How to Get Out of a Reading Rut

One simple book trick

Basset Hound dog brown and white intelligent intellectual reading book of glasses on the bed.

There is an unexpected wealth of advice online about how to get over reader’s block, which upon further reflection is not really so surprising because if anyone likes to produce content for the web, it’s people who are very vocal about how much they read. Most of these posts list the same sort of suggestions for how to rekindle a passion for books: revisit an old favorite, try some short stories, take a break from screens, and, according to a Mental Floss article, make it to page 69 (nice) of a book before deciding whether or not to keep going. These are just a few of many tips offered on the subject.

But, in my opinion, many of these guides are overcomplicating it. You only need to follow one step to get out of a reading rut, and that is: just read a good book.

I’ll expand on this concept. You see, until recently I was going through my own rough patch of reader’s block for, oh, I don’t know, the past year and a half. As I lamented a couple weeks ago in an embarrassing display of public oversharing, every single book I had tried to read ended up being quite tedious to slog through. I will not name the specific book titles, but let’s just say they were all fairly new novels with some critical buzz. Bo-ring.

My colleague Brandy replied to my complaint with this sage advice: “have you tried my trick of reading books that feature sorcery or very large worms.” I interpreted this to mean fantasy of some kind, and so I picked my next book accordingly: Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi (2020), which I had purchased last December but neglected for all the buzzy contemporary novels that left me feeling listless. I must apologize — to Clarke, to past me, to the air itself — for waiting so long to get around to this book, because it is incredible. I cracked it open one weekend and was finished with the whole thing within 24 hours. It had been such a long time since I experienced that particular joy of losing sleep over a book, poring over the pages in bed at 2 a.m., unable to put it down out of fear that the spell would break. It felt amazing.

Since then, I have zoomed through two more novels — both fantasy, both ones that I last read maybe 15 years ago — in a similar manner. It helped that all of these books are well plotted and well written and set in other worlds, I think. But most of all, they are just good books. Whatever that may be to you, that’s what you should read. It’s that simple.