Sunday, October 16, 2011

Library Angst

     I have a problem, I must confess. I am a book-buying addict. I do not use my local library. I did not even use my local library when I lived in a big city that had a nicer one.  I am trying to get better and am starting a rehabilitation program for myself. I don't really know anyone who goes to the library regularly, except for my best friend who has been a library fan as long as I've known her. If there are other people going to the library out there they are not speaking of it. If you have gotten in the habit of only going to bookstores and accumulating more and more books, I offer these thoughts to you as well. It is not satisfactory to give up physical books (ebooks just seem to be less memorable), but my book shelves are filling rapidly. It's a small step, but I hope it helps.

1) Accept that you may need to amend your "look for" list.  I hope some of you who read this live in cities with big thriving libraries. If you do, you may be able to find most books that you are looking for when they are relatively new. But if you live in a small town like me, you're not going to be finding that new release that you've been wanting. In fact, unless you're a fan of Christian fiction or Nora Roberts you may initially see nothing of interest. However, if you take time to comb the shelves thoroughly you may be pleasantly surprised to find some really cool things. I'm finding that it helps to go in without an agenda.
(Disclaimer: I'm actually a big fan of a good Nora Roberts book from time to time, so no offense).

Similar to my local library
2) Borrowing books is not the same as buying them. This seems obvious, but I was struck by the difference on my last library trip. I weighed all of my choices super carefully, as if I was buying them. I ended up bringing home three books that looked good at the time but lost their luster after I took them home. And here's the ridiculous part, I felt a little guilty!  I read one of them in a day, but I had no desire to read the other two. It took my husband's reassurance that it was fine to return them unread to finally make me feel better. "Return them today if you want," he said, so cavalier in his library ease. When you buy books you make sure they are ones that you are going to read because you are spending money on them, and they are becoming part of your permanent collection. The library offers you a great opportunity to flirt with authors you might not want to commit to, no strings attached.

Similar to what I wish was my local library
3) The library is free. I feel compelled to buy something every time I go to a bookstore, especially small independent ones. That is, after all, why they exist. As much as the owner or employees may love books, they are part of commerce and they only exist as long as people buy things from them. That's why, sadly, my town's small used book store also has tanning beds. It's why the big chain bookstores have covered up their book displays at the entrance with Nook or Kindle kiosks. They have to be "trendy" to stay in business and I would certainly rather them do that than go out of business. First of all, I'm in no way saying that I won't still be supporting these places. I love bookstores.  I could build entire vacations around book shopping. But I'm also charmed by the fact that the library has none of these enticements. They exist to promote reading and information. They offer story time for kids and a surprisingly good youth selection even at my small library. You can sit in a chair, read for hours, and no one expects you to buy a single thing. These are all wonderful things that we should make a point of supporting in our technology driven society.  Now if they only had coffee available............

Monday, September 12, 2011

Long time, no see

I love the fact that my last post was about how I was going to be posting more often and it was in February. I really do want to start blogging more and so I feel like I should blog about what I'm most passionate about... books. At least on that subject, I always have something to say. So look for a lot more book reviews and recommendations coming up in the near future.

My latest recommendation is a book that I just finished this morning. A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano. The book is set in Milledgeville, GA, Flannery O'Connor's hometown. O'Connor is not the main character in this novel, but she is the axis around which several of the main characters revolve. This was not an uplifting read, but it was extremely good. If you are interested in Flannery O'Connor it is a must-read. Napolitano's portrayal of the writer as a person is fascinating. Even if you're not, this book was wonderful. I was worried at first because the book's description sounded a bit vague, yet as I read it I realized there was no easy way to pin down the plot. Essentially, the book centers around several families in the town and their destruction and redemption. It's an easy read once you get going and totally worth the time. The book is completely fictional, but I am planning on doing some research to see how many plot elements were based on something real in Flannery O'Connor's life. I hope someone else will read this book, because I'd really love to discuss it!

My new read is The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman. I love to read Alice Hoffman in the Fall. I know it's not technically Fall yet, but I still had the urge. Something about her writing just screams crisp air and falling leaves. I've been putting this one off until cooler weather, so I hope I enjoy it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Returning to my Blog

I am hoping to start blogging on a more regular basis. Check back for more updates soon!

Monday, August 3, 2009

My 25 Random Things From Facebook (In Case You Missed Them)

1) I had no idea how to add a new note to my facebook (kinda sad, I know).

2) I have 2 pugs, Neko and Wicket.

3) I have been a nurse since 2004. I was an ER nurse and now I'm a neonatal nurse.

4) I have been to a lot of places, including Europe, but have never been west of Mississippi.

