Musings From A Bookmammal


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!



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




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!





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!


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!


Booking Through Thursday–Reading Again and Again . . .

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks questions about books and reading habits. This week’s questions are:

Have your rereading habits changed? Did you, for example, reread more as a child and your access to new books was limited by how often you could convince your mother to take you to the library? Has the economy affected your access so that you’re forced to reread more often now? Have you grown to look at old books as old friends so that you’re happy to spend time with them rather than rushing the next new thing?

books in pileI’ve always been a big rereader. When I was a kid I reread favorite books over and over again. I still have my original paperback copy of Charlotte’s Web—it’s still in one piece, but it does look very well loved—which it is! And even if I didn’t own my own copy of a favorite book, I had no problem with checking it out from the library over and over again.

Lately, however, I’ve found that I’m not rereading books nearly as often. The variety of online resources make it so easy nowadays to keep finding new books to add to my never ending TBR list— I’m also lucky to have access to a great public library system, and I find that I’m motivated more to keep up with the books I’ve borrowed rather than to take time to reread something that I’ve already enjoyed.

I do continue to enjoy rereading favorite books from time to time—it’s one of the main reasons that I want to own copies of books that I’ve already read. I also find that the urge to reread often hits me when I’m feeling stressed, overtired, or ill. At those times, the act of reading comforts me, but I usually don’t want any shocks—I want to read, but I also want something predictable that I know I’ll enjoy. In fact, I guess I mainly view the rereading of a favorite book as being similar to having lunch with an old friend—there probably won’t be anything happening to surprise you, but you know you’re still going to have a good time!

How about you? Are you a rereader? Have your rereading habits changed over time? Please share!


Musing Mondays–Book Balm

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

credit Deborah DeWit

credit Deborah DeWit

I had a rough week at work last week. Lots of reorganization going on, lots of jockeying for position, and lots of rumors. I love my job and I’d like to spend my energy doing it—instead, last week I found myself having to deal with a lot of nonsense.

All this is to say that when Friday finally came around, I was spent. I wanted nothing more than to spend the weekend relaxing and thinking about anything but my job. That’s exactly what I did—and that involved A LOT of reading.

This weekend really reminded me that reading is indeed an escape-hatch when I need it.  I was able to completely immerse myself in worlds—and problems—other than my own. I was able to clear my head and get ready to handle whatever this new week will bring. I was able to focus on something other than myself.

Everyone has their own way to relax and decompress during stressful events or hard times. I’m so glad that reading is one of my go-to methods! (Cooking is another, but that’s a topic for a different post!) I’m not sure what this week is going to bring, but I feel a lot more ready to face it after spending a weekend lost in my books.

How about you? Does reading help you to de-stress, or do you have other tried and true methods? Are there any types of books you tend to read when you need an escape? Please share!


Top Ten Tuesday–So Why DO I Read So Many Books?


Click here to join the fun!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new question or theme is presented.  This week’s prompt is:

What are the top ten reasons you love being a reader or a blogger?

I’d planned to split my ten reasons between the two, but once I got going on my reasons for reading, I’d hit #10 before I knew it! So here they are–the top ten reasons I love being a reader–in no particular order:

