Tweak readers' tips on getting out of a reading slump
A helping hand to keep your love for reading alive
In January, we booted up ‘New Year, New Me’ version 3.7, made resolutions, clinked our glasses, and tried to get through to our loved ones through the cellular network jams as the clock struck midnight. The beginning of a new year felt like the right time to switch gears, let go of the guilt of buying more books than we read, and become the hardcover spine-breaking bibliophile we’ve always wanted to be. But here we are, two months later, and the excitement to devour the ‘must-read books’ lists has faded. Rather than becoming the well-read (what does that even mean?) literary savant you set out to be, you’re now trying to get out of a reading slump.
It almost feels criminal. After all, there’s no greater sin than being in a reading slump, especially if you’ve spent the last few years building the reputation of being an avid book lover. The writers who used to make your hearts skip a beat no longer do the job. The poetry that used to overwhelm you in the best way possible now feels like the stale birthday cake in the refrigerator your mother insisted you finished.
From someone who loves to read to someone who has had the same title lying on their bedside table for months, you feel like a disappointment to yourself more than anyone else.
But who can blame us for struggling to get out of a reading slump? The calendar days may have moved on, but the past few years have been like an assault on our attention and emotions. There had been moments when we were stuck indoors with time to finally pick up on a hobby we had left behind as kids, but more often than not, we felt like a big juicy pimple on someone’s chin that kept getting poked and prodded.
Like 86% of 350 polled Tweak readers, it’s no wonder many of us have found ourselves trying to get out of a reading slump. But many of them managed to do what seemed impossible. They shared what helped them get out of a reading slump and rekindle their love for reading which made picking up a book a joy rather than a chore.
Tips that helped Tweak readers get out of a reading slump
Read something extra spicy
S Aadarshini Nayyar was an avid reader of non-fiction until she found herself in the pits of a reading slump. One day, she reluctantly picked up a book she was gifted by a friend “without reading the back cover”. Then the steamy scenes filled the pages, and she was hooked. Reading erotica (did you know Ruskin Bond wrote one?) got her back into reading, she says.
“Men respond to the shape of a breast, or the shape of a leg, or a woman’s buttock. They call themselves a boob, bum or leg man. Sometimes, it’s all three. Women are much more turned on by what is said, what they read and what they hear in terms of them turning on that desire button between their ears,” said sexologist Elaine George in an interview. A little exploration of literary pleasure may be what you need to get your reader hat back on.
Try graphic novels or comic books
When the words on a page start dancing around and turn into illegible spaghetti, try to get out of a reading slump by picking up a comic book, says Tweak reader Namratha Bhat.
Graphic novels and comic books often tend to be shorter than your regular novel, but the mix of text and visual images can also give your brain a break. You don’t have to exercise your imagination too much when it’s already feeling a little bent out of shape to create an idea of what the scene or character on the pages looks like. Everything is pretty much illustrated for you, from their appearance to their emotional reactions to others. With various options to choose from now, you stick with a feel-good Tinkle and Archies comic or opt for graphic novels with complex narratives and character development.
Try the 5-page rule
Maybe your inability to get out of a reading slump isn’t because of a lack of trying. Maybe you don’t have the time to get lost in the pages of your favourite author’s work anymore. Few can successfully multitask while reading (see, audiobooks can help here, too) and getting distracted by calls, parenting duties and household chores mean your latest book purchase starts collecting dust on the shelf.
One way to get back to it, as shared by our reader Mona Syed, is to start simple – just five pages a day. This a small achievable goal that will encourage you to keep reading and isn’t very time-consuming either.
Watch the movie/TV show
For many purist readers, this would be blasphemy. But just watch the movie first. While most films fall short when it comes to on-screen adaptations (though some did the job very well), they can give you a taste of the narrative that leaves you wanting to know more.
