Why Reading “Mindless” Books Is So Important to Me

As so often happens to me during the semester, I’m feeling slumpy. In terms of reading, in terms of blogging, in terms of commenting. And after trying out 5 books in 2 days and landing on a choice that took me by surprise, I began to think about the kinds of books I gravitate towards when I’m busy and/or stressed. What I discovered was that a lot of the books I tend to read in these situations are books that tend to get talked down on, or are works that some people don’t consider “real books” or “quality literature”. So today I’m here to talk about these kinds of books, and why they’re so important to me.

Stressed Real Housewives Of New York GIF

First, let me explain what kinds of books I’m referring to. For me, these books are graphic novels and romances, especially historical romances with the shirtless men on the cover. I know that a lot of people refer to these books as “guilty pleasures” while others call them “mindless drivel” or claim that they’re “not real books”. But these might be the most important kinds of books I read.

You see, I’ve talked about this before in a Shattering Stigmas post last year, but when I started college a few years back, my anxiety got so bad that I was no longer able to concentrate enough to read for pleasure. I could read textbooks just fine, but the moment I tried picking up a book for fun, my focus went out the window. I read about half the amount I normally would that year. I remember vividly the struggle that I had to put up to get through each and every book.

Stressed Danger Mouse GIF by CBS All Access

But the next year, I didn’t have the same problem. Yes, it was still stressful to read for fun, but I had the ability to do it. And while some of that has to do with the fact that I started blogging, I think a lot of it also had to do with the books I chose to read. In fact, if you look at the books I read in 2019, you’ll find that about half the books I read that year were either graphic novels or adult romances. So called “mindless” books. And you know what, maybe that term does have some merit.

It was mindless in the sense that it allowed my mind to be at ease, and not have to work hard to understand the plot and the language. It was mindless in the sense that it didn’t create tension and suspense and delve into difficult topics in serious, heartbreaking ways. These books allowed my mind to relax and remember that reading didn’t have to be difficult. That reading could be fun and easy. That I didn’t have to spare the remaining energy I had when I was done with school to struggle to make sense of a confusing world. Instead I could lose myself in pretty artwork, and predictable tropes that always ended in a happily ever after.

so happy GIF by America's Got Talent

I owe these mindless books a debt of gratitude. Because once again, they’re coming through. Online school isn’t easy, and I’ve been feeling super slumpy. As I mentioned earlier, I tried out 5 books in the span of 2 days and found it difficult to focus enough to continue with any of them. That is, until I picked up my current read. It’s a YA romance filled with cliches, and over the top flirting. The writing is pretty basic, and the plot is super predictable. And it’s just what I need. Once again, a mindless book has come to save the day.

So I guess what I wanted to get across was that mindless books have a purpose. And I think it should go without saying that you should never shame someone for their reading preferences. While for me graphic novels and romances do the job, for others audiobooks and thrillers work for them. Just because it’s not Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, doesn’t mean these books don’t have worth. Reading for pleasure is just as important as reading for analytical reasons, and it’s time that more people started recognizing that as a fact!

What genres make you happy when you’re stressed? Do you consider certain genres to be “mindless”? Does school impact how much you read as well?

60 thoughts on “Why Reading “Mindless” Books Is So Important to Me

  1. You just described my coping mechanisms perfectly! “Trashy romances” are also the types of books I gravitate towards when I’m extremely stressed, especially during exam times, and I love them for it! 😊
    And I’m totally with you: reading is reading, and we shouldn’t be shaming people for what they enjoy! We should be happy to have many fellow readers! Plus, if you pick out different types of books with an open mind, you’re going to discover so many new, wonderful things! And anyway, people like me are living proof that it’s perfectly possible to love both Shakespeare and “mindless books” 😁
    So thank you for this cool discussion post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, exactly! Reading books is definitely a coping mechanism, and because of that I try to make conscious choices about the books I read. So if I’m stressed, the last thing I want to do is read a book that will make me worried for the characters! I have enough to worry over without external help!

      And I adore trashy romances any time of the year, but I tend to read exclusively those romances during my most stressful time periods. So basically anytime I have a test or assignment!

      I think that a lot people claim that they support reading of any kind, while also looking down on people that read genres they don’t deem worthy of their time. But just because you don’t enjoy something, doesn’t mean it lacks value! And like you said, each book has something to offer, and you’ll only find that out by reading broadly!

