What is a Mood Reader?
A mood reader reads books in relation to their mood. In other words, they line up energy levels, emotional state, and interest with the books they read. Before embracing my mood reading ways, I was overwhelmed by having only one book to read at a time. Now, I have a small stack of around ten books that are on my Current Reads stack. I cycle between the books depending on my ability to focus along with other factors.
For now, I want you to know this: mood reading is a self-aware practice. It’s about reading what you believe works best for you at this particular moment. If you are curious, or if you think this is absolute madness, read on. Maybe you’ll find new ideas on how to pick up your next read(s).
Mood Reading Step 1: Remove Numbers from Your Reading
Mood reading allows you to put down a book without unhauling it. Detaching from quotas revealed books as experiences dependent on an ongoing relationship between the narrative and myself. Some stories need space to hit full impact and, as a mood reader, I get to ensure that space is readily available when I pick up the books.
For example, reading The Knife of Never Letting Go built a dark world with sweeping tragedies. I am talking about tragedies that have you sobbing for days. So, by book 2, The Ask and the Answer, I knew to pace my reading. If numbers were my driving factor, I would have been compelled to still read through the pain. Taking time to feel it, adds to the story’s power.
Some stories demand more out of you stylistically. Marie Rutkowski’s The Winner’s Curse trilogy spans a series of miscommunications between the two main characters. If I don’t have the emotional bandwidth for it, the story could be irritating. Sitting with the discomfort of two characters repeatedly misunderstanding each other can frustrate you. Two solutions come to mind from my reading approach to books: read small sections at a time to experience the tension without the frustration. Again, not reading with numbers in mind frees you to read sections to process the narrative and empathize with the characters.
Other stories I have had to read in small chunks for similar reasons: The Selection series by Kiera Cass, The Glittering Court series by Rachelle Mead, The Folk of Air series by Holly Black, and The Last Hours by Cassandra Clare.
Mood Reading Step 2: Choosing Books Depending On Your Focus
Some readers rely on the books alone to get a feel for what they need to gain the most out of the narrative. However, I take it a step further by checking trigger warnings. Triggers are deeply personal as they may trip up a host of negative reactions to reading something. The beauty of mood reading is that once you see a trigger (in text or through reviews/research), you can adjust your reading experience. You can take on a triggering book and read lighter stories at the same time. It could be by genre, storytelling style,
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman was emotionally charged because it presents itself through a stoic central character (Ove). Ove is mean and detached. He is unimpressed by everyone around him. However, what humanizes him are two storytelling techniques: the flashbacks of his life in years prior (ugh. I am avoiding spoilers) and his begrudging connections with people around him. Because I am a mood reader, I was able to honor emotional exhaustion without stopping my reading practice. I did not put away the book because it pushed me to contemplate humanity and the complexity of relationships among us.
Some of you may be curious about how I carry out a mood reading routine. Here are some tips.
Mood Reading Tip: Know the Difference between “Bye Forever” and “See You Later”
This is the most elusive lesson when it comes to mood reading. Some people have rules around hitting a certain page count or percentage before DNFing a book. In my experience, that does not always work. Some stories could become enjoyable if they were approached in the right circumstances. Once you determine that, you can choose to pick it up at a better time.
The Young Elites series was one I put down back in 2014. Nearly a decade later, it was one of my most impactful reads. I held on to the series for almost a decade, fully aware of what I needed to be feeling to read it. In case you are wondering, I was in a Kylo Ren type of heartbreak. But, in 2014, there was no Kylo Ren angst. I had read the Legend series by the same author, enjoyed it, and then stopped.
Mood Reading Tip #2: Expand on Themes You Enjoy By Revisiting It In Different Books
When I was teaching, there was a popular book among instructors. It was called They Say/I Say. From my recollection, mind you this could be nostalgic, but the book was a bold step to empower students in engaging with academic writing. I was particularly fond of this book because it articulated the idea of an ongoing dialogue in academia to which anyone could respond.
I apply it to fictional work as well. Perhaps that was not its intention. I am rambling. But, ever since, I thought of fiction as grappling with certain human truths. Because of this, to an extent, all fiction can be in an ongoing conversation.
Therefore, different stories can take on similar premises but still have different takes on elements of humanity. For instance: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab and Cassandra Clare’s The Last Hours trilogy feature ghosts. However, I found great joy in combining them into my reading calendar. It was lovely.
Combining books with similar themes provides a fascinating dialogue between them. I highly recommend it. You see potential expansion to the stories you are reading and gain an appreciation for how these works reflect complex human issues. Ghosts, as literary figures, are a symbolic dialogue with death and loss. City of Ghosts is a middle-grade novel so the tonal difference alone made its combination with The Last Hours intriguing.
Other ways to explore a dialogue between books: publication year, genre, and setting.
Mood Reading Tip # 4: Add Perspectives to Your Reading
Lastly, mood reading can also mean you add diversity to your reading routine. Themes are not the only way a story can be different. I am incorporating diversity into my personal reading routine. I highly recommend it. One of my favorite ways to do this is by including retellings of classics. I have spent my schooling years not seeing many POC, queer, differently-abled, or neurodivergent people in literature. Diversity enriches your reading experiences, and boy do I regret not having had those options when I was in school. But, I am lucky enough to have access to diverse stories now, so I am taking them in. I am using them to help inform my reading, my understanding of this world.
My favorite retellings by POC authors: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore is based on the Red Shoes fairytale. I have a post in the works for this one. I love it that much. I am eager to read The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo, which retells The Great Gatsby (one of my few favorite classics).
Whether you are a mood reader or not, please read diversely. It may just alter your entire experience in the best way possible.
Final Words on Mood Reading (for now):
These are tips on mood reading. It’s something I fully accepted a few years ago and it has changed my reading routine for the better. I hope it does the same for you. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. Just what works for you. So, whatever gets you to read, do that.
If you are a mood reader, I would love to hear how this experience unfolds for you. To my non-mood readers, tell me if any of the tips here sound applicable to your reading routine. Do you spot any recommendations you are eager to read?
To those curious about other people’s experiences with mood reading, here are some of my favorites: This Book Riot piece is informative and has great insight. This article is also good at outlining the positives and negatives of mood reading.
I have written other articles on reading here. I think you might enjoy this piece on reading burnout. In the comments, let’s discuss your reading routine. Do you have any rules about how you read?