Bookish Musings: What Exactly is Mood Reading?


We in the bookish community talk about mood reading a lot, but what exactly does that term mean? It’s one of those things that doesn’t really have one specific definition, and sometimes I wonder how different or similar all our individual definitions are, and maybe there are some readers out there who keep seeing the term but have no clue what it means and need some clarification, so let’s talk about it!

My Definition of Mood Reading

For me, mood reading has nothing to do with actual emotional moods. My emotions probably do have an impact on what I feel like reading, but not in a specific way. I don’t read X type of book when I’m happy and Z type of book when I’m sad.

When I refer to mood reading, what I mean is that sometimes I feel like reading a certain type of book. Here’s a list of examples of things I might be in the mood to read at any given moment:

– A certain genre
– NOT a certain genre
– YA
– Adult
– M/F romance
– M/M romance
– Menage romance
– No romance
– Family relationships
– Friendships
– Something funny
– Something dark
– Something light
– Something serious
– Something mysterious
– Something about a certain paranormal creature
– Something set in a certain time
– Something short
– A standalone
– A series
– Something about a certain topic or theme
– Something about a certain type of character
– Slow pace
– Fast pace
– Something super specific (e.g. one time I felt like reading a post-apoc in which completely different types of characters who normally wouldn’t associate or get along come together and become friends and there’s lots of struggles but also lots of touching moments)

Sometimes I’m in the mood for a combination of multiple things (e.g. once I wanted something NOT in the urban fantasy and that had no romance). Sometimes the thing I feel like reading isn’t even something I can put into words but more of a feeling. Sometimes a specific book will just jump out at me, and I’ll just know that THAT is the book I feel like. Sometimes though, I don’t know what I feel like, and that’s the worst.

And these moods, they change constantly. I might think, while I’m reading a book, that I’m going to want XYZ next. But then when I finish the book, oh, wait, no, my mood has changed, and now I actually want ABC. (Though, thankfully, I usually don’t switch moods during books.)

What causes these reading moods? Hell if I know. It’s a combination of everything, I guess—my emotions, my level of concentration, what types of books I’ve read recently (for example, I might get kinda burnt out on something and start craving the opposite, or I might find I’m loving something and want more of it), and who even knows what else. But books in series that I love tend to be immune to my reading moods—as in, I can usually read those as soon as I get my hands on them, regardless of my mood.


Other Possible Definitions

I suppose some people might be talking about emotional moods. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people say they feel like certain types of books when they’re happy, certain types of books when they’re sad, etc.

Maybe some people’s mood reading is always general, like they only feel like a certain genre but it’s never more specific than that.

…I don’t know what other types of things people might mean when they say they’re mood readers? If you have a different meaning from me, explain it to me in the comments!


Overall Thoughts

This wasn’t meant to be about pros and cons of mood reading since there are other posts about that, just what it means. So that’s pretty much it for my thoughts on the topic. You know my definition of the term “mood reading,” now I want to know yours!


Talk to me!

Are you a mood reader?
What's your definition of mood reading?


Your Thoughts


82 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: What Exactly is Mood Reading?

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  1. Greg

    I say I’m a mood reader all the time but I think my definition is like yours- it’s just whatever I feel like reading, it’s not like actual MOODS or emotional state or whatever. Although I will say that I sorta do plan usually a book or two ahead, so maybe in that sense I’m NOT a mood reader per se? Or maybe I am just generally. Like if I get in the mood for urban fantasy, or thrillers, I may read several of those before I feel like a different genre. I guess that’s more how I roll lol. IDK, good question though- I bet this will quite vary for everyone?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Maybe there’s a spectrum of mood reading lol. Cuz I know people whose moods change literally mid-book, and that’s why they read like 10 books at once and jump around. Versus me, who prefers one book at a time and stays in that mood throughout the book but don’t know what I’ll feel like next. Then you, who has genre moods(?) and is able to plan a few books ahead. But yeah sometimes I wonder if other people are talking about emotional moods?

