How to Handle a Reading Slump

Cup of coffee and yarn for knitting on plaid with books close-upReading slumps suck, and I know because I’m in one currently. When you’re a reader, books become part of your daily life and reading part of your routine. When you can’t get a book to capture your attention and are thrown out of that routine, it can feel awful.

Right now I suspect my slump is due to the fact that this is a very busy time of year for me professionally and also because the holidays tend to depress me personally. I don’t have a good reason for that–I just seem to respond to all the holiday cheer and decorations and music the exact opposite way you’re supposed to. Right now I can’t seem to sink into a book. I’m really mentally tired after work which is part of the problem. My brain is out of juice and wants a nap. When I’m blue, it’s harder to read as well because I’m not engaging emotionally–I’m apathetic.

So what do I do?

I engage in other hobbies, for one. Right now that means a LOT of knitting. I am a knitting like nobody’s business. Need cabled arm warmers in a night? I am your girl.

Knitting works for me because it relaxes my brain and doesn’t require any emotional engagement. Plus just holding warm, woolly, squishy yarn is comforting.

Stars of Fortune
A | BN | K | AB
I also listen to audio books, sometimes while I knit. Sometimes when I’m in a slump, relaxing and letting someone else tell me a story can be restorative. I’m currently listening to Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts, and it has a lovely fairytale quality to it. When I was a kid I loved being read to and my mom loved reading to me. We had a ritual around sitting in a chair in her room with the lights low and reading stories before bed. Listening to someone else tell me a story while I knit or drive or take a bath brings back those comforting memories.

I also turn to fanfiction. Fanfic comes with a pre-built story. You already know the book/tv show/movie/comic world and  the characters that inhabit it. Want a  story where Darcy bangs the entire Marvel Universe? Cool. You already know that mythos and those characters and so you can just show up for the banging. Unless I want to read a huge 500,000 word epic, there’s usually less mental work required of me when I comes to fanfic because the groundwork has already been laid in terms of world building.

Pride & Prejudice
A | BN | K | AB
I also sometimes try to reread old favorites. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice dozens of times. Rereading it is a comfort because I already know what’s going to happen. It’s a restful experience when I’m struggling to get into a new book.

Hopefully my book blues will be over soon–they usually don’t last long. How do you get over a reading slump?

Comments are Closed

  1. Colleen says:

    My book slumps usually come when I’ve overdosed on a subgenre, say Historicals, and I need to switch it up to some contemporary or erotica. I also get distracted by life swells, like the holidays with three kids, or transcontinental moves wherein everything is packed, and that can be super frustrating. That is when I go trolling through my kindle app on my phone for all those $1.99 deals I binge on from your site.
    I hope your slump ends soon Elyse!

  2. Kathrin says:

    I’m sorry your in a slump right now. For me, I usually have to sit them out while reading all-time favorites and watching YouTube videos. I haven’t found anything that really works yet, so that’s my go to.
    I have a quick question as well – where do you read fan fiction? I haven’t read any in ages and would love to, but I don’t know where to start. Do you have a great site you could share?

  3. Pippa says:

    I’m in a terrible slump too, I’ve had too much historicals. I need something that doesn’t reference the dreaded “ton” in my life stat. Help me!! I need steamy sci-fi or fantasy, I’m going camping i a few days, time is running out for me!!!

  4. Francesca says:

    I’ve been in a book slump for months. My Kindle is weighed down with books at the 15-20% mark that just don’t engage me enough to continue, not to mention a number I haven’t even opened from the gloomy conviction that it will disappoint.

    I make jewellery and binge-watch on Netflix. Also, I’ve been reading non-fiction, yaoi manga and reading and writing fanfiction.

    @Kathrin: For good fanfic recs check out – they have recommendations for pretty well any fandom you could think of.

  5. Lostshadows says:

    I had a bad slump earlier this year.

