Let’s Talk Bookish: How Reading Affects Mental Health

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic was suggested by Kristin @ Lukten Av Trykksverte and is How Reading Affects Mental Health.

In what ways does reading affect your mental health? Does it affect your mental health positively or negatively at certain times, and why?

For me, reading positively affects my mental health. It gives me a place to escape to when I need a break from the world and I love being able to make connections with characters. It can be so powerful to find pieces of yourself in a character and to be able to relate to their struggles. It helps you feel like you’re not so alone in the darkness sometimes. And watching your favorite character grow through the book or series can be an encouragement to work on yourself too in your own struggles or give you the courage to speak out about things you need to or things you know need more attention by the public. I also love being able to lose myself in characters’ romances. Living vicariously through them can bring such a huge smile to my face or even make me cry. The only time reading affects my mental health negatively is when I have too many review books to read. I’ve definitely gotten myself into trouble on NetGalley before and over-requested only to be granted more books than I had anticipated. The deadlines got to be very stressful for me and I had terrible FOMO (fear of missing out) when I saw friends reading new releases and I had commitments I needed to fulfill before being able to join them. I’m much more careful now about requesting books!

How do you find a balance to keep up with reading while being mindful of your mental health?

I am very much a mood reader. I haven’t been active on this blog for very long but don’t be surprised if you see my wrap-ups don’t fully match my TBRs for the month. I used to be very strict with myself as a teen. I was very routine-oriented. I was very goal-driven. I still enjoy routines at times and I still love to have goals to shoot for, but I’m much more gentle with myself than before. If I want to read a book instead of wiping down my bathroom mirrors, I’ll go ahead and read my book first instead of chastising myself about duties first that can actually wait a few hours. If I’m not feeling a book and would rather go read a fanfiction, I will. If there’s a book I was determined to read this month but instead find myself longing for a different one, I read the new one instead. I find being kind to myself and listening to what I really want is what’s best for my mental health and gives me much more peace.

Do triggers, bookish controversies, and things like that affect your health a lot more than you let on?

Controversies definitely get to me at times. And I sometimes have book guilt. Is that even a word? By that, I mean I feel guilty for liking or enjoying a controversial book. With the rise of cancel culture, I’ve found that many people assume that if you enjoy [insert controversial book/topic] then that means you’re a bad person. And some take it way too far and jump from A to Z such as saying that if you like this character that acts like a jerk then you must like being abused, etc. It’s really difficult to understand where they are coming from sometimes. I even avoid adding some books to my Goodreads account because I really don’t want to be bothered by people who think they need to regulate what the world reads. I do think it’s important to speak of triggering topics or controversial subjects in books so that more naive readers won’t fall into thinking that some relationships or behaviors are normal and healthy but I also don’t think that these books should be erased from history or boycotted because they deal with heavier topics. Readers should be informed but also be allowed to read what they want without massive criticism from other random people on the internet or be judged for what they choose to read. That isn’t good for anyone’s mental health.


Have you ever had “book guilt” too? Are there some authors that you’ve stopped reading from due to controversies? Let me know in the comments below and happy reading!

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: How Reading Affects Mental Health

  1. I also sometimes feel book guilt! I just remind myself that you can enjoy a problematic book as long as you know what the problems are. It’s fine to enjoy things that make you happy and it doesn’t make you a “bad person” for enjoying them. People who claim that also ignore that plenty of people use books like that as a coping mechanism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dani, you are so right! I completely agree with what you said and included the coping mechanism point in the upcoming Toxic Relationships LTB. (You guys always select such good topics by the way!) Hopefully there can be a better narrative in the future that can recognize you can enjoy controversial or heavier books without being labeled a certain thing. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

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