Text and Context: How Our Mood Affects Reading

In and of itself, any novel is good or bad, funny or sad, etc. — right? Well, yes…and no. A literary work does have an intrinsic value (or lack of one), but a reader’s intelligence and experience and mood affect how the book will be perceived. I’m going to focus on the mood thing in this column.

For instance, my main reading when I was on vacation earlier this month was Henry James’ The Ambassadors. It’s a novel (James’ favorite of the many he wrote) that’s beautiful but SLOW. Little action (this is not Jack Reacher, people!); long, intricate sentences; subtle psychological insights; and delicately detailed interplay between characters (one of whom is an American sent to Paris to try to bring a young man back to the U.S.). The fact that I was often relaxing by a lake while reading so leisurely a book seemed appropriate, and probably added to my enjoyment. There was a matching of text and context.

Despite a 10-hour trip from hell to drive 285 miles home, the vacation had made me less stressed than usual when I began rereading Charlotte Bronte’s excellent Villette. Near the start of the novel, I found myself laughing out loud at the interaction between the prim Paulina character and the Graham teen who comically goads her. Would I have found that quite so hilarious if I were in a tense mood? Probably not. (Paulina knows how to jab right back at Graham, literally and figuratively.)

Or how about being angry at someone, yet knowing that real-life revenge is out of the question — unless you want to peruse books in prison? 🙂 You can vicariously revel in virtual vengeance when reading something like Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, Stephen King’s Rose Madder, or any of Lee Child’s visceral novels starring the aforementioned Reacher. Those books are page-turners no matter what mood you’re in, but they can have even more impact when you’re feeling irate.

When you’re feeling melancholy, a novel with melancholy moments can seem even more…melancholy. Try George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda when your mood is sad, and you’ll be sighing more than a person watching a Republican presidential debate. (Eliot’s magnificent novel also has some wonderfully upbeat plot threads.)

Of course, when you’re falling in love, or in a troubled relationship, or in an unrequited-love situation, etc., that can heighten the experience of reading novels with memorably happy or tumultuous romances. I’m thinking George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Erich Maria Remarque’s Arch of Triumph, Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, James Clavell’s Shogun, and so many other books.

Many of us have experienced bad treatment at the hands of the rich and powerful, at the hands of people who are racist or sexist or homophobic, and so on. When there is that kind of hurt in our lives, it can be especially intense and/or comforting (in an “I’m not in this alone” way) to read books with social-justice elements written by such authors as Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy, and John Grisham.

And when life gets too burdensome or boring, it’s especially pleasant to escape into fantasy novels or magic-filled books — with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series two obvious examples.

Which books have you read that have been enhanced by you being in a particular mood?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

72 thoughts on “Text and Context: How Our Mood Affects Reading

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  2. I read my teenage daughter’s trilogy of The Hunger Games at a time when I was particularly fed up with the world’s political system in general and the wide gap between rich and poor. Issues such as homelessness and eviction, on the rise in a ‘post’ recession Ireland, had me thinking on how little society changes, even in a so-called progressive age. I think it was about that time I began to write a fictional story of a young family set in the Irish Famine, or Great Hunger. When I see the masses of refugees fleeing Syria today, crowded onto overburdened fishing boats, many of them drowning or suffocating, I’m reminded of the ‘coffin’ ships of the mid 1800’s that so many starving and impoverished Irish people had to risk their lives on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jean, so sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment! Somehow I never received an email notification, and I was focusing on my newer columns.

      I’ve read “The Hunger Games,” too, and you’re absolutely right that going into that trilogy feeling (justifiably) fed up with the world really matches the mood of Suzanne Collins’ downbeat, dystopian books. So much inhumanity to humankind, almost everywhere — and, as you say, in some ways things are no better today than in past centuries. 😦

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  3. A beautiful afternoon Dave…so quiet in the neighborhood..nothing I like better than to sit in my upper deck with my feet up surrounded by trees and birds to read a book.
    The German Shepherds are locked inside next door with a little guilt inside I am enjoying the quietness. Although I miss looking at those beautiful dogs who are always seeking me out to bark.

    For me reading a book that I choose affects my mood not the other way around. Yesterday picked up a couple of books from the library ” God Help the Child” by Laureate Toni Morrison, yesterday in NPR Fresh Air they were re-running her interview. The author speaks like a prose with her gentle voice.