  1. Reading can happen just about anywhere! Books are so portable—I’ve read in cars, on planes, on buses, at my desk at work, by the pool, on a bench in the park, in the tub, in a tree (one of my favorite places when I was a kid!), in bed, on my exercise bike, at the movie theater (before the movie starts, of course!), at the dinner table, in waiting rooms . . . the list goes on and on! There aren’t too many activities that are as versatile and portable as reading!
  2. Reading is cheap! I firmly believe that books give you more bang for your buck than just about any form of entertainment around. And when you factor in free books from the library—there’s just not much that can compete!
  3. Books provide instant entertainment! There’s no reason to be bored if you have access to books. And the entertainment isn’t just in the reading itself—there’s not much that’s more fun than engaging in a spirited discussion with a fellow booklover.
  4. Reading improves your writing. Show me a great writer, and I’ll show you someone who loves to read. Reading constantly exposes you to new writing techniques and vocabulary—there’s no greater method for learning to write than reading a variety of books by a wide range of authors. For me personally, I spend about 75% of my time at my job on various writing projects, and I know that I wouldn’t be able to do so if I didn’t have such an extensive reading background.
  5. Reading introduces you to possibilities. I attended a talk given by a Teacher Of The Year winner from California several years ago, and I still remember one statement he made—“Children cannot pursue what they are not exposed to.”  What a powerful idea—and so true! And books can be the tools to expose kids—and adults!—to all sorts of possibilities to pursue.
  6. Accumulating books makes home decorating easy! I’m honestly not sure what I’d do with all the wall space in my home that is taken up by my many bookcases.
  7. Books provide a common bond. Take two people who come from different backgrounds or areas of the country—or even the world—and once they find they’ve got a book in common—instant conversation starter.
  8. Books make you think. I like nothing more than to read a book that makes me examine my own ideas and opinions about a particular topic. Here’s an example—as a former teacher in the public schools, I’ve always had pretty strong opinions about educational issues such as homeschooling and single-sex education. After reading fairly extensively about both of these topics, my opinions have definitely shifted a bit—and this never would have happened without the opportunity to examine other points of view through books.
  9. Books provide unlimited armchair experiences and lessons, controlled only by the books that you choose to read. I can’t even begin to calculate the amount of knowledge I’ve picked up through reading books.
  10. Most importantly–Reading is FUN! When it comes right down to it, none of us would be spending the countless hours we spend with books if we weren’t having a damn good time!

How about you? Why do you love being a reader? Please share!


Musing Mondays–It’s Probably Just A Phase

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my Musing Monday ramble for this week:

book stackDo you find that your reading goes through different phases?

Right now I’m totally in the middle of a nonfiction phase. I’ve got three books going at the same time—all nonfiction, and all very different topics. Play Your Hearts Out is an investigative look at youth basketball leagues, Pictures At  A Revolution is a behind-the-scenes account of the making of five movies during the mid-1960s, and The Worst Hard Time is about the Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930s. I’m enjoying all three of them—although the youth basketball book has me so irritated at the behavior of the adults in the league that I’ve had to set it aside for awhile.

I’ve got a stack of novels that I’ve bought that are sitting on my TBR shelf, and a few other fiction titles from the library—and I’m just not in the mood for any of them at the moment. One of them is the new John Grisham book Sycamore Row—I’ve been on the library list for this book FOREVER—and now that I’ve got it, I’m just not feeling it.

However, I know from experience that the pendulum will eventually swing the other way and I’ll want nothing more than to sink into a big, juicy, fictional family saga . . . or a psychological thriller. . .  or a great new YA title. It’s just a matter of time . . .

I’ll also go through phases where I’ll only want to read one type of fiction or nonfiction. I’ve gone through presidential biography phases, short story phases, reading-all-the-books-by-an-author phases, and many more.

There are also phases—few and far between, but they still happen every once in awhile—when life happens and I’m not reading anything. I don’t like those phases at all—I feel as though something important is missing from my day when I can’t seem to take the time to lose myself in a book, if only for a few minutes. Luckily, those phases never last too long!

How about you? Does your reading go through phases, or are you always mixing it up? Or, are you a reader who pretty much always sticks to one specific genre or topic? Please share!


Sunday Stealing–Book Survey!

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Click here to play along!

An AWESOME theme this week over at Sunday Stealing! Remember–you can join the fun simply by answering the questions and then adding your link–just click on the icon above!

1: Favorite children’s book: If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that it’s Charlotte’s Web!

2: The last book you’ve read: I finished Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld earlier this week and really liked it.

3: Books on your “to read” list: Oh my gosh—seriously? There’s just no way.  Check my Goodreads account via the Reading Challenge icon on the right sidebar if you’re interested . . .

4: Top 5 authors: It’s so tough to limit it to five, but my favorite authors of fiction include Jodi Picoult, Ann Packer, Beth Gutcheon, Anna Quindlen, Stewart O’Nan. Bonus answer–my favorite authors of nonfiction include Studs Terkel, John Feinstein, and Robert Caro.

5: Favorite genres: Contemporary, realistic fiction—followed closely by narrative nonfiction.

6: A book that has made you extremely mad: A book I’m reading right now is making me very angry—it’s called Play Their Hearts Out and it’s a nonfiction, investigative book about youth basketball. I have some pretty strong opinions about what youth sports programs should and shouldn’t focus on—and the priorities and behavior of most of the adults in this book are so misplaced that I’ve actually had to set this book aside for awhile.

