The Best Way to Arrange Books

When I was a kid, I lived in an old farmhouse. My room had a chimney running through it. By the time we lived there, the chimney didn’t work anymore, and we didn’t have a fireplace. I had three bookshelves surrounding my chimney, and I didn’t really have a method or arranging my books. I just stuffed them in wherever.

As I got older, I still just put my books wherever, but I also had a shelf of my favorites, some of which are still my favorites today.

That haphazard way of arranging books lasted until I moved to Texas. We had moved three times previously, and my Ikea bookshelves were in pretty rough shape. I wanted a real library with real wooden bookshelves.

I had never unpacked all my books in any of the places I lived. I just never had the shelf space and wasn’t even sure how many books I owned. (I’m at 1,770, in case you’re curious.)

With that many books, there’s only one way to deal with them. I had to go with sections and alphabetize within section.

My largest section, by far, is fiction. I have all short story anthologies shelved separately. I have a shelf for memoir/ biography, several for psychology texts, a shelf for graphic novels, and then a couple shelves of mixed nonfiction. That mixed shelf has an eclectic mix of paranormal phenomena, mythology, gardening, home repair, and pretty much anything that wouldn’t fit on the other shelves.

I’ve seen people talk about shelving by cutesy things like color or size, and while that might be, in some ways, more aesthetically pleasing, I have all the happiness I need just by seeing all the books I own, unboxed, and in one location.

How do you shelve your books?

SaveSaveSaveSave

Advertisements

2018 Book Challenges- Week 2

Popsugar Challenge

(4/50) Considering how long book 3 was, I’d say that’s good progress.

Sorry for the really long review of this one, but I can’t do it justice in a paragraph.

Unknown

1. A book with an ugly cover– A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (literary) I got interested in this book after Ramona over at While I Was Reading put it on her list of books she refuses to read. She said it was supposed to be gut wrenching, which was enough for me. I like a good gut wrenching from time to time. A mutual reader friend and I decided to read it together, because if it’s really that intense, it’s best to read it with a friend. After I started reading, I retroactively put it in this category because the cover is awful. I never would have picked it based on that.

I’ll be honest, it was hard to get into at first. Around 20% (according to my Kindle), it started to hit its stride and hook me. This is a looooong book.

I don’t think it emotionally affected me as much as it would most people. First off, I knew it was supposed to be depressing. Second of all, I worked for Child Protective Services, and although I’ve never seen as awful of things as happened to Jude, once you’ve seen awful stuff, degree almost doesn’t matter any more. Third, I knew what was going to happen by the time I hit 30%. I hoped I was wrong…

I also felt like this book played with my emotions a bit, like it was trying to be gut wrenching, rather than the author just telling a story. Like I said, the ending was telegraphed early, but the fact that it’s not revealed until the end lessened the impact for me. There was a large twist I didn’t see coming that particularly hit me, but in retrospect, I really should have seen it.

The language isn’t especially beautiful. Often, in literary fiction, I highlight passages I love for their beauty. In this book, I did still highlight, but for concepts I wanted to revisit rather than language. It’s a lovely book for the way it evokes emotions and its portrayal of life.

Still, with all its flaws, it’s a wonderful story about life and love and friendship, how hard it is to recover from a crushing childhood. I do recommend this book, but with reservations. If you’re too sensitive to weighty emotional material, or you don’t want to commit to reading the first 150 pages of a long book before it gets good, it’s probably not your thing.

But if you love literary fiction and love an emotional ride, this may be one to put on your TBR.

Unknown-1

2.  A book about grief- Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum (YA)- This was exactly what I needed after reading A Little Life. It wasn’t quite “light,” but it was a fast read with light-hearted and humorous moments. To be totally honest, I teared up with this book more than I did with A Little Life. All the emotions in this book were because of the main character telling her story and me feeling bad for her, not because I was supposed to.

