In the big wide world of readers there are all sorts of personalities and tastes which dictate how we consume books and stories. That’s what makes it all so interesting, the sheer variety to be found. One of the most fascinating, to me at least, is the way in which we approach our reading activities. And by that I mean – are you what I call a structured or organized reader or is mood reading more your style.
I suppose I should explain what I think those terms mean. And these are not universally accepted or ‘scientific’ definitions by any stretch. They are simply how I view and think about them.
I guess the organised or structured method (for want of a better phrase) is when you choose the books you want to read for the month (or whatever time frame you are planning for) based on a theme, perhaps genre, author or even length and stick to those choices no matter what. Outside factors don’t compel you to alter your set plan. You may extend this order based system to keeping notes on that particular reading experience either on the pages of the book itself or in a journal.
I must admit I have always wanted to do this, keep a reading journal where I can write down thoughts and feelings I have on books as I go and when I finish them. I am not sure why I have never committed to it. Maybe that can be my goal for 2021 perhaps? Yes I write reviews for completed books and I suppose that is a record of those things but it isn’t quite the same somehow. There is something very comforting and soothing about a book journal. It’s something you can look back on in years to come.
Now despite my personality being one which likes balance and order, it comes as a surprise when I admit that I am much more of a mood reader, although recently I have started making monthly TBR picks which is, of course, a form of organisation.
An emotion based approach is one in which you let how you feel dictate what book you pick up and, if when you have started reading, whether you continue on. You know, you get a few pages in and say to yourself, nah this isn’t what my heart and mind want so I’ll put it down and try something else. I will raise my hand and admit I do this a lot. I feel bad sometimes cause I think I am abandoning a book too soon but I feel that it is better to put it to one side and revisit it later than press on and not enjoy it.
Now one of the side effects of being a mood reader is that your main To Be Read shelf can get a little out of hand. Just have a look at the current state of mine. I have over 60 books on my Kobo and a handful of physical editions. Yes – I do read books with actual paper pages but those are almost always double ups of content that I have in electronic form except on the odd occasion when something isn’t available via ebook (Jurassic Park is one of those bizarrely). Now from what I have seen via the wonderful world of Bookstagram and Goodreads, this is possibly a very mild example of a TBR shelf. I’ve heard some people say their’s numbers in the hundreds! But this is what happens when you are predominantly a mood reader. You buy a book with every good intention of reading it but when you get to that moment, it just isn’t what you want.
Another consequence of being a mood reader is that your choices are affected by outside events, be it in your own family circle or the wider world. And this might lead you to make choices in reading material that you never thought you would. Prior to being confined to our homes in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus, I have never read SciFi or Fantasy. It is just something that has never interested me but I have found that since our country’s lockdown – since ended I am in New Zealand, I have become much more aware and involved in that genre. The result of this is that I have completed my first Fantasy book (all 800 pages of it) and have invested in many others and I now find myself spending a lot more time scanning the virtual shelves for titles of interest. I thought I might be more drawn to feel good earthbound reads but no. I am sure there is a thesis there somewhere on the reasons why that has happened in there somewhere but I’ll leave that for another day.
Perversely and in a somewhat contradictory turn of events, being a mood reader could make you free in the sense that you can pick any book you want to read with no plan to conform or adhere to. BUT at the same time you are bound to your emotions and what they want. They are telling you what story they feel like engaging with and let me tell you, it’s hard to go against them book wise. And the bigger that TBR pile grows, the more pressure you can feel to reduce it which can get a little frustrating.
For many years I have been at the mercy of capricious and ever changing moods book wise. I think for the most part they haven’t led me too far astray and in fact, this year, they are pushing me into broadening my reading horizons which is a positive turn up for the books (pun intended). But I am trying to bring more of a balance between mood and organisation in the second half of 2020.
So I will raise a glass, well a cuppa, to ‘organised mood reading’ and say let’s go forward together and see what reading adventures we shall have!
(Header Image: Negative Space)