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Book Burnout: When Reading Isn’t Easy Anymore

By on April 20, 2019

Book burnout. I honestly thought it was made up. A friend of mine mentioned it a long time ago, and at first I thought it was ludicrous. How could I possibly become sick of reading?! But today, friends, I want to talk about this #firstworldproblem, because it’s actually really serious and could be affecting you way more than you realize. I’ll also talk about how to bounce back to your nerdy, library-loving self.

Why is your Book Burnout happening?

The first question to ask yourself is “When did I last finish a book?”. I say finish because sometimes I will have 3-4 books on the go, and if I’m stagnating, I might not notice it for a while – a month even. But if you realize that you haven’t finished a book in a while, or you feel glum about what you’ve finished, this might be a great indicator that you’re sick of reading.

The next question to ask is, logically, “Are there factors in my life right now keeping me from reading?”. Honestly, when I was in University, I don’t think I read more books than I have fingers. In FIVE YEARS! (I have a minor, it’s ok to slow-mo things). I also stopped reading for the entire month of June 2017 when I was studying for a professional exam. Aside from school, overall stress levels can be a huge contributor. And of course for lots of us, when we’re anxious, we’re also a little depressed, and that can put an instant kibosh on tackling the tomb on our shelf we’ve been “meaning to read”. Honestly, you have to give yourself some time. Recover. Relax. And if that means chick lit, or NO lit, that’s totally ok. Come back to it when you’re ready.

But let’s say that I’m in a fairly normal work/life/personal stuff time, and can’t put my finger on it, IT MIGHT BE THE BOOKS’ FAULT. Yep, I said it. Sometimes, that greatly anticipated new release just does NOT live up to the hype. Or the book club selections have taken a slump. Or, the books that came off the reserve list were all the same genre, or all just happened to coincidentally suck. It DOES happen. December 2018 (and part of January) was an absolutely, unforgivably terrible reading month for me due to a combination of factors. So what to do about this mess?

Why Book Burnout is Worth Fighting

So, using this year’s freeze out as described above as a perfect example, I’d like to talk about why book burnout is absolutely terrible for you.

  1. Books are great for winding down before bed – even the National Sleep Foundation says so! If you’re not reading, you are likely substituting some sort of media (from Netflix to Facebook, the possibilities are endless. But also, likely one of those). There are studies that have proven that the light (etc.) are bad for your brain, as it keeps it going rather than slowing down.
  2. Book escapism helps people feel better. I don’t know if there are any papers alluding to this, but it’s real and you can’t convince me otherwise.
  3. It also definitely has been proven that reading promotes better emotion/sympathy responses, as well as creativity and imagination, so better to recover and get back reading sooner to make sure these faculties are in full swing.
  4. Books are, as always, a tool for learning. If you drop this tool, whether it’s fact or fiction, you’re losing out on chances to develop, and again likely substituting a weaker option in its place. I personally feel that this also likely contributes to slowing ignition stimuli, to take on new tasks and challenges.

So even if your book burnout has been relatively short, it’s time to break that habit and kick things back into gear!

Getting Back on the Bookish Train

After asking these questions to myself, I have to encourage myself to get the ball rolling again on my reading. Being a bit of a closet chick lit fan, I often will go with something lighter to begin with (in January, I picked The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor), or re-read an old favourite (Harry Potter anyone?). Reading books that are “easy” or very pleasant to us releases dopamine, and makes us feel happy and successful. So then of course, we want to do it more, and it begins a positive feedback loop. I build on this by participating in the Goodreads challenge every year, so I push my goals and read a lot more as a result. I highly recommend this if you’re looking to read more (or at all)!

Another way to end book burnout might just be to pursue a different medium of book. When in a funk, an audiobook might be a great switch. For me, moving to a printed book rather than an e-book just makes me generally happier.

And lastly, when the true book block hits, sometimes the best thing you can do is… write some stuff down instead of reading. This may sound odd or counter-intuitive, but I’m doing it right now, so I can tell you – this works!!

I hope that my experiences can help you combat any reading sickness you might be experiencing – and please tell me in the comments below if you have other smart ideas for beating book burnout!!

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Warby Parker
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