There was a time in my life when I would read an average of 125 novels a year. It was something I was really proud of—borderline smug about, even. I revelled in meticulously logging each title I devoured on Goodreads (think social media meets cataloguing site for avid readers), and I loved bringing the stat out in icebreaker settings, getting a kick out of the mix of low-key admiration and disbelief that crossed someone’s face when I told them. But as I neared the end of my academic career and then started my first full-time “adult” job, I hit a wall. I’d sit down with a book I was excited to read and just…stare at it. My eyes refused to focus on the words in front of me, and my brain was incapable of comprehending more than a few sentences at a time. Whereas the old me could have finished a 400-pager in the span of a few hours, this new version was lucky to get through a chapter a day. It was as if I had a reader’s version of writer’s block. 

Years later, I’m back to reading more frequently again (though not at the same rate—because, you know, responsibilities), but every once in a while, I’ll hit that same wall. I also now know that these reading “slumps,” as they’re commonly referred to online, are pretty normal. Just ask any reviewer, writer or book lover who’s had to deal with them. “I can get to a point where reading feels like a chore,” says Paige Smith, a Calgary-based content creator who makes videos about reading for TikTok’s increasingly popular #BookTok community under the username @paigesofbookss. As a full-time teacher, Smith often finds it challenging to go home at the end of a long day and read as well as share her well-composed thoughts online, especially since she aims to get through 50 to 60 books a year. She’s no stranger to reading slumps and ultimately has to push through them. “It’s a hard balance, but I have to find the time; I have to [remember] that this is something I love and that for me,self-care is sitting down and reading.” Smith is onto something when she talks about balance. 

In a 2020 post on his LinkedIn page, bestselling author and brain-performance coach Jim Kwik, whose job is to, in part, help people use their minds more effectively (including reading faster), cites higher levels of stress and anxiety resulting in a lack of motivation as a common cause of reading slumps. Former journalist and Toronto-based novelist Carley Fortune has noticed that her slumps also tend to hit at times of stress or when reading feels more connected to her job as opposed to something she gets sheer pleasure out of. Also unhelpful? Setting lofty reading goals or spending too much time in online book communities that make reading feel more high-pressure than it should.“There’s a lot of guilt around reading—both in terms of how much we’re reading and what we’re reading,” says Fortune, whose second novel, Meet Me at the Lake, hit shelves on May 2. “A lot of us have this list of books we feel we should read, and if we’re not tackling it, we feel bad. I’ve really had to shift my mindset. A slump isn’t about the books; it’s about my response to reading [at a particular moment].”

So, if you’re stuck in a slump, how do you get out? The most important thing to do, says Fortune, is identify why you like reading. She loves romance novels and YA fiction because they’re an escape for her. Smith, on the other hand, gravitates toward thrillers for their entertainment value. Once you figure out your reasons for reading, it’s easier to pinpoint—and accept—the cause of your slump, whether it’s heightened stress, as Kwik suggests; the kind of self-applied pressure Fortune identifies; trying to tackle too many books at once; going through a “book hangover” (a.k.a. the feeling of enjoying a book so much you don’t want to move on from it); an underwhelming experience with a certain title; or some other reason.

From there, you can address the root cause. Smith says you just have to set aside all distractions, schedule a block of time and sit there with a book. Even if this doesn’t immediately push you out of your slump, one-on-one time with yourself will ultimately help you relax. In his post, Kwik also recommends trying a different genre—switching things up, he writes, can catch your brain off guard and force it to refocus.

But Fortune suggests a different approach: returning to beloved books from your past—those nostalgic titles that ignited your passion in the first place and can put you back in that frame of mind. If you find that tracking your reading or setting benchmarks has the tendency to make you feel bad or compare yourself to others, she adds, stop doing that. While it can be fun to keep count, it’s not a requirement to call yourself a reader, the author points out. And if figuring out what to read is part of your problem, Fortune recommends following authors and content creators who have similar tastes to yours for recommendations. “All it takes is one gateway book,” she says, “and your love of reading will be sparked again.”


For Unexpected Twists: Yellowface By R. F. Kuang (May 16) + American Born Chinese (May 24)

Hate figuring out how a story will resolve before you actually get there? Well, believe us, both Yellowface—critically acclaimed author R. F. Kuang’s new satire about a white writer who tries to pass off an Asian woman’s work as her own while “reinventing” herself as Asian-American—and Disney+ action comedy American Born Chinese, which boasts a stacked cast that includes Oscar winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan and follows a teen who is suddenly caught up in a war between Chinese mythological gods, will keep you guessing until the very end.


For Gripping Thrills: The Whispers By Ashley Audrain (June 6) + The Mother (May 12)

Motherhood is approached from very different angles in this pair. In Canadian writer Ashley Audrain’s The Whispers, three women examine how their lives have changed in the shocking aftermath of a tragic accident involving a neighbour’s child. Meanwhile, Netflix movie The Mother stars Jennifer Lopez as a former assassin who comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she left behind years ago.


For Coming-Of-Age Woes: The Glow By Jessie Gaynor (June 20) + Barbie (July 21)

We’re all just Barbie girls living in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie world—or at least we will be this summer when the acclaimed filmmaker’s Margot Robbie-led flick about an exiled Barbie searching for her place in the world debuts. The protagonist in satirical novel The Glow is on a similar journey of self-discovery, only she’s trying to save her girlboss-fuelled PR career by transforming a wellness retreat into the hottest new self-care brand.