book life, digital, library life

Read More in 2019

Last week I made a Twitter thread with a few tips on reading more – I had encountered a bunch of tweets from people commenting on how much (or little) they had read in 2018, and what their goals are for 2019. I thought it would be nice expound a little more on it. Plus, you know, I’m a librarian. This is kinda my thing.

1. Check out ebooks from your library.

It took me a little bit to adjust to the idea of electronic books when they first started becoming a thing about 10 years ago. I definitely preferred holding an actual book in my hand. But I had a conversation with a woman at the bookstore I was working at who was looking to self-publish her book on helping women get out of abusive relationships, and we talked about how convenient ebooks are because you can very easily hide what you’re reading from those around you (which a victim of an abusive relationship might need). I pinpoint this as when the tide started to turn for me with regard to ebooks. Now I could see a real benefit. And the list continued to grow.

But I didn’t really get into ebooks until my second library job in Georgia. My director was a voracious reader, and on her lunch break you’d see her with her iPad mini reading a romance novel. I decided an iPad mini was the way to go, and as soon as I got it I hopped on to OverDrive and started to checking out books. As a librarian I could participate in Library Reads, and got access to all the digital advance reader copies on Edelweiss. I dove in head first, and became a believer. Being in grad school, and a bout of depression that followed, had really slowed my reading game, and now with access to ebooks my reading kicked back into high gear.

One thing I found was that I could get through books faster, since I always had plenty of reading material on my phone. I could easily nab 5-10 minutes here and there reading while waiting for other things, and those minutes would add up. Getting ebooks meant I could read them on my work laptop when it was slow at the reference desk. And since it was free from the library, I could find a book wherever I had internet. Finished a book in the middle of the night? Check out the next one and keep reading! Read a couple of chapters and didn’t really like it? Return it and no harm done and no expense made! I made a lot of older women especially very happy once I helped set them up with an OverDrive account on their mobile device and suddenly their library got way bigger and way more convenient for them.

2. Read a few books at a time.

I always have a few books I’m reading. Sometimes I have one or two ebooks going that I’ll read on my phone, a print non-fiction book I’ll read with a pencil to mark passages I like and information I want to retain. Sometimes I’ll have an audiobook in the car for my commute or road trip. For some, this may seem like an overload, and occasionally it is. But I find it helps to motivate you to keep reading. If you only have that one book you listen to in the car, you’ll focus on that when you’re out and about. You have a book on the Nazis that’s well-written and drags you down a little bit, and you can break that up with a hot contemporary romance that’s fluffy and delightful.

I just know that if I have a few books going at a time, I’ll always have something to read no matter what mood I’m in. I find that reassuring. And then I get to a point where I finish them all in a row and get to update my Goodreads and feel very accomplished.

3. Try audiobooks!

Caveat, I have never been much of an audiobook person. That’s just my personal preference. But they are so useful! And when I was living outside of Atlanta and driving to see my friends in Charleston, South Carolina about 6 hours away, I enjoyed picking a good audiobook to keep me company. I found I liked non-fiction best for audio, and enjoyed celebrity memoirs the best. Lots of quick anecdotes to keep me entertained, and if I zoned out while trying to find my exit, I didn’t miss much.

My cousin goes through audiobooks like a baby goes through candy. And he listens to them at 1.5x speed to get through them faster! That may take some getting used to, but it’s an option for busy people who want to “skim” through a book

4. Try a reading challenge like Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.

I took an Adult Popular Fiction class in library school. You’d think on the face of it it was an easy class, but not so. Our instructor was a local public librarian, and she DRILLED into us that every book has a reader, and every reader has a book. Never judge a person for what they’re reading, because reading is a joy that comes in many forms. Each week we focused on a different genre and read a book categorized in it. I never would have read “bonnet” fiction (typically Amish romances) otherwise. And my favorite week was urban fiction. I picked Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark completely based on the title and was impressed with how good I found it. It’s not Austen, but the woman writes a good story, and I was further impressed to find that she wrote it while incarcerated. I have another level of respect for someone who writes a book that gets published while they’re in prison.

What I’m saying is, trying a reading challenge may help you find a new genre or author that you didn’t know you would like. Go to a different area of the library or bookstore and peruse it. Ask a librarian or bookseller for recommendations (as a former bookseller turned librarian, I can say I am so rarely asked for reading suggestions that it makes my week when it happens). Ask your friends and co-workers for their favorite books and read them. You never know what you may like!

