How The Environment Affects My Reading Experience

Did you ever notice that your book reading experience is somehow affected by the environment around you?

For example, in the summer I went to Alabama with my best friend and I brought In Cold Blood and The Bell Jar read.

However, I didn’t like the environment I was staying in. We stayed at her uncle’s family which she never met before so there’s no way she could’ve predicted what would happen. In general, they treated us not so much like guests. It’s a very traditional way of thinking and greeting but in short, I was doing the dishes at least 3 times a day and the sink was always over flowing with big dirty stuff. I almost threw up when they forced me to clean their filthy fridge.. IT was packed withe expired things.. I wouldn’t go into the details.

And lastly, we were in the middle of NO WHERE. We couldn’t take the bus, we didn’t have a car so there was no way we could just go around for fun. And during all that time I stayed in Alabama, her aunts were always making mean comments harassing us.

Very toxic environment.

I didn’t realize it then but that’s probably the main cause of me disliking both In Cold Blood and The Bell Jar. I was extremely disappointed in the novels. I couldn’t understand why both books were so bland and boring.

But, I decided to give them a second chance.

I recently reread The Bell Jar and I absolutely loved it. I told myself : how did you not get the main message? How did you find this novel boring? And it all came back. The bad memories.

Did you ever experiment the same effect of the environment and your reading? Not necessarily in a bad way but it can be in a good way too.

I remember traveling to Greece, seating down a coffee shop with the beautiful beach view and the waves were gracefully hitting the giant rocks and all the while I was reading about Greek Mythology. Do I need to say how that view made my reading a hundred times better? Having that kind of peace and quiet was great for getting immersed in the story, and it was very easy to picture the story in my head too.

19 comments

  • I ABSOLUTELY agree! I’ve had some pretty bad times trying to read a book when things have been stressful or depressing. It can really effect your view of a book! It’s like trying to read a book in a genre you’re not in the mood for at the moment.
    I’m sorry you had such a rough time!

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  • This is such an interesting post! ❤ I have to agree that the environment and moment when I'm reading a book can definitely affect my reading experience, too. Unfortunately, most of the time I don't have the courage to re-read the books afterwards in a better environment hahaha.

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  • I totally agree with you. For me, reading in the mom & pop coffeehouse close to my home is my ideal reading environment. It has the cozy feel with soft orchestra music, and comfy chairs without the hustle and bustle of large chains. I notice that here, I seem to love reading more and I find myself losing myself in what I’m reading for hours on end, unlike when I’m in the metro or in a B&N cafe where there is more crowds and noise that quickly distract me to the point of making it impossible for me to lose myself in the book I’m reading.

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  • Uff, that’s terrible :/
    I think you are right. If i don’t feel comfortable with my environment, or am otherwise stressed, i can’t enjoy a book to its full potential because my mind is not focused on it.

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  • I definitely agree that the surroundings and environment have a direct impact on how we perceive a book. I haven’t read The Bell Jar yet, I am waiting for a more suitable time to read it. Excellent post!

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  • I definitely agree with you, and would take this one step further: your current emotional state also affects our enjoyment from a book. If I’m extremely stressed, or procrastinating by reading, or just generally unhappy, many times I can’t quite get into a book, as my emotional surroundings keep getting in the way. On the other hand, books can also be a great retreat from reality.

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  • Oh yeah I definitely think that reading can be effected by the environment. Yeesh I’ve been to some places where I’ve not been treated like a guest- but that sounds like the absolute PITS. I’m sorry to hear it was so lousy. That definitely makes sense that it would wreck your reading experience. Ah love how you ended on that wonderful story about Greece! Sounds like perfection! Wonderful post!!

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  • Great post! And yes I absolutely think the environment can affect what you read, how you read and whether you read at all. When I was little my home-life was pretty bad, so I read a lot just to escape reality in that sense, but it affected the way I read a lot: I didn’t enjoy reading, well I did but also didn’t, it was necessity. And I still feel that way sometimes and now it just brings back bad memories. Books can also help, but when I’m in a bad mental state, and this has a lot to do with my surroundings, I often fall into a reading slump.
    But just an example, I can’t and absolutely shouldn’t read the Bell Jar unless I’m in a great mental state and a comfortable environment and then I can enjoy it. If not, well it just makes me sad like crazy.

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  • I find it really interesting just how subjective reading truly is. I’ve hated some great books, and loved some not so great books, purely because of where my head happened to be at, how stressed I was, what I had read previously, the time of year, or what was happening in my surrounding environment.

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  • I’ve never really thought about this much before but seeing your post it was kind of like a lightbulb went off in my mind. I normally read on the train so I can’t really say I’ve ever tried reading in any really negative environments (like you when it came to staying with your friends uncle) but whenever I’ve been on a delayed train (stressing about getting to work or getting home on time) I’ve always struggled with reading.
    Great post Trang. 🙂 ❤️

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  • I think I am just the opposite. When I am in a bad environment I read faster and consequently more just to escape the reality. And when I am on holidays I rarely read and when I do I seldom remember anything about it later as I would be distracted mentally. But a brilliant post.

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  • I completely agree with you! Although I never disliked a book because of the environment, I totally feel that I appreciate reading much more if I’m in a quiet and comforting environment! 😄

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