How Do I Pick My Reading Material?

Well, I guess I’m just an old fuddy-duddy when it comes to “what to read.”  I love classics:  Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Hawthorne, Tennessee Williams, and jeekers crow, I just read Gulliver’s Travels in two days!  That was trippy.  Now I’m reading Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  Hemingway is also good.

I have to read anything that has to do with traveling for the sake of adventure.  Tolkien’s masterpiece story cycle, of course, which I think I have gobbled up at least five times; Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer), Into the Woods (Bill Bryson), and (drum roll) my own memoir-in-progress, A Runaway Life (you can read snippets here).

Sometimes I pick by genre, and seek out books that call out to me by browsing Amazon.

Sometimes I do the radical thing, and actually go to a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore, if I happen to be “in town,” which is an hour-and-a-half from the town in which I live when I’m in America.  Here in Jerusalem, there are several cozy coffee houses sporting floor-to-ceiling book stacks.  You are welcome to browse, pick, sit, and read over your cuppa as long as you like, in the big overstuffed chairs each with its own floor lamp.  Yum.

Sometimes I’ll be at my parents’ house, where NPR is permanently blasting (they are hard of hearing) and Diane Rehm or Terry Gross will be interviewing some lucky author. If it speaks to me I’ll instantly grab my laptop and order that book.  Thus came The Help, The Life of Pi, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and others TNTC (Too Numerous To Count.)

Then there’s the genre of books about mental illness.  This is a mental illness blog, after all. I’m not so keen on books about the scientific aspect, since that is readily available on the Web.  I like experiential memoirs, like Get Me Out Of Here by Rachel Reiland.  It’s the story of a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder who, by means of hard work, an incredibly understanding husband, and a lot of money, managed to struggle her way out of the labyrinthine clutches of a very difficult illness.  I don’t have PBD, but the story of her getting the upper hand on her illness inspires me.

Likewise, Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures has been an immense help to me in understanding Asperger Syndrome, which I do have.

And finally, the most dear to my hear: the books that people give me out of love.  Precious Bane, by Mary Webb, is a virtually unknown gem by a virtually unknown author.  Mary Webb (1881-1927) lived and wrote in the Lake District of England.  Her love of nature and highly descriptive prose is nothing less than magical.  I now own all of her books.  Some are more to my taste than others, and Precious Bane is the pearl of them all, in my literary opinion.  If you haven’t read it, please do.  My copy, given to me by a special friend, is dated 1929; but you can download yours on Amazon!

My reading habits in the Blogosphere are mostly shaped by the wonderful mental health blogging community, of which I am privileged to be a part.  Many of the bloggers I read have become dear friends.  We share our deepest emotional experiences here, and we have created a totally safe and supportive network.  For many of us, our blogging community has become our lifeline and some of us feel that it is a very effective form of group therapy, sometimes even more effective than “live” group therapy because the level of trust in the mental health blogging community seems to be higher, and it’s possible to choose one’s “group” rather than being assigned to a random cohort.

I read about five blogs regularly, and a few more when they happen to come across my radar screen in comments.  Then I’ll cruise over to their blog and check them out, maybe leave a comment, and if I like what they’re up to, I’ll subscribe and follow them in my Reader.

So, my fellow Bloggies, how do you pick your reading material?  Can’t wait to hear!

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45 Comments

  1. This is a well-thought-out and nicely written response to the daily prompt. Get Me Out of Here sounds like a great read.

    Reply
    • Thanks! It really is a wonderful read for anyone who struggles with a mental illness, or who wants to understand BPD from an inside perspective. I will editorialize here and say that no two cases of BPD are alike!

      Reply
  2. Ohh fun. Thanks for all the suggestions, I’ve been wanting to read up the classics, see all tbe big gong-ho about them all these years, I’ll keep these in mind !(:

    Reply
  3. Since it’s so difficult to comprehend, remember and concentrate I’m unable to read books. I have an account at Audible.com (a company affiliated w/Amazon) where I download books and listen to them. I’ve got some real gems in my Library that are stored on my iTunes: “Roots,” “The Help,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Chaperone,” “The Thirteenth Tale,” “The Kitchen House,” “My Mother Was Crazy” (Penny Marshall’s autobiography — I’m not big on autobiographies by famous people but hers was excellent!!) to name a few.

    Reply
    • Oh that’s great! When my son was a teen he was in and out of rehab and therapeutic boarding school in the Northeast. I lived in the South, so I had my own private groove carved in I-81. I did it al courtesy of Audible. I heard all of Dickens that way, and since my memory is for sh*t I went right ahead and listened to it a second time!

