Books

#AMonthofFaves: An Introduction

amonthoffaves

This month Estella’s Revenge, Girlxoxo, and Traveling with T are hosting a month of bookish – and sometimes not – favorites. Check out this intro post to learn more. The task for today is to introduce our reading year. How has this year “shaped up” and a basic snapshot of our year in reading.

If you look at straight up numbers my reading year has been dismal. My original GoodReads goal of reading 50 books was soon ditched for the far more realistic 40 books. Looks can be deceiving; although my numbers are low I have read so. many. chunksters. I’ve read five books well over 500 pages — Middlemarch, The Woman in White, Alias Grace, A Game of Thrones, and Doctor Thorne — and when I finish Framley Parsonage that will be six chunksters in the bag. I’ve also read ten classics which, if I make it to 40 books read and read the other classics on the docket for the month, will be about a third of my reading for the year.

I have to remember that my life is in a different season right now and it is not a reading intense series. This year we’ve endured two bouts of the kids having a stomach flu of lasting over the week, I’ve had strep throat four times, Sam switched jobs and ramped up his college courses, and we moved amidst less than ideal circumstances. Life has been busy.

I think I have successfully met my goal of making this year a year infused with the written word despite my low numbers. I wanted to write in addition to read and I’ve done that. Nanowrimo didn’t happen but I’ve written more letters, journaled with more depth, and my blog writing has been more consistent. Mischief managed.

I have decided that I am not an e-reader fan. While useful for traveling and late nights with the kids I find my attention wanders with e-readers and I don’t have the same rich reading experience. I’m certainly an old fashioned girl when it comes to books. Having said that I am no longer purchasing electronic books DESPITE the cheap-o deals. I use the app on my Android WAY more than my actual Kindle as it makes reading easier for when I am stuck. I always have my phone, but I don’t bother to carry the Kindle. Long live the printed word!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR, 12/21/14 – 03/19/15

list love

There are big plans for me to read, baby, read the end of this year. I have a significant amount of time off this December and a week and a half of that the kiddos will still be in daycare. Of course I will also be doing Christmas prep — shopping, baking, wrapping — but I plan on making reading a priority as well. That being said, before I begin my Top Ten Tuesday Winter TBR list, I think I should mention what I want to complete before December 21st.

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (audiobook, in progress)
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (in progress)
  • The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James (in progress)
  • Mrs. DeWinter by Susan Hill
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

On to my Winter TBR!

  1. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  2. Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh
  3. Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
  4. The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden
  5. The Man of Property by John Galsworthy
  6. The Quick: A Novel by Lauren Owen
  7. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  8. The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery by Catherine Bailey
  9. Frost in May by Antonia White
  10. In Chancery by John Galsworthy

I hope everyone has an awesome end of the reading year; let me know what you’re looking to read in 2015!

Readerly Rambles: Thankfully Reading

ThankfullyReading_zps031c0cce

Thanksgiving holiday is a busy for our family. Not busy busy, but more like cozy busy. On Wednesday I’m off work and that will be a buy groceries and clean the house day. Thursday I’ll be cooking and starting my Christmas Card list, Friday we decorate our tree, and on Saturday I’m having a girls day with Hope to see Mockingjay. Sunday will most likely be a day to regroup and prepare for the next week and I have to work a short shift at the library. The week after Thanksgiving is final exam week at the university and the library will be busy… crazy busy.

It would be nice to carve (no pun intended) a little time out to read. I’d love to say I’d read “this many pages” or complete “this many books” but I want to be practical. My goal — instead — will be a time goal. I’d like to spend five hours reading. I’ll set the stopwatch on my phone and track the time. I figure the only way I’m going to read is if I find snippets of time. I’m leaving this really open. It may be that I read “I am a Bunny” to Persy Jane five billion times. Or it may be that I get to cracking on some audio books,. All I know is that it would be nice for some reading to happen over the short break.

Details on Thankfully Reading are on Jenn’s blog and it runs from November 27th – November 30th. Let me know if you’ll be joining in!

Welcome to the Sausage Fest: A Review of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

readerly rambles

A few weeks ago the blogosphere was filled with posts bemoaning blog malaise. Folks were exhausted, bored, and frustrated with blogging. I made my peace with blogging several years ago, but I still struggle with self-doubt and feeling like I could always be doing more. I have so many ideas and very little time to write. Also, I need to be doing things to write about: reading, baking, crafting, going places. If I spend all my free time writing or blogging then I run out of material or resort to bored naval-gazing and no one wants that. How in heavens name do people find the time to create?

Enter Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This book is comprised of brief entries about the daily and creative habits of famous writers, artists, dancers, scientists and inventors. Gleaned from biographies, letters, and diaries this book offers an inspiring look at how people make the time to create. Some have firm schedules (W.H. Auden), others superstitions habits (Truman Capote), and still others are decidedly weird (Thomas Wolfe liked to diddle himself before writing…ewww). I started tabbing the book when I noticed three recurring things with many of the subjects: waking early, daily exercise, and coffee. The green tabs are exercise, yellow is coffee, and pink/purple represent waking early. Blue tabs are just my favorite interesting quirks and facts.

wpid-wp-1412600249026.jpgI certainly give this book five stars for how interesting it is and the level of research it must have taken to assemble the over 150 different “daily rituals” into one volume.

HOWEVER…

This book absolutely pissed me off and I haven’t sworn at a book in quite a long time. This book is a freaking sausage fest. There are over 150 creators profiled in this book and only 26 women are represented. What. the. f*ck? There are also very few people of color or from non-American/European countries and nearly everyone in the book is well-off. Thanks for letting me know how hard it is to be a white, privileged, American man and I am so glad you found the time to create.