      1. Lindsi

        Hey, that’s me! I totally jump around in the middle of several books. I don’t usually have trouble keeping them separate. However, two of the books I’m reading right now have a Matteo, which is confusing. There are also two that talk about stars and astronomy a lot, so it takes me a second to sort out which is which.

        1. Greg

          See I try to stick to one book at a time, or at most two, just so I don’t get em mixed up, but very rarely I’ll have more than two going. Comics don’t count of course, you can fit them in anytime! But yeah… I think I get GENRE moods, the more I think about it…

          1. Kristen Burns

            I try to stick to one book too, but lately I’ve had both an ebook and a print book going at the same time. More than two starts making me feel discombobulated lol.

  2. Lindsi

    I’m like you! It’s not my current emotional mood, but my bookish one. Sometimes I want realistic and friendship-oriented, and other times I want steamy sex scenes that make me blush and fan myself. I cannot plan ahead, which is why blog tours are sometimes difficult for me. Occasionally, I’ll have to force myself to read a book I’m not ready for, which can go either way. I think it does impact my overall feelings about the book, unless it ends up being something I didn’t know I wanted. Does that make sense?

    Like you, there are times when I want something very specific. Like, the other day I wanted ghosts. I don’t know why, but I wanted a book about ghosts that wasn’t scary. So sometimes I trap myself with what I want and being able to actually find it.

    When I don’t know what I’m feeling, THAT IS THE WORST. I start browsing OverDrive to see if something pops out. I do tend to change moods during books, which is why I’m always reading so many. Comics are a good distraction, too. Often I’m able to take a break, read comics, and then go back to my book.

    I just know that I definitely cannot plan books. It just doesn’t work for me. I’ve gotta be feelin’ it!

    Do You Dog-ear?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep yep yep. The worst scenarios are those times when you don’t know what you’re in the mood for and those times when you know exactly what you’re in the mood for but just CAN’T FIND IT. Both of those suck! When I get stuck in those “idk” moods, I tend to grab the next review copy I have with the closest release date, unless it just absolutely feels like the wrong book.

      That must be complicated to change moods during books lol. But nope, I can’t plan either! Sometimes I try, and I think I know what I’ll read next, but then it just doesn’t turn out that way. *shrugs* Mood reading, it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s who we are! πŸ˜›

  3. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books

    I have the same definition as you. I just feel like reading certain types of books at certain times for reasons unknown. It has nothing to do w/ my actual real life mood. Sometimes I get in the mood to read certain authors, sometimes I get in the mood to read some book I can’t even put into words what it is. One time I read the first page of every unread book in my house to figure out which book I was in the mood for. I am definitely a crazy mood reader!!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, those moods where you can’t really put it into words are tough sometimes because it makes it harder to find the right book. I’ve also had those times where I just kept reading the first few pages of books, unable to pick one that fit!

  4. Lucia @Reading Is My Breathing

    I consider myself to be a mood reader and my definition of a one is similar to yours. It is not connected to my emotions of being sad/happy/angry, but it is more like immediate feel, whether I feel like reading this or that genre at the given moment. It is hard to define exactly, but in my opinion one thing is given – mood readers cannot do reading schedules LOL.

  5. verushka

    I think I mood read to get a break from the darker fare I usually go to, when one of those books exhaust me. Now I have to think about this topic some more, because I feel like there might be a mood I’m reading for and I haven’t realised it yet!

  6. Fanna

    That’s exactly what mood reading means for me, too XD While you are safe from switching moods during books, I can’t save myself from that one. Which is why I try picking up two or three widely different books at the same time. Because while one night I want to bite my nails wondering who the mystery killer is, the other night I just want to keep giggling (or rolling my eyes) over cheesy scenes. Anyway, I try cherishing the mood while it lasts. It makes me enjoy the book more than I would’ve possibly enjoyed if I was on the completely opposite spectrum. I loved this post, Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I know other people who also read mult books at the same time for that reason! I generally just get immersed in whichever book I’m currently reading. There are definitely pros and cons to mood reading, and when you have one of those times when you find the right book that matches your mood perfectly, it’s great! Thanks!

