Discussion: Does Your Mood Impact Your Reading?

I’ve made some pretty ambitious plans for my reading in 2017, as I’m sure many of you have too. Reading more diversely, staying on top of ARCs, and tackling the ever-growing physical TBR pile are all a big part of that. There’s just one problem…I’m a mood reader.

That’s right y’all: despite all my meticulous planning and list writing and all my glorious monthly TBR plans, my desire to read a certain title is almost entirely dependent upon my mood.Β Even books that I’ve been anticipating reading for months can fall prey to my mood reading, and I often find myself pre-ordering a title or requesting it on NetGalley only to set it aside for months until I’m finally in the mood to read it. Looking at my bookshelves (which of course house dozens of unread books) I often lament that I have nothing to read. But what I really mean is “I’m not in the mood to read any of these books right now.”

If I’m tired, stressed, or depressed (the trifecta!), then the likelihood that I’m going to read something dark or potentially challenging is pretty damn slim. Unfortunately, the world is a pretty grim place sometimes and I can’t always bring myself to read those rewarding but dark books if they’re gonna make me feel worse. Add to that the fact that I hate being told what to do (even by my own TBR…I don’t get it either), and things can get a bit tricky.

So what’s a mood reader to do?

Personally, I’ve found that the best way is to hoard whatever kind of books you consider comfort reads and keep ’em around for when those inevitable bouts of moodiness descend on your reading. My comfort reads take on a few different forms: fantasy novels set at some sort of a boarding school; funny, banter-filled romances; and urban fantasy infused with a heavy dose of girl power. The great thing about comfort reads? They can be just as rewarding as hard-hitting titles, just in a different way.

When I first started out blogging, I wasn’t that great at finding the diverse comfort reads, but following more diverse bloggers and twitter feeds I’ve found that there are actually a lot of perspectives and experiences represented in even the fluffiest-seeming book. By seeking out those titles I can still read all my comfort books while meeting my reading goals, challenging myself a bit, and having fun!

This strategy has also helped me to read some of my favourite dark books like The Parable of the Sower and Bitch Planet, neither of which I would’ve had the nerve or emotional energy to approach without my comfort read babies ready to lift me up afterwards. And just in case you were wondering, both of those books appeared on my TBR for several months in a row before I was finally in the mood to read them!

Does your mood impact what you read? Do you stick to a TBR, or are you a mood reader? Or do you (somehow) manage to work both? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Major mood reader and it kinda makes me a bad blogger in some ways. I don’t have a schedule, never make promises, because I just don’t know what I am reading next at anytime. Could be something new…could be the start of a Pratchett reread.

    • I hear you on the bad blogger front! I’m usually pretty good with reviewing ARCs, but definitely not always within that two-week window that they ask for…whoops! Ah yes, Pratchett! The Tiffany Aching books are total comfort reads for me.

  • Yeah I’m definitely a mood reader too. Sometimes I struggle to finish a book – even if it’s good. Old-school fantasy books about [royalty / betrayal / taking back the throne] always get me back into a good reading mood though!

    • Oh wow, even though I’m a mood reader I don’t usually have trouble finishing a book (so long as I like it). Although I definitely read more quickly when I’m in the mood for it. Haha, taking back the throne! Classic plot line. 😊

  • I guess to a certain degree I am a mood reader but for the most part I try to stick to a bit of a reading schedule, especially now that I’m blogging. Every now and then though the schedule get’s thrown out of the window and I’ll read the book that I am dying to read! Hoarding the ‘mood’ books really sounds like a good idea though! Great post

    • I think we’re pretty similar in that way, Di! I’ve been trying to stick to a loose TBR of four/five books a month that I need to read and the rest are freebies…but that doesn’t always work out. HA, yeah there’s nothing like reading that ARC that’s seven months away from publication instead of the one that’s seven days away! πŸ˜‰

  • I find that I’m usually NOT a mood reader, and that I can adjust my brain to read what’s up next on the pile. However, I definitely go through phases where that strategy doesn’t work. And then I just end up not reading at all!