It’s about a teenager grieving the loss of her mother, but also about friendship and falling in love. It was a super fast, refreshing read. It was totally predictable, but that was exactly what I needed.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(0/12) No progress

Clearing Off My Shelf Reading

No progress

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

Unknown-2

  1. Secrets in Death (In Death #46), JD Robb (Romance, light science fiction, murder mystery) I can’t keep up with JD Robb’s/ Nora Roberts’s output. I know some people find these to be all the same, and in some ways they are. Eve Dallas, with her husband Roarke, solve every mystery and always get the bad guy. But I enjoy the stories and it’s always a familiar, comforting, fun ride. They’re different enough to keep me interested, and while I like some more than others, none of them disappoint.

2018 Running Total: 6

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

5 Bookish New Year’s Resolutions

It’s still January, so I can talk about New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s Resolutions, in general, aren’t my thing. (Except becoming more organized… I make that one every year.) But there are five bookish New Year’s Resolutions I made.

img_7738

  1. Read more books that I already  own. Culling my shelves for the 2018 challenge reminded me that I have tons of books I’m interested in reading. I just need to focus and not get distracted by new books. In addition to those, I pulled a bunch off my shelves that I always forget I have but know I want to read.
  2. Do better about writing about books I read. I started to keep a book journal in 2017, jotting notes about every book I read, but it quickly became overwhelming. I’m so busy, and adding one more thing to the list doesn’t seem like a great idea. I read for entertainment, but I also read to broaden my mind. Taking a few minutes to reflect on what I read in my journal seems like it would help. I’m reminding myself that I’m doing this for me, and if I have no thoughts about a particular book or just forget to write about one, the book police aren’t going to come get me.
  3. Start being more intentional about books I buy. I sometimes buy things at library sales or Goodwill “because it looks good,” and then often don’t get around to reading them. I end up with the situation I’m in now where I have to cull my shelves. Meanwhile, I don’t buy the books I really wanted because I’d have to get them from Amazon, instead of a chance encounter. That means that my TBR continues to grow and I never seem to get around to those books I really wanted to.
  4. Borrow more ebooks. In general, I prefer paper books for a lot of reasons. But one benefit of ebooks is that I can highlight passages I like. As I’m always trying to become a better writer, it’s helpful for me to be able to look back and see what it is I liked about those passages, if it’s something I just admire or something I’d like to do more of in my own writing.
  5. Be willing to part with more books. I have my list of criteria for keeping books that I try to adhere to, but I almost always struggle with getting rid of books, especially ones I like, even if I know I’ll never read them again. I’m trying to part with more things, in all areas of my life, but books may be the hardest. I just have to remember that if I ever have a burning desire to read that book again, there’s this awesome thing called the library where they have most books, and if they don’t have it, there’s this other thing called Amazon.

Most bookish New Year’s resolutions I saw included “read a certain number of books.” I’m not doing that. I’m sure I could read more books than last year, but number of books doesn’t mean anything. First off, I have many large books on my list, so if I set a number goal, I might be tempted to put off reading them. And I’ve put off Dune and The Stand long enough.

Second, I like the reading challenges because it’s like a scavenger hunt. But an arbitrary number… where’s the fun in that? At the end of the day, I read because it’s fun, not because I’m trying to impress anyone or so I can “win” anything. I just love reading.

Do you have any bookish New Year’s resolutions?

Audiobooks are Easier to Abandon

I’ve written a few times about how I have a newly discovered liking for audiobooks. And it’s true. With the right book, I really do enjoy them.

However, I’ve noticed a pattern. I abandon more audiobooks than I finish. At first, I thought I was just choosing books that I didn’t like, that I would have abandoned anyway. I abandoned so many audiobooks last year that I stopped keeping track of them.

But recently, I started listening to a book I’ve wanted to read forever: A Million Junes, by Emily Henry. The book has everything I should like. It’s YA, it’s a little magical, with an interesting premise.

I made myself listen to it a few times and just… stopped.

I don’t want to keep listening to it, but I still want to read it.

And that’s when I started to look critically at the audiobooks I abandoned. They still interest me. I looked at Feed, by Mira Grant, and I realized it’s about siblings during a zombie apocalypse! What’s not to like?

