Tuesday Night is… Reading Night?

My work schedule has been very strange this week – switched up days, mostly, with days off and days working all rearranged.  Due to this, my brain isn’t really aware of what day it is, even though I can look at a calendar and see that it’s Tuesday.

Tonight I decided to forgo writing, partially because my writing inspiration is out of whack with the schedule, and instead finish reading a book that was due back to the library yesterday (another casualty of my weird schedule combined with an above-average amount of social plans).    I finished it, mostly, although I did skim the last chapter, and picked up another book I had requested.  The number of waiting books in my stack has not gotten smaller, although the books themselves are slimmer.

My schedule is (relatively) back to normal this week, so I should return to my usual writing night next Tuesday.  “Should” is the operative word in that sentence.  🙂

The Trend Continues

On Tuesdays, I go to my local library to write.  After I finish with my section for the night, I often browse the adult non-fiction shelf to see if there is anything intriguing that I might want to read.  So far, I’ve had good luck, finding some very interesting books that I enjoyed a lot.  By coincidence, all three had female authors.

This habit was interrupted briefly by the arrival of a book I purchased with a Christmas gift card.  This book, too, is non-fiction and written by a woman.

I’ve recently read a couple of other books from the library that weren’t accidental finds.  One was a book that was mentioned in an internet article, which I specifically requested and which had to be sent from another library branch.  The other was from a Valentine’s Day event that our library system holds called “Blind Date with a Book” – you answer a few questions and a librarian picks out a book you might like.  Without any particular design, both of these non-fiction books were written by women.

I noticed the trend around book three.  I haven’t specifically set out to keep it going, and I haven’t rejected a possible book because it was written by a man, but I am curious to see how long it continues.

Tonight I stumbled across two more books that caught my eye while at the library.  One was completely random – I went into the stacks to find a reference book for help with a writing question (a benefit of being in a library) and this book was face-out on the shelf.  The other was on a display that I noticed as I was heading to the check out computers.  I didn’t want to choose, and I can read two books in three weeks, so I checked them both out.

You have probably figured out where this is going, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. Both of the new books are non-fiction by female authors.

I’m kind of enjoying this trend, now that I think about it.  🙂


In case you’re curious, here are the books I’ve read so far in 2018:
Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon (library find)
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (library find)
Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb (ordered)
Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif (library find)
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (blind date)
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan (requested)

And I just picked up Bonk by Mary Roach (shelf) and Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt (display).

Maybe Not a Good Idea…

The next couple of weeks are going to be very busy for me at work, much like the last couple.  One good thing about that is I have a long weekend right at the beginning of November.  That means I can start NaNo with lots of time to work, and maybe get a decent chunk of Mara’s Tale written.

All of that said, I just did something kind of dumb.  I requested the next book in the Wheel of Time series from the library.

My library makes it really convenient to request books.  There are several branches, but they all share the same online catalog.  Put a hold on a book, and as soon as it is available they ship it to the branch of your choice.  That means all I have to do is log on to my library account (my card number is taped to my computer for this very reason) and click “place a hold” on the listing.  Then I show up at the closest branch and grab my book.  It’s very simple, and in this case, kind of stupid.

Yes, I’ve said twice that requesting a book was a poor decision.  Are you questioning this statement?  There is no way I’ll get it done by November 1, and once November hits NaNo becomes a somewhat more pressing demand on my time.  In addition, I typically avoid reading fiction while writing, so even if I do have time to read occasionally during NaNo I should probably stick to non-fiction.

Even writing all of this, I haven’t talked myself out of the hold request.  You never know, I could make it through 700 or so pages in two weeks.  🙂

Book Nerd

“Hey, Leigh, you like books.  Do you want to take care of the library?”

The club VP who asked me that must have been joking, because when I answered, “Sure” his response was surprised.  It didn’t really take me much thought, though.  I’ve taken care of book collections before, at a previous employer as well as my own, and this collection is relatively small.  Plus, really, all it takes is a spreadsheet and a little bit of my trunk space (for storage).