You will see loads of women on the pages of Daily Rituals. They’re fixing bowls of cornflakes, reading aloud to frustrated authors, editing shit drafts, typing entire novels written on index cards (hello, Mrs. Nabokov), tending children, or simply working to pay the bills. The interesting nature of the entries was marred by the exclusiveness of the artists and creators featured.

Mr. Currey could have saved this book in one of two ways:

  1. My least favorite way would be to talk about it. I just re-read the introduction and he states he, “…tried to provide examples of how a variety of brilliant and successful people have confronted many of the same challenges [finding time to create]”. A simple paragraph recognizing the book was skewed towards men would have gone a long way. He could have talked about class, gender, and race — even briefly — and detailed how it was easier to find privileged or male examples in diaries, letters, and biographies.
  2. The best remedy would have been for Mr. Currey to work a bit harder and find more women, people of color, and working class examples. The stuff is out there if only one would look. I would have especially liked some mothers featured. I know that everyone doesn’t chose to be a mother, but out of the women represented I think less than five mentioned children or household duties.

For inclusiveness I give this book one star meaning the book averages about three stars. In his introduction Currey hopes “that readers will find it [the book] encouraging rather than depressing”. Alas, I left this book depressed at the short-sightedness of the work and angry it was a catalog of the “struggles” wealthy, white men face. Boo, freaking, hoo.

Thursday Thoughts: On Weeding My Book Collection

thurs

A little over a month ago I culled over 400 books from my home. That is about two-thirds of my collection. We were downsizing from a three bedroom, two bath house with a basement to an apartment. I would no longer have a study. I would no longer have built-in shelves in the living area. Instead I would have a little blip of wall in the dining room and a small shelf in my bedroom to fill. I needed to cut down on my books and needed to do it quickly.

First I cut two hundred.

Then I cut just over two hundred more.

If you count cookbooks and kids’ books, then I cleared out close to 450 titles.

I posted a picture on Instagram and immediately the comments came pouring in. “How can you cut Don Quixote!?” “You’re ditching Jane Austen?!” “No! That (insert historical title) is so good!”

Of course, I agreed with all the above statements. I was getting rid of some really good books.

Friends offered to store the books for me and, while the intentions were good, it made me uncomfortable. Do I really need to horde boxes of books in someone’s house for several years? No. Nothing I had was rare or had a high-cash value. Perhaps it is because I’ve worked in a library for ten years, but I don’t think holding onto the books for the sake of holding on to them is a good thing. The reason why I like to buy books is to have them readily available. You never know when you’ll want to read Wuthering Heights at three in the morning. And books are beautiful! Even though I didn’t read everything I owned, I loved gazing at so many rows of book spines and inhaling the wondrous papery smell. Packed up in a box they would just sit.

Then I started to think about my twelve-year old self growing a burgeoning collection of books. I received books for Christmas and birthdays, but we were a working class family and there was no money for extra books. I checked out my maximum allotment of books each week from the library, but books to own were scare. My mom had three large shelves of books, but I wanted my own. Lucky for me the public library had a huge library book sale once a year. I can remember filling up my paper bag with whatever titles looked good. In fact, that was how I first learned of Sylvia Plath. I found a well-worn copy of The Journals of Sylvia Plath at a library sale and I was hooked. I still have my first two library book sale purchases, two poetry books: English Romantic Poets and a blue book that is an old poetry textbook. From those books I breathed “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and “The Lady of Shalot” for a year. I was nine years old. Relatives gifted me boxes of books from yard sales and I always went to the book section of the thrift store first. My first job was at a book store and I used my first paycheck to buy Atlas Shrugged, Catcher in the Rye, and Slaughterhouse-5. I had books of my own because other people (and libraries) saw fit to rid themselves of excess books for very little money.

I also knew that I wanted to begin building a collection to keep on my shelves forever, Instead of a tattered, yellowed, falling-apart copy of The Woman in White, I wanted a Penguin Clothbound. I ditched my mish-mash of Austen because she is a favorite; I long to collect set of beautiful, deckle-edged, French-flapped Austen beauties. Obviously I cannot run out and purchase them all right now, but when I decide to re-read Persuasion I could probably swing the $15 to $20 to get the copy I want (or find a used copy for less). Honestly, I also missed the hunt. My full to bursting shelves didn’t allow for other book sales and pouring through thrift store shelves. Now I have a little room, a bit of space, and I can hunt for titles again.

I sold about a quarter of my books at a yard sale. The rest I gave away. A few were packaged and sent to friends throughout the country. Many were picked up by college work-study students at the library. Most went to the public library for their annual book sale. I consider it a way of “paying it forward” by passing on books I’m not using.

Weeding books can be liberating, but buying books is ecstasy. I’ve been selling you all on letting books g,o but guess who has two thumbs and is going to a massive charity sale next Friday? Yup. That would be me. I have a little bit of room, some stashed change, and a large and empty tote bag. And so it begins… again….

wpid-cam01555.jpg

List Love: Ten Books for Autumn

photograph by Amanda Bowman, creative commons license

photograph by Amanda Bowman, creative commons license

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is a favorite — seasonal TBR list! Below I’ve listed my TBR for the Autumn and my goal is to have these books completed by December 1st. Note — this list does not include the titles I’m assembling for read-a-thon!

  1.  The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
  2. The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James
  3. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
  4. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  5. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  6. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
  7. Consequences by E.M. Delafield
  8. Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey
  9. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  10. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Now I have my list, I have a my cocoa, and I have some cooler nights to curl up at home with a book. Perfection.

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.

wpid-img_20140726_122544.jpg

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.

wpid-cam01390.jpg

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.

wpid-cam01389.jpg

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.

wpid-cam01384.jpg

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.

wpid-img_20140726_215304.jpg

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:

wpid-img_20140726_160842.jpg

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!