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Readerly Rambles: On Choosing Books

readerly rambles

There is no shame in have a bounty of books at one’s disposal. None.

I constantly hear other book bloggers (and I do this as well) bemoan looming book piles. We constantly tell ourselves to limit book buying or to not check out too many library books and I — for the most part — think this is unnecessary. Now if you have a fire hazard in your home from hoarding or you aren’t paying your bills because you’re buying books then yes, too many books is a huge problem. But on the whole, having a lot of books isn’t a problem and we don’t need to make it one. I know that my kids see that I value books and part of that is from the fact that books are everywhere in our home; in fact, they notice when we go somewhere and folks don’t have books on the shelves. I know that buying from indie bookshops is vital to keeping local bookstores in our communities so for goodness sake don’t limit those purchases. As a library employee I can tell you that circulation stats can make or break a library; staff size, funding for programs and materials, and other key decisions are determined based on checkout stacks. If you love libraries then GO CRAZY. I don’t care if you turn right around and drop it back in the book return, if you see a book that you think adds value to the world then for the love of cheeses check it out. Do. Not. Hold. Back.

The problem isn’t so much the spending or the checking out. The problem, my friends, is READER’S ANXIETY. That awful feeling of panic that arises when one wants to read everything, right now, and as a result nothing clicks. I’ve tried many times to curb my reader’s anxiety. What I found most helpful is to rename it “reader’s enthusiasm” and find a way to manage that works for me.

So, how do I choose what to read when my home is filled with books, I have bookish friends lending me enticing reads, I work in a library filled with books, AND I’m the ILL manager meaning that I can request books from LIBRARIES AROUND THE GLOBE? Add to that, the ease of finding and ordering books cheaply and I’m in a bookish frenzy. Well, friends, I have half of an answer.

Yes, you read that correctly. I will be treating you to half an answer (note that this is different from a half-assed answer).

First of all I will tell you what does not work for me that seems to work for everyone else: Reading Challenges. I do really well on challenges that have plenty of wiggle room (i.e. read 5 Victorian novels or 12 books from the library or 3 mysteries). I do not, however, have luck with challenges that require a set list or that are really specific (i.e. pick 12 specific books, read from this list, or pick this one author). It doesn’t work for me. The exception would be if it is something I really love like Charles Dickens or Anthony Trollope or Harry Potter. I try my best to stick to the list, but I end up chucking it out the window.

Readalongs and “themed” months are also usually a bust. The exception would be something that I already really want to read. I did well with The Little Stranger and The Historian readalong, but floundered (pun intended) on Moby-Dick. Then there is the problem I have with needing variety in my reading. For example, I thought of participating in Austen in August, but I’m reading a lot of Trollope and I think they would be too similar. I also contemplated reading East of Eden, but I’m reading so many thick books (between George R R Martin and the Victorians I don’t think I have it in me for another thick book). I have to have some variety.

Below you’ll see my current, not very scientific system that has been working okay for the most part:

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This list changes often. About every month I reassess my plans and make adjustments. Case-in-point: I will finish every book I planned to finish in July with the exception of The Black Count. When I “reset” my list in August, I’ll start with The Black Count and work my way through to my series book for the month. This works out with the goal — not always met, mind you — of reading/listening to five books a month. One on my Kindle, one through ILL or from the library, one in a series (I have many series in my TBR), one from my stacks at home, and an audiobook. Thus far, things seem to be working. I don’t get overwhelmed and I can easily participate in themed months or the Classics Club spin by picking books from my stacks or library books.

HOWEVER, there is a tiny glitch. I am still really overwhelmed when I need to choose a book from my stacks. I’ve tried many ways to narrow down choices:

  • I tried pulling from 20 to 50 books for an “immediate” TBR pile. Inevitability I end up a few days later wanting something else.
  • I tried making reading from my stacks a “reading challenge,” which meant I wanted to read nothing on my shelves.
  • I tried to use a random number generator that ends up with me looking like a crazy person trying to count out to book 206 and then not liking the book and then either picking another number (defeats the purpose) or starting from the opposite end of my shelves.
  • I tried getting drawing little slips of paper from a jar.
  • I tried determining what I want to read. Do I feel Victorian-y, Virago-y, Modern-y, Speculative Fiction-y?