    My usual tactics are:

    Mix it up, and start trying to read stuff that’s as different as possible, whether it’s a different subgenre or a completely different genre altogether. This seems to work most of the time.

    Then I try rereading old favorites. It keeps me in the habit of reading, but isn’t as demanding as new stuff.

    If neither of those work, I just ride it out. I don’t try reading anything, but keep an eye on sales, reviews, and other places where book descriptions show up. Eventually my brain will hit one that makes it go, “I have GOT to read that!” and the slump breaks.

  6. Lostshadows says:

    @Kathrin and are both large, multifandom, fanfic archives. I usually just poke around until something catches my eye.(They both have filters to help narrow things down.)

    AO3 lets you download stories in various formats, including kindle.

  7. Kate says:

    I don’t often struggle with reading slumps. I do struggle with rapid series/subgenre burnout. If I read more than three books in a row that of a series or subgenre, I get frustrated and bored. And because I go through a book about every three days, that rapid burnout can be a real problem.

    My solution is to mix it up big time. I made a deal with myself this year that I’d read at least one nonfiction book a month and that REALLY helps. It’s a pallet cleanser. With fiction, I’ll read a historical romance, then maybe a murder mystery, then a current best seller. Totally works.

    I also listen to audiobooks and they’re usually completely different from whatever I’m reading during that time. And! If I’ve accidentally burnt myself out on a subgenre, I’ll listen to an audiobook in that genre and it usually resets my enjoyment levels. Probably because I’m engaging with it in a different way.

  8. Susan says:

    I either mix up my genre and try something I normally wouldn’t, re-read an old favorite, or read graphic novels for a while. Most graphic novels can be read in well under an hour, so you don’t have to commit much to finish one. If all of that fails, I read articles and blogs online and watch Netflix.

  9. HJ says:

    I do find that re-reading helps, especially re-reading my comfort reads: Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. I read them one after another and even when I’m not really engaging properly with books they take me back in. I also agree that audiobooks are great, especially when one is knitting or cooking.

  10. jimthered says:

    I find my most frequent reading slumps are caused by medical treatments (yes, chemotherapy sucks as much as whatever you’ve read or heard), which leave me exhausted, lacking appetite, and often nauseous for a few days. While waiting it out, in addition to lots of light TV and web-browsing, as an avid/rabid gamer I’ll read over the rules to games I haven’t played in a while. They’re things I’m already familiar with, yet still keep my mind going and help me for when I get to play them again (and may have to explain the rules to new players).

  11. Lynnd says:

    I have been in a slump for the past couple of months, and it’s a bad one – even my old favourite comfort reads aren’t working to snap me out of it. I know that this one is completely due to having to deal with too many things on my plate. I too have been knitting up a storm. I have also been listening to more non-fiction via audiobook and podcasts. I think that I have finally figured out that when my brain gets overloaded with things that are a drain on my emotions, my brain just says “no more.” Since I tend to be an immersive reader, this means that my brain just won’t engage with the story and everything I read feels flat and I have no interest in the material. I think that I have finally come to accept that I just need to not read during these periods and figure out other things to do rather than trying to force myself to read., Knitting (and crocheting) seems to be the thing that works for me right now.

  12. Stephanie says:

    My reading slumps come from feeling obliged to read a book – often a new book that I put on hold months ago and now doesn’t really suit my mood. But I feel like I should read because I have it checked out and other people are waiting on it. I also have issues with not finishing books, unless they are truly awful. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am not in school, so I should just read what I want with no guilt.

  13. Carolinareader says:

    I hate book slumps, I have books I know would be great on my Kindle and yet I have no desire to read them. I sometimes try to read something completely different, like a biography, or I end up down the Wikipedia hole.

  14. ChatEbooks says:

    I rarely have reading slumps but instead, I get burned out by the same genre. I try to mix it up once in a while by trying a different genre or even re-read some of my favorites. So far, it works for me…

  15. Heather S says:

    @Pippa: Try the Chaos Station trilogy by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke. Amazon has them on sale for $1.99, $2.99, and $3.99.

