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The Sunday Salon: Emerging from My July Reading Vacation

The Sunday Salon.com Even though July isn’t technically over until Tuesday, today feels like the right day to think back on my reading this month, which has been drastically different than normal.

So far I’ve read 10 books in July — eight fiction and only two nonfiction! I normally read about 60 percent nonfiction and 40 percent fiction, so this is pretty unusual. I’ve also unconsciously avoided all of the review copies on my shelves, focusing instead on books I own and books from the library. It’s felt a little bit like being on a reading vacation, if that makes any sense at all.

I think the biggest reason from this unusual reading month is that July has been an unusual month in real life too. I was on vacation near the beginning, then had to work a couple weekends in a row, then my grandpa passed away and I spent some time at home. It really wasn’t until yesterday that I felt like I was, in some ways, returning to my normal routine.

But why all of the fiction? That is, I think, slightly more convoluted.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the book blogging world about the relationship between bloggers/reviewers and publishers/authors. One of the ideas that seems to come up is what each group “owes” the other. As a general rule, I don’t think bloggers/reviewers owe either authors or publishers anything. I also don’t think publishers/authors owe bloggers anything either — books are not a form of currency or contract that imply either group is obligated to do something for the other.

If I feel like I “owe” anything, it’s that owe every book that I have been offered for review consideration my very best as a reader. I owe the book attentiveness and an open mind, thoughtfulness and an effort to understand what the book is trying to accomplish. I want to give these books my best as a reader because it is important to me to both to respect the publishers/authors who have shared their books with me, and respect the people who read this blog. I can hardly write long reviews or recommend books that I haven’t read carefully and openly.

I wish that I could say I give every book my best as a reader… but I don’t. That’s been clear to me during this last unusual month. If I am at a point in life where I am reading for comfort or escape or because I feel unmoored and need a book to pull me back into myself, I don’t feel like I’m meeting the obligation I’ve defined for myself because I’m just not at my best as a reader.

July has been a weird and difficult and busy month. It’s been hard, especially in the last two weeks, to hold myself together. I haven’t been able to read critically, and have instead been turning to fiction when I needed to read to focus and center and escape.

Luckily, I think I am getting my nonfiction reading brain back — part of why I felt like doing a recap today rather than a couple of days from now. Yesterday I started Geoffrey Nunberg’s Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, The First Sixty Years which is both fascinating and timely, given behavior in the online book community and the ever-increasing election related nonsense that is already beginning. And speaking of elections, there are a couple of political books I’m hoping to get to soon — The Gospel According to The Fix by Chris Cillizza and Muzzled by Joan Williams.

But what I get finished reading today will depend entirely on how absorbed I get watching the Olympics…

Do you find that your reading changes based on what is going on in your life? Do you read different kinds of books during different emotional states? What are the kinds of books you look for as comfort reads?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amy July 29, 2012, 10:05 am

    Absolutely my reading depends on my emotional state and what’s going on in my life, and the seasons. I spent this past winter reading Our Mutual Friend by Dickens because it seemed like a good winter read. This winter I’ll tackle Bleak House. This summer, I’ve been doing the Shelf Discovery project, revisiting favorite books from my teens, which seems like a good summer plan. This week one of my dogs died 🙁 and I had to back away from books for a few days and just read light magazine articles. And New Yorker cartoons.

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:11 pm

      I love the idea of rereading teen reads during the summer. I want to reread Harry Potter this year, but I might save that for a Christmas present to myself 🙂

      I tend to read some heavier nonfiction in the winter too… biographies are good for that time, I think.

  • Teresa July 29, 2012, 10:27 am

    What I find most often is that my choices often have to do with how much brain space I have. For example, when work is really busy and requiring a lot of mental work, I can’t read something with complex language in my free time. It’s not really about my emotional state as much as my mental state, if that makes sense. I do turn to certain kinds of books for emotional comfort, but that’s more rare for me these days.

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:09 pm

      That totally makes sense, even more than some of what I wrote already. July had some emotional parts, but a lot of it was just busy and stressful and my brain was too full of things.

  • bermudaonion(Kathy) July 29, 2012, 1:53 pm

    Of course my reading changes depending on what’s going on in my life. When things are hectic or sad, I reach for easy, compelling books that I don’t have to think about as I read.

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:08 pm

      I’m the same way. I love some good YA or really plot-y fiction when I’m in a mood like that.

  • Aarti July 29, 2012, 3:13 pm

    Like all the other commenters (and you), I definitely change my reading based on my mood and, as Teresa so aptly puts it, my available “brain space.” And honestly, sometimes I just want to do other things, like cook or exercise or be outside with friends, and reading gets put on the back burner. I also don’t think that there is anything “owed” in the relationship between publishers/authors and bloggers. I rarely take books for review, but when I do, I try very hard to review them in a timely manner. That said – if I don’t want to read that book, then I won’t. It’s more fair to the author and book and much more enjoyable for me!

    I look forward to the non-fiction reads you’ll be taking on in future – I’ve gotten more into non-fiction more recently, too, so want more recommendations!

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:07 pm

      I like Teresa’s idea of “brain space” a lot — it makes even more sense to me than emotional difficulty and I wish I’d thought to describe it like that!

      I think I’ve gotten to a point where I accept more books for review than I can read, but I’ve been working to be more selective so I can review things in a timely manner.

  • Alex in Leeds July 29, 2012, 3:24 pm

    Hope August is an easier month for you.

    I find myself reading mostly non-fiction when I am trying to cope with harder times or trying to make big life decisions. I don’t even really notice it until I come out the other side and realise that suddenly I am reading fiction again and my arms don’t ache from huge history hardbacks any more…

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:05 pm

      It’s really interesting to hear what kinds of books people turn to when they are in coping mode. I tend to move away from nonfiction to fiction, but you’re the opposite. What do you find so helpful about chunky nonfiction during those times?

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey July 29, 2012, 9:03 pm

    I love non-fiction, but fiction books are definitely my comfort reads. With being in the middle of a move this month especially, I’ve been reading a lot more fiction to cope 🙂

  • Care July 30, 2012, 4:29 pm

    Condolences on the loss of your grandfather. Hugs.
    My reading this month (july) compared to June is vastly different and I don’t really know what was so crazily accountable for that. But mood and letting it happen ebbs and flows, I find.

  • Trish July 30, 2012, 7:54 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your grandpa’s passing–I’ve only had one grandparent pass away but it’s hard. I hope you’ll have some beautiful memories. In terms of your questions–absolutely. I think part of the reason I’ve been spending so much time in the kitchen is because recipes seem to be the only thing I can read with full attention. I’ve been doing a lot of audiobooks but still find myself zoning out for big chunks of time. Glad your groove is coming back. I love what you say about owing the BOOK.

  • Andi July 31, 2012, 1:38 pm

    This has been a ridiculously “unmoored” kind of year for me all around. As a result, I’ve fled into some new and unusual-for-me types of books, but I’m ok with it. I’m enjoying my reading more than I have in years.

    Here’s hoping you feel yourself again soon.

  • Florinda August 1, 2012, 9:24 pm

    My fiction/nonfiction balance, when left to my own reading devices, tends to be the opposite of yours–it’s more like Alex’s. When I’m particularly emotionally stressed, I tend to read nonfiction because it helps focus my brain–but when the stress is more mental, I want to be distracted with a good story. And when neither of them really does the trick, I’ll watch TV