What Happens When You're Sick of Reading

I was crazy bored the other day and nothing seemed to snap me out of my funk. There was no new TV to catch up on. I didn’t have the right ingredients to bake cookies, and I didn’t want to schlep to the store. My favorite blogs hadn’t been updated since my last visit. It’s a cold winter where I am, and the temperature had dipped below zero, so I was in no mood for a walk. My friends were all busy, but I wasn’t really in a friend kind of mood, anyway.

I paced around my room: I fixed my bed sheets. I dusted my mirror. I trimmed my bangs. My eye caught an unread volume of David Rakoff essays in my bookshelf. Should I read? I hadn’t thought of that option. I brought the book into bed with me, read the first page, and then decided to unload the dishwasher instead.

It’s happened, the thing I never thought could happen: I’m a little sick of reading. I’m sick of prologues and introductions and figuring out the difference between the two. I’m sick of characters tilting their heads to the sky. I’m sick of train metaphors. I’m sick of wondering if Tao Lin is someone I should care about. I’m sick of flashbacks and dustcovers and epilogues. Oh, a main character wants something? And another character doesn’t want them to get something? Call The New Yorker! That shit must be important.

I’ve been a lifelong reader. I was an English major in college. In grad school, I fulfilled almost all of my requirements for my Gender Studies degree through English courses. I love reading! Reading rules! Except when it, well… rules you.

Reading has always been a favorite pastime. It’s so easy to get lost in a good book, and a book is the perfect thing to have with you on a hot beach day or under blooming spring trees, and goes remarkably well with both hot cider and hot cocoa. But when your work involves reading and writing about reading, it isn’t necessarily your go-to activity during downtime anymore.

I’ve had steady gigs as a book reviewer since graduating college. By and large, it’s been wonderful. There’s nothing else quite like getting an unedited proof in the mail for review. I’ve gotten to read some wonderful things, and have been exposed to writers I never would’ve found on my own. Reviewing has also been an excellent writing exercise in both restraint and expression, and I’m grateful for the practice.

Some of my favorite people live within the pages of books — Anastasia Krupnik, Gogol Ganguli, Isadora Wing — but when you read books for a living, they’re no longer your friends: they’re your colleagues (the annoying ones that don’t stop talking about their cats). Some of my favorite places can be found within the pages of books—1920s London, 1980s New England, 1970s Detroit—but when you read for a living, they’re no longer places to escape to: they’re business trip destinations (the ones where you don’t even leave the hotel). Even my favorite personal reading spots (my bed and the right side of my living room couch) aren’t really places to relax anymore: they’re my offices. It’s not unlike when I worked at a frozen yogurt store after college and then couldn’t eat any for more than a year after I quit, or when I would leave my Gender Studies classes and go home and read US Weekly. I’m more than happy to read for work, but to read for fun afterwards? Sometimes you gotta be off the clock.

I’m sure I’ll get over this feeling soon. I’ve had it before — after reading eight Toni Morrison books in one semester, I never wanted to read her work again. She’s one of my favorite authors, but the deep investigation into her writing was exhausting, and I needed a break from her. The time apart did a lot of good: I revisited Beloved recently and was even more moved than I had been the first few times.

I don’t want to be sick of reading. It’s the worst! I feel like such a philistine right now, so I’m hoping I can just chalk up this recent reading malaise to the winter; I work primarily from home, but once it warms up a bit, I’ll be more likely to venture out to park benches and coffee shops to do my work there. And then, hopefully, my home spaces will be my home spaces again and reading will feel like a vacation, not my vocation.

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