  16. Kati says:

    I comfort read, comfort read, comfort read. Sometimes what throws me into a slump is actually reading a book that knocks my socks off. It’s so good, that nothing else allows me to sink into it.

    Audiobook listening is a daily occurrence for me, as I have about an hour’s commute each direction. But I listen almost exclusively to books I’ve already read (because of the audible discount for adding audio to book you’ve already bought at Amazon).

    When I’m really desperate, I try to poll those in my trusted reader circle to see if they are reading anything stupendous. If not, I keep comfort reading until something awakens my taste for a trope or subgenre, then usually I’m off to the races.

    I wish you luck getting out of your slump. I really hate it when that happens!

  17. Jenns says:

    I just came out of a bad slump myself this year. Mine are almost always caused by one of three things: stress, burn out or reading a bad book.
    A lot of times I’ll just give myself a few days, keep reading blogs and book reviews but not committing to a book.
    Other times, I’ll try mixing things up by reading nonfiction or something else outside of the genre I’ve been reading; like mainstream fiction, if I’ve been reading nothing but romance, or contemporaries if I’ve temporarily overdosed on historicals. I’m also trying to vary the sub genres and settings I read to avoid burnout.
    This year, I found that reading anthologies and short story collections
    really got me over the months-long slump. Just enough to whet my reading appetite but not long enough to overwhelm me.
    And, when all else fails, I catch up on my TiVo, play the Sims, go for more walks – just take a break and wait for it to pass.
    snapped me out of my major

  18. Hannah says:

    Like you, I have a lot of job stress this time of year, compounded with the general pressure of the holidays. Re-reading helps me a lot. I also pull out more category romance or novellas at this time of year. It’s satisfying to finish something in a day or two.

  19. Jacqui says:

    I also find I get burned out by a particular genre or author (have read about 3 Beatriz Williams books in the last couple of weeks). I think I am heading into a reading slump now. Again, just really tired and a bit sick. I also tend to reread and then watch more TV/movies instead. I also probably buy more cheaper books at this point, trying to read at least one thing that captures my attention, yet without me spending too much money. Mostly I just get cranky.

  20. Non-fiction for me. Last month, I was in a slump and stopped reading several novels between 50-70% because I just. didn’t. care. I’m still not sure if the conflict was resolved too early, or I wasn’t invested in the characters enough, or the sun wasn’t rising at the proper angle each morning, but it was really easy to simply stop reading and pick up something else. So I read a couple non-fiction books on language and cooking. Luckily, when I dove back into fiction I found some new authors and fell in love with their stories immediately!

  21. Jazzlet says:

    I get reading slumps when I am depressed and/or in pain. If it’s just depression rereading can help because I felt the feels when I read the book the first (second, third, whatever) time so the lack of feeling you get when depressed isnt such a problem as I’m conditioned to feel what I ‘ought’ to. If I’m in pain concentration is a problem so I try to reread short stories. If things are really bad I reread favourite childrens books. In both cases reading science news works, no emotional response required and articles are short so concentration isn’t too much of a problem. I listen to factual radio too, BBC Radio Four. If none of that works I watch TV.

    Hope everybody in a slump gets out of it soon, it’s horrd having a lot of books unfinished and nothing that appeals to start because you lost interest, when you know you would enjoy them under other circumstances

  22. Cyranetta says:

    One can save fanfic from by copying the URL of the desired story onto as well.

    I tend to read across all sorts of genres, so a slump isn’t usually a problem. If, however, I need anodyne for a “life slump”, a humorist like Bill Bryson is almost like verbal Alka-Seltzer.

  23. PamG says:

    I don’t get reading slumps in the usual sense of the term, because I can’t conceive of a state of not reading something. It’s like breathing for me and crafts just stress me out.

