What To Do When Your Reader Is Broken

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

Reading fatigue. It’s a real thing. But it’s a thing we don’t talk about often. Because we’re book lovers, right? Reading is our happy place. There’s nothing we’d rather do than curl up with a warm drink and a good book. We love to read. Until we don’t.

Here are a few books that are currently sitting on my nightstand:

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace

I paid cash money for each of these books. I am really looking forward to reading them. But every night I crawl in bed, look at my nightstand, shudder, and turn off the light.

The truth is, my reader is broken.

I just…can’t. I’m trying. And I can’t. And that’s okay. Reading fatigue happens for any number of reasons. For me it manifests either in avoiding books altogether or abandoning them within a page or two. So I just have to pat that pretty cover and say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

I’ll get back to them. Eventually.

I am convinced that reading fatigue is linked to mental and physical fatigue. For me, self care is key. I’ve been in this particular dry spell for a number of months. It coincided with me finishing my new book. My brain was exhausted. My body was exhausted. I was spent.

This isn’t the first time this has happened so I recognized the symptoms. Over the years I’ve learned a few things that help recharge my batteries. And I asked Marybeth what works for her. So, if you find yourself in this situation, here are some ideas that might help (and if they don’t, that’s okay–this too shall pass):

1. Go back and read an old favorite.

2. Take a nap instead.

3. Watch some booktubers or scroll through bookstagram posts (other people’s excitement can sometimes spark yours)

4. Take a walk and listen to a podcast.

5. Find a shorter novel or book of short stories to read. (Instant gratification)

6. Read a childhood favorite to your kids.

7. Listen to an audiobook.

8. Sit on the deck with a glass of wine.

9. Switch up genres to something you don’t normally read. Or read nonfiction.

10. Go on a blind date with a book (let a friend or bookseller pick your next read).

11. Read what you want to read instead of what you *should* be reading.

12. Go to bed early and get eight or more hours of sleep.

13. Give yourself permission not to read at all for a few days (or weeks) and wait for the feeling to pass.

14. Flip through all your cookbooks and drool over the pretty pictures.

What about you? Do you have any tips on how to recover from reading fatigue?

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

15 Responses to What To Do When Your Reader Is Broken

  1. Glynis August 28, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    It’s been awhile since my “reader” was broken, but reading an old favorite works well for me. I don’t re-read a lot of books–there are just so many others out there and I have so little time–but one I know I will like and doesn’t take as much brain power gets me ready to dive into something new. Hope you fix your reader soon!

  2. Susan G. August 28, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I didn’t even realize it was a “thing”, that I didn’t want to read some nights as I went to bed. For me it was mostly that I was simply too tired, or had to get up early the next morning and couldn’t stay up late reading.

    I simply don’t read when I can’t or don’t feel like it. But that’s not the case right now, thankfully. 😉
    I read till after midnight last night…I couldn’t put the book down. I’m reading “The Girl From the Train” by Irma Joubert. A must read for all those who love historical novels.
    Thanks SheReads!

  3. Bloomin'Chick Jo August 28, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    My reader gets broken routinely about twice a year now, and it’s definitely due to reading (and reader) fatigue! It’s frustrating when I get into the mode of book after book not clicking & keeping my interest, but when I realize that’s where I’m at, I put the books down, and focus elsewhere until I come back to it naturally (which I always do).

  4. Laura Benedict August 29, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I definitely grab an audiobook and ease back into it. And for some reason I retain those books better than I do when I read something on paper.

    Wine is also highly recommended for any sort of fatigue or ennui.

  5. Phaedra August 30, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    This? “11. Read what you want to read instead of what you *should* be reading. ” is perfect. Often I find that the reason I’m not reading is because I’m reading what I ‘should’ be reading instead of something that I want to just pick up and go with. I’ve learned to let go of guilt about the ‘should’ factor and sometimes I use my non-reading time to actually watch shows that I’ve been meaning to get to, or do something physical or artistic. Within a few days I’m usually back to tackling my stack with vigor

  6. Melinda Pollmeier September 10, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    This is such a timely post for me. I have reading fatigue! I just started a new job on the heels of moving earlier this spring, the husband’s job (that brought us here) has had lots of travel. My life has just been discombobulated. I completely agree that it is a mental fatigue that is blocking me. I am still listening to audiobooks on my commute (having just finished Final Girls and now starting on the latest from Louise Penny) but there are some days that even that is too much and I find myself having to go back and relisten because I am not fully listening.

    (btw, I found this blog because of the planner article in Paper Planning Magazine… I have been planning for years. )

  7. Becky October 13, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    I usually take this time to catch up on magazines and articles I have stacked up waiting for me to get to. After 2 or 3 days I find that I am ready to escape into a book again! (and the magazines and article continue to stack up!)

  8. Brandyn October 13, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    In my experience I get reader fatigue less frequently when I read diversely, but that doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

    I just started struggling again – last week I was slowly reading “The Golden Compass” for the first time and really enjoying it. This week I can’t get myself to pick it back up. I’m hoping this phase is due to some weird work hours and will go back to normal when I can start sleeping normally again.

  9. Jennie October 13, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    After I finished my Masters in English while working full time and raising 3 children 5 years and younger–my “reader” was broken for almost a year. It was beyond brioken and I feared I would never regain the love and comfort of the printed page again. I had always identified myself as a reader and suffered a small personality crisis. Aggressive self care was the cure. Now I can identify that I’m over stressed simply by my attitude towards reading. When I feel myself begin to lose interest I know it’s time to take a break and take a look at what’s gotten out of control.

  10. Helena October 14, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve only had this happen 3 times in my life, all exhausting and/or stressful: right after my first child was born (that threw me for a loop, I’d planned on recovering while snuggling my newborn and reading Jane Austen, and I just couldn’t do it–first time it had ever happened); when my husband was in the hospital with CHF; and before/during/after Hurricane Irma. I find it comforting to know it’s not just me. Reading has always been a source of joy and comfort for me, and something I do every day, so to “just not feel like reading” was very weird for me. Now I know, to fix it I either need to rest of just get through the stressful situation, and I’ll feel like reading again when things are getting close to normal again.

  11. Leigh October 15, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    My reader is mostly broken currently. The best fix for be is letting it recover while reading comfort books (like comfort food). Books that I know so well they don’t take what feels like effort. That I know what parts to read twice and which ones to skim or skip. That I can pick up and start in the middle.

    Getting into my pjs at 3 pm to read also helps. Costco has nice flannel ones with pockets.

  12. Katie October 21, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    I SO hate when this happens, but it’s too real. Sometimes I just can’t read. Sometimes it’s just a little book hangover and it’s gone shortly. Other times, like when I was working on a Master’s in English (which I eventually quit), it’s from a run of mental stress. My favorite cures are literary TV series or movies, young adult novels, and occasionally a good bookshelf purge. And sometimes you just have to browse pinterest or instagram for a bit anyway.

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