Discussion: How Break-Ups Affect Your Reading

Discussion 2

So, as those of you who follow me on Twitter know, my boyfriend broke up with me last Friday night. We were together for over two years – two years and three months, more or less. I really loved him and I love him still, and I'm heartbroken and miss him so much. It's been hard to find the motivation to blog; I'll try not to go too long until the next post, but if I'm not posting a lot, then you'll know why.

Plenty of really sweet people have sent me their love and hugs, and I've really appreciated it all (truly, if you were one of these people, thank you ), but that's not what I'm looking for by posting this. What I want is just to discuss how break-ups, or maybe other heartbreak and grief, affect our reading.

Immediately after the break-up, I thought to myself, I can't bring myself to read anything right now. Especially not those fluffy romances that I was planning to read for Contemporary Conversations. Before the break-up, I'd been hoping to read Kasie West's books for this week: On the Fence and The Distance Between Us. I'd also wondered whether to read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. But after my boyfriend broke up with me, I couldn't really stomach the thought of reading these books anymore. Even thinking about the cute couple-y covers for Kasie West's books made me really depressed.

In the first two days, I literally couldn't bring myself to read anything at all. I had no reviews scheduled for this week, and before the break-up, I'd been really looking forward to having some quality reading time over the weekend. Instead, I spent the weekend crying, marathoning comedy TV shows, and crying some more. I thought that even if I could read, I would much rather prefer reading an epic fantasy novel than a contemporary, so it could take me away from my life and I could really immerse myself in a different world. But I just couldn't summon any energy to read at all.

Then, on Monday, I started work experience at a literary agency (I will probably blog about the work experience in more detail in April, after it's ended). And the first task I was given was to read. I had to read some books written by authors that the agency is already representing so that I could get a feel for what kind of books they're looking for. So I was forced to start reading again, whether I wanted to or not. I was given My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, and The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss. Thankfully, all three novels are not fluffy romances in the slightest – I mean, there's at least some hint of romance in all three books, but they're not happy books. On the contrary, they're all sad in some way. Both My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and The Year of the Rat deal with the death of a family member.

Reading about these sadnesses that are different to mine helped me, I think; it put my own situation into perspective. At the same time, reading sad books obviously just made me more sad. But I also think that at this time, I'd much rather read a sad book than a happy book. I don't think I could deal with reading too much happiness right now; whenever I see any romance at all in these books, I feel myself reacting cynically to them in a way I never would have before. I don't think I could read a happy book and really believe in that happiness right now, and I would just ruin an otherwise good book for myself. So I'm going to save those happy books for when I can finally believe in happiness again.

Over to you! If you've gone through break-ups in the past, how did they affect your reading? Or, when you're going through something sad in general, do you find that you prefer to read happy books to cheer you up or sad books to show you that other people have gone through pain like yours? Do you like to avoid contemporary entirely and escape with genres like fantasy instead?

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15 thoughts on “Discussion: How Break-Ups Affect Your Reading

  1. The reaction that you are having, is the same reaction I've had in the past when hard stuff happens to me. First, I can't read. Then, I need heart wrenching sad novels, Third, I am so cynical. Reading your post was like reading my own experience. I still read contemporary, but I tend to read stuff that will hurt me, like really messed up NA or YA contemporary. These types of books do make me feel worse, but also good at the same time because I am letting it all out. I can't seem to let it out when it comes to me, I internalize it, but when it comes to books I let myself express my frustration and sadness and after several sad books I'm feeling better and everything is okay…
    Veronica @ The Talking Bookworm recently posted ContempConvos: The GIF Challenge

  2. My reading is often affected by my emotional state at any given time. I prefer happy books when I'm happy, and sad books when I'm emotional, really. I feel like that's a normal reaction, given that most of us would rather read characters + stories that we can sympathize with. I know that's definitely a big part of the reason I read!
    Alexa S. recently posted The Wrong Side of Right Launch Party (+ Giveaway)

  3. I've said it on Twitter, but again, I'm really sorry about your break-up and that things are difficult right now. I hope it doesn't take you too long to get past the sadness.

    In June last year, we were told that, although two months previously my Nan was in remission from her lung cancer, it had actually spread to her brain and she was terminal. I didn't read for a good while after that, I simply couldn't. But when I did... I didn't go for or avoid any particular books. I just read whatever I fancied. Some of those books were about death, and I went to see the movie of The Fault in Our Stars a little while after finding out (I'd already seen it, but my Mum wanted to, too), and I found they were actually helpful. Here is what I'm feeling in words, when I am unable to express myself. This is what I'm feeling. Also, the characters would get past the death of a loved one, things would move forward... and I found it gave me hope. Nan is still fighting, and when she dies it will be do hard... but I also know I'll move past it too. I've been told, through books, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that's been so helpful to me. Nan's in her last days now, and I've really been struggling, but it's comforting to know in a few months time, I could be ok again.

    Great discussion, Cynthia! Hope the pain eases soon.
    Jo recently posted Review: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

  4. Aww I'm really sorry that happened to you :( I only had one boyfriend in the past, and it wasn't a very good relationship at the end so I broke up with him. I wasn't sad at that time, but during the relationship I cried a lot and I also couldn't read when that happened. I also didn't read that much. But when I'm sad, I do tend to lean towards sad books. But I'm glad to see that you're watching comedy. I did that too. I would read funny books but I don't really know which ones to read.

