These days I’m suffering from a serious condition known as lackolibraphobia. Yes, it is a word. Okay, it is a made up word. Nancy Pearl announced this official term for “the fear of having nothing good to read” at the Public Library Association Conference this past March. This is a very real condition which may lead to fidgeting, sweating, irritability, a sense of hopelessness, and increased consumption of reality television. Fortunately, there are treatments.
I think this happens to every reader from time to time. You’ve heard of writer’s block. Well, this is reader’s block. For whatever reason, you simply cannot find a book that hooks you. Back to Nancy Pearl again—she has liberated us all from finishing a book we don’t like with her rule of 50 . Essentially, the rule of 50 is built on the premise that life is too short to read a book you don’t love. If you are 50 years of age or younger, you should give a book 50 pages before deciding to quit. If you don’t love it by page 50, move on. If you’re 50 or older, Pearl recommends subtracting your age from 100 and reading that number of pages before moving onto another read. By age 100, she says you’ve earned the right to judge a book by its cover.
I love the rule of 50, but I hate enacting the rule multiple times in a short period. The last three books I’ve started, I’ve abandoned. It’s especially difficult to admit you don’t like a book that all your friends LOVE and insist you will, too. See The Road, The Lacuna, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. P.S. I also finished, but did not like—okay, maybe despised—A Confederacy of Dunces. I am sure that these are great books… just for other people. In addition to the rule of 50, I embrace Betty Rosenberg’s first law of reading: “never apologize for your reading tastes.”
So, how does one treat lackolibraphobia? I recommend the following:
· Relax. You will fall in love (with a book) again.
· Clean out the clutter. Return to the library all those half-read books that are filling up your nightstand and your brain. Chances are they’re overdue anyway.
· Get support. I love those fantastic friends who work into every conversation we have, “So, what are you reading now?” Start asking that question yourself and you may get some good ideas for your next read.
· Read other readers. I follow a few book blogs and find that I’m always getting re-inspired about my own reading. It goes without saying that Reading Addict is a must! But, if you’d like to explore more book blogs, try these:
Blogging for a Good Book —The blog offers a suggestion a day (Monday-Friday) from the staff of Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia. Suggestions also include movies and music.
Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Forever —Every reader’s best friend
RA for All —blog by a Readers Librarian at the Berwyn (IL) Public Library. Book reviews include “three words that describe this book” and readalikes.
· Seek professional help. Make a Readers Librarian’s day, and ask him/her to help you find a book that you’ll love.
I hope you’ll find that lackolibraphobia is but a short blip in any reading life.