The Reader’s Survival Guide

Skyler Boudreau
for Reader Views

While I disagree with most generalizations, I would like to open this blog post with one of the rare few I agree with: most avid readers don’t like going anywhere without a book. I am certainly not an exception.

There is a certain hole a reader can fall into when deciding which book to bring with them on a trip. Should it be that new one they just bought from their favorite bookstore, despite knowing they have a bookcase worth of unread books at home? Or should they bring the one they’re in the middle of reading? These questions open the door for even further questions and your answers could prove to provide some potential problems for you down the line.

For example, let’s say that you choose to bring along the book you are currently reading. You only have about a hundred pages left. You’re a relatively fast reader. What happens if you finish it and have nothing left to read? That would be disastrous. There are three main solutions to this issue. One option is to bring along a different, lengthier book instead of your current read. The second option, and probably the most commonly chosen solution, is to bring a second book, “just in case.”

The third and final option is my favorite: assemble a Reader’s Survival Bag. This is an easy-to-grab bag that a reader can bring with them on trip of any kind, whether it be anything from a doctor’s appointment to a long train ride. A reader will find the Reader’s Survival Bag an asset in any situation that requires a period of waiting.

What you include in your Reader’s Survival Bag is up to you, but most versions of it include at least one of the following items.

  1. An unnecessary number of books – The average book is three hundred to four hundred pages long. There’s no way you’ll finish three of them during that fifteen minute subway ride to work, but you want to have them just in case. Who knows? Maybe the subway will break down and you’ll have an hour or two to kill. That’s still not really enough time to finish three books, but at least you have them if you need them.
  2. At least two books that you already finished and keep forgetting to remove from your Reader’s Survival Bag – It happens to all of us. Why don’t we just remove the finished books as we add new ones to the bag? It’s not like it takes any more effort than the latter. Oh well. You never did it before, and you’re probably not going to start now.
  3. So much random stuff – You definitely don’t need seven bookmarks, the twenty-nine old receipts from bookstores, or even that one box of crayons you don’t remember putting in there. You have it all anyway though and you’ll probably add more to your collection as time passes. I guess you can say it adds character to your Reader’s Survival Bag.

This is by no means a completed list. There are any number of things you can include in your own version. The Reader’s Survival Bag is a nifty way to keep your bookworm comfortable for any and all periods of time. What does yours look like?

The Reading Slump: An Unexpected Foe

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor

You finally have some time to yourself. A full day to anything you want. You’ve been planning this for weeks. You’re going to spend the next twenty-four hours reading the new books you bought last month until your eyes are burning, and your fingers ache from the turning pages. As you begin the first new book, you notice something is off. The story is good, it has everything you like in a novel of its genre, but you just… don’t feel like reading it right now.

No problem. You have plenty of others to choose from. You repeat this mantra to yourself over and over, trying to fight your rising horror as you realize, no matter which book you pick up, you can’t spark your normally insatiable hunger for stories. You try to calm yourself, promising to try again in a few hours.

Hours turn into days which turn into weeks which sometimes, for an unlucky few, turn into months. You just don’t feel like reading. Whenever your eyes land on the mountain of unread books at the foot of your bed, you are overcome by guilt.

A reading slump can hit you like a ton of bricks. The reasons vary from person to person. For me, it usually happens after I have read a lot of the same types of novels. That can mean they all fall into the same genre, are written by the same author, or maybe they even share similar plotlines. Regardless of the source of this reading drama, it isn’t a fun experience.

Slumps happen to the best of us and aren’t exclusive to reading. They can befall anyone and apply to any hobby. It’s kind of like work burnout. You just can’t find your usual passion for an activity you used to love. Nobody can tell you how long a slump of any kind may last. They can, however, offer you some advice on how to defeat one.

I can force myself to read during a slump, but it isn’t something that I recommend. It isn’t enjoyable and sometimes it can worsen the situation. One way to ease the slump is reading in “bite-sized portions.” Try reading some flash fiction. If that helps, you can gradually increase the length of the pieces until you find yourself consuming novels at the same pace you were pre-reading slump.

Another option is read something that is completely new to you. If you’ve never picked up a fantasy novel, do it now! It might just be the shock that your brain needs to pull you out of your reading slump (and hey, you might fall in love with the genre along the way)!

In an odd sort of way, it can be refreshing to return to a hobby after a slump. Sometimes you just have to let it pass. It’s invigorating to suddenly realize that you want to read again after a period of not being able to.

