In which I devour “Voracious”

One awesome thing (among the many) about being a book lover: We are everywhere. You meet us in all walks of life. We’re baristas and hairdressers and rock stars. We’re actors and athletes and foodies. Sometimes we’re writers or college professors or artists. We might be wide-eyed babies or angst-y teens or multitasking moms or serene middle agers.

Basically, books are for everyone.

I love this about books. Continue reading “In which I devour “Voracious””

For a fun family read-aloud: Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye

Thanks to my dear friend Jessica Collins and her column “On the Children’s Shelf,” I’ve been, over the last year, rediscovering my love of children’s literature. In a recent piece, she shared a related reading resolution that is dear to my heart: Making time for family reading and reading aloud together.

Family read aloud time is my favorite time. I love the shared experience of the words and images and how the shared experience invites us to slow down. I love how it changes the way we receive and process a story. I love talking about the characters as if they’re our mutual friends and rehashing what parts of the story we each connected to and what parts most resonated. I love sharing my favorite pastime with my favorite people.

My last read of 2015 was a book that would make a lovely family read aloud: Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye, written by Tania del Rio and illustrated by Will Staehle. It’s a well-plotted and paced mystery whose compelling visuals inspire lingering and invite conversation. Continue reading “For a fun family read-aloud: Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye”

0 out of 5 Stars for the 5-Star System of Rating Books

My grand conclusion after a month of using Goodreads: As a reader, I am vexed to the point of melodrama at the idea of assigning books 1 – 5 stars.

It’s basically grading, right? I’m painfully familiar with grading. As a college professor, it’s my least favorite part of teaching. BUT at least assessment criteria are clearly articulated. No one can pretend there’s not a subjective element when we’re talking about writing, speaking and constructing arguments. BUT at least we spell out for students exactly what we value and is expected of them – in achingly specific detail. Seriously, you should see the rubrics. Continue reading “0 out of 5 Stars for the 5-Star System of Rating Books”

Three ways #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks is making me a better reader

When it comes to stuff, my general policy is, less beats more. Less stuff means fewer things to look after (meaning dust and organize) and more time to spend reading. Except … all this wonderful logic falls apart at the bookstore.

I have very little willpower when it comes to buying books.

Picture me taking a deep, cleansing breath as I type this: I have 489 books on my Nook. I won’t even hazard a guess as to how many are in my house. Suffice it to say, they number well into the upper hundreds.

You can see, then, why #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks captured my imagination. I’m always saying that I have enough books to last a lifetime, then carrying on buying more and more and still more. It’s alarming, if I’m honest. Besides the irritating amount of dusting required, I embarrassed to admit how many books I have double, and sometimes triple, editions of because I no longer know what I have. Continue reading “Three ways #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks is making me a better reader”

“I Felt Like I’d Never Be Cheerful Again,” Or: Reading “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton

Years ago, I took a Victorian poetry class with a professor who looked like Satan dressed up as Colonel Sanders. He was elfishly tiny and wore an ecru linen suit, complete with black string tie. His neatly trimmed beard created a perfect “V” from his laugh lines to his chin. Among these distinctive features were two more: his southern drawl and his assertion that “There is no such thing as American literature.”

As it happens, I was, at that same time and university, enrolled in a course in post-Civil War American literature. While I didn’t exactly agree with Colonel Satan, I could see why one might wish to renounce American literature, at least of that period. My goodness, it’s an endless parade of horrors with no relief (as Dickens uses humor, for example): Maggie, a Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane, The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic, the dreadful McTeague by Frank Norris. Reading these resolutely hopeless novels made me wonder how American earned her reputation for optimism. I can’t see it having been through her literature. Continue reading ““I Felt Like I’d Never Be Cheerful Again,” Or: Reading “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton”

Literary Places: The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City

My mom, who lives in Manhattan, has the best life. She’s out and about five nights out of seven (conservative estimate), partaking of all the city has to offer. Lucky for me, she’s generous with her time and recommendations. She’ll phone me up and say, “There’s a fascinating [insert event] about [insert (obscure) topic] at [insert institution]. Would you like to join me?”

This familiar scenario took a turn for the thrilling on Sunday, when she phoned me up to say, “Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is on display at The Morgan Library. Would you like to go see it with me?” After I spluttered unintelligibly from sheer euphoria and confusion (how did I not know this?!), we made our plans. And yes, as a matter of fact, she will use this event to remind me that I should always, always listen to my mother. She’s not wrong.

The Manuscript (capital M!) is on display through January 10 in Pierpont Morgan’s library, a room of wall-to-wall books. Gorgeous, beautiful, old books. It’s basically heaven, for readers.  Continue reading “Literary Places: The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City”

When the choice is between e-reading and not reading, I choose my Nook GlowLight Plus

Nook GlowLight Plus

My favorite place to read as a child was under the covers with a flashlight. While the pleasure of being subversive and sticking it to The Man (who, in this case, happened to be a woman: my mom) no doubt played a role, more compelling was that I appreciated the sensory deprivation that facilitated disappearing into the world of a book.

My bedroom, with its white furniture and riot of stuffed animals, vanished from view, and I could submerge myself into the alternate reality of wherever I was traveling to—the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Claudia from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, London with Sarah Crewe from A Little Princess or Paddington from A Bear Called Paddington, turn-of-the-century Manhattan with the five sisters from All-of-a-Kind Family.

This memory had slipped into my subconscious until I happened to mention to a friend, as a jokey aside, that what I most appreciate about my Nook GlowLight is how it facilitates reading in the dark. (And the “Plus” version is waterproof, should I wish to read in the bathtub by candlelight!)

Continue reading “When the choice is between e-reading and not reading, I choose my Nook GlowLight Plus”

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: “The Marvels” by Brian Selznick

As previously mentioned, the hashtag #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks captured my attention in a big way. It inspired me to take a good look at how many books I own that I have not yet read, and the results were sobering. Which is to say: I own too many books that I have not yet read, and it’s time I gave those books my attention.

I’m ambivalent about annual reading challenges, as I’ve seen they can sometimes have unintended consequences, of the undesirable sort. For the foreseeable future, I won’t be doing any challenges that involve reading a particular number of books per year. But a challenge that invites me to rediscover the books I bought that have somehow managed to disappear into my tottering stacks (before being read, I might add) sounds excellent. The temptation to purchase wonderful, intriguing new books will be fierce, I expect. But I will do my best to keep tackling those existent stacks.

To kick things off, I began by compiling a list of five recently purchased titles and plan to update with more as the year goes on. I’m quite excited to see what I’ll discover. I’m equally excited to be able to announce that I dove right in on New Year’s Day by reading Brian Selznick’s beautiful, moving The Marvels. Continue reading “#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: “The Marvels” by Brian Selznick”

5 books I bought in 2015 and will be reading in 2016

If you happened to visit the Internet last month, you may have noticed: December featured bags and bags and overflowing bags of “best of 2015” book pieces. And why not? It’s entirely reasonable, at the end of the year, to take stock, and if this stock-taking culminates in 3,592,743* “Best Books of 2015” articles, well, that just means the world is populated by truckloads – I’m talking huge convoys of eighteen-wheelers – of readers, doesn’t it?

As for me, I’ve been known to make a “best of” list now and again. This year, however, I’m trying something new, in part inspired by a hashtag I saw on Instagram, though it apparently originated on Twitter: #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks. The brilliant idea behind this hashtag is, you know, read your own books, meaning the books you already own and that, thus, already populate your bookshelves (virtual or otherwise, one presumes). As it happens, I have quite a few of these (ahem). Continue reading “5 books I bought in 2015 and will be reading in 2016”