading rut. Here are my ideas so far: 1) Instead of deciding one book at a time, decide the next five or 10 books so the transition are more seamless. 2) Ask different friends to assign me a book to read each month and set a date to meet up with them to discuss it. 3) Bring a book to the park; leave phone at home. 4) Schedule 20 minutes a day—in the morning, as an afternoon work break, at the taco place, wherever—when I always read, even if it’s the only reading I do that day. 5) Finish Sons of Anarchy.

25 thoughts on “I’ve fallen into a reading rut”

  1. I hear you loud and clear, but your blog is one of my great joys! So, selfishly, please don’t stop! Regarding the rut, planning a discussion with a friend is always helpful. I love discussing reads with others so much that it keeps me reading. Allotting a reading break is also a great idea, and having someone else “assign” you a book takes the painful decision making process out of the picture. It’s so hard to pull the trigger sometimes, so it’s great when you don’t need to think about it. Best of luck!

  2. Different for different people, but some things that work for me:
    -reading sans tech, which you recommended.
    -reading something fluffy or a “guilty pleasure”
    -let yourself read without reviewing
    -or just wait for the desire to come back

    Reading comes and goes. That’s ok.

  3. From what I’ve heard about how Sons goes off the rails in later seasons (I am through season two at this point), it may be better to just binge it and get it over with. 🙂

    On a serious note, I understand about the reading rut. There are times when I have the desire to read but nothing really sparks my reading interest. I can have a huge pile of books that were appealing at the library but languish once I get them home or just don’t grab me that way I hoped they would.

  4. Definitely separate “reading” from “obligation”. You don’t have to review every book! Only review the books that you feel strongly about, or that you have a clear angle on… that, and either putting the phone away, or disabling all your social media apps, work for me.

  5. I know what you are talking about and there are times when I feel the same.. My goto idea for breaking the rut is to reread a book that I love… I generally go back to the Harry Potter series or The Lord of the Ring series so that I get in the habit of reading again.. That makes the transition easy to start reading new books again…

    1. That is my solution as well, go and reread an old favourite or ten…comfort reading. No obligation, no deadlines, no reviews. I go to book club without having read anything new and just say I opted out this month. Right now my comfort reading to keep me glued to my seat, and not popping up like a jackrabbit to do this and that because I can’t seem to relax into whatever it is I am trying to read, is fan fiction. I seem to find myself reading that every spring into early summer. if It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium…well in my case, If Its Spring, Its Time For Fanfiction.

  6. I will second suggestions about re-reading a book you love (which is what I did in March, when I was going through a similar thing) and ditching the obligation to reviewing every book you read. But for me, when I am in a reading rut, it’s usually because I haven’t been inspired by any books. I’d suggest looking at a list like Millions’ Second Half 2017 Preview and pick out some stuff that sounds interesting, then give one of them a shot. http://www.themillions.com/2017/07/anticipated-great-second-half-2017-book-preview.html

    Good luck! And relax: the itch always comes back 🙂

  7. Please don’t stop…I love your blog, and the reading habits of a lifetime will swing back to you. My advice? (1) Relax, and if a book isn’t doing it for you, give it away. That will restore your need for the beautifully crafted sentence, and the wonderful read. (2) Do no.4 but if possible at a time when you can just read on if you want to. Or if you get hooked at the taco shop, carry on at night, because it’s become more alluring than TV. To write as insightfully and well as you do takes a great deal of effort (See Terrible Mind:Chuck Wendig’s latest blog on writer’s block ‘So, You’re having a bad writing day’…not quite the same as reviewing but you will relate – and laugh!). Don’t underestimate the importance or undervalue the worth of what you do…it’s great, and difficult.

  8. I go through spells like that, where the books just sit and sit and sit. Im too busy, or preoccupied, or something. And then one day I sit down and start reading again.

    I’ve learned not to fret over it, it’s a cyclical thing sometimes, and when it does come back I have often as many as three books going at once. and of course one for the purse. It’s like writing poetry. You hit a wall, and the words are on the other side. Best to just let it be and let the books/words find you.

