Off the Shelf – March 2, 2015

Listen to The Book Blahs: Off the Shelf

Okay, who’s with me that this has been the worst winter EVER? I know I was super cranky the last time I was on Info AM and I got started on Fifty Shades of Grey. What did that book ever do to me, except not entertain me.

Anyway, the weather keeps me inside except when I need the #stormchips and I am forced out of my nest of blankets to go shovel my walk and power through my driveway to get said chips. Winter is a really great time for reading, but I also suffer from a little bit of reader’s fatigue at this time of year. Lack of vitamin D. So I thought I would talk about the reading blahs OR how to shake yourself out of a reading slump. We all have them – all it takes is a couple of bad books and you end up thinking you’re never going to find that book magic again.

Books On The Nightstand has offered up twelve suggestions for breaking a reading slump:

Reread a favorite book: I think this is a terrific idea. I have one book that I read pretty much yearly and it never fails to make me both happy and sad. That book is called Velocity by Kristin McCloy. I bought it at The Strand in NYC in the 80s and it’s very special to me for a lot of reasons.

Switch genres: So if you generally only read one sort of book, perhaps switching genres might shake you out of your book doldrums.  

 Find a book that is hugely popular: I mean there’s a reason everyone and their dog was talking about The DaVinci Code and Gone Girl, right. (Except I can’t recommend The DaVinci Code and I think Gillian Flynn’s book Dark Places is vastly superior to Gone Girl.)

Shop your own shelves: This is an easy task if you’ve got a TBR shelf like mine. Take a look.


 Don’t read — listen: This wouldn’t be my preferred method of beating the book blahs, but a great site like Audible might just shake things up for you.

 Let someone else tell you what to read: I don’t tend to subscribe to method one myself, except seven times a year when someone in my book club chooses our next read. (Andrew Davidson’s Gargoyle in case you’re interested.)

 Read with a friend: Book clubs!!!

 Go for the quick fix — read some short stories or essays: I read a lot of this sort of thing online as I am always looking for things to share with my students. You want short stories? Try Alice Munro, Stephen King, Raymond Carver.

Try YA: It’s really not just for teens. Honest.

Peruse the Reviews: Check out my reviews, visit Goodreads  or find a blogger you like. Kirkus is pretty handy, too.

Seek out fan fiction: But be warned – fanfiction comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of it is amazing. Much of it is godawful. A lot of it is pornographic. Find a writer you like in a fandom you like and you’ll be a happy reader.

Step away from the books: You know what they say, a rest is as good as a cure. Sometimes a break to catch up on all your shows won’t hurt.

So, I went through a little bit of a reading slump when I read a couple mediocre YA novels in a row…and then BAM…I read an awesome YA book and I think it renewed my faith in the written word again.

The book that wowed me was called

charmCharm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

I actually suggested Jeremy Chaisson read this book on a recent visit to Indigo – I absolutely loved it. (Last check, he wasn’t grooving to it, but no matter.) This book is a William C Morris Debut award winner, if you care at all about pedigree. It’s the story of Win, a sixteen-year-old who attends a New England boarding school and who is so bottled up you just know he’s going to explode at any moment. He knows it too; he thinks something even more sinister is happening to him. Win’s story unfolds in the present and also in the past in sections called matter and antimatter. It’s almost relentlessly bleak, but for mature YA readers it is absolutely riveting reading.

testThis is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Courtney Summers is a Canadian YA writer and this is the second book I’ve read by her and I am now a fan. The first book was Some Girls Are and it was about bullying times 1000, but the book I just finished by her is called This Is Not A Test and man, that was a ride I was not expecting. So Sloane is fifteen and she lives with her father in a little town somewhere in North America. Her older sister, Lily, has recently run away. The reader will figure out pretty quickly that her father is physically abusive and that would be enough for one book, but all it really does is create this impossibly complicated character who then has to survive….the zombie apocalypse. No joke. This Is Not A Test was my first ever zombie novel – I had NO desire to ever read them…I am more of a vampire girl…but this book was SO amazing: suspenseful and heartbreaking and filled with teen angst. So good.

keptinthedarkKept in the Dark by Penny Hancock

Finally, I read a book one stormy Sunday that I couldn’t put down. Not YA, but I thought I’d share it.  There might be some squick involved for some people, but I could not stop turning the pages. The main character is a 40-something woman called Sonia. She’s a voice coach, her husband is a lecturing neurosurgeon and her daughter is away at university. They live in a house by the Thames which her husband wants to sell, but it’s Sonia’s childhood home and she refuses to leave. The teenaged nephew of one of her friends stops by to borrow an album – yes, actual vinyl – and Sonia does something most peculiar: she gets him drunk, drugs him and locks him in her soundproof music room. To the outside world, Sonia is a functioning adult, but clearly not right in the head and the reasons for that are slowly revealed in flashback. Could not put it down, although I understand why it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Looking for more recs? Click on the ‘Highly recommended’ tag in the sidebar to look at books I’ve really enjoyed.

Happy reading!