Whatever the cause and regardless of the symptoms, you should know that a reading slump is not an indefinite condition. Nor is it an untreatable one. Experiment! What works to reignite the love of reading in one person may not work for you. How do you combat this unexpected adversary?

A Problem Facing Both Readers and Dragons

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor

Like many fantasy lovers, I like dragons. That includes both the Western and Eastern mythological portrayals of them. All versions of the dragon have their charms and quirks, and today, I am going to discuss one that these fearsome beasts and readers have in common. Care to hazard a guess?

If you said, “their tendency to hide in dark lairs for long periods of time,” you aren’t exactly wrong. But the answer I was looking for is, “their treasure hoards.”

There are any number of stories about fearsome knights or cunning tricksters sneaking into a dragon’s lair and making off with as many valuables as they can carry. Come near a reader’s hoard, and they might just might breath their own fire at you! Rather than gold, they collect long, often physically manifested lists of books they would potentially, at some point, maybe someday, like to read. They are affectionately termed “To Be Read Lists.”

Sometimes a TBR List is just that; a list written down in a notebook or tracked on a website like Goodreads. Other times, the reader will collect actual copies of all of their potential reads. These book hoards will spill off of shelves and across floors and take up every available surface until you are left with no option other than stacking your unread books up to the ceiling (which can be pretty inconvenient)!

Some books can languish in a reader’s hoard for years at a time before the reader decides to pick them up. I definitely have a few of those in mine. I have a habit of buying a book on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list and then becoming absorbed in a completely different read. Do I feel guilty for abandoning a newly purchased book to my hoard? Yes. Will I ever put a permanent stop to it? Absolutely not.

Yesterday evening, I decided to take action against my hoard. My plan is a self-ban on buying new books. For the next three months, I am going to try and focus only on books within my hoard. That way, rather than potentially adding to it, I should be making steady progress towards eliminating it. This ban will not include books sent to me for review or received as gifts. After three months, I’ll reevaluate and examine how much progress I have made. This book buying ban will go into effect immediately. My last book purchase was April 2nd. (a collection of Oscar Wilde’s short fiction, if anyone wants to know), so that means the reevaluation of my hoard will not come until summer.

I’m unsure of the methods a dragon takes when the need arises to cull her hoard (perhaps a ban on ransacking kingdoms?) but we shall see if my own method works. Wish me luck, fellow book hoarders, and consider dusting off your own collection and joining me.

Which book has been buried in your hoard for the longest?

Drawing Inspiration from History

Skyler Boudreau Editorial Contributor

I have a difficult time watching movies and television shows. Unless it’s something that really holds my attention, I’ll end up playing on my phone or doodling. In the past few months the only movies I’ve enjoyed sitting through are musicals, documentaries, and the occasional book-to-movie adaptation. Recently, however, I had the pleasure of watching the new Mary Shelley film.

I suppose I can no longer call it “new,” since premiered in 2017. As soon as I saw the trailer I was excited for it. A period-drama about one of my favorite historical figures and the mother of science fiction? Yes please!

Elle Fanning does a fantastic job portraying Mary Shelley and her performance is one of the highlights of the film. All of the cast is phenomenal and they, along with the grim setting, really bring the story to life.

I was surprised by the ratings the film received. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 40%, with the average rating being 5.4 / 10 and Metacritic gives it a 49 out of 100. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for it as well. Regardless of the ratings, I think Mary Shelley is definitely something worth watching, especially for struggling writers.

I’ve been having a difficult time working on my own fiction this past year. I’m not happy with anything I write and it feels like a chore I have to force myself to do, rather than something I get enjoyment out of. After watching this film and rediscovering the story of a woman I greatly admire, I felt inspired myself.

I think that history is one of the best places to draw inspiration from. Chances are, whatever you’re currently dealing with is something someone else has also gone through, whether that person be a historical figure, friend, or family member. Mary Shelley’s own family has a fascinating history, beyond her and her writings. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft was also a writer, in addition to being a philosopher and early women’s rights advocate. Her father was William Godwin, the founder of philosophical anarchism. Rebellion and courage was in her blood, and she definitely made her own mark on history.

Mary Shelley was a tough woman. She believed in standing up for herself and her rights as a human being. She was curious and loved learning new things. There are definitely worse role models to have.

Who are some of your historical heroes?