From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian

“Reading Doldrums”

I’ve been suffering from a condition that doesn’t hit often but when it does, it’s most discouraging. And from what I’ve heard from others recently, I’m not the only person who’s experiencing the same malady. It’s the dreaded reading doldrums.

You know the symptoms. You stand in front of the stacks in the library, looking for a book—any book—that strikes your fancy but nothing looks like it’s worth your time to check out. Or, even worse, you see one that you think you can spend your weekend with but you get home, start reading it, and realize that it’s just not the one. So what do you do?

First off—if you don’t like it, put it down! There is no law that says you must finish a book you start. I learned that from inveterate reader Betty Vequist (we miss her, too, Cathy!) who drilled that lesson into me and it’s one I follow to this day. Why read something I don’t like when there are other books that are so much better?

So what makes me put down a book? Well, poor writing which in turn means poor editing. And poor research. If the author makes blatant errors about a location or a situation, I’ll rarely continue with the book (unless it’s to see if it can get even worse. It usually does).

Also, as soon as an animal begins talking, I close the book. I once checked out a book after reading the blurb that said the protagonist was something of a book whisperer because the books spoke to her. I thought it meant figuratively. Nope, the books actually talked to the woman. I nearly threw it across the room in disgust (if you read that book and loved it, you’re a better reader than I, Gunga Din).

I may dislike the character or if the plot seems contrived, I move on. Or maybe I’m just not in the mood for that particular book at that particular time in my life so I’ll revisit it later for a second (and sometimes a third) try.

While waiting for a book to shatter my doldrums state, I may find myself reading magazines instead (short articles are great when you don’t know what you want to read). I rarely re-read books but will pick up an easy-to-read (i.e., light in content, somewhat predictable plot) that doesn’t take much concentration. Or I turn on the TV and hope to find episodes of Law & Order, North Woods Law, Maine Cabin Masters, or Good Bones (Restoring Galvaston is growing on me too) For some reason, I can re-watch shows but don’t care to re-read books.

If there was any way to prevent the doldrums from striking, I’d be first in line to try the remedy. But until then, I’ll keep looking for a good book (and I’ve been fortunate that several have come my way of late). If you’re afflicted, come to the library. If I can’t find a good book for you, at least we can commiserate together.