8 Tips For Overcoming 'Reader's Block'

iStock.com/deyangeorgiev
iStock.com/deyangeorgiev

We’ve all been there. Your eyes glaze over, and you can’t get past the first paragraph on the page. Or perhaps you can’t will yourself to pick up a book in the first place. “Reader’s block” is a well-documented problem, and even avid readers occasionally suffer from it. The good news is that it’s not incurable, but it might require a little creativity and effort on your part. Read on to hear tips from longtime readers who have been through it—and managed to come out on the other side of a good book.

1. START EASY.

If your reading skills are a little rusty, it’s probably best not to start with War and Peace—or any of the classics, for that matter. Sometimes people fall into the trap of being overly ambitious and choosing one of the literary “greats” without stopping to question whether they actually want to read it. “This is the problem with readers: we aim too high,” Stuart Jeffries wrote in The Guardian. “Ultimately, reader's block is caused by the great is-ought dilemma. You know you should, but you probably won't.” Instead of setting yourself up for failure, start off with something short and easy to digest. Once you get back into the swing of things, you can graduate to more challenging books.

2. TRY A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES ...

Compared to a 300-page novel, short stories won’t seem like such an insurmountable task. Ginni Chen, Barnes and Noble’s “Literary Lady,” suggests trying a collection of stories written by different authors. That way, you’ll have the chance to figure out which styles and subjects you enjoy most. In an advice column addressed to someone with reader’s block, Chen recommended the Best American Short Stories and the Best American Nonrequired Reading collection. And if you want to start really small, there’s an app called Serial Box that will send you 150-character stories as push notifications.

3. … OR A DIFFERENT GENRE.

Sometimes, it helps to change up your routine and read something outside of your comfort zone or usual go-to. It worked for Bustle writer Charlotte Ahlin, who wrote, “I once read about four Vonneguts in a row and then spent a week feeling crushing despair over the human condition. Your mind needs a varied diet of books to stay sharp.” In a blog for the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville, North Carolina, book lover Michele Coleman offered similar testimony. “For me during my last slump or block, I found browsing the non-fiction eased my mind,” she wrote. Do you enjoy mystery? She suggests switching it up and reading a humorous book. Is romance your thing? Give historical fiction a shot instead.

4. READ PAGE 69 BEFORE COMMITTING TO A BOOK.

This unusual tip comes from John Sutherland, an English professor and the author of How to Read a Novel. As Jeffries of The Guardian puts it, “Once you have read page 69, you will have an idea of whether the book is up your street. (Why he didn't say page 56 is anybody's guess.)” If that snippet doesn’t appeal to you, put it back on the shelf. Otherwise you might get stuck reading something that isn’t suited to your tastes, which can make your reader’s block even worse.

5. DON’T FEEL OBLIGATED TO FINISH A BOOK IF YOU’RE NOT ENJOYING IT.

Reading is supposed to be enjoyable—not a chore. If you find yourself filled with dread any time you pick up the book you’re currently reading, you may want to rethink your choice of material. If you feel guilty about abandoning a book, just use this quote from philosopher Francis Bacon as an excuse: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” Interestingly, Goodreads compiles a list of the most popular abandoned books based on its user data, so you’ll be in good company if Infinite Jest goes infinitely unfinished.

6. LISTEN TO AN AUDIOBOOK.

Many traditionalists are of the opinion that audiobooks don’t really count as “reading,” but some researchers would disagree. One 2016 study found no difference in reading comprehension between those who had listened to an audiobook and those who had used an e-reader. It may seem counterintuitive, but audiobooks can also help beat reader's block, according to Jonathan Douglas, director of the UK's National Literacy Trust. This is because they can help reignite your passion for learning and consuming stories at a time when you’re having difficulty reading. Try listening to the audiobook while you drive to work, clean your house, or work out. You’ll feel extra accomplished for having done two productive things at once, and it may provide the momentum you need to get back into reading.

