I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it even means to enjoy a book or not, and how there are a lot of factors that may influence your experience with a particular story in a positive or negative way.
There are so many books I think about and wonder: would I have liked this less/more if […]? So I wanted to talk about some of the things I’ve noticed have an effect on my reading. I also want to say beforehand that not all books will be affected the same way, and if a book is meant to be for you then not much else will matter.
Mood & time
Mood is a given: if I’m sad or angry and the book doesn’t manage to make me forget the cause of my mood, of course I won’t enjoy it. The opposite is also true: if I’m relaxed and happy, then I will be more lenient of things I would maybe find annoying under other circumstances.
I am a slow reader. Reading a book takes a lot of time and sometimes I become so hyper aware of time passing that I just can’t enjoy reading anymore. This happens randomly sometimes and I don’t know if it’s an ADHD thing, but most of the time it’s because I know there’s something else I could (or should) be doing, be it homework or chores around the house.
The genre that’s most affected by my sense of time passing is contemporary, especially if it’s YA. It’s one of the reasons I’m not enjoying this genre so much anymore, unless I’m truly relaxed and give myself permission to read it.
Don’t get me wrong, I never think that reading is a waste of time, but sometimes the book just isn’t good enough for me not to feel bad about not doing something else, and it’s mostly just my ADHD/anxiety-riddled brain that’s telling me I should feel like this while reading.
I think since discovering audiobooks, format has been THE biggest factor that influences my enjoyment of a book.
I’ve listened to so many books that ended up being some of my favorites and that I know I wouldn’t have had the patience to even start in the conventional way, and if I had started them I would’ve felt like it was taking me too long, taking me on a spiral of why am I sitting here reading this (see section above). With audiobooks not only is the reading speed (I usually listen on 1.5x or 1.6x) higher than my own, I also can’t really get distracted and go on twitter like I do when I normally read, because I listen to them while doing something with my hands (usually chores or cooking, sometimes phone games if I’m done with everything but still want to keep listening).
I also don’t feel like I’m wasting my time because I’m usually reading them while I’m doing something I would’ve needed to do anyway, in fact I feel like the books are increasing the quality of my time because it’s literally just me multitasking and getting things done, while getting me closer to that goodreads reading goal.
It sounds silly maybe but audiobooks made me rediscover liking books even when they don’t end up becoming my favorites. I used to feel sad if a book was “only” four stars for me, and thinking back I know some of the five stars I’ve given were actually four stars that I just didn’t know how to rate, because hey, I liked the book, so why shouldn’t it be five stars?, but then I realized if I really enjoyed my experience it didn’t matter that it’s not a five stars. I started rediscovering that with audiobooks and now it’s happening with books I read the “normal” way too, and it makes me so happy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving a lot of five stars and I’ve done that a lot in the past but I’m seeing my ratings now are getting more fair and I’m a bit truer to what I really think about the books I’m reviewing.
Spoilers (and what does that mean?)
Spoilers are… a funny thing. Everyone sees them differently and there’s always some recurring twitter discourse around them.
I am personally really picky sometimes: with some books, for whatever reason, I want to know nothing before reading. I even avoid reading the blurb. Not because I think having a general idea of what the book is about is a spoiler, but some books just give me this vibe that I will enjoy them more if I don’t know a single thing about them.
Sometimes though I actively look for some spoilers (especially things like………who ends up with who if it’s not clear from the start lmao) and knowing makes reading more enjoyable in these cases.
Something that actually affects how emotionally involved I am in a book is people telling me how much something is going to make me cry, to prepare paper tissues and so on. I am definitely guilty of doing this myself, but when people do it to me I am much more emotionally detached by the time I reach the part they were talking about. I still process what’s going on and feel for the characters and maybe even cry about it later or when/if i reread, but while reading I feel like I’ve already built myself a mental wall and I can’t even cry. (Again, I’m so guilty of doing this to my friends and if it’s as annoying to you as it is to me please let me know and I will refrain from it in the future!)
Similarly to this, when people say there’s a big plot twist coming, it kind of defies the whole purpose of the twist. Especially if this is a goodreads update where you can see the page or percentage of the book, so by the time you get there you’ll know it’s coming and it’s just no fun.
An audiobook narrator can make or break a book. I’ve had mostly positive experiences, but there are some narrators that just don’t work for me or give off a different vibe than what the book is trying to achieve.
If we’re talking about the internal narrator or POV character, that can also be a factor that makes me enjoy the book less or more. It’s tricky because I almost never go “hey, this book would work best if it was in another character’s perspective,” but sometimes even though the book is interesting I just don’t like the POV character and how their train of though works (especially in 1st person YA contemporaries).
There are other times when a narrator is absolutely delightful and even if they only get a few chapters it makes me want to read a whole book in their POV. And speaking of which, I adore when books have multiple POVs (another reason why I’m getting Really back into adult fantasy).
Generally speaking, having expectations about a book is not always a great thing. It might be that the book is really good and you love it but it’s simply not what you were in the mood for because the blurb/reviews made you think it was something different.
Although having low expectations and ending up loving the book can be one of the best feelings when reading.
Fandom (fanart, memes…)
This is something we don’t always get in western book fandoms unless the book is really popular and/or slightly older. But being in fandoms where there’s a lot of fanart and memes can be such a fun experience and it makes you relive the book over and over and the more you see it on your timeline the more you can’t get it out of your head, sometimes even ending up in your favorites when maybe it wasn’t at first.
On the other hand, a book you loved that has no fandom will stay in your memory but it’s not the same as seeing it every day on twitter, and eventually you’ll forget a lot of it to the point where you’re not even sure if it still classifies as one of your favorites.