7: A book that you’ve cried over: Eleanor and Park was the last book that I cried so much over that I had to stop and catch my breath. We’re talking “ugly crying face” here. What powerful writing!

8: A book that made you laugh out loud: I don’t laugh out loud when I read very often, but there were some lines of dialogue in Where’d You Go Bernadette that made me laugh out loud.

9: Fiction or nonfiction? Both—right now I’m in the middle of a nonfiction phase, but I love fiction as well.

10: First book you’ve read by your favorite author: The first Jodi Picoult book I read was The Pact, and it made me a Picoult fan for life. That being said, I haven’t loved everything she’s written—but I automatically read every book she publishes.

11: Best book-to-movie adaption: I loved the nonfiction book about high school football in Texas called Friday Night Lights–but I ADORE the movie. It’s one of the very few films that I enjoyed more than the book—and that’s saying a lot because the book was great. There’s a line that Billy Bob Thornton says to his star quarterback that gets me every time.

12: Do you read comics/manga? No—that’s one genre I’ve never dipped into.

13: Hardcovers or Paperbacks? Both.

14: Do you buy books as soon as they come out or wait a while? Depends—I usually wait and then either buy the paperback, or find a nice used hardcover copy once the paperback is released. On the other hand, there are a few books that I’ve gone out and purchased in hardcover on their release day–because sometimes I JUST CAN’T WAIT!

15: Do you buy books spontaneously without any prior knowledge of what happens in it? I usually have some idea about the plot or topic before I buy a book. I’m much more likely to borrow a book from the library on a whim, rather than to purchase a book without knowing anything about it.

16: Have you ever bought a book based on the cover alone? I’ve been drawn to find out more about a book because of it’s cover, but I can’t recall ever buying a book just because of how it looked.

17: Where do you usually buy your books?  I am a HUGE fan of abe.books. If you’re not familiar, abebooks is a central, web-based hub for thousands of used book stores all over the US and even in a few other countries. You can search for just about any book you want and then compare prices and condition with used bookstores all over the country. It’s also a great source for finding out-of-print books.  I’ve bought well over 100 books via this site over the years.

18: Book that had a strong impact on you: This is a hard question—there have been many. I’ve read a lot of books about education that have made me really examine my own beliefs about teaching and our country’s educational systems. That’s my favorite kind of book—one that makes me think.

19: Historical or science fiction? I don’t care for science fiction. Nothing against it-I just have never been able to get into it. I do like some historical fiction—but my favorite books tend to be set in contemporary times.

20: Dystopian or Utopian? Neither—again, not my taste.

21: Worst book-to-move adaption? This isn’t the worst—but I did not like the movie version of The Help. Maybe it was just the reactions of the other people in the theater that affected my opinion—people were laughing throughout the film as though it were a comedy. I left the theater shaking my head.

22: Book that should have a movie adaption? I would love to see what a good director and screenwriter could do with Stewart O’Nan’s Songs For The Missing.

23: The first book you’ve fallen in love with: Charlotte’s Web made me fall in love with books when I was in second grade.

24: Humor or angst? Humor, I guess. I’ve never really had a good grasp of what angst is . . .

25: How many books do you own?  Over 1,000.

26: Do you go the library? I usually stop by every Friday after work—I have holds that have come in almost every week, and checking books out on the same day of the week helps me remember when they’re due back.

27: How many books do you read a year? Great question—and one that I’ve never been able to accurately answer! I have never kept a formal tally of what I read. Since I started my blog this past summer, I’ve realized that I won’t be able to do any of those awesome “What I Read This Year” posts unless I start keeping track. So I started using Goodreads at the beginning of 2014—my goal  is to read 75 books this year. I think that’s realistic, but we’ll see! So far I’ve read 13 books.

28: Favorite “required reading” book? I can’t think of one—different people “need” to read different books at different times. I can’t think of a “one-size-fits-all” book.

29: Favorite quote? I have a lot of favorite quotes about books and reading, but, to me, it all boils down to this one: “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”–Maya Angelou

30: A book you absolutely hate: My mind is a blank on this one! I know I’ve read books that I couldn’t stand—but apparently I’ve blocked them out of my mind!


Booking Through Thursday–Are You A Reading Multi-tasker?

