Judging Books By Covers

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The first book I picked up because the cover was pretty. The second, because I like the way the vines look.

I have some strong opinions when it comes to books, possibly about many things that other people don’t care about.  That’s okay; I can live with that.

One of the things that drives me crazy is when a movie comes out, and suddenly the book is released with a different version of the cover to reflect the movie.  I get why they do that; it’s to increase sales.  Associating the book with the movie makes good sense from a marketing standpoint.

But I still don’t like it.

In general, I prefer the older covers, and when I go to used book stores, I can spend several minutes choosing which cover I like best.  For example, I accidentally bought two copies of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  This was a great book, but I obviously don’t need two copies of it.  However, I can’t decide which one to sell back to Half-Price Books because I like both covers.

People say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” obviously meaning not to judge something’s content by what it looks like on the inside. It’s true, but I confess that sometimes a book cover will catch my eye, and that’s the only reason I read the description on the back of the book.

These things matter. If they didn’t, all books would be in a plain brown cover with simple black writing. A good cover can hint about the contents. When I’m in the mood to read horror, I’m unlikely to pick something with flowers on the cover, no matter what the title says. Well, unless they’re dead flowers. Or blood spattered… you get the idea.

One of the best choices I made, based on the cover, was John Dies at the End. I spotted it while walking through the library, and when I read the back, I had to give it a try. It was a fantastic book. Runners up are the ones pictured above.

Is the book cover important to you?  What are your preferences?

A Tale of Two Doggies

I have two dogs.  Both of them are wonderfully good dogs with very different personalities.

_dsf4196Midnyte is purely dog.  She’s a lab mix, not too bright, but always ready to play, bringing me slobbery ball after slobbery ball.  At over 14, she slows down a lot faster than she used to, but if I’m ready to play, she’s in… no matter how much she might limp later.

When there are no humans around, she mostly lays or rolls in the grass.  She prefers to be the center of attention, and growls or barks if her sister does anything “against the rules.”  She also can’t stand if Ripley gets any attention whatsoever.  We’ve nicknamed Midnyte the “fun hater,” though it would be more accurate to say she only hates fun if she’s not the one having it.

IMG_1549 - Version 2 – Version 3Ripley, on the other hand, I’m convinced is a human trapped in a dog’s body.  I knew we were in for a unique experience when at just a couple months old, she sat quietly, watching me load the dishwasher, as if she were trying to figure out something not quite understandable to her.  Over the years, she’s repeated that quiet watching many times, on many different things.

We never trained Ripley, but she knew all her basic commands within a week of coming home.  She watched what Midnyte did, and learned everything.  She doesn’t take liberties with a gratuitous lick of anything that doesn’t belong to her, even if it is nose height.  But she also doesn’t learn anything she doesn’t want to.  I’ve tried EVERYTHING to get her to stop jumping on me when I get home.  Whether I’m gone 5 minutes or 5 hours, I get the leap up and whine like a lunatic treatment. Every.  Single.  Time.  She never used to do this to anyone else, though she has recently started it with my husband.

Unsupervised in the yard, Ripley will run or trot around, sniffing the air, carrying a frisbee.  She looks into trees and barks at squirrels who dare to invade her yard.  If she comes up to me, frisbee in her mouth, it’s because she’s checking on me.  She doesn’t want anyone to take her frisbee (or whatever she has in her mouth).  Like a child, she just wants to show it off and be given feedback on how wonderful it is.

Ripley hates to get wet, preferring to hold it as long as possible when it rains, until she shoots outside to do her business as quickly as possible.  There have been times when I’ve dragged her out in the rain on leash, and she huddles miserably, looking up at me with those accusing eyes.  She doesn’t do her business; she just looks beaten.  So, I’ve learned that when it reaches emergency levels, she’ll go out, but not a moment before, and it’s no use trying to make her do anything.

Every dog I’ve ever had has their own unique personality. Each one is the best dog ever.

Like most dog owners, I prefer my dogs to most people I meet.

Feel free to comment with pictures of your own dog(s). 🙂

 

20 Things You Don’t Know About Me

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  1. I’m really short. Like, get teased about it short. Like, I have stools in every room of my house short.
  2. I’m a Leo, born in the year of the Snake.
  3. All but two of my friends are oldest or only children.
  4. I find a song I like and then listen to it over and over. And over. Until I don’t.
  5. I love playing any Super Mario game.
  6. Nailpolish only stays on my fingers for about an hour before it starts chipping. I’m not exaggerating.
  7. I cook and bake most of the food I eat from scratch. (I like to know what’s in my food.)
  8. My favorite color is blue, but I’m really picky about the shade of blue. Because I’m so picky about blue, I own more stuff in purple.
  9. I love all things Alice in Wonderland.
  10. I love pictures of ferris wheels, but hate riding them.
  11. I love roller coasters… the faster, the better.
  12. I hate repetitive sounds… windshield wipers drive me crazy.
  13. I’ve broken a tiny bone in my left wrist, and my left pointer finger tip.
  14. The Bells of Christmas, by Transiberian Orchestra, is my favorite Christmas song.
  15. Halloween is my favorite holiday.
  16. Most of my friends are organized, orderly types, and I drive them crazy.
  17. Sugar is not my thing. Fat, yes. (French fries, anyone?)
  18. The most common thing people tell me after they get to know me is: “I was scared of you when I first met you.”
  19. I want to learn to play the piano, and to draw.
  20. I don’t have a favorite season; I love the freshness and blooming flowers of spring, the heat and frequent trips to the pool in summer, the crispness of the air and fallen leaves in autumn, and the cold, gray days that beg for a lit fireplace in the winter.

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?

Outgrowing Favorites

img_7812-2When I was a kid, I loved to make lists of my “favorites.” Favorite music, books, movies colors. Best friends, ranked.

Recently, my dad asked me if the Beatles were still my favorite music group. I hesitated before saying, “Well… one of my favorites.”

The truth is that I don’t really have favorites anymore. I can give you a list of maybe the 10 things I listen to most, or the 10 books I love best, but I don’t have one singular thing at the top of any list anymore.

Is it part of growing older? Is it part of my tastes becoming more discerning? Or is it part of that whole decision making process? You know how when you’re a kid, you’re so sure you have all the answers? And then you grow up and you’re like, “Why am I no longer sure of anything?”

I no longer have a single favorite author, but a list of authors I love. Even if I love a particular book, I don’t go out of my way to read everything that author’s written. I have playlists instead of listening to albums. Maybe that’s a good thing, the sign of a mind with broad interests.

Still, I kind of miss the simplicity of being able to declare: “This is my favorite.”

How about you? Has your ability to pick favorites changed as you’ve grown up?

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?