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Is it Possible to Read Too Much?

Kim Ukura

Staff Writer

Kim Ukura is a book lover, recovering journalist, library advocate, cat mom, and lover of a good gin cocktail. In addition to co-hosting Book Riot’s nonfiction podcast, For Real, and co-editing Book Riot’s nonfiction newsletter, True Story, Kim spends her days working in communications at a county library system in the Twin Cities area. Kim has a BA in English and journalism from a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, and a master’s in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When not getting to bed before 10 p.m., Kim loves to read nonfiction, do needlework projects, drink tea, and watch the Great British Baking Show. Instagram: @kimthedork Twitter: @kimthedork

I have a working theory that my brain is only physically capable of reading a certain number of books over a given period of time.

I’ve had a moment every year for the last four or five years where I just get tired of reading. I go through a series of wonderful books, I’ve got some momentum going and then, poof, my interest in picking up another book just vanishes.

In 2012, that month was November, when I only managed to read three books total (my average is more like 8 to 10 per month). This year, I suspect that month will be September — so far I’ve only finished two books, and don’t look to be making much progress on any more.

Although this period can feel like a reading slump — Jeannette has artfully illustrated what this is like — I tend to think of it differently. For me, it feels like there is some sort of switch in my brain that turns to OFF once I’ve consumed a certain number of words, keeping me from reading more. No matter how many books I pick up or how excited I am to read, I can’t see to make my brain focus long enough to finish one for a few of weeks. And then, just as quickly, the slow down ends and I can read like a madwoman again.

My (working, ridiculous) theory is that it must be some type of biological safety valve that keeps me from taxing my brain too much, forcing me to put books aside in favor of lesser forms of entertainment like old episodes of New Girl until my neurons have recovered enough to start reading again. Or maybe I just get tired. Who knows. I’m not a scientist.

Unlike a slump, which is unwanted and unneeded, a slow down is a necessary, forced break. It’s a time to do some mental spring cleaning (regardless of the season) and get my reading life back in order — clear off some shelves, donate several bags of unwanted books, organize my holds list at the library. I don’t like being in this period, but I’ve come to accept that it’s strangely necessary for my mental health.

Do you think it’s possible to read too much?

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