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a  weekly meme that asks questions about books and reading habits. This week’s questions are:

Do you do other things while you read? Watch TV? Cook? Brush your teeth? Knit? Or is it a quicker question to ask when you DON’T read?

books in pileI have some friends who only enjoy reading when they are in a cocoon of silence and are able to focus solely on their book. I respect that–I try to never interrupt someone who is reading–but I am NOT one of those people! I’ve learned to incorporate reading into many daily activities, and I’m still able to enjoy and retain what I read while doing so. I’m very good at multi-tasking, so being able to do several things at the same time is a definite plus when it comes to my reading habit!

I live alone, so I almost always read while I eat, unless I’m having something rather messy requiring two hands. It’s pretty difficult to read while eating barbecued ribs, or corn on the cob! I do love to read food memoirs though, and reading about food while eating food is just about as good as it gets! The only time I don’t read while eating is if I’m reading something particularly graphic in terms of violence or medical procedures. I just can’t mix those topics with food!

I also nearly always read while watching TV—I rarely just sit and watch television without doing something else at the same time, and I often choose reading as my accompanying activity. I also enjoy reading while listening to music.

I’m able to read when I’m exercising on my recumbent bike, but I don’t do it that often because I feel like I’m focusing more on the book than on getting my heart rate up. I also used to love to take long bubble baths, and reading in the tub is a great way to relax—lately, though, I’ve become more of a shower person—and even I haven’t been able to figure out a way to read while showering!

I don’t ever read while I’m actually driving—my rule is no reading while in the driver’s seat while the car is in motion!–but I do keep a book or magazine in my car at all times. I’ve been known to read at especially long stoplights and I’ve also read while in line at the carwash. I know that there are lots of folks who start to feel sick if they try to read while in a moving car, but I’ve never had that problem when I’ve wanted to read as a passenger.

I know that a lot of people enjoy reading while they cook. I’ve never tried this. I love to cook, but I’m usually too involved with what I’m cooking–or with cleaning the kitchen as I go– to spare time to read while doing so. However, I will read a few pages if I’m in the “waiting stage” of cooking something, like waiting for a cake to finish baking. Does that count?

I also don’t read while I’m walking, but again, there are a lot of folks out there who do. There’s a woman who works in my office complex who walks laps around the parking lot nearly every day—all while totally engrossed in a book. So far I’ve never seen her trip, so I guess she’s perfected that skill!

How about you? Do you do other things while you’re reading? Is there anything you can’t do while you read? Please share!


Monday Musings–The Case of the Unlikeable Character

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my Musing Monday ramble for this week:

book stackIs it necessary to LIKE the characters in a book in order to like the book itself?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve recently read two novels featuring very unlikeable characters—yet, both books have been memorable and both are books that I’d recommend to others.

Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison is a psychological thriller that is often compared to Gone Girl. The two main characters are not folks that I’d ever choose to call friends—especially the main male character, who possesses one of the most despicable personalities I’ve read in a long time. However, I found the plot of the book intriguing, I liked the technique of using alternating viewpoints, I was anxious to find out how the book ended, and I still find myself thinking about the plot from time to time.

I  just finished listening to the audiobook version of the novel The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.  Again, none of the characters were particularly likeable—especially when certain things come to light at the end of the story. In fact, the  main character had such an intense rage simmering under the surface throughout the book that I almost found it overwhelming at times. Yet, again, I’m still thinking about the story and the characters from this novel days after I finished it.

So—how is it that I can have such intense feelings of dislike towards most of the characters in these two books, and, at the same time, say that I enjoyed these novels?  Why on earth would I want to spend valuable reading time with characters who I wouldn’t want to spend time with in real life?

In the end, I think it all comes down to the skill of the author. If a writer can create a whole book around an unlikeable character and still manage to keep me reading—then I greatly admire that kind of writing. It’s easy to hold a reader’s interest around a loveable or sympathetic character. It takes much more talent to keep me reading a book containing a main character who is off-putting. And as a reader, I simply have to admire the authors who are able to pull that off.

