Friday, January 28, 2011

In the Mood to Read

So.  Here's something I've been thinking over for quite some time now and I'd love to hear your opinions.  It's something that affects nearly every reading experience I have.  It changes how I look at, how I react to, and even what I think about a book.  It is my mood.  

How much does mood affect your reading of a book?  Or what about feelings?  Personal circumstances?  I know that our differing backgrounds and past experiences can influence us to relate more to a character than others who have not experienced those things.  What about the book you just happen to pick up when things are going badly at work?  Or the one you were reading when you learned a family member had passed away?  Or even the one you read while recovering from a sickness?  

Are these kinds of reactions to books that aren't solely based on the book's merit but on your own individual circumstances valid?  Should they be considered as objective as ones we read when we were happy or enjoying good fortune?  It is impossible, in my experience, to put aside personal feelings entirely.  

Now think about a book you read when you were stressed or feeling pressed for time.  A book you had to rush through and couldn't spend time pondering it over or thinking it through.  If you read something simple and light, perhaps it wasn't much of a problem.  But, what if it was a more complex book, requiring time and effort?  Would you have loved it if you'd read it at a different time of your life?  

I know that I've changed my opinions of books when I reread them.  Is that because something in my circumstances changed or does it relate to how well I read the book the first time?  Does it matter if we acknowledge these reasons or don't even recognize them? 

I've been posing a lot of questions in this post, and honestly I haven't got many answers.  I know that absolutely my reading is affected by mood, circumstance, time of life, and many more environmental and personal factors.  I absolutely think these reactions and thoughts are valid.  We should be able to recognize some level of skill or ability on an author's part no matter the circumstance (though that opens the whole can of worms involving the subjectivity of "good").  But should we post "reviews" of books that we had moody reactions to and that we recognize as such?  Do they need a disclaimer?

Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever posted a review of a book I haven't had a moody reaction to.  That's probably one reason I began having a positives section and a negatives section in each review - to force me to think about both the good and the bad in a every book.  After all, each review I post here is 100% my opinion, subjective, and may or may not be helpful to you.  

What are your thoughts? 

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  1. I'm with you on this one. I think my mood mostly affects which book I decide to read next - that's why I have a lot available, and I like to vary the genre. I wonder a lot about those books I just couldn't finish -- was it just the mood I was in? Some book I know this is not the case, but some others I really wonder. There was just a book the other day that I read a great raving review about, and many years ago, I just couldn't finish it. Now I wonder if I should try it again. Oh, I remember, it was "The Year of Secret Assignments," but of course I don't remember whose review I read.

  2. I think reading is always about mood. At least for me.
    But I also think that since our blogs/reviews are ours and are obviously our opinions that it doesn't make our reviews less valid.
    I do, however, try to include how my mood affected my thoughts on the book. I try not to simply say 'this book is awful' but rather that the book didn't work for me and here's why.
    The exception, of course, being books that are poorly written or edited. There's a difference between a book with little or no character development or plots that make no sense and a book that I just didn't connect with.

    I'm not sure any of that makes sense.... :)

  3. I don't think my moods affect what I read. It only happens when I read a part that I really love or really hate. Or if I find out about a spoiler before finishing it.

    That's what makes a good book a good book - it's able to inspire or move you to happiness, sadness, or anger. :D

  4. Annette, I wonder about those books I didn't finish or that I had not-pleasant reactions to as well. Was it just me? If I tried again would I change my opinion (I did it once already, with Graceling).

    Britt, you made sense! I think I try to note when it could be just my emotional state or whatever that affects my reaction too. Though sometimes I'm not sure when it is. :) I've also noted that on occasion, something I'll see as terrible in terms of plot and character development will be adored by other people (or vice versa).

    Laurern, good for you! I notice it more when I have hate or love reactions, but I often feel it in the "meh" books too. I agree that good books inspire emotional reactions, though sometimes I wonder if I'm forcing my unrelated emotional state onto a book.

  5. I definitely think your mood affects how you feel about a book. Although we can often recognize that we were grouchy or moody about something in a book, based on our own feelings about it, we can hopefully acknowledge where it might be okay for someone else. I know I've done that! :)

    I'm going through a grouchy YA phase right now, so I'm trying to kick it by reading as many Pulitzer & Booker prize winners as possible!

  6. Becky, that's an excellent point about acknowledging others feel that way too! I will have to remember that when someone trashes one of my beloved books :)

    I love your method of kicking that YA hate phase!

  7. Sorry I missed this post when it was posted! I KNOW my mood against YA paranormal affected my reaction to City of Bones... everyone seems to LOVE it and I was just... ugh. But this is why I plan to give it another shot, hopefully soon, and I'm anxious to see what I think this time around.

  8. Suey, I feel that way a lot now with paranormal stuff too. Hopefully you'll enjoy City of Bones more another time (I liked it - must have read it early in my paranormal streak :)


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