12 Ways to Get Out of a Reading Slump

Male reading a book and drinking a hot drink from a red mug.(Getty)

What to do when you just can't seem to work up the motivation to read.

Not only has reading been a steady friend to me throughout my life, but also I know books make me smarter, more successful, and less stressed out. Which is why it's so distressing when I find myself in a reading slump. If you're a dedicated reader you'll know the experience even if you don't know the phrase -- it's those times when, despite the millions of books out there, you somehow can't find anything to read that holds your attention.

Reading slumps can occur anytime, but certain circumstances seem to make them more likely. Having just finished a phenomenal book, for instance, often makes it hard to settle into a follow-up. And based on my recent experience, pandemics also appear to be a risk factor. Between the doomscrolling, the nervous exhaustion, and the sudden appeal of brain-numbing TV (thanks for the fun, Bridgerton), I don't think I'm the only one who has discovered that at times Covid has put a big dent in my motivation to read.

What's to be done? Plenty, according to a host of experts (or just sympathetic fellow bibliophiles on Reddit) who offer tips.

 1. Reread an old favorite

Just about any article on the topic of reading slumps offers this suggestion. And why not? Of course rereading an all-time favorite might be just the motivation you need to power your way out of a reading slump.

2. Join a book club

Perhaps some social support (or if you prefer, peer pressure) will get you reading again? Plus, the structure of a book club takes the difficult task of choosing what to read next out of your hands (there are plenty of socially distanced online options).

3. Try an audio book

Eyes swimming when you try to focus on the page? Then an audio book might be the answer. Relax bibliophiles, it doesn't have to become your favorite format forever, but listening to a book might just be the easy reentry to reading your brain needs right now.

 4. Switch up your environment

If your home feels like too distracting a place to concentrate on reading right now (or just too confining after a year in and out of lockdown), then why not take your book somewhere fresh, like a local park or library and see what happens?

5. Pick something super short

Productivity experts advise that when you're overwhelmed by a big task, you should break it down into smaller, less intimidating steps. The same principle may hold when it comes to your reading slump. Pick something short and just maybe your anxiety (or lethargy) will fade away.

 6. Give a graphic novel a try

Still feeling overwhelmed by all those words? Then swap them for (mostly) pictures. There are tons of great graphic novels out there to try.

7. Reorganize your bookshelves

This is a suggestion aimed at those hard-core book nerds out there, but if you're the type who actually gets pleasure out of lovingly handling and carefully ordering your books, maybe indulging in a little quality time with your collection will reignite your passion for reading.

8. Get out of your reading comfort zone

Are you a biography and business book type person? Maybe some poetry will give you a new perspective. Or if you love novels, a long history book might just jolt you back in touch with your love of reading (I read and enjoyed these two tomes recently).

9. Address the underlying issue

Sometimes we get out of our reading groove because of something we've read, but other times the causes are more prosaic and more addressable. If you're simply too exhausted to read, sending the kids off to newly vaccinated grandma's house or taking a personal day from work to rest and recharge may be all it takes to break out of your slump.

10. Ask your friends for ideas

There's something about the social aspect of soliciting book recommendations from friends that can be inspiring, plus you'll have the added incentive of discussing what you read with them afterwards.

11. Write instead

Maybe your brain just isn't feeling reading right now, that doesn't mean you have to set aside your love of words entirely. Instead, why not try some journaling or writing exercises to clear your mind, exercise your creativity, and remind yourself of the beauty and fun of the written word.

12. Just lean into the slump

Or, how about you just don't beat yourself up and go watch some more Bridgerton for a while? This will pass, I promise. Your brain might just really, really need a rest. What's your go to strategy for getting out of a reading slump?

This article was originally published in Inc. Magazine.