Average Girl Reads
Simple book reviews and commentary from the girl next door.
For most of my life, I have been a borrower rather than a buyer of books. I've never been truly poor, but choices always have to be made and buying books didn't figure into the budget. There was a brief period as a young adult when I started building up a small collection of my own, mostly consisting of books I found at thrift shops and library book sales. Then I got married to a non-reader who didn't see the value in taking up space with shelves full of books I'd already read, so I got rid of my budding collection and went back to exclusively borrowing books from the library.
Restricting myself to only borrowing shaped my attitude towards books and eventually other belongings. As long as I have access to a book or a TV show or a piece of music, I am fine with not owning it. We are major consumers of streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, and we make weekly trips to the library. My teenagers have become accustomed to getting rid of one old item of clothing for every new item they bring in. We are not minimalists, but we are trying to live a less cluttered life. And yet . . .
I found myself coveting a book that I borrowed from the library last week: The Knitter's Life List: To Do, To Know, To Explore, To Make. Although it isn't a workbook, it is the type of book that I can see myself scribbling notes in and marking down dates as I complete different tasks. I even imagined passing it down to my daughters and having them show it to their kids, saying, "Your grandmother was a knitter and this is a record of her knitting life." Crazy, I know, but for the first time in a long time I really want to own a book. A brand new book, not a book from the 50-cent table at the library book sale. Even more surprisingly, when I told my husband that I wanted this book for the next gift-giving occasion, he didn't put up a fuss. We've been married so long that we've run out of reasonably-priced gifts to buy each other; I guess he was happy that I gave him a simple idea!
I don't know if I am going to turn into a full-on book buyer after a couple decades of faithful library patronage, but I am realizing that there are books that I would appreciate more over time as part of my personal collection.
I've been in a rut as far as my fiction selections are concerned. My nonfiction selections are varied, but the novels I pick are usually romances. I often narrow things down even further and pick historical romances set in America in the 1800s. For a while I tried to make myself feel better about it. Like a lot of people, I was once rather dismissive of romance novels and embarrassed to let people know I read them. I've (almost) gotten over that, but I still want to become more well-read and vary my reading choices.
With that in mind, I picked up John Dies at the End by David Wong. I was attracted to this book because the blurb reminded me of a scarier version of the Sesame Street children's book The Monster at the End of this Book:
STOP. You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you.
So far I've gotten to page 21 and I don't know if I will even be able to give this book the 50-page test. The humor and the absurd situations reminds me of Tom Robbins, whose novels I loved in my 20s even when I didn't always understand them. However, in the scenarios where Robbins usually referenced sex, Wong references a violent act or something that you would see in a gross-out comedy. Part of me wants to keep reading it because it is different than what I usually read, and I've always heard that smart people push themselves through difficult prose. On the other hand, I have 250+ titles on my TBR list and many of them are not romances. I could push myself with a title that doesn't talk about a doorknob turning into a flaccid male member in the protagonist's hand.
UPCOMING: The Great Gatsby is next on my list. My daughter C1 was assigned this book for summer reading and I told her that I would read it with her if she wanted. I read it when I was a teenager but didn't understand it, so it has been on my short list of "try again" books for quite a while. At first she said she didn't want my help ("We are not a book club, Mother"), but then she surrendered to the idea about six pages in. I hope the intervening years have sharpened my brain enough to understand the book more this time. If not, there is always Sparknotes!
Every Monday this summer is going to be No-Screen Day at our house. I decided to do this to break our dependence on tech as a means of entertainment, at least a little. In particular, I want us to get back to reading more. For the past year I have been checking out library books and sending them back unread because I have been spending too much time on the internet and watching TV. I figured if I instituted a No-Screen Day for the entire house, it would be easier for all of us to get back into our non-tech hobbies.
Although some people in the tech media like to say that blogs are gone, I am still a great fan of them and I am always running across new ones in my internet travels. Today my search for headband patterns led me to a blog about crocheting, and after looking at a few posts I wanted to bookmark it to read later. This is where I stumbled to a halt. Normally I would add it to my Google Reader and move on. With Google Reader shutting down in July, however, I need to find another way to keep track of my blogs.