  7. Karen

    Sometimes it is actual moods. I’m feeling down so I want something happy/swoony to help with that.

    A lot of times it goes by your general definition – genre, a certain type of trope/character.

    But I guess, for me, it means that I can’t make myself read something that I’m supposed to be reading. Like a review book, for example, if I’m not in the mood for that it will go badly.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think my actual moods do affect my reading mood, but not in a clear-cut way. Like, sometimes when I’m down, I want something like and fluffy. Other times when I’m down, I want something dark cuz light & fluffy will just make me feel bitter.

      1. Karen

        “Other times when I’m down, I want something dark cuz light & fluffy will just make me feel bitter.”

        I’m like that with music. I like really emo/ragey music when I’m down. I don’t want *it will get better/think positive* I don’t trust that lol

        1. Kristen Burns

          I’m like that with music too! Except it’s more that, if I listen to a happy upbeat song, I feel like I *should* be enjoying it and feeling happy, but I’m not, and that just makes me feel worse lol.

  8. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I always wondered about mood reading. Is it related to emotions, or is it just β€œI feel like reading this right now?” I’ve never considered myself a mood reader, but sometimes I get burnt out on a certain genre. I guess that’s a type of mood reading. Interesting post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay, that means my post was helpful to someone! I’ve come to the conclusion, from previous comments, that there’s a mood reading spectrum, so apparently you’re closer to the non-moody side but have a little bit of mood reader in you πŸ˜›

  9. Angela

    Yes, I agree with your definition of mood reading. For whatever reason, sometimes one book sounds way more appealing than another. Sometimes I want a short book, or a nonfiction. That’s why I always try to get a mix of books from the library.

  10. Chloe @ Book Dragons

    Oooo I share you definition of mood reading. Something else I’ve noticed is some readers crave Contemporary during summer and say Fantasy during Winter. So they’re not just a mood reader but also a seasonal mood reader (poor them) Thankfully I’m just a mood reader in the sense of I get cravings for certain genres.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention seasonal reading! My tastes don’t change much with the seasons either, but I do sometimes get in the mood for Christmas books around Christmas time πŸ˜›

  11. Laura

    My definition is definitely the same as yours: sometimes I just feel like reading a certain type of book. Unfortunately though, a lot of the time I only seem to know what I don’t feel like reading, as opposed to what I do feel like reading, so I end up just going through all my unread books desperately looking for something that appeals to me!
    Great post! πŸ™‚

  12. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    I assume most people mean you’re definition when they talk about mood reading. However, I don’t really have that problem too much. I tend to be okay reading whatever is on deck next (like a review book, etc.) but I do find myself wanting to read a lot of certain types of books sometimes. So yeah, I’m a bit of a mood reader, I’d say.


  13. Annemieke

    I’m not a huge huge mood reader. I can read from a monthly tbr pretty well. But sometimes I require something quick and fast or something that doesn’t require me to think as much. I do read multiple books at once. At least two most times. One downstairs and I have one next to my bed. Rarely do I take the book from downstairs upstairs with me and vice versa unless I am very into it and/or I am almost done.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I could never do the monthly tbr thing. That’s kind of funny that you have an upstairs book and a downstairs book πŸ˜› But I guess it saves you extra stair climbing if you were to forget to bring your book with you!

  14. JJ @ This Dark Material

    I tend to think of mood reading the same way you do πŸ™‚ My moods are usually more specific than just a type of book…when I’m trying to pick something new, I’ll stare at my bookshelves until a particular title jumps out at me! But I don’t often pick it for any particular reason, so I guess that kind of counts as mood reading?

