reporting all things bookish

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Ode to a Library (or the value of not owning every book you read)

I always admire pictures of these massive in-home libraries that I come across on pinterest. Visions of first editions and beautiful rows of leather bound books dance in my head as I gaze longingly at the photos. But alas, my reality check comes as my eyes settled on my own home library- a strange collection of paperbacks acquired from library book sales, used from, and friends stacked haphazardly at best on mismatched Ikea bookshelves. While I would like the custom built-ins chock full of beautiful first editions, who would dust them, and really, would I read them or just admire how pretty they are?

I am also realizing as time passes that there is value in not owning every single book I read- collecting more intentionally instead of so haphazardly. Some of it is simply a matter of practicality- if I am being honest, I cannot afford to purchase every book which I desire to read. But even if I could afford them all, would I want them all? Not every book I read is a home run for me. I find at times I will get half way through a book and need to quit reading for varying reasons. Then I am left with a book taking up valuable space on my shelves that I have no intention of finishing which I don’t want to pawn off on someone else for fear they will think I actually recommend it. Thus, the incredible value of the public library.

When I think it through a little, I realize that it is easier and much less expensive to be a faithful patron of the local public library, where I can pick up a book, get a half –way through it, and simply return it and be on my merry way without thought of my own shelf space. I can read a wide variety of books from all genres, and really, there are endless choices. I even have the ability to request a book from another library if my library doesn’t have it.

Yes, at times I have to wait for a best seller. And yes, the book I will read will have been through the hands of many by the time it reaches me, but for two weeks, it is mine to read and enjoy and interact with before I deposit it back at the local library, and I am finding that that is enough.


Library Loot June 27-July 3

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky (located this week at The Adventures of an Intrepid reader) any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Last night after my walk around the local high school track with a friend, I moved onto my errands, one of which was a stop at the library to return a few things and to pick up a reserve item. I am trying to minimize what I take out from the library right now- not because I don’t love the services of my local library, but because my Summer Reading List and Summer Reading Challenge Lists are primarily composed of books that I own, and if I hope to finish both lists by Labor Day, I need to read mainly off the lists. But…because reading is also fun, and because I just love finding new books, I find myself in the library once a week to either browse the incoming books or pick up a reserve item.

Here’s this weeks loot:

On the Outside Looking Indian: How my Second Childhood Changed My Life by Rupinder Gill

“Rupinder Gill was raised under the strict rules of her parents’ Indian upbringing. While her friends were practicing their pliés, having slumber parties, and spending their summers at camp, Rupinder was cleaning, babysitting her siblings, and watching hours on end of American television. But at age 30, Rupinder realized how much she regretted her lack of childhood adventure.

Stepping away from an orderly life of tradition, Rupinder set put to finally experience the things she missed out on. From learning to swim and taking dance lessons, to going to Disney World, her growing to-do list soon became the ultimate trip down non-memory lane. What began as a desire to experience all that had been denied to her leads to a discovery of what it means to be happy, and the important lessons that are learned when we are at play.” From 

Admittedly, I tend toward true life tales like this one, but I am interested in how Gill chooses to form her second childhood and the impact it has.

My second book was actually one a friend recommended- Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. By all accounts, P.D. James is an amazing mystery writer, and this particular work, incorporating some of my favorite Jane Austen characters displays a rare genius. I’m looking forward to this interesting spin on Elizabeth and Darcy’s story.


Review: Arranged

After reading a review of Arranged at the blog 5 Minutes for Books (check it out at, I ordered it from my local library. It came in Friday, and much to my surprise, I had free time to read on Sunday night, so I picked up Arranged.

Arranged tells the story of Anne Blythe, who after yet another failed relationship followed quickly by the engagement announcement of her best friend Sarah, decides she needs help finding a relationship. She contacts Blythe & Co., whose business card she found, believing that they are a dating service only to discover that they specialize in arranged marriages. The concept is surprising to Anne, but not completely unwelcome, and we follow her as she explores arranged marriages and makes a decision whether or not to take the plunge.

McKenzie creates amazingly normal characters. One of the things I loved about her writing is that the characters were well developed and realistic. I can imagine my best friend and I have conversations that resemble Anne and Sarah’s. McKenzie’s writing is refreshingly light, but still makes you think about your own thoughts and feelings about romance, dating, marriage, and friendship.