  9. Maybe you need a change in authors, or genres….I do that when I get into a slump. And I am always reading, got my Kindle with me always …

  10. I don’t think you need to worry. It’s okay if you’re reading a little less sometimes. You’ll get back into it eventually. If you do need help, then #4 sounds like a good option.

    And if you take the train everyday, you should read then. I always loved the train for that and it pains me that I have to go to work by car these days. The train used to be my best time for reading, as there are very few distractions. You could even combine reading with listening to music, so that’s not really an excuse 🙂

  11. It happens. Sometimes the fields must lie fallow.

    I get in a rut when I have too much “assigned” reading. If you NEED to be around books (and I do understand this need) maybe go to a bookstore or library and just sit and listen to the story calling to you.

    If that doesn’t work, see what’s behind Door #6. 😀

  12. Definitely finish SOA… but don’t give up the blog! You may read a book/week, but that doesn’t mean they are all worthy of an in-depth review. Maybe you do one or two/month on ‘review worthy’ books and then add a short list of any reading that you did that you didn’t feel was worth the time. As for #2, I often read a book and then wish you would write a review for it!

  13. Sucks about the reading rut. I feel if you have to schedule it, it is no longer enjoyable. I do like the idea of a friend assigning you a book to read. Amazing Grace by Leslie Crew was fabulous. Other ideas Those Girls, Chevy Stevens; The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean Penziwol; The Postman’s Fiancee by Denis Theriault was odd. And I just realized I have suggested all Canadian authors. Maybe you just need to re-read an old favourite series, and finish Sons of Anarchy.

  14. Cover your ears when Despacito comes on, keep the tacos, join a book club, dump the SOA (don’t want to do that? The blond guy with the nice ass (so my wife tells me) dies at the end after going on a killing spree), write something you are proud (not on the blog, not on the internet, just the blank page and you), never check your phone at night, go one day out of the week without internet and TV, and yeah, keep the blog

  15. I’m currently going through a mini-bout of this, it’s not as full blown as it has been in the past, and I really don’t know if there is a cure for it as such. I get in to blogging slumps as well, where I’m reading a lot but feel uninspired to write reviews (which is why mine are so far behind and I can’t remember half of what I wanted to say in the review… which is really why I should make review notes… I digress). I’ve found it helps to roll with it – binge your TV shows and get it out of your system so the desire to read comes back, that or pick up something you are 99% sure you’re going to get lost in. Do a reread, or pick up something fluffy, I’ve found when I LOVE a book again it helps get me back in the zone. R xx

  16. Try just allowing what is, to be. You have an expectation of how something is supposed to go, aka how often/much you need to read. You, your self, might need something different right now. Maybe there is something else your brain needs to be doing and it needs a break. Its summer now (at least here in Michigan) so maybe you are being called to be outside more and connect to nature. Perhaps even planning a picnic like thing where you bring a book just in case you find that nature inspires you to read. But take your focus off it for now and allow what is happening to happen.

  17. I had a similar problem when I started at University. I study English Literature so I was reading my books for the course but found it really hard to read anything else. One thing I did was read some non-fiction books. I had never really read non-fiction before but it made a change from the fiction I was reading for my course. Also, whenever I fall into a reading slump I always try and read for at least half an hour in bed before I go to sleep no matter how bad it is. This works for me because I can’t sleep straight after being on a device or watching TV so I sort of trick myself into thinking I’m not reading in order to read but to allow myself to sleep (if that makes sense)! My last method is choosing to read a book I really love and know I can finish in a couple of hours, in my case The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This gives me a sense of achievement because I’ve finished a book even in a slump and often reminds me why I love reading (especially if the slump has occured because I read a few too many ‘meh’ book recently!) Anyway, I hope some of this might help and that your reading slump ends soon. All the best.

  18. THESE COMMENTS ARE AMAZING. Thank you all so much!! So many great ideas here; I already feel my rut dissipating.

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