Musings From A Bookmammal


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Z is for ZEALOUS Book Bloggers–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 26

ZWelcome to Day #26 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. **TODAY MARKS THE LAST DAY OF THE CHALLENGE–WE MADE IT!**

I decided to post about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s my last A-Z post!

Today is the final day of the April A-Z Challenge! My goal was to post about bookish topics for all 26 days, and it’s hard to believe that the month is over! I’m feeling a combination of relief that it’s finished (around letter “O” I thought that the alphabet was never going to end!), and excitement that I actually made it through all 26 posts.

My blog is only about 8 months old, and I hadn’t participated in any blogging challenges before this one. Joining this challenge really encouraged me to stretch my creative muscles (some letters definitely took a lot more work than others!) but the best part for me was “meeting” so many other great book bloggers who are so ZEALOUS about their love of books and reading! It was so much fun to see what different bloggers chose as word prompts for each letter–sometimes I found bloggers who’d chosen the same topics as I did, and other times my reaction was “How on earth did they think of that–and why didn’t I think of that???”

There are so many different types of book blogs and book bloggers, but the one thing we all share is our passion for books and reading–and that definitely came through this month! We don’t always enjoy the same books, authors, or genres, but we all share our zeal for the printed word—whether we prefer to find it in physical books or on digital devices, the important thing is that we’re all READING!

I’ve discovered so many wonderful blogs over the past month that I’ll continue to follow, and my TBR list has exploded! I’ve also been very fortunate to have gained a lot of new followers and commenters who have added so much to the discussions on this blog.

So now I’m planning on taking a day or two off–then I’ll be back to posting about bookish topics during the week, and also getting back to regularly participating in the non-bookish weekend memes that I enjoy. If you were participating in the challenge, I hope you had as much fun as I did!

How about you? Were you participating in the April A-Z Challenge? Have you participated in other monthly challenges? Please share!


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Y is for YOUNG ADULT Suggestions, Please!–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 25

YWelcome to Day #25 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. We’re in the home stretch–only ONE MORE DAY to go! If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

I read a lot of different genres, but I haven’t read much YA in a very long time. I picked up Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park late last year and absolutely LOVED it–I then read Fangirl and enjoyed it almost as much. Reading more YA is one of the informal reading goals that I set for myself this year, but I need some help–and here’s where you come in!

I need some suggestions for YA books and/or authors to add to my TBR list. I like realistic YA –not so much with paranormal, vampires, fantasy, or dystopian plots. I’m also not really into the whole dying of a disease thing, either. What I do enjoy is reading about teens and young adults who are trying to cope and make their way in the real world–dealing with friends, family, significant others, etc. Plots that take place primarily in educational settings–high school or college–are a plus.

So–if you’re a YA fan, please give me some suggestions! Who are some great YA authors that I should try–and which of their books should I dig into first? Help me out, blogging buddies–I’m counting on you!


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X is for eXcellent–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 24

XWelcome to Day #24 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. We’re in the home stretch–only 3 more days to go! If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post on the most eXcellent books I’ve read so far this year (Hey, give me a break–“X” is a tough one!):

As I’ve discussed on this blog before, I don’t write what I consider to be formal reviews of the books I read. I do use the 5-star rating system on Goodreads–mainly as a way to remind myself about what I’ve thought about what I’ve read. So far this year I’ve read 36 books, and I’ve given three of them the highest 5-star rating. Here are those three books that I consider to be excellent:

empty mansionsEmpty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.

If you love to escape by reading about the lives of the impossibly rich, or if you like a good investigative treatment of a modern day mystery, give this book a try—I thought it was an incredibly fascinating read! Huguette Clark was a reclusive New York heiress who was born in 1906. Her father was self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, who was nearly as rich as Rockefeller and Carnegie, and who was also a controversial senator, railroad builder, and one of the founders of the city of Las Vegas. Huguette grew up in incredible wealth, living in the largest house in New York City–121 rooms for a family of four. After an extremely brief marriage (she returned home alone just days into her honeymoon) she eventually owned enormously expensive homes in California, New York, and Connecticut–yet they stood vacant as she lived her last twenty years in a simple New York City hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She gave away millions of dollars in money and gifts to charities, foundations promoting the arts, and her employees–some of whom never saw her or spoke to her except via phone or through closed doors.

At her death in 2011, her estate was valued in excess of $300 million. However, she’d left TWO signed wills—one favoring her remaining family members (distant relatives from her father’s first marriage, most of whom hadn’t spoken to her in decades–she had no children of her own), and a second will leaving everything to her lawyers, long-time private nurse, and other employees. The question was, had she been in control of her decisions, or was she being controlled by the people she hired to care for her and manage her money? And why did she spend the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital, when even her doctors agreed that there was no medical reason for doing so?

When I finished this book, I immediately went online to do some research about what has happened with Huguette’s estate since the book was published—but I won’t share what I found, as I don’t want to create any spoilers for those of you who may choose to read it. So far, this is the best book I’ve read this year!

boys in the boatThe Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown

Even though I don’t like participating in sports, I love reading about them. I’ve read a lot of books about baseball and basketball, but I knew virtually nothing about the sport of rowing (or “crew”) before I started this nonfiction title. I’m now pretty fascinated by it! This book tells the story of the 1936 US rowing team who won the Gold medal at that year’s Summer Olympic Games in Hitler’s Berlin. The author paints such a vivid picture of the young men on the team as well as the skill required to excel at this sport–I had absoloutely no idea! There’s also a lot of anecdotal information about the Depression era that’s very interesting. It also created a great interest for me about the 1936 Olympic Games, and I’m in the process of trying to find some additional reading material about this event.

penelopePenelope by Rebecca Harrington

And now, for something completely different! I’m going to say this right up front—you need to have a very particular sense of humor to enjoy this satirical novel. People seem to either love it or hate it. I’m in the former group—I adored this book! It’s the story of Penelope–an admittedly somewhat odd Harvard freshman—and how she makes her way through her first year of college. I found this novel brilliantly funny! I know that many people find the dialogue off-putting—a common comment in reviews is “Don’t those people ever use contractions when they talk???” but I thought the dialogue fit the tone of the book perfectly and matched the satirical premise of the story. Another common complaint is that Penelope doesn’t grow or change during the book—I completely disagree! Penelope was released in 2012, and I’m hoping that the author is working on a new novel as we speak—I’ll definitely be in line to read it!

