Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Reading slump pick me ups. What’s yours?

DSCN5085As a lifelong avid reader, I couldn’t even begin to imagine not having at least five books on the go at the one time. I have books stashed in every room in the house with various unorthodox bookmarks in them. A sock in one, a train ticket in another, one with a half eaten packet of polo mints and there’s a pile stacked face down by my bed open at the last page I read. Usually, I work my way through them, some swiftly rarely being put down. Some, unfortunately keep their bookmark in the same page forever. This is how I lose things like my driving licence!

But what happens when you get to the stage where NO books go beyond those first couple of chapters? What do you do when you cannot get into your reading groove at all, no matter what you read? I mean, after the initial panic attack. This is not a problem with the books, I’m not talking Katherine,_Anya_Seton_2006_edition_novelabout consecutive bad book choices here. This is very much a matter of it’s not you, it’s me.

My solution to this is always to go back and re-read an old favourite. It always works. I have read Katherine by Anya Seton at least twenty times. For some reason this book is one I can read over and over and over. It’s not my usual genre choice. It’s very long. It’s quite old. But for some reason, this is the book that saves me.

Katherine is was fist published in 1954. It’s a historical novel based on the love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. It’s a fictionalised account of a true story, an epic romance of a beautiful lowly waiting woman and the son of the king. It’s sumptuous and harrowing and heart rending. And I can slip between the pages every single time I pick it up and find my love for books again. For some reason this story never fails to ignite the reading spark again. I have absolutely no idea why. But it works.

I don’t usually re-read novels these days. When I was a teenager I often went back over and over to books that had captured me. Nowadays I just don’t have the time. But I do with this one, it’s my mojo-sparking medicine. Nothing else gets fixes that reading slump.

I’m sure you all have different methods, or different books you go back to. Please share your hits and tips. Do you go back, like me and read an old favourite? Do you take time out? Do you read something completely different? Or have you never had this…am I weird? I’d be very interested to find out what other people do.

About Eve Harvey

Eve Harvey is a bookaholic. She is forever to be found with her nose in a book. If there are none around then newspapers, magazines, the back of cereal packets, road signs or the tiny washing labels found on the seams of jumpers will do. Eve used to have full time job as a children's bookseller and she was the very first Waterstone's Children's Expert Bookseller in Scotland. Her first love was definitely literature for children and teens, about which she has nerd-level knowledge. However she has since become involved in grown-up books and has co-written her first adult novel with Cath Murphy. Eve and Cath Podcast, blog and have far too much fun on their website Domestic Hell. Eve lives in a field just outside Edinburgh in Scotland with her daughter and son and two dogs and two rabbits. She also has some tanks of tropical fish and vows one day to start up a marine aquarium. And the day she signs her very first publishing deal she is going to celebrate by buying a pair of Horsefields tortoises. You can find Eve through her Agent, Ella Kahn at DKW Literary Agency. She's also on Twitter or on her website :

15 comments on “Reading slump pick me ups. What’s yours?

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    September 27, 2014

    I think like you that re-reading is the key. My solution is usually a classic crime novel – a Christie or a Sayers always works wonders!

  2. Kate
    September 27, 2014

    Yes, Sayers always works for me. But I often find that switching genres works, plunging into biography or nature writing, or science-lite. Richard Fortey on palaeohistory will always reignite my mojo.