    • Oooh, I’m jealous Tammy! I wish that I had that kind of will power, haha. Thankfully I’m pretty good at avoiding reading slumps though…although I definitely slow down when I feel a lot of pressure to read certain things.

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    Mood has little impact on my reading choices – although I agree that when in a foul mood, a grimdark novel is NOT the best pick – but my TBR list is quite… flexible, since I tend to get distracted by some shiny new title and, inconstant lover that I am (LOL), I fly straight toward the new prize with little or no thought about the titles that have been waiting patiently their turn. Thankfully, books are not vengeance-prone… πŸ˜€

    • Oh yeah, keep those grimdark novels away for me when I’m feeling, well…grimdark. HA! πŸ˜‚

      LOL I’m the same way! I totally get distracted by the new shiny things and forget about all the books I own that are still unread. Although lately I’ve been a bit better at reading my own books, so fingers crossed that continues! Wow…vengeance-prone books. We’d be in for a world of hurt if they existed!

  • I used to be a really big mood reader but once my ARC pile got pretty big, I started becoming more and more of a list reader. I read off a list for the most part these days and I’m not at all mad about it. Great post!

    • ARCs definitely factor into things for me, too! They always seem to be feast or famine too, since a lot of the publishers have similar release schedules, but I’ve gotten better at keeping on top of them. Being a list reader is a great way to approach book blogging, I think! Thanks, Rowena. 😊

  • Lynn Williams

    The short answer is ‘yes’ – my mood does affect my choices. This year I’m trying to have a Sunday post that says what I’ll be reading the following week – I don’t imagine I will stick to the choices all the time. I’m using it to try and make me behave but sometimes I just want to read whatever I want!
    Lynn πŸ˜€

    • At least a post each week is more flexible than a monthly TBR! That way if you’re really in the mood for a certain genre or type of pacing etc. you can tailor your choices to that. Good luck with it, Lynn!

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Yeah, if I’m in the wrong mood for a book, it wont fare as well, so I typically try to switch to something else. It doesnt happen all that often, but if I think a book is going to be light and fun and I pick it just for that reason, then quickly figure out this book is NOT fun (may still be great, just not fun), I need to switch because if I was looking for fun, usually means I just *need* that.

    • I’ve only switched to reading something else a couple of times, but I definitely think it’s a good strategy! It’s kept me from DNFing unfairly in the past, anyway. Haha. Oooh good point! My expectations of what a book’s going to be like definitely play into things if the reality doesn’t match up with my own idea about it. Nothing wrong with a fun read! πŸ˜„

  • Greg Hill

    I’m totally a mood reader too, and it’s a problem. πŸ™‚ I mean I LIKE mood reading but yeah it can wreak havoc with the blog stuff. (And yes to the unread books on the shelves that I’m just not, you know, READY for yet lol). I like your suggestion- for some reason I never thought of that, but yeah the comfort reads can definitely help. πŸ™‚ And what is it about fantasy books set at schools? I couldn’t wait to get out of school, and now I want to read about them??

    Seriously though great post!

    • YES, exactly! I actually quite like being a mood reader, but it’s horrible when I’m trying to tackle my ARC pile. And all my backlist books on the shelves that call out to me…I swear I can hear their plaintive cries when I’m feeling especially guilty, hahaha. Man, I have no idea! Since I just finished grad school you’d think I’d be totally over that school setting, but I seem to love it more than ever (even though I have absolutely no desire to ever go back myself)!

      Thanks Greg! 😊

  • I’m very much a mood reader, so much so that I’ve made the decision not to take or request ARCs and I don’t participate in very specific challenges. Deciding I must read something is the quickest way to ensure I don’t read it anytime soon. I agree that those comfort reads are important and I am JUST getting to a place where I’m realizing the whole idea of finding comfort reads that are also diverse. Not sure why that was so long in coming. The Book Riot Podcast Get Booked just answered a question about light and fluffy books in translation by the way and I made sure to add all those books to my TBR!

    Anyway, I think you’ve summed up the trials and tribulations of a mood reader very well. Just know you’re not alone, lol:0)!