How about you? Have you read any of these? What books have you read so far this year that you would consider to be excellent? Please share!


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W is for WAITING ON . . . The April A-Z Challenge/Day 23

WWelcome to Day #23 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post on books that I’m anxiously waiting on:

Some people count down the days until a movie comes out, or until concert tickets go on sale. . . I count down the days until books will be released! Here are five titles that I’m anxiously waiting on:

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May 27: The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax–I love reading about food and cooking and how the way we cook and eat reflects culture. I can’t wait to dig into this book!

June 3: Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch–The Dinner was one of the most thought-provoking novels I read last year. I didn’t like any of the characters in it, yet I still find myself thinking about it months later. I’m eager to see what Koch has in store for us with this new title.

June 17: Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer–Nancy Thayer is one of my automatic authors—everytime she publishes a new book I’ll read it. I’ve got to admit that I enjoyed her earlier books a lot more than her more recent titles, but I can still count on her for a good summer beach read. Just looking at the cover of this one puts me in a summer mood!

July 8: Landline by Rainbow Rowell–Eleanor & Park got me hooked back into reading YA, and I also really enjoyed Fangirl. Landline is her latest adult novel. I really can’t wait!

October 14: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult–I’m a huge Jodi Picoult fan, but her last couple of books have been disappointments for me. I’m really hoping that I love this one-I need a good Jodi Picoult fix!

How about you? What books are you waiting on? Please share!


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V is for VARIETY–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 22

VWelcome to Day #22 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

I stopped by the library tonight to return some books and pick up some holds. I still have a few books checked out that aren’t ready to be returned yet, so right now I’ve got a total of ten library books at home falling into these categories:

1 memoir

1 true crime

1 sports nonfiction

5 novels

1 “book about books”

1 Young Adult novel

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I’m genuinely excited about all of these books, but I’m not sure that I’ll get to all of them before they’re due. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the sports title, and I know I’ll be starting at least one of the other books this weekend as well—I’m usually reading more than one book at a time—but I’m not sure which one yet.

I know that some people are pretty devoted to reading books in one or two genres, but I’ve never been that way. I go in spurts sometimes, such as reading a bunch of biographies in a row, or reading everything I can find by a particular author, but I’m usually reading a lot of books in a pretty big variety of genres.

How about you? Do you have variety in your reading life, or do you tend to stick to one or two types of books? Have you read any of these books? Please share!


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U is for USED BOOKS–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 21

UWelcome to Day #21 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about used books:

stack of booksI buy A LOT of books—mostly physical books rather than eBook versions. My budget doesn’t allow me to purchase new hardcovers too often—I usually only do so if there’s a new book out by one of my very favorite authors, or if I JUST CAN’T WAIT and want to treat myself to a newly released title.

Most of the time I buy used books so I can stretch my book budget as far as possible. I’m picky about the condition—I don’t want books have dirty covers or torn dustjackets, ripped pages, or a lot of highlighting or writing inside.  I’ve found that if you’re willing to do some hunting, you can save a lot of money by purchasing used books that often are in nearly new condition.

I’m a huge fan of the online site abebooks,  which is a sort of online clearinghouse for thousands of used bookstores all over the US and Europe. Abebooks makes it incredibly easy to compare the prices and conditions of just about any title you can think of—even out of print books. Lots of the stores even offer free shipping. I’ll often wait until a book I want to own comes out in paperback—then I’ll go online and can usually find a nice used hardcover copy for much less than the price of a new paperback. You can also link directly to abebooks from your Goodreads account and hunt for books from your virtual bookshelves. (Beware—this is dangerous!) Granted, you take a risk when you buy used books online, but I’ve only been disappointed a couple of times over the ten years or so that I’ve been an abebooks customer.

There are also a couple of brick-and-mortar used books stores in my area that I visit every now and then—it’s fun to browse through the shelves because you never know what you’ll find! I usually take a bag of books that I’ve weeded from my bookcases to sell, but I almost always end up using whatever money I get to purchase a few “new” used titles.

How about you? If you buy physical books, do you ever purchase used copies, or do you prefer new editions? Please share!


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T is for TAMING MY BOOKCASES–The A-Z April Challenge/Day 20

TWelcome to Day #20 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

my bookcase in my office/library

my bookcase in my office/library

About 2-3 times a year I feel that my bookcases have reached what I call “critical mass”. When this happens I take some time to “tame my bookcases” by going through my books and make some space. I have eight different bookcases throughout my home, and I never end up removing as many books as I thought I would. It also usually ends up taking longer than I planned.

Taming my bookcases is tough for me—but it’s a great problem to have! Books are comfort objects to me. I like to own real, physical books and I love the way they look on my shelves–but I also like to break up the rows of books by leaving room on the shelves for some other objects like photos and plants. I’m also a big fan of re-reading books I’ve enjoyed—there are some novels that I’ve probably read ten times over the years. However, I definitely don’t buy or keep books just to have them—I want the books on my shelves to be the ones that have meaning to me.

my kitchen bookcase

my kitchen bookcase

So when I start taming my bookcases, I ask myself some questions—Did I like the book? Do I think I may want to read it again? If I haven’t already read it, is it still on my TBR list, or have my interests changed? For nonfiction in particular, do I think I may need/want to refer to information in the book? Does the book bring back a good memory of where I was when I read it, or who I was with, or what I was doing at the time? If I read it long ago, do I even still remember the plot?

If I answer YES to even one of these questions, the book is probably staying put. Books that get set aside are the usually the ones that I bought on a whim and just never read—maybe my interests have changed, or maybe I started to read it and it just never caught my interest. In the end, I usually end up with a bag or two to take to my local used bookstore–and I have a little more space for new books and authors that I’ve yet to meet.

How about you? If you’re still a buyer of physical books, how often do you find that you need to clean out your shelves? How do you decide what stays and what goes? Or, are you someone who reads a book and then immediately passes it on?  Please share!


