On Mood Reading

I'm a mood reader.

What's a mood reader? Well, firstly, it's someone who analyses their own reading habits so much that they seek out a name and categorisation for it. But more importantly, it's someone who is completely led by their emotions when it comes to which books they want to read. Their cravings. Their instincts.

Some people want to be told what to read. They read books that are classics, or award-winners, or are widely talked about, and let society pick which books should be read. Or they follow certain book lists, or challenges, or find some other method of letting the universe pick which books to read.

Not mood readers. They decide what to read on a whim, based on what they're in the mood for right in that moment, and hate planning it out, or being told what to read.

So hi, that's me.

Being a mood reader is a problem.

First, it means you can easily waste your money. Over the years, I have bought so many books that I was excited for and desperate to read - but, upon not immediately reading it, lost the craving and the want to read that book. And now I'm left with over 170 unread books sitting on my shelves. Some of them, of course, I do still want to get to; the problem with them is just that there is never enough time to read all the amazing books that exist. However, there are quite a few that are sitting there that I just don't feel excited for anymore. If I'd read them as soon as I'd bought them, I might have really enjoyed them, but now, I just don't want to pick them up.

Another fun (read: not fun) part of being a mood reader, is that sometimes you can be really excited for a book, you can be really enjoying reading it, and then suddenly be really just not in the mood for it anymore. This has happened to me multiple times. And it's not because the book is bad! It's not because it was dull and just couldn't keep my attention, it's just that my mood shifted.

I've been in the middle of Luna New Moon by Ian McDonald for months - I just put it down and haven't picked it back up, my bookmark sitting untouched and unmoved right in the middle of the book. I tend to enjoy science fiction, but at the time I picked up that book, I just wanted to read one sci fi book after another, delving more into the kind of complicated sci fi books that have character lists in the front. And a glossary at the back. And then, halfway through, oh no, I don't really want to read sci fi right now. That book was good. I very much look forward to the day my mind decides it wants to read complicated sci fi again and I can finish that book.

Another negative side effect of mood reading? Being in the middle of at least one too many books at any given moment in time. I have been in the middle of around eight books for months on end. Not the same eight books. Every time I finish a book, and feel like I'm making progress getting my currently reading pile down to a manageable number, in comes my mind to say - hey, look at that book over there! You HAVE to start reading it right now! And then the number of books I'm in the middle of shoots back up again.

Don't get me wrong, being a mood reader means I usually quite enjoy having a few books on the go at one time - maybe a non-fiction book, something literary, and something lighter, so that whatever I'm in the mood for, I have a book that fits. But when that number starts reaching six, seven, eight...it's too much. I feel like I'm never making any progress and constantly swimming upstream. Through mud. In the rain. Does rain make it more difficult to swim through mud?


Being a mood reader is also amazing.

There's something brilliant about reading the right book at the right time. When you are in a specific mood for a specific kind of book, and you pick up a book that fits your mood perfectly - it's like magic. A great book is a great book, but a great book read at just the right time is an outstanding book. It makes my reading life highs even higher.

You know when you're just sitting at work, or maybe cleaning the kitchen, or (ideally) sitting under a blanket reading a book, and suddenly you just get a craving for a chocolate biscuit? And you MUST stop what you are doing and immediately acquire said chocolate biscuit? And then you take a bite, and it's the most satisfying feeling in the world, not because the biscuit was particularly amazing, but because it was exactly what you needed in that moment?

That's mood reading. It is a fantastically satisfying feeling to be in the mood for a particular kind of book, and read a book that just really hits the spot. It's like satisfying a craving.

As a mood reader, I often find myself wanting to read books that sort of match up with how I'm feeling personally. If I am angered by something going on politically, I'll want to read a non-fiction that tackles that subject. If I'm generally enjoying life, I'll want to read a lighter, fluffy book that I can just have fun with. If I'm questioning my place in the world, I'll want to read some kind of dystopian or sci fi book that makes me look at my world differently. There's something about reading books just at the time they are really relevant to you that lets you resonate with them all the better.

Ultimately, there are ups and downs to being a mood reader.

It can be a pain. Like, a real pain. Like, sometimes I actually feel genuinely stressed because I am in the middle of eight books never mind the two additional audiobooks and I just don't know what to do and then I end up not reading at all.

But in the end, I'm glad I'm a mood reader. I love the feeling of desperately wanting to read a particular book, grabbing it off the shelf, reading a big chunk and feeling like it really hit the spot.

I'm probably still going to complain about mood reading, though.

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