“I’ve spent the last few years really focused on my career and productivity in general–I’ve sent all my spare time trying to learn things or mark tasks off my to-do list. But now that things are slowing down a little, I’d really like to read some good fiction. The problems are both that I don’t know where to start and that if a book doesn’t really grab me in the first few pages, I’m going to put it down and go find something useful to do.” – Bookless in Northampton
Getting back into reading for fun can be surprisingly difficult! When your brain has gotten used to jumping around a to-do list, focusing on a single thing feels wrong—even when it’s something you’re looking forward to.
I’ve found that short story collections are a great way to ease back into things. Sitting down to read a single story doesn’t feel like quite as much of a commitment as a novel, but finishing one builds the momentum to keep going. If an author you love happens to have a collection of short stories, I’d start there. The Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt is one of my favorites, though the stories are a bit on the longer side. Multi-author anthologies are also good for this and are an excellent way to find new authors—I’ve got several novels on my to-read list by authors that I first encountered in Monstrous Affections.
I think it’s also important to remember that it’s ok to stop reading things you’re not enjoying!
Generally for this situation, I’m thinking thrillers might be a good start. Also, a non-fiction book might be a good re-entry: learning = productivity! But since we know each other in real life, I have some really specific recommendations for you in particular:
I almost hate to say it because this book was such a sensation, but if you’ve not been reading for the past few years, and also not been making it out to the cinema, I’d really recommend Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s not overrated–it’s a total page turner. Flynn is a fantastic writer. A woman goes missing. You think you have it figured out. BUT. Then you switch to a new narrator.
Also Tana French. My favorite is The Likeness, which is the second book in the series and though they do tie together linearly, they can totally be read out of order. In this book, Detective Cassie Maddox is called to investigate a crime scene where she finds a woman who looks exactly like her, using an alias she once used, murdered. What?! Impossible!
And finally, Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte. This is very topical because the thesis is basically “sure, but what if you didn’t work yourself to death?” and focuses on issues particular to working women (and more particularly women with children)—the second shift, the notion of “time confetti,” how, “…Uninterrupted time is the territory of the advantaged.”
If you’re asking if you should break up with someone, just break up with them. Now. You don’t have time for that. You know you’re going to die one day, right? But if your reading life would benefit from a little book advice, send your question to email@example.com with the subject “Ask the Shopkeeps”.