Here’s another way to look at it: There are plenty of biographies and history books written about people and events who aren’t particularly pleasant–yet people continue to buy and read those books. We don’t have to approve of a person or event to want to learn more about it. As an example, I’ve been fascinated by former US president Lyndon Johnson for years.  I’ve read many books about him—including the fabulous four-volume (so far!) biography series by Robert Caro. I don’t admire LBJ—there are many parts of his story and his actions that leave me shaking my head at his sheer arrogance—but I am endlessly intrigued by his very complicated personality and the effect his presidency had on future generations. Do I admire him? No. Do I want to continue to read and learn more about him? Absolutely!

So—what do you think? Do you continue to read a book when you realize it contains unlikeable characters? What keeps you reading such a book?  Or, are you a reader who prefers to focus your reading time on likeable, sympathetic characters? Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here—please share your thoughts!


Book Blogger Hop–Do You Think You’ll Ever Reach The End?

book blogger hop

This weekly meme is hosted over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer, and you can join the fun by clicking on the icon above! Each week a new bookish question is posted. This week’s question is:

Do you think you’ll ever read every book on your TBR list?

stack of booksMy short answer is—NO, and I hope I never will!

Having a long TBR list means having a long list of choices. My reading tastes are continually changing—what I decide to read might depend on my mood, what I’ve just read, the books my friends and blogging buddies are talking/posting about, and what may be going on in my life at any given time. I read a lot of different genres—both fiction and nonfiction. My bookcases at home look as though they contain books belonging to at least five different people. Having a lengthy TBR list assures me that I have a title ready to go to meet any mood or need I may have when I finish a book.

I used to keep my TBR list in a handwritten notebook, as well as on scraps of paper in my purse, on my desk, in my car, etc. After all, you never know when you’ll hear about a book that you just have to read! Now that I’ve finally set up my Goodreads account, I’m amazed at how easy it is to just keep on adding TBR titles (that scanning feature is awesome!).

And although I do sometimes get frustrated that my TBR list keeps getting longer and longer, I ultimately think that it’s a great problem to have! I usually have at least at least two books going at a time—and I start to feel a bit nervous when I’m coming to the end of a book and I don’t have another one immediately in mind. That’s when my ever-growing TBR list comes in—and reaching the end of my TBR list would mean that I’d have nothing to move on to once my current book was finished—and that just won’t do!

How about you? How do you keep track of your TBR list? Do you think you’ll ever reach the end? Please share!


Musing Mondays—I HEARD this great book . . .

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my Musing Monday ramble for this week:

audiobooks-300x300I have a 30 mile commute to work each day—it takes me about an hour. It’s not a hard, “white-knuckle” drive—it’s mainly through the suburbs on secondary roads—but it does wear on me sometimes, especially in the winter. But last week I started doing something that makes me almost look forward to getting in the car every morning and late afternoon—I put an audiobook from the library onto my iPod and listened to it on my commute.

I’ve never really been into audiobooks. Several years ago I borrowed a few on CD (pre-iPod days!) but the format never really caught on with me. I’m not sure what made the difference this time, but I think my drive time just got a much needed lift!

I’m really lucky that my local library has a huge selection of audiobooks available for downloading. Right now I’m listening to The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud—a pretty interesting novel that I’ve been wanting to read for quite awhile. I’m sure that the narrator plays a huge role in whether or not the listener enjoys a particular audiobook, and the woman reading this one is really good—she’s even able to read the accented dialogue of several of the characters authentically without being annoying about it. I’ve also got to say that the main character of this story is one of the ANGRIEST characters I’ve encountered in a book in a long time—and the narrator does a great job of expressing that simmering rage without going over the top.

I’ve got about three hours to go with this book–that’s about two days of driving for me. I already know I’ll be loading another book onto my iPod immediately when I’m finished.  I also know that at some point I’ll be trying a nonfiction title—I read a lot of nonfiction and will be interested to see (hear?) how that genre translates to this format.

How about you? Are you a fan of audiobooks? When do you listen to them? How/where do you get your audiobooks? Please share!


Booking Through Thursday–What Do You Prefer?

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a semi-regular weekly meme that asks questions about books and reading habits. This week there are several questions to ponder:

All other things (writing quality, story, etc), which would you rather read?
1. Something written by a man or a woman?
2. Something with a male or female protagonist?
3. Something funny or something tragic?
4. Something short or something long with many parts?
5. Something simple or something layered?

