Monday, April 11, 2016

The Cozy Book Corner No. 3: How do I choose which book to read next?

Welcome to my Monday feature!

I have moved this feature
from Friday to Monday.

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

For the longest time now, I've been wondering just what, if anything, influences people's choices of books to read and blog about. There are book bloggers who blog only about a specific genre or type of book. For instance, I've seen a lot of blogs totally dedicated to Young Adult books. Others only cover Christian books, while still others stick with classics, or science fiction and fantasy (these two usually go together), or mostly nonfiction. Then there are others, like me, who tend to be more eclectic, but I've noticed that eclectic bloggers are not as common as those who prefer one particular genre or type of book. This is why I decided to start this blog, which is only for classics, literary fiction, and nonfiction. My other blog, A Night's Dream of Books, is mostly for Young Adult Fiction (I will occasionally feature an adult book from time to time).

In my case, I've noticed that it's one of two factors that influence what I will most likely read next: either my emotional state, or my preoccupation with certain intellectual or spiritual matters. 

The first became very apparent when I fell head over heels in love for the very first time. Not that I hadn't been in love before that, but that particular time, it was especially strong. How did this affect my choice of books to read? Well, I completely lost interest in the types of books I had read until then -- science fiction, fantasy, classics, and nonfiction. (Hmmm, I guess I've always been a little eclectic.) Instead, I started reading romance novels. Once my appetite was whetted, I began obsessively buying and reading them! I was living in a rosy, romantic haze..... The funny thing is, I had previously looked down my nose at these books. I hate to admit that I even thought that women who read this genre were silly and shallow. How ironic, then, to find myself abandoning my loftier subject matters for this fluffy stuff! The irony hit me even then, but I still couldn't stop myself from reading the genre. I read mostly historical romances back then. I still read a lot of romance novels nowadays, but my preferred sub-genre now is paranormal romance. 

I'm now making a concerted effort to read weightier material. I don't want to stop reading romance novels, though. I came to realize that these books fulfill a need for women, a need that no other type of literature can possibly satisfy, and that it's something uniquely ours. I consider myself an intellectual person, but I still have this need for romance, in common with all other women. it's the need to read beautiful, romantic language, to feel the sexual tension in a new relationship, to immerse myself in the plot twists that seem to separate the lovers, but that will bring them together for that all-important 'happily ever after'. These are feminine emotional needs. However, I do want all of these plot elements to be balanced by others. The female protagonist must be a strong character on her own, not 'a female in distress'. She must be willing to assert herself with the male protagonist. Furthermore, it's great when SHE rescues HIM at times!

On other occasions, I feel the need to read other things like science fiction and fantasy, or nonfiction. These are the times that I've come across something interesting on the Internet, which stimulates my mind, and therefore, I need to delve into it further. For instance, I'm currently preoccupied with certain intellectual/spiritual concerns, such as what to accept or reject from New Age philosophy, researching contradictions I have found in the Bible, and exploring the influence of culture, temperament, genetics, and upbringing on a person's individual moral code.

Last year, I read and reviewed The Psychology of Twilight for my other blog. Some people might scoff at this seemingly frivolous reading material. This is not true at all, however. I've found that this book deals with such fascinating things as attachment theory manifesting in the way the main characters in the Twilight books relate to each other. There's also a fascinating discussion of prejudice in the book, and another section, titled "Gestalt and Twilight" goes into depth on this school of psychology, which "...tries to understand the laws of our ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an apparently chaotic world." (Gestalt Psychology:Wikipedia)

Interestingly, while reading this book, I delved briefly into other books dealing with the concerns I've mentioned above.  

One of the books I've delved into is titled Myths of the Bible, by Gary Greenberg. Another is titled Awakening Your Inner Light, by Aeoliah. And then there's A Kabbalah for the Modern World, by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, which is the book that started me wondering about Biblical myths and contradictions. In this book, Gonzalez-Wippler claims that the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament) contains the stories of Adam, Eve, and the serpent, whereas the original Hebrew version does not. So now I need to research this topic. In relation to this, I have yet another book somewhere in this condo, titled Biblical Nonsense, by Dr. Jason Long. And then I also want to read The Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer, as well as Shattering Your Strongholds, by Liberty Savard. These last two are Christian authors, and they have both inserted a bit of psychology into their books, which makes them even more interesting to me!

Sometimes, I might be in the middle of some exciting novel, only to get pulled away from it because an emotional state demanding some other type of reading interrupts. If I've been having problems at work, for example, I will suddenly want to pick up a book on how to deal with bullying by either bosses or co-workers. If I have an argument with my husband, I will suddenly want to read a book on how to improve communication in marriage. If I'm feeling down, I will suddenly want to pick up a book on  dealing with the blues. And, if I'm feeling inadequate, I will suddenly want to pick up a book on bolstering one's self-esteem, or one dealing with positive affirmations.

In short, I look to books for answers to emotional issues, as well as for answers to intellectual and spiritual concerns. Of course, there are times I simply want to be entertained, to escape. Then I will turn to some type of romance. If I want to escape this planet, I will then turn  to science fiction, and if it's reality altogether, I will seek out fantasy, although paranormal romance and urban fantasy also serve the purpose quite well.