AGH!

What do the rest of you bibliophiles do? I know I’m weird, but I have trouble picturing folks just randomly picking the *right* book off the shelf. Let me know if you have any weird  different systems I could try. I’m thinking that I should at least *try* to pluck three to five books off the shelf and reading the first three pages of each to see which one sticks.

Happy Reading (or happy obsessing over TBR piles)

 

 

Kindred Spirits for the Win!

I’ve had the most wonderful, friend-filled days recently.

Yesterday I worked a half-day and then met up with my friend Melissa. Melissa and I worked at the same library two years ago and she is a classic movie lover, bibliophile, and dear friend. The last time I saw Melissa I was pregnant with Persy and she was embarking on a huge out of state move to take a new job. Now she is working in Georgia again and lives only an hour away. Yay! We enjoyed some Thai food and talked about families, libraries, and books. AFter a few hours at the Thai restaurant, we went to Starbucks for coffee, cookies, and more conversation. I am a ninny and forgot to take a picture (excepting a picture of my cookie, how lame is that?). I am hopeful we can make getting together a regular occurance.

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I”m so lucky, today I got to spend the day with another friend — Catherine. That’s right, today was Caturday. I made the trip out to Athens while Sam hung out with the kids at home. First we chilled at Catherine’s house. She gifted me a cookbook from the Goodwill, The New Vegetarian Epicure — and each recipe looks divine. She also copied out a top secret-mother-of-all-scones recipe that I am eager to try.

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After a bit at her house we decided to go thrifting. Our first round of thrifting was a bit dismal. I purchased The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope and a collection of Chekov stories, but I didn’t see much else. Then we went to the GAP outlet and I bought some clothes for the kids. An old skool Optimus Prime shirt for Atticus and pants, pjs, a sweater, and a tank for Persy Jane.

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Then it was time for lunch. We went to my FAVORITE place: The Grit. I had a veggie omellette, taters, biscuits with yeast gravy, and coffee. It was heavenly. Luckily our server today happens to write one of my most favorite blogs, Grits and Moxie. I was finally able to introduce myself to Jennifer (I’ve seen her there before but she is always super busy and I didn’t want to disrupt her and, frankly, I was afraid I would sound like a dork introducing myself). It was so nice to meet a blogger in person and as we left Jennifer said she would love for us to do a sort of blogger meetup over coffee. That will be super exciting to get to know her better and meet even more kindred spirits.

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After our brunch, Catherine and I popped into a new yarn shop, but it was a bit sparse. Then we went to my favorite indie bookstore: Avid Bookshop. I showed great restraint and purchased a Penguin journal and some notecards. I could have gone crazy.

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Then is was another bust of a thrift store and on to the Goodwill. I hit the motherload of books at the Goodwill. I tried looking for clothes for the kids as that was the entire reason for my thrifting in the first place, but the quality of the available clothes did not match what they were going for. So I bought books, like ya do; because the kids can wear books to school. You can see the awesome spoils from the Goodwill below:

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Score!!!

After a very busy day we had a chance to hangout at Catherine’s house for about a half-hour before I had to make the journey home. There never seems to be enough time when I spend time with the people I love!

I need to remember days like today and yesterday. I can get so wrapped up into my hermitude and focus only on books, work, and family. I need to remember that my friends fill me with such love, happiness, and inspiration. Cheers to kindred spirits!

Works in Progress: 23 July 2014

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I finally organized my yarn and embroidery projects. Up until this weekend everything was stashed in a closet.

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Most of my bookshelves are organized and dusted. I certainly don’t have room for more books. You know what this means. Time to buy more shelves!

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I am working on an index card meal planning system that my mom has used for decades. I hope to be ready to put it in motion by August and will blog more then.

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Finally started the last color on Persy Jane’s blanket. Soon, my friends, soon.

List Love: The A-Z Bookish Survey

list love

Author You’ve Read The Most Books From:

Charles Dickens. I’ve read ten of his novels, story collections, and plays. I should mention this survey applies to my adult reading habits. I’m sure I read upwards of 50 Babysitter’s Club books in the fifth grade.

