Ask Bethany House: When You Burn Out on Reading

It happens, even to the most dedicated readers among us. You pick up a book, even one from an author you’ve enjoyed before, and you just can’t get into it, drifting after just a few chapters. I call it “reader burnout,” and it’s the subject of one of the questions from our Ask BHP survey. (It’s not too late to add any questions you have!)

Here’s the question: “I have had trouble reading lately. I don’t know why. I have multiple authors with plenty of interesting books. How do I get my ‘groove’ back? How do I engage in a book like I did in the past, when I stayed up late finishing a book?”

To add to the stress, your TBR pile starts to feel like this.

To add to the stress, your TBR pile starts to feel like this.

To be honest, I don’t know that I’m more qualified to answer this one as a Bethany House employee than the average reader, but I’ve been there, so I wanted to respond to this question anyway. But I don’t want to do it alone—be sure to leave your advice in the comments! Here are a few of my thoughts on what has been helpful for me.

One: Read something totally different. Sometimes, novels in your favorite genre or by your favorite author start to sound the same. Mix it up a little by picking up something different from your usual. (Story by Steven James was one of those for me…it’s got a little bit of poetry, a little bit of first-person narrative of Bible stories, a little bit of memoir, and a lot of truth.) Try something from one of the categories on our Reading Challenge if you need some inspiration.

Two: Ask for a recommendation. Every year at Christmas, I have a few friends add to my wish list by recommending a book or two they think I would enjoy. Besides the fact that my friends have great taste in books, it gives me an added reason to finish them: when I’m done, I get to chat with a friend about a book he or she loved. Anticipating those great conversations motivates me to start—and finish—the books.

Three: Try an audiobook. Hearing a story as you do other things—drive, craft, exercise, or cook, for example—can be a fun and totally different way to experience a book. I’d suggest searching for a favorite author on a site like this one. Many libraries have a great selection of audiobooks you can check out as well.

Your turn, readers! What advice would you give someone who feels “burnt out” in reading lately?

Risen: A Roman Investigates the Resurrection

Lent begins early next month, and with it comes a season to reflect on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But have you ever wondered what the empty tomb looked like from the point of view of the occupying Romans?

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That’s the concept behind the upcoming film Risen. I had a chance to see an early preview of the film and really enjoyed the perspective it gave on both the life of Jesus and the witnesses to his resurrection who became the leaders of the early church.

The reason I got that sneak-peek look at the movie is because Bethany House is publishing the novelization, written by Angela Hunt!

The novel follows the story of Roman Tribune Clavius who is assigned by Pilate to keep followers of Yeshua from starting a revolution by claiming their lord has risen from the dead. It also includes the point of view of Rachel, a Jewish woman, who had to be cut from the film due to length, but whose story, I think, adds depth to Clavius’ search for truth.

Although the book is fiction, Angela put in hours of careful research, which she explains in the author’s note, to make sure that her story is an accurate portrayal of what might have gone on in the investigation of Jesus’ death…and his disappearance from the tomb three days later. The entire plot is an intriguing what-if: What if the original witnesses of the resurrection had some of the same questions and doubts people have today?

As Clavius searches for the truth, he wrestles with the following objections:

  • The disciples stole Jesus’ body and lied about it.
  • Jesus wasn’t really dead when they took him down from the cross, but actually revived later on.
  • The guards were hallucinating or lying in their second report about angels.
  • Jesus’ followers imagined Jesus was alive because they so badly wanted him to be.

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And a number of others as well. If you or someone you know wants to think critically about the resurrection and get a more complete view of the life and times of Jesus that we kind of skim over sometimes when reading the Bible, Risen is a great choice. You can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover of the book above.

Be sure to check out the movie’s website to watch the trailer and get tickets!

Question for you, readers: what is your favorite tradition around Good Friday or Easter to remember the crucifixion and resurrection?

Ask Bethany House Survey 2016

It’s a new year…and I’m just about out of Ask Bethany House questions to cover in future blog posts. But here’s the good news: you can help me with this by filling out our Brand-New, Two-Question Ask Bethany House Survey!

(I say “new” because I changed the bonus question. Last time, you all had great taste in fictional characters you wanted to meet in real life! To the three people who said Anne of Green Gables: we are clearly kindred spirits.)

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“What kinds of things can I ask?” you might say. Well, here are some categories that might get you thinking, though you’re certainly not limited to them.

The Publishing Process: Is there a part of the process of getting a book from manuscript to book that you’d like to learn more about? Maybe you have a question for a specific person within BHP (marketing, editorial, production, the person who forwards on all the fan mail to our authors). Or more of a “Why do you do this?” or “Why don’t you do that?” kind of question. Feel free to ask away!

Book Publishing in General: Things about agents, the number of submissions we get per year, is “new adult” actually a real category, and anything else you’ve wondered about the publishing world.

Our Authors: Want to know some first-contract stories, how authors co-write a book, or who has the best launch party among BHP authors? (Kidding about that last one.) I may not know…but I can find out!

Inside BHP: If you want to know anything about our work culture or traditions, feel free to ask. Or, you know, what I have hanging up in my office. Anything you’re curious about, really.

Thanks in advance, everyone, for taking the survey! I appreciate your help in making sure this blog isn’t just me rambling about things I want to say, but that it’s focused on what you’d like to learn. (And if you want to go back to the archives and read the Ask BHP posts from 2015, you can find them here.)

If I never pick your question, it’s nothing personal. We may have already covered it, or I may not have enough information to write clearly about it, or I may just have too many questions to pick from. Regardless, it’s great for me to be aware of what people are wondering! Be sure to share this post with any of your reading friends who you think might have good questions.

Why “Read More Books” is the Best New Year’s Resolution

Here’s the short answer: because “read more books” includes basically every other resolution people typically put on their lists.

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For example, reading books helps you…

Boost creativity. Unlike, say, movies or TV shows, when you read a book, the author is letting you in on the creative process. Sure, the words on the page give you details about what the setting looks like or the expression on a character’s face, but you have to paint the scene in your mind and hear the tone of voice in your head. Think about that for a second. Your brain can translate words—random marks on a page—into concepts and ideas that you make into a full story by adding your experiences and beliefs and visions of the characters. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?

Be more empathetic. Let’s be honest: we like ourselves a lot. We also tend to like people who are similar to us. That’s because we understand ourselves better than anyone else, and we sort of understand people who are similar to us, and understanding others is the key to caring about them. This, I think, is one of the huge benefits to fiction. Novels take us inside the minds and worlds of people who are often very different from us—different historical eras and cultures, different personalities, different ways of looking at the world—and challenge us to understand them anyway…and cheer them on. (Except in the case of villains, but you get the idea.)

Keep your heart active. Maybe you think I’m talking about reading a book while on the treadmill or listening to a novel in audio form as you train for a marathon. No, that’s not actually what I mean. (Although if you’re crazy…I mean, dedicated…enough to read while exercising, don’t let me stop you!) I was thinking more of all those pulse-pounding romantic moments or suspenseful page-turners that keeps the tension high. Both are great ways to make sure your heart is in good working order. Continue reading

Prayer for Authors: January 2016

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Authors with Books Releasing in January:

Mary Connealy
Jody Hedlund
Melissa Jagears
Regina Jennings
Susan Anne Mason
Tracie Peterson
Karen Witemeyer
Kimberley Woodhouse

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For joy even during times of weariness or stress.
  • For characters and their faith to resonate with readers, even those who are not believers.
  • For inspiration and guidance during the process of writing the next book.

Thank you for taking this time to pray over these authors and others. What a great way to start the new year!