    • I applaud your decision Stephanie, for real! The siren song of ARCs is too strong for me to resist…I just can’t say no to the lure of the new and shiny, hahahaha. You make a great point too: deciding I have to read something almost always ends with me leaving it untouched for months or even years (I’m looking at you, Anna Karenina!).

      It took me aaaaaages to figure out that comfort reads could be diverse too! Are we just knobs or what??? πŸ˜‚ I’m definitely going to check out that Get Booked podcast because it sounds awesome, so thanks for letting me know about it. I don’t listen to enough podcasts…

      Mood readers of the world, unite!

  • I’m pretty much the complete opposite of you! 99% of what I read are ARCs/eARCs, and I read them chronologically. For example, right now I’m trying (desperately trying) to close out my February ARCs. I like have the rigidity of a schedule because it keeps me on track and it keeps my TBR under control, because it forces me to actually read.

    However… when I’m not in the mood to read a particular book, I tend to fall back on my favorite novels that I’ve read and reread a thousand times. Rereads, even if it’s just a few scenes, always helps. I also switch around my review schedule if there is an ARC publishing later that I want to read instead of the current ARC that publishes sooner but I don’t feel like reading (right now). I’m in the middle of that “problem” right now – I pushed around Wintersong because I just didn’t feel like reading it (mostly the length was off-putting, because I don’t have a ton of time for “longer” books right now). Still, I’m reading it now, so it worked out. πŸ˜€

    Great post, Danya!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Holy crap Alyssa!!! You have an iron will, hahaha. I’m not surprised though, since you’re blogging schedule is pretty intense. Keeping the ARC pile under control must be s full time job for you!

      Oh wow, somehow I didn’t even consider re-reads! You’re right, they’re so good to get you out of a reading funk (or to make up for an especially bad book, haha). Oooh Wintersong! I’ve heard a ton of good buzz but nothing actually specific so I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it. Longer books can definitely be daunting, which is why it’s been a while since I’ve read something >500 pages long. πŸ˜‚

      Thanks, Alyssa!

  • Such an interesting post! I am completely with you about hoarding away comfort reads for when you’ve come out of a really intense book and need a pick me up. It’s why I have such a backlog of romance hoarded away on my Kindle. Those are the books I turn to when I don’t know what to read next.

    Also, we all have grand plans for what we will and won’t be reading but shit happens, who cares if I’ve got 10 unread ARCs which are released in the next few weeks but I only want to read the one which is released in 6 months? I will read what I want… it may be why I have so many unread books everywhere. Don’t judge me and my mountain of TBR. It’s a thing I will be dealing with… eventually.

    To be honest, my mood reading is the reason why I have such a massive TBR pile. I buy books when I see them cheap because I can never predict what kind of reading mood I will be in next so I like to always make sure I have about 100 different books to read. It then leads to that other reading dilemma of ‘I have too many options I can’t possibly decide to read just one book’ but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I’ve not even remotely managed to overcome my mood reading, but luckily I am one of those people that can get into a book quite easily, all I need to do is read a really positive review for a book and I’m excited about reading it. It’s a great way to trick myself into thinking it was my idea that I wanted to read the book and not because it sounded cool on someone else’s blog.

    • Ah yes, the infamous Kindle romance backlog! For a while mine was out of control but I’ve been pretty good recently…I may have to start back up with the hoarding now that it’s on my mind though, hahaha.

      YES, I totally hear you on that! My first read of the year was a book that doesn’t come out until late March, despite all my January ARCs. Whoops! But like you said, shit happens. And I’m sure that publishers would rather we read their books when we’re in the right mood for them, right? πŸ˜‰ I definitely won’t judge TBR Mountain because I have one too LOL.

      After reading everyone’s comments on this post I’ve realized that maybe mood reading is t something I have to overcome so much as accept, you know? Nothing wrong with being a mood reader so long as I enjoy myself and I can make it work for me. And if having a hoarde of unread books helps me do it, then so be it! And 90% of the books I end up putting in that pile are because they sounded cool on someone’s blog. We’re all mutual enablers! πŸ˜‚

      • Yeah… my Kindle backlog appears in control since old Kindle died (RIP) so now I’ve only got my most recent purchases on my new one (for now). I’m hoping this year will be the year of me at least getting the backlog vaguely organised. Maybe create a collection for them. I have such big dreams.

