Friday, September 21, 2012

On Reading and Hammocks

 "How do you find the time to read?"

That is one of the questions that I hear the most. As it turns out, I do have some tricks on this very topic!  Here they are in top ten order:

(Note that these tips also work for work or study, if you or your children, teens, dogs, cats, etc. are struggling with that.)

(My husband  decided he would fix this up for me for R & R).
1. Turn off the TV.

2. Turn off the IPad, Ipod and phone, unless you are just listening to music.

3. Take a deep breath, trust me, it will be ok.

4. Find a comfy spot to read.

5. Take time to relax, with no stimulation other than a good book and maybe some soft music. If you find it hard to be without background noise, music is lovely while reading.  It is NOT against the law to have some down time or quiet time, and it is very good for you.

 (Isn't he so sweet?) 

6. Pick a good book. If you take the time to pick a good book, you will find time to come back to it. You will even find that you take it with you, and when you have time that you are waiting, you will read the book. This is easier to do than it used to be with all the Ereaders and reader Apps out there. You can actually read, yet you look like you are just being "cool" and surfing or chatting with your very bestie.

7. Another way to find time to read is by listening to a book while doing things that are "solo" chores. Unless someone is following me around happy to help and feeling chummy, I listen to a book at chore time, or while working out.

(My friend Tim says Gary should build me THIS Hammock.  Picture hanging on it while listening to Game of Thrones!  Can't you just hear it:  "Winter is coming! Winter is coming!")
ANYWAY,  I read much these days by audio. I started doing that several years ago because I had read a book about ways to keep your mind in good working order. That is important to me because as a lawyer, my mind is one of my top assets. (I bet it is your top asset, too!) I wanted to relearn how to be a good listener, and since I'm always busy working when not at work, it is a great way to "whistle while you work."


Try "reading" classics by audio -- they are much more understandable. We have all gotten used to "white" space, so when you pick up a book and one entire page is a paragraph, your brain wants to just turn off. Make it easy on yourself and make it a goal to experience a classic this year by audio. Any of those on any list will do -- once you get to the end you will see what makes a classic.  The library has great classics for electronic download, see my earlier post in September (Lunch with the Librarian).

8. And while you are at it, listen to a book while driving. It's amazing how much time we all spend in a car.

(Tim also said that Gary should add these tea lights!)
9. But when you are not in the car, or doing work, or working out and listening to a book, turn off the TV. Put away the Ipad and Ipod, and put that phone in another room or somewhere that you can't hear it buzzing you.

I know I already said it, but trust me, I struggle with this, too.  I don't think these things are bad for you, in fact I think they are probably good for a little creativity flow.  But you need to bend the other way, too.  Exercise your deep thinking brain, too, or you will lose it.  It also makes you more empathetic, because you have experienced something out of your life sphere.  Did you know that studies show that the brain adopts something you have read AS IF you experienced it?  

10. Make sure you love the book you are reading. Want to read 50 Shades of Grey? I say go for it, so long as you know what you are getting. You will probably love it, and you will then need help finding another book that you love. Trust me, they are out there. If you don't love the book you are reading, you won't be inspired to keep reading it, so investigate, ask around, and shop for a really good book for you.

(Hammock Time When Reading 50 Shades of Grey, but better have privacy!)
(Yes, Tim found that hammock, too, as a suggestion for Gary to build for me.)

Ehem, ANYWAY. . .  Turn off the TV or other gadget (unless you are reading on it, and I hear that it is pretty cool to read 50 Shades on an Ereader because no one can see the cover!!).  Ehem again, and anyway, trust me, it will still be there when you go back. And when you go back, your brain will have been happy for the sustenance that you gave it.
Oh yeah, want to know what my hammock looks like?  Isn't it nice!  

(For the curious, we've had it awhile,and it was a gift to hubby, and I'm about the only one that uses it, and hubby likes to tease me about stuff, as does friend Tim, and that little blue guy by the tree is a cool Native American frog statute, and, I wish I had the cowboy, too!) 

Enjoy your weekend, friends! I hope you get some down time!

Shawn Chandler and I wore our Texas Ranger shirts for Team Spirit for Charity Friday at work today, fun times!

Bye now!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And While We are Talking Libraries and Something New in September, Play True or False: What's @ your library?

Just for fun, because we are talking Libraries (the Paris Public Library, to be exact) and it just so happens that it is Library Card Sign Up Month! 

All I can say is, glad I have my card!  Take the time to take this Library quiz:

True or False: What's @ your library?