    I did have a couple of months a few years ago when I was recovering from a broken ankle and didn’t have the attention span to read for extended periods, so I mainlined House and NCIS reruns. It didn’t bother me because I’d been told that concentration can be an issue after surgery and I expected it to get better when my ankle did.

    Emotional issues tend to drive me into books more intensely than usual, so the holidays, which depress me more every year, find me reading obsessively and enjoying it less. Genre is less a factor than mood. Depression makes me fussier, so I switch around a lot until I find something with the right emotional balance to lift my spirits. Old favorites and comfort reads help, but not if they’re all emo.

    And I NEVER feel obligated to finish a book. I invoke the Nancy Pearl rule: if not engaged by page 50, I’m done, except for readers over 50 who can subtract a page for each year past 50.

  24. Megan says:

    I HATE book slumps, or book hangovers, or really anything that throws off my reading groove. When this happens to me, I do one of four things (or a combo if necessary): 1. I re-read a favorite, because, like you said, it’s comforting. 2. I will watch TV. Now, I’m not really a TV or movie watcher because I almost always have trouble connecting with them. It’s just not mentally engaging enough. I can’t get immersed in a TV show like I would a book. But watching TV in the event of a book slump? The mindlessness of it is exactly what I want. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s something I usually don’t do, and it distracts from the reading blues. 3. I shop for new books. I am not necessarily going to buy anything or jump into a new book and Boom! crisis solved. The act of simply seeing all the potentially cool stuff that’s out there is exciting. I love falling down the Amazon or GoodReads rabbit hole. 4. I go out with friends (Ordinarily, having a social life interferes with my reading time!). I hope you find something soon!

  25. Jessie says:

    I am currently in book slump/ burn out from school, so I have been rereading my favorites and watching bad 80s action movies(they require no story line and have hunky guys. What could be better?) On a more serious note is that fanfiction about Mr. Darcy screwing everyone in the Marvel Universe real? It so, I need(!!!) the name.

  26. Mara B. says:

    @Elyse not book related but the Tin Can Knits design team is doing a 12 days of Christmas pattern giveaway where each day a different accessory pattern is free. It’s day three today which are some nice cabled mitts

  27. Lyndon says:

    When I fall into a reading slump, it is a Clue to check my vital signs. Am I feverish? Breathing?

    Seconding Collen, overdosing on a subgenre can wear out part of my brain. Fortunately there are more interesting books than I can read anyway, so this gives something else a chance.

    As to seasonal slump: My winters started being better once I started keeping reptiles (I was allergic to cute furry things for decades, but seem to have grown out of that this decade. Whew.) Holding in stories of just how cute my pets have been – one of the more transferrable reasons is that some of them needed full-spectrum vitalights. More UV rays for them meant more rays for me also – budget light therapy during dark days.

    Notable fan fiction this month is Althea Kontis writing a short OTP about two characters in one of her books that really should be together though long separated by distance – it was two characters from her first alphabet book, A and Z.

    Best wishes for a comfortable recovery so you get more good exclamation marks in your life again soon.

  28. Lostshadows says:

    @PamG: So, if you live to be 101, do you have to be engaged by the cover art or the title? (I’ve once picked up a book solely based on the title.)

  29. mel burns says:

    I’ve heard that Rosamund Pike’s narration of P&P is delicious…..

  30. Mara says:

    I usually try to read my way out of it in one of three ways: 1) pick a book from the library that I REALLY want to read so that I have a set deadline to get through it; 2) only read books I’m actually in the mood to read rather than what I “should” be reading (which is a weird head game in itself); or 3) just read short stories & novellas, since they feel more manageable than a full novel.

    If none of that works, I give up and binge on The Great British Bake Off.

  31. I had a reading slump a few weeks back and the way I got myself out of it was by watching television. I binged on Haven, Dawson’s Creek, and Chuck. The way I look at a slump is that my brain is tired of reading and I need a change. If I step away from my Kindle for long enough, I’m able to jump back into it.