My answers to all of these would be different depending on my mood at any particular time. If I have a lot going on in my “real life” I tend to want to read something short, lighter, and simpler.  At less stressful times, I adore digging into a big book that’s packed with lots of characters and intricate plots. On the other hand, I have friends who love to escape into a big complicated fictional saga to distract them from their lives when they have a lot going on.

As for the male/female thing, I often (but not always!) feel that a female author can capture the authentic spirit of a female character more accurately than a male can—and vice versa. However, there are always exceptions! For example, I LOVED the book Midwives by Chris Bojalian when I read it several years ago. The book club that I belonged to at the time had selected it as one of our monthly selections, and most of us were really drawn in by the authentic voice of the main female character in the book. I can’t tell you how SHOCKED I was when I found out that Chris was not a nickname for Christine, but was instead was the full first name of the male author of this novel!

What about you? Do you have preferences in any of these areas? Please share!


Musing Mondays–I’m Not A Quitter, But . . .

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my Musing Mondays ramble for this week:

stack of booksWell, the first book I started in 2014 is not going along as I’d hoped. I started reading Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker because I enjoy reading true crime and the premise sounded intriguing—a series of unsolved murders of Long Island prostitutes whose common link was that they had all advertised on Craigslist.

Now, I knew going in that this book wasn’t going to be a lighthearted read. However, so far it is beyond depressing—and I haven’t even gotten to the parts where anyone gets murdered yet. I’m often reading more than one book at a time, so I’ve already started another, very different book that I’m really enjoying. I’ve read about 100 pages out of nearly 400 in Lost Girls, but I haven’t touched it in a couple of days.

I don’t finish every book that I start. My feeling is that unless you’re required to read a book for a class, it’s OK to put a book in the DNF pile and move on. There are just too many great books out there to spend valuable reading time on books you don‘t enjoy. Sometimes, though, I think I’m too quick to abandon a book.

So, my questions to you—my fellow booklovers–are these:  How do you decide when it’s time to abandon a book? Do you give a book a set number of pages before you move on? What was the last book you abandoned, and why? Or are you a reader who makes a point of finishing every book that you start? Please share!


Better Late Than Never, Right?????

computer__booksI’m going to start this by saying something up front: I am ALWAYS late to the technological/online party. I’m the only person on the planet who isn’t on Facebook. I don’t tweet. I don’t text. If someone asks me for my cell number I tell them not to bother because my phone is only turned on when I have to make a call–and I’d have to look up the number anyway.

However, I’ll also say that once I’m convinced to try a new gadget or to do something online, I usually love it. I dragged my feet for years before I got an eReader—now, although real books will always take first place in my heart, I do really enjoy the freedom of my kindle. I didn’t get an iPod until about two years ago—now I can’t imagine being without my new iPod Touch—I LOVE that thing! And I never, ever thought I’d be a blogger—yet here I am with a blog that’s only 4 months old, yet has given me so much enjoyment and introduced me to so many interesting people–and books!

I say all that to lead up to this—I just set up a Goodreads account yesterday.

Actually, I took a stab at it back in 2011, but I just never kept up with adding or rating books. Up until now, my TBR list has been an actual pen-and-paper list—most listed in a notebook, but also on stray pieces of paper—in my purse, in my car, on my desk, etc.  (I know. . .  I know . . . don’t judge!) I’ve never kept track of how many books I read in a year, or kept track of what I’ve liked—except in my head. Having this blog, however, has prompted me to want to be more organized about what I read and what I want to read.

So—I decided to start from scratch. I purged out the titles I’d entered back when I first opened my Goodreads account, and I’m adding only the books that are currently active on my TBR list. I’ll start adding titles I’ve completed with the first book I finish in 2014.

Here’s what I’d like to know from my fellow book-loving blogger friends (who I KNOW won’t judge me for being ever so late to this party!):

  • What do you like about Goodreads? What don’t you like?
  • Do you review every book you finish, or do you just use the star ratings?
  • How many different bookshelves do you have? What categories?
  • Any tricks or tips for me? Please share!

EDITED ON 1/4/14 TO ADD–I am loving the scan feature on Goodreads! I used to take notes when I was at the bookstore–this afternoon I scanned away and added several new titles to my TBR list. (Yes–I did buy a book or two as well!)

Happy New Year’s Eve to you–wherever you are in the world! See you in 2014!