5) I've played the piano since I was 8 years old. I also play the saxophone and sing.

6) My husband and I both have two different colored eyes (but our child doesn't).

7) I was a spelling bee champ in elementary school.

8) I read constantly.

9) My husband and I specifically designed our house so that we could have one whole room as a library.

10) My favorite TV show ever is The Golden Girls.

11) I am fascinated with my new Tassimo hot beverage system. ( I love a hot beverage!)

12) Also, I am a self-professed nerd! (See numbers 10 & 11).

13) I don't feel guilty for letting my child sleep in bed with me.

14) I am totally addicted to perfume and bath products. Seriously, it's a problem when you think every new season needs a new scent!

15) I bought an XM radio to cut down on my CD buying habit, but it didn't work. Now I buy music AND pay for my XM radio. Before my computer crashed, I had enough music to play for 45 straight days without repeating anything.

16) I have a tattoo on my left shoulder.

17) I have seen someone who's been shot in the head and someone with flesh-eating bacteria. (not the same person, thank goodness!)

18) I almost didn't graduate from college because I didn't get enough convocation points, one of the downfalls of going to a private college. Sadly, when I did go, I usually studied which my friend Erin tells me was very rude.

19) I have 14 biological aunts and uncles, not including their spouses. (12 on my dad's side and 2 on my mom's).

20) Therefore, I have 35 first cousins.

21) I had braces from the 3rd grade until the 9th.

22) I used to run around in a bonnet when I was little and pretend I was in Little House on the Prairie. And my parents, never stifling my creativity, surely had to have been a little embarrassed when I wanted to go to the mall this way.

23) I sometimes fear I have the musical tastes of a 50 year old man (James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, etc.) But most of the time I just think I have really good taste. :)

24) I am determined to someday publish a book, which will promptly win a Pulitzer and be chosen for Oprah's book club. Well, I can dream anyhow.

25) I've only been to the beach once in my life, but I would love to go back. Although the ocean kinda freaks me out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Putting It Down

I have a confession. I recently stopped reading a book, more than halfway through it. I really try not to do this very often. Of course, there are the occasional books that I struggle with from the start. But in general, I try to only read things that I feel will hold my interest.

My recent failure was 2666 by Roberto Bolano. I have seen this book so often touted by reviews and even on bookstore shelves as a "must read". I was bound to cave and try to read it eventually. I finally gave in when I found a copy that was divided into three trade paperback books. Until then I had been very reluctant to carry around such a weighty tome. In premise it seemed interesting. All these different characters drawn to a city in Mexico where hundreds of women have been murdered over a span of years (this part is real). It is divided into 5 parts and I made it through 3 1/2. Then I just had to put it down.

Even though I was well into it, I just couldn't stomach the thought of hundreds of more pages. The writing was a bit distant, and despite it being heralded a new era in Spanish literature, I just couldn't love it. I suppose I might admire the sheer heft of it, but not the book itself. Oh well. It happens.

How do you feel about stopping books halfway through? Do you feel like you might sometimes be missing out on something great? I worry about it sometimes, but apparently not enough to stop me from stopping.

My New Love

I have a new love in my life. It is my new NEO by AlphaSmart. If you don't know what a NEO is, it is essentially a word processor. It's nothing else, absolutely simple. And I'm in love with it. This no doubt makes me a total nerd, but that's a label I'm perfectly willing to claim.

It's a full size keyboard that runs on three AA batteries and has enough memory to hold a full size novel. It has approximately 700 hours of battery power, so you can pretty much just type and type and never run out of power. It also has one simple "on" button that immediately places you back at the last place you were typing.

I can't brag about it enough. You just transfer files to the computer by a USB cable. It's only weighs a pound or two, and according to the manufacturers it is pretty much indestructible. No more carrying around bulky notebooks, now I just throw my NEO in my bag and go. I can type anytime, anywhere.

It has no Internet, no solitaire, nothing extra. I find it to be extremely freeing. And I also find myself writing with much more frequency now that I don't have to spend a ton of time waiting for a computer to boot up or worrying that the battery is going to die. I'm not the only one who loves it though; I found this a minute ago:

Anyhow, enough about my new gadget. (Is it still a gadget if it's actually a technological step backward?)

I have just finished The Likeness by Tana French. It blew my mind just like her last book In The Woods. They are technically thrillers I suppose, but they are rich with imagery and thick plot. I highly recommend both, although I would start with In The Woods as The Likeness has some elements of being a sequel. Beware! These books are lengthy and aren't quick reads. However, you will be unable to stop once you get into them. So make sure you have a large chunk of time to read! :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Book List, Part 2

So, here's the second half of the list. Yes, it does indeed contain both Louise Erdrich and Barbara Kingsolver.

