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Opinion: Books to Dispel a Reading Rut

I power through books week in week out without really coming up for air, or sleep. Yet, even with my worrying obsession with consuming all of the literature I do have days when I just can’t get started. Thus begins the dreaded reading slump that has been known to last for weeks (sometimes years!) If you’re suffering this dreaded fate there is hope. Here are a few of my favourite short books that will challenge your reading appetite and take you to places you never thought you’d go.

1. 20 Fragments of Ravenous Youth – Xiaolu Guo

This book is stylistically beautiful, it is cut into 20 short fragments which tell the story of Fenfang. Fenfang runs away from the sweet potato farm she calls home to embrace life in urban Bejing. The book documents her experience, working terrible jobs, meeting men and surviving on UFO noodles. It’s easy to read and easy to love, both for its refreshing take on fiction and its modern heroines wit.

2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S Thompson

An appalling assault on the imagination, this book has a special place on my bookshelf. From start to finish this 204 pages of madness. The story follows Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr Gonzo. They’re supposed to chasing a story, but actually just consume a plethora of chemicals and roam the streets of Las Vegas getting into bizarre and traumatizing situations. It’s witty, strange and violent. Nothing in this book can be taken as real, yet it quite possibly is all true. This story allows you to experience what it’s like to go on a drug fueled rampage, from the comfort of your own home. Wonderful.

3. Personal Days – Ed Park

This book is one that I might not ordinarily have chosen but for a recommendation. It’s a satirical take on office life and the unlikely relationships that form in this environment. It feels very real and is masterful in its portrayal of the mundane. It explores what it’s like to be under the threat of firing and how this gradually morphs into bizarre paranoia. Despite the bleak subject matter, it is funny and incredibly hopeful. A brilliant take on modern life and the meaninglessness of a lot of the work we do. It is a little slow in the beginning, but it is so worth it in the end.

4. The Fan Man – Willian Kotzwinkle

I keep making people read this, it’s one of those, I’m not sure if I need to have some form of check up. Or if it’s genuinely a masterpiece. It is told from the perspective of Horse, a weed smoking drifter type psychedelic flat squatting hippy. It’s vile but also hilarious and I really felt for Horse who lives a strange and simple existence but really loves the world. Some might struggle with the style which is stream of consciousness, Horse refers to himself constantly in the third person and ends every sentence with ‘man’, you dig? The narrative voice is brilliant and the story is so absurd that it will charm the most serious reader.

5. Where I’m Calling From – Raymond Carver

Now, short stories might not ordinarily be your thing. I urge you to make an exception. Raymond Carver’s collection Where I’m Calling From takes a snapshot look into the lives of all kinds of ordinary Americans. It explores everything, love, hope, expectation. All the things that create the human existence. There’s a story in here for everyone and because they’re short, you can read one or two in a sitting, and still have plenty to come back to. I’ve read and re-read this volume countless times, I particularly love ‘What we talk about, when we talk about love.’ Incredibly beautiful, honest and thoughtful it’ll inspire readers to read more and writers to create smarter work.

I hope these recommendations help you to get back on the reading horse. (Not the Horse from Fan Man, that would really be too traumatic.) I’d love to hear your go to novels when you’re stuck in a rut.

Give me suggestions for my slump shelf in the comments below!

17 thoughts on “Opinion: Books to Dispel a Reading Rut

    1. I hope you like them! I’d invite Raymond Carver to my ‘if you could invite anyone living or dead’ dinner party. He captures real life & people so perfectly in a tiny word count. I don’t blame you on The Fan Man, it’s definitely an acquired taste!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is difficult, as I don’t know your age, country of origin, or even gender.
    But I am a Scot living in France so I will go all European on you for starters.
    Anything by Hermann Hesse or, perhaps more obviously, Franz Kafka.
    Trainspotting by Scotland’s Irvine Welsh sounds like your cup of tea, or pot of drugs.
    Ireland’s John Connolly is excellent, dark and dangerous.
    And one American author, the very strange Paul Auster, for his sheer writing talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a thinly veiled enigma! I’ve not been to France, however I can definitely appreciate the move having sampled a bit of Scottish rain! Some great Authors there. I loved Trainspotting, it’s a great advert for clean living. Keen to pick up The Blade Artist. Metamorphosis is brilliant, it’s so hard to explain to people who haven’t read it. So there’s this guy Gregor and..! 😂


  2. I adore reading and wish I had time to read more. I’m not a fan of dystopian books, but I do read some fantasies now and then. My reading is generally historical fiction and I already have a great long TBR list!


    1. I do tend to sway toward Dystopian fiction, I’ve been reading a lot of YA recently. I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction but I’d like to. You’ll have to send me some recommendations! So many books so little time!


      1. I read a lot of different types of histfic, but generally don’t go for historical romances. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be love and romance in the book somewhere (there is in real life, after all) but I don’t like entire books devoted to such affairs and not a lot else. I do enjoy historical crime/mysteries and there are a lot of series in that genre. I’ve even considered one for my next book.
        It’s always difficult recommending books to other people, especially when I don’t know your preference. You may well love historical romance – a lot of people do. Or you may like a light read or look for something that carries more weight on the historical events side. Give me some idea of what you like and I’ll happily recommend a few. I agree, there are so many books to choose from out there. 🙂
        Thanks for replying to the comment yesterday. It’s nice to meet another Lancashire lass, although my hometown, Southport is Merseyside nowadays. It was Lancashire when I was there. We went back for a visit two weeks’ ago, as I still have relatives in Ainsdale.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m with you on that, romance can really make or break a book. It tends to end in cliche in my experience or acts as a substitute for depth.

        I like history, this could be a new frontier for me and it’ll get really out of hand! I think a crime /mystery one could be a good place to start. I’m quite interested in Vikings, on the opposite end of the spectrum I find the Cold War and spies fascinating. I like politics and mythology. I tend to read quite short intense books about existentialism, or ones that are pacy with plenty of action. I’m fairly easy going about it, just as long as there aren’t 8 chapters in which people sit in a drawing room having discussions. That might be a step too far 😂.

        Northerners seem to find Northerners even on the great big web. I found someone from Yorkshire the other day. I’m overwhelmed with a British urge to talk to you about the weather, but I’m going to resist!


      3. When you’re from Lancashire, weather will always be on the agenda – wet west and all that. Today was so hot, it seemed ridiculous after the miserable summer we’ve had.
        I’m pretty easy in my reading, too, although, as I said, a whole Romance book is not for me, and Erotica is definitely given the cold shoulder. I have a variety of genres in my flash fiction book but haven’t ventured to Sci-fi yet. Have you joined in any of the writing challenges? They’re fun and useful if you’re wanting to ‘get into’ writing.
        When I’m tired I generally resort to reading something light and avoid the epics! I’ve so many books TBR on my Kindle, and loads on bookshelves. I’ll try to pick out some that might appeal to you.


      4. Today’s forecast, Cloudy with sunshine and showers! Thanks, I love a good recommendation. I’m the same with Erotica, I’m sure there are some interesting reads but they don’t appeal to me at all. I haven’t tried any of the blogging writing challenges as of yet. I’m quite a keen story writer once I get going. I tend to write fiction and file it in a drawer for eternity. 😂


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