Can I Really Say I “Read” An Audiobook?

img_7913Up until the last few years, I never listened to audiobooks. There are a lot of reasons that don’t have anything to do with snobbery: I retain more when I read vs. listen, my mind wanders more when I listen, it’s harder to go back and re-read passages, I can’t highlight, etc.

But the bigger reason, for me, is that listening to audiobooks seemed kind of passive to me. I don’t love TV, primarily because I know that my brain isn’t doing much if I’m just consuming a show. I worried that audiobooks had that same passivity.

It’s silly, because if I think about it, listening to audiobooks is actually harder work for me than reading a book the traditional way. It requires me to direct my concentration in a way that’s much more automatic for me in traditional reading.

I decided to look it up, to see how audiobooks are consumed by the brain. Rather than wondering and worrying about it, I looked to the science. Here’s a good article on it, but the bottom line is that your brain sees them essentially the same way.

I’m not the only one asking this question. When I did an internet search about audiobooks vs. traditional reading, apparently many people struggle with this issue.

I keep a list of how many books I read each year, and two or three of them for the past two years have been audiobooks. I’ve actually struggled with whether or not to “count” them.

What’s the point of reading a book? For me, it’s about enjoyment. In some cases, it’s about learning. It’s also to synthesize information and be able to discuss it meaningfully with others. I can do all that with audiobooks.

I recently reread On Writing, by Stephen King. (Great book, incidentally, even if you’re not a writer.) He reads tons of books, and casually mentioned that he also reads audiobooks. If it’s good enough for Stephen King, it’s good enough for me. Once I gave myself permission to look at audiobooks as reading, I started seeing chunks in my day where I could be reading: doing yard work, in the car, cleaning up the kitchen… the list goes on.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Where do you stand on audiobooks vs. traditional books?

Do I Have That Book?

img_7777

Photo of my in books in the process of being shelved… with bonus cat.

I was at Goodwill recently, and I was looking through books. I saw a copy of The Bone Collector, by Jeffery Deaver. I’ve wanted to read it, so I picked it up, along with a *few* other books.

Then I thought, “I need to check my Sort It app before I buy these.” Sure enough, I already own the Bone Collector.

As a book hoarder… ahem… collector, I’ve lost track of what’s in my library. Some books, that I’ve read approximately eleventy-million times, aren’t a problem to remember. Others, that I either haven’t read, or read a long time ago, or maybe can’t remember if I got it from the library or not, are a little more challenging.

A few years ago, I found this amazing app for my phone called Sort It, and the heavens opened up and rained gold on me. Maybe not quite that dramatic, but it feels pretty close sometimes. I’m working on culling my collection to get rid of some books, but it’s still going to take time. In case you’re wondering about my rules for keeping books or sending them to Half-Price Books, you can read them here.

How do you keep track of what books you own? Is this a problem for you?

My Quote Journal

img_7757When I was a kid, I painstaking copied quotes and poems that spoke to me into a notebook. I wrote down any little snippets I loved, memorized them, and told others all about them.

Then I got older, and I abandoned the practice. Not for any particular reason, but just because that’s sometimes what happens when kids grow up.

I still occasionally jotted down a quote on a scrap of paper, or emailed it to myself. But the emails sat in my inbox, forgotten. And the scraps of paper got lost.

In 2013, I was working at a counseling center, and I met someone who loved quotes as much as I did. We’d exchange interesting quotes, and I started writing inspirational ones on a whiteboard in my office.

I’d been collecting upcycled journals for awhile. I just love them. But they’d been sitting on my shelf, unused. And then, one day, I realized that I could fill them with words, these wonderful quotes that I had collected. So that’s what I did.

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I found this quote, it spoke to me, and I realized that’s what I’d been doing all this time. I’ve been collecting words and phrases that say something I can’t quite say, articulate something caught in my throat or burning in my heart.

When I’m having a rough day, I flip through my quote journal and read a random page or two. Without fail, one of the quotes on the page speaks directly to whatever’s going on with me that day, and makes me feel a little better.

Do you have any interesting practices from your childhood that you abandoned (or not) as an adult?