But I abandoned it without a qualm an hour or so into it.

Audiobooks require an enormous amount of concentration for me. They work for me while I’m driving long stretches because I’ve been driving for a long time and can do that automatically (for the most part). But unless I’m really into it, I don’t use them for mindless chores around the house. I like quiet on my daily walks so I can hear the birds or the stream rushing. And I’m certainly not going to sit on the couch and listen to an audiobook; if I have nothing else going on, I’d much rather read it.

I think that I’ve given up on some good books because I didn’t read them in the right format. Knowing that, I’m going to go back through my list (at some point) and check them out again.

Of the books I’ve actually completed on audiobook, most of them were biographies of comedians, read by the author. These aren’t books I’d normally read, but they were interesting on audiobook. I do enjoy comedy specials, so perhaps that’s the difference? I’ve also been successful with some YA (a couple books by Rainbow Rowell, a book by Jennifer Niven) and books I’ve read before.

I think that I either need to be more selective with audiobooks or make sure I have access to the paper copy to switch back and forth. I hate wasting my time by abandoning a book an hour into it, especially if I might actually like it if I were reading to it instead of listening to it.

Does anyone else have this issue?

SaveSave

2018 Book Challenges- Week 1

Can you believe we’re a week into the year already? It’s crazy.

Here’s my progress on my various book challenges so far this year.

Popsugar Challenge

(2/50) Strong start!

  1. The next book in a series you started- Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon (historical fiction and so much more!) This book is over 1000 pages, and I read it in two days. I couldn’t put it down. Every time I tried, I just wanted to know what was going on next with Claire and Jamie. I loved the first book, liked the second, but this one! This one was true love.
  2. A book about feminism- Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu (YA) I didn’t know what I was going to read for the feminism category, but I had this book because a YA book club I belong to picked it back in November. (I got a little behind in my reading.) Even though the discussion is over, I still wanted to read it because I really liked The Truth About Alice. Wow, this book was great. I think it’s a wonderful intro to feminism and non-violent protest to a problematic situation.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(0/12) No progress

Clearing Off My Shelf Reading

No progress

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

  1. The Scar Boys, by Len Vlahos (YA) Chosen by my YA book club for January, this was an okay read. The premise is that the main character, Harry, is writing a college application that goes way over. He’s trying to tell about himself and 250 words won’t do it. As a child, he had a near miss being struck by lightning and is scarred. Then he ends up in a band. It’s a series of events with very little emotional connection between them. I think it’s supposed to be a story of friendship, but it never quite worked for me. And the whole college application premise really didn’t work for me. I would rate this as 2.5 stars, somewhere between “it was okay” and “I liked it.” It’s not a bad read, but if you have other books on your TBR, go for those first.

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

Reading the Classics

Several years ago, I set a goal for myself to work my way through “the classics,” a bunch of books I should read, for one reason or another.

Last year, I read 5 and abandoned 1. Here’s what I thought of them.

  1. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (abandoned)– This book is supposed to be a love story with beautiful writing. But it’s SO BORING. Nothing happens, as is the way with many classics. I didn’t intend to put it down; I was going to keep attempting to get through it, but I could never bring myself to start reading again. I might try again later. Sometimes I like books better in different moods.
  2. Animal Farm, by George Orwell– I have no idea why this took me so long to read. It’s a short book, but also educational, entertaining, and a bit frightening. It perfectly illustrates how power corrupts.
  3. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier– Again, why did this take me so long to get to? It’s a classic gothic horror story but with one amazing twist at the end. I love that the narrator remains largely unnamed. I liked this one enough that I’ll probably reread it at some point.
  4. Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens– I expected this to be dry and difficult to read, but it was great. It was a surprisingly easy read, with interesting characters. References to this book are everywhere, now that I know what they’re talking about. It’s helpful to know who Fagin, the Artful Dodger, and Nancy are.
  5. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding– Okay, technically I did read this in high school, but that was a long time ago, and I didn’t remember much about it. I wanted a refresher, so I read it. I liked it and can see why it’s a classic, but I didn’t love it. Definitely worth reading, and I’m glad I re-read it, but it wasn’t enjoyable.
  6. His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass)- These get better as the series goes on. I know some people have a problem with his stance on religion, but I was reading them as books, not as educational texts, so it doesn’t make much difference to me. They were highly entertaining, and I loved the last one.

