The (Not So Brief) History of My Reading Slump

Some people say not to force books on yourself. Some people say just to switch books like you switch jeans and keep it up until you can’t unbutton it. Occasionally, one must get flippant with a book and pursue the book like an already broken-hearted woman.  A book must be wooed they say, it must be picked specifically off the shelf and breathed-in.

But some books don’t want to be chosen.

Tinder Meme @ Quick Meme

Tinder Meme @ Quick Meme

Some books just want to sit upright on the shelf, hugged-up between others of their kind like hallway high school kids. Some books come at the wrong time and expect the relationship to work.  But the characters, the characters are drowning in the reader’s boredom.  Or the book is just too long and it seems endless.  Or it’s being read on one of those new-fangled electronic books and the readers finger is tired of swiping left after all that time on Tinder and only a few stolen night minutes on the Kindle App.  Those readers argue “at least Tinder peaks,” when it takes this book I’ve been scanning a solid thirty pages just to set-up the character’s useless boyfriend.

I’ve read recommendations from bookists at Book Riot.  The problem is that I just can’t read the same book twice.  There are too many books in the world for me to eat the same salad everyday.  I’ve tried the library because at least then I have a time limit.  Last night, instead of reading my Joyce Carol Oates book, I looked at random readers on Instagram and fantasized about eating a donut.

Maybe I can’t read because I’ve been eating sugar snap peas for days.

I doubt it.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

In my last reading funk, finally, I read The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht and pushed through it like I was in combat.   That book was all folktale and family ties.  It was an adult fairytale of fiction, and I read it because frankly, I was confused. I wanted to know what the heck was happening in the multiple story lines so I read on until the myth became realized and I was stuck between adoration and jealousy that I hadn’t written the book and Tea Obreht is so young with a work of miracle under her belt.  (If anyone has any really confusing but worthwhile recommendations in the literary genre, maybe I could try those)

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.24.23 PMThis one is less combat and more just sadness.  I’m cramming books into my mouth like they’re chocolate chip cookies.  And I read hard for a few days, I rise and shine to the words, but seven chapters in, I’m leaving it under the bed or moving it back to the TBR shelf  because there’s another option just three down in the pile, and surely it will make me finish.  Someone needs to hold me accountable.  I need a reading coach.  And I need that coach to act like the man on Maury who takes children to jail and “scares them straight.”  Instead of push-ups, pages.  Instead of muscles, mounted plot diagrams.  Instead of squats, sentences.

Me distracting my boyfriend.

Me distracting my boyfriend.

Usually I’m up for a challenge, I work better under pressure.  This, though, this, slump of all slumps has been a few months long.  I even spent a day at a coffee shop with my boyfriend where he obsessively read Lord of the Rings to the point of laughing out loud and I sat there listening to the circle of old men across the walk from us.  It got so bad at one point that I was writing a blog of his Lord of the Rings translations (they are pretty funny so I will probably post it when he reads me more of them).  The group of grays were discussing war and women, the building blocks of old man-ness.  Instead of just letting Beej read, I interrupted him to tell him their stories.  I poked and prodded.  I interrupted his reading to force the slump his way.  Maybe it’s like a horror movie demon, you can force it off onto someone else.  (This is just pure lazy).

I hoped maybe it would rub off, but the stuckness of it is strong.

Swamplandia by Karen Russel

Swamplandia by Karen Russell

I can’t even ask for recommendations because they would just end up on the TBR under the 217 pages read of Swamplandia and the first two essays in Love and Other Ways of Dying.  I’ve been with four Cormac McCarthy books in seven days.  I’ve even highlighted lines and let them shift just under the pillow so that I don’t have to look at them anymore.

One can’t just look a book in the cover when she’s about to throw it away on some new release.

Those books left willy nilly in piles around the house.  Those books that are slightly crooked from their recent placement on the shelf.  Don’t even get started with the TBR pile that has become a Walmart bookshelf.  I keep it close to the bed just so I can grab the next, but lately, it’s just been a bite of each.

Image from HYPERBOLE AND A HALF which is AWESOME

Image from HYPERBOLE AND A HALF which is AWESOME

I can’t have my cake and eat it too.  I can’t even get to the icing.

All these left out characters.  All these unread words.

I’m beginning to think it won’t ever end.  It’s a Stephen King novel of slumpness.  A Moby Dick of slacking.  A Canterbury Tales of excuses.  A Wuthering Heights of book break-ups.  It’s a Hemingway ending. A Les Mis of cold hard truths.

I’ll try anything. I need saving.  This is my SOS.

SAVE OUR SOULS (Mine and all those characters that are only getting a short flirt and not a full on fling).

24 thoughts on “The (Not So Brief) History of My Reading Slump

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Have you tried Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader? It’s short, funny and all about the Queen becoming a book addict. Delicious, just right for those slumpy periods.

  2. Viv says:

    My to-be-read pile is like a cross between the leaning tower of Pisa and the great wall of China. I had the joy of finding 2nd hand a Brother Cadfael book I’d either never read before or had read 30 years ago and so don’t remember. But that’s terribly short and I could finish in a day.
    I’m mostly reading non-fiction this year, lots of Jung and similar, so I need brain candy for fiction. That’s my excuse.

    • Cassie says:

      I love finding excellent books or books you’ve been dying to read second hand. I also love that you read fiction as a treat to the other reads. :) maybe that’s what I need to do. Break it up a little. I bought three short story collections today so I’m hoping they help.

  3. Bea says:

    I just loved how you filled us all in on your reading slump. All of your words just jumped off the page. It was so well written and funny too. I wish I could be the one to throw you a lifeline, but from my end it looks like you will have to fight yourself out of this slump. Besides, you just love an old bookshop, one with used books, or a trip to the floor of B&N surrounded by books, and this slump will give you a reason to chase down something wonderful.