I enjoy books and I like spreadsheets (yes, I’m weird) so giving me a pile of books to manage is not really a hard task for me.  In fact, tonight I had fun going through the collection and making sure the old database was up to date.  I also added categories and sorted the books accordingly, to make it easier for people to find one they are interested in reading.  Now I’m trying to figure out a good storage container; I’d like to be able to simply haul in the bin and set it up on end for people to peruse, rather than unpacking and repacking it every meeting.

Yes, these are non-fiction books related to the general concept of the club, but they’re still books.  Several of them piqued my interest, and I may be borrowing them in the future.  That is the danger of being the librarian, I guess!


Dissecting vs. Reading

I like to think that I’ve gotten reasonably good at understanding the basic mechanics of stories and recognizing common motifs.  That’s how I can break down story elements, like the different ways that you can interfere with a romantic relationship between your characters.  It’s also why I have blog-related reactions to familiar movies on television.  Of course, this skill would have been much more useful in high school and college, when I had to write papers analyzing poems and novels, but I won’t toss the knowledge out of the window just because it came to me later.  (If this is a skill you’d like to develop, I highly recommend How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster.  That’s where I got started.)

Dissecting a story, be it written or filmed, is something I have to do after the fact.  It’s one thing to be able to distill the essence of a character in a blog post, or to find commonalities between familiar tales.  It is something entirely to do it while I’m in the moment and enjoying the story.

Yes, some things become predictable.  I am rarely surprised by movies or television any more, at least in the genres that I enjoy, and when I am blindsided by a twist it is worth noting.  (Recent examples are the 100th episode of Castle and the movie The Tourist.)  This is much less common for me when reading.  Even when the relationship trajectory is clear to everyone, I am still painfully in suspense when the hurdles appear.  Will they get back together?  What’s going to happen?  That’s why books can still prevent me from sleeping – I just have to know what happens next.

After I finish a novel, I can recognize those similar themes and characters that run through many books.  When I’m done, I can look back and see how the author set up certain things, and how actions at the beginning led to results later.  If I’m actually absorbed in the story, however, forget asking me to explain it.  I’m too wrapped up in what’s happening to make those connections.

Pondering Robert Jordan

You have to respect a man who does what he says he’s going to do.

I have been re-reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, now that the whole thing is complete.  Most of the library copies I’ve picked up were published after Jordan passed away, so they had the posthumous “About the Author” in them.  This one (Crown of Swords, in case you were curious) has the earlier author description, which got me thinking.

The last line of the bio is “He has been writing since 1977 and intends to continue until they nail shut his coffin.”  Which he did, in a way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the Wheel of Time series was incomplete when Jordan passed away in 2007.  (I recall a very dismayed lunch conversation with several colleagues at the time, all of us wondering what would become of the characters we had come to know.)  However, he knew he was ill and prepared for it, writing as much as he could and telling his wife how he intended the epic to end.  Another author was recruited by Jordan’s publisher, with input from his widow, and that author completed the final three books of the series.

If that’s not writing “until they nail shut [the] coffin,” I don’t know what is.  As an author, it’s both amazing to think about someone working that hard for both his characters and his readers, and also totally understandable.  We all get invested in our characters, even for just one novel, so after eleven books I’m sure Jordan was just as eager as his readers to have everything play out and come to a resolution.


I realized today that I’ve been reading the wrong book.

Perhaps wrong is too strong of a term – the book itself is quite interesting, in fact, which is why I’ve been reading it.

Here’s the problem: I currently have a (fiction) library book with a firm due date, a borrowed (non-fiction) book with a relaxed due date, and a non-fiction e-book that I purchased.  Guess which one I’ve been reading for the past few days?  That’s right, the one I own and can read any time.