  15. Jennifer | Book Den

    My mood reads are usually just something random that sounds right at the time. Maybe after reading something tense I want something lighter. Or I can’t focus very well so I need something short… I prefer to mood read over having a schedule. The right book at the right time is awesome, and it’s pretty impossible to plan ahead for that.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, my moods are the same! When you find just the right book for your mood, it makes for such a great reading experience! And nope, can’t plan ahead for that when you’r a mood reader.

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  17. Tizzy Brown

    My definition of mood reading is basically the same as yours. My emotions might influence it a bit in the sense that I tend to gravitate towards more light material when I’m sad, but generally, I’m just in the mood to read a certain genre. It depends on what I’ve been reading lately, what TV shows and topics have caught my attention, how much time I have on my hands, etc. Despite my huge TBR pile, I don’t have a specific system. I often find myself just wandering my hands along the book spines until something feels right. I might stare at the cover for a while, read the synopsis and then put it back and choose another. To outsiders, it must look very random. But it’s all based on intuition and as an INFJ that makes sense to me and is how I make a lot of my decisions.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m sure my emotions influence things in some way too, but it’s just never a consistent way for me. Exactly, it depends on so many things! And sometimes a certain book just sounds right, and you don’t even know why. Ooh, I’m an INFJ too! I never even considered how that might affect my mood reading πŸ™‚

  18. Di @ Book Reviews by Di

    Yeah, I agree. I think mood reading is more about reading what you want to read at that given moment – not following a set schedule. So, for me it can also mean continuing a series that I just started and chucking the reading schedule out the window for a while! It’s not about feeling happy and reading something happy… No, I didn’t even consider that. Ha ha.

    Glad our definitions are similar!

    I’ve become more of a scheduled reader since blogging… Because ARCS mainly. πŸ˜€ But I also like lietting my mood take me where it will – I think it’s important so you don’t just burn out. I’m reading for pleasure here!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, sometimes a good series binge is just what you need πŸ˜‰

      I’ve also become a bit more scheduled, in the sense that I keep a list of ARCs and try to choose my next book from the list based on my mood, rather than choosing from all the books I own. But sometimes I don’t feel like any of those books, so I try to follow my moods too!

  19. S. J. Pajonas

    I’m definitely a mood reader since I don’t do any reviews. And usually I have a good idea of what I want to read, by genre. Mystery or scifi or romance… I make a choice, and if that doesn’t work, then I try something else.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Trying to balance mood reading and reviewing can be tricky, so I can imagine it must be freeing to go wherever your mood takes you w/o any worry about release dates!

  20. Stephanie Jane

    I’m normally happy to pick up whichever book is ‘next’ in the order their reviews are due, but occasionally I just don’t fancy reading the one I’m supposed to and there’s usually no obvious reason for it at all. Maybe the cover is just too blue or it looks like it has too many pages or something else aesthetic. A lack of enthusiasm for me is rarely anything to do with the actual book content!

    1. Kristen Burns

      If I really can’t figure out what mood I’m in, then I also usually pick up whatever is next in the order of release dates. But if I can figure out my mood, then I try to go with it. Lol yeah sometimes we don’t even know why we’re not in the mood for a certain book, we just know that we aren’t!

  21. Tori @ InToriLex

    I’m not really emotional mood reader either. I try to stick to the TBR books I set out for myself and I’m usually excited for them all. I’m starting to read a graphic novel or poetry while i read novels and I think having the variety keeps me going.

  22. Fran

    Oh, it happens to me all the time, and it mostly is how I go by with picking my next read. Although, my mood reading has a lot to do with my actual mood. Once clear example I can give you is this. When I am feeling sad and feel like I want to cry, I know New Adult is the genre for me, as a lot of times it has that angst/drama I need to be satisfied. And if I am happy, I know I will enjoy a chick-lit.

