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Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Readerly Restlessness

On Thursday night I finished Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City (I'll post my review in a few days).  Friday I was without a book.  I had lunch with some teacher friends (unanimous agreement on the loveliness of summer break); of course I had a book in my purse (Anthony Trollope's The Prime Minister).  But, here's the thing:  I couldn't settle into a new book.  I had readerly restlessness.  You know, that restless feeling you get when you've finished a book (Chronic City was over 400 pages) but you can't quite decide what to read next.

I was like a dog who couldn't decide just where to lie down; I just kept circling and circling.  I've read several big, fat books recently, and I have a few more lined up--but none of them felt quite right.  You should see the piles of books scattered throughout my house:  on the desk, the bedside table, even on the floor.  Maybe short stories?  Nah.  How about my one, true love:  Trollope?  Not right now!  Aargh!

Finally I got it--the right book.  I picked up Rock Island Line by David Rhodes.  Hmmm.  This has been sitting on my TBR pile for a couple of months.....I opened the book, read the first sentence (a one-paragraph sentence--I felt like a brook trout being pulled by a dazzling lure).  Finally, my book restlessness is over.

Do you get readerly restlessness?  We bookish people seem to feel compelled to be in a book at all times--do you take time off from reading?  Do you ever get that restless feeling that you just don't know what you want to read?  What did you do the last time you suffered from readerly restlessness?

19 comments:

Julie P said...

I hate that feeling! Personally, I have signed up for so many reading challenges that I have my TBR list planned out for the rest of the year (must be the OCD in me)! LOL

Man of la Books said...

You don't have an emergency book?
I have an old favorite I keep just for these cases, or a few books which are in the closet (usually my wife's chick lit).

Steph said...

This restlessness is happening to me now. I can't really get into the book I'm reading and I want to read something but can't decide what, esp. since I have a bunch I have to read to review, and none of them are really calling to me right now. It's rather like being hungry but no food really appeals and so you can't decide what to eat. ARG!

bibliophiliac said...

@Julie P-I'm fighting my list! I like having a list, but I don't like feeling constrained by my list.
@Man of la Book-Trollope is my emergency book-but I just wasn't feeling trollopey....
@Steph-that is the perfect metaphor-hungry, but for what?

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

Yes, I've had that feeling after being immersed in an epic or sometimes for no reason. After reading a super long book, sometimes my brain feels like it is still in the book--- trying to read another book feels wrong.

When I have that restless feeling for no reason, I usually end up rereading a beloved book-- a comfort book-- kinda like comfort food-- another food reference. ;o)

bookishbarney said...

I hate book restlessness... It leaves me feeling so lost and bereft, somehow. I usually end up just picking up a book, reading a page or two, putting it back. Maybe watching a bit of telly. Eventually I'll pick one up and it'll just feel RIGHT. Until then, I don't really know what to do with myself - I'm like a fish out of water without a book!

Page said...

I understand your pain. I get that when i've read too many books that are similiar in scope ie (FBI thrillers) and I can't seem to break out of that rut. I've taken a day or two and not read anything and that seems to help.

tea lady said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who suffers from this! It's awful looking at a huge pile of books and not wanting to read any of them. It feels unnatural and wrong.

....Petty Witter said...

Yes I get readerly restlessness every now and then, I just never knew the name for the condition.

bibliophiliac said...

@Lesa-you're right-the voice of a novel gets into your brain sometimes!
@bookishbarney-I know that fish out of water feeling--my husband laughs at me for carrying a book everywhere, but I feel weird with out one in my purse!
@Page-I have a feeling that I'll be looking for other Swedish mystery novels when I finish the last Stieg Larsson book...

bibliophiliac said...

@tea lady-you are not alone!
@Petty Witter-I think I just made the term up! But "readerly restlessness" describes the mood, even if spell-check doesn't seem to like it!

Melody said...

I love finishing a big book and getting to decide what's next...but I hate it when I get in a rut of quick books and can't break the ennui.

I usually have a few books going at once, so it isn't often I get to do book auditioning.

Judith said...

I believe I'm in sync with you! I'm attributing my reading malaise to the fact that I've tackled one chunkster after another. Also, too much work, work that is the sort that preys on your mind 24/7.

I keep promising myself I'll break out of the morasse, but it's proving a challenge!

Stay tuned with me as I conquer new books! I think it would do me good to steer away from chunksters for a while.

Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

Priya Parmar said...

i do get that. although plantagenet palliser is hard to put down--how alliterative! it is when i feel like i do not want to live in the story or the time or the place of a book and i have to up sticks and move away for a bit. but if it goes on too long i will pick up a tried and true favorite and that will usually do the trick. i love that you love trollope!

Kerry said...

Absolutely! This happens to me a lot, actually, especially after reading something really large and satisfying - it's like nothing else will measure up. I've generally thought of it as a "slump," but I guess that's more of a long-term concept. I really like "readerly restlessness." Glad you found something to read!

BookQuoter said...

I find that if I alternate my books, classics to YA to historical to chicklit to mystery etc., I hardly get this. I also make sure I read a thin book if I just finished a thick one and vice versa. But I guess it's also because my husband thinks I am relentless :)

Shannon (Giraffe Days) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grad said...

If I finish a book that is wonderful yet troubling (The Book Thief comes immediately to mind) I have a hard time getting back into reading something else right away. Sometimes its jarring to jump from one book right into another.

tediousandbrief said...

I'm currently in that restless period, since I have a number of books I'd like to read, but don't entirely feel like starting any of them. Usually that lasts a few days until i decide on one or another.

I'd like to see what you thought about Chronic City. I had to put it down after a while and just couldn't get into it.