Everyone knows I read a lot. Somewhere north of 150 books a year – sometimes more than 250. I read a wide range, including a lot of romance novels, mysteries, Canadian fiction, and memoirs. But sometimes I get stuck. It often aligns with having high anxiety – the uncertainty of a new book or new author feels overwhelming and I find myself rereading books because they are safe or comfortable. I’ve been known to reread every book by Tamora Pierce or Courtney Milan over a weekend. It’s fun, in a way, but it’s like only eating grilled cheese even though you know you love trying new things.
So what do I do to get out of that rut?
1. Be patient and kind to yourself
What’s wrong with comfort food for a little while? It feeds a part of your soul that is obviously feeling needy! Understand where you are right now, and trust that you won’t be there forever. While you’re in this head space, embrace it! What’s your favourite teen read that you could pick up again? Which popcorn novel still makes you laugh? Reread all the Goosebumps books or return to your favourite Marion Keyes. Reading elitism is for dead white men with university buildings named after them.
2. Stretch your comfort zone
Start slow. It’s good to push yourself out of that rut, but you don’t need to go too fast. For me, if I’m feeling risk averse then there are specific genres I look at – usually romance and mystery – because these are predictable patterns to these that will let me read something new, but trust that it will all be okay at the end. I look for romance recommendations from my faves (Jasmine Guillory, Alyssa Cole, Alisha Rai, Helen Hoang, Ripped Bodice, WOC in Romance…) And there are tons of P.D. James, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dick Francis and other mystery authors that I haven’t read yet. This is about stretching those reading skills with something fun but unfamiliar.
3. Embrace the quick read
Okay, this is actually what inspired this post. One of the best tips I have for getting out of the rut is to read a bunch of books that are great and challenging but SHORT. This is such a good way to read a lot, without committing to a 700 page Very Important Novel. It’s like a buffet where you take a few bites of everything that looks good to remember what you like and miss.
I’m going to list some of my favourite short novels at the end so you have a list to start from next time you need it. Or today, if you just want a quick weekend read!
4. Get excited!
Now you’re reading again, start looking at the hundreds of lists of new books, best books, upcoming books and get excited about all those stories waiting for you. One of my favourite ways to find new books is through specific google searches like “books by African lesbians” or “Northern Canadian authors” or “Asian murder mysteries”. You may not find that exact list but you’ll find interesting books that aren’t represented in the New York Times Bestseller list.
12 great short novels:
Ru, Kim Thúy (Or really any of her books. They’re so good. If you haven’t read any of them then move it to the top of your list!)
The End We Start From, Megan Hunter
Spy of the First Person, Sam Shepard
I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
Cowrie, Cathie Dunsford
The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka
We Have Always Lived In The Castle, Shirley Jackson
Sula, Toni Morrison
Being There, Jerzy Kosinski
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
Widow Basquiat, Suzanne Malouk
What’s your favourite trick for this? Which great short novel did I miss?