(Want to see more of the blog?  Hint: Go to the Home Tab above, on the left.  The month of September has several information pieces about "Home" by Toni Morrison.  I will present a book review of "Home" at the Paris Public Library on October 4, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. 

Toni Morrison's "Home" -- Fast foward to 1:28 minutes to watch story on Morrison, who discusses the book and reads from an excerpt.

Friday, September 14, 2012

HomeHome by Toni Morrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book more than I have loved a book in a long time.  There are so many things to discuss about this book that I choose  it for my first Book Review at the Paris Public Library on October 4, 2012 at 6:30.  This is a short book, so I invite you to read this and come.

I thought I was going to get a "vet returns home and experiences racism" book.  I did get that, but so much more.  Having grown up on a farm, and in a small town, and in the south, this book evoked many memories for me, except through the unique experience, voice and eyes of black men and women.  Morrison very subtly shows the truth of pre-civil rights era racism in America, while she plants you inside of the lives of a brother and sister that you instantly care about.   This book reminds me in small ways of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Color Purple, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  It reminds me of stories I have heard right here in Paris, Texas.  But most of all, it evokes the full-circle feeling of HOME.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Something new for September - Lifestyles

Something new for September - Lifestyles: Let’s face it, when it comes to books, we all tend to get stuck in a rut. If we are reading what we love, what does it matter? The answer is that we will miss the real joy and benefit of reading. I know I tend to get unhappy if I don’t expand my horizons in my book choices. I also, obviously, love getting to talk about books.

So when I was approached years ago by some ladies to join them in forming a book club, I jumped at the chance. We officially called ourselves the Bas Bleu book club, because we wanted to be well read women. We have no rules, other than we try to read one classic a year and one children’s book. Looking over our selection list, I can definitely say the book club has helped me come closer to meeting my goal of being well read.

Book club is currently reading a book that I loved so much I stayed up almost all night one weekend to read it: “The Year My Mother Died: A Memoir,” by Sherry Scott. Book club taught me that I like memoirs, and if I hadn’t known that, I might not have tried reading Scott’s book, which is very uplifting, comforting and even fun despite the subject. (I can help you locate a signed copy if you are interested).

Many of us will live through the loss of our mothers; Scott’s point of view is unique because she was a palliative care doctor, so she knew what she would go through at the loss of her mother, yet she ended up being just as human in her response as the rest of us. I especially loved the fact she ended up with a strange fixation on singer Todd Rundgren (of I Saw the Light). The year my mother died, I fixated on the 2005 movie version of “Pride and Prejudice.” I still have this ungodly urge to plug that movie in whenever I get really sad, of all the strange things.

Scott’s book is off the beaten path because it is self published, which used to be the kiss of death in the book industry, but which is now widely embraced (for good reason, as publishers sometimes bring us the same book, over and over, in search of the next blockbuster title). I can’t wait to hear what others think about this book that is so unique in its offering.

I also can’t help but wonder how many book clubs we have in this area. Who are you? What do you read? Do you actually discuss books or is it just an easy way to have a get together? (Some of our best times in book club are when we quit talking book and start talking life). And do you, or will you, read something outside your normal sphere? You might just find a new interest, which is the point here.

So whether you are in a book club or not, I invite you to set a goal to make September  — Something New in your book reading. Book club is one way of doing that, but I have other suggestions on my blog ( ). The blog also links to book lists on Goodreads, including our entire book selection list under the name of Paris TX Ladies Book Club.

Part of the joy of reading is going someplace you have never before been (or finding someone else has gone to that strange place, too). But that is just my opinion. So pick up a new book — you might just change your life.

Sydney Young is a Paris resident and an avid book enthusiast.
The Year My Mother Died: A MemoirThe Year My Mother Died: A Memoir by Sherry Scott

This book resonates deep within, perhaps because I lost my mother, and my mother-in-law, at the onset of "middle age", triggering many of the same responses discussed in this memoir (albeit in different manifestations). But I have heard from many other readers who hadn't lost their mothers who loved the book also, so perhaps we all just loved the book because it is a good book.  It is also a good walk down memory lane, for anyone who grew up in the seventies.

The loss of your mother is an enormous, ground shifting event, and it was comforting to me to know that even a palliative care doctor - who knew what was coming - found herself in utterly unfamiliar territory as she tried to stand on the shifting ground beneath her feet. Strange fixations, withdrawal, deep introspection, writing, and rediscovering some childhood passions - especially in the arts, were just a few of the things that Dr. Scott and I shared. I also loved how she approached the year by months, reflecting on many childhood remembrances of each month in rural southern America that had me smiling in fond remembrance.

