I love it when people ask me for book recommendations. A lot of my friends and family know me as the bookworm, so come to me in person or via text message or social media for suggestions on what book they should read.
But sometimes, I just can’t help them. And I feel horrible about it. I want to help, but I can’t.
You see, when someone asks me for a book recommendation I always ask them what kind of books and stories they like. If they recently enjoyed a fantasy or a romance or a young adult comedy I have boatloads of book suggestions. But if they tell me they liked this thriller or that suspense or that horror novel…well…I can’t really give any ideas on what else they might like. Why? Because I don’t read those books much. I might read one thriller in a year. And horror – nope. Not happening.
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There’s a reason I don’t read thriller or horror novels. They deeply affect my mood and consume my thoughts.
Six years ago I read a ton of murder-mystery and crime thrillers. I read four or five of them back to back. They were all novels about people being kidnapped, tortured or murdered. They were intense. They affected me. And it was not good.
I wasn’t sleeping well. I felt tired and run-down. I was sad. All the time. My mind was consumed with thoughts of the books, replaying internal images of violence and death and fear and pain. I couldn’t focus on my work. I was even more afraid of the dark than I usually am. I was hyper-aware of darkness and shadows and the potential for violence.
It took me a while to realize it, but the books I was reading were affecting me. My mood, my mental health, my sleep. It was unhealthy. I was afraid. I was sad. I was tired. I was unhappy.
So I stopped reading thrillers and suspense novels. Instead, I went back to fantasy novels, YA romantic comedies, women’s fiction and romance novels. My mood immediately improved.
The entertainment we consume, whether it is books or TV or movies or video games affects us. Sometimes it affects us a lot, sometimes it’s more subtle. But it does affect us.
These days, I still notice when a sad book or one that has more intense themes (usually a fantasy novel or a literary one) affects me. I try to follow that book with a lighter read, like a feel-good romance or a cozy mystery.
I’m a happier reader because I read what makes me happy.
If you enjoy thrillers and suspense novels, go ahead and read them, my friends. Read them and enjoy the thrill. But can I suggest once in a while you try out something a little lighter? See how you feel. As for me, I’ll keep my eye on book twitter and bookstagram to see what other readers I know are saying about the new suspense novels. That way, when you ask me for a suggestion, I can point you in their direction and everyone can find a book to enjoy.