Sakshi Jain never thought she’d get out of a reading slump when work pressure took over her life. But after putting it off for weeks, she sat down one Saturday morning and started watching House of the Dragon and couldn’t stop. She couldn’t wait to know what would happen next when the season ended. She picked up the source material it was based on, George RR Martin’s 2018 novel Fire & Blood and started reading again.
Give audiobooks a chance
The debate about whether audiobooks even count as ‘real books’ without words and pages to flip rages on. But Prashashti Teluja is among the growing number of readers (including the writer of this story) who have almost entirely switched over to audiobooks.
When you spend your days staring at words on a computer screen, especially if it’s part of your job, then picking up a book and looking at words again can be challenging. The line between reading for pleasure and reading for ‘work’ blurs, and your brain can no longer distinguish between the two. During and post-pandemic, Teluja got out of her reading slump by unwinding after a long day by closing her eyes on her favourite sofa and turning on an audiobook.
Audiobooks aren’t just simple narrations anymore, either. Several books have been turned into full-fledged productions, sound effects, background scores, voice actors and more.
Start with short stories or a novella
Your initial instinct to get out of a reading slump might be to pick up one of those literary classics that everyone has always raved (unpopular opinion: some of them are overrated). But you are probably just setting yourself up for failure and more disappointment when you can’t get through it.
Palak Dixit and Ashima Jain recommend restarting easy. Dip your toe in the water with short story collections and novellas. You get through the entire story arc and narrative ups and downs without significantly committing to 300+ pages to know how the story ends.
You have all the ingredients of a good novel with the satisfaction you get after finishing a story.
Book clubs and swaps
Sanjana Muthe beat her reading block by exchanging books with friends and setting up a book club to discuss what they read.
Book clubs create a sense of community over a shared love of reading and keep you accountable for meeting reading goals. Being part of a book club can give you new perspectives on stories and characters you hold dear and introduce you to genres you wouldn’t have considered before.
If you feel the book club is getting into a rut or are unsure how to run one, check out the book club kits created by We Are Bookish. The kits, focusing on a novel, include author interviews, related activities and recipes you can try, discussion topics, and similar book recommendations.
You can never go wrong with a thriller
Thriller books capture our innermost feelings, putting into words the thoughts we’ve kept hidden in the darkest parts of our psyche. The best thriller books, whether crime, domestic or psychological, are the ones that present the human condition in all its complexity. We meet sordid characters while writers create anxiety-riddled environments where it seems anything is possible and nobody is to be trusted.
The best part about thriller books, and perhaps what keeps us engaged, is that we know a cathartic end is coming our way.
Try a recommendation app/websites
So, you fell in love with a book and can’t seem to move on to something new. We’ve all been there. You’ve read every opinion blog and review, seen the screen adaptation, bookstagram bloggers dissect every aspect of the narrative. It seems like there’s nothing left to do.
Finding a book recommendation without doing the heavy lifting has never been easier. Some apps like Likewise and Booksloth will pair you with your next read. Websites like Good Reads, Litsy, and What Should I Read Next will help you find what to read based on your interests and past selections. The last website is where Sanjana Sethia found Laura Lippman’s work while looking for books similar to thrillers by Gillian Flynn.
Revisit an old favourite
You already know the flow of the narrative. There’s no mystery to solve or nail-biting cliffhangers that keep you on edge. There is comfort in picking up an old favourite to rekindle your reading habit, almost like visiting an old friend. Not only is it easier to get through something you’ve already read – you may pick up on aspects you missed the first time – but there’s also a tinge of nostalgia in re-reading our favourite books. You’re mentally transported back to the first time you read it, feeling the same joy of discovering a book your lover, and this bit of nostalgia in moderation can also boost happy hormones.
Don’t let reading slumps make you panic. No one has an insatiable appetite for literature all the tie. There will be times when other things take priority, and you’re not reading much. If you can’t seem to fight it, lean into it. Sometimes your brain really needs the rest. So, stream the new season of Emily in Paris or a reality show you would never tell your friends you watch and let your mind wander. We all have our guilty pleasures.