A touch of the January blues?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that January is the least favourite of months for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Sleet, rain and wind do not a happy formula make especially when combined with chilly mornings and loss of daylight around 4pm. Maybe that’s why I’ve struggled to get back into a reading and blogging groove this month.

gentleman_in_moscowThe beginning of June, things looked promising. My first book of the year was a stunner -— A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I was curious how Towles would manage to sustain interest in a 400+page novel about a member of the Russian aristocracy under house arrest in a plush Moscow hotel. Wouldn’t it get rather repetitive I thought? The short answer is no, absolutely not. This is a master class in how to construct a narrative. I’ll get around to posting my review shortly but in the meantime I’ll simply say that if you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing something special.

After that things went downhill rapidly.

I’d agreed to review the fourth book in a crime series which pays homage to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Sadly, A Death in the Night wasn’t much more than just ok. So then I turned to Muriel Spark and her first published novel The Comforters. I chose it because it was published in 1957, the first year of my ‘reading my life’ project. Now I’d enjoyed two other novels by her: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Girls of Slender Means so I had similar expectations to be as entertained by The Comforters. Far from being entertained, I found it a struggle to get to the end and was heartily glad when I did. Clearly her kind of humour isn’t for me.

Even my audio book choices have been disappointing this month. I’ve abandoned most of them: The Untouchable by John Banville (about an esteemed art historian revealed to be a double agent); Father Brown Stories by G K Chesterton and Agatha Christie Close Up (a collection of archive radio programmes about Christie). None of them held my attention.

I’ve also struggled to get enthused by blogging this month. Hence why I am way behind with reviews, many from last year even. I’m way behind also on reading posts from other bloggers even those that are my favourites. As for Twitter, well I seem to barely look at it some days. I’m just a tad tired of seeing message after message about book cover reveals…. So if you’ve not heard from me for a while, I promise it’s not because I don’t love you any more.

This fug is not anything I’ve experienced before. I hope it doesn’t last much longer. In fact I hope I can break out of the cycle tonight when I’m going to be opening a new book. In keeping with my intention to make 2018 the year of reading naked I have a completely free hand in selecting that book. There has to be something in my bookshelves that will tickle the taste buds back to life again.


About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on January 28, 2018, in Book Reviews, Bookends, Reading my life and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 54 Comments.

  1. Oh dear. Sorry to hear that you’re in a bit of a reading slump – maybe not helped by starting off so well with A Gentleman in Moscow. I enjoyed that one, as well. One of the things I do to get myself out of these is to go along my bookshelves and pick up random books and start reading the first page. When I find one that makes me turn over to page 2, I retreat to the sofa. Hope you find your way out of this soon – it’s never much fun when it hits.

  2. I don’t think there is anything worse for a reader than a reading slump. It is way worse even than the flu. At least you read the Towles book! It is indeed a feat of storytelling. His earlier one, Rules of Civility is also great. Set in 1920 New York City. Great female characters. I have read quite a bit of Muriel Sparks because of my “reading my life” project, aka My Big Fat Reading Project. She is wildly uneven but there are many good ones in between. Yes, her sense of humor is quite whacked.

  3. I hope the slump lifts soon – I got into a bit of a struggle as got behind on books to review for a Proper Thing after publishers sent me three books in a week and then another big one arrived. AND I got behind with reading and commenting on blogs. Almost caught up there and confessed my delay to the Proper Thing and it’s OK. I had a family bereavement before Christmas that knocked my energy, which didn’t help.

    Re the reading slump, I too go back to genres or actual books I loved first in my reading life. Hope all the advice on here helps and that you feel brighter soon.

    • That indeed is pressure Liz. Fortunately I dont get that many approaches from publishers but even with the few I have for review, I feel guilty if I get behind….

      • The awful thing was, I’d asked my editor to request all the books for me – usually she asks for a few and only one comes, or they’re small, this time, four chunksters! Argh!

  4. Many commiserations, Karen. How about some short stories to tempt your appetite?

  5. Rest assured. I too have fallen into a slump. Possibly the opposite reason, seasonally – we have had a heatwave (over 40 degrees for days and days) and I just can’t be bothered. I take great comfort that someone else is in a similar pickle….! February will be here shortly and maybe a new beginning…

  6. really planning to read it one day! The opposite for me: the first 3 or 4 books of the month were really meh, but then I got to really good stuff!

