Bookish Quirks

Okay, so we all have them. Maybe we admit to some more freely than others, but they’re all part of the bookish experience. Here are just a few of mine:

  • Deciding you need to read every future release by an author because you fell in love with the first one you read.
  • Reading a copy you borrowed from the library when you already own a signed copy because you don’t want to accidentally hurt yours.
  • Reading a book that has multiple cover designs and saying you read the one with the cover you prefer, whether you read that particular one or not.
  • Preordering multiple copies of a book. On purpose.
  • Reading picture books when you’re having a bad day.
  • Compulsively buying the entire series of one of your childhood favourites, even though you only read about forty of them when you were a kid. You’ll read them all one day, right?
  • Adoring a movie/TV series but knowing the book was better, even if you haven’t read it yet.
  • Feeling shame if you enjoy the movie/TV series more than the book.
  • The feeling you get when you finally own all of the copies of one of your favourite childhood series. Followed closely by the feeling you get when you discover a book in the series you didn’t even know existed when you were a child.
  • Spending an absurd amount of money on a series that’s now out of print, even though you know it’s going to be dodgy fun at best. Then enjoying them even more because you had to fight other people on eBay to get them.
  • Knowing you already own enough books to last you for decades but needing to buy more because you’re absolutely certain you’ll read them soon.

It’s My Review-aversary!

Today marks the third anniversary of the day I wrote my first book review and sent it out into the world. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a bit of a strange thing I’m celebrating here, but it’s an important day for me for a number of reasons.

I don’t have anyone in my life that reads the books I do. This makes reviews my only way of telling anyone who will listen just how spectacular, frustrating, stressful, heartwarming, heartbreaking, or any other visceral reaction a book was.

I wrote my way through my childhood. Somewhere along the way life shook my confidence and I morphed into someone who wouldn’t allow anyone to read what they’d written. Finally this devolved into not writing at all. Starting to review books was my way of tentatively testing out my love of writing again.

I also knew my refusal to allow anyone to read anything I wrote needed to be challenged. I figured I could do this and simultaneously hide myself from the world if I used an alias. I’m all for finding cheats to make difficult things just a bit easier, even if you’re consciously doing it to trick yourself into acting braver than you are. With an alias I knew no one would actually know who I was so it felt safer for me to write that way.

Then there’s the fact that I’ll find any excuse to celebrate. Life can get so serious and I love to balance that with finding some joy in things that mean something to me, even if everyone else thinks they’re silly.

There have been some unexpected benefits of reviewing that I didn’t consider when it was all about me finding my brave. I’ve met kindred spirits all over the world, other reviewers and authors, from the comfort of my home. Some have become friends and I’m grateful to have them in my life. We may never meet in person but they’re my people. We talk books and about our lives outside the pages, and my life is better for having met them.

Looking back over the past three years, so many things have changed. I feel like I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life at the moment and this is the first time in my life I’ve felt sure about that. I’ve branched out more with the types of books I read. I take more risks on new authors and genres I would never have attempted previously, and I’ve been rewarded with new favourites.

Some things remain the same. I still have to write reviews as though no one will ever see them. If I didn’t do this I know I’d censor myself and spend so much time making changes that it wouldn’t sound like me anymore, and I need this part of my life to be authentically me.

So, here we are three years into the journey. While I expect I will continue to pretend that you’ll never read anything I write, I am thrilled to have you along for the ride.

I’ll be using this anniversary as an excuse to eat something made almost entirely of sugar and am giving you a pass to do the same. While I haven’t decided what my sugar rush is going to look like, I did find this amazing book cake by Kathy Knaus (I found it here) that I’m going to drool over in the meantime.

Stress Reading and Book Hugs

Reading has been a source of comfort for me for as long as I can remember. I use it to explore worlds I know and those I was first introduced to within the pages of someone else’s imagination. Through books I learn new things and gain insight into the lives of people who experience the world differently than I do. I escape my reality and confirm I’m not alone in whatever I am currently facing.

Lately I’ve been thinking more about my reading habits when I’m stressed out and wondering what stress reading looks like for other readers. It seems like my approach to stress reading boils down to either compulsively reading anything I can get my hands on, hopelessly staring at the page or reverting back to childhood.

These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

My first approach is easy to figure out: if I can lose myself in a story that is not my own, even if that story mirrors mine to a degree, I can pretend that whatever is taking up space in the anxious/depressed/sad/scared/angry part of my mind doesn’t exist for a little while. It’s respite from reality and that’s something we all need from time to time.

The second approach is not so much an approach but a reader’s nightmare. You desperately want to be reading and may even be nearing a deadline for finishing that particular book, but your brain simply won’t cooperate. You have the best of intentions, yet when you look at a page the words lose all meaning. You might read the same paragraph over and over, not taking in anything you’ve read.

Maybe you are able to comprehend what you’ve read but your life outside the page intrudes and you find yourself bored or unable to connect with the characters. Yesterday you were loving this book and you couldn’t wait to book evangelise to everyone who you can find. The book hasn’t changed; your experience of it has, and it’s not the book’s fault. When this happens to me I usually default to my final approach: children’s books.

Growing up I was always eager to be seen to be reading above my age group. I don’t know what I thought I was proving to anyone. I still had some age appropriate reads along the way but because I tended to wander aimlessly through different genres even then, I’d wind up with some pretty strange combinations. One of my weirdest reading combos that readily comes to mind happened when I was about twelve – whatever number the The Baby-Sitters Club was up to at the time collided with Flowers in the Attic.

In my rush to jump ahead to books written with adult audiences in mind (yes, I do partially blame my love of Matilda for planting the seed of this idea), I became a book snob. My book snobbery, which had been bubbling along privately, became more entrenched and seemingly socially acceptable (it wasn’t!) when I became friends with someone whose monthly reading mostly consisted of whatever their book club was currently reading.

While I wasn’t a member of their book club, I wanted to read and discuss each book my friend was reading. Connection through shared experiences and all that. For whatever reason, the books that were selected each month became more and more hoity toity and I began convincing myself that if you couldn’t have important, philosophical discussions about a book after reading it then it was not real literature. Ugh! I’m embarrassed to admit that the book snob from a couple of decades ago and who I am today are the same person. I renounce this snob and everything they stood for!

Which brings me to what I was actually trying to say … One of my defaults now when I’m stressed is to snuggle up in the warm hug that is children’s books. I only figured out how comforting they could be, even sans child, a couple of years ago when I rediscovered my local library. Now I scour through their acquisitions lists seeking out new board books and picture books, and I’ve found some absolute gems along the way. I read many more than you will ever hear about but whenever I find a new one in a series I’m following or a particular story has had an impact on me, you’re going to hear all about it.

I’ve grown to love almost every genre but you’ll probably see more reviews for books written with your children or grandchildren in mind here than on other blogs. Sometimes it will mean that a bunch of them are almost due back at the library and if I don’t review them now I know I probably never will. However, there will also be times that, for whatever reason, life has lost some of its spark and I’m doing what I can to recapture some of the wide eyed wonder of childhood, the joy of discovery and the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

What do you read when you need the book equivalent of a hug?