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S is for SHORT STORIES–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 19

SWelcome to Day #19 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

Short stories are great for little pockets of reading time. I don’t read them all that often, but sometimes I like to immerse myself in a bunch of shorter works by a particular author. Here are some of my favorite classic authors of this genre:

roald dahlRoald Dahl—Dahl is well loved for his children’s books, but he’s also the author of some of the most deliciously creepy short stories for adults that I’ve ever read. I believe his story “Lamb To The Slaughter” was made into a Twilight Zone episode (or a similar show) long ago. A couple of my favorites are “Taste” and “Dip In The Pool.”’

shirley jacksonShirley Jackson—“The Lottery” is a staple of high school English classes, but Shirley Jackson wrote dozens of lesser known short stories. She was a master at ending her stories with a punch that you never see coming. Many of her stories are in the paranormal genre, which usually isn’t to my taste, but she manages to write them in such a way that I stick with her. She also dips into horror, fantasy, suspense, and humor. What a talented lady she was! I especially like “Indians Live In Tents” (laugh-out-loud funny!) and “The Possibility Of Evil” (chilling!).

dorothy parkerDorothy Parker—I love Dorothy Parker. She’s the type of woman I’d love to be sitting next to at a party and talk with her about what we really think about the other guests. However, I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side! Her short stories range from funny to biting to satire to ironic to heartbreaking. I’ve probably read some of them ten times or more over the years. Some favorites include ”New York To Detroit” and “The Game”.

snows kilimanjaroErnest Hemingway—I was introduced to Hemingway in high school when I had to read “The Sun Also Rises” for an English class. That book started me on a Hemingway obsession that lasted for years. I love the way he completely takes control of the language in his writings, and that talent is so evident in his short stories. I haven’t read any of them in quite awhile, but I may need to revisit a few soon. I can still remember the impact that “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” had on me when I read it for the first time. I also loved the Nick Adams stories.

How about you? Are you a short story fan? Who are some of your favorite short story authors? Please share!


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R is for To REVIEW Or Not? The April A-Z Challenge/Day 18

RWelcome to Day #18 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

laptop books 2I don’t post formal book reviews on this blog. I’ll often write about what I’ve been reading, but when I do so it’s usually my off-the-cuff opinions about a book that I feel strongly about for one reason or another. I don’t write up a lengthy review with any kind of analysis. I don’t try to interview authors. I don’t request ARCs. 

I started this blog on a total whim this past August. I’d been reading and enjoying blogs for quite awhile, and I decided that I wanted to join in. I thought it would be a good outlet for me to share my thoughts about books, reading, and literacy, participate in some memes that I’d been lurking around, and practice my writing skills. Above all, I wanted to have FUN with my blog. I didn’t want writing my posts to feel like a chore, or something that I had to cross off my list. And I definitely didn’t want my blog to get in the way of one of my favorite activities—reading for pure enjoyment!

So I decided really early on that I wouldn’t be requesting copies of books to review. I wouldn’t sign up for NetGalley or any similar programs. I didn’t want to “have to” read a book with the implied promise of reviewing it here. And so far I’ve been pleased with that decision. I still read exactly what I want to read, with no outside pressure or deadlines. My TBR list keeps getting longer, of course—I’ve met so many great blogging buddies who continuously provide me with tips on books that I doubt I’d discover on my own—but again, I read them on my own timetable. It’s true that I need to wait until a book is published instead of getting a sneek peek via ARCs, but that’s OK—there’s plenty to read while I wait.

I do write about books I’ve read, but usually those posts are “Top Ten” lists of my favorite books in a particular category, or in response to a bookish meme. The only “reviewing” I do is using the star ratings on Goodreads, but I do that mainly so I can keep concrete track for myself of what I’ve liked and what I didn’t.

Fellow book bloggers, I’d love to hear your take on this! If you post formal reviews, do you ever feel that reviewing “gets in the way” of your reading and/or blogging? If you don’t post formal reviews, why not? Please share!


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Q is for QUOTES About Books And Reading–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 17

QWelcome to Day #17 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Today I’m sharing ten of my favorite quotes about books and reading–with a bonus (!) of also including some of my favorite pieces of artwork featuring people and their books.

 

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Haruki Murakami

credit Karin Jurek

credit Karin Jurek

 “We shouldn’t teach great books—we should teach a love of reading.” B.F. Skinner

credit Carol Marine

credit Carol Marine

“Part of the beauty of all literature is that you discover your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely or isolated from anyone. You belong!” F. Scott Fitzgerald

credit John Singer Sargent

credit John Singer Sargent

“Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.” Mary Schmich

credit David Hettinger

credit David Hettinger

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” Anna Quindlen

credit Michele Del Campo

credit Michele Del Campo

“To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” Edmund Burke

credit John Lidzey

credit John Lidzey

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

credit Monica Castanys

credit Monica Castanys

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deepest and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou

credit Jon Anderson

credit Jon Anderson

“One of the best things about reading is that you’ll always have something to think about when you’re not reading.” James Patterson

credit Andre Kohn

credit Andre Kohn

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not yet found the right book.” Frank Serafini

credit Molly Poole

credit Molly Poole

How about you? What are your favorite quotes about books and reading? Please share!


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P is for PERIODICALS–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 16

PWelcome to Day #16 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

Does anyone besides me subscribe to actual printed copies of periodicals/magazines anymore? I’ve just never been able to get the hang of reading them online—somehow it just feels like a completely different experience to me. I like flipping the actual pages, I like the feel of the paper, I like the glossy photos. My fondness for magazines started when I was a kid–I can still remember my excitement when my very own copy of Ranger Rick magazine would arrive in the mail!