Somewhat reluctantly, I set aside my Nook and picked up the library book.  Once the Wheel of Time pulls me back in, I won’t be glancing longingly at my Nook, but for right now my brain wants to know what happens next in TR’s presidency.   (Honestly, I can look up the facts, but the way the book is written I find myself enthralled.)

I just have to keep reminding myself that I own that book, and can read it any time I want.  Except right now, apparently. 🙂

I’ve Been Pronouncing It Wrong This Whole Time!

As an auditory learner, I hear the words in my head as I read.  (I know that other people read differently, although I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how that works.)  Because I hear the words, I need to know how to pronounce them.  I read fantasy, so there are often unfamiliar names or terms in what I read.

Different authors take different approaches to this.  Some just let you pronounce names of people and places however you want, or leave you to figure it out on your own.  Some have the characters with tricky names explain it to others (Hermione does this in the fourth book, as does a character in one of Jacqueline Carey’s novels).  I particularly like it when the author has a character list or glossary in the back, complete with phonetic explanations.  (The back is better than the front, so there is less temptation to peek ahead.)  If the author isn’t nice enough to tell me how to pronounce a name, and especially if it has odd letters together, I just make something up.  Sometimes I’ll even just substitute another word – after about six or seven times of seeing the word, my brain usually just puts in the substitute with very little thought required.

I’m currently on the sixth book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  This is a massive series (it ended up at a total of 14 books) with lots of different countries and peoples, so the author was kind enough to include a glossary.  For some reason, I decided today to look up one of the countries (Cairhein) to see how it should be pronounced.  I’d been flipping back and forth between two possible pronunciations (CAR-hine and CARE-hine), and I guess I wanted to know which was correct.

It turns out neither of them was correct.  The right way, according to Jordan, is KEYE-ree-EHN.  I’ve been pronouncing the name of the country totally wrong for five books (not to mention when I read some of the series before) and now I have to re-adjust.  Every time I see it I have to correct myself mentally.  Hopefully it will end up like the substitutions, and it won’t take too long to fix.

If you write fantasy and make up names and terms, please be kind to your auditory learners and include a pronunciation guide!

Decision Time

When I moved, I drastically reduced my book collection.  Since then, I’ve made sure that I only purchase books that I know I will read again.  Otherwise, I get them from the library or borrow them from friends.  The idea is to keep my shelves under control; if I didn’t put a limit on it, I’d have to buy bookshelves all the time.

I’ve loosened on that rule a bit with my new e-reader, but now I find myself facing a dilemma.  There is a book that I’ve read before, which I borrowed from a friend.  I want to re-read it, and I know that it is one I want to add to my collection.  I could get it for the Nook, pay a few dollars less, and have it right now.  Or I could work on acquiring it in paper form.  This might mean ordering it online, buying it at the nearby book store, or hoping that the used book store eventually has a copy. 

This really comes down to a question of why I want to own the book.  If the only point of getting the book is to be able to read it whenever I want, then the Nook version should be sufficient.  If the reason I want it is not only to have it readily accessible, but to also have it displayed on my shelf and available to loan to friends, then I need the paper version. 

Childlike Reading Habits

When I was a kid, I never read one book at a time.  I might have one book I was reading at school, another in the living room, a third by my bed, a fourth…  Well, you get the picture.  My usual number was three, the most I remember at once was six.  On top of that, I never used a bookmark, or marked my place in any way.  I just picked up the book, flipped to where I had stopped, and kept reading.

Of course, once I switched from young reader and young adult books to adult fiction, I had to start using a bookmark.  And I tried to stick to one book at a time.  (Occasional National Geographic breaks don’t count.)

I find myself falling back into the habits of my youth with the Nook.  It remembers where I am in a book, so I don’t need to use a bookmark.  I can flip back and forth between different books without a problem.  I’ve recently been alternating between Theodore Rex and Pride and Prejudice, with occasional forays into book samples when I feel like shopping.

It feels like a return to my childhood.

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