  7. If by a ‘book cover reveal’ you mean all those posts on the theme of ‘books to look forward to in 2018′, I’m sorry, but I never even look at them. Not even when my favourite bloggers do it. I did it myself a couple of times in my early days and then I decided that I was falling into the trap of becoming part of a publicity machine, and I didn’t want to spend my time doing it, and I don’t want to spend my online time looking at what is basically uncritical advertising. For me, the whole point about reading lit blogs is to find out about books that the blogger has actually read to help me choose what to read for myself.
    I remember those dank afternoons in Britain but I think Travellin’ Penguin is right. Your body is craving sunlight and movement, and the absence of both can cause depression. So even if it’s a mangy day, a walk will lift your spirits with the added bonus of feeling great when you come back indoors to the comfort of a warm home!
    PS Skip the overdue reviews. Blogging is meant to be enjoyable, not a guilt trip!

    • I do enjoy reading Susan’s ‘what’s coming out this month’ posts at A Life in Books because she worked in the industry so has a more considered opinion of what to feature plus she doesn’t just list the books, but explains if she’s read that author before etc. The Twitter posts I don’t like do nothing more than post a picture of a book cover and say this is coming out soon. Now that really is little more than advertising….

      Yes I do go walking – fortunately I have access to some good coastal walks either from my home or just 15 mins by car. There is a small group of us that goes out weekly also which is a great way to catch up on local gossip..

      • I’ve never heard of “book cover reveals”. I clearly read the wrong blogs!! Seriously though I avoid blogs that are heavily meme-based because like Lisa I’m most interested in what the blogger has read, not in covers, not in what’s in their mailbox or library bag, etc. I don’t mind Top Tens of what people have read (by theme, year, form or whatever) or even some posts about reading plans that discuss whys and well as whats.

        Anyhow, I’m sorry you’ve been in a funk. Maybe “naked reading” is not for you! Maybe having too much choice is not a good thing!! Seriously though, I’m still struggling to find a balance between choice and commitments in my reading.

        As for January, of course, I love January – though not all souther hemisphereans do. Some don’t like the heat. My favourite month in terms of climate is probably March, but what I love about January is the quietness. Our city becomes quiet as many leave for the coast (so the roads are quiet and parking is easy). And my regular commitments of which I have many are mostly in hiatus. This means I can sometimes read a little more than I manage in other months, though this year I’ve had parental healthy issues to take up some of the slack. Such is life.

        And now, I’ll close. I’m a few days late with this so you’ve hopefully got over your slump by now and don’t need any commiserations from me!!

  8. Glad to hear that you still love us all madly! And I do hope you find another charmer on your shelves. Surely your year of reading naked can’t disappoint in the opening strides…

    • I’m sure this isn’t going to be a long term mood…… just a bit of a dip not helped by the fact I heard a very dear friend from childhood has been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

  9. I’m sorry to hear you’re stuck, Karen. I also get exhausted by posts with low return value for the reader, like cover reveals. It feels like you have to say something about those posts or the blogger thinks you don’t care, even if you don’t care about that type of post in particular. As for getting in a reading funk, I think it’s helpful to return to a book or genre you deeply enjoyed before you started blogging. That’s why I’m reading these silly vampire books: to remind myself that my reading doesn’t have to meet anyone else’s expectations. If it’s all about expectations, the blogging and reading feel like a job to me.