Here are the magazines that are showing up in my mailbox these days:

smithsonianThe thing I love most about Smithsonian is that the issues never go out of date. You can pick up a copy from over a year ago and still find articles of interest. History, science, biography, medicine, nature. . . it’s all here! Plus, the photos are awesome. This is the magazine that I keep in my car in case I have an unexpected wait somewhere. (OK–who am I kidding? I also have at least one book in my purse at all times . . .)

cooks illustratedI love, love, love everything about Cook’s Illustrated. The wonderful illustrations, the no-nonsense directions, the way the editors will make 58 different versions of a dish before letting you in on what they’ve learned, the fact that there are NO ADS, the way the articles answer questions about food and cooking that I didn’t even know I had, the pictures of food on the back covers (I even have some of these framed in my kitchen), the recipes themselves. . . I even love the paper stock.

vanity fairVanity Fair combines celebrity gossip with deep dives into current events and pop culture. It regularly includes pre-publication book excerpts of nonfiction titles that intrigue me enough to either buy the book or at least borrow it from the library. It’s always kind of a project to read this magazine because it’s usually huge (although there are often tons of pages of fashion ads at the beginning featuring clothes that no real person would ever wear!) and packed with interesting articles.

horn bookThe Horn Book is my go-to source for in-depth reviews and articles on books/authors for kids and young adults. I just re-subscribed after taking some time away, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it. I only wish it was a monthly publication instead of bi-monthly!

 

timeTime is my weekly news fix. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

How about you? Do you subscribe to any magazines? Do you read magazines online? Which ones do you like? Please share!

 


6 Comments

O is for ORAL HISTORY–The A-Z Challenge/Day 15

OWelcome to Day #15 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about my thoughts about the oral history genre:

 

I really enjoy reading many types of nonfiction (see yesterday’s post!), and one of my favorite nonfiction genres is the oral history. The simplest definition of oral history isthe collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events”. I find it incredibly fascinating to read about the same event, place, or time period from the points of view and through the transcriptions of the actual voices of many different people—and that’s what a good oral history does for the reader.

terkelStuds Terkel is widely believed to be the father of the modern oral history genre. A New Yorker by birth, he came to Chicago as a young man and made the city his home. He authored over a dozen oral histories over the years that covered diverse topics such as race, the Great Depression, spirituality, war, and many others. He had the incredible gift of being able to ask the right questions at the right time and to create a safe environment for his subjects to open up and share their deepest thoughts. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at an author event held when he was in his nineties—and although his body and his hearing were failing him, his mind was as nimble as a man at a quarter of his age. Terkel was truly a Chicago icon, and when he died a few years ago it was the end of the era of a certain type of writer. I have an entire shelf on one of my bookcases that’s devoted to his books.

Here are a few of my favorite oral histories:

 

workingWorking by Studs Terkel

I first read parts of Working when I was in junior high and picked up my dad’s copy. The subtitle of the book tells it all—“People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About Doing It”. Terkel interviewed over 100 people about their jobs—farmers, teachers, factory workers, athletes, salesmen, and many more. The result is a portrait of the people who make up everyday America, and who make America work. It also brings home the theme that self worth is so often tied to how we feel about how we earn our living. Written in 1972, the book is obviously a bit dated—many of the jobs discussed have changed drastically or no longer exist. But the spirit of the people who share their stories still rings true. If you’ve never read any oral histories by Terkel, start with this one–it’s still in print and readily available!

gigGig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter

The authors of this oral history openly admit their admiration of Studs Terkel and their hopes that this book is the modern day imitation of Working. Written about 30 years after Terkel’s book, Gig includes people sharing their experiences in more modern professions, including video game designer, corporate headhunter, and crime scene cleaner. I think this would be a great pick for reluctant readers in high school—the sections are brief yet very engaging–as well as for anyone who enjoys the oral history format.

 

hospitalHospital: The Hidden Lives of a Medical Center Staff by Michael Medved

This book is out of print, but if you’re at all interested in the inner workings of the medical profession it’s definitely worth looking for. Medved interviewed dozens of employees at one unnamed medical center—from the top surgeons to the cleaning staff—and the result is an intriguing look at the day-to-day life inside a busy hospital. One of the things I loved about this book was reading the impressions and opinions of different staff members about each other. This is a great “fly on the wall” read!

snlLive From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

I started watching Saturday Night Live back in the Jim Belushi/Dan Ackroyd/Bill Murray days. This is a truly riveting oral history of that groundbreaking show as told by the cast members, writers, producers, hosts, musical guests, and more. If you’re a SNL fan, or if you enjoy reading about TV and the entertainment industry, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book!

 

 

mtvI Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum

I’m also old enough to remember when MTV actually played music videos 24 hours a day. I can still recall gathering in the TV lounge of my college dorm to watch the premier of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video—we’d never seen anything like it before! This oral history traces the first decade of MTV and features transcripts of interviews with nearly 400 musical artists, directors, TV and music executives, and MTV VJs. Reading this book completely took me back to the 80s!

 

How about you? Have you read any oral histories? Do you enjoy this format? Please share!


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N is for NONFICTION–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 14

NWelcome to Day #14 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about my favorite categories of nonfiction:

 

I love reading nonfiction! According to my Goodreads account, 18 of the 32 books I’ve read so far this year have been nonfiction titles. I’m a curious person by nature, and when I want to learn more about something or someone, my first instinct is to read about it.

Here are the top ten categories of nonfiction titles that are represented the most on the many bookshelves in my home. There’s some overlap here, and  there’s a common theme of enjoying nonfiction books that go “behind-the-scenes” to dig deep into the story of a particular person, profession, or historical event. Ready? Let’s go!

1. BOOKS AND WRITING: I love reading books about books—books about collecting them, writing them, selling them, publishing them! My favorites in this category include essays about what and why people read, memoirs by people who have worked in the publishing industry, books written about people who have owned their own bookstores or who have worked in one, and books by writers about HOW they write. (For a list of my favorites in this area, check this post.)

2. FOOD AND COOKING: I love to read and I love to cook—so what could be better than reading about food? I’m not including cookbooks in this category, although I have a lot of those, too. Instead, these books include essays about food and cooking, books by and about chefs and other restaurant employees, and books about how the act of preparing and sharing food influences family and culture. Many of these books include recipes throughout the text, but they wouldn’t be considered straight cookbooks. (You can read about my Top 10 books in this category here!)