13. East of Eden, John Steinbeck- A great book for when you're in the mood for some dusty atmosphere. Not quite as dusty as The Grapes of Wrath. I have my limits on depressing, and that one is just too much. This is a retelling of the Cain and Abel story, which while not entirely undepressing, is still a great read.
14. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson- I struggled to pick a book by Bill Bryson, because everything he has written I think is smart and hilarious. I opted for this classic about the author and his friend hiking the Appalachian Trail. They are not experience hikers, by any means, and you don't have to be a seasoned hiker to enjoy this book. It's just funny and wonderful. I recommend anything and everything by Bill Bryson, but if you're only going to read one book by him, this should be it.
15. A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman- I was so fascinated by this book the first time that I read it. It is essentially what the title says it is. A look at each of our senses, how they work, and how they affect our perception of the world. The writing is beautiful, and Ackerman is just so smart. Even if the premise of this book doesn't interest you, I think you will find a lot to appreciate in its pages.
16. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley- This is a modern day King Lear story. This time the setting is a modern-day farm. I love to read retellings of classic stories, and this one is great. Full of family drama, as is the original. :)
17. bird by bird, Anne Lamott- Anyone who is interested in writing should own this book. Lamott is funny and so very wise. She writes about the craft of writing in a way that makes you feel like she really truly does it, hard work and all. It's a great book to pull out and just read a small chapter or two, if you're feeling frustrated.
18. Nine Parts of Desire, Geraldine Brooks- Before Geraldine Brooks was a novelist, she was a journalist. This is a chronicle of her time spent among Muslim women and gives a fascinating look at their inner lives. If you're female, this is worth a read. It will make you appreciate your own freedoms, but also give you more insight into what is a very stereotyped culture.
19. The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer- This book is marketed as fiction, but it really isn't. It's fiction in the same way that In Cold Blood is fiction. The events actually happened. These people really existed. It comes across more as investigative reporting and an eye-opening portrait of a killer. It's a very long book, but it is broken up into very small segments and you will finish it in no time.
20. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos- This book is everything you might imagine. It's raunchy and heat soaked. It's full of drama and has a wonderful sense of atmosphere. It's another Pulitzer-winner, so the raunchiness obviously is the good kind, not the smutty kind. haha
21. The Red Convertible, Louise Erdrich- This is a short story collection that basically chronicles Erdrich's entire career. I think if you had to pick one Erdrich book this would be the one to pick, because most of these stories are contained in some form in her novels. The stories are wonderful all on their own, but they also serve as a great starting place from which to explore the rest of her work. And you certainly should explore the rest of her work.
22. Plays Well With Others, Alan Gurganus- Probably best known for The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Gurganus made me look at writing in a whole new way with this book. I stumbled across it in high school and was obsessed with it for a long time. It is the story of three friends in New York City in the 80's, and all that that entails. AIDS, drugs, etc. But what is most enthralling to me is the writing that Gurganus seems to have just invented. He strings together adjectives and phrases that give this book its very own language. It's hard to describe, but very obvious to see upon reading.
23. The New GRANTA Book of the American Short Story, edited by Richard Ford- Everyone should own at least one really big book of short stories. This is, to me, the most bang for your buck. It's huge, although the drawback is that it's not exactly suitable for carrying with you. Still, if you like modern American short stories, you will find excellent ones here. And plenty of them. On the other hand, if you prefer classic short stories, or British, or Irish, or stories about Latino women going through bad break-ups, there are anthologies for you too. They apparently can anthologize anything these days, no matter how specific. This just happens to be my favorite.
24. The Lotus Still Blooms, Joan Gattuso- The basic beliefs of Buddhism are layed out in this very accessible, practical book. I read it much too quickly the first time through, but it's hard no to speed through it. You certainly don't have to be Buddhist to enjoy this and gain some very valuable insights that you can use in your everyday life.
25. Anything by Barbara Kingsolver- This ended up being last on my list because I couldn't pick a book. I love Barbara Kingsolver and everything she has written. I love that her writing, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, is deeply connected to the earth. I feel I should recommend The Poisonwood Bible, arguably her best. And it's true, I was deeply affected and devastated by its power when I first read it. But I have discovered her other works are no less wonderul. I am partial to Animal Dreams, but I also love her living-off-the-land memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And her essay collections are warm and witty and earthy. Whatever you pick, just read her. It will simply make you happy.

There you go, that's my list. It has made me very, very happy just to type this all up for whoever cares to read it. What would be on your list?