How a Book Lover Deals With a Reading Slump

People who know me know that I like to read. A lot. I read 158 books last year, and that was pretty average for me. This year? Not so much.

We’re exactly halfway through 2017, and so far I’ve read 40 books. Last year at this time? 104.

40 books is still a lot of books to read in a single year, let alone six months. But it’s still way below par for me. For the last five years I’ve read well over 100 books a year, once over 200.

So what happened?

I’ve been in an extended reading slump.

It started last year, and I speculated that it might be due to a few different things (playing Pokemon Go and not listening to audiobooks, running less and not listening to audiobooks, not reading to the kids consistently, etc.). Those issues have only continued this year.

Perhaps the biggest issue for me is simply not being interested in certain books this year. I’m pretty much always interested in books, but this year I’ve been incredibly picky. Usually I read a huge quantity of middle grade and YA fiction. This year? Maybe one each.

I’m just not interested in the whininess of teens (a totally untrue stereotype about the genre) or the conceits of kids’ books. Sometimes those things are perfect for me. Just not this year.

I’ve also quit a lot of books. I highly recommend quitting books you don’t like. No need to slog through something you’re not truly enjoying. So I set aside a lot of probably great books that just weren’t holding my attention. All that quitting takes time.

What I Have Liked

So if I’m being that picky, what have I found that I really like? That’s maybe the key question.

I like sci-fi. So far this year, that’s half of what I’ve read. I don’t think I’ve ever read that high a percentage of sci-fi. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
  • American War by Omar El Akkad

I’d also give high marks to the new John Scalzi, the new Binti novel from Nnedi Okorafor, the final chapter of March by John Lewis, Wesley Chu’s sci-fi work (I just wish his books weren’t so series focused—they’d be 5-star books if they had a conclusion) and the Throne series from K.B. Wagers (would also be better as a standalone). I also dug deeper into Octavia Butler’s cannon with the Xenogenesis trilogy, which was good, but not among my favorites.

What About Nonfiction

Nonfiction tends to put me in a reading slump, so I’ve been avoiding it this year. But some standouts include Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe (more for the insights than the writing), 100 Days of Trump by Jason Boyett, and the book I’m reading right now (and didn’t include in my 40-books count), Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson.

What’s Next?

I’ve been struggling with this reading slump for more than six months, and I don’t see it changing in the near future.

I’ve more or less accepted it, and I try to be intentional about picking books that are right in my wheelhouse and avoiding books I know or even suspect won’t hold my interest. That means turning away some good books.  I just have to hope I’ll come back to them someday when I’m more engaged.

It also means tracking down books I think I’ll like, and going the extra mile to make sure I have several to pick from (for every stack of books I bring home from the library, I’m only reading one or two). It’s a tough ratio, but it does enable me to find and read books I love.

That seems to be key. If I don’t love it, meh.

So even a crazy reader like me hits a reading slump. The only way through? Find books you love.

One thought on “How a Book Lover Deals With a Reading Slump”

  1. Kevin, I just finished my 40th book. Really big on reading historical fiction, especially set in Europe during ww2. Two of my favorite authors are Robert Janes, and Alan Furst. Janes did 16 books in the St. Cyr and Kohler series, and I read them all. Great series.

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