There is nothing more annoying to me than being in a reading rut. I get so frustrated when, no matter how many books I try, I just can’t get into anything. I end up listlessly looking through my TBR pile, whining that nothing is calling out to me. I often give up on reading and mope around in a bad mood. My friends, family, and coworkers just love when this happens . . . So they’ve given me some book suggestions and advice for how to get out of a reading slump.
Read a Short Book
Stop trying so hard. Pick up a short book, sit down, and finish it. It won’t take you that long and then you’ll have finally finished a book and can stop beating yourself up about not reading. I recently read GOODBYE, VITAMIN, a funny and inescapably moving 208-page novel about a young woman who returns home when life doesn’t pan out the way she hoped and finds that her father is losing his memory. ONE OF THE BOYS by Daniel Magariel and WHAT WE LOSE by Zinzi Clemmons are also fantastic, short books.
Ask a Friend for a Recommendation
When I was in a massive reading slump last January, Off the Shelf staffer Julianna lent me her copy of THE ANIMATORS. Slump solved! I absolutely loved this debut novel about two female filmmakers desperately trying to succeed and the burdens we all carry through coming-of-age. Friends have also successfully recommended THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold, COMMONWEALTH by Ann Patchett, and LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng.
Reread an Old Favorite
If none of the new books on your shelf are doing it for you, pick up an old favorite and fall back into a story you know you’ll love. I frequently return to Sylvia Plath’s THE BELL JAR and relive the crack-up of Esther Greenwood all over again. Other favorites I love revisiting are OH MY STARS by Lorna Landvik, A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini, and THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin.
A haunting classic that chronicles the breakdown of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under. This deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and makes us mourn Sylvia Plath’s tragic suicide at age thirty all the more.
Read Something You Normally Wouldn’t
When your go-to genres let you down, try a book you normally wouldn’t. I don’t often read fantasy, but I love THE BONE SEASON—an inventive, engrossing novel about a gifted clairvoyant in the year 2059 whose natural talents are considered treasonous under the current regime. Snatched away to a secret prison, she encounters another race, the Rephaim, creatures who wish to control the powers of Paige and those like her. To regain her freedom, Paige must learn to trust, in the prison where she is meant to die. Harry Potter fans will love this series. I also recommend THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen for anyone who wants to give fantasy a try.
Read A Guilty Pleasure Book
Shhh . . . This is my secret guilty pleasure. I’ve found John Grisham to be a pretty good reading-rut antidote. I recently borrowed CAMINO ISLAND from my dad when I was on vacation and bored of the books I packed. I was highly entertained by this novel about a popular bookseller and rare book dealer who dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts. Since I’m spilling secrets, my other guilty pleasure is Jojo Moyes.
Read a Thriller
Sometimes you just need a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat thriller to jolt you out of a reading slump. STILL MINE will definitely get—and hold—your attention. In this taut psychological thriller, Clare is on the run from her past, from her husband, and from her own secrets. When she turns up alone in a remote mining town asking about the local girl who disappeared, everyone wants to know who Clare really is and what she’s hiding. As it turns out, she’s hiding a lot. Already read STILL MINE? Try EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE by Mindy Mejia or THE PERFECT STRANGER by Megan Miranda.
In this taut psychological thriller, Clare is on the run from her past, from her husband, and from her own secrets. When she turns up alone in a remote mining town asking about the local girl who disappeared, everyone wants to know who Clare really is and what she’s hiding. As it turns out, she’s hiding a lot. But who isn’t in this town?
Read Something Funny
You guys. I almost peed my pants reading the hilarious, inappropriate emails from Jen Dixon, the kindergarten class mom at the heart of this clever debut novel about the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics. Tina Fey’s BOSSYPANTS and Sloane Crosley’s I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE are also great books for a good laugh.
Go to a Bookstore and Browse
Get out of the house and pay a visit to your local bookstore. Spend time browsing, feeling inspired, and remembering how much you actually love books. Find a book that really excites you, buy it, and start reading it immediately. I bought THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF EASE AND PLENTY when I was browsing at Book Culture a few weeks ago. An imaginative novel about a wealthy New England family in the 1960s and ’70s that suddenly loses its fortune, this book was exactly what I needed.