Sunday Salon: On Slumps
Yesterday, I finally emerged from the a bit of a reading slump I’d been experiencing for the past week and a half. It was the kind of slump where I still read a little here and there, but I wasn’t breathing books the way that I usually do. It wasn’t the books’ fault at all, just something in me that wasn’t terribly interested in reading. It was also partly due to non-reading stuff taking over: my niece was at the beach with her other grandmother last week, which meant my mom and I had more time to spend together than usual. And of course, the arrival of Bianca led me into a bit of an obsession! ;) I’ve found it best not to force myself to read during slumps, but to just ride it out until one day I suddenly find myself again spending hours immersed in books. But even though I know the slumps will pass, they unsettle me: I just feel ‘off’ when books aren’t front and center in my life. I begin to imagine the emptiness of a life without reading, and I end up profoundly grateful for my good fortune in having free access to so many books, time in which to read them, and the skills necessary for reading and processing them. The one upside of a reading slump is that when it ends, I suddenly feel like a thirsty person gulping water. I want to spend all of my day with books, and I begrudge anything that takes me away from them. Since my slump ended yesterday, I’m still in that revelling phase, so on that note I shall wrap up this post and get back to my current stack. But be sure to share any coping strategies you have for getting through reading slumps!
One-sentence recommendations (there’s a lot of these because I’ve skipped the past couple Sundays but was reading up a storm at the end of June/early July!):
Read Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin if…you’re looking for some strong Southern atmosphere or a ‘literary thriller’ and don’t mind the occasional overwritten passage and clumsy handling of race issues.
Read Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton if…the use of a (slightly) alternative world to show up all sorts of gender and class assumptions inherent in Victorian lit intrigues you or you’re a newbie to fantasy but already love classics or you’re just looking for a wonderful book to get lost in.
Read Reading the Middle Ages by Thomas Steinberg if…you’re looking for a great, accessible overview of medieval literature, more insight into a medieval work you’ve already read (he analyses several: check the table of contents) or need some inspiration to start diving into the period.
Read The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier if…you’re a du Maurier fan eager for your next fix or are looking for a nuanced psychological portrait of a man who suddenly finds himself living a stranger’s life (I can’t resist a companion read suggestion: A Trap for Cinderella by Sebastian Japrisot, which also deals with switched identities in France).
Read The Innocence of the Devil by Nawal El Saadawi if…you’re curious about Middle Eastern feminist fiction and don’t mind a confused narrative (I preferred A Distant View of the Minaret, by another Egyptian feminist, myself).
Read The Touchstone by Edith Wharton if…you want to see how Wharton started her career or are interested in classics with a still modern relevance, since much of the book debates how much of a famous author’s private life ‘belongs’ to the public or just want a quick classics fix (it’s a novella).
Read The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette if…you’re more interested in popular American culture than math or enjoy those ‘stunt’ memoirs wherein an author combines learning about whatever topic with lots of personal stories.
Read The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie if…you’re looking for contemporary fiction that will confront you and at times alienate you but ultimately stay with you (if you’re an Alexie newbie, I wouldn’t suggest this as your first experience).
Read Read My Pins by Madeleine Albright if…you like books about everyday style/clothes or you’re an Albright fangirl (I wouldn’t recommend the ebook, since this is supposed to be a coffee table style book and includes a lot of photographs of her brooches). ;)
Read White Teeth by Zadie Smith if…you enjoy a strong, brash narrator, powerful writing, and don’t mind a long-ish book full of unlikeable characters who don’t do much (I found myself reminded of White Tiger at times).
Read The Zigzag Way by Anita Desai if…you love interior-focused, character-driven stories that touch on several generations or enjoy looks at expat life or are looking for marvelous books set in Mexico.
Read The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart if…you’re looking for a light but fascinating popular science book or are an avid gardener or are curious about alternative, environmentally friendly approaches to agriculture and waste disposal or are just a natural history nerd like me and can’t resist a book all about earthworms.