There was a thread on Goodreads about how many unread books you have on your Kindle, Nook, or other ereader. Since I tend to only download free ebooks from Amazon or borrow them from the library, my collection is not that vast. Not counting cookbooks or how-to books, I have 24 unread ebooks on my iPad. That is pretty close to my limit. I don't have a specific number in mind for how many is too many, but I start to feel piggish if there are a lot of books on my tablet. The only exception to this is when I am about to go on vacation. We usually spend a week without internet or TV, so I like to have a lot of reading on hand for travel time and downtime. I made it through a book and a half in the van before we even got to our destination last year!
I was browsing book-related channels on YouTube because I might start doing videos myself, and I ran across this one by Leena on the channel Just Kiss My Frog. I'm not sure if I agree fully with Leena's attitudes, but I had to share it. Basically, it is a rant about how her local library has turned into a community center instead of a place where you can find books. I've heard of libraries doing this to attract more patrons and justify their funding. With the advent of e-readers, many libraries have turned into way-stations where you can use the internet or find a meeting space for a club rather than actually having shelves and shelves of physical books.
To be honest, I haven't spent an extended amount of time in my local library branches in quite a while. We've developed a routine wherein I request whatever books the family wants online and my husband goes to pick them up on Tuesdays. Between my husband's work schedule and the reduced hours the library instituted a few years ago, finding time to browse shelves in the library is difficult. From what I can tell online, however, I don't think that our library system has decreased the amount of books available. They have managed to add newer genres like graphic novels without completely eliminating the classics.
One statement Leena made at the beginning of the video did ring true with me. She said that her local library used to seem like magic to her, and I remember having a similar feeling as a kid. Generally, I am a person who looks forward and believes that my kids have more advantages than I had, but this is one area where I think they are missing out. They haven't had the experience of roaming through the library and picking books at random. I discovered so many authors because I had the time to browse the shelves, pick a book, and then sit down and read a few pages before I took it home to see if it was to my liking. My kids just seem to read whatever I or their teachers recommend rather than browsing and discovering books for themselves. For them, a library that is more of a community center might be appealing.
QUESTION: Is your public library more of a home for books or a community meeting place?
Yesterday I went to the Gaston County Public Library book sale for the first time about 10 years. I used to go to the book sale every year but stopped going when my husband ABM was going through his de-cluttering phase. He has never been much of a reader so it didn't make sense to him to have all these books in the house. So I went along with him, got rid of a lot of books, and stopped going to the book sale.
Then a couple weeks ago I decided to fire up the record player and listen to some of my vinyl LPs. In flipping through my collection, it occurred to me that most of my vinyl had come from one of the library's book sales. Years ago when they made the switch from vinyl to CDs, I swooped in and bought several of their Broadway cast albums. That same week I happened to notice a tweet from the library about the upcoming book sale. I started feeling that old excitement and decided to go. ABM dropped me off yesterday with $25 and a request for home improvement books.
First thing I realized is that after all these years, people are still standing in line for the book sale. For some reason I thought the interest would have died down. I should have remembered that most readers like to own books, not just borrow them. It was so crowded that patrons were helping each other find books. I was standing on one side of a table and heard a couple of pensioners mention that they were looking for Danielle Steele books, so I just pulled them out and handed them over. That was happening all over the room. Also, I saw people walking out with lots of cool books just as I was walking in. If I decide to go again next year, I need to get up early and stand in line!
Ultimately, I didn't see anything that jumped out at me, but I did buy a few items. I spent $9.75 and came away with 14 books, a single album, and a 4-album set. Most of those books were for my husband and kids. As for me, I'm wondering if my time for shopping at the book sale for myself has passed. I generally prefer novels, cookbooks, and needlework books published before 1970, and those types of books are harder to come by these days. When I do see them, they are priced significantly higher that $1 for a hardback. Most of the books I saw yesterday were published in the 1980s and 1990s. Since I grew up in that era, those books hold little attraction for me. Many of them were also titles that I know the library still has copies of, so it doesn't make sense to me to own them. I considered buying a few more classics, but our kids don't look to our bookshelf when they get bored the way I did when I was a kid. They go online and read manga or free e-books on sites like Wattpad.
Despite not finding what I want, I still recommend library book sales as a fun way to support your local library. If you live in my area (and you know who you are), you have until Saturday to hit up our local sale. They put out new books every morning so it is still worth it to go even if you missed the first day of the sale. Check it out and tell me what you got!