Musing Mondays—Making Space

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my Musing Monday ramble for this week:

my bookcase in my office/loft/library

my bookcase in my office/loft/library

I’m in my usual “get organized” mode as the year winds down, and part of that routine is clearing some space on my bookcases–I have eight of them throughout my home. I regularly borrow books from my local library, but I buy A LOT of books—both new and used. About 2-3 times a year I find that I’ve reached what I call “critical mass” on my bookshelves, and so I take a tour of my bookcases and weed out as many titles as I can to make room for the new. I never end up removing as many as I thought I would. It also usually ends up taking longer than I planned.

Weeding out my books is tough for me—but what a wonderful problem to have! I like to own real books. Books are definitely comfort objects to me, 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 I’ve enjoyed and that have meaning to me.

So when I start thinning out my books, 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 especially, do I think I may need 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 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.

What I find interesting is that focusing on individual titles on my shelves can bring back vivid memories of where I was and what was going on when I read a particular book for the first time. For example– I have a set of old paperback novels by Howard Fast—his “Immigrant” series—that I read one summer long ago when I was in college. I can clearly remember sitting out by the lake with those books while on vacation with my family. My mom was reading them, too—I forget which of us was ahead of the other, but we were careful not to give away any spoilers, and we were so involved with the characters in this multi-generational family saga that there were times that my dad thought we were talking about real people. When I look at that set of four beat-up paperbacks, I’m instantly transported back to that summer at the lake. Obviously, those books aren’t going anywhere.

My book weeding is now done for the time being—I’ve got three bags of books to take to my local used bookstore in the next few days, and, more importantly, I’ve got a bit more room on my shelves for all the new books and authors I’m going to discover in the new year!

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? Do any of the books on your shelves bring back any particular memories for you? Please share!


Musing Mondays–Bookish Quirks (It’s OK–we all have them!)

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my Musing Monday ramble for the week:

credit Onelio Marrero

credit Onelio Marrero

I was at a wonderfully large used bookstore awhile back with three bookloving friends. At the end of our visit, we were sitting together comparing the treasures we’d found. I was especially excited about finding a hardcover copy of Jim Bishop’s The Day Lincoln Was Shot. I have a fondness for this title because it’s the first adult nonfiction book I can remember reading—at the time, I still had my paperback copy which had been read so many times that it was held together with rubber bands. On this day I’d been lucky enough to find a hardback whose dustjacket was tattered and worn, but whose binding and pages were in great shape for a book that was probably thirty years old or more.

“Look at this!” I said to my friends. “I can just get rid of the dustjacket, and I’ll have a great hardcover copy of a book I love!”

One of my girlfriends immediately got a strange look on her face. “What do you mean—get rid of the dustjacket? What will you do with it?” she asked.

I didn’t even hesitate. “It’s in such bad shape—I’ll probably just throw it away. But the book itself is fine!”

“You mean you aren’t just going to keep the cover? Just to have it?” she asked in a quiet voice.

And at that moment, a whole conversation about bookish quirks was born!

If you’re a booklover, chances are you have at least one bookish quirk. And however odd it may seem to others, it’s part of what makes you the particular booklover and reader that you are. That day in that used bookstore, my friends and I launched into sharing our own bookish quirks and habits.

Hannah loves hardcover books, but never shelves them with their dustjackets. She carefully removes each cover and stores it in a special drawer. Her shelves are filled with jacketless hardbacks, but she keeps all the covers—whether they’re used or new, shabby or pristine–because she never knows when she might want to look at one of them.

Beth leaves the price stickers on all of her books—especially the expensive coffee-table type books that she finds on sale. She likes to be reminded of the bargains she’s found.

Maria carefully writes—lightly, in pencil—the date, the place, and the price she paid for each book on the back inside cover of every book she buys. She says it’s like having a little mini-diary to remind her where she was when she bought a particular book.

As for me—my bookish quirk involves how I shelve my books. Books at my house are arranged by theme. It would never occur to me to bring home a bag of books from the bookstore and just shelve them anywhere that there may be space. Nope—each book needs to be with other books of the same subject or genre. Sometimes that means moving books around—that’s OK. (I had my work cut out for me when I got home from that used bookstore that day!)

How about you? Do you share any of these, or do you have your own bookish quirk? It’s OK-we all have them! Please share!