So it seems that, in my case, as well as most likely in the case of many other readers, it's really moods that drive my selection  of reading matter. I would imagine, however, that this is especially true of eclectic readers and book bloggers. We're kind of 'a breed apart', sampling here and there, like hummingbirds flitting from one flower to another. It's not always easy to balance different genres, as well as the constant battle between fiction and nonfiction.

While writing this post, I remembered a book I bought some years ago, and haven't gotten around to reading. It's titled Reading To Heal: How To Use Bibliotherapy To Improve Your Life. The author's name is Jacqueline D. Stanley. This book actually recommends certain books to read, based on emotional issues one needs to heal. Some of these books are fiction, while others are nonfiction. I'm not sure where I put this book (perhaps it's in storage), but I want to get it and discover the books recommended by the author. Unfortunately, Amazon does not offer a preview of this book, so I am unable to check out the Table of Contents.

Another such book I want to read is titled Bibliotherapy: The Girl's Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives, by Beverly West and Nancy Peske. A preview of this particular book is available on Amazon, so I was able to take a look at the Table of Contents. Some of the chapter titles are actually hilarious! Here are some samples: Chapter 3: When You Still Think You Can Change Him - Bad Boy Books, Chapter 4: When You're Ready To Make Your Own Kind of Music -- Hearing-Your-Inner-Voice Books, Chapter 5: When You're Wallowing In A Sullen Perennial Adolescence -- Coming-of-Age Books, Chapter 9: When Your Biological Alarm Clock Is Ringing and You Can't Find the Snooze Button -- Midlife Crisis Books, and so on. 

I'm feeling a very strong need to order these books from Amazon right this very minute! I have to reign in this impulse, though.....I might be able to find the first book, Reading to Heal, somewhere on my shelves...... As for the second one, I'll have to grit my teeth and get it as a Kindle edition, since I can't fill our new apartment with books....That's the reason I had to put so many in storage when we moved.

Wrapping up....I'm feeling the need to read something right now, as of this writing. And what book will I be picking up? Well, I had already decided to read Water For Elephants next. But is that what I would REALLY like to read right now? I do have this compulsion to read something about the Kabbalah. Or should I pick up one of my Star Trek TOS novels, instead? Hmmm...

NOTE: All of the books mentioned in this post are available on Amazon, and are listed on Goodreads, as well.


What are your thoughts on
 this subject?
What factors influence 
your own choice of books 
to read at any given moment?


Brian Joseph said...

What a great post Maria.

On the issue of reading what is emotionally pulling at you, that is a really good point.

Years ago I would get interested in a subject, by a book on it. Because I had so many books already waiting in the wings I would put it off reading it. Sometimes I would lose interest. This, there are book on my reading shelf that I purchased years ago that I I have never read and may or may not ever read.

These days I do it differently. For all my elaborate reading plans that I have written about, if I become really interested in a subject or a book, I will drop put a hold plans and start my new interest as soon as I am finished with what I am currently reading.

I find your comment about feminine emotional needs and romance novels really interesting. Obviously if one looks at book reading patterns a lot more women read and enjoy romances as opposed to men. Though there are plenty of exceptions with individuals, I agree this indicates a difference in what we enjoy and what our emotional need are. Though I think men have these needs too, over large populations are much stronger in women. This gets us to the huge and extremely controversial issue of nature verses nature again. In my opinion, there is a genetic component here, but that is another discussion! :)

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

Thanks for the good word!! :)

It's not easy to decide what book to read next, when they're all 'clamoring' for one's attention! Lol. So I admire your new restraint in finishing the book you're currently reading before getting to the one that has sparked your interest!

The issue of feminine romantic needs does indeed tie right into the debate on nature versus nurture. In my case, I can tell you that no one was more surprised than me, when the urge to read romance novels struck! You see, I had been a tomboy since I was little, and preferred to read novels full of adventures and action. That was in popular literature. I also loved classics. As I stated in the post, I used to consider romance novels silly and actually beneath my intelligence. But everything changed when I first fell madly in love! Then I started to devour novels from the very same genre I had previously held in contempt.

As a pre-teen, I even went so far as to avoid the Nancy Drew novels. I much preferred the Hardy Boys books. I wanted to emulate them! Nancy, well, she was 'just a GIRL'. I find my former attitude very deplorable nowadays, of course. I should have read the Nancy Drew books, right along with the Hardy Boys books. But heck, back then, I thought that boys' adventures would be MUCH more exciting!

In spite of my early love of adventure stories, fantasy, and science fiction, I still fell for the romance novel genre.... So I really do think that, even in women who are not 'stereotypically feminine', like me, there's still that inner, feminine, emotional need....I even wanted to feel 'swept away', would you believe?

I do enjoy reading romance novels in which women are not the typical simpering that feels her world revolves around a man. I admire romance heroines who enjoy having their own lives, and are able to balance a romantic relationship with their individual interests. However, in that first heady rush of love, I would wager that most women would find this to be very hard indeed! In contrast, perhaps most men would be better able to keep things in perspective. On the other hand, some men DO turn into complete and utter 'fools for love' when they feel the pull exerted by a woman whom they feel to be their soul mate. There was the case of Edward VIII, King of England, who gave up his throne when his relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson was frowned upon by the British government. I find this SO romantic!! They married after his abdication, and remained married for 35 years, until his death.

Still, I think it's mostly women who read romance novels. We love to read about all the details of a beginning relationship, and sigh over

In short, I now have to find a balance between these novels and the weightier, more intellectual sort of reading. I can't give up either of these!

Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!! :)