Top Five Ways To Break Your Reader's Block

Reading can be much like the process of writing - sometimes you whip through it effortlessly, inspired and carefree, and sometimes it's just labour, a labour of love perhaps, but still labour.

Occasionally, like last fall, I find that one not so great book becomes a string of really so-so ones. This makes me frustrated as I think of how many books are out there, past and present - what's wrong with me that I keep picking these stinkers? Or worse, I think that I'm experiencing some terrible lapse in judgment and that I'm no longer able to appreciate any book at all!

Here are ten methods that I employ to break out of a reading funk:
  1. Keep a reserve of sure-to-please titles: In my library at home I have the YA novel The Forest of Hands and Teethand Jane Rule's This Is Not For You. I'll crack open the former when I feel like I've been reading too many heavy books or reading a lot for work - it's got romance, it's got zombies, it's written for sixteen year olds. Basically, it's the reading equivalent of going to a Sandals resort. And sometimes, you just want a beach with endless Bahama Mamas.
  2. Keep a reserve of thought-provokers: My least favorite type of reader's block is the kind where I feel like no book can touch me. I skip through the pages, frustrated that I care neither about the characters or the plot. I long for the days when my mind would live in the pages of a particular book for days and I think, cynic that I am, that I won't ever get that back! When this happens I turn to a book, usually a backlist title, that I initially felt really attracted to when I bought it but didn't find the time to read. That's what This Is Not For You is for.
  3. Read graphic novels: This is my worst case scenario back up. Don't get me wrong, I read graphic novels for pleasure but very occasionally, and I know this is slightly shocking, I get sick of reading altogether. This is usually caused by nuclear-level stress and a subsequent brain meltdown. The idea of absorbing another plot, another set of characters, figuring out the central concept etc. etc. makes me want to take a long nap. So I pick up the bloodiest graphic novel I can find and go at it. That's how I found Uzumaki, that's how I got introduced to Guy Davis' Baker Street GN's. I usually find that by going outside of my reading comfort zone and trying a different format I get my reading mojo back.
  4. Switch to non-fiction or vice versa: I'm usually a fiction reader. Screw the real world. But too much of a good thing can blunt your appreciation of it (like eating Nutella straight out of the jar. Let me caution you, folks: put away the spoon). I am a memoir fanatic but these days most memoir reads much like fiction. Reading Methland last year was my wake up call that non-fiction could be enlightening and entertaining, that there was more to reading than Big Fiction. Make the switch.
  5. Read poetry: To break out of your reading rut you need to go outside of your comfort zone and poetry is a great (and quick) way to do that. I find poems a bit like crossword puzzles - they sharpen your thinking and may give you the perspective you need to refresh your reading routine. Try the classics - John Donne, William Wordsworth or John Keats. More contemporary suggestions are the Selected Gwendolyn Macewen (one of my personal favorites), Karen Solie's Pigeonor Melanie Siebert's new collection Deepwater Vee looks very promising. Try it, you might like it.


Heather said...

Great ideas. I usually keep a Regency era romance around for such situations. can polish it off in an evening and feel ready to tackle something more weighty the next day.

Actually, i was having nutella with my lunch today.

Diane said...

Great examples there. I find I need to mix it around a lot as you suggested!

Julie said...

Good advice! Thanks!!

B.Kienapple said...

Nutella is the best. Apparently in France it's common to eat it for breakfast all the time! Hence why I should be in Paris, not Toronto.

Callista said...

Some good ideas, but more for you. Mine would be a lot different. For example I read mostly nonfiction so reading fiction would be a break for me. I agree with reading easy stuff when needed although a vampire romance wouldn't be my choice.

Don't forget picturebooks! They're a nice break too. Or if you do want nonfiction but need something lighter, children's nonfiction is always better!


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