Saturday, January 25, 2014

Guest Post: What To Read When You're In a Mood

Most Readers have a wide variety of books they read - not all, but most. And usually we just pick up what's next on our TBR pile without too much thought (at least, I do). But sometimes we Readers get into moods - doesn't matter what kind. And when we're in these moods, we can't read just anything. There's a particular type of book that demands to be read. You're depressed and therefore have a hankering to pick up a Holocaust novel. Or maybe you're in a particularly happy mood and want to find that next great adventure novel. Or maybe you need some old friends; books you've read hundreds and hundreds of times. Feeling a bit whimsy? Take a trip down memory lane with old classics from your childhood! Everyone's different moods demand different tastes. My good book friends Kel, Katherine, and Hazel have joined me on The Reading Hedgehog to share what they like to read when they're in certain moods.

Hazel's Depressed-Mood Reads:

I think I speak for all Readers for the fact that books have helped time and again to get us out of bad times; to escape a little bit - that's what books are for! My favorite kinds of books to read when I'm sad or depressed are good adventure novels with lots of excitement, action, and humor on the side; something that can help you get away. When I'm feeling down, I usually turn to my old friends - those books that I have read over and over, but are always there for me. Having something that can get me away from my problems for a little bit always makes me feel much better. It also makes me feel better when the characters have no end of problems - as evil as that sounds. It makes me realize that my life isn't all that bad after all! And sometimes those characters are just the friends you need at a certain moment because they are always going to be there for you. One of my favorite books to read when I'm feeling down is The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I've always loved the movie, too, but the book is one of my favorite books ever and I've read it countless times. It has an entertaining story line, it's a good adventure, and has more than a little bit of humor to keep it going. Plus I've known the characters for years and love them all so much that it feels like visiting my old friends when I go back to the book. There's other books I like to read when I'm depressed, too, but this is usually the one I go to first. It just seems to have the right balance of everything I need when I'm feeling down.

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be . . . well . . . a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it's about everything.

Katherine's Happy-Mood & Nostalgic-Mood Reads:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. She is less than thrilled about boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, he has it all - including a serious girlfriend. Will Anna get her French kiss?

I usually don't like contemporary novels, since I almost always know what the ending is going to be. But this book wiggled its way into my heart and became of my favorite pick-me-up books. When I read this book about Paris and first love, I instantly feel happier.

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull.

This extends to pretty much every Roald Dahl book. I loved his books as a kid and they instantly take me back to when I was small and my mother read them to me.

Kel's Not-In-The-Mood-To-Read Reads:

Every now and then, I get stuck in a funk where I can't get interested in a book - any book. I take a stack of them to the couch, sit down, and open up the first. I read the first page. "Maybe later." I pick up the second and read the first paragraph. "Nope, not slogging through that right now."

By the time I reach the last book in the stack, I am barely reading the first three words and am close to throwing the book across the room.

The funny thing is, this never has anything to do with how I'm feeling, except maybe being tired. I can be happy, sad, depressed, jubilant, but if I'm not in the read to read, nothing looks good.

What gets me back on page when this feared mood strikes? The answer: Diana Wynne Jones. She is only of my all-time favorite Authors and her books have never failed to sit me down and make me enjoy reading when other books are running in fear. I've gotten out of these moods with her stand-alones, short stories, and novels; and I highly recommend reading her books if you haven't.

I don't know if I have a favorite book for getting out of "non-reading" moods, but I never go wrong with Howl's Moving Castle or any of the Chrestomanci series. They're geared toward light, fun, humorous adventure, the kind of escape everyone needs when the doldrums strike. Which is why they own a large penthouse suite in my bookshelf. ;)

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl - and herself - than first meets the eye.

The Reading Hedgehog's Contemplative-Mood Reads:

Contemplative also translates into "thinking way too much about life in general and therefore getting depressed." I'm always thinking, of course; can't help it. I have a very active mind. If it's not writing, it's wondering what it thought of the book it just finished reading, and if it's not doing that, it's theorizing about that random stranger on the street (probably a serial killer, or at least a petty thief). Where else would I come up with my story ideas if I didn't take on a very Dickensian way looking at life? But sometimes I get into these contemplative moods that aren't exactly constructive. They are my "overly serious, need to chill right now before I become like Marvin in Hitchhiker's Guide" contemplative moods. 

Most of the time, depending on how deep I'm into one of these moods, several different genres will suit. But if I really want to purge myself of the mood, I have to do an overload on Serious Subjects. If I distract myself with whimsy and humor and adventure, I don't get over the mood; it just goes dormant for a while until it explodes at a bad time.

So what is my choice of book to purge myself on the Contemplative Mood? World War novels (I and II), the Holocaust, stories of plague and pestilence. Books like The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Code Name Verity. Stories set in a real time of tragedy, where practically everyone is guaranteed to die in the end, but for a noble cause like fighting against the Nazis. It gets the need to cry out of my system and rallies my spirits to a call for just causes. Take on the spirit of the S.O.E. and fight the injustices of the world! Combat the evils of men or die trying! Then I find myself in a much better mood afterward.

Probably one of my favorites for this sort of reading is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, quickly followed by Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Get the tears going and with a sense of hope, and then finish it off with a good story about strong women pilots and spies during WWII.

It is 1939, Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist - books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Oct. 11th, 1943 - A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a gristly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, she she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure, and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?


  1. Haha, interesting! Looks like we have three for whimsy of some kind and one mood needing more serious material.

    I still haven't read The Book Thief. I know. Shame on me. I will! Hopefully sooner rather than later. :)

    1. Yeah, I tend towards the "serious material" side of things.

      Shame, shame! Well, when you do, you'll be surprised at how fast of a read it really is, despite its length.


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