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Engaging Methuen Readers


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Bookish Confessions: the right book at the right time

I checked out Lev Grossman’s The Magicians from the library five times.  Not because I loved it so much and wanted to re-read it, but because it just didn’t “take” on tries one through four.  What kind of an idiot wastes their time trying to read a book, voluntarily, over and over again without getting into it, especially when there is access to an almost infinite number of other interesting books?  A book nerd.  A very determined book nerd.  A book nerd who is studying readers’ advisory and has had the famous phrase “the right book for the right person at the right time” drilled into them.

When it came out in 2009, The Magicians garnered rave reviews from professional journals and readers alike, as a noteworthy literary fantasy for adults.  That sounds great, said I, and picked up the book, only to return it largely unread.  Maybe it will catch my attention more if I read it in the winter, I thought?  Nope.  Over the years, several friends and colleagues suggested it to me as a book I would like.  Yes, but no. I guess it was just the wrong time.

Cut to the pandemic of 2020 and stay-at-home orders…I’m working from home and have The Magicians at hand.  With no reading pressures on me and time to spare, I finally found the right book at the right time.  I am a little over halfway through the book and all indicators point to a satisfactory finish in the next week.  All I had to do to get into the book was wait for a world-wide pandemic.  Who knew?


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Bookish Confessions: Just Read!

Okay, seriously folks, we’re a month into 2019 whether I am ready for it or not.  It being February in New England, it is cold, snow is on the horizon, and the greys and browns of the landscape are, well, blah and uninspiring.  Being the summer girl that I am, I don’t believe in waking up before it’s light outside and I would prefer to hibernate in my bed with a slew of good books surrounding me and a hot cup of tea in hand.  That being said, it’s the perfect time to tackle the TBR (to be read) list.

I entered 2019 in a kind of limbo state where I feel neither here nor there. This is reflected in my reading plan for the year:  I want to read ALL the good books out there… kind of like the person who comes into the library asking if we have any “good books” here.  In the past, I printed or downloaded all the reading challenges I could find (GoodReads, BookRiot’s Read Harder challenge, Classics Club challenge, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, etc) and charted my progress in both handwritten and electronic reading logs.  I had a crazy, convoluted reading schedule that involved reading many types of books at once at different times of day and sometimes in different formats.  In the infamous words of Susan Powter, “Stop the Insanity!” (insert gif)  I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO READ ALL THE GOOD BOOKS IN THE WORLD.  And, that’s a good thing really, because it means I won’t ever run out of good books to read.

This year, I pledged on GoodReads to read 100 books, and if they happen to coincide with any other challenges out there, great.  That’s it… nothing too specific. I will simply read books that appeal to me and can ease, excite or inform my mind.  Maybe this will be the year I learn to merely skim a “required” book  (like a book club assignment) when it doesn’t happen to rock my world.  Let this be my reading manifesto for year 2019.

Happy reading!


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Bookish Confessions: Reading Resolutions

Ah, the start of a new year and traditionally, a time of reflection.  So, where am I at in my reading goals and trends?  Last year I participated in three reading challenges and this is how it stood at the close of 2017:

Classics Club 50 Book Challenge in 5 years — year 3 out of 5; 6 additional titles read this year for a grand total of 11 out of 50.  Have to step up the pace!

Pop Sugar 2017 Reading Challenge — 26 out of 40 categories read.  I didn’t really look at the list during the year, so not bad…

GoodReads 2017 Challenge — set at 100 books, with 108 read.  Yippee!

Although I continued to use my handwritten book journal citing the title, author, genre, and summary of the books I read, I did not track the place setting (state, country) like I did in 2016.

My reading goals for 2018 are to:

  • read 9 more classics this year (I really have to up the ante this year in order to reach the 50 book challenge by 2020.  Right now I am listening to Dickens’ David Copperfield which is 27 CD’s long (!), so it’s a good thing I find it humorous and am enjoying it.  
  • read more diversely and keep track of such things as setting, genre, author and characters’ nationality, ethnicity, gender, etc.   Rachel Manwell from Bookriot created a comprehensive reading log that I may use to track this data.
  • read 100 books in the year
  • keep PopSugar’s 2018 Reading Challenge book prompts in mind just for fun!

What are some of your reading goals for 2018?


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Bookish Confessions: Reducing Stess through Audiobooks

Well, here it is, my annual stressor, the “holidays”. Between the reduction in light and the advance of the cold…not to mention the state of the country and its leaders, I’m feeling a little on edge right about now.

How to take the stress down a notch and save a little of myself for my family? For me the answer has been the audiobook. I’ve turned off the news, stopped listening to the same songs over and over whether on the radio or my playlist. I’m using my commute, which can range from twenty minutes to 70 minutes depending on day and time and whether they’ve decided it’s a good night to do some construction, to go somewhere else through the auspices of a good book. Drive time is now a pleasure, if not a pleasure at least not as much of a drag.

Most times I download a book to my phone through Axis 360 (an eBook provider through the Mass eCollection) and listen to it through the speakers in the car. I’ve tried science fiction, fantasy, true crime, historical fiction, and they all allow me to have that break and come home refreshed instead of tense. To be sure I have been tempted to drive around the block a time or two when the story has me really intrigued…but don’t tell my husband!

