Can Too Many Choices Cause a Reading Slump?

Posted 22 February, 2013 by Amanda / 96 Comments


Tell the truth: am I the only one who gets paralyzed by having a lot of choices?

It seems the more choices I have, the more difficult it is to make a decision. This phenomenon isn’t limited to books–I have similar issues with simple things, like choosing a place to eat. Give me a couple places to choose from, and I can pick. But more than that? I sit there and stare blankly, shuffling through all my options and weighing all my wants. (A burger sounds good. But I also could really go for a good eggroll. But this other place has really good drinks, and I need a drink.)

I’m starting to believe that having a lot of books to read can cause a reading slump. The more books I have to choose from, the more difficult my decision is, and soon it becomes easier to avoid making a decision about what to read than it is to just pick up a book and read. At this point, I usually ask Kelly to pick a book for me from my TBR pile. She gives me a few options and I’m all, “I don’t know if I’m in the mood for any of these….” and end up waffling a while longer before picking up something completely different. (And then I feel bad about making Kelly choose something for me when I don’t listen to her, so I’m no longer allowed to ask. She’s supposed to tell me to pick my own damn books.)

My question is as follows: HOW do you choose your next book to read? (And, do you also ever feel overwhelmed by your choices?)


Filed under: Discussion,


96 Responses to “Can Too Many Choices Cause a Reading Slump?”

  1. I’m often on the same boat regarding library books and often feel overwhelmed by the # of books on my TBR mountain that I own. Yet I can’t stop buying or borrowing!

  2. I often feel that way. And what’s even worse is that I’m such a mood reader – so even if I manage to pick up one of the books, there are many times when I realise I don’t even feel like reading that particular one. *sigh* I know the feeling all too well :)

    • Yes, Vicky! There was a point when I couldn’t get more than 25% into a book. I just kept skipping around because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to read. Thankfully, I’ve moved beyond that, but still…

  3. i just did a discussion like this! i love the new logo for the discussion [circles-you-no!]

    i always try to be random about it unless there’s something i like am DYING to read in the large pile (that im staring at across my room) if its between a bunch of books i literally just pick one, DONT TELL ANYONE til i start it, THEN put that i’m reading it, so no one can sway my decision ;)

  4. YESSSSS!! THISSSSS! (wow, that was rather sibilant, wasn’t it. Sheesh.)

    Too many awesome (or potentially bad, depending on how you look at it) books, too little time. :)

  5. I seriously think that is why I am currently reading 4 books at once! Seriously, I kept staring blankly at my bookshelves and my decision making was overwhelmed. Hopefully that doesn’t continue because while I am good at book multi-tasking this is stretching my limits LOL

  6. Ugh, this totally happens to me!

    Lately, I’ve just been going by release date. But then I feel like I’m reading because I have to, instead of because I want to.

    And then a book comes out that I’ve been desperate for, and I drop everything in order to read it.

    I don’t have nearly as many unread books waiting as you though, so I can only imagine my anxiety would grow as my TBR pile increased!

    • The distinction between having to read and wanting to read is very important, I think. Any time I feel like reading is a chore, I tend not to do a lot of it.

      (Also, so glad I’m not alone in this feeling.)

  7. Never really thought it like this before. I normally say that I’ve gotten book ADD where I can’t seem to concentrate on any of them so they sit and I get frustrated. I normally pick up things I don’t have to write a review for and that usually does the trick for me.

  8. I would say that the only area of my life that I do not have this issue with is tattoos (which I oddly pick and just *know*). Shane and I spend more time deciding what movie to watch than watching the movie. Picking a restaurant is impossible.

    And books? Oh the issues I have with picking books… I have a “Top of TBR” list, but it’s basically meaningless. “I have so little time. MUST PICK THE RIGHT BOOK!”

    Lately, I’m going with mood. I scroll through GoodReads until something stands out. I give the book a chapter or two. If it doesn’t feel right, I go back to GoodReads.

    Wine helps.

  9. I think my problem is that I get overwhelmed and start focusing on my newest books only (newest to my shelves, not newest-newest) and then I feel bad because there are SO MANY older books that I own and want to read.

    I’ve found 2 things that help — breaking my TBR pile into smaller chunks (my to-read shelf on GR currently only has 22 books on it [most of them review requests]) and having my Seriously Series list to pull from. For me, it helps to have a narrow focus — for SS, do I want to look at Series started in 2013 or Series started before 2013? Do I want to plunge into another reread? Work on review requests for a few days?

    Manageable bites, beebs.

