Book Group Blahs
Posted by: Neil Hollands
I’ve been staring at the empty white monitor so long that when I close my eyes, I still see the cursor blinking. I just caught myself making motorboat noises by running my finger over my lips. This is particularly unhygienic business when one has a spring cold, in particular a left nostril that seems newly attached to some deep primordial corner of the Okeefenokee Swamp.
I have the book group blahs. I’m mired in three books, which are, so far, most charitably described as thorough. All are required reading for book groups. Two more book group books, one review assignment, and the oeuvre of three authors who will appear on a panel I’m moderating are clattering about on my “to read next” shelf.
To complicate it all, I’m in the midst of buying a house, and alternate floor plans, paint colors, calculations of property tax, MIP, and the sad reality of librarian salaries keep inserting themselves on the page of every book I crack.
Do I have anything useful to share with you, dear reader, about successful book groups? Probably not this week.
But I’ll do my best. You see, I’ve been here before. Even those of us who are absolutely book mad go through stretches where nothing inspires, where attending a book group ranks right up there with laundry and the dentist, and when life’s distractions are, well, distracting. You work your fingers to the bone and what do you get? Bony fingers.
Because I’ve been through the blahs many times before, I do have a few hints for working your way through them as a reader. Here are five mantras I’m repeating to myself until better book days come along:
1) Don’t Take It Out on the Books.
I know, it might seem like that dreadful book that you’ve been assigned by that annoyingly intelligent book group leader is the cause of all your woes. But it’s probably not. Reserve judgment on what you’re reading. Don’t go looking for all the reasons why it’s bad, because that won’t make the book any shorter. Read what you can. Go to your group and listen to what others have to say. Don’t try to lead the chorus of opinion when your mood is foul or distracted.
2) Don’t Skip Your Group
If you have the blahs, this may be exactly the time that you need the distraction of your book group. If you can’t finish the book, fine–just enjoy the company. I’ve often found that the meetings I felt least excited about attending turned up the most pleasant surprises.
3) Don’t Turn Away from Reading.
The best cure for bland books is reading your way through to the next book that captivates and inspires you. It’s out there, probably not many pages away. I know some people who take breaks from reading, but I don’t find that their reading problem is solved until they find another good book. You’ve got to get back up on that horse. Besides, when life is so overwhelming that concentration falters, that’s when reading something, even if you’re not reading it very well, may be therapeutic. It can help you stay sane and get perspective.
4) Read Something Easy.
Pick up a young adult novel or even a children’s book. Scan the pictures of a graphic novel. Re-read a familiar favorite. Getting through a few books may help re-invigorate you.
5) Weed Your Bookshelf
If you’re bookish, (and I know you are–you’re reading a blog about book groups for goodness sake), you probably own too many books. Why not do a little symbolic cleaning of that wall of doom? You’re in the perfect state of mind to make tough choices, get rid of books that you really won’t ever read. While you’re at it, pay attention to what you are keeping. It might give you some hints about how to get yourself out of the book blahs.