      And I’m the same way! I love reading classics and analyzing books, but there’s also nothing better than curling up with a good romance!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this discussion post! I totally can relate to this, when I’m stressed I just like to turn to cute and wholesome books, including graphic novels, like Heartstopper or The Tea Dragon Society.
    I think people should read whatever they want to, and shouldn’t feel ashamed. I used to be ashamed that as a grown person, I still mainly read YA but why should I? YA is awesome, some of my favourite books are from this age category.
    So the bottom line is just do whatever makes you happy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      Yessss! I bought the first 3 volumes of Heartstopper, and my plan is to read them when I need something to make me smile! (So basically, I might pick them up this weekend!) Another two really cute graphic novels that made me smile when I was in a bad mood are Fangs and Snapdragon! These kinds of books are so important for so many reasons, and one of the main reason that I personally love them (besides for the beautiful artwork) is how they always lift my mood up when everything else fails!

      I 100% agree! Adults who want to read MG or YA because they enjoy those stories is just as valid as someone who enjoys classics and adult literary fiction. It’s so weird how we created rules for which kinds of stories are superior to the others! A story is a story is a story is a story!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh no I’m sorry about your anxiety. Hope you’re feeling better now! When I’m stressed, I usually read graphic novels. I recently found out that Heartstopper was on Webtoon and I binge read all 140 episodes of it in one morning. Nick and Charlie are now officially my OTP 🥺 I’m still a young adult, but I think I’ll read YA for the rest of my life. It’s my favorite ❤️

    Loved this discussion post! 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My anxiety tends to be worse during exam season, which is coming up these next few weeks. But thank you for your well wishes!

      Yes! I turn to graphic novels really often as well, when I’m stressed. Most recently Snapdragon and Fangs have put a smile on my face when I was having a bad day! But I actually just purchased the first 3 volumes of Heartstopper, and I’ve been saving them for when I got really stressed out. So maybe I’ll pick them up this weekend!

      Thank you! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a really important post! I’ve been very guilty of prejudice toward certain genres and in recent years I’ve been trying to break myself of that. Admittedly, part of that stems from time in academia where there is an overt prejudice to a lot of really popular genre literature, especially romance. And while I still don’t care for romance novels all that much, that’s simply my taste. I still find myself choosing lighter reads as buffers between heavier books. And those really are important for your mind to reset. All tastes are valid. All books are valid. Reading is fundamental for all, and everyone should be able to enjoy what they love without stigma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I think that it’s pretty common to have prejudices towards particular genres, especially when you’ve never even tried them! I think we’re all taught that classic works have inherent value just by lasting as long as they did, and other books need to reach that level in order to be worthy of a read. But that’s simply not true. A romance novel should be judged by different parameters than classic works because their purposes and styles are completely different!

      Judging every book by the standard of one genre is just silly! It’s like complaining that a children’s book doesn’t contain a murder, since you’re used to reading thrillers. But the book is designed for children’s enjoyment, and therefore isn’t going to take such a scary turn! Each book should be judged within the genre that it falls into!

      And I 100% agree with you about taste. I can’t stomach thrillers/mysteries, but I still see their value as a genre! But lighter reads are definitely very important to me as well! During the semester my mind is constantly in need of mindless books, but even when I’m on vacation and able to delve into some more complex works, I still enjoy romances and contemporaries as palate cleansers!

      I’m so glad that there is such a welcoming community of bloggers that are there to support readers and show them that their reading tastes are valid! Having such a diverse range on readers from so many genres blogging about their experiences definitely breaks down the stigma on less “important” genres, which is so very important! I feel so honored to be a part of such a wonderful community!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great discussion!

    There’s books that expand our knowledge, books that drive us to action, books that heal us, etc. I agree with your points wholeheartedly. Any book that has a positive impact on your day is wholesome in its own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantasy is the genre that makes me happy. I don’t think any genre is mindless but I agree with you some books are not extraordinary or any different from the lot I have already have read, but still they can makes me happy and refresh the mood and end up giving it higher rating just because I enjoyed it no matter how many flaws it had. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t mean mindless in an insulting way. I just meant that some books require less focus when I read them. Books with similar plots and tropes and simple writing styles can make me so very happy, even if I might still refer to them as mindless. And I totally agree that there are some books that have gotten high ratings from me based purely on enjoyment, because that’s all I needed from the book at the time!

