Bookish Problems I Have

Though there are not ten listed here, this post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme: what are some bookish problems you have? Some of these are goofy, some have to do with space, and some are just weird ways I read.

  • Not Enough Shelves. Though I’ve done some culling in my book collection, I still deal with double-stacked shelves and books piled under desks (I’m kicking some right now). I’ve gotten my collection down almost to it’s purest form, so the next solution is more shelving! …Except that there are no more walls.
  • Too Many Books to Read. Sometimes, when I’m shelving books at the library, I look at all the new books and think, “Wow, I want to read a dozen of these.” Then I remember all the books on the graphic novel shelf, in the fantasy section, the classics, those children’s books, and then all the unread books back home…I have to stop touching the books then before I slide into a tear-soaked panic.
  • TSUNDOKU. I know I have books to read at home. And I have library books I’ve been renewing for weeks. But then I go to the store and suddenly I have five more books. It is a very real problem.
  • My Dog. Sometimes when I’m reading she starts licking the corner of my book, trying to figure out what’s more fascinating than she is. Or I’ll be dutifully rubbing her ears, but god forbid I stop for 1.5 seconds so I can turn the page, causing her to nudge my arm or whap me with her paws until I start again. (Yeah, much worse problems to have. And I realize, I made her this way, but she’s so dang cute.)
  • Can’t Always Visualize Characters. I feel like this sounds bad, but I don’t always manage to fully visualize people when I’m reading. If I slow down in my reading to think about it, I realize that most of the time people are like fuzzy outlines in my head, and unless I put a considerable amount of conscious effort into imagining them — THIS is what their hair looks like, THIS is what the dress looks like — they stay that way the whole time. Maybe that’s why I like comics so much…?
  • Flipping Ahead. I flip ahead through pages to see how much longer a chapter or an entire book is, so I can measure how many pages I have to go. Sometimes this is good — I don’t want to start 20 pages of unbroken text when I want to go to sleep in 10 minutes — but it makes me feel impatient about finishing a book, and I’ve even accidentally spoiled things for myself in the past, and I hate spoilers with a fiery rage. Reading on my Nook helps with this, since I can’t easily flip ahead, but then I find myself overcome by WANT to flip forward.

There’s my list — do you have any bookish problems? Let me know, or make your own list!

Weekly Finds: Meditation, Running, and Lists

MeditationAsapSCIENCE is a fun science YouTube channel I follow, and this week they had a great video on meditation, if it works, and does it change your brain. (Yes to both.) Basically, meditation can make you more empathetic and less stressed out. I want to watch the video again, and also actually try to meditate.

I’ve been linking to Kate Beaton a lot on here lately, haven’t I? Well, let’s do it again! The latest series of comics she published on her website is about Tom Longboat, a Canadian Olympic marathon runner and World War I soldier. Having recently started running and being interested in reading about it I thought this was great, plus Beaton gave me another book I want to read.

Puke It Out
Yeah I’ll be sticking to jogging not marathons I think.

A writing friend posted a list of Books to Make You More Interesting. I’ve only skimmed it, but there are some cool books on there that I’d like to read, like Bad Feminist and Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, and even some that I’ve read and talked about, like Persepolis and Fun Home. Which I guess makes me already interesting? But I could be more interesting.

What do you think? Did you find anything awesome this week?

Battling Tsundoku; or, Get Off My Shelf!

tsundokuTsundoku. I ran into this word a while back, on one of the random Facebook pages I follow, and I was shocked. I’ve known what I do for a while, but it’s nice to have a word for my problem. I buy books. I get them new, and used, and comics and novels and things written by teachers and acquaintances. I stack them up on shelves and sometimes the floor, fully intending to read them, but then I…don’t.

I don’t think I always had this problem. I have memories of times in adolescence when I had nothing new to read in the house. But now I’ve begun to collect books faster than I can read them, and it’s getting a little out of hand.

I really noticed this as I began weeding my collection and donating things to the library. I gathered up books that I knew I would never read again, books I had gathered up on a whim from some sale or when I worked at the used book store (such a dangerous job) that I felt no desire to even open, and got those out of the house. Then I encountered these books: books that I acquired weeks, months, years ago, that I want to read — I really really want to read! — but I never have, and still haven’t.

Some of them I want to read so I won’t feel weird about having them displayed on my shelf. Others I want to read so I don’t feel weird donating them or passing them along before I’ve gotten through the story myself. But I keep leaving them be. And they are really stacking up.