3. SPORTS: I do not “do sports.” I am possibly the most un-athletic person you would ever meet.  But—I absolutely LOVE reading about sports! Not biographies so much, but “behind the scenes” books about a particular team or sport.

4. AMERICAN PRESIDENTS/FIRST LADIES: I enjoy history, especially historical biography, and I really like reading biographies and autobiographies of U.S. Presidents and their families. I’m most interested in their day-to-day lives, and their lives before and after living in the White House.

5. THE KENNEDYS: I guess this is a subset of the above genre, but I have a whole shelf of biographies and other books devoted to this enormous American political family. I find the Kennedys fascinating. I certainly don’t admire everything about all of them, but I find them endlessly interesting.

6. EDUCATION: As a former teacher, I love reading books written about “a year in the life of a teacher”, as well as topics such as the pros and cons of single sex education, homeschooling, and what schools are like in other countries. (You can find my previous post about favorites in this area here.)

7. AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY: I’ve always been interested in the civil rights movement, and I also enjoy reading biographies of key African American leaders and about African American culture.

8. TRUE CRIME: The only thing I love more than a good fictional mystery is a good TRUE mystery! I read some current true crime, but I really enjoy historical accounts. The downside to reading these books is that some of them are so well written that they keep me up at night!

9. JOURNALISM: I like reading books made up of collections of newspaper columns or magazine articles by journalists I admire. I love seeing how their work changes over time, and how they tackle current events.

10. ORAL HISTORIES: I love books that are a collection of first-person accounts from a variety of people about a common topic or event. I think it’s so interesting to compare the remembrances and language choices of different individuals. (Guess what my “O” post will be about tomorrow?)

How about you? Are you a nonfiction fan?  What types of nonfiction do you enjoy? Please share!


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M is for MARGINALIA–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 13

MWelcome to Day #13 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

Today marks the halfway point of the challenge–13 days down and 13 to go!

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

marginaliaNothing seems to separate booklovers into two camps more than the topic of writing in books. Some folks express pure horror at the thought of defacing the pages of a book with writing of any kind. Some feel that they can’t truly call a book their own until they’ve underlined, notated, and highlighted the pages to their heart’s content.

I’ve got to admit that I do write in my books on occasion. Sometimes I’ll underline a quote that hits home, or I’ll bracket a passage that speaks to me. I’ll often write particular page numbers on the inside covers to remind myself to return to those sections. And once in awhile I’ll write a heartfelt “YES!” or an incredulous “Are you KIDDING ME?” in the margin of a passage that has struck a nerve with me in one way or another. This is one of the reasons that I love owning physical books. I feel that books are to be read, used, and loved—and making notes in my books is one way that I demonstrate all three of those things.

I buy a lot of used books, and while I do try to purchase used books that are in the best condition possible, it’s always a bit like finding a treasure or a mystery when I find marginalia within a book that some unknown reader has owned and then given up. What prompted that reader to underline that particular passage? Why did they write that comment? What were they thinking when they did so? I can write a whole short story in my head just from examining the notes written in the margins of an old book.

How about you? Do you notate your books, or do you prefer to keep the pages of your books as clean as the day you bought them? Please share!


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L is for LIBRARY NOSTALGIA–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 12

LWelcome to Day #12 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about some differences between the libraries of yesterday and today:

 

 

library nostalgia collageI’m a big fan of libraries–I think they’re one of the greatest inventions ever! My parents started me on the library habit when I was really young—my family didn’t have much money to purchase books when I was a kid, but we went to the library just about every week. Today I’m lucky to have a large public library system in my area, and I usually have at least 5 books checked out at a time—often more.

Libraries are so automated today—online searching and automated checkout procedures make it possible to take full advantage of many library services without ever interacting with another human. But I’m old enough to remember the days when that wasn’t the case—and sometimes I miss those times.

Who here remembers the “old school” wooden, boxy card catalogs that were yesterday’s version of Google? There were usually three sets of these–one to use when searching by title, one for authors, and one for searching by subject, and they took up a good amount of space.

You’d have to find the individual drawer for the part of the alphabet you needed–hopefully no one else was using the drawer that you wanted! Then you could remove the drawer, take it to a nearby table, and flip through the cards until you found what you needed. Next, you’d write down the call letters/numbers and then hunt for the book in the stacks! (Don’t forget to return the card catalog drawer first!) I can still remember filling up sheets of notebook paper with the call numbers of books I’d need for school research papers. I’ve bought a couple of these old individual drawers online recently and I use them for storage on my desk and in my bathroom. They bring back fond memories whenever I see them!

Library cards today have bar codes and look like credit cards—but I remember when they were little cardboard cards with your name typed on them (via an actual TYPEWRITER!). Each card also had a little metal plate attached with your library ID number. The card above looks just like my childhood library card, except mine was a pinkish-orange color rather than blue. I think that kids had one color, and adults had another.

Today I get a computer print-out that lists the date that my books are due, but back when an actual librarian checked out all the books, she (and it was always a she!) would stamp the date due on a slip pasted in the back of each book. I always thought it was fun to check that slip and see how many times a book had been borrowed. All of that is a mystery now!

OK–I feel about 1,000 years old right now! Help me out, people! Do you have any memories of libraries of the past?  Or are you someone who has never used an actual card catalog? Please share! 🙂

(You can read more of my thoughts about libraries in this post, and my thoughts about kids and libraries here.)


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K is for What KIND Of Reader Are You?–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 11

KWelcome to Day #11 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

We’re all READERS—but what KIND of reader are you?

The great infographic below is Laura E. Kelly’s take on the classic charts of plants and other living things that we all remember from high school (You can click on the image to visit her site). She’s cleverly adapted that theme to create classifications of close to 50 (!) kinds of reader species—from people who view their books as precious display objects to readers who don’t really like to read!

Where do YOU fit in? What kind of reader are you? I’m wiling to bet that you’ll find yourself somewhere!  Please leave a comment and share which reading species matches up to your reading habits. It might be more than one–I’m pretty sure I’m a combo pack of the Compulsive Book Worshipper and the Situational Omnireader! Enjoy!