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I completely agree!!! This is amazing 😍

    Whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed I immediately pick up books that most people consider ‘trashy’. They help me relax, have a good time, and get my mind off of things. I don’t understand the point in undermining certain types of books and the people that enjoy them.

    Amazing post, I loved it!!😊

    Like

    1. Thank you! 💕

      Yes! Exactly! These sorts of books are fantastic at relaxing me and making me laugh! The very thing that people look down on, that there’s not much plot, and there’s lot of romance, are the very things that I like about those books! And you’re right. Why should people look down on books that other people enjoy. Sure, the genre may not be for you, but that doesn’t make it a bad genre! You’re just not the target audience!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t read romance novels very often (although I’ve definitely read ones I liked!) but I definitely understand the urge to reach for something cute and silly. Not every book people enjoy has to be deep, I don’t understand why some people seem to think you can only call yourself a reader if you passionately discuss Hemingway and Faulkner around a table while drinking coffee or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup! When I’m stressed out, I see no reason why I should read for anything other than a cute and silly book! Those stories relax me, and I have a fun time reading them. Their purpose isn’t to make me think, or to have me delve into the symbolism and analyze every word, their purpose is for me to enjoy them, and for them to make me smile, and they succeed in that.

      I also don’t think that reading romance, ensures that you lose the ability to discuss Hemmingway and Faulkner while drinking coffee. It’s very possible to enjoy analyzing classic literature and to enjoy romance, but everything has its time and place. I don’t want to have to analyze every word I read when I’m spending most of my day studying for a fluid mechanics test. I want something simple after working my poor brain so hard all day! The analysis can wait until I’m on vacation!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. There’s a reason there are so many “mindless” books in existence! It’s because they HELP and they do sell! Whenever I’m stressed out or in a sad mood, I pick these books up. I used to call them guilty pleasures as well but I’ve grown to hate that term because I’m in no way guilty about read them. They help, and some days they get me through days better than the esteemed literary books.
    Thanks for posting this, because it really needs to be said!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! These are the books that I reach for most often in all formats, and I know several other that do the same. And these reads are such fun and such quick reads that you immediately want to reach for another, creating quite the demand for more of these stories! Books that make me happy are probably the most important kinds of stories that I read!

      I used to feel guilty about reading such “mindless” and fluffy books, but then I realized there was nothing to be guilty about. All I’m doing is making myself happy without causing harm to anyone else in the process! The impact these books have made on my mental health is enormous, so the least I can do is show them the respect they deserve and share why I love them with the world!

      Like

  10. Yes Malka I agree with this post 1000000% especially in 2020 most of the time I really do not want to be reading a heavy book when there’s so much other crap I have to deal with irl. Also I definitely started reading way less once I started college too and honestly a lot of the time at the end of the day I’m just really tired from reading my textbooks all day and trying to comprehend dense science language or pretentious old literature and I just don’t want to use my brain anymore and literally fluffy contemporary romance gets the job done ❤ I feel like there are so many super hyped long dark fantasies with social commentary and themes and layers and hidden meanings that it feels like everyone is screaming at me to read, not to mention the gazillions of even more dense classics I have zero interest in, and I'm just like… okay, good for you, glad you enjoy it, but I'm tired, 2020 sucks, I have a million other things to worry about so ima just reread to all the boys for the 10th time okay let me live

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! Reading dystopia in 2020? No thank you, I’m already living it. Fantasy world with a corrupt government. Also gonna be a big no from me. But a cute romance where the conflict last three pages, and there’s lots of snuggling? Now that sounds like something worth reading!

      I never understood how a brain could get so tired until I started college! But there’s just so much information thrown at me each day, and so much work to do outside of class, that by the time I go to bed, which used to be when I did most of my reading, my mind is incapable of comprehending another word!

      I think I wrote a post about it, but I fully gave up on fantasies and dark stories because they were just affecting my mental health too much! Whereas on the other hand, romances and graphic novels brighten up my day, and improve my mental health. To me, the switch was necessary and worth it!

      And yes! Rereading faves is another way that I make myself happy. I don’t even bother reading the full books anymore. I just go straight to the scenes that make me happiest!