In the upcoming year, I plan to read 5 more. My tentative list is as follows, but I’m always open to suggestions.

  1. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller– I’ve wanted to read this for years. All I know about it is that the catch-22 has something to do with being crazy/ sane and flying combat planes, and that it’s supposed to be funny.
  2. The Stand, by Stephen King– This is supposed to be the post-apocalyptic horror story that set the standard. I’m sure I’ll love it, but it’s so long that it’s a bit daunting to start. Still, I write horror and I love post-apocalyptic stuff so I really need to read it.
  3. Dune, by Frank Herbert– Another classic of the genre, but really long. This one has been on my list for awhile.
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut– This is another book I know very little about, but it’s been on my list for awhile. Interestingly, some friends were talking about it recently, and that solidified it; it has to go on the list.
  5. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald– I’m a bit tentative with this one. I didn’t like Tender is the Night, but just because I didn’t like one of his books doesn’t mean I won’t like any. Gatsby is his most recognizable title, so maybe there’s a reason for it? I have no qualms about abandoning it if I hate it.
  6. Alternate- Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy– It sounds like a fascinating book, and I’ve never read any Tolstoy. I’m guessing I’ll either love it or hate it.

What do you think of my lists? What do you think of the ones I read in 2017? My 2018 list isn’t set in stone (no reading list ever is), so what do you think of my picks?

SaveSave

The 15 Best Books I Read in 2017

I tried for a top 10 list, but couldn’t narrow it down that far.

I finished 132 books, abandoned 5, and am still working on 1. (I had to return it to the library midway through and haven’t gotten it back yet.

26 of them were re-reads, which means I read 106 new books, which is record number of new books for me. I read 43,326 pages last year, which is 5,134 pages more than the year before. 9 of the books I read at least partly as audiobooks.

I don’t have high-brow tastes, but I do like an entertaining tale with good writing. Of the 100+ books I read in 2017, I liked 15 of them enough to recommend to others. Honestly, that’s not bad odds.

