The 5 Chapters of a Book Slump
When Mel Burke isn’t singing ’80s love songs to her dog, she writes about books, food, dating, travel, and the constantly weird adventure that is living in California. Follow her on Twitter @melreadscomics.
You’ve heard your friends and #Bookstagram folk talking about being in a “book slump,” but maybe you can’t relate. Maybe you’re one of those charmed readers who goes about their lives loving every book they pick up and never feeling restless or unsatisfied. That may be fine for now, but trust me, “sweet summer child,” your book slump is coming. Don’t worry. The first step to getting through it, is knowing what to expect.
Most bookworms know that the dreaded book slump begins when you’ve finished a book that you truly love. You turn the last page, close the back cover, clutch the book tightly to your chest, and stare at the wall. We all need a moment before saying goodbye. It’s okay. It’s normal. It’s expected. It sucks. You think you’ll be alright once this moment passes, you’ll move on, find “some-book new”—an altruistic notion only further aggravated by the next stage of a book slump.
The Grand Entrance
Upon re-emerging from your fictional realm—or “alternative location,” should your preferences lean toward non-fiction—the world in front of you may all of sudden be too real. Noises are overwhelmingly loud, colors are so bright you can taste them, and you can just forget about trying to smell anything without also feeling it in your soul. You’ll fly on a bit of a sensory high for a while, fueled by the brilliant creative work you’ve consumed and energized by the tactile world at your fingertips. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t last for long.
This is the part they warn you about—the slow, agonizing descent into a creative void. You remember how it felt to be with your last book, how perfect and full and engaging it was. You are worried you may never again love a work the way you loved your last one. And as much as you’d love to grab Time by the hand and drag it backwards, there is no returning to the first read-through of a book. You know this, and yet you can’t seem to bring yourself to pick up anything else. You hope that if you just stay here, snuggled into yet another re-watch of The Office, the next book to capture your heart will just come along.
Okay. You’ve had enough. You can’t wait any longer, and Michael Scott stopped being funny three seasons ago. You take action. You go to the library, the bookstore (the good one), and the other bookstore (less great, but you’re desperate). You rifle through the magazine rack at the coffee shop in your neighborhood. You scroll through your GoodReads feed like a creature possessed. You just start picking up books and reading them. Sure, you might only make it a few chapters into each before ditching them like an embarrassingly bad first date, but you keep trying. There has to be a book out there for you. There has to be.
The Next Great Love
And then it happens, right when you least expect it. Maybe you absently pick up what your friend is reading at their house and flip to a random page—just out of curiosity. Or maybe you read the blurb on the back of someone’s book on the bus. Whatever it is, wherever it is, you can feel the world slow around you. Things get quiet. You’re lost in a new place and time, with a new cast to follow. You’ve done it. You’ve found your next book and you are in love. You know these things are fleeting, and soon you’ll be saying farewell, but for now, just reading is enough.