    Hope you feel better over time Cynthia :(
    Valerie recently posted What Draws You Into A Book?

  5. I am sorry that this happened to you *hugs*

    When I went through a breakup awhile back, I felt like I went through stages of wanting to read different kinds of books (kind of like the stages of mourning?). At first, like you, I read books that were really depressing. They helped me cry and kind of get through that phase quicker (imo). Then I moved on to high fantasy, when I was more ready to let go of the past. And finally I went back to reading contemporary romance (which is my favourite genre) and surprisingly, I was actually happy for the couples in the books! That's when I knew that I was getting better :) Do not rush the process and take as much time as you need to process your feelings <3

    I am a new follower on twitter! :)
    Ee @ Bursting Books recently posted Review: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

  6. Ohhhh Cynthia D: *hugs you forever* I wasn't on Twitter till Wednesday really, so I totally missed that. I'm so sorry! *smothers you with love*

    I haven't had a breakup since I was 14, so I'm not sure how it affects my reading. But grief in general is a huge factor for me, and I've noticed that the type of grief really makes a difference too. When my parents divorced and dad moved out, I went straight to the books that let me wallow in my sadness. TEARS EVERYWHERE. This week a man I've known since I can remember who's pretty much my grandpa died, and I went straight to Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover - I needed something intense and angsty yet filled with life. And I paired it with the most violently techno music I could get my hands on - I wanted to feel alive, I guess. So the situation changes what I go for, but I tend to throw myself into books whenever something happens. It's my #1 coping mechanism.

    *hugs some more*
    Kayla @ The Thousand Lives recently posted Guest Post: Andi’s Opinions on Rereads

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  9. I am sorry to hear about your break-up! It must be hard going through that!
    I think I am more the other way around, but that might depend on the type of emotional stress you are going through. I can imagine that after a break-up romances are the furthest from your mind. I recently lost one of my pets and I was reading a depressing dystopia and while it worked for me on the day of the lose. Afterwards I felt myself craving happy books as if to counter my sad feelings? Interesting topic!
    Lola recently posted Sunday Post #118

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  11. Oh m'dear. I'm sorry to hear of your heartbreak =\

    I'm a bit of a masochist because when I broke up with my boyfriend last June, I read books that focused on love, like the Lovers Dictionary by David Levithan and I Wrote This For You from the pleasefindthis blog. Even though they were about love, they were about a lost love. There were so many excerpts that seemed so relevant to my life at that time. Sometimes they felt like a sucker punch, and they left me breathless. I have a tendency to disassociate from reality when life becomes challenging, so I need books like those to force me to feel. I think I may have cried harder reading those books than when I was actually walking away from someone that I loved. I don't know if that sounds messed up or if it makes me sound like a bad person...but I sort of had to shut down for a while-- he had been my whole life for nearly six years.
    Jackie recently posted Teaview: Of Insecurities and the Jewel of the Arya Estate

  12. I'm not the best person to give relationship advice, considering I've never been in a relationship before. But I honestly hope that you give yourself time to heal, and not to stress over the blog or anything. we'll be here to support you no matter what, even me, who's absolutely new here!

    I truthfully am the worst sort of mood reader. I'm taking part in Contemporary Conversations right now, and I spent the last week reading everything but contemporary. I don't know how a breakup would affect my reading at all.

    *hugs* Anyway, I wish you all the best. If I'm down, I love surrounding myself with other people, or eating chocolate, if I could find some. Chocolate's the best! *hugs you once more*
    Shannelle C. recently posted Book Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

  13. So sorry to hear this :( But I would probably be the exact same way! I don't think I could stand to read anything too fluffy or filled with romance. I'd want epic adventure and high fantasy, although even then I don't know if I'd be in the mood to read until maybe a few weeks later. I know from experience it gets easier. It won't suck this much forever <3
    Rosie // Rosie Reads recently posted Top Ten (37): Books I Remember From My Childhood

  14. Oh, I am so very sorry! That has to be very hard, and I cannot imagine reading a fluffy romance during a time like that (or you know, for a long time after that)!

    But you have touched upon something that I had wanted to talk about myself but was kind of too afraid to- How reading, especially contemporary, can be SO hard because I feel this longing to have what the people in the books have. Like, with a fantasy, or sci-fi, or dystopian, or any other genre, you can kind of distance yourself from the character, because you aren't EVER going to be an assassin (I hope?) or a princess, or have magic, or live on Mars or whatever. But in contemporary, I feel like the only thing keeping me and the character separate is often happiness. And that is really, really hard.

    I really, really hope you are able to believe in happiness again soon. <3
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted April 2015 New Release Giveaway Hop Sign Ups!

  15. Our emotional state definitely affects our reading. I can totally understand why you would have a hard time reading about happily ever afters when you have just lost yours. My heart is breaking for you and I don't even know you! I hope that you find plenty of books that will help you get past your pain and that will affect you in a positive way right now!
    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted Walled by Anne Tibbets – Review

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