So, I’m going to work on it. Obviously I’m still going to take books from the library, because I work there and I’m a chronic hoarder of paper books (though luckily these ones have to leave my house after an allotted time) and also because sometimes (most often) the book you’re in the mood for is just not in your home. And it will be a cold day in hell when I stop buying new books altogether. But I’m trying to alternate between reading something I’ve newly brought into my life with a book that’s been waiting. I’ll probably never catch up completely, but maybe I can close the gap.

As long as I don’t buy too many books…

And I can be trusted to do that…

Right?

Tsundoku Problems
Lord help me, this is only some of them.

 

Bookish (and Otherwise) Goals for 2015

Happy New Year! It’s a little late, but here are some of my goals for the upcoming year, many involving books and writing, and a couple not.

  • Get an Agent. Yeah, just…yeah. Holidays have caused me to slack a little in my agent researching efforts, but I’ll put more effort into it now that I have some non-family time.
  • Finish Rough Draft of New Novel. I’m pretty close with that one.
  • Polish Up Draft of Another “Finished” Novel. I’m waiting for when I take a break between drafts on the previously mentioned novel, and also for returned comments from some of my readers that I sent this novel to.
  • Catch Up On Reviews. I’m a little behind on my Fandom Post reviews, which I feel guilty about, but if I give myself a couple of weeks I can catch back up.
  • Complete My Goodreads Goal. I always give myself a high number, 100, because I read a lot of children’s books and graphic novels. I want to make it this year, possibly by allowing myself to count picture books I read while I’m at work.
  • Read More Nonfiction. Memoirs, nature books…some good true stories that don’t read like I’m in a classroom.
  • Read More Graphic Novels. You’d think I read plenty enough of these, but sometimes I really do feel like I’m out of the loop on too many things.
  • Finish the Couch to 5K Program. Maybe even run an actual 5K this year.
  • Find a House. That we can afford, of course. That is the trick.
  • Go on a Trip. Not just to the Cape, which we do anyway, but to someplace I’ve never been, like Montreal, or maybe California. (I’d love to plan a trip to Japan above all, but again, affordability.)

Those are some goals from me. What do you have planned for this year? Let me know!

This was written as part of Top Ten Tuesday (yes I know it’s Friday) on The Broke and the Bookish.

Saving Shelves: Weeding My Book Collection

Before I moved to New Hampshire over four years ago, I took a long hard look at my book collection and realized, profoundly: I don’t want to deal with that. So I sold some things online, carted a few to the library, and got a good chunk of change trading others in at the comic shop.

Still, I came to my new home with an admittedly excessive amount of books, so that even after installing three different sets of shelves I had to double stack. Then I started working at a bookstore, and for I time I was a soul lost.

I’ve gotten rid of relieved myself of some books since then, but I never seem to be able to match the pace of what I take in. Recently, it’s just become too much. I get a bit of anxiety over the excessive amount of stuff I have, not to mention that we’ll eventually move again — what’s really worth carting around to yet another house?

With that in mind, I’ve started the biggest weed of my private collection of books I can remember doing. I have manga pulled from shelves, novels I will never read again waiting in stacks to go to the library. A few weeks ago I dragged over a couple bags of nearly 50 books (plus some DVDs) to the library I work at, and plan on bringing an even bigger amount of manga to my town’s library (they actually put a lot of it on the shelf) soon. And there’s still more I know I could ditch, if only…

Aaah, that’s much better…

You see, the big problem with getting rid of belongings is, I’m a very sentimental person. I put a lot of emotional worth on the items I own, to the point that one of the primary emotions I feel when ridding myself of them is guilt. Added to that is nostalgia (remember when I read that with so-and-so??) and a nervous fear that I’ll want to read those books the moment they’re out of my hands. (Not to mention, once again, those hypothetical-nonexistent-children that might want to read their mother’s comics someday! They won’t, Angela. They just won’t.)

It does hurt to get rid of them, and if I think about one for too long I’m likely to gave and shove into some spot on the shelf again. But when I get over myself, arrange the books in a bag and give them to a library, or sell them to a comic shop, or pass them on to a coworker’s kid just discovering how much he or she loves comics, I start to feel good, a little more free. A little more like my collection represents the reader I am now, not the reader I fondly remember being.

 

How often do you weed your books? Or do you let them pile around you, like a hardbacked paper fortress? What do you do with the books you no longer want?

Unfinished Books: Preventing Disappointment

A little while ago, I gave myself permission to give up on books, to leave them unfinished if I felt I wasn’t enjoying myself. While I have a list of books I’ve given up before, I’ve always felt guilty about it — like it’s me, letting the book down. Which is silly, but, also, it’s my brain, so. But, telling myself not to feel guilty (or at least less guilty) has helped me cease reading when the book wasn’t doing it for me.

