Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Books You Read When

Sorry I'm late posting today. Last night I was baking cookies for band camp and a new recipe for shortbread decided to give me some grief. Fortunately it all worked out, and now the kids will have some homemade snacks to balance out all the store-bought stuff they usually munch on.

I don't often read when I cook (I like not burning dinner) but baking usually requires some significant wait time in between tasks, so I started Barbara O'Neal's How to Bake a Perfect Life. It's a strong, very emotional story interspersed with lots of interesting recipes, and reading it while I was baking created the perfect atmosphere. With the cookies in the oven my kitchen became a warm, cozy perfumery of vanilla and brown sugar and chocolate, and made me feel as if I were in the book, working alongside Ramona, the baker protagonist.

It also made me realize how often I choose a book to suit what I'm doing. Barbara O'Neal is great to read while working on an extended cooking project, as is Peter Mayle, Poppy Brite or Anthony Bourdain. When I'm sewing I take a break with a quilt book or an art magazine, but I also read historical romance by Mary Balogh or Liz Carlyle, I suppose because sewing and needlework are my strongest personal connection with the past. When I'm cleaning house, for example, I always take a break with an urban fantasy, a strong contemporary or paranormal romance, most often by Patricia Briggs, Larissa Ione or Marjorie Liu. I think while I'm vanquishing dirt, dust and dog hair I feel more in tune with someone doing the same with evil demons (not to be read while cooking however; as I learned the last time Stephanie Tyler made me burn dinner.)

My moods sometimes dictate what I take off the TBR pile to read, too. If I'm happy and things are going well I like to read nonfiction or a how-to because I'm open and more inclined to learn something new. Whenever I get the blues, however, only poetry appeals to me; probably because it's always been my reading security blanket (for comfort, e.e. cummings, Keats or Rilke are most frequently my go-to guys.) I read most any type of fiction to relax at night after a long day at the keyboard, but when I'm particularly frustrated or I've had a bad day I always gravitate toward dark fiction with attitude, like one of Rob Thurman's Cal Leandros novels.

Do you choose what you read based on what you're doing? Do you have any perfect reads for certain situations or moods? Let us know in comments.


  1. Oh, I can't read when I cook...there would be nothing but charred bits to serve.

    I just read based on my mood.

  2. I tend to read historical romance when I am feeling blue or unsettled, because having most things work out in the end makes me happy. Well, and the beautiful clothes and horseback riding and needlework and dancing doesn't hurt either. I have to be in the right frame of mind for books with darker content or it tends to drag me down too much.

  3. The only time I read based on what I'm doing is when I'm sick or feeling bummed. Then I grab something that will make me laugh, like the Anne of Green Gables series, the Stephanie Plum series, or Calvin and Hobbes comics. Those books always cheer me right up!

  4. I usually read multiple books of different varieties over the course of several months. I'll read a romance or drama, a devotional, and a sci-fi(ish) book and then choose what to read each day by what my mood is.

  5. Whenever I have something challenging to tackle I seem to end up with Marjorie Liu or Rob Thurman. Winter snow storms send me searching for anything historical.

  6. I haven't noticed a pattern for what I'm working on, but for reading, I choose based on my mood.

    If I really want to sink my teeth into a book, I'll chose a historical, hard SF, or literary. When I need a break and something that will drag me in, captivate me for a little while, then let me go, I'll choose romance: historical, paranormal, or contemporary; or urban fantasy.

  7. Anne V.5:36 PM

    Yay! Rob Thurman. She just had her latest come out too-Basilisk which is the second in her Korsak brothers series. It is just as gripping and snarkastic as her Cal books.

    Aside from my new release must-read-now books I tend towards cycles of Fantasy, UF, SciFi, Romance-probably because I get hooked on a series and read through it only to switch to another author.

  8. I think we tend to read similar or the same authors. When I'm blue though I tend to go for scifi like the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I've probably read all the books a dozen times but it's like spending time with a best friend.