    The other one is a non fiction”It`s a Long Story My Life” by Willie Nelson .I love his pitch perfect voice.

    I`ll let you know how these books affects my moods.
    But, expecting one guest so back to planning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beautiful day here in New Jersey, too, bebe. A little poignant when one knows autumn isn’t far away.

      Sitting on a deck reading a book — it doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂

      I hope those dogs will be quiet tonight.

      I hear you about how books can affect our mood just as our mood can affect our experience reading books.

      Toni Morrison and Willie Nelson…sounds like you have some great reading ahead of you. And, yes, Willie Nelson’s voice is wonderful.

      Good luck with hosting the guest!

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      • After reading a difficult or complex book…it does take me a while to go back to another like that, then again some light reading if the writing is poor i could not move on to more that 50 pages..I know Dave you always finish a book.

        Enjoy the day…the master of the two dogs..is paying attention but all I wanted her to control them at night. Anyways I walk 3 times with my pup and now the big one was relaxing near the fence to catch us then they go again. Funny as I observe more, he barks and tries to stir up the smaller one whose name I found out is “Jacqueline ” and the guard one is a ” Dreamer” and I hope their master is not reading this 😆

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        • bebe, it’s definitely nice to mix “difficult” and “easier” books; I do it all the time. 🙂 And once in a while (maybe twice a year) I will give up on a novel I find too boring or annoying.

          Ha! I hope the “owner” of those dogs is not reading this, either. 🙂 You have quite a canine drama going on there. Hope it’s quiet tonight!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Actually I agree with your topic now Dave …today was a quiet day and the two dogs next door are being monitored by the owner. So i picked up Memory Man (Amos Decker series) by David Baldacci. I started it a couple of weeks ago and set it aside for being in tense mood in anticipation of dogie barks. sounds funny but is not .

            So I have gone through 100 pages this afternoon and it is getting even better, since I have not read any of the authors book I am thoroughly pleased to note it is labelled #1 of the series.

            Now back to reading… so contrary what i said above it is definitely my mood affected my reading or non-reading. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • The dogs being monitored by the owner — nice! Hope that continues, bebe.

              And glad you’re enjoying David Baldacci! As I mentioned before, I read his “One Summer,” and it was a very good novel.

              Well, as we’ve discussed, our mood can affect our reading AND our reading can affect our mood. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope you’ll forgive me but this is an example more of atmosphere, the mood of my surroundings. I read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park on my lunch hours sitting in my car at the far end of a parking lot facing a row of bushes. On the other side of the bushes was a canyon and several huge trees not far beyond those bushes. Reading the book, with the sounds of dozens of birds (I was able to tune out the nearby freeway) and that view of nature greatly enhanced the reading of the book.

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    • Thanks for the interesting comment, VocareMentor! I think what you’re saying is very relevant to this topic. One’s surroundings can definitely influence one’s mood. And even if those surroundings don’t influence mood per se, they can affect our feelings about a book. Certainly the landscape you saw could enhance the experience of reading a book like “Jurassic Park.” Heck, perhaps a person could even imagine a dinosaur on the other side of those bushes. 🙂

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  5. Expanding on Donny’s comments, I find that in my experience, the book I’m reading affects my mood – not the other way around. I never really select a book based on my mood. I have a reasonably large library of books that I’ve collected over the years, mostly from used book sales, but also as gifts (everyone knows I love building my library, so I get a lot of Barnes and Noble and Amazon gift certificates). I am determined to read all of the books in my collection, (despite the fact that the collection seems to grow faster that I am able to read them). I attempt to develop a “system” that determines the next book I will read. Some years, it has been alphabetically by author, some years alphabetically by title. Right now, I am using a system that began with Moll Flanders (the oldest unread novel in my collection), followed by Doctorow’s “Andrews Brain”, (the newest novel in my library). I’ve been working my way forward by decade from Moll Flanders, alternating with backwards by decade from “Andrews Brain”.

    I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I need a system precisely so that I can select novels independent of any mood I’m in (granted, I do make a choice when I have multiple books published in a particular decade), and so that I “force” myself (maybe “encourage” myself is a better term) to read a novel that I might not otherwise get around to.

