April means an off-season for me which means more time to do what i wish i could do all day every day: read, write, nap, walk my dog and read again. Climbing out of a reading rut isn’t easy, and usually it happens without you even realizing, it in my experience. At the risk of truly becoming a broken record, i want to reiterate that it’s always about quality over quantity when it comes to the books we’re reading.
Reading slumps are defined not just by a lower number of books read, but moreso by the lack of motivation to read at all. The best advice i’ve ever heard for getting yourself back into the swing of things is to return to the kinds of books that made you fall in love with reading in the first place. So, experiencing a reading rut of my own, I kicked off April with a childhood favorite of mine, Roald Dahl’s, The BFG. As expected, it warmed my heart and ignited the familiar fire in me where as soon as one book ends, another must begin! Roald Dahl’s imagination has always been my favorite. The whimsy, the made-up words, the way he just seemed to know exactly what it was like to be a kid. This story of an orphaned girl swept away to the land of giants keeps you on your toes with the book glued to the tip of your nose! The Queen of England is involved, the BFG captures dreams like butterflies and then blows them into children’s heads with trumpet at night – what more can you ask for, my dudes?
To keep the momentum rolling, I picked up a YA fantasy which has always been an escapist genre for me. I went with the first book in the GrishaVerse Trilogy, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone. Although i’d broken my cardinal rule of book before adaptation, i still found myself absolutely engrossed in this book, craving it while i was doing anything else. I don’t want to say too much because there are some unexpected plot twists and turns I don’t want to spoil. Suffice it to say, having only read the first book I have a slight crush on Mal but I also want to fight him sometimes which I imagine is the draw of the whole thing. No comments on the Darkling, but if you’ve read it, we can talk. Talk about the duality of man! or Beast?? dramaaaaa. Looking forward to reading more in this series as well as Leigh Bardugo’s other collections.
A quick 2-day turnaround and i was lucky enough to have found the sequel to a previous read, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, simply called Olive, Again at a local thrift store. I loved the idea of an author returning to her characters 11 years later to check in and see where they are now. Based on interviews with Strout, it seems more accurate to say the characters returned to her 11 years later, updating her on their lives and continuing to share their pair of pennies when it comes to the world’s current state of affairs. I enjoyed both of her books so much, I sent them to my mom for Mother’s Day! It’s one of those plotless novels, but the way Strout weaves so many characters betwixt and between each other’s narratives is beyond impressive and so fun to read.
Keeping with the theme of the human condition, i decided to break my heart with a book i’ve been meaning to read for a while, David Sheff’s, Beautiful Boy. This story drew me in and filled my whole heart; it’s one of the most empathetic approaches to discussing drug addiction i’ve ever come across. Also, although I haven’t seen the movie adaptation, I’ve watched the trailer and Timothee Chalamet is the obvious and perfect choice to play Nic Sheff.
Following this, i picked up the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, a book i recognized from its unique title and had seen a number of times but never picked up for some reason. The neurodivergent protagonist’s POV is something i’ll be seeking out in future reads, although i’m not sure if anyone can do it quite like Mark Haddon. The fast-paced live-action narration had me hooked, and the play with form and little illustrations and what not was another aspect I enjoyed while reading. The opening paragraph reeled me in, so I’ll drop it here if you haven’t already had the pleasure of experiencing this intriguing story.
“2. It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer, for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.”
To round out the month I returned to an interesting collection from Lanternfish Press, an independent press in Philadelphia PA I’ve had the pleasure of doing some volunteer reading for over the last few years. This work by Vikram Paralkar is a fictionalized encyclopedia of maladies aptly titled The Afflictions. Some of them are horrifying – being perpetually pregnant, each child usually having some kind of deformity or malformation of some kind, and others are interesting concepts and suggest a very specific kind of internal horror – a reverse amnesia where the individual remembers everything and everyone just fine but everyone else forgets who he is the second he leaves their sight. The fictionalized scientific lingo seemed like the most fun as well as the most difficult aspect of the creative process. An extremely unique work, and one that would be a real conversation starter as a coffee table book.
This April, some time off from work allowed me to fall back in love with reading, and for that I am forever grateful. I shared on my instagram bookstack post a few days ago how odd it is to feel like you don’t want to do something you know you love. Reading is such an integral part of who I am so when picking up a book feels like a chore it feels a bit disorienting. Sometimes there’s unfortunately no quick fix, but some remedies I’ve heard & used are:
- return to certain books or genres you remember loving as a kid
- keep books stashed any and everywhere so you can sit down and start reading as effortlessly as you’d look at your phone
- try reading a book with shorter chapters
- read a book or series that has a film or tv adaptation
- follow some cute, aesthetic, dreamy little book accounts on IG or Pinterest
- read what you want, not what’s ~trendy~ or ~classic~
- CREATE YOUR OWN CANON, BABY!
& That concludes my mini April books roundup! Feel free to drop your April reads and recs. What’s in your May TBR pile? What are some of your suggestions for pulling yourself out of a reading rut?
As always, thank you kindly for visiting this little corner of the internet.