10 June 2011

Literary Blog Hop: No book is an island

Literary Blog Hop

This week's Literary Blog Hop, sponsored by The Blue Bookcase, asks an interesting question: What other outside influences affect your reading experience? Do you think these influences enhance or detract from the experience?   

Well, no book is an island, but neither is a reader.  This isn't meant to be a cop-out, but when I come to a book,  I think that I, like most readers, bring everything I have experienced in my life to the reading of it.  Sometimes there's not much in my experience that speaks to any given book, it's true. But when I'm reading a book about bullying (like last year's By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead),  parts of the book reduce me to a shivering mess, having been on both sides of the bully equation. When I'm reading a book like The Help, set in the very city which I called home for a long time, I seem to settle even more deeply into a book and find it harder to shake the sense of loss I feel when the book ends.  Knowing something personal about an author, or a location where a book is set, or having professional knowledge of a subject (or just an interest in) an author is writing about--all of these things contribute to my interpretation of a book, certainly, but on the most elemental level, they are what make me read or not read something to begin with. 

I think it's the same reason why books affect us differently at different times in our lives--it's because we're essentially different people at different times of reading.  

I also think that just as often, books can be the outside influence on other aspects in my life.  For example, I can't imagine how my vacation on Prince Edward Island would have felt if I hadn't been immersed in the lore of L. M. Montgomery's books, but since I was, for every place I went on the island I felt as if I were seeing it from Anne's point of view (or, to a lesser degree, Emily's).  I felt an actual thrill when I laid eyes on The Lake of Shining Waters.  It would have been just another pretty pond in any other location. 

So basically, our life experiences shapes our books and our reading shapes our life experience and it goes ever, ever on. 


  1. Beautifully done post-do you find your reading of a work is somehow influenced by the works you read right before it?

  2. Nice post. I definitely find I'm influenced by outside elements when reading. Not only is it my own experience, but the mood I'm in when I read a book, the distractions around me, all of it can turn a book I'd normally enjoy into something that I just can't get excited about.

  3. it's our past history that we bring to the party.

  4. I love the last part of your post about how books influence your life as well. I think that is the hope of many writers and reading teachers.

  5. Oooh, you did the Anne thing! I want to do that and it's on my list as soon as my child's feet stop growing because I am not kidding you, he has needed a new pair of tennies almost every payday since last year - 10.5 at age 13. And Boy #2 has just started sleeping and eating like a horse and I think he's going to need new tennies very soon. Okay, no need to continue on with my story. Good Night.


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