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Engaging Methuen Readers


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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!

 

 


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Bookish Confessions: I have no focus.

I’m not quite sure what is happening with me lately.  I am always a one book at a time type of reader…  on very rare occasions, I’ll have two going at once.  It’s just that I’ve found that even with reading two books at once, I tend to focus on one and then the other anyway.  So why do I have four books going at the same time right now?

It started innocently enough…  I went to an awesome bookstore in Boston a couple weekends ago and bought a bunch of books off their sale table.  I immediately started reading one book from that shopping spree – Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington.  Then, through the Serial Reader app, I started The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.  I also started reading The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield from the library.  Then, a book by one of my favorite YA authors arrived at my house, Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally, and I started reading that too.

So, in essence, I am reading two classics (one is nonfiction), a contemporary fiction and a YA Romance.  None of these are even remotely like another, which is helping to keep straight in my head.  But I feel like I’m not really making progress with any of them, even though I’m still reading a couple hours every day.

Maybe it is because it is truly summer now, and there is always so many things going on that my fun busy schedule is bleeding into my reading habits.  I’m not sure, but I probably shouldn’t spend too much time on it.  After all, I have a lot to read!


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Bookish Confessions: Finishing a Series

Ah, books in a series.  I love them and I hate them, and it usually has to do with how/when I start to read them.  Let me explain:

Often I start a series (particularly trilogies – I typically don’t read the super long never-ending type series you might find in the mystery or science fiction section) after the first two books have been published.  Then, if I’m hooked into the story, I’ll race through the first two books and impatiently wait for the final book.  If I read a trilogy as it publishes, I’ll race through the book, wait impatiently for the year it takes for the next book, repeat until the last book comes out.

And then?

Well…   then I get scared to actually finish the series.  Why?  Because then it is over.  This world is done, the characters I’ve loved (or hated) are gone and somehow I’ve got to move on.

book meme

THIS, but for a series of books!  From Purple Clover on Facebook

I can’t tell you how many trilogies I have started, completed 2/3 of, and just cannot finish.  Of course this isn’t always the case.  I have finished plenty of series as well.  With few notable exceptions, I am almost always disappointed in how the story finally finishes.  This track record does not actually encourage me to go back and finish some of my favorite series, no matter how excited I am to see that final book all shiny and new at the library or in the bookstore.

How about you?  Is this a problem for you or not really?