Monday, June 6, 2011

Getting out of reading slumps

Usually, I read a lot. In fact, I've posted before (in answer to questions about how I read as much as I do) with some suggestions for how to read more efficiently. I regularly keep several books going at once, and also read a lot of blogs and a few magazines.

Lately, though, I've been in a reading slump! I realized the other day that it has been more than a month since I finished a book. There are a handful of reasons contributing to this slump: I have some editing, writing, and layout going for several books through
Doulos Resources and Kalos Press that I've been focusing on (one of which I'll mention soon in another post!); I have been trying to weed through the 100s of articles I've stored up in my Instapaper account; and I also have been working on other projects, including the seminar I'll give later this week at the PCA's General Assembly.

Mostly, though, I simply haven't been up to the mental work that reading books requires.

This doesn't mean I haven't been reading books at all! In fact, I've been working through sections of a dozen or more books for lessons I've prepared and taught, I've started a handful of other books, and have continued to work through a few that I'm taking a slower pace with. But my "slump" has led me to wonder:
what can I do to get out of a reading slump?

Here's a few thoughts that have come to mind:
  • It's okay to take a break! First off, I need to remember that there's nothing wrong with giving my mind a rest from reading as voraciously as I usually do. There is an ebb and flow to most parts of life, and both Scripture and nature (or general revelation) prescribe such.
  • Re-evaluate recent reading patterns. I noticed that I've been heavy on books related to editing, publishing, and book design. That's not a bad thing-- but the continual focus on a particular theme or topic can lead to a bit of mental burn-out on that subject. My next books need to represent a welcome change of topic.
  • Pick up something familiar and beloved. Maybe what I should read is something that will jump-start my re-invigoration of reading pleasure. In the past, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series has served me well in this way. So have books like William Still's The Work of the Pastor and Henri Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son. Perhaps I'll re-read one or more of these in the early part of summer.
  • Find something completely different. For the past several summers, I've made it a point to read something off the regular reading path. For example, I was absolutely delighted to read How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons a few summers ago. I should find something like this-- not necessarily in terms of topic, but with regard to how far afield it is from my ordinary reading patterns.
  • Pick up something everyone is talking about. There are a couple of books that it seems like every other person I talk to has mentioned to me in the last six months or so: the Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography by Eric Metaxas, Eugene Peterson's memoir The Pastor. In recent years this category might have included Paul Miller's The Praying Life, Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do, and Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. Likewise, a friend's recent recommendation of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany was so strong that I'm compelled to pick it up.
So, my reading plan over the next few months includes the following: Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son, Katie Hofner's A Romance on Three Legs, Peterson's The Pastor, and Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany.

If you're in a slump, let me know how these strike you. If you've come through one recently, what helped you crawl out of it?

No comments:

Post a Comment