7. DISCONNECT FROM TECHNOLOGY.

In an article for Arré, writer Karan Mujoo said he’s been an avid reader since childhood. Yet he still occasionally struggles with reader’s block, and finds himself abandoning book after book when they fail to capture his interest. In his case, the availability of quick entertainment via streaming platforms like Netflix is simply too difficult to resist. “Unlike books, which require imagination and effort on the part of the reader, these shows serve you everything on a platter,” he writes. “Why then, should we expend our energies in reading, imagining, and creating a world when it has already been done for us?” Faced with a similar predicament, writer Hugh McGuire explained that his inability to focus on books was due to a “digital dopamine addiction” that stemmed from his consumption of television and online articles. With a few adjustments, though, he was able to get back into a regular reading habit. He suggests removing smartphones and computers from your bedroom, refraining from watching TV after dinner, and reading a book each night before bed. “I am reading books now more than I have in years,” he writes.

8. REREAD AN OLD FAVORITE.

When all else fails, “Literary Lady” Chen recommends paying a visit to an old friend. Your favorite books are memorable for a reason, and sometimes rereading a beloved book for the third time is all it takes to lift the reader’s block curse. You may also want to investigate options that are similar to your favorite authors and books. Book Browse is a good resource for finding “read-alikes” that might suit your tastes, and Literature Map will give you a visual overview of authors you may enjoy.

Ingenious Moving Tips, According to Twitter

BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images
BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images

Whether or not you’ve outsourced the actual loading and unloading of your precious belongings to professional movers, the planning and packing process necessary for any move is enough to make even the most organized individuals contemplate climbing inside a cardboard box themselves.

To resist the urge, Twitter user “Shameless Maya” asked her followers to share their best tips and tricks for her own move—and, as was the case with hotel hacks last month, the Twittersphere rose to the occasion spectacularly. While it might be an exaggeration to say that these hacks will make moving fun, they can definitely help take the edge off your moving-day headache (or backache). Take a look through some of the most ingenious responses below, compiled by Thrillist.

1. Pack your dishes with your clothes.

Wrapping dishes and other fragile items in your sweaters and socks will not only keep you from generating extra waste with newspapers or packing peanuts, it’ll also save you some space. (@yuffieh_)

2. Protect your floors with a set of furniture sliders.

Even if the pros are packing your U-Haul, you will probably move your furniture around your new home while you’re getting set up. Prevent those beloved hardwood floors from getting scratched with these furniture sliders from Amazon. (@GabberWaukee)

3. Save space by packing with vacuum-sealed bags.

It’s impossible to accurately describe the awe you’ll feel—and the space you’ll save—when watching your vacuum-sealed bags shrink before your eyes. Turn your packing party into a consolidation station with this jumbo set from Amazon. (@HunniB_Rose)

4. Use trash bags as bulk garment bags.

Skip the hassle of taking your clothes off their hangers and wrap groups of them in large plastic trash bags. That way, they’ll stay on their hangers whether you’re packing them into boxes or wheeling them out on a portable rack. (@thegirllogan_)

5. Tape loose hardware to its corresponding furniture.

It’s easy to lose screws, washers, and other small hardware during a big move. Instead of throwing everything into a bag and hoping you’ll remember which tiny bits of metal go to what, just duct tape them to their corresponding furniture. (@NebFeminists)

6. Hit up department stores for free cardboard boxes.

Before you splurge on cardboard boxes that you’ll end up throwing out immediately after your move, see if department stores have any that they’d love to get rid of for free. (@jackseve)

7. Ask your local liquor store for special partitioned boxes.

And before you painstakingly wrap each and every glass you own, see if your local liquor store has a stash of those special partitioned cardboard boxes that bottles are often shipped in. (@SuzPageWrites)

8. Invest in a few of IKEA’s giant shopping bags.

Nothing beats IKEA’s big blue reusable shopping bags for transporting oddly shaped items or last-minute things you forgot to pack—they also make great laundry bags if you’re moving to a place without an in-unit washer and dryer. You can get a set of five for $12 from Amazon here. (@PaigeUnabridged)

[h/t Thrillist]

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11 Gifts for the Home Improvement Guru in Your Life

Dia-Grip/Amazon
Dia-Grip/Amazon

Picking out the right gift for the handyperson on your list isn’t always easy. With so many choices out there and price tags that could quickly balloon, it’s important to do your research before making a commitment. Thankfully there are plenty of straight-forward tools and gadgets on the market that any home DIYer would love to have—and they don't have to wreck your holiday budget, either. Check out 11 gift recommendations for the home improvement guru in your life.