So Hard To Say Good-bye

img_7738Over the past year, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my book collection. I have so many books that my shelves are overflowing. Finding a particular book is an exercise in rearranging. At least I’m shelving them in alphabetical order, so I can find what I’m looking for when I’m looking for it.

I’ve been trying to work my way through reading the books I already own, and then if they don’t meet one of my criteria, sending them to Half-Price Books.

I recently grabbed a romance off my shelf, read the back, and it looked okay. I was going to read it, but then found something else I wanted to read more. And the romance is still sitting where I left it when I decided not to read it.

I thought about re-shelving it, and then realized that if I saw it in the bookstore today, I wouldn’t buy it.

It’s not that it’s a bad book. It’s by a famous author, and I’m sure it’s entertaining. But it’s just not my taste anymore, if it ever was. Should I keep it on my bookshelf, taking up valuable real estate on the off chance I might want to read it one day? Or do I recognize that there are other books that I’m excited about reading, and that it’s okay if I’m just not into it?

Kind of answers itself, doesn’t it?

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to let go of books I’m probably never going to read. It feels like I should read what I already own. But there are so many books I’m dying to read. Series I want to complete. New authors to explore.

Sometimes I read a book from the library and would love to own it, but I put off the purchase because my shelves are already overstuffed. It seems irresponsible and indulgent to buy more books, especially a book I’ve already read, when I have so many others I haven’t gotten to.

While I was contemplating this, I closed my eyes and pictured my beautiful bookshelves full of only books I love. Ones that mean something to me, that I want to read. That I’m excited about.

It’s like a shelf full of personalized vacations. Something that brings me joy instead of stress.

I think it’s time to take a careful look at the books I own, and instead of asking, “Would I read this one day?” ask “Do I want to read this?” If the answer is no, I know what I need to do.

Thank goodness for Half-Price Books.

Do you have trouble getting rid of books you don’t love? How do you handle the buy/ keep question?

10 Books To Read Instead of Watching the Super Bowl

Not gonna lie… I’m not a sports fan. I used to enjoy playing dodgeball, and I love losing at miniature golf. My dogs have no criticism of my tennis ball throwing skills (mostly because I use the Chuck-it… shhh!). But that’s about it. I married a man who wasn’t into sports so that I’d never have to be tortured like that. Though I do see tons of tasty looking Super Bowl food coming through my newsfeed… but even that’s not enough to tempt me. If you’re like me, here’s some suggestions on what to read instead.

  1. If you want to read something involving football: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis. This book is strongly character driven. It has some football in it, but not so much that someone like me got bored by it. It was a fast read.
  2. If you want something with that competitive spirit, that’s way better than football: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Even if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t read this, it’s time. I loved all the characters, especially Katniss, of course. Even though she wasn’t always likable, she was interesting, and she had times where she was downright lovable. Reading about this life or death match is way more interesting than watching a ball go back and forth across the screen.
  3. If you want something about warring factions, that’s no game: This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. This is YA, and was one of my favorite books last year. In a city overrun by monsters, the children of two opposing factions meet and start to question what they’ve been told. The creatures were new and interesting, and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, I turned out to be wrong. But be warned… there’s a sequel that’s not coming out until later this year. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger or anything, but there’s definitely more to the story.
  4. If you want a book that will counter all the testosterone in the air: The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon. It’s a love story about two teenagers meeting on a pivotal day in their lives. There are multiple points of view in this book  from people who aren’t main characters, and it’s interesting to see how chance interactions might affect the people around us. You might need tissues. (Really, anything by Nicola Yoon will work here.)
  5. If you want a book that’s best consumed with junk food: Food: A Love Story, by Jim Gaffigan. Parts of this were laugh out loud funny. I listened to the audiobook version, which probably made it better. But if you have a sense of humor, maybe reading it would work just as well for you.
  6. If you want a book that will make you cheer out loud: Ready, Player One, by Ernest Cline. In a futuristic society, people can compete within a virtual reality world to win control of a fortune, and the virtual world. The main characters are all underdogs, and I love underdogs. Even if you don’t like science fiction, you might still enjoy this one. It’s not heavy at all, and it’s a fast, thrilling read.
  7. If you want a book that will make your adrenaline pump: You, by Caroline Kepnes. It’s the story about a stalker, and the woman he hunts through her social media accounts. It’s scary because it could happen to anyone. In fact, it could be happening to you right now.
  8. If you want a book that’s all about not doing what everyone else is: Fight Club, by Chuck Palahaniuk. I saw the movie first, and ran right out and got the book. There’s action! Philosophy! Crazy people! Seriously, if you’ve only seen the movie, read the book.
  9. If you want something short that you can probably finish by the time the game is over: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. This is another YA book, about a girl who was at a party, and the subsequent rumors that follow her. It’s told from multiple points of view, people saying what they’ve been told and assume about Alice. It reminded me that whenever I hear a story, it’s only part of the truth. And it’s loosely football themed, since one of the characters is a high school football player.
  10. If you want something scarier than grown men chasing one another around a field: Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King. This is the sequel to The Shining. I had no idea this was even a thing, but it’s a few years old. I was skeptical that it would be any good, but it really is. You won’t finish it by the end of the game, but who cares?

