Reader’s Slump: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

There is no greater affliction in the bookish life than the reader’s slump. This nonfatal but distressing issue is frequently caused by excellent books. For instance, one patient succumbed to reader’s slump after binge-reading Eric Metaxes’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Because of the brilliance of this book, the patient was unable to find any other book to his satisfaction. His symptoms followed the typical progression, including:

  • Shock that the book came to an end (frequently manifests in absent stares and general spaciness)
  • Denial, refusing to let go of the book and seeking others like it to fill the void
  • Listlessness, going from book to book without committing
  • Frustration, anger that there are not other books exactly like the previous one
  • Depression, resignation to the fact that he/she will never read with pleasure again

Fortunately, expert readers have grown adept at caring for reader’s slump. Although it can be a frightening ailment, there are helpful remedies readily available either at home or local bookstores. Reader’s slump cannot be cured by anything other than discovering the ideal book at the perfect time. However, here are some treatments that can mitigate symptoms and speed recovery:

  • Change genres. If a novel triggered your reader’s slump, try a nonfiction book. This allows your brain a nice change of pace, providing a totally different book that will not compete with your previous favorite.
  • Read children’s books. Reading short, accessible books will keep you in a reading mood without overwhelming and discouraging you like a Russian novel.
  • Try a murder mystery. Agatha Christie books are short, fast-paced, and filled with great writing. Data supports them as an effective treatment for even severe reader’s slumps.
  • Read a borrowed book. Read the book your friend lent you. Remind yourself that you have to finish it so you can give it back in good conscience. Let borrower’s guilt alleviate your reader’s slump!
  • Wander your local bookstore. Creep around the aisles for an hour or two with no agenda. See what speaks to you. Buy a book and give yourself a pat on the back for supporting a local business—even if the book sits on your shelf for a few months.
  • Ask for recommendations. Use friends, booksellars, or Good Reads to track down a book that will fulfill your craving.
  • Create a list. Make or find a list of books and work your way through them. There’s a reason people read so many books in school; structure is often the best solution to reader’s slump.
  • Allow yourself time off. If no book seems to catch your interest, give yourself permission to enjoy another hobby. Watch a classic movie, try a new show, or enjoy a podcast. Keep enjoying stories and words through a different medium.

Ultimately, overcoming reader’s slump is a waiting game. It will eventually pass, but requires patience and diligence in treatment.

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