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A Bad Case of Book Burnout



Oh c’mon. We’ve all gone through it. And, believe me, it blows. When reading fails you, it’s a dark day indeed.

There are a few types of book burnout and thus different methods of solving them. Here are the primary types of book burnout:

1. Singular Book Burnout

Diagnosis: You’re halfway through the book you’re reading…and you’re still halfway…and…wow…are the pages breeding? It’s taken you days to finish this one book. Now, it’s a week. You’ve folded laundry to avoid finishing it. It’s official: this book and you are no longer friends. Reading has become a chore.

Remedy: Unless this is required reading, it’s time. Step away from the book! You’re about to DNF–as the cool kids call it. You’re going to DID NOT FINISH this book. First time DNFing? Here’s a helpful post on it: I’m DNFing and You Can Too! If it’s required reading, you’re in a pickle, but try rewarding yourself for finishing. Maybe pick a book you’d actually enjoy reading as a prize for finishing this one.

2. Genre Burnout

Diagnosis: This seems to be the burnout reviewers struggle with–and that makes sense to me; they get a reputation for reading paranormal books and people ask them to review another and then another…and suddenly they’re running a site that only reviews paranormals. A hundred paranormals later, the shifters are blending together and you just wish people would spay or neuter their werewolves and vampires. Non-reviewers get it too of course. We all have favorite genres…that can become not so favorite after so many books. Or maybe you’ve just had a terrible week and a dark book just doesn’t feel right.

Remedy: The obvious choice is to switch genres for a bit. And sometimes that can help. My favorite genres currently, in order, are: Suspense, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal…and then probably YA and Sci-fi/Fantasy. Since I read broadly, it’s not too hard for me to change it up and pick another. If you’re more selective and anything outside of your favorite genre won’t work…how about doing some rereading? Read a few books that remind you of why you love that genre so much.

3. Author Burnout

Diagnosis: Honestly, it’s rare for me to get this. It’s more in my obsessive nature to author binge and read ALL THE BOOKS by one author. But I know some people complain of this. The most commonly referenced burnout author I’ve heard of…La Nora. (Nora Roberts) I think her prolific nature combined with the somewhat repetitive nature of some of her plots lends to this. Also, the price of her later books makes you feel the pinch of buying them and raises your expectations, in my opinion. I recently gobbled my way through one of her books…and there’s a reason why she’s sold crazy amounts of books–the woman can write. Anyway, author burnout–you’ve got it.

Remedy: There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from an author. You’re not being disloyal. This isn’t a break-up…this is…taking a break…a little time apart. A lot of book retail sites have various ways to find similar authors. If you were to go to your favorite author’s Amazon page, there’s even a spot for which authors their readers commonly buy. Chances are they’ve gone through a bit of a burnout and have branched out. Do it! Eventually you’ll probably rediscover your old faves and remember why they were faves.

4. Trope Burnout

Diagnosis: Secret baby. Marriage of convenience. Fish out of water. Love triangle. Brother’s best friend. Enemies to lovers. Big misunderstanding. Royalty in hiding. Amnesia plots. Books are made up of tropes…plot devices and elements that can become old favorites or really tedious. Right now, the combined second chance at love due to a big misunderstanding trope coupling is on my “outs” list. I’m actively avoiding books with blurbs suggesting that. Love triangles are permanently on my “outs” list due to personal reasons. *shudders* I’m sure you have plots that you don’t like–and sometimes you’ve just seen too much of them.

Remedy: Identify what precisely is making a book drag and feel repetitious. If it’s the trope, then reviews are about to become your best friend. Read reviews before you snatch up a book to make sure that Theresa isn’t having her brother’s best friend’s secret baby after being forced to marry him in secret…something she can’t remember because she has amnesia due to a big misunderstanding.

5. Series Burnout

Diagnosis: It was fun in the beginning, but you’re four books into this series and you’re hoping the main protagonist dies so you can be done already. How many more books are there anyway? When does J.D. Robb find time to write as J.D. Robb? (Most common series burnout I’ve heard complained about.) I recently hit series burnout and discovered that five books in a series is my max with different protagonists and three with the same protagonist. After that number, I simply don’t care anymore. Even if they haven’t solved the overall series story arc…I simply don’t care. Whatevs.

