Nothing spells out trouble for a bookworm quite like a reading slump.
Just like a cold that just won’t pass, the reading slump — a period of disinterest in books — can be a deflating and prolonged experience. Buzzy new releases lose their appeal. Mysteries aren't transfixing, love stories seem stale. Celebrity memoirs aren't dishy. Even a Colleen Hoover novel doesn't pull you in.
And no one is immune from these reading dry spells. Even TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager has admitted to experiencing the throes of a literary lull.
“I definitely experienced a reading slump during the pandemic,” Jenna tells TODAY.com. “March and April of 2020 were very hard reading months for me not only because I was anxious but also (because) I didn’t have that much time. I had three kids, and I was doing the show from home.”
According to Jenna, one good book was enough to break the curse. “I’ll never forget that book,” she says, citing Ella Berman’s book “The Comeback,” which ended up being on the host’s Read With Jenna Book Club Picks of August 2020.
“It just was a juicy, compulsive, fast read, and I needed something like that. I needed something kind of light, although the subject matters are heavy, something sort of dramatic and captivating and soapy to get me out of my own head,” she says.
Read one for the definition, the cause, and the cure to a reading slump, and hopefully help yourself read more in 2023. We're on our way to the opposite of a reading slump: A reading streak!
OK, so: What is the meaning of a reading slump?
Everyone defines a reading slump in their own way, but think of it like this: A phase when reading loses its luster, even for the most avid of readers. Sort of like the yips but for reading.
Carrie Deming, owner of the Dog Eared Book, defines a book slump as a period when “book after book isn’t hitting, and I start to wonder if I like reading anymore.”
“Of course I still like reading! But a run of books you don’t like starts to really take the joy out of it,” she continues.
Kevin Norman, BookToker and founder of the “Say Gay” Book Club on TikTok, defines this as a period when he loses his ability to focus.
"During a book slump, I am not able to focus long enough to finish a book. Book slumps are brief periods where I fall into a cycle of consuming more television and film than I am books. It feels counterproductive because, in these periods, I have the desire to read, but for some reason, I don’t have the motivation to do it," he says.
What causes a reading slump?
Victoria Wood, the founder of the literary newsletter BiblioLifestyle and host of the "Reader's Couch" podcast, identifies a few reasons people can fall into a slump.
- Reading multiple books all at once
- Picking up heavy-lifting books (like “Don Quixote” or “In Search of Lost Time”) that are impressive but not always fun
- Trying to read a book that you don’t like
- Big life changes like a new job, baby, or a move
- Too much of the same genre
Wood emphasizes that reading slumps are not an indication of whether or not you’re a “diligent reader” or a “good” or “bad” one.
Tiffany Grimes, a book editor and writing coach for Burgeon Design and Editorial, says life pressure can also affect a reading habit.
“A lot of times, it’s some sort of like stressor that’s happening in your life,” she tells TODAY.com TODAY.com, adding that she hit a reading wall during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic was a big one I could not read at the start of the pandemic to save my life.”
As a freelance fiction editor, Miranda Darrow says she is prone to “genre slumps" when she reads too many books in a row of the same genre.
“I read a lot of romance because I edit romance,” she explains. “But then, every once in a while, I don’t want to pick them up at all. And then I’ll usually switch to nonfiction or something like that.”
How do I get over my reading slump?
For the reader who’s slumping it, here are a few tips.
Pick up shorter books
Norman recommends reaching for propulsive, short books you can finish in less time.
"This makes finishing a book feel less intimidating and overwhelming, and it gives you the momentum you need to get back into reading," he says.
Books in verse will keep the pages turning
Maybe a block of text is simply too much right now. In those cases, turn to books with extra white space on the page (but no less brilliance).
Deming turns to novels in verse, like "Punching the Air" and "The Poet X," for swift reads. "They read very quickly and are also stunningly beautiful," she says.
Try out an audiobook
So, you can't concentrate on reading. But can you concentrate on listening? Audiobooks may be the on-ramp you need to a reading habit. Norman gets audiobooks from the library and then reads along as he listens.
"Audiobooks help me focus, and my secret for a successful escape from a reading slump is listening to one while I read along with the physical book," he says.
Reread your old favorites
Darrow says that revisiting her favorite books always gives her a boost.
“I’ll remind myself of why I fell in love with reading in the first place,” she says. “I’ll go back and read my first favorite book, 'Pride and Prejudice.' I’ve reread that 20 times, and it’s just like, ‘oh, this is so great. I want to find another book, so I can fall in love with reading again.’”
Head to the library
If the price of books is holding you back from diving into a new one, work around your budget by going to the library. yYour visit doesn't have to be in person, either.
"For those who are unable to access their public library in person, there are many ways to take advantage without leaving home," Eileen Force Cahill, the director of community engagement and resources of the Milwaukee Public Library tells TODAY.com.
The Libby app, a digital e-book catalog linked to your library card, is among the most popular digital resources. Search for your library here)
Immerse yourself in fiction
Finally, if you’re still just not vibing with reading, Grimes advises seeking out stories, regardless of the medium.
“Even remembering that storytelling exists outside of books, you can listen to a podcast or watch TV, and it’s still gonna get you that storytelling experience,” she explains, adding that “you can kind of dive back into books that way.”