1. RAK Magnetic Wristband; $16

The RAK Magnetic Wristband is pictured
Amazon

Losing screws has to be among the biggest pet peeves of any DIYer. This magnetic wristband makes any job significantly less frustrating by keeping fasteners and accessories (screws, bolts, drill bits) within easy reach instead of on the floor or down a drain.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Vampliers; $45

A pair of Vampliers is pictured
Amazon

The unique, toothy design of the Vampliers's jaw makes it far easier to pull and cut wire, and grab hold of any stripped screw, bolt, or nut. For someone doing serious work around the house, this tool could save them a lot of elbow grease.

Buy it: Amazon

3. 5-in-1 Tool Pen; $25

The 5-in-1 Tool Pen from Uncommon Goods is pictured
Uncommon Goods

No matter what kind of job you’re tackling, a pen is mightier than most blunt-force instruments. This multi-use writing utensil allows you to scribble notes, measure levels, check a ruler, deploy a screwdriver, or use it as a stylus.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

4. Stanley FuBar Demolition Bar; $25

The Stanley FuBar Demolition Bar is pictured
Walmart

Destroy anything—really, anything—with this forceful tool from the good people at Stanley. The pry bar can loosen nearly whatever you need, while the sharp end can do anything from trimming branches to splitting firewood.

Buy it: Walmart

5. General Tools LTM1 Laser Tape Measure; $30

The General Tools LTM1 Laser Tape Measure is pictured
Amazon

See how products measure up with this tape measure that uses a laser to beam to distances up to 50 feet. A conventional 16-foot analog tape measure is also included.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Little Giant Ladder; $229

The Little Giant Ladder is pictured
Amazon

Sometimes a plain ladder just won’t get you where you need to go. The Little Giant is the Swiss Army Knife of steps, allowing for a number of configurations from a 19-foot extension to a footprint that can be set on stairs and other awkward locations.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Dia-Grip Universal Socket Wrench; $18

The Dia-Grip Universal Socket Wrench is pictured
Amazon

No one enjoys searching for the right size socket for the job, so the Dia-Grip makes the choice for you. The socket wrench has steel pins that automatically configure to the bolt or nut you’re trying to attack, taking a lot of the guesswork off the user's plate.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Cartman Bungee Cords; $14

Cartman Bungee Cords are pictured
Amazon

Want to prevent your Christmas tree from ending up as a crumpled pile of broken pine needles in the middle of the highway? These elastic bungee cords allow you to haul items without worrying that they'll topple over or fall off the roof of your car. The 24 cords come in different sizes, so no matter how big of a tree you get this year, you'll still be able to secure it properly.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Rhino Strong Air Wedge; $24

The Rhino Strong Air Wedge is pictured
Amazon

When you need to get a heavy object off the ground for leveling or moving, all you have to do is push these inflatable bladders underneath, then use the hand pump. The resulting wedge can hold up to 300 pounds. Three sizes (small, medium, and large) are included.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Fix It Kit; $30

The Fix-It Kit from Uncommon Goods is pictured
Uncommon Goods

Sometimes you don’t necessarily need a contractor-grade tool set to get a simple job done. Alternately, you may want to keep a small assortment in a utility area or car. That’s where the Fix It Kit comes in. Inside a faux-leather case is a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, a flashlight, and other essentials. It's the perfect gift for someone in need of their first travel tool set.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

11. Myivell LED Flashlight Glove; $13

The Mylivell LED flashlight glove is pictured
Amazon

Have a hands-on lighting source when working in dark spaces with these gloves. Each one has a small LED light located on the forefinger and thumb to illuminate your project. One size fits all.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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