Get Out of Your Reading Rut

The accomplished woman is well-read—at least if she’s Mr. Darcy’s version of accomplished.  I read a lot, but it’s easy for me to get stuck in a reading rut where I keep reading the same genre over and over.  But reading narrowly is dangerous–and boring!

Do you tend to get stuck in reading ruts, too?  From one reader to another, here are some of my favorite books in five diverse genres to help get you out of your reading rut:

Books About Reading

I love reading about reading, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Even the most accomplished reader will enjoy—and learn from—Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book. Anne Fadiman’s essay collection Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader will bring a smile to your face if you, as I did, see yourself in the many essays about readers and their books.  My personal favorite is “Insert a Carrot”–an essay about compulsive proofreaders, of which I am one–which made for hilarious reading.  Use Honey for a Woman’s Heart: Growing Your World through Reading Great Books as a resource for deciding what to read next. It contains many lists of recommendations, sorted by category.

  1. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
  2. How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
  3. Honey for a Woman’s Heart: Growing Your World by Reading Great Books by Gladys Hunt

Books About Nature

The beautiful nonfiction narrative Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won Annie Dillard the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 (when she was 29 years old–or, as Donald Miller says, when she was “still in her mother’s womb”).  I sought out Richard Preston’s The Wild Trees several years ago when I was seeking escape from my own reading rut.  Preston’s nerdy-boy-cum-daring-redwood-climber tale was a refreshing–and fascinating–change of pace.  Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster transported me into an entirely different world. (There are two ways to approach his breathtaking eyewitness tale of the 1996 tragedy on Mount Everest. Mine: read the dedication page, listing the names of those who died on the mountain that May, and watch their fates unfold as the tale progresses. My husband’s:  tape the dedication page shut, and endure the suspense until the sad ending.)

  1. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  2. The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
  3. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

Books About Human Nature

As a firstborn myself, I find the birth order concept fascinating–and Kevin Leman’s Birth Order Book is the best book out there on the topic.  C. S. Lewis approaches the subject of human nature through the back door in The Screwtape Letters.  One short paragraph from this slim volume changed my life, by changing my attitude about “my” time as a young mother–Go get yourself a copy and read letter 21.  Daniel Pink is one of my favorite authors that no one else seems to have has heard of.  He makes a strong case for why everything we think we know about how to motivate people is wrong in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  Pink focuses on the workplace in Drive, but his insights are broadly applicable.

  1. The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman.
  2. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  3. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

Books About Cooking (not cookbooks)

I love to cook, and I love to read, which means I love books about cooking so much I save them for my beach reading collection. The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman is the first installment in his trilogy about the world of professional chefs–Ruhlman becomes a student at the Culinary Institute of America (the Harvard of cooking schools), and we get to experience that world through his eyes.  (Installments two and three are excellent reading as well.)  I was completely surprised–and delighted–at the story Julia Child tells in My Life in France.  Her tales of meeting her husband, traveling to France, and navigating its culture and cookery will entertain and inspire you. (Julia Child is really funny. This book could go in the humor category!) Ruth Reichl’s memoir Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise was dinner table conversation at my house this week. My 8-year-old son was delighted to hear the tale of how Ruth Reichl—a grown-up–went undercover (like a spy!) to dine across New York as food critic to the New York Times.  (The book also contains a favorite recipe of mine, Ruth’s Sort-of Thai Noodles.)

  1. The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
  2. My Life in France by Julia Child
  3. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

Children’s Lit

I used to be embarrassed of my love for children’s books—after all, I am a grown-up. Luckily, I’ve long outgrown that stage, and am free to enjoy a good yarn aimed at kids without shame.  I first read The Phantom Tollbooth as an 8-year-old and have enjoyed re-reading it periodically ever since.  This is a wise children’s book–make sure you get a version with Jules Feiffer’s illustrations. Louis Sachar’s Holes is an account of the misadventures of Stanley Yelnats—all brought on by his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.”  I was an adult before I encountered this book, but I’ll make sure my children don’t have to wait as long as I did to enjoy it.  My thanks go out to Jessica for introducing me to The Search for Delicious–a tale of a boy, his father-figure, a mermaid and a dictionary.

  1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  2. The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt
  3. Holes by Louis Sachar

What books/genres do you turn to when you need to get out of a reading rut?


Leave A Comment
  1. I have never recovered from the sense of wonder I felt when I received my first library card at age 12. All that knowledge is just sitting there quietly on the shelves for us and it is FREE FOR THE TAKING!

    Memorize your card number and you will be more likely to use your online library account to reserve books. Teachers and homeschooling parents can sign up for a special card that allows you to check out more books and longer. This is great for me, because it is very hard to keep my four children quiet long enough to seek out treasures. Now I just walk in and the librarian has my whole stack waiting for me!

    Good tips Anne. You have hit on something I am passionate about.

