Booking Through Thursday: Reading

What have you been reading lately?

So I have a reputation for reading like 10 books at a time, and finally, my fiancé convinced me to downsize–sort of. I agreed that as I finished books, I wouldn’t start new ones until I had the stack down to one book, plus any borrowed ones. I’ve got it down to five, not counting my emergency purse book, and they are:

The Lost World. Kind of a letdown compared to Jurassic Park, and to be brutally honest, it feels like a money grab on Michael Crichton’s part. And throwing some middle-school kids into the mix makes it hard for me to suspend disbelief. It’s like when you start involving aliens–it almost always gets dumb.

All Quiet on the Western Front. I read an excerpt in college I really liked, but the book as a whole isn’t as interesting to me as that one passage was. That said, it’s still a good book and a classic that’s worth reading.

The Amber Spyglass. The third of the His Dark Materials trilogy. It’s a really interesting series and it plays with a lot of concepts I really like, but so far, this and the second book just don’t quite measure up to the first.

The Devil in the White City. A serial killer in Chicago in the 1890s. I think I’m just being impatient with this one, because it’s combining everything that went into the World’s Fair with the true story of the murders and I’d rather hear the true-crime aspect than all the business dealings of getting the fair going. I’m hoping it all comes together.

And finally, Jane Austen’s collected novels, currently in the early chapters of Pride & Prejudice. Strangely, I’ve never read it before or even seen a movie adaptation and I’m not far enough in to have much of an opinion, but I will say it’s holding my interest way better than Sense & Sensibility did.

And since it’s been a while, the two I finish so far this year: The Subtle Knife, the second of the His Dark Materials books, and Seraphina, a book my English-teaching godmother told me to check out. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about dragons, but I did quite like it.

Booking Through Thursday: Snow Day

What kind of book do you like to curl up with on a snowy day?

Man, I feel like I’ve given this answer a thousand times to a thousand different questions, but I’m gonna say it anyway–I almost never pick books based on circumstances or seasons or timeliness or anything like that. I just move to the next thing on the shelf like it’s a to-do list. So really, no preference. I just like to tackle whatever I’m in the middle of at the moment and make some progress on it so I can move on to the next one.

Booking Through Thursday: Stylistic

What’s your favorite style of book? Serious? Playful? Humorous? Thoughtful? Action-packed? Moody?

It’s hard to say because generally, stuff like that’s not what I look for the most. I’m more interested in good writing. That said, just thinking about what my favorite books tend to be and what I’m usually drawn to, seems like I lean toward the more serious side of things.

Booking Through Thursday: Recommend

Somebody walks up to you and says, “I need a really good book to read–any genre. What do you recommend?”

What’s the first book off the top of your head?

The “any genre” bit is great, because whenever someone asks for a recommendation, that’s the first thing I ask.

I don’t really have a go-to list of recommendations, partly because I don’t usually have something to recommend that people aren’t already at least familiar with. So I usually think of what I’m reading now or have read recently that really stood out, so going that way now and picking from the stack I’m currently reading, I’d recommend:

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey because it’s funny and a fun look at her career, especially SNL. Reading it now is particularly fun because in the midst of Donald Trump whining about Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him, I’m reading about Tina Fey’s experiences impersonating Sarah Palin.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot because it’s an interesting read not just from a scientific and medical standpoint, but also because of issues of race it raises.
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman because for being considering a children’s series, it’s really dark and complex and fascinating.

Booking Through Thursday: Location Location Location

In real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. But how about books? Does where a book is set affect your reading choices? Are you more or less likely to read books set in places you know or love?

The setting of a book doesn’t affect my reading choices, no, but I will say I do love reading books set where I’m from. Pittsburgh doesn’t show up in literature often, and my hometown even less so, so I’m always excited when it does happen. And of course, the most famous example is probably The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Booking Through Thursday: Writing

Readers read, it’s true, but they write? Do you? Write, that is?

I do! The two have pretty much always gone hand in hand for me–I loved reading stories and I remember I used to beg the adults in my life to make up stories because I thought it was just this really easy thing to do, and they’d all be like, “I can’t,” and I refused to take that for an answer. I think I truly got drawn into writing when I got a diary one Christmas and discovered that writing could make me feel better, and on top of that, I started making up my own stories and dabbled in bad pre-teen/teenage poetry, like ya do. It was always something I had fun doing, and I even remember feeling inspired sometimes.

