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?

16 thoughts on “Ask Bethany House: When You Burn Out on Reading

  1. Like Amy suggested, try a version of the book that isn’t actually a book. You could watch the movie adaptation, watch a theatrical performance of it, listen to the audiobook, maybe a book club discussion where you can hear others’ opinions of the book….

    I like the idea to read something out of your normal genre choices!

  2. I oftentimes go back and re-read a favorite books or a series by a favorite author. It’s seems to jump start my love of reading again.

  3. I have to agree with the audiobook suggestion. I’d read the first couple books of a series one time and wasn’t thrilled. Then I got married, and that series became my husband’s favorite. After a couple years of his wheedling, I agreed to listen to it on cd in the car on long rides.

    It made all the difference.

    The books were read by a great voice actor, translated well to radio-drama-style, and were bolstered by my husband’s enthusiasm. If you frequent the theatre, you probably know this: having someone to laugh with makes the funny parts funnier. Enthusiasm IS contagious – I know that I enjoy them more because he’s there listening with me.

  4. Sometimes if I’m burnt out on reading fiction I’ll read a couple of non-fiction books. They may be spiritual/self-help books, biographies, or even books on organizing. Visiting local historic sites (houses, museums) often triggers my desire to read some good historical fiction.

    • Both great suggestions! Nonfiction books by really great writers are very refreshing for me too. I agree on the historical sites, or even seeing something on the History Channel.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  5. You gave three very good suggestions. My comment is strictly from my own love of reading both fiction and nonfiction. When I feel burned out on fiction I go to only reading nonfiction. That and scripture gets me centered and shows me what is missing in my life. Secondly, and this really applies to all my fiction reading all the time, I want the author to WOW me in the first two pages. PLEASE don’t write 50 pages of “background” when I have no idea where it is going. This is a great post and a great question to pose to avid readers.

  6. This is the main reason for my TBR pile. I need to select the right book at the right time. It is about my mood at the time. Sometimes it is quite a process to zero in on the right book.

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