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Busting through reader burnout

by flickr user miss jo
Reader burnout. It happens to the best of us. It’s happening to me right now. If I have to read another dystopian book, I think I will throw it against the wall. That’s not helpful at all because I know there still are some really interesting dystopian books being published, but for this reader, I’m spent. And the sad thing is, dystopian books are just gearing up. With the wide success of The Hunger Games (book and movie), this is a trend that will not die down any time soon. So what is a reader supposed to do? It is hard to appreciate all the great qualities of a story if you have that “been there, done that” feeling. So, what do you do?

I know for me, when it happened after Twilight and the paranormal rush on the publishing market, I took a long break from any paranormal YA titles. They all became one and the same to me in my mind, and unless there was truly a standout book, frankly, I didn’t want to read anything vampire-, werewolf-, or angel-related. And if you forced another love triangle on me, well, the results were not pretty.

The easiest and probably most customary solution for many readers is to switch books. Change genres; pull out something radically different from what you’ve been reading. That often works for me. I’ll go from a dystopian to a contemporary story, my favorite type of book in young adult lit. But sometimes I need more drastic book changing methods and I switch to (GASP!) an adult book. I fortunately do not have to resort to this all too often because teen books are where the great stories are, hands down.

If I really, really want to read a book because I want to be able to discuss it with friends or it’s the latest “it” book but reading it just isn’t working for me, I will often switch to an audio version. While listening is definitely reading, it’s also a different enough experience for me, in that I can plunge into an audio in a way I wasn’t able to with the paper book. This happened to me with Chime by Frannie Billingsley (a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults title). The book was a slow and arduous reading experience, but listening to it on the other hand really had me interested in the story. Hearing fabulous narration with different voices for each character is sometimes the perfect way to appreciate a story. There are so many great audiobooks for teens available (you have checked out the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list, right?) that even when reading is not working, hopefully a listening experience will end that reader burnout, stat.

In conjunction with that, sometimes I will just randomly pick five or six books from my to be read pile and read the first fifty pages or so to see which title catches my attention most. I always have a stack of books needing to be read and I bet most of you are in the same boat.

I also really enjoy re-reading favorite books. Sometimes that will cleanse my reading palate and allow me to pick up something new. Whether it’s a favorite classic like Pride and Prejudice or a favorite YA title (I love re-reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins), this is a fun way to remember just why you love reading so much and to hopefully work past the burnout. Sometimes even a passage or two from a favorite book will do it.

And sometimes, when you really need a distraction, it’s fun to search YouTube and watch hilarious videos or even book trailers (keeping the reading in mind after all) to see if those pique your interest in a way a book is not quite doing yet. I think we’ve all seen the Beanie Babies parody of The Hunger Games, but just in case you haven’t had the chance yet, escape into the world of Katniss Everbean.


Do you ever truly take a break from reading? Are you able to take a break from reading? Even when I think I need a day or two to recover from a book that blew me away, I still find myself reading something. It’s the voracious reader in me and I suspect many of us are the same. While I always want to be aware of the new titles coming out, I can’t–and frankly sometimes plain just do not want to–read them all. So what are your solutions for reader burnout? Am I the only person who suffers from this phenomenon?

— Sarah Wethern, who is currently listening to Carl Hiaasen’s Chomp.


  1. Jessica Pryde Jessica Pryde

    I totally suffer from reader burnout every once in a while. I do some of the same things–switch genres, switch audiences, try a nonfiction book–but what really helps is taking a few days off. I often find that I just go through books too fast, too many at a time, so when I feel like my brain might explode if I read another book and I find that I stop being interested in a large number of books in a row that I would previously have read voraciously (sometimes I don’t even make it to fifty), I switch to fanfiction. I read a few one-shots or a long story that might be total fluff (this happens particularly after I’ve read something in the depressing not-happy-ending category), and then I find I’m ready to pick up something with page numbers again.

  2. Maria Kramer Maria Kramer

    When I get hit with reader burnout I switch to comics. The problem is…it’s hard to go back to regular books!

  3. Thanks for that post as well as Katniss Everbean. Hilarious.

  4. You are not alone…the dreaded Reading Rut gets us all! When that happens to me I like to switch to graphic novels or nonfiction. Sometimes picking up a genre I don’t usually gravity towards helps too. A nice mystery or a little historical fiction will to the trick when I just can’t read one more post-apocalyptic nightmare (man, I love those books!)

  5. Riley Riley

    I’ll usually either read Doctor Who books or magazines. Total fluff, yeah, but they’re enjoyable and sometimes that’s what I really need.

    • Riley Riley

      Err, news magazines, not DW magazines.

  6. I’ve found my choice of leisure time activity kind of goes through phases — sometimes I’m reading a book a day, but other times I’m watching entire runs of tv shows in a week or playing on the internet for hours. Once I realized my passion for reading would come back around, I’ve stopped stressing about it so much. I figure as long as I’m reading something, I’m okay!

    Usually what sparks my reading interest again is just what you mentioned — getting excited about a different *kind* of book (adult fiction, a new genre of YA, graphic novels, whatever).

  7. Sarah Hill Sarah Hill

    I find myself watching Netflix for a few nights when I suffer from burnout. If that doesn’t work, I pick up some smutty adult romance books. :)

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