  32. chacha1 says:

    For me, “reading slump” is a phrase akin to “skip dessert.” It doesn’t really happen. Probably, or maybe just possibly, because I nearly always read while the television is on (I may or may not be watching it, the hubs watches some stuff I don’t much care about). So if a given book is not intrinsically fascinating, it may still be perfectly adequate as an adjunct entertainment to The Blacklist, or whatever.

    My reading pace may slow down, but I rarely have the issue of failing to get involved with whatever I pick up to read. (I might get *irritated* with it but that is not the same thing.) I read a lot of different genres, maybe that contributes.

  33. Eirene says:

    Right now, learning/reading about JavaScript is seriously kicking my reading slump/overdose of a genre. Nothing like doing algorithmic practices to fire up those ‘i gotta read’ feels.

    It’s a win/win for me because I have to do one and enjoy the other lol.

    Oh also, anime. I’ve rewatched two long series with 90 episodes. I mostly watch shounen stuff so I usually end up wanting to read romance after.

  34. SB Sarah says:

    @Mel Burns:

    I heard a sample of it, and it was so good, I’m still thinking about it. I might have to buy it, because even the few minutes I heard were terrific.

  35. PamG says:


    I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I last until age 101, I will just reread all the books that my paranoia compels me to buy in multiple formats for the keeper shelves.

    Heavy readers of all ages used to come into the library and complain that the book they’d checked out was something they’d read but it took half the book before they could confirm it. So if you can’t remember it, it’s like new, right? Also, I won’t be disturbed by dated stories because the older I get, the less anything seems dated. Heroine styling in the 70s or 80s? I don’t care cuz I was there. After awhile it just blurs, but human nature and writing quality remain constant.

    At 101, I expect to need some species of e-reader or magnifier because I will probably need a 48 pt. font. Just thinking about how many pages I’m entitled to subtract now makes all the little hairs stand on end and quiver. Oh well, beats the alternative.

    Alternatively, I could ask Ms Pearl, because she’ll get there first.

  36. esha says:

    The main thing thats put me in a reading slump are have too many books in my TBR pile and not being able to make a decision abut which one to start for fear of not finishing/liking the book. The things that help me get out are:

    1) Reading anthologies or books with short essays, you get enough to take the edge off, but you can still put the book down without feeling like you have to finish (I can quit any time I want *scratches)

    2) Binge watching new television shows. There is no shortage of TV that remains to been seen. Most recently I binged One Punch Man, which is a ongoing Japanese anime series. It is well animated and some of the funniest satire I’ve seen in a while.

    3) Reading adapted novels which I then reward myself by watching the adaptation. I’m trying to work up the energy to read The Revenant, we’ll see.

  37. Tara says:

    I hate reading slumps! I think the Holidays can be a big culprit: so much going one. The highs, the lows. But to get over it, as many other suggested try a different genre. Non-fiction and graphic novels are great to get out of a slump. Holding a prim spot on my to-read-soon list: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.

  38. Stacy Hoff says:

    I choose to focus on a different interest, too. For me, if I don’t want to read (or write, since I’m an author) I focus on art classes that I can take after work. I still get my creative immersion, but in a different enough way that I feel like I’m getting a break. I don’t force it. If you do, the hobby becomes a “job” instead of a love.

    Here’s one book slump suggestion that might work: watching a movie of a book you love. For me, Stars Network’s “Outlander” makes me want to dive right in (again) to Diana Gabaldon’s series. For me, this works like a charm.

  39. Dagmar says:

    When I’m in a slump (see: now), I usually go for non-fiction. What also works to get me out of slump-town is watching people do something cool, like craft, sew, design, or The Great British Bake Off (the only cooking show I like). Watching people be productive makes me feel productive by association, and that good feeling of I-did-something-ness usually pulls me out and lets me reward myself with a lovely romance. Or, I actually *am* productive, which is unlikely, but also helpful.

  40. […] Smart Bitches have tips on handling a reading slump. […]

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