  3. Penny Alexander
    September 27, 2014

    Dorothy Dunnett’s ‘The Game of Kings.’ My antidote to Reading Slump! (And happy memories of Anya Seton’s book, too)

  4. ABB
    September 27, 2014

    I also love Anya Seton’s “Katherine” – it’s a book I too re-read every few years. I have a paperback edition that is falling to pieces. It is a tale of considerable complexity. Katherine is an appealing character, a person of integrity in a time that did not expect women to think for themselves. I also recommend Seton’s “Avalon” for a portrait of Merewyn, another woman living in turbulent times, set against Viking raids in tenth century England. As for a reading slump (shudder!), I can’t imagine such a thing, but I do sometimes find myself unable to decide what to read next. I often return to classics – “Wind in the Willows” and “The Lord of the Rings”, or Dickens’ and Jane Austen’s novels. Both Richard Fortey (especially his “Dry Store Room No. 1”) and the entire Dorothy Dunnett Lymond and Niccolo series are on the “often re-read” Another grounding read is Richard Nelson’s lyrical exploration of “The Island Within”, encounters with land and wildlife on an island offshore Alaska. I suppose most of these are the literary equivalent of “comfort food”! Nourishing, warming, predictable, and connected to the (better) past.

  5. Dianne Merridith
    September 27, 2014

    I rarely have a reading slump. However, once a year I recharge my batteries by re-reading Mary Stewart’s Thornyhill.

  6. BookerTalk
    September 28, 2014

    I’ve not had this problem for many years now ( hope I haven’t jinxed it just by saying that). If I did I’m sure I’d follow your approach and find a favourite for re-read, for me that would be Austen or George Eliot I suspect

  7. everydayhas
    September 28, 2014

    I switch genres, maybe even let someone else tell me what to read (aka the book club pick). If that doesn’t work, a little reading break will.

  8. Eve Harvey
    September 28, 2014

    Oh these are all wonderful suggestions! And even better that no-on has said (yet) that I’m weird! 😉 And I do love that there are so many of you with go-to favourites!

    I’ll definitely get a copy of Avalon. I’ve read Green Darkness and Dragonwyck but both so long ago I barely remember them. Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. Hilary
    September 28, 2014

    I fall into reading slumps quite regularly – I call it being ‘all read out’. Re-reading is the way, and I must try Katherine in these circs as it sounds like a sure fire winner. But more often it’s a childhood favourite that breaks through for me – Little Women works, and Three Men in a Boat. And, I have to say, Persuasion. And Cold Comfort Farm. So it’s either deep familiarity, or sure-fire hilarity, and if one doesn’t work I hope the other does. Great piece, great talking point, great discussion, by the way!

  10. gertloveday
    September 28, 2014

    Pride and Prejudice. Poetry. Audio books. There’s a fantastic version of Madame Bovary by the Canadian Globe Repertory Theatre. And you can listen to that while walking, a surefire way to get your imagination going again, because a flat imagination I believe is the cause of the reading slumps when everything’s weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.

  11. michael king
    September 29, 2014

    Evelyn Waugh; Anthony Powell’s A Dance … starting with #3 and moving through the 10th, Books Do Furnish a Room; Ross Macdonald mysteries as well as some of the Eric Ambler works; and works set in and about World War I.

  12. clodge2013
    September 30, 2014

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Something happened in the ’60s that just made this book the one, and I return to it, repeat phrases from it and recommend it all the time.

  13. victoriacorby
    October 1, 2014

    Diana Wynne Jones – her books are so clever and convoluted that you discover something new each time you read them, they’re funny too. I’ve just come out of hospital and felt a bit read out (eight books in seven days, I had several sleepless nights) and am currently re-reading The Eyre Affaire which is turning out to be an absolute joy.

  14. Simon T (Stuck-in-a-Book)
    October 1, 2014

    I had my worst one yet earlier in the year, and could only read Agatha Christies. But it didn’t really help me get out of the slump, since – once I start reading ACs – I find it very difficult to stop!

  15. Eve Harvey
    October 4, 2014

    How wonderful that pretty much across the board, the cure for reading slumps is…more reading! But yes, I guess the follow on problem with picking up something like Christie would be never wanting to stop! I had that with Jean Plaidy for a while…actually for a LONG while, there are hundreds of them! 🙂

    What a fantastic discussion, thank you all!

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This entry was posted on September 27, 2014 by in Articles, Entries by Eve.



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