Thursday, May 1, 2014

Avoiding a Book Slump

I've been dangerously close to a book clump or funk for the last six weeks and I am determined to avoid it. The problem all began with a cruise, as unlikely as that might seem. The cruise was last-minute and short-notice. I was in the middle of two hardcover books, even though I don't normally do that. I crammed and finished one of them but not the other. I opted not to bring a heavy hardcover book I figured I'd finish in a couple of days. Instead I brought a giant (1400+ pages) mass market paperback and I also checked out a book from the ship's library. I read 350 pages of the giant book (finished the library book). When I returned, due to scheduling that I hadn't noticed before leaving, I only had four days before my book club. I couldn't continue with either the pre-cruise book or the giant book and instead had to drop them for this book club book (which I had suggested and had wanted to read for a long time.) I didn't finish it by book club night which is a rarity for me. But I was 2/3 of the way through and would have finished it in just another couple of nights. Except... I had four days before my SECOND book club. I had to start reading that book right away again! And again, I didn't finish it! This book, although I had heard good things and looked forward to it, was very slow going.

At the end of all this mess, I had FOUR half-read books (five if you count the audio book I'd been part-way through for many months but finally determined to finish.) I didn't know what to do. This was unprecedented.

I went back to the first book club book as I had the least left of that one. Then I finished the pre-cruise book. Like tackling credit-card debt, I went with the shortest remaining page counts first. Finally I finished the second book club book. Then I read 50 more pages of the giant book and put it aside (for now.) I felt exhausted, all the books had felt like horrible school assignments I was turning in late for partial credit, and now it was book club time again! Seriously?! How often does book club come up? I bit the bullet and read that one (finished before the meeting.)

But I found I have been going to bed later and later, staying up to watch reruns of How I Met Your Mother instead of reading. I haven't felt the excitement or fun of reading in a while. I wasn't eager to get back to any books or to start any new ones. I knew I was in serious danger of a reading slump and my last one was awful. So I went to my go-to cure: indulge your favorites. I adore memoirs, and I went to a funny one I'd just gotten with a rave from Nick Hornby, and it was good. Good enough that I was even reading bits aloud to my husband. But not good enough that I wanted to stay up late reading or pick it up with breakfast or lunch or anything. That weekend, I went for trick #2: read something short so you'll feel successful. Unfortunately due to going to bed late, I still managed to drag a 200 pages book out over many more days than it should have taken me but it was an intriguing mystery and I liked it. I then also powered through and finished the audiobook so I'd have another success. But I still wasn't out of the woods. Because I was looking at... another book club book. (No, I am not in two book clubs by choice. One is more of an obligation.)

This book club selection has been widely praised, has won a dozen of awards, I've seen 5-star reviews on Goodreads from fellow book clubbers, and yet I don't want to read it. Granted, that's part of the point of book club--to get me to read outside of my comfort zone and I've read some terrific books because of it. But instead right now, book club is dragging me down. Reading is feeling very forced and I'm not enjoying it. So I didn't even check to see if my co-leader would be there next week, I just decided: I'm not reading it. I felt a huge sense of relief. Then I discovered that due to a scheduling conflict, I can't attend my other May book club either (even though I was greatly looking forward to the book, but now I can read it on my own schedule.) Big sigh! (And no, I've neither given up on nor made additional progress on the giant book. It's tabled for a better day.)

So I spent a half an hour last night with my bookshelves, and I have two books I think are winners. I started with another memoir, by an author who I've read twice previously, and which is fairly lightweight. I plan to follow that with a thriller this weekend by another known quantity (read another book by the author). And I'm thrilled to say that last night I stayed up reading almost an hour past my bedtime! No guarantee yet, but I may have licked this reading slump before it dug in.

1 comment:

Christine Luppino said...

I have been having the same issue. I decided to not read one of my book club books and it was like a huge weight that was lifted off me. I still have a couple of past book club reads sitting on my night stand, but they're just going to have to sit for a little bit longer.