  1. The Sun is Also A Star, by Nicola Yoon (YA literary) At this point, I’m convinced anything Nicola Yoon writes will be amazing. This is a book about a young lady who’s family is from Jamaica. They’re about to be deported, and she’s trying to figure out a way for them to stay in the country. She meets a young Korean man, and they end up spending the day together. The book is from the point of view of the two main characters, but also from other characters, whose lives these two touch for a moment here and there. This is a book about love and culture and identity, but also about how sometimes we don’t realize how much of an impact we can have on a person by just a momentary encounter.
  2. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stievfater (YA fantasy light) This is a series of 4 books. I’ll be totally honest; the first one took me awhile to warm up to it. I was listening to it on audiobook, and I thought the language was odd. I was actually going to stop listening to it, but I was driving through the middle of nowhere, still had miles to go, and couldn’t get reception to download a different book. I figured it was better than nothing and kept going. I’m so glad I did! It merges myth and legend against a modern day setting. I fell in love with the characters, their romances, and their adventures. I will warn you that I did not love the ending. A bad ending can ruin a book for me, and this one wasn’t bad… it was just somewhat disappointing. It’s still worth reading, but be careful if endings are a thing for you too.
  3. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (YA real world) Rowell is another YA author who, in my mind, writes consistently good books. Bonus recommendation: Carry On. This book is about a nerdy girl who writes fan fiction and struggles with anxiety. When she gets to college, she has to stop using her safety nets (getting lost in fan fiction, her sister) and start participating in real life.
  4. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, Edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (YA horror) This is a book of short YA horror stories. I have my favorites, like In The Forest, Dark and Deep, Sleepless, and The Dark Scary Parts and All, but every single story in the collection was good. They mixed big names, like Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake with less famous authors.
  5. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi (memoir) Not going to lie, I cried, even though I knew full well that the author died before I even picked up the book. It was a beautiful meditation on an interesting man, and what it means to be human.
  6. A Piece of Cake, by Cupcake Brown (memoir) This is a difficult read. Not because of the language, which was simple and direct, but because the subject matter is so tough. Cupcake (her real name) ends up in foster care after her mom dies, which is where she’s raped by the foster mom’s son. No one seems to care, and she spirals into self-loathing and drugs. Only because of an inner core of steel does she manage to get herself clean and become a successful lady. I already knew that everyone’s got a story, but this just reinforced the idea that you can never know what someone’s gone through unless you’ve lived it or they tell you.
  7. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (literary) I couldn’t put this book down. It was sad and funny, about a group of people who are trapped together when terrorists take them hostage. But after awhile, the line between captor and captured blurs, and they all start to find out that they’re just a group of people trying to figure things out in the world. I can’t really describe it, but if you like literary fiction, you should read it.
  8. The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis (YA horror) Alex’s sister was killed by a predator. When the police don’t charge him, Alex kills him. Three years later, she’s used to being an outcast and keeping her secrets. But when she develops a friendship, and then starts dating a popular boy, she realizes that she can’t keep her secrets (or her rage) to herself anymore.
  9. The Emperor of Anyplace, by Tim Wynne-Jones (YA literary with fantastical elements) This book was chosen by YA book club, and it’s so many different things. I didn’t expect to like it, but loved it. It’s part family drama in modern day, part mystery set during World War II. Two men from opposite sides get trapped together on a small island during the war and must deal with being trapped with the “enemy.” When Evan finds the book detailing what happened after his father dies, he tries to solve the mystery of who his grandfather really is.
  10. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert (self-help) Are you a creative person who feels stuck, or feels like you need permission to create? Then read this book. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about why the world needs more people who are passionate about art, all kinds of art. (Notice I didn’t say, “who are good at art.”)
  11. When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon (YA romance) Dimple and Rishi’s parents have arranged for them to get married, when they’re older. But Dimple wants to be her own person, to learn more about web development, and not even think about romance. Their parents throw them together at a web development workshop and expect everything to work out. This is just a sweet but fresh romance. It’s light reading, but good light reading.
  12. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas (YA literary) This is what I’d call an “issue book.” That is, it’s meant to present an issue to the reader. Some of them get so heavy into their message that they forget to also provide an entertaining ride. This book, however, delivers. It’s clear what Angie Thomas wants to say, but she doesn’t overshadow the author’s protagonist, Starr, when she does it. Starr speaks for herself and tells us what it’s like to navigate between two different worlds, especially when someone you love was killed for reasons you don’t understand.
  13. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (historical fiction) The first 100 pages are sloooooow. They’re all set-up, but it’s important set-up. Once I got past those pages, the rest of the story flew by. I’ve read the first two so far and have loved them both. These books have a bit of everything: history, war, romance. It’s a non-stop thrill ride.
  14. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold (memoir) I truly believe this is an important book. When tragedies happen by human hands, we all seem to point fingers and say, “Someone should have known.” The problem is that most of the time, people didn’t know. Sure, they might have known something was off, but let’s be honest, who ever thinks that someone they love is capable of brutal violence? Sue Klebold confronts those statements and more in her book about her son, Dylan, one of the shooters at Columbine High School. Sometimes it seems like she’s talking to herself, still trying to understand what could have happened. She blends her own recollections with information from experts. It’s haunting, but hopefully eye-opening as well.
  15. On a Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony (fantasy) When Zane shoots Death, he finds out that he has to take over the job. As he’s collecting souls, he finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy. A fun, fast-paced book.

There you have it. If you read something on my recommendation, stop back and let me know what you thought.

What was the best book/ books you read in 2017?