Best Sequel Ever:

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. I found the second book in the His Dark Materials series a bit better than the first book and certainly better than this last book. I’m drawn to Will Parry’s character.

Currently Reading:

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope and A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin

Drink of Choice while Reading:

COFFEE!!!

E-Reader or Physical Book:

I love my physical books, but I will say that my e-reader is wonderful for lunch breaks, long trips, midnight nursing sessions, and when I have sick kids. It has enhanced my reading, but in no way replaced my love of “real” books.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated In High School:

Unfortunately I would have wanted to date Heathcliff. A terrible man, but in high school I thought he was hot.

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:

The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. It was almost so hyped I didn’t try it, but I’m glad I did.

Hidden Gem Book: 

The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen. I feel that Bowen’s short stories don’t get the credit they deserve. Each story it masterfully constructed. Everyone must read this collection NOW.

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

This is a difficult question and I should probably write a separate post on influential moments in my life as a reader. I will go with my earliest reading memory of my mom reading the unabridged Alice in Wonderland to me when I was in 1st grade. I sat through an hour of her reading this to me each night and I begged for more.

Just Finished: 

Dear Life by Alice Munro

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: 

Erotica, Chick Lit, most Sci-Fi, vapid YA.

Longest Book You’ve Read:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. That chunkster clocked in at over 1300+ pages.

Major Book Hangover Because Of:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling. I had a month long book hangover when that series wrapped.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

Three full-sized in the study, one set of built-ins in the living room, and two small waist high shelves.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I read this book every other year and I think I’m up to about 12 reads.

Preferred Place To Read: 

In a cozy, snug chair at a coffee shop.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read. 

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
– Atticus Finch” from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Reading Regret: 

Alias, Grace by Margaret Atwood

Series You Started and Need to Finish:

A Song of Fire and Ice by George R R Martin

Three of Your All Time Favourite Books: 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. By the way, I went with the first three that popped into my head and I’ve since thought of a dozen more.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: 

 Harry Potter, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Bronte, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens

Very Excited For This Release More Than Others:

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters!

Worst Bookish Habit:

Dogearing the pages of my paperback books.

X Marks The Spot: start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

I’m using my TBR list for this year as I’m not near my shelves. The winner is: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (a re-read)

Your Latest Book Purchase:

A lovely Vintage Classics copy of Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell for 50 cents at a thrift shop

ZZZ-Snatcher  book (last book that kept you up WAY Late)

The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. I have a new rule that I am not allowed to read epic high fantasy novels before bed.

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Brought to you by The Perpetual Page Turner!

Readerly Rambles: 21 July 2014

readerly rambles

What I Read: A few weeks ago I finished my first Alice Munro collection, Dear Life. Holy cheeseballs why didn’t I pick up Munro sooner?!?! I’ve mused for weeks how to perfectly sum up this collection and there is nothing I can say that will do it justice. I will try my best to tie this collection together in a simple way. The stories are very much driven by the protagonist and his or her thoughts and interpretations of the the situations they find themselves in, their memories of the past, and the their reactions to those around them. If I had to pick some words to describe the stories — from characters to scenes to dialogue — I would pick words like: interior, close, introspective, circumspect, careful, still, introverted. The “action” doesn’t make the heart of the story so much as the fallout of those actions or the — often unvoiced — choices characters make. The characters are pulled-back, set-apart, alone and it is so very effective. For example, in a story about a woman remembering the death of her sister when they were children, the crux of the action isn’t about the actual death, but rather about the living sister being haunted by her inaction when her sister was in trouble. Another story is narrated by a man (most of the stories have female protagonists) who abruptly leaves a female companion after learning something disturbing about her childhood. The odd and traumatic childhood isn’t the focus, rather it is what drives the protagonist to keep leaving and abandoning people in emotional situations. The first 13 stories in this collection are fiction. The last section, “Dear Life,” is composed of vignettes about Alice Munro’s childhood. I found these tales of babysitters, insomnia, and memory fascinating. I will certainly be picking up more Munro in the future. She is a expert storyteller and can build troubled, sympathetic characters in the style of Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bowen, Shirley Jackson, and Flannery O’Connor. I’m resisting an urge to binge purchased every Munro collection.