These are my suggestions. Are there any you’d add?

Just Stop With the Harry Potter Stuff Already, Okay? Just… Stop.

img_7684My husband and I recently hung out with his family, and my sister and brother-in-law couldn’t believe that not only had I not seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I really, really didn’t want to. They asked if I’d read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I had to explain that it wasn’t even a real book.

I was slow to board the Harry Potter train (see what I did there… c’mon, that was funny!). People told me how great the books were, but because I’m contrary, I didn’t read them. But by the time the third book was out, I decided that I should read the first one so I could tell everyone that they were WRONG for loving them.

Yeah, it didn’t work out that way. I loved the first book. And the second. And the third. So I was crazy with anticipation as I waited for the fourth book to come out. I went to the bookstore at midnight. I told everyone who’d listen how great the books were. And I think I lost four copies of the first book after I loaned them out and they were never returned. That’s okay though… at least I introduced people to the magic of the world.

I love the books. If I got my letter to Hogwarts tomorrow (a few years later than most people), I’d be on Expedia buying a ticket London, heading to King’s Cross station before you could say “Accio Adulthood.”

The books aren’t perfect, of course. But they were good, and fun, and I enjoy re-reading them.

In my mind, there are seven books. The series is over. I don’t want to read the screenplay or see the spin-offs. I was happy with the ending, and anything else is likely to ruin it for me. It’s like when I have the perfect dinner, and eat one bite too many of dessert. Then I feel sick and start to regret the whole meal. Or when I go to paint night, and I like my painting, but because I’m done with it before everyone else, I fiddle with it, adding strokes or details, and eventually add too much and then I hate it.

Enough is enough. Seriously.

The Harry Potter series is seven books. As far as I’m concerned, the others don’t exist. Leave me be in my happy world of denial.

Why I’ve Started Giving Books As Gifts

I’ve always been a lousy gift giver. I want to give great gifts, but my brain mostly doesn’t work that way. My sister-in-law is one of those talented people who always seems to know the perfect gift. Over the years, she’s gotten me a subscription to Writer’s Digest, a subscription to the Book of the Month Club, and Alice In Wonderland pajamas. And this clock:

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-9-09-13-pm

Every once in awhile, I’ll be out somewhere and spot the perfect thing. But mostly… not.

A few years ago, I had an inspiration to start requesting other people’s favorite books as gifts. It seemed like a fun idea, and I liked seeing what other people picked. Then I realized that one thing I know pretty well is books. People come to me for recommendations, and since I read across many genres, I’m usually pretty good at figuring out what others will like.

As adults, most of us no longer want to receive more stuff. Sticking to consumables just makes sense to me, but does anyone really want to receive more food at Christmas?

Enter books. They’re personal gifts that never expire. They’re decorative. They’re fun. And best of all, they’re thoughtful gifts that I can actually give. It’s fun to think about what each person on my shopping list might like.

What’s the best gift you’ve given or received?