A return to slow reading

Revolutionary reading development here…

I’m slowing things down.

Reading Middlemarch changed me: it gave me back the pleasure of slow reading. I’m so very grateful for that.

The edition I read was 912 pages in length, and it’s rare that I read such a long book. And I feel like I’ve lost my patience and attention span. But I really haven’t; I just haven’t exercised them enough.

It also makes me realize the downside of tracking my reading: the gamification effect that makes me want to add more books to my Done list. Sometimes I feel like I just want to read books to finish them to get on to the next. And that’s sad, my friends. I don’t want to live that way.

So Middlemarch was a wake-up call. A long, meandering, 3-month-long wake-up call. It gave me back my identity as an absorbed, contented reader of big, long books that take their time.

And now I’m going to try to keep that part of my reading life alive — to keep reading long books and to slow down my reading when the book warrants close attention.

I’ll be returning to Ron Chernow’s Grant and maybe, upon a friend’s recommendation, picking up A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain.

And now it’s an official announcement, and we’ll see how I do.

How about you? Anyone else had a reading revelation?

Favorite bookish jewelry

Since sometimes we need to fancy it up, the readerly woman’s gonna need some bookish bling.

You can wear this stuff to the bookish places (the library, the bookstore, book club) but also to the everyday places (work, the grocery store, the library…)

It’s practical as all heck.

It’s a necessity of life.

Here are some of my favorites…

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain necklace

Source: Etsy

My sister bought this for me several years ago, and I don’t see the exact necklace, but there are lots of similar ones.

Eyeglasses necklace

Source: Isette on Etsy

I love this necklace and always get comments on it. : )

Nonfiction necklace

Source: Willow and Copper on Etsy

A friend told me about a craft fair that was taking place at a local farm, and we headed over there… and I found this lovely piece. It makes me smile.

Dewey Decimal earrings

Source: Etsy

I ordered these years ago, and I don’t see the same listing, but there are other Etsy shops that sell this type of thing.

What the call numbers mean:

  • 320.9: Political situation and conditions
  • 917.4: New England travel and guidebooks

I love the significance, especially since political science was one of my college majors.

So tell me: what’s your favorite bookish jewelry? Did you buy it for yourself or receive it as a gift?

What I’ve been reading: May 2019

The books I finished reading in May were few in number, but it’s a mighty assortment.

I dedicate this month’s fine reading to the good and inspiring Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm, who encouraged me to read Middlemarch. If you’d asked me 6 months ago what classic I’d’ve expected to have read and loved, I gotta tell you: Middlemarch wouldn’t have been on the shortlist. But I read it and I loved it and I just keep thinking about it. And I’ll be forever grateful to Bybee for giving me the gentle nudge I needed. (When she said she re-reads it periodically, I was there.)

So, favorite book of the month: Middlemarch by George Eliot

And again, following Bybee’s fine example, I read (actually listened to) My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. So I was awash in Middlemarch-y goodness throughout April and May, and I’m so happy for the experience. And I can see myself re-reading Middlemarch someday… Thank you, dear Bybee. You made my life brighter yet again.

Here’s a look at my full month of reading…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

3 words: lyrical, character-focused, absorbing

Give this book a whirl if you like… a big, absorbing story; classics; reading about a village; nuanced character portraits so detailed you’d recognize the characters if you met them; fiction that inspires the reader to examine her own life

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

3 words: literary, genteel, calm

Give this book a whirl if you like… mash-ups of literary criticism and memoir, examining a classic, literary tourism, intellectual appreciation of a work of literature

Gunflint Burning: Fire in the Boundary Waters by Cary Griffith

3 words: fast-paced, haunting, behind-the-scenes

Give this book a whirl if you like… forest fires, horrible consequences of an accident, behind the scenes of firefighting efforts, Boundary Waters Canoe Area

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

3 words: comforting, bookish, romantic

Give this book a whirl if you like… small town setting, fish out of water, books set in bookstores, friendship through letter writing, reinventing oneself, the power of one person to change people’s lives

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

3 words: psychological, twisty, quietly menacing

Give this book a whirl if you like… ensemble cast, possible psychopaths, slowly unfolding narrative, characters with complex back stories, ends vs means, health resorts

What were your favorite books this month?

