The Cure-All for Reading Woes

I’ve been in a reading slump, y’all. It’s a perilous, disastrous reading slump that not only means I haven’t read anything, but that everything I do read is tainted by the slump. I’m grumpy and none of the books I read are good enough. I’m sure you’ve been there: you can tell as you’re reading that this is something that on any other day you would love, but today it just isn’t doing it for you. 1Q84 has been defeated by the slump (and, perhaps, by its great heft); Flannery O’Connor and Monsters in America, just to name a few, sit unfinished on my shelves, waiting for brighter days. And now, I had high hopes that Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell would be stronger than this slump, but 40 or so pages in, I’m not so sure.

When I asked for your comfort reads, it was an effort to find a book I could fall in love with and break through these reading woes, but I haven’t found quite the right book yet. But if you ask me, that’s because I keep trying to read the same book over and over again. As different as those books I listed above are, they’re similar in the sense that they’re not easy reads. They’re hefty narratives that require a lot of attention, and clearly I just don’t have the attention span for that right now. So I think I need to change it up.

When you’re in a slump like this, I find that the best cure is to turn in the completely opposite direction. Reading lots of adult lit? Turn to YA for something fast-paced and character-driven (some advice I probably should take myself!). Bored with traditional narrative? For goodness’ sake, pick up a comic. You know you’ve been meaning to do it for forever and now is your chance. I find that when I’m having trouble finishing a book or getting anywhere near finishing a book, reading graphic novels is a way to feel accomplished and soak up some amazing literature. Why not combine the two? Read a YA graphic novel like Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol or Mercury by Hope Larson. But neither of these tactics is saving me this time around – no, I’ve turned to something else.

I’ve been reading poetry. I’ve always loved poetry, but it’s not something I constantly have on hand. Now, with novels simply not interesting me, poetry has been the only thing I’ve been able to read with any kind of enjoyment. It’s like a perfect nugget of writing with each word so carefully chosen. You can pick up a poem and read it in no time flat. Everything that is frustrating me about novels right now is everything poetry is not, so this has been the cure to my reading woes. I’ve found myself finding poems that I just want to read over and over again, curling up inside them like they’re a comforting blanket, like Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Last August Hours Before the Year 2000.”

So next time you find yourself in a reading slump, change things up. Whether you need to pick up a romance or a mystery, a Booker winner, an old favorite or something completely new, there is a cure to the reading blues. For me, this time around, it was poetry. Maybe next time it will be comics or fantasy or nonfiction, but do something different and you’ll find yourself falling back in love with reading.

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