      Like

  11. when i’m stressed, i just HAVE to read a happily-ever-after ❤ and I’m sorry about your anxiety and it’s good to heart that you’re okay! books like ‘the fault in our stars’ just makes me cry so hard i get so depressed. i really just can’t get it out of my head. so happy endings like ‘Unravel the Dusk’ feels so good. and i can just BE happy for the characters.

    Lovely discussion post🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here! When my mental health is bad, I need to be sure that what I’m reading isn’t going to make things worse, and if possible, might make things a little better!

      Thank you! 💕 I manage pretty well with my anxiety, but around exam time it seems to flare up.

      And I definitely hear that! Some books still make me sad just thinking about them. But I honestly try not to read too many sad stories even when I’m up for them. There’s just something so much more satisfying about a happy ending, in my opinion. The only exception I’ll make to that claim are bittersweet, but realistic endings. Those I can deal with! But a truly happy ending is even better!

      Thank you so much! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I feel exactly the same! If I’m in a bit of a slump or not feeling great, or just very tired, I usually want to read something that I know I’ll breeze through easily. For me that’s either thrillers (compelling and addictive), or contemporary romance (fun and fluffy!). The main genres I read otherwise are fantasy and historical fiction, but I find thrillers and contemporaries don’t have complicated worlds to get accustomed to, and it makes them a lot easier and more mindless to read. And sometimes that’s just what I need! Amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, exactly! I’ve been under the weather recently, and I immediately put down my current read for a romance novel that I know I can process quickly and easily! I’ve read some of my favorite romances when I was feeling sick and therefore in the mood for something cute and cozy!

      I’m too scared for thrillers, so cute and fluffy is my go to always! I honestly don’t really know what other genres interest me because I’ve been so stressed with school for so long that I’ve abandoned so many genres! I think if I weren’t so overloaded by school I’d read more literary fiction and non-fiction, but I think for obvious reasons those books require too much brain power when I also have to make sense of 4-5 classes every semester on complicated topics!

      Thank you!

      Like

  13. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us, Malka! I’m so glad you found a subset/subgenre of books that helps to pull you out of a reading slump and lets you get back to the books you normally love 🤍 I wish you all the best with online learning… believe me it’s been way more challenging than I thought it would! *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been something that was on my mind for a while, and I was finally ready to share it now! I’m so, so grateful to romances and graphic novels for helping me out as much as they do! Their ability to get me out of a bad mood is unmatched by anything else!

      Thank you! I’m honestly finding this semester online a lot easier than last semester online because both me and my professors are more prepared. Although besides for the difficulty of my classes this semester, it’s still exhausting to just sit and stare at a screen all day and night! But I hope that you start to find online classes less challenging soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This!! I 100% agree with everything you’ve said here because sometimes I need mindless reads to actually enjoy them or be in the mood to read. When I’m tired or stressed with school I don’t want a super tense book with confusing plots and lots of twists – I just want something nice and relaxing that is mindless. For me though that’s usually a YA contemporary romance – one where you know exactly how it will work out. At the moment I’ve also been loving middle grade books for that reason – I’ve read Wonder by R.J Palacio in September and now I’m working my way through Percy Jackson and am loving it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Exactly! There are so many times that I would have been in a slump if I didn’t have a graphic novel or romance on hand to pull me through. These kinds of books make up the majority of what I read during the school year, in part because I can’t seem to read anything else most of the time, even if I tried! My brain is just craving relaxing and mindless books!

      YA contemporary can definitely get pretty formulaic, so I totally understand how that would make for a relaxing read. There are no surprises! However, personally I’ve found that YA contemporary can sometimes deal with some very heavy themes and topics, which is why I try sticking with genres that are both mindless and lighthearted at the same time.

      But middle grade books are definitely another great genre that I should try getting back into. I feel as though it’s been too long since I read a middle grade. It’s been years since I’ve been up to date with those new releases! But I adored Wonder when I read it! I have 2 copies in fact! And the PJO series is just fantastic!

      I hope you continue to find only more amazing reads!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. i do not consider any genre to be “mindless”, mainly because the work that the story has gone through (writing, editing, publishing, etc.) is not small, but rather years and years of hard work so it can give me the serotonin boost i need for one evening. adult romance/erotica has become my favorite genre for this exact reason. college is really hard for me, so romance is the only escapade. i hold this genre very close to my heart.
    amazing post! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s actually a really great point! I think there’s an art to making a “mindless” book, and I in no way mean that term to be used in a derogatory way! I think that books that are mindless can have fantastic plots, characters, and writing, while keeping the overall tone light and uncomplicated. That’s definitely a very difficult balance to maintain, and I don’t mean to belittle any author’s work!