        And this is true, we could be reading nothing, so what if we’re reading ARCs out of order. As long as they get read, and preferably when we’re in the mood for them so we actually enjoy them. Can’t ask for more much more than that.

        I suppose we are all enablers for one another… there’s nothing wrong with that though is there?

  • My comfort is historical romance, the cheesier the better πŸ˜‰ I read one, and I can move on πŸ™‚

    • Such a good comfort read genre! If I had to pick an author, I’d say Julia Quinn’s books are my historical romance comfort reads.

  • I’m absolutely a mood reader, but it’s not so directly correlated to my emotional moods. Like, it’s not “when I’m sad, I want X type of books, when I’m happy, I want Y type of book.” It’s just that I’m in the mood for certain things sometimes, though I’m sure it is impacted kind of by my mood. Sometimes if I’m down, I can’t handle anything too dark that’ll bring me down more. But other times when I’m down, I can’t stand reading anything too happy or fluffy because it just annoys me that the characters are so happy when I’m not. But yeah, being a mood reader does make things difficult when you have review copies and deadlines. I stick to both for the most part by keeping track of which books I need/want to read soon and then choosing which one fits my mood from that small pool of books. And if I just really don’t feel like any of them, well, sometimes you just gotta go with your mood!

    • Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean! I’m definitely in the mood for a specific genre over another sometimes. Good point about the cathartic reads — sometimes when I’m down I just need to deal by reading something that’s on the same emotional level as me (if that makes sense lol) and have a good cry/rage, haha.

      I’m pretty good at sticking to my review deadlines too, but I do find that I often have to push myself to read review books even when I’m not in the right headspace for them. I need to get better at planning a small pool of books like the one you’ve got, that’s sounds like a great strategy Kristen!

  • I do think I’m a mood reader. I always try not to read a new book when am in a bad/angry/sad mood. That always affects my perception of the book! Like you say, I have comfort books that I read at times like those..Sometimes i read Harry Potter and at times even Enid Blyton books! They may be for kids but every time I read those books I get this warm and fuzzy feeling inside πŸ™‚ It’s hard to be a moody reader actually AND stick to your TBR but I try to manage it..(Not doing a very good job considering my TBR is on the verge of exploding!)

    • YES 100%, Uma. I don’t want my bad mood to impact my reception of a book, especially if it’s one that I think I could’ve really liked under different circumstances. OMG Enid Blyton! I love her books. The Fantastic Five series is so cute, and kids at the library still really like them, which is awesome to see. Honestly, I think a lot of MG books are great pick me ups, like The School for Good and Evil!

      Hahaha, this post is basically: come here and commiserate about your exploding TBR! I’m sure I’ll be crushed beneath Mount TBR any day now. πŸ˜‚

      • YES! Also, all the food in Enid Blyton books!! Omg I’d give anything to go to Kirrin Island with the five and eat all the glorious food <3 True that. I totally pick up Percy Jackson when I'm in a reading slump. I'm yet to read The school for Good and Evil actually. the mixed reviews were worrying me!

        Lol! We're all in this together Danya! In this love-hate relationship with our TBRs!

  • To some extent I’m a mood reader, but it was definitely worse some years ago. Then I thought I needed to have a big TBR pile, at least one book for every mood. Now I’m very comfortable and happy with having 20 unread books at home.

    When nothing new fits to my reading mood, I reread an old favourite, mostly nice romances, or just take a break from reading for a few days, it’s that easy for me.

    Happy Reading

    • Wow, I wish I only had 20 unread books at home! Hahaha. But yes, having a book on hand for every mood is definitely key. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good handle on your mood reading, Sabrina. 😊

      Sweet romances that are low on angst definitely make for some of the best comfort reads!

