Reader’s Block

So we’ve all heard of writer’s block, but only recently did I come across the much more mysterious ailment known to some as “reader’s block”.

Generally it involves an inability to start, persevere with, or finish a book, but mostly it just means not being able to sit down and take pleasure in the long loved pastime of reading. Truly, it is as repulsive a condition as it sounds.

And for the last several months I have been a sufferer.

To none other than myself does this come as more of a shock. I, who my entire life have prided myself on finishing every book I start, no matter how awful, “just in case” the ending redeems it. I who must read to better my craft. I who enjoy a good book above all things.

But alas, as the end of the year draws nigh along with the deadline to my 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge, I find my bookshelves spilling over with beautiful, glorious, new books, most with bookmarks poking out at about page 80.

I attribute this unhappy chapter of my life to several contributing factors. Those being:

  1. Writing. This year my writing has taking precedence over all else as I’ve grappled with recurring deadlines and the seemingly-impossible task of writing a novel for assessment. I’m sure I’ll post more about it later, as it’s been the primary reason for my blogging absence these past months.
  2. Working. This is a bit of a conundrum. At the beginning of the year I scored myself a job at a lovely little independent bookstore. One would assume that such a position would generate increased reading. Sadly, the opposite ensued. 9 hour work days on top of uni have resulted in earlier bed times and less brain power when it comes to extra-curricular activities.
  3. Greed. Working in a bookshop certainly has its perks, but my inner greedy reader has been unable to cope with the continuous arrival of new and wonderful books. I get one chapter into a book before another one comes into the store looking all sultry and readable, and I get distracted. As such, I have purchased many books this year, but most of them remain unfinished.
  4. (In)Sanity. The combination of the above factors have together tested my sanity. Reading for work and reading for uni have at times made the activity seem a chore, and let’s face it, who likes chores? Any free time I’ve been able to pilfer, I’ve dedicated to sleeping, eating, or the peaceful enjoyment of staring quietly at blank walls.

The whole thing has been mildly traumatic, but in the meantime I’ve discovered a few gems. Yes, a handful of books actually managed to bulldoze through my reader’s block and give me hope. It’s not that the other books weren’t any good, in fact when (if?!) I get over this ridiculous phase, I’m sure I’ll love them to bits.  It’s just that they weren’t totally, absolutely, incredibly phenomenal. And really, how many books are?

With standards like that, I was destined to be disappointed, but a few shone brightly in the darkness nonetheless. Without further adieu, allow me to share with you the top five books that prevailed over the dreaded reader’s block and made my reading year:

5. A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold. 

The second part to the third in George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. This is my favourite book in the series so far. I heard along the grapevine that the series was originally intended as a trilogy, and I could tell by the end of this book that for many of the characters things were wrapping up nicely (or bloodily, depending on the character). I haven’t yet been able to move on to the fourth book, knowing that it’s now time to introduce many new characters and saddened that some of my favourites won’t be there to carry the story through. Nevertheless, I look back on this instalment with great fondness.

4. The Hunger Games.

This was a bit of a surprise. I watched the movie and whilst I enjoyed it, I wasn’t all that fussed. When I finally got around to reading the book it sucked me right in and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished. I then went on to read the next two in the trilogy and while I didn’t enjoy them as much as the first, they were still pretty amazing.

3. A Casual Vacancy.

Not the most enjoyable read of the year, given the dark and depressing themes throughout, but even despite that I still managed to finish this 500 page corker of a book in a matter of days (quite a feat for a reader’s block sufferer). It even inspired me to write a review.

2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. 

When in doubt, go back to a classic favourite. If I’ve read it once I’ve read it a trillion times, but I’m currently re-reading this Tolkien masterpiece and haven’t been able to put it down yet. Beautiful prose, characters and story: what more could you ask for?

1. Ready Player One. 

READ IT. Seriously. If you know what’s good for you, read this book. It’s an absolute nerd fest with a nostalgic appreciation for 80s pop culture, old school video games, RPGs, anime, and a firefly called Serenity. The blurb describes it as “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix” but I don’t think that does it any justice. Yes, there is a “golden ticket” aspect to it and certainly it takes place in a dystopian not-so-distant future where we spend most of our lives in a virtual reality simulation, but the premise itself is totally original and SO MUCH FUN. In fact, it’s so awesome, Warner Bros have already bought the film rights to the book. If you need further convincing, check out Patrick Rothfuss’s Goodreads review:

Need I say more?

There you have it. The books that got me through nothing short of a peculiar reading year.

