Running From A Reading Rut

Confession time: I was not particularly wild about reading for much of last year.

You have my permission to recoil in horror.

Seriously though, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I normally am. I read very slowly, didn’t even touch some of the books I planned to read, and started others only to put them down halfway through because I got distracted.

I didn’t read much, either. Earlier, I estimated that I’d read two hundred books in 2013 but I’ve since given the subject more thought and would guess I read forty to fifty. A respectable number, to be sure, but not even close to what I’d originally thought. (Yes, I suck at estimating. This is why I won’t major in math.) I was in a reading rut and I want to break out of it by reading at least one hundred books in 2014.

What were the reasons for this? The first was that I spent several months watching Doctor Who in the evenings when I would normally read. The second was an author of fantasy, writer of dragons, and lover of character deaths. Yes, I’m talking about George R.R. Martin. His fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is lovely yet really freaking long.

From February on my main reading projects were A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows. Of course I read other things – some of my new favorite books, such as Misery and The Dream Thieves, were read last year – but that series occupied a good chunk of my time. Although their length and complexity are nice, they sucked me in. These are not quick, light reads.

They’re about a thousand pages each – for some perspective, the seven books of Harry Potter total around four thousand. They’re the sort of books that need indexes in order to be read properly, and they have them. Twenty-plus pages at the end describing each House, its members, and their loyalties.

They can feel endless, and not always in a “Hey, this book is epic!” way. I kept getting distracted from them, reading other books, then coming back and discovering that I’d forgotten what happened to House Violent-Gory-Death a hundred pages earlier, so I’d play catch-up.

And then I decided I needed a break. Partly because the fifth book never seems to be available at the library, and partly because I’d rather read lots of short books than a handful of long books. I felt meh about reading because my interest in those books was still there yet not as strongly as before, and I was still reading them.

Now I’m thinking, “This is more like it!” I like checking books off my to-read list, but I also need to realize that sometimes I need a break. A long one. Not just one where I pause every hundred pages to read another book. So here are some of the types of books I’ve been reading (or plan to read) to get out of my reading rut:

  • Books with racially diverse protagonists. Before finding the Diversity In YA blog, I didn’t give much consideration to the lack of minority protagonists in books. Oh, I was aware of LGBTQ+ books – without a doubt I will read more this year – but I hadn’t really thought about, say, racial diversity (especially in YA). Books to fix that include Legend, Ash, Cinder, Since You Asked, Proxy, Does My Head Look Big in This?, Ten Things I Hate About Me, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the Heroes of Olympus series, and more.
  • Classics. Saying I’m reading these for my own enjoyment probably makes me sound even more goody-two-shoes than saying I’m reading them so I look impressive on college applications, but I don’t care. I wouldn’t want to read them all the time but now and then they’re nice – think The Tuesday Club Murders, My Ántonia, The Screwtape Letters, Hamlet, et cetera.
  • Long books. But not too many, or I’ll burn out again! I think nothing of reading a five-hundred-page book in an afternoon but anything longer requires a lot of time so I’ll probably manage to read only two: The Silmarillion and Les Misérables. Handily, they are both split into several parts. Built-in breaks!
  • Nonfiction. Because one cannot live on stories alone, I chose books like Harry Potter: Page to Screen and Into Thin Air.
  • Popular books, particularly middle-grade or YA. Just to catch up on what my friends rave about. Examples include the Lunar Chronicles, the Heroes of Olympus series, and the Divergent trilogy (I want to read at least the first one before going to see the movie in March). I’d also like to read more by John Green and give The Fault In Our Stars another try since I ended up skimming much of it the first time. (I feel bad for not liking it when so many others do. Maybe I missed something?)
  • Books picked at random. I know, I know. It’s weird to say I’ll make a conscious decision to pick out more books at random, but I get so hung up on checking a book off my to-read list that I don’t often pick up books with pretty covers or whose titles made me laugh. It’s perfectly OK to try a book “just because,” so I will. Obviously, I don’t know what those books will be yet…

With those genres in mind, are there any books that you think I should read?