Image credit: Laura E. Kelly

 

 


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J is for JUNK FOOD FOR THE BRAIN–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 10

JWelcome to Day #10 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

I read a lot of different types of books for a lot of different reasons—for pleasure, to escape, to learn, and to connect with others, to list just a few. But sometimes all I want to do is to give my brain a break. When I’m in that kind of mood, I crave books that fit into what I call the “junk food” category.

It’s similar to my feelings about food and cooking. I usually enjoy preparing and eating meals that are wonderfully delicious, nutritious, and that look pretty on the plate. But every once in awhile I get a huge craving for a big, greasy cheeseburger!

Junk food books are the ones that aren’t going to make me think too hard. I’m probably not going to be announcing to anyone that I’m reading them. They probably aren’t going to show up on too many “Best of . . .” lists. I’m most likely not going to remember much about them after I finish the last page. And I’ve come to the realization that all of that is completely OK!

How about you? Do you ever crave “junk food books”?  Please share!


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I is for I DON’T LIKE TO READ ABOUT . . . –The April A-Z Challenge/Day 9

IWelcome to Day #9 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about topics I generally don’t enjoy reading about:

I read a lot of books covering a lot of different topics and genres. In fact, my bookshelves look as though they contain books belonging to about ten different people! However, there are few genres and plot points that I tend to avoid. Here are a few of them:

Animal deaths—I usually just can’t handle these. I’ve never read Old Yeller or Where The Red Fern Grows. Stone Fox had me sobbing at the end. I’ve read essays by Anne Lamott and Ann Patchett about the deaths of beloved dogs that have reduced me to a sobbing mess—we’re talking ugly crying face here. I respect the talent of these authors, and I admire that kind of powerful writing, but I generally avoid these types of books/essays unless I’m really feeling the need for a cathartic cry.

Child abuse—I’ve had to deal with a few instances of real-life child abuse in my previous career as a teacher, and that’s enough. I have absolutely no desire to read about it. I don’t read nonfiction books like A Child Called It or novels that include this topic as a major plot point–no matter how many stellar reviews they receive.

Foreign lands—OK, I know I’m totally going to catch flak for this one, but I’ve got to be honest. I prefer to read books set in America. I think most of this preference stems from the fact that I’ve never traveled outside my home country, and I find it hard to completely lose myself in characters and plots set in other countries. Of course, the natural argument would be that books are the perfect opportunity to explore other lands and cultures, and I completely agree in theory–I just don’t put it into practice very often! I do find that I’m becoming a bit more open to reading books set in other countries lately—for example, I really enjoyed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, and I like most of Maeve Binchey’s books set in Ireland. But if given the choice, I’ll usually pick a book set in the US over a book set in another country.

Ghosts and Paranormal Topics–I think I’m just too much of a skeptic to enjoy or appreciate most books about the supernatural.

Poetry—I just don’t know enough about poetry to truly appreciate it. I never took any poetry classes in high school or in college, although my high school language arts classes always included a unit or two on classic poets. I envy people who have read enough poems to actually have favorites. There are some poems that I enjoy, but I generally don’t seek poetry out when I’m looking for my next book.

How about you? Are there any genres or plot points that you avoid? Please share!


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H is for Reading HABITAT–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 8

HWelcome to Day #8 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about my favorite reading spot:

I’ll read just about anywhere, but I do have a favorite reading spot in my home. I have a loft on the second floor where I have my desk and a set of beautiful, tall bookcases–and it’s my very favorite place to relax with a book.

Here are the things in this room that make it my favorite reading habitat:

 1. My most comfortable chair. In the corner of my loft is a big blue overstuffed armchair with a matching ottoman. It was one of the first pieces of furniture I purchased when I moved into my house nearly 15 years ago. When I bought it, the saleswoman called it a “Hug Me Chair” and it’s the perfect name—the back curves forward slightly at the sides and when I settle into it I almost feel enveloped, but not in a trapped way—it’s all good! I love reading in this chair—the only bad thing is that it’s very easy to drift off into a nap there, too!

2. Good floor lamp. This sits in the corner just behind me. Reading in low light is not relaxing!

3. Throw. Or I guess some people would call it a light blanket. I often feel chilly, even in the summer, and I usually want a light throw covering at least my legs. In the winter, I’m bundled up all the way to my chin!

4. Pets. I have two cats.  When I’m in the “Hug Me” chair, Miss Maggie usually comes running and gets comfortable on my lap. Dickens is usually curled up on the ottoman, or sitting in the window, which brings us to . . .

5. Window. I have a very large double window to the side of my chair that looks out on the backyards and a sidestreet of my neighborhood. When it’s open I usually get a really nice, light breeze. I especially like to read by this window when it’s raining or snowing really hard. The window sills are low and just the right size for a cat (or two) to lounge.

6. Snacks. No reading session is complete without a snack and/or beverage handy. Something chocolate is best!

7. Tissues. For possible colds, allergies, or an especially sad chapter. No one wants to have to get up in the middle of a good book to find a tissue!

8. Notepad and pen. No matter how good my book is, sometimes my mind does wander to other things. If I can jot those things down, then I can get right back to my book. I am a multi-tasker at heart, I guess!

9. Very quiet music. Nothing distracting, but I do sometimes listen to some very soft music while I read.

10. Another book! If I’m getting close to the end of what I’m reading, I like to have a new book nearby just in case I’m not quite ready to quit reading. It’s best to be prepared!

How about you? What’s found in your favorite reading habitat? Please share!

 

 

 


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G is for GRAPHIC NOVELS/BOOKS–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 7

GWelcome to Day #7 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about my first experience with graphic novels/books:

 

relishI’d never read any books in the graphic format until about a month ago. I never had any negative feelings about this genre—I just never paid any attention to it. However, I really enjoy reading books about food and cooking, and the book Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley kept showing up on various book blogs. I decided to give it a try—and I LOVED it!

I like to cook, and I adore reading about food and cooking, so this book has me written all over it! It contains the author’s memories of growing up as the daughter of a chef and gourmet, as well as her thoughts about how our experiences with food help make us who we are. Plus—there are illustrated recipes! (I’m definitely going to try her recipe for carbonara!) I thought the format of the book might be distracting, but Knisley’s charming drawings PERFECTLY complement her text, and I simply love her writing voice! I originally borrowed this book from the library, but I know I’ll be buying my own copy soon to add to my collection of food writings. I’ll say it one more time—I LOVED THIS BOOK!