Here are a few of my favorite listens:

The TerraCover image for Master Thievesnauts by T. C. BoyleCover image for The Underground Railroad

Master Thieves by Stephen Kurkjian

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

 

∼ Kirsten


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Bookish Confessions: No awkward pauses between books!

I noticed recently that my husband is nearing the end of a book he’s been enjoying.  Watching closely as the unread pages quickly dwindled down, I anxiously asked him what book was next in line to read.  He didn’t know.  “BUT, but, you have to have a book ready and waiting for you,” I exclaimed!  “What would you DO during that awful, dreadful, awkward pause between books?”  Wanting to save him from that fearful state, I explained my simple but effective way of always having a book at hand.

First, since I work at a library, books, book reviews, and book lists come across my hands often.  I quickly add all those titles that catch my eye onto my  “suspended holds” list on my library card account.  With a constant count of over 80 items, I have a book on the list for every mood!  So, that is my backup reading list.  My reading schedule works like this:  I have a book for  quick 15-minute break times, usually a YA/teen read, or a book that is broken down into short chapters.  For lunch, I have another book that I can read at a more leisurely pace.  On the way home from work, I listen to an audio book. The audio book alternates between being a classic and a more contemporary, soothing pick.    When I am home, I want to leave work behind, so of course I need a new fresh book that stays at home and can be read while curled up on the couch with a dog on my lap.  That brings us to bedtime… No dark, pessimistic book can enter this peaceful domain, so I go for children’s middle grade books that may have serious themes, but always with a ray of hope for the future.  That’s it–no problems, no awkward pauses between books!

Hmmm, after explaining my wonderful book schedule to him, my husband is looking at me with concern, pity and a little fear.  Oh well, I guess this system isn’t for everyone…


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Bookish Confessions: summer and dystopian fiction

I don’t know if it’s the summer scorchers when the grass is dry and crunchy and all the vegetation looks desiccated — or the heavy humidity which leads to languidness, violent thunderstorms,  and sudden heavy downpours — but it all  drives me to read futuristic dystopian books featuring cataclysmic climate changes.  The heat waves that break all existing records, and the super storms in unlikely places, make these books with their dysfunctional world settings seem quite palpable.

As I sat down to read Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins, this summer’s post-apocalyptic book about a destroyed and drought-ridden South California, I reflected on other books with similar themes I’ve read over the last few summers.  Last year I read Emily St. John Mandel’s beautifully constructed Station Eleven, involving a flu pandemic and a unique theater troupe.  This book had gotten rave reviews from both the public and the review journals, even winning some awards along the way, but I was never interested in it…until the following summer, filled with crazy weather, when anything seemed possible!  Other post-apocalyptic summer reads have included California by Edan Lepucki, World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler,  The Water Knife, Ship Breaker, Windup Girl, all by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Happy summer reading (even about disasters)!


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Bookish Confessions: My Ideal Bookshelf

Cover image for My ideal bookshelfBeing a book nerd, I couldn’t help checking out the delightful book My Ideal Bookshelf edited by Thessaly La Force, with art by Jane Mount.   In My Ideal Bookshelf, more than one hundred leading cultural figures (writers, musicians, chefs, designers and other creative types), share the books that made an impact on their lives.  Not only am I a self-professed book nerd, but I am a curious one at that, so I absolutely delight in seeing what people are reading and what books they have on their shelves.  I find that one’s personal book collection can be revealing and say a lot about their owner. Jane Mount’s colorful paintings of the book spines, occasional objets d’art  and arrangements of the books are not only delightful, but can be very telling as well.

Perusing this book and checking out what inspired writers that I admire, I started to think about the books that have contributed to my life so far.  When I look back on my book journals, I can tell where  I was in my life at that point.  (I wasn’t surprised when I saw that a former job I was struggling with corresponded with reading a slew of books about women who decided ‘enough was enough’, gave up their jobs and took off across the globe to figure out what they really wanted out of life.)

After some contemplation, these are some books I have compiled, so far, for my ideal bookshelf :

 

Cover image for Italian folktalesCover image for The chronicles of NarniaCover image for One hundred years of solitudeCover image for The Autobiography of Malcolm XCover image for Without reservations : the travels of an independent womanCover image for Animal, Vegetable, MiracleCover image for The clutter cure : three steps to letting go of stuff, organizing your space, & creating the home of your dreams

Huh…I’m primarily a fiction reader, but I just listed several non-fiction titles as my treasured reads.  Time to see what my books are telling me!

What titles do you have in your ‘ideal bookshelf’?

 


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Bookish Confession: Changing Tastes

Reading is such a personal thing; and reading tastes even more so.  There are some readers who devour cozy mysteries one right after another.  There are others that are all about the comics and nothing but the comics.  So imagine if either of these readers find that their reading tastes are changing, they will notice pretty quickly.  And I wonder, is it a conscious or an unconscious shift at that point?