I had it in my head that no matter what career path I chose, I’d always do writing on the side, and part of that was not thinking of writing itself as a viable career option. I mean, you still hear it all the time–I majored in writing when I went to college, and it’s basically four years (and then some, at times) of listening to people tell you that you’re wasting your time in money, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. My future sister-in-law just started her freshman year of college and went in as a writing major, and her parents focus on her lack of job opportunities, even though I’m sitting over here at a company who hired me for that degree and have given me a raise every year. But I digress.

I did some writing for the local paper during summers in college, occasional picked up some weekend assignment in the fall, and I was offered a part-time crime-writing job but had already accepted my current position. And although my day job isn’t really involved with writing, I still do plenty of it in my spare time.

This is the part where I shamelessly self-promote. I’ve had pieces of creative nonfiction published, the most recent being this piece for The Good Men Project. I used to regularly contribute to Examiner until they recently shut down, which I was not sad about, but the work I do for CBS is gonna be coming to an end soon, too. The one thing still going strong right now is AXS, although the CBS work has led to another opportunity I just found out about a few hours ago.

Booking Through Thursday: I Don’t Read

What is your response when somebody tells you “I don’t read”?

I don’t think anyone’s actually said this to me in a really long time, so I can’t tell you with certainty how I react. But I can tell you what I think I’d do.

First, I’d hide my shock and borderline disgust, and then I’d ask why. Some people legitimately don’t have the time, like my mom, and with a stressful job on top of that, she’d rather kind of disengage and watch TV when she comes home as opposed to getting involved in a book. The silver lining of a hospital stay due to a blood clot a few years ago was that she was forced to stay in bed, and even though she managed to do some work from her hospital bed, she was able to do some reading, too, for once. But I digress. The point is I get it if people just don’t have time to do it, in which case I’d suggest trying to find the time–read a book instead of, say, watching TV or something.

For people who don’t really enjoy it, I’d say they maybe just haven’t found the right book yet. I believe this applies to a lot of things, really, especially music genres, but that’s a whole separate discussion. But I’d try to suggest books relevant to their interests that they might enjoy, especially really engaging books that are hard to put down.

While I understand and accept the fact that people have different interests, I feel like reading is too important to just be brushed off as a hobby some people aren’t into. It’s one thing to, say, have preferences when it comes to fiction versus nonfiction, but it’s another to completely avoid such a beneficial, potentially educational activity. I get why some people might not like it, but at the same time, I feel like there can be a level of it that’s willful ignorance. I know I’m a broken record with this, but reading introduces you to different perspectives and ideas, and for me, someone choosing not to do it is choosing not to open themselves up to those things.

Booking Through Thursday: Quantity

Do you own fewer books than you used to? More? 

Or do you find the quantity in your library stays pretty much the same from year to year?

I definitely own more, mostly by virtue of being an adult with money. And the number generally increases from year to year, as like most bookworms, I’m sure, I buy faster than I read. Even when I do come across something I’m ready to part with, getting rid of one or two books a year and buying like 10-20 more does not a smaller library make.

Booking Through Thursday: Weeding 2

How often (if ever) do you weed out your library?

It’s not something I really make it a point to do–I don’t make a decision to weed out my library and go through the shelves. I do it kind of gradually. I think I mentioned in last week’s answer that I give books two reads unless I really hate them, so generally, if after the second read I decide it’s something I don’t need to keep, I get rid of it. And I have so little reading time usually that I’m probably only getting to a re-read like this a couple times a year.

Booking Through Thursday: Weeding

What do you do with books you weed out of your library? If you’re like me, you find this VERY hard to do, but you want your old books to have a good, happy life somewhere … so where do you send them? What do you do with them?

Honestly, I actually don’t have a hard time doing this because I keep anything I like and want to keep enjoying and get rid of things I don’t like. Usually, I read a book twice before I decide to get rid of it, unless I really, really hate it. This has only happened with Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and the 50 Shades series, though. I don’t think I can read any of those again.

I almost always sell them on eBay. I could always use the extra couple of bucks, and it gets them off to someone else who wants them. Occasionally, I donate them, and I’m currently trying to figure out what to do with a decimated copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. It started falling apart so I bought a new copy, but now I don’t know what to do with my original. It’s too beat up to sell or donate, and I hate to just throw it away.

Now, another interesting side to this is that my fiancé and I recently decided to get rid of our doubles, so as we’ve been coming across them, we’ve been setting aside books we both own copies of. Generally, we’ve been decided to keep the nicer copy–which usually means the one with the cooler cover art–and the doubles are probably gonna go off to his youngest sister.

I regard this as a bigger relationship milestone than getting engaged, by the way. When he first moved in, we agreed not to deal with the doubles initially…you know, just in case. But now the shelves are too crowded and we’re planning a wedding anyway, so the purging has begun.