As an aside, I know that although more and more of today’s educators are viewing graphic novels as worthy additions to classroom libraries, there are still some who feel that graphic novels are not “real books” and shouldn’t count as “real reading.” I couldn’t disagree more–I think this type of book could be a powerful motivator for kids, especially those who are reluctant or struggling readers. Reading is reading, whatever the format!

Anyway, I’m now on the lookout for more graphic books/novels to try. Do you read books in this genre? What graphic novels/books would you suggest that I try next? Please share!


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F is for FOUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL FEMALES–The April A-Z Challenge/Day 6

FWelcome to Day #6 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about some of my favorite fictional female characters in literature:

 

Like most booklovers, I have a collection of favorite fictional characters. They tend to be female, and they’re the ones I identify with the most–for a variety of reasons. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of their (fictional) actions and opinions, they’re the ones I wish I knew in real life! Here are four of my favorites:

3932530I vividly remember reading Louise Fitshugh’s Harriet The Spy for the first time. I was in second grade, sick at home with the mumps, and my teacher brought me copy from the library to help keep me occupied. It’s one of the first chapter books I ever read on my own, and I was instantly intrigued by Harriet. I have no idea how many times I’ve read Harriet The Spy, but it’s a book that I re-read every year or so, even as an adult. Harriet wasn’t your typical female heroine back in the early 1970s, and she had a life very different from my own. She never wore a dress—she always wore blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. She lived in bustling New York City. Most of the parenting in the family was done by her nanny. She didn’t always behave. And best of all, she had a spy route and a notebook! Reading this novel inspired me to start keeping my own journal—a habit I continued for at least the next twenty years. I also had my own spy route for awhile, although, unlike Harriet, I never actually entered anyone’s home (or used their dumbwaiter!).

a tree grows in brooklynThe classic novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith is the first adult novel I remember reading—I think I was probably in sixth grade when I picked up my mom’s copy. I loved this coming of age novel, and I loved Francie Nolan. The main thing that Francie and I had in common was our love of books, although her day-to-day life was very different from my own—Francie grew up in the tenements of New York City with an alcoholic father who died young, and I remember being so fascinated with this account of one family’s life in the early 20th century. I also remember seeing the movie version of this book a few years after I read it and being so disappointed that the actress who played Francie just didn’t match up with the pictures I had inside my head!

NellNell St. John is the main character in a now out-of-print book by Nancy Thayer called (oddly enough) Nell. I loved this book when it was first published  in the late 1980s, and I still love it today. Nell is a divorced woman raising her kids near Nantucket, coping with everyday life and everyday dramas. She’s fairly unlucky in love, and she doesn’t always make the best decisions when it comes to relationships. From the first time I read this novel, I felt like Nell could be a friend– a good friend. I could picture myself reacting to her situations and problems in similar ways. I wanted to have her over for coffee! But here’s the odd part–I’ve never been divorced, I’ve never had kids, and I’ve never been to Nantucket! But something about this character connected with me on a very deep level, and that connection grows whenever I re-read it every couple of years. That’s great writing.

dive clausens pierThe Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer is one of those books that people seem to either love or hate. Very briefly, it’s the story of Carrie Bell, a young woman who is engaged to her high school sweetheart, and who eventually realizes that although she still cares for her fiancé, she’s suffocating and needs to get out of the relationship. Before she can make any moves to break off the engagement, her fiancé is left paralyzed due to a diving accident. The rest of the book deals with her choices—does she stay, or does she go? Should she think of her fiancé, or of herself? When people read this book, it seems as though they either totally connect with Carrie or they  absolutely can’t stand her. I’m in the first category—and it’s because of her flaws that I think I can identify with her so well. I know this character’s actions made me think about how far we should go to be true to ourselves, and how much we owe to the ones we love, or have loved. This is one of my favorite novels,  and Carrie is a character who has stuck in my head for many years.

How about you? Which fictional characters are your favorites? Which ones have stayed with you long after you’ve finished their books? Please share!


19 Comments

E is for EBOOKS–The April A to Z Challenge/Day 5

EWelcome to Day #5 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

 

kindle with booksI came really late to the eBook party. I resisted buying a kindle because I’ve always loved the sight of the books on my many bookshelves and the feel of a book in my hands. The sight of my books is comforting to me, and they truly help to make my house my home.

I finally bought a kindle because I liked the idea of being able to borrow library books (and, more importantly, return them on time!) without leaving the house, and I thought it might be handy to be able to buy a book immediately if I ever just had to start reading something RIGHT NOW.

So I’m now a kindle person, and I do read via my kindle pretty regularly–and I don’t hate it. I love being able to have many reading choices at my fingertips when I’m away from home. I borrow quite a few eBooks from the library, but I’ve bought a few every year, too.

But here’s the thing–if I purchase an eBook for my kindle and really enjoy it, I don’t even think twice about it–I buy that same book “for real.” It doesn’t even feel like it’s a choice–if I made a connection with the book, I don’t really feel as though I OWN it until the physical book is sitting on one of my bookshelves.

What about you–do you feel the need to possess the physical version of a book you enjoyed digitally? Or is the eBook version sufficient for you? Please share!


33 Comments

D is for DNF–The April A to Z Challenge/Day 4

DWelcome to Day #4 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post:

 

 

credit Deborah Dewit Marchant

credit Deborah Dewit Marchant

I hate abandoning a book. I always think that if I just give it another chapter or two, I might change my mind and want to keep going. But there are so many books out there that I want to read—it’s hard to justify spending time with a book that just isn’t working for me.

I know some people feel that once they start a book they absolutely must continue on until the end. I’ve gradually adopted the opinion that, unless you’re assigned to read a book for a class, you’re under no obligation to finish every book you start. Like the old saying goes—so many books, so little time!