    So, I recently completed Jane Eyre (1840’s) followed by Steinbeck’s “The Winter of our Discontent” (1960’s). Both books were mesmerizing, and Jane affected me as someone who finds ultimate satisfaction, after much struggling and many setbacks, by refusing to compromise on her principles. Therefore my mood during this period was one of uncompromising resignation. However, with “The Winter of our Discontent”, Ethan, the protagonist, realizes that his reliance on his principles have gotten him nowhere in life, as he ultimately justifies doing what everyone else does to get ahead, concluding that he is a just a patsy for refusing to compromise his principles. One can’t help but to feel “Hey, maybe I’m a patsy too”. While reading Steinbeck, I was much more likely to “cut some corners” than while reading Bronte.

    Anyway, I’ve kind of meandered off topic, but it was very interesting comparing these two novels that were written over a century apart. I’ve taken a break from the “system” to fit in a non-fiction book. I am currently reading a biography of Beethoven by Jan Swafford. Beethoven was an unmitigated genius, and he knew it. However, he was a grumpy, unpleasant, frustrated man, in no small part due to his constant health problems and hearing loss. His music showed that he loved mankind, he just didn’t like people very well. So this book causes swings of mood, as I listen to his music and then read of his personal misery.

    Next up – Dickens’ “Bleak House” (1850’s). The title doesn’t bode well for my mood in the upcoming weeks, but we’ll see.

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    • Thanks for the very interesting comment, drb! I guess both things can happen — our mood can affect our reading and our reading can affect our mood, depending on the book, the day, etc.

      Terrific that you’re building a library, and good luck keeping reading pace with its growth! And I love the eclectic way you choose the order of books to read. It sounds like you don’t want your reading experience to be predictable, and I think that’s great. I also try to periodically get out of my “comfort zone” and read novels I normally wouldn’t read. Most of the time, I’m glad I did. And, as you say, occasionally reading nonfiction provides another kind of change of pace.

      “Jane Eyre” and “The Winter of Our Discontent” are memorable novels, and I appreciate your descriptions of them, your thoughts and insights about them, and your take on how those two books are different. Jane is certainly one of the most principled characters in literature, while Ethan’s ethics are in somewhat-more-ambiguous territory.

      Yes, the title and content of “Bleak House” are not happy-mood enhancers!

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      • I can understand the need for a strategy for reading all the books already in our libraries rather than to keep bringing in new ones. I know the pull for bringing in new books as opposed to reading the ones we already have. It is just the shiny new thing, whatever it is, instead of taking joy from what we already have, I’m trying to get past that, but it’s hard. Sorry, I got distracted when I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading “Bleak.House” as a required novel in my high school AP English class. I honestly believe I was the only student who read the entire book. (although I must admit that I stayed up almost all night to finish it!). There was also a very good BBC production of it, the one which had Gillian Anderson in it (she was a favorite of mine since the “X Files” days. She was also an amazing Lily Bart in the very good movie.)

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        • Ah, yes, the shiny new object vs. what we have! I received Charlotte Bronte’s “Villette” as a present back in March, and finally read it this week. Meanwhile, between March and August, I took many novels out of the library.

          I need to reread “Bleak House” someday, Kat Lib. It has been a long time — as in the long litigation in Dickens’ novel. 🙂

          Gillian Anderson IS a great actress. I never saw her in “The House of Mirth,” but she must have been excellent.

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  6. Complicated stuff here Dave, of course one’s particular mood will color one’s take on a work of literature , initially at least, but I’d like to think the point of serious reading is to transcend such stuff. There is also a chicken o the egg type thing working here , a specific mood may be what led one to pick up a certain book or dive into a particular genre in the first place. Wen I was younger I’d find my self gravitating to classic detective fiction when going through those periods of depression that are inevitable to youth. Nothing would make me forget say a bad break up or rough time at work like a trip to Baker St. or an evening in the company of Captain Hastings an his Belgian friend or perhaps a few hours with wise old Jane Marple. Of course really tough nuts required a prolonged visit to Middle Earth. On the other side of the equation while of course your state of mind at the time will add or even subtract from your reading I imagine this is more true with music.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great observations, Donny! Whatever mood one is in when beginning a book, the best literature might indeed make one enter the mood the author wants you to be in. I also agree with your chicken-and-egg point.

      There are definitely some genres — you mentioned detective fiction and mysteries — that readers gravitate to when in certain moods and when they want to “lose themselves” to ameliorate certain moods. I think that’s one (conscious or subconscious) reason why we reread; we know exactly what we’re about to “self-medicate” with.

      And, yes, a lot of this also applies to music!

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  7. Dave, an excellent topic.

    Reading a depressing fantasy book does a number on the emotions. “Harry Potter” for instance has so many people who fell in love with it and became invested in the characters in a way that is very uncommon with more literary books.

    You can also be affected by how much the book changes your emotions. I’ve gotten very angry over some of the problems seen in the books. “The Handmaiden’s Tale” for instance had me disgusted, shocked and angry in turn. Not, perhaps, the best book to read on your lunch break.

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    • Thank you, GL! Glad you liked the topic. 🙂

      I hear you about the impact of depressing fantasy books. Fantasy elements can heighten the emotional impact (perhaps because those elements stretch our imagination), as long as the characters still seem “real.” Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” (which you recommended) packs an emotional wallop, as does the “Harry Potter” series, “The Lord of the Rings,” etc. One really does get invested in the characters.

      Great observation in your second paragraph! Whatever mood we might be in when we start reading a book, certain books can really change the way we’re feeling. The memorable Margaret Atwood novel you mentioned does indeed evoke the emotions you listed. It’s speculative fiction, but is not THAT removed from reality, or possible reality, in a very sexist and patriarchal world.

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  8. I would say 70% of my book selections are based on how I’m feeling, or whatever I’m experiencing at that moment. I tend to develop wanderlust. When that happens, I go on an Alistair MacLean reading binge. Most of his novels are set in Scandinavia and northern Europe, the German Alps, Eastern Europe, and 2-3 are set in North America. Alistair MacLean is an international travel buddy/tour guide. You can go from Germany to Scotland, from the Caribbean to Hungary w/o a passport, simply by reading his work.

    During my phase when I began to question religion and was at a crossroads of secularism vs. my Catholic faith, I absorbed every page from The Profits of Religion by Upton Sinclair. This is such a great book. Very powerful words, on-point analysis of the problems with organised religions, and viewpoints that perfectly expressed how I was feeling at the time.

    There are times when I want to read non-English novels, so I’ll only read Portuguese authors. For light reading, travel books like Afloat on the Ohio by Reuben Gold Thwaites are perfect.

    Sometimes, I will purposely select a book that contradicts my mood. If I had a not-so-pleasant evening at work, I might settle down with something by L.M. Montgomery or Lois Duncan. Or if my day is going well, I could pull down something by Richard Wright off the shelf. Only choosing books that match how you feel at that time is too safe, and readers should mix it up a bit. There could be elements you missed previously if you’ve only read a book from one perspective/POV.

    But overall, I prefer to read a book that matches my mood. It’s like I’m tapping into the emotions of the author and am feeling whatever he/she felt when the novel was written. To me, that makes for a very satisfying (and comfortable) reading experience.

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    • Seventy-percent! That’s a nicely large percentage, Ana. I don’t think my mood matches my book choices quite that often.

      I like your occasional approach of deliberately choosing a novel that’s opposite of your mood!

      I can see the appeal you describe with Alistair MacLean. I’ve only read his excellent “Where Eagles Dare” (after you recommended it), but the sense of place (a mountainous area of Germany) was palpable.

      Didn’t know about that Upton Sinclair book. Sounds fascinating. He really had a wide range in his writing.

      Tremendous comment. Thanks!

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      • The Profits of Religion was not well-received when it was first published. Sinclair did not hold back. He attacked the absurdity of prosperity gospels, the indoctrination of young children, how religion is used as a crutch by the poor and as a tool by the wealthy to maintain obedience from the poor.

        If you look at the unholy (no pun intended) alliance today between religious extremists, business leaders, and politicians in the U.S., it’s difficult to discredit what Sinclair wrote. This was a well-researched book, very passionate…and so prophetic.

        Have a good evening, Dave.

        And I might appear as Anonymous because my Twitter log-in is not cooperating, but this is Ana.

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        • That Upton Sinclair book does sound GREAT — and courageous. A lot of powerful people (then and now) just don’t want to hear anything negative related to religion, however true those negatives might be.

          Excellent description of the book, Ana!

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        • I`ll be back perhaps friday..a colleague of my hubby ( much younger) here from Japan today and leaving on Friday..I ask myself why ? Anyways..perhaps Thursday like to have him over..so cook a bit, buy some.

          Non topic again…Two nights ago I had it , heard the doggy bark around 9 pm ( next door) , that moment I was in my jamies..but walked around the street to the cul de sac to her mailbox, with the township regulation printed out and wrote ” please do not leave the dog out after 9 PM , thanks”.
          Interestingly the whole area was so quiet , folks had lights on perhaps winding down.

          The two German Shepherd are absolutely gorgeous and the large one is the one who rules.

          I am sure the lady knows it was me and mad at me now 😦

          Liked by 1 person

          • bebe, it sounds like a busy week for you. Having someone over is a lot of work, though it can (not always!) be enjoyable.

            About a year ago, we had a visit from an old friend of my wife’s from Japan (they met in the Peace Corps during the 1980s).

            Congratulations on leaving that message about the dogs barking outside so late! Instead of being mad, that woman should be trying to figure out a way to keep her dogs quiet at that hour.

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            • Now I was thinking was it inappropriate on my part, it was an impromptu decision on my part that night after few days of waking up to loud bark ? Don`t know…
              The large one who has a loud bark is really vicious toward me I tried again near their fence yesterday, the other mixed is a female now I hear, wants to be a friend bot not allowed by the large one.

              You wife is amazing Dave just as you are, a Prof. teaching French and was in peace Corps , wow !
              This friend comes every year to continue his research and then goes back. Such a short visits…another American Friend…you might know tells me he is planning to stay in Japan at least two years..

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              • I still think you did the right thing, bebe, but of course you’re the person in the situation dealing with it so I can understand anyone second-guessing a decision. I second-guess myself all the time. 🙂 A shame the friendlier dog can’t act exactly as she wants because of the other dog.

                People who serve in the Peace Corps are definitely admirable. I’m not sure if I could have done it. My wife was in Rwanda, but fortunately several years before the horrible massacres there.

                I would love to visit Japan myself one day, but who knows if I’ll get there? I know you’ve been to South Korea, among many other places; have you visited Japan as well?

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                • I remember we talked about Japan long time ago…my husband have gone twice…we were supposed to go in April but he cancelled the trip for his foot problem…one of these days then we could have a get together there 🙂

                  I also find the selfless people serve in Peace Corp are admirable but I also can not do that.

                  Thanks for your vote of confidence…I need to stop second guessing myself. Living in a neighborhood all need to have some common sense like leaving a very large barking dog outside for a long period of time. Daytime i don`t mind but night time this one barked constantly perhaps taught to protect the master…

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                  • You’re right, bebe — we have discussed Japan before. 🙂 I had a vague feeling when typing my previous comment that we had.

                    Sorry the trip to Japan didn’t happen this spring. I hope it happens in the future!

                    Yes, people who live near other people need to try to keep their dogs quiet at night. Or at least not resent people legitimately complaining about it! That said, as you well know, most dogs are wonderful. 🙂

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      • Hey lady:) How’s it going???

        270+ East Coast, Nashville, and Mid-South vacation photos from my phone and camera have yet to be uploaded. Other than the few I’ve shown here (like my current one), and the nature photos of the Delaware River that I put on Instagram, all of my pictures are still stored on their devices.

        Pictures are so much fun to take…but who wants to upload all of that?

        Liked by 2 people

        • This is the best one ever..note I say that every time 😆

          I still don`t have a smart phone so there, I have a cannon so load it in my computer then may be sometimes in my FB that`s just about it.

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  9. Hi, Dave! Your lightweight reader here, weighing in. I love murder mysteries and legal thrillers because they put real estate in the right perspective: in my escrows no one dies or gets sued, so how bad could things really be? Although I can’t say my thoughts re: same are always pure. 🙂 GREAT column (as always)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terrific comment, Cathy! Funny, well written, and you put things in perspective — being a Realtor may be hard work, but it’s usually not fatal. 🙂 And I appreciate your kind words about the column!

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  10. Hi Dave, as to your question, I think that I am able to read just about anything, when I am in the mood for reading. I look back to my trip to Europe in 1969, and although I’m sure I read more, the only two books I remember buying and reading are Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, and Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver, as well as a huge book, the entire works of William Shakespeare. The next question is who would buy such a big, fat book when one has limited room for any books at all!

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    • I know what you mean, Kat Lib. I like to read all kinds of fiction, whether my mood matches the subject matter or not.

      Jane Austen and Eldridge Cleaver — an interesting juxtaposition of reading matter on your European trip! 🙂

      Shakespeare! I’ve only read four or five of his plays. Something I should do something about one of these days. Yes, his entire works make for a rather large book, especially when traveling!

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  11. Last summer I read Emma Straub ‘s The Vacationers, a wonderful, dysfunctional read about a family that was far apart coming together in a myriad of ways at an idyllic seaside villa in Spain. They got to know themselves again,each other,in a neutral,clear setting met with pathos,adventure,and most importantly love which opens up understanding,forgiveness. I wanted to travel to Europe through the story,of course the title alone made me quite ready to pack my bags. I remembered some of my trips to Europe,mainly Ireland,British isle’s and Italy. When the mother in the story went to market,got delectable fish,spices, put together culinary delights,I remember thinking how fantastic it would be to have this type of experience,staying in picturesque villa, minus the initial dysfunctional family picnic, but would find my own solitude,venture out to explore, give thanks for the journey. Just like I did when reading this beautiful book. I highly recommend.😊

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    • Thanks, Michele, for your eloquent comment and description of “The Vacationers”! It sounds like a REALLY interesting book. If readers aren’t in the mood to travel before reading that book, it seems like they would be during and after reading that book. 🙂 And, as you say, a book like that can vividly bring back memories of past travels.

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    • Funny and nicely put, Almost Iowa! I reread “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” a few months ago, and didn’t regret it for a minute. Fantastic — and substantial 🙂 — novels.

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  12. I miss reading so terribly! There is nothing more wonderful than curling up with a book and literally “going away” for the weekend without ever leaving my chair! Curling up with the likes of Jack Reacher is particularly fun! However, since I began volunteering in June of last year to help find homes for our local stray dogs and cats, my mind has been consumed! I don’t have the time or the attention span to sit down with a book when I need to be answering emails, networking the animals, etc. etc. etc. What I am doing is very rewarding, but it robs me of other things I would LOVE to do. About as literary as I get lately is looking forward to your Sunday evening posts! And I DO look forward to them!

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    • Sorry you haven’t time to read books lately, lulabelle, but you are doing amazing, wonderful work with animals. The gratitude they feel toward you, and others like you, is immeasurable.

      I LOVED your line “There is nothing more wonderful than curling up with a book and literally ‘going away’ for the weekend without ever leaving my chair!”

      And thanks so much for looking forward to my weekly column. 🙂

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  13. Hi Dave, I have been actually thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve been going through a four month long period where I’ve been unable to read anything at all. There have been other times in my life when I have also felt this way, and I assume it has something to do with depression, and I have somehow dealt with it. For example I’ve been reading all the many comments about Reacher, yet when I read about him in Wiki, he is somehow not someone I want to even read about.

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    • Kat Lib, very sorry about the past four months. I guess mood can also affect reading in the sense of not reading much at all. I hope better times are ahead for you.

      When Jack Reacher is summarized, he can seem like an intimidating, perhaps not very likable person. But in the Lee Child novels, there’s a real humanity there — as well as morality and ethics. Reacher is really quite admirable.

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      • Hi Dave … First of all, how in the world do you come up with all these wonderful brain-teasers? 🙂 I’ll give this one some thought this week and get back to you.

        As for Kat Lib’s comment about Jack Reacher, I can definitely relate. I’ve seen so much praise for those books here, and I find myself thinking I should give them a try. The problem is that I once read a short story by Lee Child called “James Penney’s New Identity”; I’m not completely sure, but I think this may have been one of the first appearances by Jack Reacher. Anyway, I wasn’t impressed with the story at all; it was too predictable. That one short-story is the main reason I’ve avoided the Reacher novels and movies.

        I hope you had a great weekend, Dave 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the kind words, Pat! It’s hard to know how blog-post ideas pop into my head, but, not surprisingly, that usually happens when I’m reading. 🙂

          I’ve never read that Jack Reacher short story, or any of Lee Child’s short stories, but I wonder if that author is better in the novel format. I’ve read 11 Reacher books now, and have found 10 of them to be great or near-great, and only one to be merely good. There IS a certain predictability and “formulaic-ness” to the novels, but I find them riveting nonetheless.

          I look forward to your thoughts on this week’s theme!

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          • Dave, you may be right about the novel format vs short-story format. Also, I don’t know how experienced a writer Lee Child was when he wrote “James Penney’s New Identity”.

            Okay, too true story, in keeping with the theme of the week: Years ago, my husband (now ex) and I were in the the middle of a blistering argument as I tried to read “How to Make Friends and Influence People”. I never did finish the book. Who knows how many friends I could have made and people I could have influenced if only … lol! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Excellent point, Pat — when in his career Lee Child wrote that story may have been a factor. Some authors are great immediately; others sort of work into greatness. I remember reading Jack London’s first novel, and it was quite clunky. Then came his masterpiece “The Call of the Wild”…

              You wrote a memorable/seriocomic second paragraph! Being in an angry mood while reading “How to Make Friends and Influence People” — too ironic. 🙂 You seem to be a real “people person” despite not finishing the book. (I’ve never read it myself.)

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              • Thank you for the kind comment, Dave. Generally speaking, I guess I tend to be a “people person” … except for those times when I’m not 😉 I found your observation about Jack London fascinating. Now that’s an inspiration for any beginning writer to forge ahead; aren’t we lucky Jack London kept honing his craft!

                Liked by 1 person

                • You’re very welcome, Pat! Ha…a “people person” except when you’re not — great line! 🙂

                  The clunky Jack London book was “A Daughter of the Snows” — about a self-reliant woman in the Yukon. I loved the idea of a protagonist so feminist for that time (the novel was published in 1902). But the book was written awkwardly, and the dialogue didn’t ring true. It’s amazing how London wrote a near-perfect masterpiece (“The Call of the Wild”) just a year later. In London’s semi-autobiographical novel “Martin Eden,” it took the title character (an aspiring writer) longer to get good.

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      • I may have mentioned before that my brother in Florida has had a “hobby” of dealing with used books, especially mysteries, and vinyl albums for many years. He has told me that the only new books he buys are the Reacher novels as they come out, so I don’t know why I am so reluctant to give them a try. Thanks to you and Pat D for words of encouragement and I am sorry for being a downer on this blog. Things will get better soon!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Not a problem, Kat Lib! Any kind of comment is welcome here, including talking about the way you (or anyone) is feeling. And the topic of this particular column especially lends itself to that.

          Very nice hobby for your brother! He sounds like a REALLY avid Reacher fan.

          I think Lee Child’s fan base also includes many women. Most of the people (in this blog and elsewhere) who urged me to read Child are women.

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          • I went through a similar phase over seven years ago, and my brother and his wife were horrified that all I was reading were Archie comic books. They had an ides that they would open a used bookstore and I would be its manager. My sister-in-law asked how could I qualify as a manager if I was only reading comics. My only defense and I will invoke it here is that I have read many more books than most people do in a lifetime.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Well, I’ve spaced the Reacher books out — reading one a month, while also reading three or other novels a month. It’s like having a monthly dessert after more substantial fare. 🙂

              I haven’t read a lot of comic books, but I’ve read — and enjoyed — many, many newspaper comic strips. Cartoons are of course often wonderfully escapist, but, as you know, some of them have a lot of depth, too.

              Kat Lib, you have indeed read many more books than most people!

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              • My favorite ever comic strip is Calvin & Hobbes, and I have the entire collection of the weekly strips and the Sundays as well. OK, time for a confession. I have filled the time I used for reading with the latest fad, which is creative coloring books for adults. I find it extremely relaxing and is such a stress-reducer. So, it appears that I revert to my childhood whenever I am going through rough times. I hope I haven’t lost whatever cred I may have had here. 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

                • “Calvin and Hobbes” was an incredible comic, Kat Lib. So well written and drawn by Bill Watterson. (As you know, many other cartoonists are better at one of those skills than the other.) Great that you have all those comics from Watterson’s 10-year run (1985-1995).

                  I’ve heard about those coloring books for adults. If it’s enjoyable and relaxing, why not? 🙂 You have lost absolutely no cred here!

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                  • Thanks, Dave, you are always so kind. My latest book is one of art masterpieces from the Impressionist to modern art to many others so if I want to color Whistler’s mother in red as opposed to all black, so be it!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Well, I went to the page of Whistler’s Mother, and they had her dress blacked in; however, that doesn’t stop me from doing the rest of it in red, if I so desire! What I really wanted to tell you is that my brother from Florida called me about coming up here in the last days of October for a mini-reunion, but I was telling him about the great Jack Reacher love on this blog. He is going to send me a Reacher novel, so I must read it! I look forward to see if this is one you would have recommended.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Kat Lib, I think it’s great to “revise” a famous painting!

                      And I look forward to hearing about which Jack Reacher book you read, and what you think of it. 🙂

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    • I’ve experienced reading droughts in the past, and I still get them every now and then. Looking at photo books usually helps me get through those periods. When I look at photos, 9 times out of 10, I will discover something that leads me to a particular subject, and later on, a particular author.

      For example, I had a photo book years ago on Amish communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Very beautiful photos depicting their lifestyles and traditions. I wanted to learn more about them, so I did a little research. During that process, I came across a writer named Wanda Brunstetter who is a top-rated author in the Amish fiction genre. Brunstetter is not overly religious, not preachy or boring, her prose is breath-taking, and she “humanises” the Amish by making their stories relatable to everyday people.

      I credit that photo book with not only breaking my lit dry spell, but introducing me to a new author as well. So try looking at pictures the next time you experience a lull in reading. You may came across something that you want to explore, which can get you back to reading again.

      Keep your head up, Kat; you’ll be ok.

      “it’s just a moment, this time will pass” – final lyric from the song Stuck in a Moment by U2.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Ana, thanks for your comment. I live close to the Amish community in Lancaster, PA. There is a woman writing today as someone from the Amish community, Kate Burkholder, who is a sheriff who was a member of that community (Linda Castillo).Very interesting series!

        Liked by 1 person

        • This is too awesome…an Amish law enforcement officer. LOL.

          Thank you for that name and series. Just texted my clerk friend-girl at my favourite used bookstore, and asked her to gather up anything by Linda Castillo.

          This makes, what, the third great author you’ve recommended to me?? One more and you’re gonna get a gold star:)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ana, I hope you like Linda Castillo’s books, as they are very interesting when talking about someone who has left the Amish Lifestyle yet who has an understanding of the culture.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Dave! I’m glad that you appreciated ‘The Ambassadors’. It’s definitely something that can be best appreciated when you devote long chunks of time to allow yourself to be swept into its pace and wavelength.
      Two other even more leisurely literary works that come to mind are Thomas Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain’ and Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’. Interestingly, both novels are concerned with perception of time. ‘Magic Mountain’ deals with a set of characters that are inmates at a sanitarium on a Swiss mountain. The remote location lends a magical quality to the place that, because there is absolutely no interaction with the world, alters the residents’ perception of time. The main character, Hans Castorp, initially expects to spend six months there which extends to seven years while seeming to last about a year. It took me around five months to read the book about 25 years ago. The fact that my life was in upheaval that year probably had something to do with that. My mother had died a few months earlier. One marriage was ending and another marriage was struggling to get started. I moved back into my dad’s house so the reminders of my mother were everywhere. It was a strange time. Around 10 years later, I read Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ from June to November, finishing it during Thanksgiving week. The marriage that was beginning ten years earlier was now undergoing strains at the seams that would ultimately tear it apart within the next couple of years so perhaps it was a therapeutic and welcome engrossing escape from that stress. If you think Henry James moved at a slow pace, he is a thrill a minute compared to Marcel, who wrote all of it in bed in a climate-controlled secluded bedchamber. He had ‘all the time in the world’ to pontificate and reflect on the high fashion, high society, high culture Parisian world that he had voluntarily abandoned, so he actually wrote it in an altered state of chronological consciousness. Upon completion, though, I felt, as I do when finishing all the greatest works of art, that my own consciousness had been altered and that I was a wiser human being with a greater, more epic scope of perception that I had had before reading it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I definitely chose the right week (a vacation one) to read “The Ambassadors”! As you note, one needs time to ease into the quiet rhythm of the book. It really is a sublime novel in its way.

        I haven’t read “The Magic Mountain” and (as we’ve previously discussed) I reluctantly gave up on “In Search of Lost Time” after a couple hundred pages, but I know those even-more-leisurely-than-Henry James classics are impressive achievements. Very sorry you were going through so much while reading Thomas Mann’s novel. I’m sure it affected how you perceived the book. And then you were going through a lot, again, when you read Proust. 😦

        Thanks, bobess48, for your very eloquent and candid comment. Much appreciated.

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