It was a fun read, and I recommend it for beach reading.

Review: Drop Dead Healthy

I love A.J. Jacob’s work. I have read My Life as an Experiment and My Year of Living Biblically with great enthusiasm, and I was very much looking forward to Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. For those unfamiliar with Jacobs, he tends to immerse himself in a particular project or lifestyle, for example in My Year of Living Biblically he committed himself to following all of the Bible’s moral codes for one year and then wrote about it. In case you can’t see where this is going, the premise of Drop Dead Healthy is that he spent two years committing himself to becoming as healthy as possible. Some call his approach “stunt journalism”, but I think of it more along the lines of experiential writing.

I think there’s a lot to like about the book. Jacobs is extremely quotable, and in places laugh out loud funny. (I am fairly certain I annoyed my roommates with the sheer number of times I insisted on reading passages out loud.) He tries things that seem crazy, and that I may never make time for, and then he’s candid about his experiences. It’s fun to follow his journey, this time to health. But it felt like it was missing something.

The last few books have at least had some kind of summary about the experience. You knew where he came down on things at the end of the book. But Drop Dead Healthy just kind of dropped off. The lengthy appendix lists some of his advice in some areas…but honestly, I don’t really care. I just want a synopsis of his experience. What things did he wish he hadn’t tried? Which things will stay a part of his life forever? Did he like the challenge, or regret it?

The writing is strong, the concept is good, it just needed a little tying up at the end. I think Drop Dead Healthy is worth reading if you’re looking for something that will make you laugh and provide you with information at the same time.

The weekend recap: Family, flowers, birthdays, books, and belly laughs.

This past weekend was wonderful. Although I can’t say it was particularly literary, I had the chance to spend loads of time with family, as my parents visited and we attended my nephew’s first birthday party. My mom and stepfather brought flowers for the pots that sit in the window boxes outside the house, which my stepfather planted Saturday evening. I love it- the house looks so much prettier as you are walking up the steps with that small addition. 🙂

Little Man (my nickname for my nephew) turned one this week, and we celebrated in grand style on Saturday with a Thomas the Tank engine themed party. There was a ton of food (I am pretty sure my stepsisters only know how to cook in massive quantities) and a huge Thomas cake, as well as a little marshmallow fondant Thomas cake just for Little Man. He entertained us all as he showed off his new walking skills, pushing a chair all over the clubhouse, and just being cute and giggly. How can anyone resist a smiling little boy with blond curls and bright blue eyes (which look exactly like my stepsister and my stepdad’s eyes, for the record)?

Sunday we went out to lunch with my stepsister and nephew, having a chance to visit them without all the others. Little Man entertained us with deep belly laughs and lots of playfulness. My stepdad fed him vanilla ice-cream, proudly sporting his Super Granddad t-shirt. I love seeing him and Little Man interact. Its clear they enjoy each others company.

Well…now that we’ve chatted about my weekend, down to business. About the books. I went to the library late Friday afternoon and had the chance to pick up a few books that were being held on reserve for me:

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I found a review of Arranged  and found myself intrigued enough to queue up for it at the local library. I started this one Sunday night, and so far, I am hooked.

The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris

I was intrigued by the concept. I will probably skim, and fully read only vignettes. Mind you, I don’t think its something I can, or want to attempt to pull off.
The Calligrapher’s Daughterby Eugenia Kim

I seem to be slightly obsessed with Asian literature, and I found this book on a list of must reads. Its about a daughter caught between life in Korea before and after the Japanese occupation.

I also received my copy of Walt Whitman: Poetry & Prose for my Summer Reading Challenge ( Although I am accustomed to my used books being filled with strange notes and markings, the math equations scattered throughout the title pages threw me. Math equations and Whitman….really? It’s a much larger volume, including the entire canon of Whitman’s published work, than I was originally anticipating, so I think I am going to have to plan my reading a bit more strategically. Since I will be participating in the Anna Karenina Read-Along in July, I think my plan is to read Whitman in August.

