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Books That Got Me Out of My Reading Slump

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

I’m in a reading slump. A major one. I’m either too tired, too busy, or just not interested in reading lately — which is practically anathema to who I am. You know it’s bad when you go to your local bookstore and sadly mope around all the shelves, perusing the new release table, and pick up book after book after book, and then put them all back down again. I’m not sure what, exactly, is going on. So I thought I’d look at my own bookshelves at home, to rekindle my love of reading.

Here are some books that I read to kick-start that reading spark:

cover_bad_feministBluets by Maggie Nelson. This book of prose-poetry was one of the first poetry books I really fell in love with. I first picked it up in grad school, a few years ago, and Nelson’s cerebral musings pulled me in, and her writing washed over me. To this day, anything Maggie Nelson, but especially Bluets, reminds me how lovely the written word can be.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. This collection of essays made me laugh, brought me to tears, and angered me, all at the same time. Every time I pick it up, I notice something I hadn’t thought about before, or more questions arise. That’s the hallmark of a great book (for me, anyway).

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. One of my all-time, can do no wrong favorites. Lee’s writing is nearly flawless, the fact that the South is practically a character in itself, and Scout’s persona all remind me why I love reading and what a wonderful book can do.

lit mary karrLit by Mary Karr. Really, any of Karr’s memoirs (or even her latest, The Art of Memoir) are all spectacular. Her writing is acerbic, blunt, and she pulls no punches. Having seen her talk in person, reading her is like sitting down and talking with her, and by the end of the book, you basically want her to be your best friend. Seriously. Or maybe that’s just me.

Howl and Other Poems, by Allen Ginsberg. I’m not a poet (unless you count the angsty poetry teen me wrote). But Ginsberg’s way with words just slays me, every. single. time. The language is fabulous, the imagery is like nothing else, and it always inspires me with new ideas.

What are some go-to books that reignite your passion for reading when you’re stuck?