  • I’m totally a mood reader! I will have a list of TBRs for arcs and stuff but I’ll definitely rearrange if I’m not feeling it. I’ll go through phases were I’ll read a bunch of the same genre etc until I get my fill haha.
    Great post, Danya!

    • Sounds like we’re pretty similar! I make a lot of ambitious lists and I always go in with the best of intentions, but nine times out of ten I end up veering away from my planned reads. HA! I did the exact same thing with urban fantasy last year and ended up totally burning myself out on the genre for a bit. My current phase is historical fantasy!

      Thanks, Cyn! 😊

  • I don’t usually read according to mood, but because books are something I enjoy and help me relax, I tend to go into reading slumps when I’m experiencing bad things in my life

    • Reading slumps are the absolute worst! But I totally get what you’re saying, it’s hard to enjoy a fun hobby when things are going horribly wrong. It’s always a great feeling when you emerge from a reading slump with a good book, though!

  • Felicity Pendragon

    I’m 100% a mood reader these days. I tend to prioritize sequels and authors I already like, but most of the time I just read whatever strikes my fancy. The only thing I try to do is not read two books of the same genre back-to-back. I studied English lit in school, so I got used to having a strict schedule of what to read and when. After I finished school I said, “nope, not doing that anymore”, which is funny because I’m pretty organized in most other ways.

    • Good point about prioritizing sequels and fave authors, I definitely do that too! I should probably follow your lead on the back-to-back genres thing too, but I’m too much of a historical fantasy addict to ever follow through, haha.

      YES, I totally hear that! I studied English and History and by the time I was finished, my motivation to read for fun at all was pretty dang low!

  • What an interesting discussion – I never really thought about this before, but I understan where you’re coming from. Can you be inbetween a mood and TBR reader? Some days nothing makes sense to me and I can’t understand why I wanted to read a book, and then weeks later I’m all over it. I learned not to resist the mood reading though becaise then I get irritated and entirely out of the mood of reading!

    • Oh yeah, I totally think you can be in between those two! LOL yeah, I get that too, the “why was I interested in reading this again?” feeling. I’ve got to get better at allowing myself to be guided (at least somewhat) by my moods when it comes to reading, because I think it’s a great way to discover new favourites.

  • Yeahhh I’m a mood reader, too. Like you, I have loads of unread books already on my shelves and I just can’t get myself to read them. I’ve recently become better at tricking myself to read some of them by making seasonal tbr lists and ticking them off – it’s like the accountability somehow gets me to read them (and I love crossing things off lists).

    But I read tons of other stuff (mostly romance lol) in between. And if I’m just not feeling the book, I’ll set it aside because otherwise I end up forcing myself to read it and that means I won’t enjoy it at all.

    • Striking things off my list is honestly the reason I even make lists in the first place, haha. Have you tried the app Wunderlist? Every time you complete a task, it makes a chiming noise…I’ve used it so often that I practically have a Pavlovian response to that chime now! πŸ˜‚

      I’ve finally embraced my love of romance novels and it’s working sooo well! They’re truly the perfect palate cleansers in between other reads. 2017, the year of the DNF! I feel so empowered now that I’ve allowed myself to just…stop reading instead of forcing myself to finish a book.

  • Rinn (Rinn Reads)

    100% yes! I can very rarely make a planned TBR and stick to it. I might have some idea of what I want to read and pick those books up if the mood strikes, but mostly I read what I want when I want. Which is a bit of a problem at the mo, I have 5 library books which I’ve had for a while, renewed about 3 times, and just haven’t been in the mood for yet… but since I ordered them in especially, I feel like I need to read them.

    • HA! Yeah, I’m the same way with my library books: there’s a constant flow of new titles into my holds queue and I never seem to stay on top of them. And then I feel bad for renewing them so many times! The good news? All the holds that you’re putting on books keeps library workers like me from getting bored at work! πŸ˜‚

  • Paul Walsh

    Definitely a mood reader, and undergoing torture at the moment and had to pack away most of my books and basically pick my next 5 weeks worth of reading. An impossible task

    • Oh, boo! That sucks so much! What if you’re not in the mood for any of the books you’ve picked?! Gah! Good luck with your next 5 weeks, Paul…you can always go to the library if you need to!