  23. Elley @ Elley the Book Otter

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your definition. (And I love your list of examples, haha!) Sometimes I’m in the mood for a historical romance with a nerdy wallflower leading lady, and sometimes I want post-apocalyptic zombie sci-if with a focus on the epidemiology behind the zombie outbreak. The reading mood goddess can be a fickle mistress. ?

  24. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    I think my definition of mood reading is probably pretty similar to yours overall. It definitely focuses on what kind of book I’m in the mood to read, although I guess emotions could sometimes play a part in it. If I’m sad and want to read something funny in hopes of cheering myself up, for example.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I think emotions play a part for me too, but maybe not in a specific way. Although sometimes I also want something light or funny when I’m down!

  25. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Your version of mood reading is my version of mood reading. I do tend to prefer certain genres/types of books when I’m in a certain mood, like when I’m happy and it’s sunny out I’m far more likely to want to read contemporary/romance/YA type books but that’s not a given, it’s just something I’ve noticed. For me, when I’m picking what to read it’s either I’m stuck fancying reading one specific type of book for a while, like I’ll fall into a romance or fantasy mood that will last a couple of weeks, or I bounce from book to book and each time I’m in the mood for something totally different. I hate when you don’t know what you fancy reading but you know there’s something you want to read and you have to try and find it. I end up picking up about ten different books when that happens until I stumble across the right thing.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, sometimes I end up into a certain subgenre for a while, other times I just bounce around from book to book with different moods. But ugh, those moods where you just DON’T KNOW are the worst!

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  27. Bookworm Brandee

    I don’t know that my “moods” go so far as to dictate anything specific when it comes to reading. I just know that sometimes I’ve planned on reading something next and when I get to it, I don’t feel like starting it so I pick up something else. I don’t know that I could put a finger on the reason…although sometimes it is that I’ve read a lot of that particular genre and I’m tired of it. I think that when I talk about mood it’s more often that I’ve created a list of books I want to read and when it comes right down to it, I want to be more spontaneous than reading from the list. One time, I was planning on reading a specific book and when I searched for it on my kindle, a list populated as I was typing the title and…I decided something else looked really good even before I got to the title I had been searching for! Lately though, I’ve been put off by covers. Does that qualify as a mood? πŸ˜€ Great topic, Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      So you have more vague moods while I have more specific ones πŸ˜› Lol about finding a book in the list when you were searching for a different one. Sure, I imagine covers can play into reading mood! Thanks πŸ™‚

  28. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

    Kristen! I love this post!! Mood reading is practically undefinable for me so I just loved how you were able to put words to it! I did a reading challenge based on this idea of mood reading but I’m not even sure that i understand why i feel like one kind of book or another… I normally have to start reading before I know! I may even have to do my own discussion now that you’ve got my mind crunching… but I’ll certainly link to this post if you don’t mind!!?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! Yeah, idk why I have the moods I have, I just know I have them lol. I don’t mind at all if you want to do your own discussion about it and link to my post!

  29. Sam @ Spines in a Line

    I get what you mean, I think of it as being interested in a certain genre rather than based on emotions. I don’t really know if I do much mood reading though, it feels like so long since I’ve just picked something up. Lately it’s been either for review or something on my TBR that I’ve desperately wanted to get to

  30. Lola

    That’s my definition of moodreading as well, reading what I am in the mood for. Although it sure can be challenging at times to balance that with review copies and sometimes just finding out what you’re in the mood for which book to read when you decided what you’re in the mood for to find the right book can be difficult as well.

    My reading mood seems to constantly change and also while I am reading a book at times, although I still finish the book. I mostly start planning what I want to read next and then by the time I finish that book, my reading mood often has changed again and I go with something completely different.

    I always read two books at the same time, one in the evening and one during breakfast and lunch. Nowadays I always moodread my evening books as those usually take me weeks to go through and this way I am always reading at least one book I am in the mood for. For my other read on my ipad I read more review copies and I sometimes struggle with that one as I also feel guilty when I don’t read review copies in time and that prevents me from full moodreading there. I am most happy with my reading usually when I can mood read.

