What if Your Need to Read Changes?

I don’t mean to alarm you, but my reading mojo is gone. Well…not gone, exactly, but it’s changed. And changed drastically.

The theme of my life lately has been, “Sleep? What’s sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Between a busy work season, graduate school, and a number of other projects, my reading has taken a hit. Not just in how much I’m reading – I’m trying to keep the pages turning at least – but in WHAT I’m reading.

And here’s where my dilemma comes in.

Even though it’s very pretentious of me, I tend to think more highly of the books I read that are literary fiction or memoir or standard nonfiction. The YA, the humor, the fantasy stuff are the desserts between courses, palate cleansers between books that challenge me or depress me or force me outside my comfort zone. The literary fiction has always been the reason I read. I like to be not only entertained but provoked into using my brain, exploring old ideas and fostering new ones.

Or rather I liked that about my reading. Past tense.

Now, my everyday life challenges me and shoves me around and makes me use my acumen so much that I have little brainpower left to devote to the volume on my bedside table.

For example, I’ve just started reading the new novel by Elliot Perlman, The Street Sweeper, and for the life of me, I cannot get through it. It’s not at all a reflection on the book – I adore everything Perlman’s ever written, and I can tell, intellectually speaking, that the book is well-written and engaging. But I just cannot read it. My attention wanders, or I start to doze, and the next thing I know, it’s been three weeks, and I’ve only read 100 pages.

I’ve tried other similarly literary books – The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak and The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata – to absolutely no avail. These are books I’ve been dying to read, but I cannot will myself to read past the first chapter. All I want instead is something I can easily escape into, like The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson or Spoiled by the Fug Girls.

The only explanation I can come up with is that my “Need to Read” has shifted. My problem is this: I want to change it back, but only a little bit. I’m kind of okay with reading things that – with no offense intended to anyone – don’t require a whole lot of effort. I do want my mojo back for the heavy literary tomes, but is it okay, for now, to take a break? For my own sanity?