Books I can’t wait to read

My library holds list holds many delights. Here’s what I’m most eagerly anticipating reading in the months ahead…

  • The Policewoman’s Bureau by Edward Conlon
  • Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
  • Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
  • Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett  

This whole list fills me with wiggly anticipation.

What books are you aching to get hold of?

National Get Caught Reading Month

Raise your hand if you…

  • read everywhere, including places considered inappropriate
  • can’t rest until you identify the book someone else is reading in public

May is National Get Caught Reading Month, which, even though it always reminds me of #ireadeverywhere, is actually about inspiring children to read.

I love that it’s celebrated in May, right before kids head into summertime — where reading can help prevent the summer slide.

(Public library kudos: those summer reading programs are key. And free!)

And meanwhile, we all — even us grown-ups — can get caught reading.

So, in honor of Get Caught Reading Month, here are some suggested goals for May:

What are your plans for Get Caught Reading Month?

What I’ve been reading: April 2019

This month of reading has been all kinds of goodness. It’s a fine blend of home organization books, YA fiction, a couple of literary masterpieces (Middlemarch is still on my bedside table), and some remarkable nonfiction.

My favorite this month was Working by Robert A. Caro. I’ll post about it soon, once I’ve fully absorbed the delightfulness of that reading experience.

Here’s a full look at April…

Simple Organizing Wisdom: 500+ Quick & Easy Clutter Cures edited by Laurie Jennings

3 words: neat, pretty, practical

Give this book a whirl if you like… bite-sized, scannable, practical tips; pretty storage solutions

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

3 words: uproarious, ironic, adventurous

Give this book a whirl if you like… hilarious send-ups of beauty pageants, smart YA fiction, stories of being stranded on a desert island, humorous survival stories, girls empowering themselves, occasional pirates

A Student of History by Nina Revoyr

3 words: compelling, quietly suspenseful, unnerving

Give this book a whirl if you like… fish out of water stories, first person narratives, LA, the extremely wealthy, poor grad students, obsessive love, solving a mystery, people making bad choices

Internment by Samira Ahmed

3 words: intense, chilling, dystopian

Give this book a whirl if you like… dystopian stories, #ownvoices, thoughtful young adult fiction, reading about life in an internment camp, resistance to tyranny

The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley

3 words: browseable, beautifully illustrated, clean

Give this book a whirl if you like… a wide array of organizing ideas for all areas of the home, cleaning recommendations, easy storage solutions

The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

3 words: cheerful, beautiful, concrete

Give this book a whirl if you like… organizing in a beautiful way, labeling absolutely everything, a conversational and encouraging tone, celebrity closets and pantries

There There by Tommy Orange

3 words: lyrical, complex, sobering

Give this book a whirl if you like… multiple narrators, #ownvoices, contemporary Native American lives, difficult life experiences, interwoven storylines

Little Town in a Big Woods by Marilyn Robinson

3 words: accessible, straightforward, informative

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about the history of an Illinois river town, getting the basics via a children’s book

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo

3 words: practical, encouraging, professional

Give this book a whirl if you like… advice for new managers, but also a good refresher and check-in for experienced managers, real-life examples from the author’s workplace experiences

Beautifully Organized: A Guide to Function and Style in Your Home by Nikki Boyd

3 words: enthusiastic, elegant, lovely

Give this book a whirl if you like… beautiful books about home organization, adding a touch of style to orderliness, practical and inspiring tips for organizing your home

Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro

3 words: first-person, inside glimpse, psychological

Give this book a whirl if you like… “inside baseball,” the story behind the story, how extraordinary nonfiction is written, self-deprecating humor, biographical research, how books are researched and written, a psychological portrait of a biographer

What were your favorite April reads?

Your child might become a librarian if…

Happy National Library Week, everyone!

It’s a week of celebrating everything libraries have to offer. It’s the perfect week to visit your library!

It’s also an opportunity to read for the sheer joy of it and to encourage a love of reading in the children in your life.

And if you have a seriously devoted young reader, it’s a time to consider: Might this child be a future librarian?

(It’s embarrassingly obvious that this was my destiny.)