Sunday, after my parents departure I had some much needed downtime, so I had the chance to finish AJ Jacobs Drop Dead Healthy (see my review tomorrow) and plan out my reading schedule for Anna Karenina. The weekend was full of fun and family…but don’t worry. There’s always time for books. 🙂

Summer Reading: Anna Karenina Read Along Announcement

The chunkster on my Summer Reading Challenge (see post here: is Anna Karenina, a rather daunting read I attempted a few years ago. I was trying to figure out how I was going to tackle this one when I was on the Five Alarm Book Reviews blog and noticed an announcement for an Anna Karenina Read Along in July (see post here:

According to Steph over at Five Alarm, here’s how it works:

“This is summer, so we are keeping it fun and easy.  There will not be any official questions, although I will post some each week if you would like to use them for conversation starters.  We will each write up our thoughts on the book on the scheduled dates and link up.  If you link up within a few days of the scheduled date, that is fine too.”

You DO NOT have to be a blogger to participate.  You can sign up by using a link to where you will be posting.  ie: Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, etc.

We will use the hashtag #ReadingAnnaKarenina on Twitter.

Post and Readding Schedule

Start Up Post/Announcement Post – Now through July 1

1st Post for Parts 1 and 2 – July 7

2nd Post  for Parts 3 and 4- July 14

3rd Post  for Parts 5 and 6- July 21

4th  For Parts 7 and 8- July 28

Final Review – July 31

So…be prepared to follow along as I, and others, work through Anna Karenina together. Please feel free to join- I would love for all of you to be reading along!

Sometimes, you just need to quit a book…

In the past few days, I have found myself reading a book I really wasn’t enjoying. I picked it up because it looked interesting and was readily available from my local public library but I found the content to be rather dry. The book was a memoir, and while those can be intriguing reads, this particular author seemed to be writing about a part of her life she’d sooner forget. It may have been more interesting if it was an expose of life in service, kind of a contrast to the Downton Abbey’esque picture we all see of life in service, but sadly, it wasn’t. It was boring. So, after several days of forcing my self through it, I quit.

I used to have mixed feelings about the idea of quitting a book half way through reading. I felt like in order to really truly evaluate the work, to give the author the full chance to tell the story, I needed to push through to the end. I needed to persevere through. But after 6.5 years of grad school, 4 years of college, a full time job and a full life outside of my day job, I’ve realized something important- my time is valuable. My time is in fact too valuable to spend reading books I don’t like when they have no purpose. And I have had enough required reading over the years that I forced myself through, I don’t need to do it now that I have the option of reading for fun.

The other reason I tend to find myself quitting a book is when I come across something that I find is impacting me negatively or offensively.  Everybody has something they find offensive, or that they just choose not to put in their mind- whether that is language, imagery, or just a harshly negative tone. At times, I have stopped reading things because the content is just not something I want hanging out in my mind, or I notice the content has begun to impact my mood in a negative way. I find for me that there are certain lines I can’t cross with things that are going in me, and I have to stop reading.

Ultimately, I choose to read because to me, reading is fun. So to me, its worth quitting a book if its not teaching me something valuable, making me think, or just plain fun.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself needing to quit a book?

Librarians: Breaking Your Heart, Crushing Your Dreams

Librarians: Breaking Your Heart, Crushing Your Dreams.

I loved this post from the Eleventh Stack, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s blog. It made me laugh this morning, on a morning when I assure you that’s help. The Eleventh Stack, in addition to whitty posts like this one, also reviews books, and is just a fun blog to read.

I was meandering the web a bit this afternoon and caught this blog post on the NYT Technology site. I have been involved in many a discussion on books versus e-readers, and while I thought the post was interesting, I have mixed feelings about where the post landed.

What’s your take? Do you own an e-reader?

Review: All Quiet on the Western Front

My experience with literature about World War I prior to All Quiet on the Western Front was scant at best. I had heard of the brutality of trench warfare, of really any warfare, but I experienced it more deeply as I read Remarque’s famous work.

Paul and his classmates had been convinced of the glories of war by their teachers, mentors, and guides. And indeed,

For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture of progress- to the future.

But they find out all too soon they have been led astray as the gory, brutal, inhumanities of war crash in around them.

Paul wrestles with his humanity as he kills a Frenchman he is caught in a trench with. He tries to see a life beyond the trenches, but cannot.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another…What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over? … What will happen afterwards? What will come out of us?

All Quiet on the Western Front is one of those rare novels that hypnotically pulls you into the scenes and then forces you to face and to question what you have just seen. Often required reading for youth, I would add it should also be required reading for adults. If you’re going to add one classic to your summer reading lists, add this one.

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