5. Don’t finish a book if you’re not feeling it.

I’m one to talk. It’s taken me a long time to allow myself the ability to release myself from a book I didn’t like. It helps that I have access to so many books for free as a librarian, so I feel minimal guilt over deleting it from my downloaded books on Kindle or returning it to the library. But really, if you’re not enjoying the book, put it down. Let it go. Give it up. Send it away. Return it. You have this librarian’s permission. There are so many fabulous books out there waiting for you, don’t waste your time on a book you’re not enjoying. Maybe you’re not in the right mood for it and give it a few months and you’ll be in a better mindset. Maybe it’s too hyped up right now and you need people to chill about it. Or maybe it’s just a badly-written book. Whatever it is, move on to the next book on your list and enjoy that.

 

Read what you want and in the format you prefer. Enjoy what you like. Just keep reading!

book review

Good and Mad

A 2017 Pew survey found that nearly six in ten women said they were paying increased attention to politics since the 2016 election, a greater share than men.

I’m for sure one of those six.

I never considered myself a political person until the 2016 election. I barely paid attention to government matters most of the time, and didn’t like to disclose political views because many of my friends were very passionate about politics and I feared their wrath if I opined on anything when I felt so uninformed. So I generally kept my mouth shut. Until Trump.

I felt so defeated after the election I was in a bit of a stupor the day after. I was living in a very red area and was extremely grateful no library patrons came to gloat – but those who had voted for Hillary had a look about them and we could nod to each other and know that there was someone in that town who understood. And reading Good and Mad was like an extended version of that nod.

In this book, I felt my feelings were finally articulated and distilled to a point that could be explained to others who didn’t feel them the same way. I was good and mad. I was bewildered. I was angry. And the activist movement that came out of that anger helped to keep me sane during the first part of the 45 administration. I had a purpose to give that anger to. I could commiserate with people who felt similarly, and together we could work to express our dissatisfaction to others in a productive way.

“Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear,” wrote Zora Neale Hurston

Selfie with my handmade pussy hat at the Atlanta Women’s March, January 2017.

I can’t fully express the joy I felt participating in the Women’s March in Atlanta. It was so incredibly cathartic, and gave me the opportunity to meet some lovely women I carpooled up with who lived in our small Georgia town and were all so grateful to know there were others like us there. I marched with a woman who had marched in Selma back in the 60s and it was a privilege to link arms with her. There were so many of us we couldn’t hear John Lewis speak, but we knew he was there and that was enough. I’d been able to knit some pussy hats and got them to some of the other women in the group and they were so pleased to have a handmade souvenir of the event.

Some members of my family, and some of my friends who lean conservative, did not understand why I participated in that march (and the March for Science and the March For Our Lives, and presumably others in future) and I found myself getting very heated about it. How could they NOT see why I participated?!

It was comforting to read this book and not only feel that my anger was vindicated and not unusual, but to feel that righteous anger bubble up in me again. The author stresses that it’s better to have that anger released in productive ways:

Having had the rare and privileged experience of having had my anger taken seriously, valued on its merits, I no longer believe that it is anger that is hurting us, but rather the system that penalizes us for expressing it, that doesn’t respect or hear it, that isn’t curious about it, that mocks or ignores it. That’s what’s making us sick; that’s what’s making us feel crazy, alone; that’s why we’re grinding our teeth at night.

We can’t keep that anger inside us. We have to allow it to come out. We have to express it, articulate it. Women are automatically called crazy or hysterical when they show their anger, they are seen as unhinged. But women have valid reasons for their anger, and they can use their anger to not only help themselves but others who are also seen as unhinged for being unsatisfied and frustrated with their situation. It was invigorating to read this, and I think it’s not only a good book for people of today who need help deciphering their anger, but also for future times when people want to understand how the movement unveiled itself during this time.

book life

Reading Habits

I just finished reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I have an anecdote for Ayn Rand from my bookselling days: I worked at a chain bookstore in Utah, and one summer there were a large number of teenagers fresh out of high school or entering senior year who came in asking for either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. It happened so much that I finally started asking if it was a summer reading assignment. Nope, these kids were simply interested in tackling Rand. It was a little weird.