  4. cricketmuse says:

    I have toned my TBR pile to three library books. They send nice little email reminders about a book being due in two days, which means a)if I’m reading it, I need to get on with finishing it or B)renew it C) commit to reading it.
    I recently read The Trouble with the Truth. An unexpected delight I finished in a day. The backstory of how it got published is as delightful as the story.

    • Cassie says:

      I will have to look at that. I love the word delightful so it sounds perfect. I just spend too much times in bookstores to only use the library

      • cricketmuse says:

        I tend to read books only once, unless I teach them, so I rarely buy them. I adore libraries, especially our local one, so I couldn’t imagine not keeping them in business.;)

      • Cassie says:

        I have library books right now and I always go! I just also buy way too many. I think the amount of TBR is overwhelming, haha.

  5. Fiona says:

    I read non fiction during slumps, or Dostoevsky.

    Sometimes having a large TBR makes it worse. I go through paranoia that all my books are rubbish and that I’ll never want to read any of them! Once during a slump I got into such a tiz I decided at about two in the morning to rearrange my bookshelf. Get all the books out and put them all back again. It helps.

    • Cassie says:

      I think it is overwhelming! I look at all the books I could be reading, not sure if any of them are good and then I have too many choices. It’s a mess! An absolute mess! Maybe I will try the rearrangement. It might help my inner organizer READ A DANG BOOK.

  6. lifeofafemalebibliophile says:

    I loved this post! You had me laughing out loud, from the line “Occasionally, one must get flippant with a book and pursue the book like an already broken-hearted woman”, to the very end. Reading slumps are the worst and I agree that it feels that sometimes we are forced to like a book. It can be a difficult process. I also don’t re-read a book unless its a necessity, because my TBR is way out of control. Sometimes I’ll walk away from the few books I’m reading then come back, or if I can’t enjoy it I’ll put it away for later, or I absolutely dislike it I’ll give it away. I hope you get out of your reading slump, May the force be with you. :)

    • Cassie says:

      Ahhhh! If the force is with me then I must get out of it. I think I got THE SLUMP UNDO book yesterday at “The Country Bookshop.” It’s a collection of short stories about my age women. Usually short story collections are good for my slumps because I can read one before bed and then I won’t feel done so I will read another and before you know it you’ve finished a whole short story collection. So, of course, I bought three. Haha. Ahhhh the life of a reader.

      I almost with I could re read books because there are books that I’ve loved, but I just can’t do it. I remember everything immediately as soon as I start reading.

  7. Magpie says:

    You are the only one who can write about something like this and make it so enjoyable.

    I don’t even know what to tell you because I have the same problem. I have books binges where I can’t stop reading and then I have moments like these and no book satisfies me. I’m just going to stop trying for a few days, I won’t even touch a book, then I’ll pick up a new one. I think if you can’t get into a book within the first 50 pages you need to move on. That book is a lost cause. Although, I think to be fair, every book should be given a second chance after awhile because our views can change over time and maybe that’s what needs to happen.

    I hope this helps. Keep reading! Take care :)

    • Cassie says:

      I believe books, like relationships, are all about timing and when you come to it (like at what point in your life). I’ve only had one book that I knew I would never ever like and I actually threw it out and then felt terrible and got it out and recycled it. I totally agree with you that they deserve second chances later and I’m SO GLAD I’m not the only one. Ah! It is so frustrating. I am going to just “keep swimming” and hope for the best. Let me know if you’ve read anything awesome lately!

  8. The Found Girl says:

    I get this major reading slump in summer and I can’t read when I’m on holiday to save my life. But when I hit a random slump I usually read one of my favourite authors, like Sherman Alexie or Terry Pratchett. They’re so funny and challenging that they do the trick and pump me right up. Books are definitely all about timing, so don’t feel bad about re-shelving them. Their day will come. In the meantime, just have fun any way you can ;)

    • Cassie says:

      I am halfway through a short story collection that I started yesterday. I think it actually helped to put into words how my slump felt. I LOVE Sherman Alexie. You are so right! And I am reading like stuff to teach my students and random articles and my students writing, I just can’t seem to finish a dang book! Ah!

      • The Found Girl says:

        Ah tell me about it, some days i just can’t be bothered to fire up my ereader. I read and write so much at work that i want to be free of and all words when it’s time to go home. Did you tell your students about Alexie?

      • Cassie says:

        I totally understand and I think that’s exactly how my slump starts. I actually avoid reading for fun by doing more work for work. And then I have to take a break right after work and just watch really terrible reality television.

        I did! My ninth graders read excerpts from his book and his article “Superman” about his learning that reading was an escape. My creative writing kids read and write poems inspired by “White Girl at the Powwow” one of my favorite poems by Alexie. And my American Lit kids read “Pachyderm” in their American Dream unit because I think it does a good job with discussing what an American Dream is and how I can or cannot be realized. I really love his writing, short fiction, YA and poetry. If you haven’t read those, please please do!

  9. Claire 'Word by Word' says:

    You go back to poetry…

    When I’m in a slump, I take it down a literary peg or two and read some Margarita Engle or books that seem like they might be of a lighter note, most recently when I had the flu I read Antoin Laurain’s The Red Notebook and I know his book The Presdient’s Hat will be in the same vein, but I’ll leave that unread until the next slump.

    So glad to see you loved Brown Girl Dreaming, that’s a perfect volume to transition with and knowing you, I would have to say that poetry is your balm, you need a pile of books known to get one through the slump – and to acknowledge that sometimes we need to just rest.

    • Cassie says:

      I always have to read short stories or poetry to get out of a slump. Sometimes YA. You’re right about the light reads. Sometimes readers just need a pause to make sure the next few books are pleasurable.

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