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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16 Responses to Running From A Reading Rut

  1. Miriam Joy says:

    I read 76 books last year, half of what I read the year before (or possibly it was the year before that; I can’t remember, but one year recently I read 150 books). My aim this year is to read 80, and I was doing wonderfully until the past week or so when I was too ill to feel like reading much. But hey, my poetry collection’s really short, that’d count as a whole book and would only take you an hour… hint hint. 😉

    Classics I recommend: A Tale Of Two Cities (after a boring beginning, it’s easily readable, heartbreaking, and beautiful), The Picture Of Dorian Gray, obviously Hamlet though that’s a play so I wouldn’t really call it a classic … the Sherlock Holmes stories are short and readable too. You may already have read all these, though.

    Long books I recommend: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s, like, 1000 pages long but it’s beautiful and has fairies in it. It’s also being made into a miniseries by the BBC which I’m very excited about — I just saw some set pictures and I’m flailing endlessly.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yay, good job!
      Haha, I get the hint. I’ll look into buying that (and St. Mallory’s?), I have money left over from Christmas. It would be something different from what I usually read, at any rate.

      I dunno, I’d count plays as classics. Shakespeare’s definitely classic.
      I have read Dorian Gray, A Tale of Two Cities (KSJDAGHSDKGJHDSGJHSDLJGSDGSDG IT WAS WONDERFUL BUT I HAVEN’T REALLY BEEN ABLE TO GET INTERESTED IN ANY OF DICKENS’ OTHER STUFF BESIDES A CHRISTMAS CAROL AND THAT WAS SHORT SO IT DOESN’T COUNT), and – wow, that was a lot of stuff in those parentheses, I’m sorry – have read many Sherlock Holmes stories but nowhere near all of them.

      Oh yes, I’ve heard of that. I didn’t know anything about it, though. For some reason I thought it was a classic.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Got it.
      …speaking of Victorian-ish new books, have you ever read the Montmorency series? They’re wonderful.

    • nevillegirl says:

      *pushes Miriam to the library* Read them. Reaaaaaaad theeeeeeeem. Although not while you’re eating, because they take place in a sewer most of the time and ack. So yeah.

  2. orphu44 says:

    I had the same sort of thing with Game of Thrones, actually – the next book was technically in the library system, but ended up being almost impossible to get, and by the time I could read it I’d lost track of what was happening.
    I can’t think of many recommendations that fit into your categories, particularly since my bookshelf is rather lacking in diversity as well. Hmm … I realize you already know Malinda Lo’s books, but I quite like Adaptation/Inheritance. And maybe Ring of Solomon? Does that count?

    • nevillegirl says:

      They’re excellent books if you like throwing yourself into something long, which I usually do – but after four books, I wanted something new.
      Yeah, I’ll have to try Adaptation and Inheritance. I don’t think either of my libraries has them, though. 😦
      Ring of Solomon? Never heard of it. I’ll check it out!

      • orphu44 says:

        It’s an extension of the Bartimaeus series, and everyone’s from ancient Jerusalem, so *shrug*
        And ooh, yes, I’d forgotten about Fire! I quite like Kristin Cashore’s books, although I’m not sure if it’s actually explicitly stated that Fire’s a woman of colour until later in the series, in Bitterblue. I could have just mentally whitewashed everything when I initially read Fire, though. :/
        Oh, and there’s the Book of Negroes, too, if you haven’t already read it.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Ooh yay, more Bartimaeus. I’ll look for them next time I’m at the library. And perhaps I shall pester the librarians about getting more Lo.

  3. Lilooooooooo says:

    Mm….books. *rolls around in happiness* I really REALLY loved Graceling (and Fire – racially diverse protagonist), both by Kristin Cashore. Excellent reads. Also, however cliché or overused this example is, I stand by The Mortal Instruments…(Cassandra Clare). Just for YA books, if you were still looking for anything…. 🙂

  4. Erin says:

    I’ve been having the same problem the past couple years…I haven’t lost my love of reading, I think it’s just that I’ve found other things that I’m interested in that are now taking up the time that I previously spent reading. Also, I just haven’t found many books that sound like they’re worth reading. Ugh…
    Anyway, if you’re looking for book recommendations, I’d say give The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan a try. They’re an easy read, and great adventure/humor books.

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