Shelf life: The reading slump support group

A person lounges on a green couch. They are enjoying a glass of wine and reading a book.
(Lucia Marquez • The Student Life)

I started winter break with a substantial reading list — which included titles such as Alexandra Kleeman’s “You Too Could Have A Body Like Mine,” Zuo Ma’s “Night Bus” and Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” (I wish I was kidding). 

I had the books. I had the necessary tea and cozy blankets. And, for the first time since fall semester began, I had the mental space to devote to reading. 

The only problem? I wasn’t able to actually start

I would pick up a book and last only five minutes before becoming distracted by my phone, my dog or my siblings arguing in the next room, or start skimming so aggressively that I’d finish  three chapters only to realize I had no idea what was going on. One week of winter break passed, then two, then three. I started to eye my to-read pile with a sick, guilty feeling. I was miserable. 

This experience wasn’t new to me. For someone who bases an unfortunate amount of her identity off her literary inclination, I often find myself unable to read. The internet defines this phenomenon as a “reading slump,” and the fact that there is Urban Dictionary language placed to this phenomenon is comforting — it means I’m not alone. 

I spent elementary and middle school reading ceaselessly, between class periods, before bed, in the library during recess and at late night sleepovers. Now, I’m newly twenty, and overwhelmed with classes and job applications and making plans with friends. In the few spare moments I have to possibly pick up a book, my attention span is nonexistent. And TikTok is so deeply appealing. 

I collect the titles of books I should read the way some people collect coins or stamps. It’s an ever-growing catalog, and I do earnestly want to read them. I know many college students who feel the same way. But, during my winter break reading slump, I simply couldn’t start. 

I ended up in my favorite Seattle bookstore — the Elliott Bay Book Company — wandering through bookshelves and adding more titles to my towering mental to-read list. It was there, on the new sci-fi/fantasy releases table, that I picked up “The Final Girl Support Group” by Grady Hendrix: a book which, despite my literary stasis, I would go on to finish. In just one day.

“The Final Girl Support Group” is about exactly what its title suggests. The girls left over at the end of slasher films, the ones who defeated the serial killer and went home bloodstained but safe, are all struggling through group therapy together — until, of course, the killer comes back. I don’t have a stomach for violence; I’ve never seen a slasher film in my life. But this book was fun and clever, bloody and dramatic. It had plot twists and faux-newspaper clippings strewn throughout. More importantly, I was able to pick it up and keep reading. 

“The Final Girl Support Group” shocked me out of my reading slump, giving me the momentum I needed to start and just keep going. I went on to finish ten more books (including the trippy, dreamlike, absolutely stunning “Night Bus”) and returned to campus feeling grounded and well-read. It wasn’t until recently that I realized this feeling could be traced back entirely to Grady Hendrix’s cheesy slasher satire — a book I had never heard of, a book recommended to me by nobody, a book I didn’t even know I would like until I couldn’t put it down.

Curious about this phenomenon, I reflected back on past reading slumps and the books that pulled me out of them, reviewing titles on my digital reading log. I found that I could identify these books clearly, but not because they were big names. They weren’t classics, groundbreaking debuts or long-standing recommendations. They were young adult novels and romances, comic books and, now, apparently, slasher film parodies.

“The Final Girl Support Group” falls into the company of other sweet, engaging and authentically fun books, such as “Cemetery Boys” by Aidan Thomas, “Get A Life, Chloe Brown” by Talia Hibbert, “This is Not A Test” by Courtney Summers and “Sisters” by Raina Telgemeier. These aren’t the books that, as a twenty-something college student, everyone had been telling me to read. Yet each and every one I raced through, breathless and finished in a single day. I recommend them all wholeheartedly.

I probably won’t remember much about the plot of “The Final Girl Support Group,” but I’m hoping that the lesson it taught me will stick. Being unmotivated to read doesn’t mean that I’m aimless and unintelligent, or that I’ve lost the ability forever. The only thing that a reading slump signals is that it’s time to throw out all the pressure and pick up something legitimately interesting, new and exciting instead.

Because ultimately, reading for fun should be fun. “War and Peace” can wait. 

Kate Jones PO ’24 is from Seattle, Washington. The last book that made her cry was “You & a Bike & a Road” by Eleanor Davis.

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