Life doesn't stop when you lose your mother - so you pretty much have to stop and let it revolve around you. In the end, you have to decide to live - or how you are going to live. This is a part of why Hamlet's speech (not just a suicide soliloquy), continues to resonate today. I love these quotes from the book:

"But I had learned to survive. I may have felt as if I couldn't breathe freely at times, may have felt caged and desperate, may have questioned all I ever was, but I had learned enough to keep me where I needed to be and to live to see what life would continue to bring my way if I continued to look for it."

AND, taken from a quote perched within eye sight in her place of retreat, which is written by Hunter S. Thompson:

Is not a journey to the grave with
The intentions of arriving safely
In a pretty and well preserved body,
But rather to skid in broadside,
Totally worn out and proclaiming,

Amen, sister!

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lunch with the Librarian - 10 facts I learned

Having lunch with another book lover is always enjoyable, but it is even more so when that book lover is the local librarian, Priscilla McAnally. Besides the rapid fire talk of books, books, and more books, I recently learned a great deal about the Paris Public Library.

 Mom taught me to have a healthy love of the library when I was growing up. I read whole sections of children's books, and enjoyed pilfering from the adult sections, too. But with eReaders and the Internet, one must wonder if we have outgrown our need of libraries.  

The answer is a resounding NO! Here is what I learned from Priscilla that surprised me.

1. How many patrons does the Paris Public Library serve a day?

*  About 300. 

2. How many use the Library's computer technology in a month?

*  About 900.

3. How many take advantage of the inter-library program, where patrons can request books borrowed from other libraries?

*  Over 200 a month. 

(That shocked me. I have only used the service a handful of times; I vow to take more full advantage of this in the future!)

4. Can you download eBooks on your eReaders for free with your library card?

*  Yes, (except on your Kindle, as Amazon doesn't support this program, other than with its Kindle Fire). This is through Freading and there IS an APP for that! Now there are major publishers who refuse to allow libraries rights to their books under this service, but don't let this discourage you. This is just your chance to get to know some other great books / authors.

5. Can you download audiobooks for free with your library card?

 *  Yes, through the One Click service. (I love audio books. I like to whistle while I work and audio books are the spoonful of sugar for chore time or work out time.  I am definitely downloading library audiobooks as my Something New in September.)

6. Does the Library charge patrons for their library membership?

 *  Only out of county residents (as most Red River Valley residents know, we have a steady traffic of Folks from Oklahoma).  So if you live in Lamar County, library services are FREE!

7. Does the Library have WiFi?

 *Yes, and you can come use it daily, for as long as you need.

8. Can you download music for free with your library card?

 *Yes, through the Freegal Music Service, and there is an app for that, too. For all of these download services, each library patron has so many credits or tokens that are useable periodically. I am currently listening to my downloads, thank you very much!

9. What is the most popular type of book being checked out?

 *Besides the expected answer (general fiction, especially new fiction titles, non-fiction, then  children's titles) mysteries and westerns are very popular. As a part of her duties, Priscilla goes through the checkout history for the books on the shelves and removes books that haven't been checked out in a couple of years. Mystery and Western genres tend to have long loved keepers that are continually checked out, so those type of books have long shelf lives.  I have also noticed that the eBooks and downloadable audiobooks have a great selection of Christian Fiction and classics of all types. 

10. Does the Library have the 50 Shades trilogy and is it being checked out?

 * Had to include this question, as the trilogy has been purchased by the millions this year, yet some libraries banned the book. The answer is YES and YES.

Paris Public Library Postcard
Now how about this - do you know your Library Etiquette? I'm not talking about the standard "Use Your Whisper Voice," but actual Book Etiquette. For example, you really should turn your books in or pay for them if you lose them. You really should let the librarian know if you have a book accident. (Yes, it happens, even Priscilla has accidentally spilled coffee on a new library book.  So, when it happens to you, just let her know so that she can decide if you need to pay for a replacement. It's only fair.)  But most of all, you really should keep reading, researching and engaging in stories.  It's wonderful for you!  And you really should take advantage of all the story engagement that the Library has to offer FOR FREE!