    I noticed another comment that said that when she’s happy she reads happy books and the other way around. For me that’s the opposite. When I am happy I am way more willing to pick up a darker book. When I am already feeling emotionally off I much rather have a happy read. And while my actual mood can have an impact on what I am in the mood for, it’s much more than that as well. What I read before my current read definitely has an impacts as well, sometimes I want more of that genre or I get burned out with a genre. At the moment I know I have to be careful not to read too much PNR as I am feeling I am starting to get burnt out with those slowly.

    Just like you my moodreading can be very specific of more genre general and sometimes I also have those mood where I do know I don’t want a certain genre or topic, but don’t know what I do want.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It can def be challenging to balance it w/ review copies or to figure out what book you’re in the mood for.

      I do that all the time. I plan what I’ll read next, but by the time I finish my current book, my mood has changed lol.

      That sounds like a good plan, to always be reading at least one mood book.

      I think most people prefer happy books when they’re feeling down. For me, sometimes I want something happy and fluffy when I’m down. Other times I want something darker cuz happy books will just make me feel bitter and worse. So yeah, my mood affects my reading mood, but it’s not the only thing. My previous read def has an impact too.

  31. Sophie

    Hello Kristen!
    I feel EXACTLY the same way about mood reading. I can never pinpoint which specific books I want to read for each mood. I don’t have a stash of books when I’m feeling happy and another stash when I am feeling sad. It’s more like, when I choose my next book, I just know what kind of book I don’t feel like reading and what kind of book I gravitate towards at the very moment. Great post and thank you for sharing! πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Hi! Yep, it’s never a specific happy/sad kind of thing. It’s just a feeling about what I want to read next. Or what I don’t want to read. Thanks!

  32. Olivia Roach

    I find it so hard to give a definition to mood reading other than choosing what I read based on my mood. Some people define mood reading as choosing what they read NEXT as mood reading, so that they finish a book and then the next one is what they are in the mood for me. For me it’s my mood in every time I choose to read. Which is why I can end up multiple reading anything from 2-10 books. Because I have moods for whenever I want to read. I sometimes am in the mood for a certain format, or the time of day effects what I am in the mood for (I prefer reading classics in the morning and YA later in the day) and then genre too…

  33. Cee @ Dora Reads

    I’m a total mood reader – which is why I end up reading about a million books at once! Lol.

    Sometimes what I feel like reading is dependent on mental health – I don’t always want to read a tear-jerker when I’m already pretty down, but then sometimes I do because it’s a good way to channel the emotion!

    When it comes to romance, it usually – though not always – depends where my sexuality is at that day. If I’m not into dudes, I tend to leave M/F and M/M until I am. That doesn’t mean I never read M/M or M/F when I’m lesbian, but I appreciate the steamy bits more when I’m not! Lol. And then, when I’m ace, or aro, or aroace, sometimes the whole thing is just of no interest to me.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I can’t keep up with a bunch of books at once lol.

      I’m the same. There are times when my mood affects my reading, but it’s just like you said. Sometimes if I’m down, I want something light. Other times, I do want something darker because it can be cathartic or the light stuff will just make me feel bitter and even worse.

      Oh that’s interesting how your sexual fluidity plays a part in your reading moods too! I wouldn’t have thought of that.

  34. Jessica

    I think I used to be a mood reader. But now I just read books in the order that they came available. I use Overdrive which is through my local library. Right now I’m still reading on the last Dark Tower book. IF I EVER get finished reading it, I plan on listening to Origin by Dan Brown because it came available next. And then Restore Me which came available after Origin., I hope to listen to the Harry Potter series and do another book to movie marathon after those two books.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s interesting how our reading habits can change like that! It is tough to mood read though if you do a lot of borrowing from the library. Ooh I haven’t read Restore Me yet, but I plan to. I hope you enjoy all your upcoming books πŸ™‚