My reading tastes are all over the place.  I’ll read almost anything.  In fact, when I used to receive books to review from publishers, I would tell them that I’d read anything except spiritual based fiction or nonfiction, political nonfiction and steamy erotica.  Well, lately I haven’t been doing much of that kind of reviewing, but I’ve noticed that I don’t even necessarily push those books away anymore.  Granted, I’m pretty picky about them, but I have reopened that door again.

In my case, I can say that it is a conscious decision on my part to make this change.  Given the current political state of American affairs, I am very interesting in learning more about the topics I feel deeply about.  This has meant that I’m reading more on feminism than say memoirs of political figures, and things like that.  I’m curious about reading about the true nature of Islam, so I may pick up a book on that and I have realized that I should read some spiritually based fiction so that I may better recommend books to patrons who enjoy that genre.  So, yes, in this regard it is a conscious shift for me.

But I’ve also noticed an unconscious shift as well.  Five years ago, I joined this online community of classic literature readers called The Classics Club.  I had made a list of 100 classic titles that I wanted to read, with the hope I’d cross 50 of them off within five years.  Well, that deadline passed in early March and I found that I had read 42 of those books.  I call it a win, but I started looking over the list of books I didn’t read.  And you know what I discovered?  I have zero interest in some of those books now.  Dickens?  No thanks.  I’m rewriting a new list of books, and I’m not carrying over half of what left on the original list.  My tastes changed when I wasn’t looking.

Have you noticed your reading tastes changing over time?  I think it is perfectly natural, obviously, but I find it curious in a philosophical way.  Though it is possible I’m thinking too much on it.


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Bookish Confession: Buying Books

Have I talked with you yet about my little book buying problem?  Even if I had, it has gotten worse.  I don’t know when it happened this year, but all of a sudden I realized that my “to-be-read” book case of books has now officially overflowed.  There is a nearly 2 foot tall stack of books next to that book case, all waiting patiently to be read.

The most ridiculous part about this is that I work in a library, where I can borrow any book I’d like for free, just like you.  But I still buy books.  I buy them new or used.  I buy them online or from book shops.  People are kind enough to give me books.  I have far too many books.  On the positive side, I always like to point out that I am very good about donating the books I’ve read so that book case isn’t overflowing as well…  but that doesn’t solve the very real problem that I have going on in my house right now.

So this is why I am putting myself on a Book Buying Ban for 2017.  I will not buy any books (for myself) next year.  If there are new releases that I really can’t wait to read – I will use the library.  And I’m telling myself that this is going to be awesome and I will feel so productive watching my book pile shrink.  But the truth of it is that I’m feeling a little anxious about it.  But it is going to be okay.  Really, it is.


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Bookish Confessions: my year of reading challenges

I’ve always been a voracious reader, but it wasn’t until this year, that I put myself to the test and signed up for several reading challenges.  For the past decade or so, I’ve been keeping track of the books I read with the title, author, and basic plot description in various book journals.  Thank goodness I did that because I am now, prematurely I think, at the stage where I have to go back through the journals to see if I already read a book that looks somewhat familiar.  How many of you have read 3/4ths of the way through a book before realizing that you already read it?  Sheesh!

This year I decided to put the pedal to the metal and get competitive with myself and see exactly how many books I can read in a year.    In an effort to educate myself, a couple Image result for booksof years ago I started to read classic books that I missed out on in high school.   How could I have gotten through 10 years of higher education and not read George Orwell?  Aren’t all librarians required to read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”?  When my colleague introduced me to the Classics Club and their reading challenge, it was a match made in heaven — reading classics for my own erudition and getting external credit and praise for it!  Thus, my first challenge is a doozy — reading 50 classics within a five year period.  This year, my first, I have read 5 classics, so I have to step up the pace in the remaining 4 years of this challenge.  I do feel smarter, though!

Next up, the GoodReads challenge.  As I write this post, I have read 97 out of 100 and I am on track to finish by the end of the month.  I have also combined efforts with our Nevins team on GoodReads, so you can check out what your librarians are reading.

Since it sounded fun and I thought it would bring my reading in new directions, I printed out the PopSugar 2016 reading challenge and chose to follow it privately.  Even though it had interesting parameters to meet like reading a book with a blue cover, a book based on a fairy tale, a romance set in the future, I still read what I wanted to read and let fate decide what “fit in” with this challenge.  The final result:  25 out of 40 book categories read.  I didn’t really challenge myself with this.  Maybe it was because I already had to read books I wasn’t comfortable with for the book groups I belong to?

Finally, since I was curious and place setting appeals to me, I recorded what states and countries my reading led me to.  In the United States, my reading took me on a cross-country trip through 26 of the 50 states.  Louisiana garnered the most titles, 5, most probably because I visited New Orleans in March and it is such a colorful, dynamic place to read about.  Internationally, good old literary England won out with 9 titles, although there was a good showing from the African countries (6 titles). Over all, 16 countries, not including America, were represented in the final tally.  Going outside my comfort zone, I read 6 titles that largely took place in outer space, and even one book that took place far beneath the sea — 20, 000 leagues under, in fact.

All in all, this has been a good experiment and one I am willing to embrace again for next year.  Where will your reading take you in 2017?

Happy New Year of Reading!