I do try to give every book I start a fair chance. After all, there are some books that just take longer than others to get going! I’ve also found that I’m a little more patient with books that may be slow to get going now than when I was younger. But there are a few factors that turn me off when I’m reading—and if I encounter too many of them in a book, it’s pretty much a done deal that the book will end up in my DNF pile:

  1. Excessive grossness. I just don’t like reading about a lot of gore or graphic violence. I think a lot of this is because I often read while I eat—and I just can’t eat while reading about blood and guts.
  2. Bad dialogue. This is a real deal-breaker for me. Dialogue that doesn’t ring true makes reading a struggle. On the other hand, if I can practically hear the characters saying the lines in my head, I know that book is most likely going to be finished.
  3. Lots of lyrical descriptions. I won’t be surprised if I get a lot of disagreement on this one, but I usually lose patience when an author takes five pages to describe a tree. There are some exceptions, of course, but usually I need the plot to move along a bit faster than long descriptions allow.
  4. Characters I don’t care about. I don’t have to necessarily LIKE every character, but if I absolutely have no vested interest in what happens to them, I’m probably not going to invest the time it’ll take to find out how things turn out.

How about you? Do you have any DNF dealbreakers? Or are you a reader who finishes every book you start? Please share!


17 Comments

C is for COLLECTING–The April A to Z Challenge/Day 3

CWelcome to Day #3 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about COLLECTING books:

 

I own about 1,000 books in a lot of different genres covering a ton of different topics. But there’s really only one category of my books that I consider to be a true collection, and that’s my collection of alphabet books.

animaliaI’m not sure how I came up with the idea to start this collection, but I do remember the first ABC book I acquired as an adult. Animalia by Graeme Base is a gorgeous picture book that’s definitely not just for kids. The page spreads for each letter are exquisite, and the reader is challenged to find as many objects as possible in each picture that start with the corresponding letter. Every time I look at this book I see something new, and the illustrations are beautiful enough to frame and hang on your wall.

After I realized how much I loved Animalia, I started looking for more alphabet books—ones that went beyond the simple “A is for apple” format. They can be challenging to find, but I soon realized that there are some wonderfully inventive and beautiful ABC books out there!

I’ve been actively collecting alphabet books for about 25 years now, and I’ve accumulated about 60 of them—all of them living on one shelf on my favorite bookcase. My favorite is the ABC book given to my dad when he was a toddler—over 70 years ago!

How about you? Do you have any bookish collections? Please share!


37 Comments

B is for BUYING vs BORROWING–The A to Z April Challenge/Day 2

BWelcome to Day #2 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post about BUYING vs BORROWING BOOKS:

 

 

book stackI’m a big fan of libraries, but I like to surround myself with the books that I’ve enjoyed. Books are definitely comfort objects to me, and I have bookcases in every room of my house except for the bathroom. All of them are filled to bursting! In one of my previous career lives I worked at a large chain bookstore and my employee discount allowed me to add so many great titles to my home library that I never would have been able to afford otherwise.

It’s been more than 12 years since I left that job, and these days I’m borrowing more books from the library than I’m purchasing. According to my Goodreads account, of the 28 books that I’ve read so far this year, 24 have been borrowed from the library. I’m lucky to have a great public library in my area that carries the majority of books that I want to read. Loan periods are for three weeks, with the option to renew if no one else is on the hold list for that title. I usually have at least five books checked out from the library at any one time—right now I’ve got eight library books at home.

I  still buy lots of books–it’s just that they’re the ones that sit on my shelves while I’m trying to get the library books read before they need to be returned! When I do purchase books, I’ll generally try for a used copy first, but I’m picky about the condition—I don’t want books that are soiled, torn, or look like they’ve been run over by a truck. I’ve found over the years that I want to own books that I’ve particularly enjoyed—it’s not uncommon for me to borrow a library book and then later purchase a copy to keep. I’m a big re-reader, and I just never know when I’ll want to revisit a book that I’ve really liked!

I buy lots of used books from abebooks, which is a sort of online clearinghouse for thousands of used bookstores all over the US and even some in Europe. This site makes it incredibly easy to compare the prices and conditions of just about any title—even out of print books. I’ll often wait until a book I want to own comes out in paperback—then I’ll go online and can usually find a nice used hardcover copy for much less than the price of a new paperback. Granted, you take a risk when you buy used books online, but I’ve only been disappointed a couple of times over the ten years or so I’ve been an abebooks customer.

If I can’t find a used copy of a book I want to own, then I go with Amazon or the local B & N. I really only buy new if I just CAN’T WAIT for a book to come out in paperback, or if it’s a book by one of my favorite authors. I’ll also buy new books if I feel like splurging a bit–there’s not much that’s more fun than going to the bookstore, wandering around to see what catches your eye, and then leaving with a pleasingly heavy bag of books!

How about you? Do you usually buy or borrow the books you read? Where do you do your buying/borrowing? Please share!


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A is for Bookish APPAREL–The A to Z April Challenge/Day 1

AWelcome to Day #1 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet! If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.

I’ll be posting about bookish topics on each day of the challenge. Here’s my first post!

 

I work in marketing for a large educational publishing company, and since I rarely deal with clients on a face-to-face basis, I’m able to wear jeans and other casual clothing to work on most days. I take every opportunity possible to wear clothing proclaiming my passion for literacy and books, and these are just a few of my favorites! (Further thoughts and links are below the graphic, but please note that I have no affiliation with any of these companies!) bookish apparel The Literacy shirt perfectly sums up my passion for books and education—I truly believe that learning to read changes lives, and that helping a child (or adult!) to find the right book at the right time can make a difference. I like to think that I’m helping to do this every day in the course of my job!

The Author/Rock Star shirt is definitely the one that provokes the most comments—mainly “Where did you get that shirt? I want one!”

The Cat in the Hat is one of the first books I owned as a kid–so how could I pass up this great shirt? I proudly wear it every year on March 2, which is  Dr. Seuss’s birthday—and on many days in between!

The READ shirt is one of my favorites—simple, bold, and to the point. ‘Nuff said, right?

Last but not least, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with my love for Charlotte’s Web. How could I not purchase this shirt?

How about you? Do you ever display your love for books by wearing anything bookish? Please share!