How To

How to Cure Reader’s Distraction

S. Zainab Williams

Executive Director, Content

S. Zainab would like to think she bleeds ink but the very idea makes her feel faint. She writes fantasy and horror, and is currently clutching a manuscript while groping in the dark. Find her on Twitter: @szainabwilliams.


Reader’s Distraction refers to an illness specifically afflicting bookish people, and is characterized by the inability to get through one book without setting it down to pick up another. This disorder typically degenerates into a vicious cycle whereby a reader never finishes a book, but is constantly purchasing new ones.

Symptoms: TBR stacks like what.

You may suffer from Reader’s Distraction if you have TBR stacks like what.


People who suffer from Reader’s Distraction usually exhibit the following symptoms:

  • TBR and TBF (to be finished) stacks that go on for days
  • Bookmarks in almost every book owned, but never placed toward the end
  • Weekly or even daily book hauls
  • The inability to refuse a book sale
  • Complete ignorance of story conclusions
  • A leaning tower of bedside books
  • Repeating book covers on social; always captioned, “Can’t wait to get into this book”


Reader’s Distraction is often caused by flightiness, an overabundance of good books in the world, and irresistible recommendations from trusted readers.

Peer Treatment Advice

Hide your library card. If, like me, you can’t be trusted to abstain from picking up new books, the library is your worst nightmare. The place is full of them! Study at the library and use their services, but if you don’t need your card to do what needs doing, leave it at home, preferably hidden in a dark corner. Or give it to a trusted friend for safe keeping. Provide her with tranquilizers for when the begging reaches a certain decibel.

Challenge yourself. Come up with a reading challenge that compels you to completion and, even better, enlist your fellow readers to participate so that you’re not alone on the struggle. Make your own hashtag. A fellow Rioter came up with #readmyowndamnbooks, a great hashtag for getting through those TBR  and TBF stacks. It’s a good option that I might take up myself, and you’re even allowed to visit the library (don’t even think about it).

Remove yourself from the book room. Whatever room you keep your books in, remove yourself from it. I have books stacked in every spare nook and cranny of my apartment, but I figure my non-distraction goals will be reason enough to get organized. If you can’t possibly get away from your books in your own household, read in the park, in a cafe, in a bar with a drink and a bowl of pretzels. The possibilities are endless, and you won’t be able to reach for a little read on the side.

Practice positive reinforcement. Reached the end of a chapter in the one book you’ve chosen to read? Go on, give yourself a cookie, or a bubble bath and a glass of wine. There’s nothing wrong with a little positive reinforcement to get you through your TBF pile, and a smack on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper if you derail.

Allow yourself an audiobook. #Readmyowndamnbooks participants are allowed to visit the library for variety, which is great if your main goal is to avoid buying new books but, as a distracted reader, that would be my downfall. Instead, I read audiobooks to spice up my reading life. I can get through an audiobook from start to finish, distraction-free (when it comes to physical books, not the road during my commute). I usually listen to audiobooks when I can’t have a physical copy in hand, so it’s my tried and true go-to for detours. You don’t have to be completely chained to your TBR. Just mostly.

Choose one book for the bedside. I know there’s little better than a colorful stack on the bedside table to keep that straying heart of yours thumping, but it’s time to get tactical. This is a targeted strike and we’re out to finish one book at a time. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to cozy up to a secret book bedfellow.


There are communities out there that exist to help you cope with Reader’s Distraction and to offer tips on focusing. Use the comments section as your starting point. How do you get through your TBR/TBF stacks distraction-free?