    Also – I think I might have that “compulsive proofreading” issue. Since I started blogging a few weeks ago, I have spent more than one night fretting about things like an apostrophe that I used incorrectly for pural possesive. I don’t want to be rude to my followers by continuously republishing things! I am comforting myself with the thought that if my readers find an occasional imperfection, they might feel more comfortable leaving a comment.

  2. Hi Anne, I had to scour the site to find your name! I do not remmeber if I have commented before- though I DID sign up for your emails!!!
    As far as BLOGS go…I read YOURS for refreshment!!! Mine and many that I read are focused on being a biblical woman and honoring God with our lives- GOOD stuff! NOnetheless- the content of your blog is both entertaining, educating, and food for the imagination…. please keep writing!

  3. Mrs. Zwieg says:

    I was stuck in a rut once…along with all my co-workers at a job years ago. We were ALL reading the same author, same books, same genre and sadly, though we could have amazing conversations with each other, outside of work we were all…DULL! (how many people in the real world…friends/family…read sci-fi?)

    This is a GREAT post! I am interested in a few of those titles too! I never thought about reading a book ABOUT cooking. I suppose it would be like reading a book about sewing. *Lightbulb* 🙂

    Thank you so much for this! Keep posting!

      • Lyssa says:

        SciFi and Fantasy are my go-to genres. I always, always recommend Brandon Sanderson. Try Elantris, first. It will pull you out of any reading-rut, I promise.

  4. Laura says:

    I am in a reading rut right now.
    I have convinced myself, for far too many years, that all I like are “romance novels”. A few years ago, I switched to the Steeple Hill (Christian romance).
    From time to time, I will pick up a fiction novel but not very often.
    Thanks for the suggestions. I think that I might hit the library and book store today to see what I can find. 🙂


  5. Rose says:

    Five years ago I decided that I would get out of my ‘reading rut’ by joining a bookclub. It worked; the other members in the bookclub have introduced me to a number of authors, topics and books that I might not have known otherwise.

  6. Dianna says:

    My problem is actually FINISHING the books once I start them. The last one I finished was For Women Only by Shaunti Feldman. Loved it, and highly recommended.

    Look at my sort of working on list:
    Infidel –
    Calm my Anxious Heart
    Great Dads, Great Daughters (or something like that – Meg Meeker)
    The Runners Handbook
    Raising Boys
    A thinking Love

    Ok — for May, I think I’m going to actually FINISH a book or two ….

  7. 'Becca says:

    Here’s my list of really great books! It includes some nonfiction and fiction, including science fiction.

    My favorite way to get out of a rut is to look through our bookcases for a book I think of as “his” that I’ve never read. We pooled our libraries 15 years ago, but I know which books were his to start with or he’s bought them since, and I tend to ignore them…but when he sees me reading a book he loves, he gets all excited and it gives us something new to talk about! The latest of these was Ringworld by Larry Niven, science fiction about discovering a huge, high-tech, new kind of place to live that must have been built by very advanced people who are now nowhere to be seen.

  8. Jamie says:

    What a great subject to post about! I too automatically proofread and have been known to make note in reviews when something has more than a couple errors. :0)

    One of the best ways I found to break a reading rut is by signing up for BookSneeze and the Amazon Vines program. Both allow bloggers to select free books in return for reviewing them. Often the offerings are authors and subjects I’m not familiar with, but I’ve found some real gems this way! (As an added bonus, I can take the books I didn’t like to my local used bookstore and trade them in for credit towards other new and interesting reads!)

    I’ll definitely be following up on some of the titles you mentioned today. Thanks!

  9. MelanieB says:

    I’ve found that since I began reading blogs I haven’t had nearly as many reading ruts. My favorite bloggers recommend their favorite books and make them sound so interesting that I’m much more willing to branch out and try new things. I used to think I hated reading non-fiction; but I’ve since discovered that there is non-fiction that I do enjoy. It’s been great to expand my horizons. Also, I have enjoyed joining an online reading group. Reading other people’s choices has been a welcome challenge as has sharing my own picks.

    • Anne says:

      Interesting. I resonated with your comment immediately, but until I read it I hadn’t realized how many ideas for good reads I do get from blogs! The online reading group sounds intriguing….

  10. Teresa says:

    Stumbled on this while on Pinterest… convinced me! I’ll be working on getting out of my rut, starting with your list!
    Thanks for the nudge.

  11. BernadetteWC says:

    I’ve gone through some major genre switching in my current quest to complete a self-imposed book challenge to read 80 different books with settings in 80 different countries or locations. So far I have virtually visited 33 places, all based on recommendations from friends.

  12. Jill says:

    You are NOT THE BOSS of my reading habits! I will read the same book every year if I want to and when I am finished, I will toss all 1k+ pages of it at you!!!

    Ok, I am kidding, except for the reading the same book every year part. If I could turn the tables on you for a moment, it looks as if YOU might need some easy to read fantasy novels to round yourself up a bit! I don’t think I have seen a single book recommendation from you in that genre! 😉

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