How to Get Out of a Reading Slump

Published on 5/6/2022

In 2018, I read only five books. Last year, I read forty-seven books. This year, I hope to read over fifty, and I’m almost halfway!

I have friends who read more than that, and I have a lot of friends who read less than that. The latter will often be surprised to hear how much I read, and they’ll tell me that they’re trying to get back into reading but struggling. They want to read some difficult novel and never seem to find the time.

To put it simply, they’re in a reading slump. I’ve been there too. I was an avid reader as a teenager and lost it in the years after, like many other people I know.

So how can you get back into the flow of reading? How can you rediscover that love for reading that kept you up until the early hours and had you attempting to read as you munch on your morning cereal?

Here are six ways to emerge from a reading slump.

1. Why?

This can seem super obvious, but it isn’t nowadays. Knowing why you want to read more is imperative to actually make it happen.

Do you want to read more to reach a goal and just tick boxes? Well, then it’s not going to be easy or very enjoyable. You’ll rush through books and see them only as numbers.

Do you want to read the classics just to say you have? That’s not a great reason to read them. Again, you’ll read them hastily without ever capturing why they’re actually so loved and respected.

Reading for the sake of reading is exactly what got you into this slump. If you’re picking up books without the actual desire to read them, then you won’t. It’s as simple as that. This isn’t to say that you can’t read books that challenge you or push yourself through a classic novel, but that you need to want to read them. I rarely read classic novels, but I read ‘Wuthering Heights’ because it’s a passionate love story that influenced so many to come, not to seem intelligent or mention it to others.

Read books that you want to read. Read a book because you’re so curious about the plot or you relate to a specific character. Read a book because your friend loved it and you want to understand the hype. Read a book because it helps you to relax or you want to learn more from a subject. Or be like me and read books because you like them more than people.

Your reason has to be a personal one that actually motivates you, and not about something extrinsic.

2. Reread

If you’re struggling to get back into reading, then take a trip down memory lane and reread an old favourite. When you’re starting to read again, you need to completely build that muscle once more. It can be easier to revisit something you’ve read before, as this will feel more manageable and familiar. Also, this is likely to be a book you enjoyed enough to finish it, so the perfect entrance to reading more.

If this is a book you never finished, then don’t pick it up now. You didn’t finish it for a reason. You’re welcome to return when you’re back in the swing of reading, but don’t make it one of your first challenges.

3. Plot

I love thought-driven novels! That’s also what I choose to write myself. I love Sally Rooney and Anna Hope, authors that focus much more on a character’s thoughts and opinions than a juicy plot. They can consume me entirely.

But that being said, I didn’t return to reading by picking up these novels. Even though I love them, they’re not as easy to read.

The easiest way to return to reading is through a captivating plot. The main way to ensure you keep reading is by having a plot you’re desperate to uncover. This could be a good old fashioned murder mystery, where you keep turning pages as you want to know who the killer is. This could be a juicy love triangle, where you simply need to discover who they end up with and whether it’s the one you prefer.

For me, it was a young adult series I had never read before. I got properly back into reading through the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan*. I’ve always adored Greek Mythology and a friend really wanted me to try the series they had adored as a teenager. So at 23, I started reading a book series about twelve-year-old demi-gods. And it was exactly what I needed! I read the five books of the series within a month, which was as much as I had read in the entire year prior. I then read the five books of the spin-off series in the month after. Ten books within two months, when that usually would take two years!

And from there, I easily went back to my beloved thought-driven novels and more challenging books, as I was back in the roll of reading. Every now and then, I pick up a plot-focused book just to have something I desperately cannot put down, as it’s a wonderful sensation!

4. Make a list

As we’ve clarified, you need to actively want to read the books you’re going to pick up. So sit down and make a list of the books you really want to read. Take a look through Booktok, Goodreads or ask friends for recommendations, and then make them into a list. This will get you excited about all the good books you want to read and give you the push you need to get started.

I personally don’t plan ahead too specifically what I’ll read next. I have a bunch of books on my TBR list and I see what mood I’m in when I finish my current book. But other people like to plan specifically what they’ll read each month, which can keep them motivated and ensure they’re never hesitating between books.

And if you ever need some inspiration, and your bank account can take it, visit a bookshop! I always leave bookshops eager to hurry home and pick up a book, and with a big bag of new books at my side.

5. Make a habit

Deciding that you want to read more is great, but if it’s just a vague intention, nothing will come from it. That’s like deciding you want to exercise more.

Okay… but when?

You need to implement reading into your schedule to make it something you have a specific time for. Then you know when you’re actively skipping it. Otherwise, you’ll just keep claiming you don’t have time to read, when in truth you’re not making time for it.

Everyone has time to read. Maybe not much time, but there is time. For me, it’s reading a minimum of ten minutes every night before I go to sleep. At first, this had to be an active choice, whereas now it is so ingrained that I struggle to sleep without doing this first.

People have a lot of responsibilities to juggle and so it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when this time is. Perhaps it’s replacing ten minutes you would spend on social media, or watching one less episode of a TV show in the evening. Maybe it’s using your time on the train or bus, or carrying a book for when you’re in a queue or waiting room. Maybe it’s starting your day with five minutes of reading as you drink a cup of coffee.

Find this time and cling to it. Mark it out as reading time, so anything else is a break from this. If you live with someone, tell them when your reading time is so they can respect it and see if you’re deviating.

Build the habit up slowly, don’t dive in with an hour a day from the start. That’s like starting your journey to a half-marathon by running twelve kilometres with no prior practice. You’ll resent running and likely not try again. Instead, start small and build it up, create a micro habit.

6. Try audiobooks

If there are books you really want to read but you just can’t seem to form the habit or get it done, then try a different format! Audiobooks can be a great way to escape a reading slump and make it more accessible.

Try listening to an audiobook as you go for a walk, go jogging or do household chores. Some people really prefer audiobooks and find them more enjoyable, so if this is the case for you, embrace them!

I particularly recommend audiobooks for long car rides or a road trip, the perfect way to stay entertained.

There you have it: six tips for getting out of your latest reading slump. Different things work for everyone, so it’s about trying to discover what works best for you. Whether that’s reading before bed, listening to audiobooks or finding your guilty pleasure, as long as it works. Reading shouldn’t be a chore you resent, it should be something you enjoy. There are so many benefits to reading, fiction and non-fiction, so allow yourself the gift of making this a steadfast habit.

Are you ready to emerge from your reading slump? I’d love to hear what you’re planning to read first!

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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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