The past few months I’ve been having an extra problem with it. There are at least a dozen books I’ve cracked open and then put aside before even reaching the halfway point. While in retrospect I agree with my reasons for ditching those books — not in the mood, could only think of other books I wanted to start while slogging through this one — I still don’t really like doing it, since I’m wasting precious book time. So I’ve been thinking: How to keep this from happening entirely?

  • books by johnny_automatic - Line and Form by Walter Crane, 1914Test the waters. Not sure about a book? Crack it open, give it a quick read. Sometimes I read the first page or two before I take an unknown library book home to see if the opening sentences hook me. A friend (who obviously doesn’t care nearly as much about spoilers as I do) reads the last page to find out if she cares to learn how the characters got there. Maybe you want to flip to the middle and see how the writing carries through.
  • Check your mood. Yeah, you’ve been meaning to read that 1,200 page fantasy novel…but is that what you really want to read right now? Maybe you’re more in the mood for a funny essay, or an emotional but quick young adult novel. I try to make sure I have the right attitude for a book so I don’t prematurely cast it aside, or feel like I have to slog through. Which brings me to…
  • No “obligation” reads. Unless you’re in school, or it’s for a job, or you’re doing a writing friend a favor, there are very few books that you have to read. Never read Jane Austen? Don’t worry, the English Majors police won’t shoot you (they may give you funny looks, though). Can’t get amped up for that popular paranomral thing everyone you work with is talking about? No big deal, you can stand to be left out of the conversation sometimes, maybe (not really, but you’ll figure it out). Basically, you have too many books to read (I don’t know about you, but my Goodreads “To Read” list is over a hundred long, and I can’t think of anything to cut) so why waste precious reading hours on something that feels like a chore?
  • Careful about those impulses. I’ve done it. You grab a book with a pretty cover and an interesting title off the shelf, only never to open it, or to start and find out that the writing isn’t very good, or that the main character is irritating (this is while I drop a book more than anything — if I can’t stand the MC why should I follow him?) I’ve had lots of good impulses — I only read Amy Tan because I snatched The Joy Luck Club of a book sale cart at the last second — but there are too many other books that I’ve grabbed on a whim only to add another book to my unfinished list. If leaving a book half-finished bugs you that much, I suggest holding back and doing a little research before you lug those books home.

I’m hoping that if I check down the list I’ll keep myself from wasting time on books I don’t feel like, or that I don’t really want to read. But mistakes happen; you are misled. Even with your anticipation the book’s just not hitting any of the right chords. And then you have to figure out if, or likely when, to give it up.

Reading, Writing, Tea, and Dogs

I sit on the couch with my legs pull up. I hold the book on crows I’m reading for novel research, propping it against my knees. I’m sitting with the side table to my left, so I hold my tea in my right hand.

But, since this is for research, sometimes I must take notes, so I precariously wedge my mug between my thighs and my bit of stomach to scribble something on a Post-it.

…Yet my dog is next to me, also, and she wants attention. Too sleepy to jump on my lap, she sits, leaning against the couch, one paw raised like a member of royalty, silently commanding me with infinitely sad dark eyes to scratch her chest, or rub that bit of skin right next to her tail, or maybe scritch off that spot of eye gook stuck on her snout.

So I do all these things — write, read, drink, pet — somehow simultaneously, somehow without spilling my tea or dropping my book or irreversibly offending my dog. I’m glad I have this weird kind of multitasking under my belt, but boy, wouldn’t four hands be nice.

Defacing Books

Books are precious objects to me, and for all of my childhood and early adulthood the idea of taking a pen to that paper (aside from writing my name inside the cover in case a friend “forgot” to return The Sorcerer’s Stone) was foul, cruel, immoral.

I got over this some in college, circling favorite poems and writing notes in a novel’s margins so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to say in class. I wasn’t tortured by some vengeful book god, and this act of defacing the page got me more involved in the reading, and possibly more involved in class.

Still, I never did that to my own books. A sense of wrongdoing, of messing up something pristine, acted like a near-physical wall.

image
Books on their way to being scribbled in messes.

Recently I’ve taken pencil, pen, and sometimes highlighter to my own books, ones not for any kind of class, but there are limits even now. I underline and star passages in a nonfiction book I’m using for research, I again circle poems, and I scribble, underline, and highlight the writing craft books that have the most effect on me, the ones growing soft as I continually flip to random or favorite pages.

But my novels, in general, remain clean. Especially ones I’ve held onto and kept safe for so many years, like my Harry Potter collection. I even tend to hold my pen back from beautiful phrases in library book sale copies, ones I’ll likely pass on.

