Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book talk: 5 stages of going through a book break-up

Disclaimer: This column originally appeared on

Recently I’ve been reading (or attempting to read in this case) an urban paranormal fantasy novel.

The book had everything I thought I was looking for in a fun, light yet action-packed novel about my favourite kind of mythological creature.

Kick-ass heroine? Check. Snarky rockstar fairy way too big for his arrogant boots? Double-check. Interesting mythology that forms the backbone of the entire story?

Well, I can’t say for certain, because after about 105 pages in, I finally gave up the ghost with this one (There was a creepy spider-fae queen though. That much I know).

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those readers who hate giving up on a book.

Sure, I like to advocate that life’s way too short to suffer through a book you’re just not connecting with, but I find that advice often hard to follow myself. Having said that, there have been a number of books and series that, over the years, I simply had to toss aside out of pure grief and frustration.

The Big Book Break-up is what I like to call it.

What I’ve found is that whenever I’m going through one of these break-ups, there would be some emotional resistance that would form part of the process. Much like the 5 stages of grief, here are the emotions I go through whenever I’m in the process of breaking up with a book.

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1. The big book denial
This is the stage when I’ve usually gotten around to the first 50 to a 100 pages or so and am convinced that while things haven't gotten off on a great start, the story will get better. Oh the youthful optimism of this phase – it lulls me into a false sense of security every single time.

2. The “what’s wrong with me?” moment
Here’s where I start blaming it on everything but the book. I go from blaming it on my mood and reading settings, to wondering whether there’s something wrong with me (I especially start doubting myself when my friends are all about the love for the book in question).

See? It’s that “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario some couples like to play. Except in my case, I only come to the conclusion that it’s not me when I’ve reached the very last stage of fighting to hold on to a relationship with a book that should have ended (p)ages ago.

3.  Book bargaining
Ah, the point of negotiation. By now, I’ve reached a point where I’ve (usually) finally admitted to myself that the book in question may not be all that I was hoping it would be. Yet, something in me will hesitate because WHAT IF IT GETS BETTER? And what if there's a huge plot point I could be missing out on?

Fear of missing out is a huge curse for most book lovers and it’s one that rears its ugly head when I really don’t need it to. I mean, I could be reading a better book, for goodness sake.

Instead, my inner dialogue chooses this moment to pipe up and talk about all the possibilities that I could be missing out on, as opposed to the probabilities of a better book I could be focusing on instead.

4. Taking a break to read something else phase
If you're a stubborn book quitter like me, you'll know that by now, you've reached a stage where your need to finish the book is overriding the desire to move on to a new book. So, instead of giving up like you should, you decided to take a break and read something else in between.

In this case, the book that I decided to read, ended up being so much better than the one I’ve been relentlessly holding on to.

5. The big book chucking
And that, my fellow book darlings, is the very moment I decided to finally toss the book aside. I mean really, who needs that kind of torture?

You’d think I’d know this by now, but apparently I need to experience a better book every time to be reminded that a) life is way too short to read bad books and b) there are way too many books out there spend so much time trudging through a read that feels more like a chore than a brand new adventure.

How about you? What kind of stages do you go through when loving, loathing or giving up on a book.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book talk: All the Sad Places (on books and the power they have to get you through some of the worst days)

Disclaimer: This column originally appeared on

Books might not be able to completely cure depression, but they do get you through some of the worst times.

Emptiness. Numbness. Endless sadness. Never-ending feelings of apathy, malaise and melancholy.

These are just some of the feelings that many of us associate with depression.

It’s feelings most of us are familiar with and emotions we all need to talk about. But we often don’t because we’re either, a) not sure how to broach the subject or, b) scared that we will be made to feel ashamed of the way we’re feeling.

One of the most recent books that I’ve read is a book called All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It’s a novel that tackles the subject of mental health problems, with a strong focus on suicide and depression.

It’s a novel that’s drawn both praise and criticism; adulation for its unflinching and no-holds barred approach to the reality of what depression really does to a person, and disapproval because the tone of the book, in many parts, seems to make light of it.

I elaborate and address this issue in my review a little more, so I won’t be going into too much detail here.

What I can tell you is that this novel got me on so many levels.

Yes, it’s a book that doesn’t get it 100% right, but any book that can make you look beyond its flaws and leaves you feeling as if your life has just been made a little better for it (simply because you feel like someone understands), is a book that’s worth being one of my favourites of 2015.

One of the quotes that have stayed with me ever since:

“It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”

That passage sums up everything about my battle with depression. It’s a feeling of hopelessness that travels around you because you’re sad for so many different reasons.

You feel sad and guilty and you want to make it easy on the people around you, but can’t because, you don’t understand your own illness yourself.

I love this book because it shows that you can put up a normal front and still be dying from the inside. I love it because it depicts the good days and the bad. But mostly, I love it because it’s honest enough to tell us that sometimes the battle is so hard that it never seems like you’re ever going to win.

This book hit me hard, but I’m glad, because in many ways it brought me comfort, the way so many books that don’t touch on the topic of depression, already do.

And that’s the thing about books like All the Bright Places and books in general. As long as they keep me reading, then I know that I can get up and face another day.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect day, just as long as it’s another day. Because the day that I know that I can’t pick up a book to read, is the day that would mean I’ve given up completely.

What books have helped you through difficult times?