For a period of about two weeks this fall, I was unable to read.
I wasn’t ill. My vision was fine. My glasses weren’t broken. The problem wasn’t physical — it was, I guess, psychological.
You might remember that late fall was a dark, gloomy time. Cloudy, day after day. Colder than it should have been. I don’t know if the weather had anything to do with my reading slump — surely we’ve all endured lousy weather before — but it probably didn’t help.
There were other factors: A close relative was in the hospital. And my husband and I were dealing with the last weeks in the life of a beloved old dog, and all the work and sorrow that entailed.
I was sad, I was distracted, I was cold, and I just could not bring myself to read — a very bad thing for a person in my job.
Every day, I brought home four or five books from work, staggering under the weight of my over-full backpack. After dinner I’d take out a book, read a few pages, and set it aside. Then I’d go play Scrabble on Facebook with my siblings.
I blamed the books (“Why is everything so tedious and boring?”) but in truth, the problem lay in me.
I’ve had reading lulls before, though not of this duration, and I knew there were ways to emerge from it.
Here are 10 tips. I tried most of them this time, and I can’t tell you which one worked. Perhaps it was a combination of a few, or perhaps it was just the sun coming out again, finally.
1. Try reading something short. Stories from a collection, maybe. (I read from “James McBride’s “Five Carat Soul,” which I highly recommend.) Or a long magazine piece, or a newspaper serial.
2. Reread an old favorite, one that you love and know so well it won’t require much brainpower. Agatha Christie, maybe, or Daphne du Maurier.
3. Put away the book that you are obligated to read — for work, for school, for book club — and indulge in something you truly want to read. (The new Meg Wolitzer!)
4. Browse your shelves. You’ve got books there you bought and haven’t yet gotten to — what looks good? What made you buy them in the first place?
5. Go to a library, or a bookstore. See if you are tempted by shiny displays, staff recommendations, stacks of the latest bestsellers. Just being in the vicinity of books can sometimes kindle that desire.
6. Binge on something else — crossword puzzles, or Scrabble, or episodes of “Gilmore Girls” (there are a lot of them, I have found) until you are so sick of whatever it is that you become desperate to get back to a good book.
7. Watch a movie version of a book — David Lean’s 1947 black and white “Great Expectations,” maybe. Oh, that was a great film. And it always makes me want to reread Dickens.
8. Read something light, funny and captivating. Don’t be ashamed to read something silly. We all need to laugh.
9. Listen to a book on CD. May I recommend “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern? I’m not sure I would have loved the book in print — it’s mainly atmosphere and lush description — but the recording was so good I drove around aimlessly just so I could listen to it.
10. When all else fails, just give in to the slump. You’re a reader, and eventually your desire will return.