Wednesday night the Goodreads screen on my laptop glared accusingly at me. I am now three books behind on the reading challenge schedule, and with very little hope of catching up. Back in January, I decided on the very ambitious goal of reading sixty books this year and proudly announced this to all of my friends, who proceeded to roll their eyes and absently agree with me. For the first six months, I made an excellent progress. I varied my reading style: fiction on Borgia Italy, fantasies, historical non-fiction, and even a few graphic novels. By June, I was right where I needed to be, thirty books in. I received my congratulatory email from Goodreads, praising my careful tracking of all the books I read.
And then, in July, it stopped. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t concentrate. The words blurred on the page whenever I sat down with my cup of tea or went to the sun filled park for an afternoon of books and coffee. I tried starting a book, then a second, and finally after a third, and still I put them all aside, unread. Books would lay open in my hands and held as much interest to me as a pile of pebbles. Panic set in. I love to read, it’s my pastime and hobby, the activity I engage in the morning and at night. I stared at the piles of books leaning in the corners of my new apartment, frowning at them, and not feeling a single spark of interest. I realized then the nightmare of all readers arrived: I was in a reading slump.
There was nothing to do, but let it pass. Like the flu, I needed to let my mind rest a bit . Eventually my incessant desire to read would return and I would pick up where I left off. But what to do instead? I suddenly had copious amounts of time and I needed to fill it. Here is how I survived:
Stock up on tea
Tea helps ease the soul and I found with the time on my hands I was able to go bagless and experiment more with using my own leaves. I also had the time to wash all the excess, sodden leaves out of the mugs.
I wanted an activity that wasn’t stressful but also active. I broke out the yarn and the knitting needles, spent an evening stalking all the free patterns on Ravelry, and away I went. I’m two scarves in and counting.
Walk/swim at the beach
It’s summer, and as much as it pains me, the beach isn’t just for reading. I’ve built sandcastles, flown a kite, and started a seaglass collection.
Listen to a new podcast
I’m hacking away at my podcast list and asking for recommendations and taking long walks to listen to all of them. I find myself drawn to fictional, serialized stories.
Have a date with a friend
I have a great group of friends that I see on the regular. Lately, I’ve met with my best friend one on one, out for coffee or lunch. It made me realize how introverted I was becoming and spending an hour or two with the people I care about has strengthened our personal relationship outside of the group setting.
I go once or twice a week now to the local animal shelter to help play with cats and walk dogs. Who doesn’t like to cuddle with cute animals?
This seems contradictory, but I decided it was time to part with some books I will never read or ones I don’t see myself reading again in the future. I piled them up and made a trip to the local thrift store to bequeath a few dozen tomes. It was sad to see them go, but it eased some of the pressure off of my shoulders of books that I felt I needed to read or hold on to.
I’m a decent cook. I make a mean pasta dish and can do wonderful things with lamb. I’ve been spending more time in the evenings meal prepping and cooking a dinner for myself. Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas and I’ve hand picked a few summer recipes to give a go at. Avocados are a frequent contender and so is corn. Not everything has come out according to my plans, but that’s the fun of trying.
I’m still in the middle of this reading slump, so keeping myself busy with other activities and being social helps to subside that initial anxiety. As much as I love books and reading, it’s not as bad as I thought to take a break from my paperbacks. I’m enjoying my summer and my friends more. I realized that by spending so much of my time obsessively reading I was missing out on so much more with the people I care about and also other activities I enjoy. Maybe my subconscious brain needed to tell me in a roundabout way to get out and step away from reading and do something with the few short weeks of summer I have left. Books will always be there, but for right now I’m happily and delightfully exploring my way through summer.