Remedy: Typically, I quit a series, but some of you might feel driven to finish the series because you HAVE TO KNOW. I’ll admit, I’m terrible this way, but I’ll actually look up book plot summaries on Wikipedia to see how the series ends rather than force myself to read it. Or, I’ll look up spoilers. I’m also not one for surprises though. And I read the ends of books ahead of time sometimes. I’m a horrible person and should be slapped…but there you have it. Suck it up and read it through. Quit and cheat. Or just quit and maybe come back to it later. My only problem with the final one is that if you wait too long, you’ve forgotten the other books and you’re locked in a vicious circle because you have to go back and reread them.

6. Reading Burnout

Diagnosis: In my opinion, total reading burnout is most likely caused by reading the WRONG books, not because reading is no longer fun. I can’t imagine a world where that’s true. I refuse to imagine that. That doesn’t exist. But, I do know that when you’re stressed out, finding time to read for fun can be difficult and stress doesn’t always allow you to relax and enjoy a book.

Remedy: Maybe it’s time to seek entertainment in other forms like television or the theatre. OR…you could check into audiobooks. Maybe spending times outdoors and changing the venue of where you’re reading will help. Drag yourself to your nearest coffeeshop and relax in a corner with a book or people watch until you’re in the mood. Go sit in a park and read if the mood strikes you. Reading should be fun. If it’s not, change up things until it is…because it’s worth it.

7. Mood Burnout

Diagnosis: Mood burnout is the worst burnout in my opinion. It’s when you want to read, but you don’t know what you’re in the mood for and you discard book after book trying to find it. Usually I get mood burnout when I’m under so much pressure in real life that it’s making me moodier than normal. Or when I’m not getting enough sleep. My mood shifts rapidly and I’m no longer interested in the funny book I picked up after the dark book didn’t suit me either.

Remedy: When I get mood burnout, I go look for comfort books. Some books can help my mood no matter what AND I’m always in the mood for them. Also, generally I’m in the mood to be happier when I’m in mood burnout so books that make me laugh will get me in the mood for other books. You could also always look at baby animal pictures until you feel the urge to “hang in there!”


What type of burnouts are the most common for you? What do you do when you get burnt out? 

4 Responses so far.

  1. You didn’t mention straight-up fiction burn out. I had that for years. Let me tell you, that’s when a library is your best friend. I checked out everything from the 000s (General works, computer science and information) through the 900s (History and geography). For months I read nothing but biographies, then switched to literature, then philosophy and religion. After a while it was all about mixing it up–from the coffee-table picture books on national parks, knitting projects, and Amish life, to books by humorists and world leaders, with some photo-filled books on fashion and style thrown in for good measure. I had my go-to’s when I wanted fiction (Little Women, Ivanhoe, Dracula … you know, the classics) but it was all about non-fiction with me for years.

    You know what got me back to reading fiction? Harry Potter. Yep, that series was my gateway back to the land of imagination. It was so well plotted and used such classic story-telling methods that I was hooked from book one.

    (BTW, you mentioned audio books … one of my sons bought me the complete digital-audio set of Harry Potter from the Pottermore shop and it’s great. Over 110 hours of listening pleasure on my little pocket-sized mp3 player. Love it.)

    • Oh, and Jim Dale does a fantastic job on the audiobooks. One of the best readers I’ve listened to. He really nails the voices.

      I’ve gone on a few nonfiction binges, but they typically don’t last very long. But I do find nonfiction fascinating…and I think there’s a whole lot of fiction possibility in nonfiction. I turn to nonfiction for ideas in fact.

      Have you read “Growing Up Amish” by Ira Wagler? That was a fantastic and interesting biography.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I love this! I have experienced many of these. As a young adult, I hit author burnout with Anne Tyler–binge read her books then couldn’t do another. Happily, I’m back on her. And I’ve also quit series. Don’t tell anyone, but I only read Harry Potter through 5 and I only read the first Hunger Games book. Though I feel like I know all about the rest of both those series.

    • You know, I actually thought the second Hunger Games book was better. It was darn near perfect. The third one was well done but so depressing. I moped around my house for nearly a week after finishing the third one. It made me a lot more careful about reading books that rip you up. It even ended happy…well…happyish.

      I’m in binge mode rather than burnout right now. Which is it’s own weirdness, but at least there are worlds I want to disappear into.

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