    • You are a star! I thought about your advice on returning to something I loved as I began looking through my shelves last night. Very quickly I saw two authors whose work I’ve always enjoyed – Louise Penny (crime fiction) and Emile Zola. So off I toddled to bed with Zola and only 10 pages later I was hooked. ……

  10. Yup, winter blues. We are still in summer and Australia is having the worst heat wave. When it gets to almost 40C in Tasmania you know it’s hot. I have the Moscow book on the shelves and you have reminded me to read it as I have heard so much good about it. The “clutter” of unwritten reviews of books is as bad as clutter in a house. Round them up with a short paragraph of each and get a clean slate. I get winter blues badly (in September here, at the end of winter) and must make myself exercise somewhere, even a walk with a camera, and attend an event which I normally would think of. “Move” always helps me and get away from the stuff that is presently boring me at the moment. Then I’ll start to miss it and wander back before too long. All the best. (I don’t know if you’re a pet lover or not but my best therapy is to hug a dog!! lol)

    • I was ‘moving’ very well – walking and going to the gym but somehow hurt my back so this week has been a bit more sedentary. But I set myself a goal or an activity for every day – it might be just meeting a friend for a coffee or going in search of a new coffee machine but I find anything that gives me a focus works well.

  11. I know what you mean about a reading funk.I get viewing funk. It always happens after I’ve watched a REALLY good TV series and I can’t find anything to match it that will hold my interest.

  12. January is a struggle, I’m not generally a summer person but I
    breathe a sigh of relief when we get to March. Sorry you didn’t get on too well with The Comforters, Spark won’t suit everyone. Though that particular book won’t be my favourite. I read the first two of those Hampshire murder books, I haven’t read any more.

  13. Getting behind on reviews and then suddenly feeling as if they’re a chore is the pits. It’s happened to me a few times – I usually break the cycle by doing one post with a bunch of very short reviews.

    Good luck with your next book pick 🙂

  14. Don’t worry too much and don’t force yourself to do anything, Even reviewing books you have promised to review. (I’m just about to send a publicist a note saying that I’m not writing a review, because the book’s not up to scratch.) Nothing kills the pleasure of what is essentially a hobby than spending time on activities that are not pleasurable.

  15. January is foul, agreed. And I’m sorry you’re struggling with the reading – I had periods of this last year but they usually pass. A Gentleman in Moscow is marvellous, though, isn’t it? Hope whatever you pull off the shelf enthuses you!

  16. Karen, I hope you get your reading and blogging mojo back soon. 🙂 But I can’t agree that January is my least favourite month, as it is the month of my birth! 😀

  17. The best cure is to do something completely different and you’ll see the craving to read will return ;-). And otherwise a nice trip to the sun with a good book might do the trick to get over the winter blues ;-).

    • Sunshine would certainly be welcome – I wonder if I can persuade my husband we need some Vitamin D? There are not that many options within a reasonable flight distance at this time of the year but we should be able to come up with something……Thanks for the tip 🙂

  18. I do hope your new book helps cleat the fug – it’s always disappointing when a tried and tested author falls short of expectations.

  19. I sympathize! I hope the fug passes soon. I find when this happens to me that sometimes it’s the book I least expect to turn things around that ends up setting me right again.

  20. I’ve never really fallen into the funk you have, before. I tend to lose interest in a particular thing at a time. For instance, I may want to edit a novel rather than write another. Or maybe I would rather blog than work on novels at all.

    But you seem to have lost interest in creative writing (including enjoying the skill, as reading) overall. I do hope you’re not depressed! Maybe you just need a break. It’s possible to burn ourselves out, even on the things we love.

    Thanks for the book recommendation by the way. I added a Gentleman in Moscow to my Goodreads. 😊

    • Fortunately this is not depression – just a blue period. I know I’ll get over it soonish. You’re right though about losing the appetite for creative writing. Our creative writing group was abandoned late last year and since then I’ve not been motivated to write anything….I need an impetus to get me going Alexis

      • A creative writing group? Can you tell me about it, and what you guys did together? I’ve been thinking of doing a virtual online. Just need to ensure I have the time for it.

        • we started with a project which was to write pieces for performance as part of a cemetery walk where actors would take on the role of some of the people buried there. It was really good fun – we did a walk around the cemetery, decided which headstones suggested an interesting story and then wrote a piece from that. Some were monologues in the voice of the person buried there, others were two people in dialogue. At our meetings we read what we had written and got feedback/suggestions on those. We also did a few writing exercises. I’ve done a few writing courses but never any on line – there are loads of them around but its hard to know how good they are

        • That sounds like fun! I first heard about these cemetery walks in Savannah, GA but have never done one. I love how you guys turned it into a morbid and creative affair! Why did it end?

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