    In other words, I agree with you. Too many choices can paralyze you and leave you completely overwhelmed.

  10. Oh, gosh I ALWAYS feel overwhelmed by the choice. Sometimes I just have to pick up a book and force myself to get through a few chapters — usually, I end up liking the book and finishing, but if I were left to really figure out what I was in the mood for, it would take FOREVER to pick.

    It really makes you think way back to the times when there weren’t a ton of book choices available — these days, what with bookstores and libraries, and the easy access to buy ebooks with a touch of a finger, I wonder how anyone can refrain from having too many choices.

    Lately, I have a pile of books by my bed which I choose from — or I can read anything on my reader. I figure that once I make a good dent in the pile of books, then I can add more books from my TBR pile to that pile. It just looks less daunting that way.

    Great topic!

  11. Good point! I don’t think I’ve ever really paid it much attention before, but you’re completely right. Having a large selection to choose from really does make it difficult – especially when several of those book are highly anticipated. I don’t know where to start half the time and nearly always change my mind once I do. I suppose I wish I could read them all at once. ;)

  12. Oh yes Amanda, this happens to me all the time! I stare at my monstrous TBR pile longingly, knowing I want to read every single one of the books in it, but at the same time I’m utterly positive I’m not in the mood for any of them. WTH? I think you’re right – if the pile consisted of only 3 books, I’d just walk over and pick one, but with 20 books staring at me I get all flustered and then run to my Kindle to buy a non-review book. Well done me.

    • That’s one reason why I don’t take very many review requests. I always end up reading one of my own books. And… that’s no good. (HOWEVER, I still have tons of my own books to read and the same process still applies, except that I end up not reading at all.)

  13. I usually pick a book that will fit into one of my book challenges. Since some require reading a book a month, I try to make sure they are finished before the end of the month.

  14. I definitely feel like I have this problem. I keep my to-read list below 80 at all times, but even that can get intimidating. It used to be a big struggle to pick my next book. I was convinced I had to pick the right book, the perfect book for that point in time. Agonizing process, let me tell you. So now what it do is have an “up-next” list of about 5 titles, and I read them in order. Now I never have to worry about what I read next, because I’ve already decided beforehand! I don’t know if that would work for you, Amanda, but it is a thought. Obviously, if I had someone like Kelly in my life who I could annoy the crap out, I’d just use your method! ;)

  15. I actually like to have lots of choices for books because I’m never sure what I will be in the mood for. But when it comes to other things – like choosing where to have dinner – less is better!

  16. EXACTLY. This is why I had a meltdown a few months back. HOW CAN WE CHOOSE, when there are sooooooooooo many choices? It sounds like it should be easy, but it really does make it faaaaaar more difficult. If I could read faster, I think I’d be less stressed. But I feel so left out most of the time, and have just recently let go of the stress of not being up to date on books. It is what it is. :)

    • I think my pressure to read is because I feel the pressure to keep up my blog. (Or rather, I feel the need to be at least a month ahead with reviews on my blogs, because that’s just how I am.) But, yeah. SO MANY BOOKS. SO LITTLE TIME. *flails*

      • Yea, I had to let the pressure of the blog go, too. It’s still there, but life is not allowing it to be the priority it once was…so I have had to suck it up and deal. I still feel it and get all wonky about the schedule still…

        we love our blog babies. :)

    • I read fast and I still have book indecision. I want to read them all NOW, you know? I’m very Veruca Salt about my books.

      I think you have to find your niche and work that like a BOSS. There’s no way any one person could keep up with ALL the YAs and ALL PNRs and ALL the Dystopians. You just have to be you. Everything else will work itself out.

  17. I have this problem constantly! I have shelves of books, both physical and ebooks that are begging to be read. There is no rhyme or reason to what I pick though. And I do sometimes just pick something short and sweet so I don’t really have to choose a novel length book to commit to. Which is ridiculous because if I would just pick up a book and read it I’d be lost in it in no time. *sigh* It all comes back to way too many books and way too little time.

  18. I can be SO VERY indecisive about SO MANY things in my life. But for some reason this is never an issue for books (from my TBR list that is). It’s like, I know what feels I’m in the mood to feel and, I may tap my finger on my chin for a minute or two before picking a specific book, but I usually figure it out pretty quickly. But if my gut fails me, I’ll pick up something everyone’s been RAVING about (aka how I landed on Shatter Me this past week). Or I’ll pick up a book that has a couple of my favorite buzz words (New York City, 1920s, cupcakes…). I will say, though, that I spend A LOT of time deciding whether or not I should put a book on my immediate TBR list/radar. It’s mostly research, not indecision, but it’s still time consuming.

