Toolkit of the Trade: When You Don’t Feel Like Reading

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014

Occasionally I’ll find myself in a reading slump. I’m not interesting in picking anything up, and when I do, I just don’t enjoy it. I doubt I’m the only one who goes through phases of not wanting to read anything, so I thought I’d devote a “tools of the trade” post to some of the strategies I use to rediscover my love of reading. Multiple strategies: therefore toolkit, rather than tool.

1. Tried and True: reread old favorites. For me, this is usually Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night. No matter how bland or just plain awful the last ten books I’ve read, whenever I pick this book up I am struck again by the beauty of her writing and the depth of her characters. Gaudy Night reminds me of why I love to read, and how rewarding it can be to get your teeth into a really great book. Read the book that made you fall in love with reading, or the book you loved most as a child. Pick up your favorite author and settle in for a long visit with an old friend.

2. And Now For Something Completely Different: try something new. This can backfire if you end up picking something completely random and hate it. So try something new, but check out reviews or get a personal recommendation from someone you trust. Switch genres, try non-fiction, check out children’s/YA lit, finally get to that book your spouse or best friend has been trying to get you to read for years but it just “wasn’t your style”.

3. Know Thyself: grab a book on a subject you’re already passionate about. This is sort of a compromise between the first two strategies. Read about some of your other hobbies, or get a beginner’s book to something you’ve always wanted to try. In my case, this is usually travel related. I love travel memoirs, accounts of historical journeys, and straight-up guide books. I can almost guarantee you that whatever you love, there will be a ton of books about it: cooking, gardening, knitting, travel, sailing, hiking, politics, etc.

4. Watch It! (Or, The Book Was Better.) Watching a movie adaptation of a book I’ve loved will almost always get me fired up about rereading the book or series. It doesn’t even matter if the adaptation is good or not. “Ugh, that was horrible! I’m going to read the book right now to erase it from my mind!” or “Wow, that was so great! I can’t wait to reread the book!”

5. Just Do(n’t) It: embrace it. If you don’t feel like reading…don’t. Nobody’s going to make you. Everything in life has ups and downs, and I’ve found that reading is no different. Take some time to just relax, catch up on house projects, pursue other hobbies (like sleeping, for those of you with small children), phone a friend, whatever you do feel like doing. Eventually, you’ll start to be interested in reading again, and pretty soon you won’t be able to tear yourself away from the book in order to do such unimportant things as eating or sleeping.

So, those are some of the strategies I take when I’m going through a reading slump. What do you do when you don’t feel like reading?