But I’ve been curious to read Rand ever since. There’s a joke on the internet that you should never date someone who says they like Atlas Shrugged, so when a dear friend of mine mentioned that he loved The Fountainhead I had to laugh but be relieved it wasn’t Atlas Shrugged. But I also didn’t want to judge Rand until I had given her a shot. And what I found was that I really enjoyed reading The Fountainhead! I totally fell for the characters and got wrapped up in the story and found ways to relate to it that I didn’t think I would find. Granted, I didn’t always get the Randian philosophy that she hits you over the head with – either I didn’t follow the logic or I didn’t agree with it – but for me that didn’t take away from the story and the reading of it. And now I can say that I’ve read Rand and actually kind of liked it.

I had another friend tell me recently that I was one of the most widely read people he knows. I think a lot of that had to do with me reading enough academic books that he has also read, but it still made me feel good. When I was in library school I took a Popular Fiction class where we read a different genre every week. I read Amish romance, urban fiction, Harlequin romance, and others I normally wouldn’t have read. Our instructor was a local public librarian who was PASSIONATE about making sure that as librarians we follow the law of library science that every person has their book and every book has its reader. We should read widely to know what our patrons may like. And I took that advice to heart.

At my second public library job in Georgia I was in charge of purchasing all the adult fiction (to clarify: fiction for adults as opposed to teens or children, not the X-rated stuff. People have gotten confused). I started to participate heavily in LibraryReads and got a few reviews published on their site, and tried reading outside my usual comfort zone to participate even more. I discovered that while I had never considered myself a romance reader, I tried out a few that I soon discovered that I LOVED a few romance genre writers and wanted to read any series they came out with. (Currently I’m in love with Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. Like, I love it so much that when I hear of a new installment I jump for joy in my desk chair.) I aim to read at least 50 books a year so I can squeeze in not only the titles I want to read but others that are different and might be of interest to others that I can recommend. And I might even find a new genre or author or story that I can love and enjoy.

What all this boils down to is that I recognize that while I may not enjoy certain genres and kinds of books, those genres have their fans. Don’t ridicule. What matters is that the person is reading and has found something they enjoy that takes them out of real life for a time. Taking some time to read outside of your comfort zone with give you a chance to see what others may like and allow you to read in their shoes so to speak, and you might even find that you love a genre you weren’t aware of before, and how fun is that??

book review, history

PhD Student Meets Hitler

I’ve been reading Travelers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd, which compiles the journals and letters and other observations of people who visited Germany starting in the 1920s and the Weimar Republic and into the Hitler regime. I find this a totally fascinating topic because so many people vacationed or conducted business in Germany in the 30s and had no idea how dark it was and would continue to be. Many of these visitors exposed their own prejudices and racist attitudes towards Jews and felt sympathetic towards the Nazis. And sometimes, despite any misgivings they had about the Nazis, they got swept up in the pageantry and cult behavior of the Nazi party. I may blog again about this book as I keep reading it because there’s a lot of interesting stuff in here.

One of the stories that popped out to me was that of Milton S. J. Wright, who at the time of the rise of the Nazi party was a PhD student of economics at Heidelberg University, and was lucky enough to have an audience with Adolf Hitler himself… and what made this all the more eye-opening is that Milton Wright was black.

Continue reading “PhD Student Meets Hitler”

hate read book club

Hate Read Book Club continuation

So last year I was feeling down in the dumps (you know, that whole election thing) and needed something to do as an outlet for my snark. So I decided to start what I called the Hate Read Book Club – and it is what it says on the tin. You hate read a book. What’s a hate read? Reading a book you know you’re not going to like and do it for entertainment value. LOL. Yeah, not for everyone, but I was raised watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, so I’ve been enjoying bad art for a long time now.

So I started with This Victorian Life by Sarah Chrisman. You may know her as the more famous half of the duo known on the internet as That Victorian Couple. I explain them a little in this Tumblr post. I started doing the Hate Read Book Club on my Tumblr, and got a few chapters in, and then I got a new job and all my spare time was taken and I haven’t revisited it since. Until now…

So I’ve decided to pick it up again, but post it here on this blog. Let’s see if I can get through the whole book this time! You can catch up with the previous posts here:

This Victorian Life: Introduction
This Victorian Life: Chapter 1
This Victorian Life: Chapters 2 & 3

Now we’ll continue with This Victorian Life: Chapters 4 & 5: Continue reading “Hate Read Book Club continuation”