Thursday, June 9, 2011

Literary Blog Hop: What Influences My Reading?

Literary Blog Hop
This week’s Literary Blog Hop, from the Blue Bookcase asks:

What other outside influences affect your reading experience? Do you think these influences enhance or detract from the experience?”

I believe that there are a whole range of factors that influence my choice of reading material.  Firstly, there are the wholly external and environmental factors.  As I’ve mentioned before, if I am travelling, I like to read something that relates to the place I am travelling to.  The weather can also affect my reading choices – I am far more likely to pick up a detective story or a “feel good” kind of book if it is a cold, dark and miserable day outside.  Conversely, I feel much more capable of dealing with emotional and dark reading material when the sun is out.

There is another set of influences that affect my choice of reading material.  I’ll term them “external” for this post, although, in reality, they are internal to me.  These are the things that are temporary but which have an impact on my choices.  For example, I am prone to bouts of gloom and doom.  It would be insulting to true sufferers to term them bouts of depression but they are spells where the black dog comes to visit and I have difficulty in seeing the positive side of life.  I am lucky to have wonderful people like Mrs Falaise and mini-Falaise around me so these moods don’t tend to last for long but, while I am in one, I will always choose to read familiar books and books that don’t demand too much emotional investment.  I often choose to read escapist books that can transport my mind and imagination to exciting and remote times and places so as to distract myself from real life.

I’m also the kind of person that dives deep into subjects when my interest is piqued or when I am reminded of subjects or topics that I enjoy.  As an illustration of this, around a month ago, Lifetime Reader posted a couple of posts discussing a book on Shakespeare that she had been reading.  I used to enjoy reading and watching Shakespeare when I was younger but haven’t really read any for years.  Having read her posts, I recalled that I had a copy of John Michell’s Who wrote Shakespeare? on my TBR pile.  This then lead me to a book buying session and further reading and I now have two more posts on Shakespeare themed books, three more books about Shakespeare at the top of the TBR pile and a new copy of Polanski’s version of Macbeth to watch.  I suppose this kind of influence is external but not environmental.  However I categorise it, it is a very powerful kind of influence for me.

The final set of influences that tend to affect my reading choices are those that are internal and more or less permanent.  These, if you like, are the influences of my character on my reading.  On the whole, these tend to be more permissive than limiting.  Since mini-Falaise’s birth, I have become much more sensitised to books which revolve around graphic descriptions of children suffering or whose plots revolve around child murder or abduction.

I don’t think that the influences that lead me to choose one book over another then either enhance or detract from my reading.  If I have chosen to read a book because it has been recommended or because everyone is raving about it, I tend to be able to approach it on its own terms and not to be over-expectant for it.  Equally, if my mood or the outside world has affected the book I choose to read, then it is the choice of book that is affected and not the enjoyment of the book I ultimately read.

I think it is impossible for anyone’s choices of reading matter not to be affected by a whole host of influences.  In part, this is what defines us as individual readers and helps us form our own sets of critical filters for the books we choose.


Unknown said...

Great post-you got to some of the same kinds of things that I mention in my post as well.

Em said...

Interesting considerations. I think that eventually all influences become internalised...

Melody said...

I wish that book hype didn't affected my ultimate expectations/opinions of a book, but I find that it really does. I definitely have to guard against high expectations or assumptions. Sometimes it takes me a bit of time to get to a place where I can read a book objectively.

Emily said...

I never would have thought that the weather could influence reading habits. But you know, now that you mention it, I have had trouble reading dark and difficult books since I've been in rainy dreary Sitka. Maybe you're on to something here.

Song said...

I'm particularly interested in the 'Shakespeare' section of your post. Recently, I've been doing a lot of digging, too, after having re-read Dr Faustus. I'm rooting for Marlowe being the man behind Shakespeare's works, and I've been doing a lot of reading up on it in the last few weeks.

I've already started hunting for your posts on Shakespeare....:)

Mel u said...

great post-you went into a lot of depth-one thing I noticed you said your reading mind set was sort of changed with the seasons-I have no seasons where I live-just the rainy seasons-temperature-the average temperature does not vary by more than 10 degrees in the year-I think the weather effects the culture of countries more than is appreciated

Falaise said...

Heather - Thanks for the comment!

Em - I tihnk you may be right but I also think I need to think about it a bit more!

Melody - I see what you mean - it just seems to be something that doesn't really affect me.

Emily - I believe that weather has more of an effect on us than we care to admit.

Risa - If you read my post on Who Wrote Shakespeare? by Joghn Michell, you'll see that I'm leaning towards the Marlowe camp too, although I'm reading Shapiro's COntested Will and I may be wavering.

Mel - Thanks! I agree with you on the effects of weather. I love the changing of the seasons.

Anonymous said...

I also find that my mood very much influences what I think of a book and whether I have a good time reading it.

LBC said...

Good thoughts. I think I focused a lot on strictly external influences on my reading, although the internal is definitely a big part of it as well. My mood is certainly a big determinant of whether I can focus on a particular book at a particular time.

@parridhlantern said...

I like the idea of following a trail, where one book leads you to another or an author recommends another and you end up on a path that can cross national borders, taking you in directions you'd not conceived of.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

This is one of the best responses I've read for this hop. well done! And yes, I know what you mean about weather or life circumstances having an effect on what you choose to read.

Falaise said...

leeswammes - I've even had moods where I just can't settle with any book.

LBC - I enjoyed your post. I find that it is the internal that has more of an effect on me than the external.

parrish - I agree with you. That is often howe I come across books that I really enjoy.

As the Crowe Flies - thank you very much for the kind comment!