Here are the signs to watch for in the young…

Incessant reading starts early

Reading on the toilet: also begins early

Reading to dolls and stuffed animals is a thing that happens. A lot.

Cataloging their books    

Playing library and checking out books to siblings and friends

Requiring a grubby younger sister to wash her hands before touching their books

Finding your child in this pose more often than not  

Christmas wish list: all books

“Clean your room” translates into “Re-organize your bookshelves by genre”

“Go outside and play” translates into “Go outside and read”  

If you observe these behaviors in your children, encourage their reading, let them read widely, make sure they know you approve of who they are, and rest assured they’ll find their place in the world.

If they’re lucky, it’ll be in a library.

Favorite bookish shirts

If you’re a book geek, sometimes you just feel the need to represent. Often.

So over the years, I’ve built a closet of bookish clothes.

Today we’re throwing open the closet doors…

First, we have the I’m a serious reader t-shirt…

Overreaders Anonymous shirt…because overreading happens here.

Source: Amazon

Next up… the librarian shirts.

We’ve got the due date stamp shirt…

Source: Out of Print

And the librarian t-shirt…

Source: Amazon

Then we have the shirts about specific books…

First: Nancy Drew!

Source: Out of Print; this shirt is no longer available, but they offer another Nancy Drew shirt  

And my Hamilton t-shirt…

Source: Amazon

So, my fellow bookworms… What bookish clothes do you have in your closet?

What I’ve been reading: March 2019

Nonfiction! It’s been a glorious month of nonfiction reading.

Only one novel appears on the list of books I finished reading in March, though Middlemarch provides a steady drumbeat these days.

Here’s the nonfiction-heavy list of the books I read in March…

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

3 words: story-based, engaging, enlightening

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about psychology of leadership, memorable stories that convey key information, learning about brain chemicals

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

3 words: strong, positive, thought-provoking

Give this book a whirl if you like… well-reasoned, thoughtful, thought-provoking rationale for feminism; practical advice for feminists; thinking about raising strong daughters

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time by Ida Keeling with Anita Diggs

3 words: conversational, persevering, real

Give this book a whirl if you like… strong women overcoming difficulties, African American autobiographies, runners’ memoirs, focusing on the future during hard times

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

3 words: quirky, first person, neurodiverse

Give this book a whirl if you like… first-person narratives, Japanese daily life, characters on the autism spectrum, orderliness, the comfort of a convenience store,finding oneself

Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin

3 words: practical, positive, approachable

Give this book a whirl if you like… books about the home; quick, browseable books; decluttering; a wide range of tips; bite-size ideas

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

3 words: manifesto, challenging, practical

Give this book a whirl if you like… reclaiming control over your smartphone, reducing social media use, maximizing smartphone use by minimizing the amount of time wasted, reclaiming real life pleasures

What are your favorite books from this month?

Top 10 favorite books

A top 10 list of favorite books: it’s a tricky little devil. I mean, what should the criteria actually be?

The options seem endless…

  • Books I’d be happiest to re-read
  • Books I’ve actually re-read and been glad about it
  • Books whose bindings have fallen apart due to repeated readings
  • Books that had the most impact on me
  • Books that represent who I’ve been at various phases of life
  • Books that represent who I am right now
  • Books that represent each of the genres and styles I love best
  • Books that spark the most joy
  • Books I’d want with me on a desert island
  • Books I keep recommending to others, over and over
  • Books that are my favorites of the past decade
  • Books that have been on my favorites list for more than a decade

You see my dilemma.

Depending on which of these sets of criteria I choose, the list is gonna shift. Some books will always be there because they’re my very top favorites (I’m looking at you, Young Men and Fire and The Right Stuff), but others will appear or vanish, depending on the criteria.

So, after discussing this conundrum with the Dear Man and a good friend, I took their advice and went with:

  • Does it feel like a true representation of who I am?
  • Does it spark joy? (aka, Do I light up when I talk about these books?)

Based on those criteria, here’s my current list…

Young Men & Fire by Norman Maclean

Run by Ann Patchett

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

So now I’m wondering how you decide your favorites. What criteria do you use? Which books always always always make the list?