It was a Saturday afternoon shortly after my sixth birthday, when my mom sat me down and set me a lofty goal — to read an entire book! After much protest, I finally chose a colorful one with lots of pictures. My mom had to help me read along, and since I didn’t know all the words yet, it was a slow, laborious process. Six-year-old me did NOT think that was a fun way to spend a Saturday! But by the time I finished that book a few weeks later, I was converted. Reading was fun — who knew?
Since that day, I honestly think I’ve never been without at least one book. Which is why, the topic I’m talking about today is a particularly scary one for me — the dreaded reading rut. If you are a reader too, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s that annoying phase when no book seems to hold your attention, and you can’t even remember the last time you were engrossed in one.
Don’t worry if you’re in a reading rut right now. Here are some tried and tested ways to get out of it.
Step away from your TBR checklist
There are few things as satisfying as checking a book off your mile-long To-Be-Read list. But every once in a while, all those unread titles seem overwhelming — they can even make you feel guilty about not reading fast enough or reading something that’s not on your list. Another way our TBR puts us in a rut? When we add a book to that list, we often revert to type, and choose titles based on what we have enjoyed in the past.
So if it feels like you’re reading something monotonous, just to check another item off a list, set your TBR aside. Pick something that catches your eye in the moment — maybe that book with the lurid cover in an airport bookshop, or something from a genre you’d never have read otherwise. You’d be surprised at how much you enjoy a book when you remove the self-imposed pressure of a TBR.
Don’t always challenge yourself with your reading
Reading is a great way to learn something new, explore a different perspective, or understand an issue you don’t know much about. But if you only choose books based on what they can do for you, reading can start feeling like a chore pretty quickly.
This is when you step away from what you think you should be reading, and go for books you’d like to be reading instead. You know the books I’m talking about — the ones you consider ‘guilty pleasures’. Take the guilt out of something you enjoy, and just focus on the joy it brings you instead. Romance, murder, cozy mysteries — anything’s fair game, and you should never feel bad about having fun reading them. And guess what? Sometimes you end up learning something new anyway. I picked up more about Elizabethan lifestyle from a kids’ mystery series than I ever have from history books.
Reread your favorite books
So you’ve tried new genres, acclaimed bestsellers, and even that one book your best friend has been begging you to read forever. Nothing seems to be working. Maybe it’s time to set aside new books, and reread some old favorites instead.
There’s something so comforting about reading a book where you know exactly what’s going to happen. You can look forward to your favorite parts, anticipate the twists that you know are coming, and get to the ending without stressing about the plot resolution. Revisit some childhood favorites too — sometimes, books about babysitters, British boarding schools and identical twins get you out of a rut better than any Booker-winning novel. YA novels are great options too. Teen angst is so much fun to read about when you’re not a teenager anymore!
Fortunately today, we don’t necessarily have to sit with a huge tome in our hands for it to count as reading. Try switching formats and reading in ways you usually don’t. Audiobooks are great for when you feel too demotivated to pick up your book or Kindle. They don’t require much effort, but they still let you enjoy the latest bestsellers as you go about your day.
There are so many fresh formats out there that can help you get out of that rut. Try comics, graphic novels and choose-your-own adventure books, or check out those latest book-to-TV adaptations. None of these feel like reading in the traditional sense, but trust me, they’re a lot more fun than struggling through a book that you’re just not being able to get into.
Ride it out
Here’s a wild idea — if reading is not bringing you the joy it usually does, then don’t read for a bit. If you are an avid reader, this might seem unnatural and kind of weird. But remember that reading is supposed to be fun, and when it stops being that, there’s no harm in taking a break.
Check out some new shows on Netflix, try a new workout or, if you’re hankering after some bookish pastimes, attend readings, launches and other book-related events in your city. When you do eventually feel like reading again, start with a light, fun read rather than diving into a super-challenging title.