When in doubt

Yesterday I visited the library and I came out empty-handed.

Yes, shocking, I know. It’s serious, or is it?

I might say that I have hundreds of unread books at home waiting for me, and that I am in the middle of reading no less than 6 books (8 if you include the Bible for which I follow a reading plan and a graphic novel I have just a few pages left of).

Let me rephrase this: I have 6 unfinished books on my nightstand, which I will probably finish one day, but none of them are grabbing my attention with passionate self-evidence. I guess that comes with going into unchartered territories. Trying new things doesn’t go easy, and as I am rather the stubborn kind, it leaves me on hot coals some times.

Here they are:

  • Molotov’s Magic Lantern by Rachel Polonsky
  • Grace for the good girl, by Emily Freeman
  • For all the tea in China, by Sarah Rose
  • Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, by Kate Summerscale
  • Serguei Prokofiev, a biography by Laetitia Le Guay
  • Alfred de Musset, Confessions d’un enfant du siècle

What direction should I take next? Yesterday at the library freedom of choice suddenly became overwhelming. (I have the same feeling in huge chain bookstores, all books seem equally nice until none of them stand out anymore which makes me incredibly sad). That’s why I decided not to go to the Paris international book fair held this very weekend (I don’t do well with crowds in my free time).

When in doubt, what do you do? I first thought the saying went: when in doubt, return to past success. But that doesn’t quite cut it as I’m trying hard to not read just another Agatha Christie mystery (just to name one).

Then I thought: when in doubt, try something different. This would go well with my endeavor this year. I wish I’d discover something new in territories I almost never venture into: French lit, young adult, fantasy, SF. But what? who? Return to square one.

Then I realized that the sentence I needed was: when in doubt, ask for help. I’ve seen countless lists of books that everybody should read. Do you have any recommendation of great stuff in the YA, SF, Fantasy areas? Except for the first few Harry Potter’s and the Tolkien books, I know next to nothing in these territories. Do you think, dear reader, that Twilight is worth trying?

The last idea that came to me was: when in doubt, try your luck. Alex in Leeds has applied a brilliant idea: the Book Jar. I’ll soon start to collect titles that I’ve always wished to read and create my own jar. The process itself will surely hone my appetite. Actually, I think I’ll even enlist Smithereens junior with the actual crafts side of  the project (his cutting and folding skills will get a great boost ;) !)

So, what do you do when you hit a reading slump?

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10 thoughts on “When in doubt

    • I heard Pratchett’s name but never tried. Good idea!
      … Mmh, upon checking their catalogue the youth library doesn’t seem to have any Discworld… just a series about a Johnny and something called Nation. I’ll keep checking

  1. I second Stefanie’s recommendation of Pratchett, although I would say the one place you don’t want to start is at the beginning as I think it took him a couple of books to get into his stride. If you want to combine fantasy with YA then try his ‘Truckers’ which never fails to make me laugh.

  2. You know, I never find that re-reads break my slumps, it’s always new books by known authors or a surprise hit from a completely new book on a known subject/topic. I find that happy re-reads are great but leave me feeling like I can’t spend my life clinging to old favourites! Good luck with making your book jar. :)

    • Yes, I know what you mean. Re-reads don’t work for me either in such a mood. And the book jar, it is more difficult than I expected. I’m actually doing a list on paper first and wait till I have two dozen or so to take the scissors and paper out.

  3. Or else try reading something in a different language, or a writer from a different country. I find that usually means my brain needs to adapt to something completely different and that helps to freshen it up…

  4. Well I’m not going to search your blog to see if you read any of these books, but I was going to recommend Terry Pratchett and was surprised to see that two others already did! I can also highly recommend, in YA, Wonder by RJ Palacio and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (not the movie, though; I’ve heard that’s bad). There are so many wonderful YA books. It’s a shame most adults completely ignore them. The downside is that they tend to be shallow on character development and, to a lesser extent, plot. On the upside, they are really quick reads. You mention in your most recent post that you are starting to read aloud chapter books with your kids. There are so many great children’s books! Since you are so unfamiliar with your options, maybe you should pick up a copy of The Read Aloud Handbook (now in its seventh edition) by Jim Trelease. That or a college textbook on children’s literature.

    I think that with so many great books in the world and not nearly enough time to read them, life is too short to spend reading a book that you don’t think is great. I know that on occasion, you really have to read far into a book before you really start to appreciate it, but I never feel guilty about abandoning a book that doesn’t appeal to me. And I’ve also decided that I’m never going to read through any list of “100 Great Books” or “50 Books You Must Read” and I’m not going to feel any pressure to do so or feel like less of a person for not doing it. (I don’t get the impression that you have that problem, but I’m not sure whether some of your reading selections are driven by guilt.)

    • As a matter of fact I actually haven’t read these YA books because we once again changed library because of school schedules. The one we now go to has fewer YA shelves, but I’ll try to find these and maybe arrange inter-library loans. Thanks for the tip!

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