I burned out last year. I went from reviewing books to barely finishing anything at all. The books I finished... well, I didn't enjoy them all that much. Eventually, I gave up and just stopped trying. There were a few books read throughout the following year, but they were sequels to what I'd already read and I struggled through them.
About a month ago I decided to get over it. I referred to it as "The Struggle" and made up some rules to follow:
1) Only physical books.
I feel as though I am not compelled to finish e-books. There is something about having a book in your hands and knowing how far you have progressed and how much is left. Unlike an e-book, which just disappears into the aether when you aren't reading, a physical book is a visual reminder that you have a story left unread. I don't romanticize books and I have been a proponent of e-books for ages, but I just don't think they work for me.
2) Only books from the library.
It gets me out of the house. I also don't have extra money to spend on books. It also means that I can choose books that I normally wouldn't because there is no fear of gambling away that extra money I don't have to spend on a shit book.
3) Only one book at a time.
If you are having trouble finishing books and dropping them, why push yourself?
4) Finish what you get.
Not a steadfast rule. I'm not pushing myself to read something terrible, but I'll try to finish things I might drop for silly reasons.
It has been a success, though things have changed a bit since the first two books, which were:
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami - A wonderful book marred by an ending that wasn't. I am tired of stories ending when things are most interesting. It is cheap and frustrating and I want closure.
- The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne - A not-so-wonderful book that uses unreliable narrators to undermine much of the story, robbing the story of impact for the sake of a twist. It has an annoying beginning, an interesting middle, and an ending that is spelled out chapters ahead of time by anyone able to take a hint.
After that, things went awry. For whatever reason, I decided to ignore my rule of only one book out at a time. Things still went well:
- Locke & Key, vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill - I remember reading the first issue of this a long time ago and never picking it up again. I didn't remember much about it, not even my opinion of it, but I had heard enough praise that I decided to go ahead with this. Turns out, I just plain didn't like what I'd read. Nothing here interested me.
- The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe - I suppose I should applaud the author for trying to write strong women... if only he hadn't turned around and made the men in the novel either submissive good guys or misogynistic, slut-shaming assholes hellbent on either giving the main character bad name or turning her into a submissive sex slave to her abusive ex. There were several points in the book where I almost dropped it because I disliked even the notion of the book attempting to go in that direction. It ended up being a decent book, but making the men cartoon villains is a bold mark against it.
- Harvest by Jim Crace - It would be easy to find this book boring, it being about the crisis surrounding a village and the march of progress away from farming toward shepherding. Unfortunate events and new ownership create chaos and that chaos breaks the village over its knee with practiced ease. It is a great read, though one would be excused for thinking different.
- These Dreams of You by Steve Erickson - Excellent. Just excellent.