  • I’m a big mood reader too which is why I can never actually set a reading schedule and plan what book to read. I have my ARCs organized in an Excel spreadsheet by release month, but I usually just go with the flow. I’ve found that I’m a much happier reader that way. I tried doing the planning what book I read in a month thing in the past and it was the worst. I hated everything that I was reading and I was plain miserable, which wasn’t something that I wanted to feel when I was reading. I’m more casual now and that works for me. I am trying my best to read more diverse books too, but again, I’ll pick up books based on my mood.

    My comfort books are mostly old favorites, especially romance favorites. Every time I need a cheer-me-up from the disaster that is the real world, I turn to my favorite books and they do a pretty good job at comforting me.

    Love the post, Danya!

    • Oooh, an Excel spreadsheet! That’s way too organized for me, LOL. I should probably try something like that though, since I often have to scramble to read my ARCs in time. Going with the flow is definitely the best approach for me too, since I find that I enjoy the books I’m reading more overall. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you would’ve enjoyed a book waaaay more if you’d just set it aside and picked it up later, you know?

      Old favourites are classic comfort reads! I really like reading Tamora Pierce’s YA fantasy books and The Bridgertons series by Julia Quinn. Highly recommend both for comfort during disaster times. Thanks Nick! πŸ˜„

  • I’m definitely a mood reader, and I don’t really have an official TBR. It helps that I don’t get ARCs or buy books, so I mostly read books once they’re available at the library. Sometimes this does lead me to DNF highly anticipated books because I’m not in the mood at the right time, but somehow it mostly works out. I have a large collection of library ebooks on my Kindle, waiting for the right mood to strike. πŸ™‚

    Your point about finding comfort reads that are also diverse is an excellent one. I’m going to try to be more aware of this, too. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of my favorite diverse comfort reads!

    • ARCs are such a strange influence on my TBR, and sometimes when I see an ARC for a book that I know I’d buy anyway I don’t request it just in case the pressure to read influences my enjoyment. That way I can buy it and read it on my own schedule! Yes, library ebooks are where it’s at! And print books. And libraries in general. πŸ˜‰

      Eeeeee, Simon vs. is one that I STILL need to read! It’s on my comfort read list though, so it’ll get read eventually!

      • Libraries (and librarians ;D) are the best! I think that’s one of the things I’ll miss most when I move to Germany. I mean, they do obviously have libraries there, but I won’t be able to keep up with English language new releases.

        I really hope it lives up to all the hype! πŸ™‚

  • I’m a mood reader too, Danya. Like
    you I can be really excited about a book, but when it’s finally released I’m
    not in the right frame of mind, so I put it aside. I often complain to my
    husband that I have nothing to read much to his amusement. I hate being told
    what to read, that’s why I don’t usually do challenges (except GR-chalenge) and
    I rarely write reading resolutions. My solution is the same that yours: to have
    books in all genres, so when the mood struck I can choose. Not just comfort
    reads, because sometimes I want to read a serious issue book and have a
    cry-fest.

    Also I often read during my
    commute, and I’m not comfortable to read Romance in Subway, so I usually read
    YA on that occasions. On those months I have to use public transportations a
    lot, I usually have two books: romance at home and YA on commute. Also I prefer
    to read funny books, because crying in Subway on my way to a work meeting is
    not a good idea.

    I totally agree that diverse book
    can be a comfort read. Simon vs. the
    Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a great example.

  • I’ve just noticed Maraia comment; I guess I’m
    not the only one to think about it as a diverse comfort read. Lol. You definitely
    need to read it, Danya! Another GLBT story is The Flywheel by Erin Gough. Yet
    again I recommend a book that I haven’t read. Lol.

  • Definitely, I am a big mood reader and most of the time im in the mood for a really good romance book. Sometimes I want something a bit more dramatic and angsty and other times I want to read a really good paranormal. If Im not in the mood for a certain book, then I put it aside until I am πŸ™‚

    Nereydaβ”‚ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist