Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Moody Mood Reader

 I am a mood reader. My favorite thing in the world is that moment, when I finish a book and go stand in front of my bookshelves to pick what I will read next. 

😂 😊 💃 😳 😱 👀 😕 😃 😡

Do I want to laugh? Or cry? Or be scared?

Does the weather lend itself to a story of survival on a cold mountain? A trip to the beach? A cozy mystery?

What covers draw my eye? The one with cartoonish people laying on the beach? Geometric patterns? The one with all the flowers?

⛄ 🌊 ⛈ 👩 👨 🔶 🔷 🌸 🌼 🌺

I write out TBR lists, I make stacks of books I want to read next. But when it's finally time to choose I ignore the lists and stacks and go with my gut. 

It's a glorious feeling.

Except when it's not.

I'm also a moody mood reader--and that can feel like a curse. Hormones, the beginning of school, new routines, general frustration with household maintenence, world events, these things can bring me down. Throw in a bad attitude from one of my teenagers and I am in a state. 

This happened to me last week. There was a constant storm of negativity in my brain and then I finished a book and didn't bother starting a new one (a bad sign for this reader). I'm working through four tomes:
Middlemarch, 11/22/63, Empire of Pain, and Great Circle. I was annoyed at myself for starting all these 400+ page books. I needed to focus and get at least one of these completed. That was what this mood called for. 

I save Middlemarch for weekends so I didn't crack that spine. 11/22/63 and Great Circle both pull me into their plots but I couldn't get through the pages fast enough to appease the evil hobby task master on my shoulder. When I'd close one of those books I'd feel more despondant and frustrated with myself. 

Empire of Pain is hard to read. This is for two reasons: it is well-researched nonfiction written in big blocky paragraphs and long sentences and it is sad and disturbing. Though the writing is incredibly compelling, I found myself needing breaks and feeling hopeless between reading sessions. 

In a fit of desperation--for something, anything to lift my bleak mood--I started another book last night. Sanity be damned! I stood at my shelves and found All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny. It's the next installment in the Inspector Gamache series (which I LOVE with every fiber of my being). It was published and purchased last summer, almost a year ago exactly. Sometimes I like to hoard books that I am looking forward to. Just like with vacation, the anticipation is part of the enjoyment. 

I grabbed the book with the black and blue cover and settled into one of the leather recliners in my library. I started reading. And, I'm happy to report, it totally worked! 

I kicked that nasty little task master off my shoulder and fell in love with my favorite hobby all over again. 

Today, when I read a couple of chapters from Great Circle, I enjoyed myself and the story and didn't feel like I was racing against the clock. When I picked up Empire of Pain I felt hopeful knowing that the world is not a compeltely terrible place and later I would return to Paris with Gamache and Beauvoir.

This is Louise Penny. I feel exactly the same way about her as Leslie Knope feels about Anne and if I met her I think I would shout, "Louise, you poetic, noble land-mermaid!"

Being a moody mood reader only really sucks when you forget that you are a moody mood reader. I forgot that my attitude towards reading and life can change as a result of not only the weather or my circumstances, but also because of the books I'm reading. Remembering this about myself gives me power. I can do something simple and practical to change how I feel when I'm losing hope in humanity and books. I just need to drag myself to the bookshelves and reach for something comforting, hopeful, or different. 

Are you a mood reader? A moody mood reader?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

To DNF, or not to DNF: that is the question

 ****DNF stands for "Did/Do Not Finish"****

I'm reading a book for book club that shall remain nameless at this time. It was a buzzy book a few months ago. It was picked by a celebrity for her book club and even nominated for a literary prize or two. I bought the book back in June, hopeful about adding it to my already large stack of books I wanted to read in the next few months. 

It was not Jenna's book club...
I have loved all of the books I've read from Jenna's list

At book club, last month, one of my friends said she had grabbed the book in question at an airport and after reading the first few chapters felt like it would make for good discussion. Could we read it? I love when we chose a book I already own so I was in favor. 

Around the 20 page mark, I was beginning to have my doubts. I texted my book club friend who had finished by then. I told her I wasn't loving the writing. 

"I didn't either. But the story is so good," she texted back. So, I pressed on.

Around the 100 page mark, I grew increasingly nervous. If I was going to DNF it, I probably should do it now. The story was ok, maybe a little slow, but the writing had not improved. It grated on me with every paragraph. Flowery almost to the point of incoherency, meandering sentences, inconsistencies in character descriptions. Ugh! But I kept going because it's for book club.

my muse

When I'm reading for book club I almost never DNF. I mean, I almost never DNF ever, but I'm even less likely to put aside a book that's not for me when I know I'll be discussing it with others. I want to be specific in my critiques and have a complete view of the novel. But I was really considering it around page 100. 

Instead of giving up on it completely, I gave myself a break. I didn't crack this nameless book open over the weekend. Instead, I finished a thriller and started a Louise Penny book I'd been saving to read. It was a very good weekend.

A fast-paced thriller was just what the book doctor ordered

But on Monday, I dutifully went back to the book club book. I slogged through another 50 pages, thinking about how annoyed I was with the writing but really wanting to know where the plot was headed and what the author was going to do with my favorite character. 

On that same day, I saw a bookstagram post about how disappointing this book was and listened to Laura Tremaine talk on her podcast about DNF-ing books that aren't working for you. #serendipity?

It was like she was literally talking to ME!

While I was making dinner, in my AirPods, I heard these words: "I do not finish books that I'm hating. If you hate a book, put it down. There is no book police that says, 'Because you started something you have to finish it.'" I mean...

And now I'm torn. Do I set aside this book, halfway through, or, do I keep going and see if the ending gives at least a little credibility to all the buzz?

The other members of my book club are not as neurotic as me about finishing books and they have DNF-ed books that were bugging them. I know they'd be ok with me not completing this one...but would I? 

What would you do????