    I also don’t have this issue for food. First of all, I’m a creature of habit and there are a few things I LOVE (pasta, sushi and brinner, primarily) and those are generally my go-to choices. And my favorites are all SO DIFFERENT that when I’m being picky, I’ll imagine eating each of my options. Whichever makes my mouth happiest first WINS. OR I’ll just order in a bunch of different things and buy a bottle of wine on my way home. Picnic on the floor FTW.

    What you’ve learned about me tonight: I’m the classiest of all people.

      • I would be HONORED to try and help you pick your reads. HONORED I TELL YOU.

        As for Shatter Me, you can read my review. Or I can tell you I really, REALLY liked it. BECAUSE OF THE SUPERHEROES. And because I just want to know moremoremoremore and only the really good books make me want to know more like that. OH AND BECAUSE Tahereh Mafi’s writing style is so different and wonderful.

        PS: Unravel Me is better, IMO.

  19. YES! This describes me perfectly! I feel like the more choices I have, the worse off I am. I’m totally paralyzed. I think choosing between two books is easy and I don’t have as many “what ifs” to worry about, but add my whole GR tbr pile, and the anxiety hits.

    Normally I just go with whatever tours/review dates I’ve agreed to, and then if I have free time, I’ll just rely on my mood to help me. But I often put books aside because I get anxious about not reading the others.

    Awesome discussion!

  20. Kyle

    You’re indecisive? Whaaaaat? When did this happen?!? :-P

    But yes – replace books with video games for me, and I have the exact same problem! If I give myself even the semblance of a choice for what to play, I end up staring at my list of games more than I do actually playing them, then I find myself procrastinating playing games by looking up more games to play, and it’s just an endless destructive cycle. So I try and not give myself a choice. I essentially just find a game, any game, and pin that to my start menu so that I don’t even have to open up Steam (it’s like iTunes for PC games, if you haven’t heard of it). Then I refuse to let myself even look at my list of games in Steam, and all is well. Until I finish the game I’m playing, that is…

    So maybe you just need to cover your bookshelf up so you can’t see all your books, and pick one at random, and read it. But that would be a shame to cover such a beautiful bookshelf (someone awesome must have bought it for you, right?), so I’m at a loss for ideas.

  21. Oh I do this ALL THE TIME! Since I get most of my books from the library I try to control it by only having 5-6 out at a time, but even that doesn’t always help. Usually the only way to get past it is to get frustrated and give myself a time limit (You pick a book in TEN MINUTES self, or ELSE! lol) Of course, then I often end up reading a few pages, going “I’m not in the mood for this one after all” and I’m back to the drawing board – though with one book less at least!

  22. I have this problem too, I think for me at least, it’s the same thing as when I have a ton of school work to do or something, and it just gets overwhelming, you don’t know where to start and it feels like there’s no end to it. Even though, in the case with the books, I obviously don’t really want an end to it, it still feels the same way somehow. I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone in this!

    Even though I know this about myself, I keep buying more books, and I currently own probably…oh I dunno, 70 or so, books that I have yet to read :P

  23. I’m so glad I have a smaller TBR pile than most, but I keep borrowing books from the library. Once I finish one, I kind of sit there debating whether to read one from my TBR or just finish the library books. I’m such an indecisive person.

  24. I definitely get overwhelmed by having too many choices, especially when it comes to books. There are just so many and I want to read the ALL! Lately, I’ve had a much easier time since I’m packing up all my belongings to move — all I have left out are are few new releases that just arrived last week and a couple of books from the library — with less choices, I’m finding deciding what to read next infinitely easier!

  25. I had that problem this last week. I carried 4 books, my nook & my kindle to work to pick a book. Then when I got home, I went and grabbed Scarlett off the shelf instead. I think my reading challenges may have been part of the problem. I was thinking about which Bingo blocks or Series I might want to cross off.

  26. I don’t know if it becomes a problem as much as a distraction. I’ll generally start a certain book because I’m in an escapism mood, and then pick up another one because I want some audio, nonfiction quickly follows and soon I have 3-4 books going at once. I don’t feel like I’m in a reading slump but it’s dang hard to ever actually finish a book when I have that many going. Adding to that books to read for review, challenges, etc and it can get a bit hairy.

  27. Livia

    Well, I made a list with the books I intend to read this year. So, I look at the list and I’m like “I’m in the mood to read this one”, so I get the book and read it. There’s no order or stuff. And if I’m in the mood to read a book that’s not in the list, I’ll read that one, you know. It works.