Reading as a different person

Rereading the same book produces new insights because the reader is a different person. Indeed, a good book is much like a mirror: the glass is the same year after year, but the reflection in it changes over time. (Christopher B. Nelson)


Blizzard Books

I’m snowed in today, so I’m going to share some of my Blizzard Books with you.

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I’m in the two book zone for the blizzard (picture sourced from Folly Quarter Media on Twitter

Blizzard Books (also known as Desert Island Books) are the books you would chose to take with you to read if you knew you were going to be stranded in a place far away from civilization (and book stores).

If I could only read five books for the rest of my life, these are the books I would choose (in no particular order):

  • The Complete Jane Austen
  • The Complete Works of Shakespeare
  • The Bible (New King James Version preferred)
  • Middlemarch (by George Eliot)
  • The Complete Father Brown (a collection of mystery stories by G. K. Chesterton)

Yes, I know that including collections of complete works is cheating a bit, but I don’t care.

For us, the question “What five books would you take with you to a desert island?” is completely hypothetical, but it’s really interesting to imagine situations where this kind of question is actually relevant.

When I was in middle school, I read a slim little sci-fi story called “The Green Book,” written by Jill Paton Walsh. In “The Green Book,” the characters must leave Earth, taking only one book per person as they try to settle on a new world.

When you can only take one book, you must weigh the value of practical information with the value of preserving human culture and great literary works. This conundrum has stuck with me for years.

If you were stuck on a desert island, or snowed in for the winter, what books would you want to have with you?

A writer’s best apprenticeship

“Read a lot. Read broadly. Read the kinds of books that you want to sit next to in the bookstore (or in Amazon recommendations or whatever). Read good books and bad ones.

I really believe that reading is our best apprenticeship–through reading, we can figure out how people have used text over the centuries to create stories and ideas in other people’s heads.

And then write a lot as well, and be kind to yourself as you write. That’s the best advice I’ve got.” John Green

Library Magic

Today I walked to the library and got my first library card. My first library card as an adult, that is. I’ve had a library card for the library in my home town since I was old enough to write my own name, but this is the first time I’ve walked into a library by myself and filled out the paperwork required for a card.

I’d almost forgotten how magical a library is, and how addictive. As soon as I walked in the door, I saw DVDs for several movies I wanted to see this summer, but hadn’t gotten around to while they were still in theaters. I saw a new Agatha Cristie story I’d never read. I saw an acclaimed biography of Lucrezia Borgia. And I knew then that if I didn’t get my library card and check them out immediately, I would find more to read than I had time for.

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When I was a kid, my mother took us to the library regularly during the summer. (We didn’t go as often during the school year, because she claimed we’d never get our school work done if we had an entire library of books to distract us. She may have been right.) We checked out stacks and stacks of books and read them voraciously.

I loved the library, even though it wasn’t in the greatest part of town and didn’t have the budget for shelves of new books. I read old science fiction and all of the little-known sequels to “The Wizard of Oz” that I could get my hands on (there’s 20+ of them, if you can believe it). There were some books that I must have checked out four or five times when all was said and done. I’ve always been fond of re-reading.

Since I’m no longer a kid with a seemingly endless summer vacation, I exhibited remarkable self control today and only left with three items. I was tempted to call one of my friends and gush about my new library card and the books I’d found (I know, I’m such a nerd) but I restrained myself. I’m writing a blog post instead 😛

Reading Posture

This made me smile. I don’t think I have the greatest posture when I read, because I’m usually curled up on the couch with my head tilted to that the book 10 inches from my nose or else sprawled out on my stomach. I will have to try levitating.

Feeding the book beast: 10 ways to support your reading habit

Okay, let’s face it: if you’re reading this post, you’re probably slightly addicted to reading. If you’re like me, you hesitate to go into book stores because you know you’ll leave with a stack of books and a significantly lighter wallet. Here are some ways to support your reading habit without breaking the bank:

1. Make friends with other book nerds and borrow books from them. This is a great solution because this is basically a symbiotic relationship: you get to read their books and they get to read yours. Scoping out a new friend’s bookshelf (with permission, of course) is also a great way to learn more about him or her.

2. Use your local library. Seriously, guys, the library is your best friend when it comes to reading a lot and paying very little. I look at the library as a “first date” with a book. If I fall in love with it, I’m probably going to buy it from somewhere else, but if it’s not a book I think I’ll read again, then I get to enjoy the reading experience without investing a whole lot into it.

3. Remind your family and friends that books are your first love and the best gift of all when birthdays and Christmas are concerned. Some people are overwhelmed at the thought of buying books for someone else, but gift cards to a book store are a great solution to this problem.

4. Buy used books. Used book stores, library sales, garage/yard sales, and websites such as Amazon or Abebooks are all good places to look. My favorite online resource is, which lets you search for books by author, title, keyword, or ISBN, and provides a price comparison of lots of different websites.

5. Get a job at a bookstore with an employee discount. Be warned that this advice might not always save you money in the long run because you’ll be tempted more often when you work around books!

6. If you like to write book reviews, some authors offer free books for honest reviews. I have personally never tried this option, but I know that lots of WordPress bloggers do this, so I’m sure the information is out there for those of you who are interested.

7. Pay attention to publishers’ and booksellers’ discounts and sales. I got a new copy of The Fault in Our Stars super cheap because I follow John Green on Twitter and found out that it was on sale. Many bookstores will often have a “reduced” section or an area for older mass paperback editions, so it pays to keep an eye out for these.

8. Don’t discount thrift editions. I’ve gotten many classic books in Dover Thrift editions, which are quite reasonable. The print is often rather small, but as long as I’m young and have good eyes and a thin pocketbook, they’re good choices for me!

9. Check out the offerings of “bargain outlets” such as Ollie’s. Their book sections are often a mixture of the strange, the under-performing, and the just plain awful, but there are plenty of hidden treasures. My sister and I discovered one of our favorite sci-fi series at one of these stores, and their books are usually under five bucks. (Speaking of five bucks, I’ve also found cool books at Five Below and even the dollar store).

10. If you have an e-reader, take advantage of it. Publishers will often steeply discount the e-books of bestselling authors, and there are oodles of self-published e-books available inexpensively. (Not to mention the free or very cheap electronic versions of classic books which are out of copyright).

If you’ve found other ways to feed your book beast, then let me know in the comments!