Have you ever suffered from “reader’s block”? If so, which books, if any, have pulled you out of it? And for those of you who think reader’s block is as silly as it sounds, tell me instead what books you loved this year. Go on. You know you want to…

27 comments on “Reader’s Block

    • Yes, I think that’s often the case for me too. Reading overload! I’m not as talented as you with a camera, but I should definitely take your good advice and go exploring more often!

  1. No reader’s block, Katy, but I was surprised to find I had a lower tolerance for books that didn’t grab me immediately. Also, we both read so many books this year, fiction and writing texts for our studies, there was less room, as you mentioned, for reading for pure bliss. My favourite book for 2012: ‘Foal’s Bread’ by Gillian Mears.

    • So true, Shirley. I’ve heard from a lot of people these past few weeks that tertiary study inevitably comes hand in hand with destroyed reading habits. I’m still to read Foal’s Bread but it’s on “The List”!

  2. I totally have suffered from reader’s block. In fact, I have a stack of library books taunting me with their wonderful words and stories. I’m already reading two books at once (plus one on self-publishing). I can’t start another…

      • Yep. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, even when I have a day off work and technically have nothing else pressing I need to be doing. It feels TOO decadent to sit around and read all day.

  3. I only got a hold of the single A Storm of Swords. When I saw there was the 2 book version, I told myself that I did not want to hit a readers block by purchasing two and holding back my curiosity. haha!

  4. I had the worst reader’s block for the four years of my degree and almost an entire year after it. I read maybe five books a year for my own pleasure. University work burns it out of you. Even then, I took about ten months to snap out of it. I remember it distinctly as being September 2009, almost a year exactly after I handed in my Honours thesis. The book that got me reading again? Twilight.

    • You’re so right, Lissa. University does burn it out of you and it’s something I’m hearing a lot. I’ve been at uni for 9 years now but have rarely studied with such intensity or vigour.
      And hey, if Twilight is what it takes then Twilight is what it takes!

    • Oh Angela, I feel your pain. I’m currently reading a book called Every Day by David Levithan and really enjoying it. It’s YA about a person that everyday wakes up in a different body. “It’s” name is A, and one day A falls in love with a girl whilst in the body of her boyfriend (who’s a douchebag). It’s quite a fascinating exploration of the separation of mind and body and so well-crafted. It was recommended to me by a reliable source, and I feel it my civic duty to now recommend it to you. We can get through this together! :)

    • Oh Jess! I was so depressed throughout most of the third book because I couldn’t see how things could possibly get better for everyone. I can’t even remember what happens at the end – I think I was too sad and wanted to repress the memory! Ha! The 1st book was definitely my fave.

  5. I’ve been thinking about this condition so much lately, as I’ve succumbed to watching (for the second time, no less) the entire series of “Madmen.” Occasionally I’ll think: can it really be weeks since I’ve picked up a book? I’m a writer! And yet there I sit, curled up with Don Draper instead of one of the many novels teetering on my bedside table. (Worse, I’m scrolling through Facebook.) Will my drought end with my recent purchase of Barbara Kingsolver’s FLIGHT BEHAVIOR? I’ll keep you posted.

    • I usually replace my reading with TV show marathons too! The Tudors was on my hit list semester, but usually it’s seven glorious seasons of Buffy or Game of Thrones reruns. I’m yet to watch Madmen, but it’s on my list of Shows to Fall in Love With. Flight Behaviour has been incredibly popular in my little bookshop, so I hope it helps your reading drought!

  6. I’ve got reader’s block at the moment. Very frustrating. I keep thinking it’s pretty selfish to be writing without reading (and I mean this of myself, not you – because you have a proper reason for doing so), but I simply have no time to fall into a book at the moment.

  7. i spent the days of my youth as an introverted sensitive, wrapped up almost entirely in the world of fiction, and i loved it so much that i even wrote a novel, but it was received so cruelly by my family that i developed BOTH writer’s and reader’s block that have persisted for the last 20 years!!!! right now i’m sooooo desperate to get back to my love of books that i often cry about it. i’ve got a book sitting right here waiting for me, but this invisible wall prevents me from picking it up and opening it… i’m totally at a loss as to what to do, if there is any help out there for this sort of thing, please, for the love of God, HELP ME….

  8. Hey Katy!
    Just found your blog…Pretty interesting stuff here :)
    I know exactly what you mean…unfortunately, busy student life quite gets in the way of readers. I’ve just recently started blogging; one reason is to keep reminding myself that there are books on my shelf and stories to be completed. Hopefully, it’ll work!

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