And there it is — the passing on. My brain, always too future-oriented, can’t help but take in the books on my shelves and think of who might read them someday — friends, family, used bookstore patrons, hypothetical unborn children. Aside from some very beat up copies, usually bought for a college class, I came into these books fresh, with no notes or underlines to influence me on my first run through, and I want the same for whoever reads them next.

‘They won’t want my shaky underlines, my nonsense inane annotations,’ I think, rarely clarifying for myself who “they” are. It would ruin the experience! They may even cast the book aside because I dirtied it too much.

I know how assuming this is, how unlikely, especially for the volumes I cling to. Still, I can’t help but worry how my thoughtlessness with a pen might affect the next person to pull back the cover.

What I’m Reading — Too Much

I’m at one of those unhelpful points in my reading where I’ve discovered I’ve started way too many books at once. Not that I lose track of what I’m reading (simultaneous stories is one of the few things I can actually compartmentalize in my brain) but it’s been taking me much longer than usual to get through each book. Here’s what I’m working through:

The Hundred Secret Senses. I’ve only read a couple other books by Amy Tan, but I’m  big fan of her very character-driven stories. I’m not liking this one as much as, say The Joy Luck Club, but still enjoy seeing how all these little plot lines overlap and twist together. Almost done with this one.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake. I’ve never read Sloane Crosely before, but count me a fan. This is a book of personal essays, a la David Sedaris, and while I think Sedaris is a little funnier (so far, I’ve only read two essays) Crosley’s really winning me over with her childhood memories and paranoid overthinking of what others will think of you when you tragically die. A fun read to help buffer the other stuff.

A Tale Dark and Grimm. Just started this one, but who would I be if I wasn’t reading a children’s book?

Rereading. Yeah, I’m still working on this one.

On top of that I’ve got the book I’m currently reading for review, and two more Jincy Willett books fresh from the library (did you know Amy Falls Down is a sequel? I didn’t know that, no one told me). Not to mention all the other books glaring at me from my shelves or breathing down my neck on my library wait list. I gotta get a move on.

My Books in 2013

Looking back on my Good Reads list, this year was pretty big for new authors that I love

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenFirst and foremost is John Green, all of whose books I’ve now read, most notably of which is The Fault in Our Stars. I didn’t fall in love with all of this books, but TFiOS is now and forever more one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever come across. I can’t stop recommending it to (or buying it for) people, and I only wish I had figured out how great it was when it first came out so I could have jumped on the bandwagon sooner. As a direct result of that, too, I’ve become a fan of his brother Hank and their YouTube pages, which help me while away all sorts of time I should be spending writing.

Speaking of books I missed the first ship on: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I mean, Jesus. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read, but man I think this is THE best book I’ve ever come across.

Then there’s Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor and Park simultaneously broke and swelled my heart about as much as TFiOS, and Fangirl gave that wonderful, well, fangirl flutter in my gut that I don’t feel as often as I once did. I still haven’t read her adult book, but it’s certainly on my list.
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
Also of note: this year, Sara Farizan, another Lesley graduate, published her first book, If You Could Be Mine, a wonderful love story. It makes me so proud to have been in the same program as her.

Not in the YA grouping: David Sedaris. How have I not read this man before? His nonfiction essays reveal a life that in most ways is very different from mine, but he still manages to write things that click and mesh with the way I see the world, that echo thoughts I’ve never said out loud because who else would possibly think that way? I’ve read almost everything he’s written, which is really depressing in its own way, since I could read his books forever. But luckily Sedaris is one of those magical readers that stand up to rereadings (or re-listenings, since I switch between his audio books and print books) so I can just go back to him again and again and again.

Boxers and Saints2013 was also a year where I started getting into different forms of reading. audiobooks became my go-to way to pass the time doing chores or driving, though I do find myself being very picky with what I listen to: it has to be something I can spend only about 80% of my brain on, and I can’t make myself listen to anything that equals more than 10 or so CDs. I’ve also discovered a new love of short stories, with Aimee Bender and George Saunders, and also J.D. Salinger and another new favorite book, Franny and Zooey.

Always there are new comics. This year I found a new favorite webcomic, Boumeries, which I’ve talked about before. I’ve also loved Gene Luen Yang’s new duet (duology? twosome?), Boxers & Saints about the Boxer Rebellion in China. Other good ones were Message to Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim, and Marbles, a memoir on bipolar disorder, by Ellen Forney.

Really, I could go on and on about the books I loved this year. There are plenty I didn’t name. But those are some of the things that stuck out for me. How about you?