      Reply
  4. Well, my blog covers two topics that are dear to me: my religion and mental illness. Therefore, my reading material consists of books on Christianity (I even like the big coffee-table books), comparative religion, and issues that I’m dealing with (ex: Boundaries in Marriage).

    I also like reading Grisham, but I think I’ve read all of his. 😦

    Reply
    • I’ve read some of your blog (i.e, lurking) and I really like it. The Boundaries book is great. Unfortunately I have not been able to put it to use because my bipolar illness is an atomic bomb when it comes to relationships….but I hope it’s helping you!

      Reply
      • Thank you for reading my blog! Lurkers are always welcome. 🙂

        The Boundaries book is helping me a little in my professional life. However, it’s hard for me to be around large groups of people (including friends), so I haven’t gained enough confidence to use it in all aspects of my life.

        Reply
        • I can relate. I think that’s one reason all us bloggies are having a great time in the blogosphere: no pressure, no eye contact, no expectations, and if you need some time for yourself, hey, you’re the boss. If I could get paid for just blogging along like I do, hell, who needs a day job. Even if I am disabled and labeled an official recluse by a federal judge. That always cracks me up. Sorry, I’ve lapsed into stream-of-consciousness again…xoxoxo

          Reply
          • It’s OK! You can always vent around me. 🙂

            I have thought the same thing: My dream job would be to get paid a decent salary to blog.

            You summed up everything perfectly: “no pressure, no eye contact, no expectations, and if you need some time for yourself, hey, you’re the boss.”

            Take care! 🙂

            Reply
  5. savemefrombpd

     /  October 2, 2013

    My concentration is so bad since having the breakdown that I don’t manage to read unfortunately. I’d love to get back in to reading though. I much prefer non-fiction than fiction. I like reading things that ‘give’ me something, like something to learn, to educate myself etc.

    Watch this space 🙂

    Reply
    • I totally get that one. There are still times, even though I’m considered “stable,” that I can read the same book over and over and still not remember a thing. Oh well, saves money that way :-0

      Reply
      • savemefrombpd

         /  October 2, 2013

        Hehe, definitely does.

        I have the ‘Get Me Out Of Here’ book you mentioned but it’s at my sisters… Don’t know. I can’t really do these memoir type BPD/mental health books right now. Brings up too much inside of me.

        Happy reading!

        Reply
        • Yeah, I was thinking of you, and thinking that book might be waaaaaay too triggering for you right now. I myself had a hard time with it and had to put it down a lot, and to tell you the truth I think it triggered a manic attack. So maybe that one might not be too safe for you.

          Reply
          • savemefrombpd

             /  October 2, 2013

            Hehe. But thank you for thinking about me. Yeah, doesn’t surprise me if it triggered you. My sister read it and loved it, but then again, of course, she would lol. For someone that doesn’t understand or really know about BPD, it’s a roller-coaster of a thriller, right!?

            Reply
            • Hmmmm, I reckon so. I sometimes wonder whether there is some element of voyeurism in neurotypicals who like to read about the agonies of mental illness, kind of like the perverse pleasure some people find in reading about physical torture. Not saying anything bad about your sister, chas v’shalom, but just reflecting on my experiences with the allure that seems to accompany other people’s suffering. I anticipate my memoir will sell well, because people love to read about other people’s bad news **sardonic laugh**. My mother absolutely salivates over books chronicling tales of woe. I like Dr. Seuss, myself 😀

              Reply
  6. bpnana

     /  October 2, 2013

    I enjoy your blog posts. Every classic you mentioned in the first paragraph is definitely on my list of favorites. I live in what is sometimes called “Steinbeck Country” (The Monterey Peninsula, CA) so we’re really fond of Mr. Steinbeck. I really love “Cannery Row”. I’m about a twenty minute walk from the inspiration for the story.

    Reply
    • Oh, how wonderful! I used to live in “Nathaniel Hawthorne Country,” and it is so cool to go walking around the very places he described. I think I would much prefer your territory, both for the scenery and the content! Thanks for enjoying my blog ((blush))

      Reply
      • bpnana

         /  October 3, 2013

        Salem? I’m a many- years- ago transplant from New Haven, CT. I just adore “The House of The Seven Gables”. I haven’t read “The Marble Faun”, so that’s on my to read list. If you ever come out this way, let me know. It’s fab! And you live in a pretty fab place, too!