      Yes! I adore the adult romance genre! College is tough for me as well, and there’s nothing better than curling up with a romance that will make you smile, and end with a guaranteed happily ever after. It’s a wonderful escape!

      Thank you! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance are my go to comfort genres, I love the combination of sassy characters with supernatural creatures blended with a bit of romance. I adore seeing new characters become friends, the rivalries the banter and it just makes me feel comforted. Similarly contemporaries which are the fluffy kind, with predictable plots I also enjoy because I’m not stressing over if the characters are going to be ok or not.

    For me the reads aren’t ‘mindless’ its more, they’re not stressful in the same way? You’re still as invested but it may be not as heavy on the world building or the stakes aren’t as high so no need to stress over your favs surviving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes! I don’t read much urban fantasy or paranormal romance, but I totally understand the appeal of those being your comfort genres! After all, with sassy character, a bit of romance, and lots of banter how can that lead to anything other than a great time!

      And contemporaries made of fluff are practically the only kinds I read! I agree that there’s something nice about knowing that the characters will end up okay, no matter what life throws at them. The fact that I can predict the direction that a story is going in relaxes me, because I don’t need to be on the edge of my seat uncertain of what will happen next, since the book follows such a predictable pattern.

      I hear that. While I always say that my perfect book has no conflict, only cuteness, I understand wanting something with some stakes! And the genres that are my comfort reads have no stakes tied to survival ever, since they’re romances, so it’s mostly just about how different relationships will pan out, which I find interesting to follow!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I tend to read mainly nonfiction but I try to make sure I keep a fiction book going at the same time for my more “mindless” reading. Cheers to whatever can help us stay mentally healthy during this crazy year without wrecking us in other ways! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t read non-fiction during the semester at all! Even though there are some non-fiction books that I’m really excited to pick up! Fiction is definitely easier to process, which is why it’s what I reach for while college is in session!

      Agreed! Any book that can bring joy into our lives during such a strange and difficult year is a good book to me!

      Like

  18. This is a wonderful discussion post, Malka. Sometimes we all need to find something that does not require our brain to function as much as normal, and I am glad you have found that with these books. I can see why it can actually help you to work better and be more efficient with other aspects of your life including school!

    When I am in a slump I tend to go for YA contemporary. They do deal with some sensitive issues but I find them much lighter and faster paced.

    Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yup! After dealing with so many difficult concepts in class and while doing assignments, I want my time that I use to unwind to be as relaxing as possible! And that’s exactly right! Using these books to relax results in me having a better mental state and a more positive attitude which I then bring into all my actions throughout the day!

      YA contemporary is a great genre when you’re looking for something less intense. The nice thing about it, as that the genre has books that are light and fluffy, and ones that deal with heavier topics, so you can choose whatever kind you’re in the mood for, but still know that it will be lighter than the adult version in most cases!

      Like

  19. Yes! I felt this post very much at the start of Coronavirus. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and was just doomscrolling on Twitter. I ended up rereading all the Sherlock Holmes short stories and then moving on to the novels because I’d never read any of them. Sherlock Holmes isn’t super serious literature, but it got me through March.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! Finding stories that are less intense, but that can get you through a difficult time are so important! I think that’s why I hate when these so called “mindless” books are talked down by people. Those books serve such an important function!

      Like

  20. Love this post ! I agree with you on the online school = reading slumps – I’ve been in a really big slump since September, and this type of books is what’s getting me out of it ! For me, it’s all about remembering that I do, actually, love reading, and that there’s no shame in reading whatever book I feel like reading at the moment, as long as it brings me joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I mean, I’m first responding to this comment almost a month after you posted it, so if that doesn’t tell you how much school sucks the life out of me, I don’t know what will! I honestly wouldn’t be reading at all during my semester if not for these lighthearted, “mindless” reads!

      I couldn’t agree more! There is no right or wrong reason to read, and there’s no right or wrong genre to read, so if a book makes you happy that’s a perfect reason right there to read it!

      For me, reading fluffy, light, cute books helps me manage through super stressful times, like the finals that I just went through! There’s something about a story where you know everything will turn out okay that calms me down and makes me believe that everything will be okay in my life as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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