How to Choose Your Next Read when You’re Sick

Being sick, particularly when you really don’t have the time or money to afford it, is the worst. I was silent for three whole days this weekend, out of a case of laryngitis + cold that made me sound like a deflating balloon at first, and then took my voice away altogether. Call me self-absorbed, but it turns out I rather enjoy hearing my own voice a couple of times a day.

Being sick, however, has a silver lining: it leaves you with tons of time to read. There is, of course, the not so minor issue of deciding on the right book for your current circumstances. Just like you need specific food and beverages to ward off a cold, you also need the right story, the right format and so on. Here are my tips for choosing the perfect sickness read.

1. Think of exactly what you’d like to be doing right now, then pick up a book where people are doing just that. For me, I wanted to speak. So I turned to stories featuring very opinionated protagonists, who didn’t give a shit if someone didn’t want to hear what they had to say. Detective stories tend to hit that note for me. It also serves as a reminder that, oh hey, being opinionated didn’t turn out all that well for Inspector Evans!

2. Find the literary equivalent of comfort food. I wasn’t in the mood for my go-to comfort genre this time, so I turned to Dorothy Parker’s short stories. Lively, engaging and easy to finish (also a must, as I was sleeping half the day).

3. Look for a universe that’ll suck you right in. Remember that episode of FRIENDS where Chandler bets that he can last a whole week without making fun of the gang? He could have easily won if he’d picked up a copy of, say, a gory horror series. It’s not so fun to poke fun at your friends when you’re curled up under a blanket after triple-checking your locks and holy shit what is that creaky sound under the bed????

4. Dive into that book that’s been glaring at you from the top of your TBR pile for the past eighteen months. I’ve been postponing The Sound and the Fury for four months (the results of wanting to read something primarily for work, I guess) and these few days finally gave me the kick in the ass – or the sheer boredom– to dive in. I can’t say that I’m hooked, but I’m almost halfway through.

5. Reread an old favorite. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for new content. Your head hurts, you feel half blind out of refusing to use glasses while on your ereader, you’re restless and cranky and therefore afraid that you won’t give this new book a fair shot. Why not go to a trusted old friend? Whether it’s N.K. Jemisin or Tolstoy, the point is settling in with something you know will make you feel better.

6. Put the book down. Sometimes you just won’t be in the mood to read, period. Beating yourself up over it or trying to force it will likely only make you feel worse and drive you to question your status as a reader. Catch a movie, a nap or binge-watch all of Luther. Even if you’re half high on meds and unable to follow the plot, Idris Elba is still Idris Elba, and therefore, a suitable cure for all that ails you.

Do you have reading go-to’s when you’re sick?

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