What I’m Reading: I’m halfway through Trollope’s Doctor Thorne and it is even better than Barchester Towers and I adored that book. Trollope just keeps getting better and better. I’m set to finish the book this week as long as my reading goes according to plan. I’m beginning to think that Trollope is a good “gateway” book for those intimidated by chunky Victorian novels. Trollope is hilarious and the dialogue rivals the rapier wit of Jane Austen.

I’m also about half-way through listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’m enjoying it, but I save my audiobooks for when I’m exercising or doing some data-entry like work that I have to do at work. Things were too chaotic to listen to an audiobook at work last week, but I hope to get back to it this week.

Lastly, I started reading the second book in George R R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series — a Clash of Kings. I’m reading it on my Kindle which means this has become my lunch break, stuck in line, up with the baby at night book. I’ve forbidden myself from reading it at other times because I know I will read too much of it. I want to savor this series and not blow through the entire thing.

What’s Up Next:  I was planning on reading another classic, but between Trollope and reading other large books I feel like I need a break. I was staring at my shelves last night trying to decide what I wanted to read: modern? kids’ book? memoir? I had no idea. Then I saw a book my friend Michelle lent to me ages ago, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This Pulitzer Prize winning piece of non-fiction is about General Alex Dumas, father to The Count of Monte Cristo author Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my most favorite classic novels and I’ve read it twice. This sounds both literary AND swashbuckling. I’m 99% sure it will be my next read. Besides, I really need to return the book!

Bookish Miscellany: I’m one pound away from reaching my next weight-loss goal. That means another *new* book purchase. I’ve been only buying books as I stumble upon them at thrift stores and I’m dying to buy books off of my wishlist.  I’ve been buying a book for every five pounds lost. My goal is to lose that pound this week so I can order the Penguin Deluxe Threads edition of Black Beauty. I have all of the Penguin Threads with the exception of Black Beauty and Little Women.

That’s it for this week. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments.

Happy Reading!

Percolating Blog Ideas

This weekend the blogosphere is celebrating Bloggiesta. Bloggiesta is blog event that encourages bloggers to spruce, plan, update, and improve their blog. I’d love to gung-ho participate, but this will be a very busy weekend. This week I thought a bit about Fig and Thistle and what I would like to do in this space in the future. I am big on ideas and short on time and I really need a way to organize and maximize my posts. I usually jot down ideas in the my journal or on post-it notes, I “pre-blog” a bit in the evening and I usually end up writing the bulk of my posts on my lunch break. It feels like a scramble sometimes.

I’ve toyed with the idea of having “themes” for each day of the week. Initially I thought this might be too restrictive, but it would at least allow me to focus my thoughts. How about a trial run through the rest of July and August and if it sucks I can go back to willy-nilly blogging?

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readerly rambles

 

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works in progress

 

thurs

 

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Sunday — Sunday Scribbles: a place to talk about journaling, show a bit of my journal, showcase stationary, and talking about writing.

Monday — Readerly Rambles: book reviews, book hauls, book fangirling, TBRs, etc….

Tuesday — List Love: I participate in Top Ten Tuesday on occasion, but I love lists and I like the idea of making lists of non-book related things.

Wednesday — Works in Progress: On Wednesdays I’ll talk about projects including knitting, crochet, embroidery and non-crafty things like organizing, cleaning, and budgeting. Thrifted will be my back up category for when I have some thrifted goods to show off.

Thursday — Thursday Thoughts: A place to write about what’s on my mind on topics such as social media, motherhood, work, and anything else on my brain.

Friday — Photo Friday: A time to share photos or possibly participate in some of those Instagram memes I never remember to do on a daily basis

Saturdays — Other people’s themes: I may write a Celebrate 5 Things post or do a Weekend Cooking post. And, of course, Readathons and other book related events.

Whelp, there’s my wee-bitty bloggiesta contribution. Let me know what you think? Any other ideas?