I seem to be well out of the reading slump that plagued me last fall, trucking right along, powering through book after book. Once again, I can read on the bus, and in bed, and on the couch while “The Crown” murmurs in the background. (OK, that’s a lie. I always give “The Crown” my full attention.)
But for a while it was a long dry spell.
These slumps hit us all from time to time, and it was helpful to ask how you all get through those days and weeks when nothing seems worth reading.
Bart Berlin wrote from Arizona, noting that after he retired he went almost a year without reading any books. This was unusual for him. “I forced myself to restart mainly by blocking out time,” he wrote. “I had also visited a friend who was using his retirement to reread his extensive library. My mentor in keeping retirement from being brain-drained!”
Reader Valaire Riese of Chanhassen finds reading slumps annoying. She waits them out by immersing herself in Scrabble, solitaire or jigsaw puzzles. “I am always disheartened when these slumps occur because there are so many books I want to read and not nearly enough time each day to do so,” she said.
Reader Suzy Hilliard had a whole bunch of solutions, all good ones. Let’s bullet-point them:
• Read with a buddy. “I have a friend with whom I occasionally do a buddy read and then we talk about our thoughts,” she wrote. “Sort of an ad hoc book club of two.”
• Podcasts. “My favorites that could provide motivation to read specific books are: Slate Culture Gabfest, Slate Audio Book Club (even if the hosts’ voices drive me crazy!), the New Yorker’s ‘The Writer’s Voice’ — something new they are doing where the authors of each week’s short stories read their work, BBC: World Book Club, and Radiolab,” she wrote.
• Minneapolis Institute of Art “Inspired by Books” program. “Each month the MIA has a book and gives docent-led tours to connect art to the books and stimulate discussion. I’ve been going to this for four years and love it. I have read books that I would not otherwise have selected that have become favorites.”
Lisa Schwartz, though, thinks slumps have their place. “I think of it as akin to cleansing the palate,” she wrote. “A break from reading makes a book that much more delicious when you start reading again.”
And it is certainly true that after finishing a really good book it’s hard to plunge into the next book. Brendan Kennealy calls this a “book hangover.” “Hernan Diaz’s ‘In the Distance,’ left me hurting for days,” he wrote. “Had to lift my spirits with John Hodgman.”
Cindy Weldon of St. Paul fell into a book slump after her mother died. “I have hardly finished a book since her diagnosis,” Weldon writes. “I find my mind wanders while I read, and I definitely cannot immerse myself in any stories with difficult subject matter.
“Instead, I have turned to rereading, finding comfort in familiar stories, where there are no surprises, and little is lost if my mind happens to wander. For me this tends to be the Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny, and the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke. I trust that as time passes, my desire to explore new books will return.”
I have no doubt her desire to read will return. I think the most heartening things about all of your responses are that (a) slumps appear to be universal, and (b) we always crawl out of them somehow. Good luck. Keep the faith.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks