How I'm getting myself out of a reading rut | 9Lives
Reading Time: 6 min

Since graduating, I’ve been stuck in a reading rut. It seems unfathomable to pick up a book, read it from start to finish and ENJOY it, as forcefully reading word-heavy (often times esoteric) books were all I was meant to read for four years. My mind can’t seem to settle on one thing, let alone a thing that will probably take me the better part of a month to finish. And as I would rather cut off my left big toe than leave something unfinished (blame my type A personality), I rarely even begin a new book in the first place for the fear of losing my best balance. 

Yet, the feeling that I ought to be reading something, WANT to be reading something, nags at me constantly. And so I’ve resorted to the opposite of the reading material forcefully fed to me the past four years – I’m rereading the oldies on my shelf. And not just any oldies, YA, trashy romance, fantasy oldies. Why there is a shame attached to reading YA and not some high brow Pulitzer-winning novel, I will never know and I blame the distinction between literature and Literature for this uncomfortable feeling. 

So, I’m swallowing my pride (and ignoring the inevitable scorn from my fellow English Honours collegiates) and compiling a list of the shamelessly entertaining, trashfully romantic, and wickedly otherworldly books which is slowly but surely helping me out of my reading rut. Hopefully these will find some common ground with some of you. If not, never ever ask me for reading recommendations again. 

Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.A. Ward

Attractive vampires, high stakes kills and delicate damsels in distress – sounds like my standard High School weekday night. As we all know, there is no shortage of vampire (or werewolf or wizard or angels and demons or unicorn) fantasy fiction. This series, however, brought a little extra to the table besides the normal glitter-in-the-sunlight, higher-power-is-the-enemy, mass hysteria blood bath. J.R. Ward, dare I say it, creates an intricate universe of vampire brothers and codes of loyalty with a nod to Greek mythology and Celtic history. The vampire brothers, with odd names like Zsadist and Rhage, each have a complicated history which becomes entangled with a female heroine with an even more complex back story. The focalisation shifts constantly, which means you aren’t stuck in the protagonists’ perspectives and the overarching narrative develops as the series progresses.The novels are LONG which means this won’t be your standard short-lived ascension from a reading rut. But then again, you never know how enticing a vampire in leather can be. 

 

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Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick 

From vampires to other mythical creatures, fallen angels are next on our list of widely unbelievably yet entertaining characters. This series is set in a High School, so we’re comfortably hanging out with teenagers, and a few fallen angels who become romantically entwined with said teenagers. While there isn’t much in the way of a gripping plotline or well-developed and researched backstory to the angels’ demise, the characters are entertaining with Patch and Nora’s chemistry believable enough if you trust that a fallen angel would seek out to kill a middle-class, high school student busy failing biology. Nora’s friend, Vee, is however the witty wise-crack we all probably know and love, and she brings some extra fire to the dialogue. Word to the wise, if you’re 23 and reading this series, get ready to long for the days where the most stress you ever had was a biology test (or an archangel trying to kill you since you hold the key to the desecration of both heaven and hell, so you know, just your everyday things). 

 

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This one needs no introduction. John Green captured all of our hearts in 2012 with Hazel and Augustus’ epic love story. After the film, the book more or less lost its charm due to Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort’s effortless portrayal of a teenage couple fighting both puberty and cancer. But after recently rereading this tearjerker, I remembered why the story caught me in the first place. Green’s way with words is mesmerising – not only does he write very quotable dialogue, but he is one of the very few authors who beautifully encapsulates the smallest emotion in the largest (almost tangible) way possible. The way he points out small details in order to perfectly set a larger scene, reminds me of Sally Rooney’s two novels Normal People (which will also be gracing our screens this year) and Conversations with Friends. While the very emotional boy-meets-girl-boy-dies plot may be somewhat of a cliché, this one still manages to stick around as one of my favourites. 

 

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Staying in the high school lane, we have Stephen Chbosky’s brilliant portrayal of a character finding his individuality in a setting where individuality isn’t accepted unless it looks like everyone else’s. Once again, a brilliant book turned brilliant film which reaffirmed the book’s status as a must-read. We find a little bit of Charlie in all of us, and if not Charlie, then Patrick, Sam, or maybe even Mr. Anderson. Taking a cue from the standard Bildungsroman, Charlie navigates the insecurities of high school and the fragility of mental health, while forming the type of relationships necessary to assist him on these treacherous paths. Published in 1999, there’s a reason this narrative is still so popular on Tumblr (with an almost cult-like following) – it’s a universal story in which most individuals can find solace. As you pull yourself out of your reading rut, don’t forego this one. It is an excellent gateway to Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye or Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

 

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As I’m slowly crawling out of my reading rut, these books are the first ones ready to open me with open, non-judgemental arms. Keep an eye out for the reviews coming your way (if, after this non-exhaustive list, you still trust my reading and recommending capabilities). 

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

I’m a big fan of family dramas, especially if they feature deceit and heartbreak. Ask Again, Yes is looking to be exactly that. The narrative traces the friendship between Kate and Brian whose parents are also entwined. It is especially this part of the book blurb that gets me excited: “[the story] reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so.”

 

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The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Hot on the heels of Atwood’s The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Grace Year is looking to be equally as explosive, thought-provoking, and emotional as Atwood’s novel which spawned two film and television remakes. In this dystopian narrative, girls are banished from Garner County when they turn sixteen as they are believed to wield the power to “lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy” and they must therefore only return when they are “purified and ready for marriage”. But as the real world would also have it, the narrative plays with the twisted relationships between girls and the destruction which results from having women believe that they are enemies of each other. Any kind of dystopian novel which features some intertextual nods to current social and political environments is highly favourable to me, and I have high hopes for this one as well. 

 

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

An ode to Nabokov’s glorious Lolita, Kate Elizabeth Russel addresses taboo relationships in the time of #MeToo. The narrative is split between two timelines: in 2002 Vanessa Wye enters into a complicated romantic relationship with her “magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher” and in 2017, she is contacted to testify against this teacher in a sexual abuse case. This brings everything into a different and difficult perspective as Vanessa is forced to reckon with this part of her history. While she thinks of him as her first love, it’s impossible to deny the troubles associated with their relationship. While this narrative will be different from Nabokov’s in terms of the narrator, it will be immensely interesting to experience the turmoil of Vanessa’s relationship with a man from a notable position of power from a first person perspective. 

 

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Which books usually help you to escape from your reading rut? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Author

The girl with the sleek cut that can shop up a storm in a second-hand store. I love a good story, and I love it even more if it is told well. Don't like my blazer? Don't care. Looking for a short and sweet book or film review? You've come to the wrong place, my friend.

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