        Reply
        • Rehoboth, actually, but close enough to all the historic Southeastern Mass. places that a short drives lands you at Plymouth Rock….what a disappointment. As a child I thought that the Rock was going to be some massive, towering thing with a statue of Hester Prynne on the top like the Statue of Liberty. Oh well. Now I live part time in Jerusalem, Israel, and part time in Western North Carolina, a seething snake pit writhing with starving authors.

          Reply
  7. Lately, with no time (or patience) to really sit down and read a large novel, I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts along with others. I love the diversity of the writing, as I follow blogs on mental illness, travel, border collies, restoration, cooking, geocaching, and the environment. Maybe I have a short attention span or I’m fickle … Ha!
    When I do read, it tends to be reference books on horticulture or other books I’m reading to teach myself something like, ‘The U.S. Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Guide ‘
    But, I have 2 books that I completely recommend ; Dante’s Inferno and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe (all 5 books).
    The one book I TOTALLY want to read and comprehend b/4 I croak is Finnegans Wake.

    Reply
    • Wow, I really like your omnivorous reading habits! Especially the SAR manual. I was certified in K9 SAR for many years. Loved it. Finnegan’s Wake, now THERE’S a project!

      Reply
  8. babystepstonormality

     /  October 2, 2013

    Right now I’m reading Stephen King because it is October 🙂 October and December are the only months in which I do “themed” reading, but I try to stay pretty faithful to that. So I’m going to read The Shining and Doctor Sleep.

    The rest of the year, I either read what strikes my fancy, or a book for review. It just depends on whether I have a book waiting to be reviewed. I try not to swamp myself with them, though, because I have a wide range of tastes, and I can’t always predict what I’ll feel like reading. 🙂

    Reply
    • Oh yes, Stephen King! I Luuuuuuuv him but have trouble sleeping when I read him, so…..BTW for some reason he accepted my friend request on FB, so I have “from the horse’s mouth” that he is working on a book using novel languages (invented languages like Elvish, etc.) and this I can’t WAIT for!!!

      What and for whom are you reviewing? I get requests all the time to review books, and sometimes I do, but I must say it frightens me, and I have to tell the author that if I don’t like the book I will not write a review panning them; I just won’t write a review at all. What’s your take on that?

      Reply
      • babystepstonormality

         /  October 3, 2013

        I have a feeling The Shining is going to give me some trouble sleeping. 🙂 Horror books give me anxiety sometimes, and anxiety gives me insomnia. But it is October, so it is practically required reading! 🙂 And he’s just so good to read! 🙂

        I review on NetGalley, which is a site that gives out Advance Reader Copies to reviewers who review on blogs. Right now, I am about to start Thanksgiving, by Ellen Cooney. But I have done some reviews for authors I’ve met on Goodreads, as well, and that always made me anxious, because it is more personal.

        I try to be very picky about what I read, so I rarely get books that I have to give bad reviews to, so I can’t say I’ve ever faced that except for one time on NetGalley, but I had to write that review. I do agree, though. The way some authors react to negative reviews, if you are doing a review directly for the author, it may be safer just not to write a review if you didn’t like the book. Even well written, but negative reviews nowadays tend to get reviewers in hot water! 😦

        Reply
      • babystepstonormality

         /  October 3, 2013

        And I look forward to anything new by Stephen King, but that sounds very interesting, indeed!! 🙂

        Reply
        • I have no compunction about giving a random book on Amazon a negative review. But a couple of times I’ve had to write to authors and tell them that I could not in good conscience give them a positive review. I was once tapped for a review by a “celebrity author,” bling bling, but unfortunately the book was simply not to my taste. But I didn’t want to lose the opportunity of reviewing it, so I mined the book for its style and high points and wrote a review in the style of the book. It was a fun exercise and the author loved it (whew!). Such fun with books!

          Reply
  9. Hi.
    Since my concentration is next to nothing these days I mostly read short things, like blogs.
    For the past 3 months I’ve been trying to re-read an Anne Rice novel (I like monster stories). I also like Stephen King and anything Mary Roach writes. Doc.

    Reply
    • I understand completely. I often end up re-reading chapters or even whole books because my concentration wanders so. You are not alone! And your choice of reading material is indeed choice!

      Reply
  10. Wow that was really nice , your a very good writer I inspire to write like that one day !!

    Reply
  11. Great suggestions. As a social worker (aka “Mental Health Professional”), I also find fascinating memoirs about mental illness. I’m currently reading “The Center Cannot Hold” by Elyn Saks, and it’s great so far. I also read/skimmed “Women and Madness” by Phyllis Chesler, which is non-fiction but very compelling. Thanks for sharing Laura!

    Reply
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