As you can see, my Lunch With the Librarian was quite enjoyable and informative.  Thanks Priscilla for everything! I look forward to even more with the Library, because I will soon be giving a book review at the Library on Thursday, October 4.  It will be fun, so I hope you will come.   In the meantime, I hope you make it a goal to try something new in your reading this September, and if you don't make it a habit to use the Library, well I hope that is your Something New

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Something New in September -- Helpful Hints

Somehow, the Powers that Be decided that September = Something New in our book reading ventures.  (Yes, I am being silly.  But still, it's a great idea, so let's have some fun together as we try this little experiment).

Here are some helpful hints on finding your Something New to read.

 1.  Try a Different Genre

My first love was Nancy Drew.   Then came A Wrinkle in Time.  Then came historical fiction (Angelique got me started; yes, I raided Mom's bookshelf).  Then came the love of the classics, which didn't really start until I became an English major, despite the fact that my high school classmates did all get mad at me for actually reading Moby Dick and breaking the curve (Curses to Melville)!  

So I guess you could call me a Mystery, Fantasy, History, Classics lover, and you'd be right.

But now I will read anything, because I have never been afraid to pick up something that someone else loves and because book club has helped me stray off my beaten path.  So if you tend to stick to one or two genres, ask around and read a different genre.  You may find that Something New to satisfy your reading soul.

2.  Read a New Author

Do you tend to read the same author?  I know I have my favorites.  I will download a Tana French novel on the day it is published (pulp Irish detective noir at its best) and I always buy signed Diana Gabaldon books through The Poisoned Pen.   It is so great to know what you are getting, but it is also sad to miss the chance to find a great new writer to love.  So while looking for that Something New this month, try expanding not just to an author you haven't read before, but try a brand new author.  Someone who has just published their first book.  New authors make the World Go 'Round, I'm quite sure, but only if we bother to read them.

Also, consider trying more diversity in your authors.  Think about your author list.  Are they of the same ethnicity? If so, branch out.

3.  Try a New Venue

No, I don't mean move to a new comfy spot, although this is great, too.  I mean change your purchasing or borrowing perspective.  Have you overloaded your eReader lately?  Should you have bought stock in Amazon, but didn't?  Then go back to the local bookstore and try buying a new book. Or, rediscover the Library! The opportunities there are so vast that I have another blog posting soon about all those story venues. I'm sure that something about this change will make you feel like a kid in the candy store, all over again.

4.  Encounter that Story in a New Format

Take venue change one step further and change the type of reading encounter you are used to experiencing.  In other words, if you like reading books, try listening to an audiobook, you'll experience the story in a whole new way.  If you like eReaders, try a hardback or a paperback.  And, if you are a Real Book TeeTotaler, well *GASP* it will probably be alright if you try an eBook.  Think of it this way: if you just can't consider changing genres or authors, you can keep them and just read them with a different tool in your hand, and with an eReader you can highlight and make notes and look up words, right on the spot.  It will be so much fun, but more importantly, you will challenge your brain with Something New.

5.  Pay attention to the Publisher

Consider this -- do you possibly stick with just the big publishers?  Maybe you should try Going Rogue.   There are a great number of other publishers out there, including the Indies (Independent Publishers) and the Self Publishers.  So many good books are brought to us from lesser known publishers, but they won't continue to be here if we don't break out of herd mentality and explore.   

6.  Go Back and Try a CLASSIC

I know, I know, I'm a dreaded English Major.  I get my kicks from the classics, I really do.  BUT, if you tend to stay away from these things as if they are a four-letter word, you are missing out.  It is a good goal to try to read a classic at least once a year, or barring that, once a blue moon.  Classics generally deal with subject matters that make us uncomfortable, and worse, they tend to be long.  However, the reason they are still being read even though they weren't written this year is because they deal with the human experience in such a way that people return to them, talk about them, and keep them alive.  They also help you see what Good Writing is All About.  So, please, just try this one out.  It won't take much of your life, and you'll be able to brag to someone in the near future about what you just read, I guarantee it.  You will feel -- and be -- accomplished.  

7.  Try a List or a New Reading Group

Granted, this will probably help you kick #6 out, too, but if you are stuck on just one list, such as the New York Times Best Seller list, then why don't you choose a book that is on a different list, or that is proffered by a different reading group?  I like to periodically go check those Top 100  Books to Read Lists, or Laura Bush's Favorite Reading List, or the Bas Bleu catalogue, or the Princeton Book Review, or DukeReads, or The Poisoned Pen Lists, etc. etc.  The reason for checking books from these lists is because now days there are SO MANY books to choose from and I don't like wasting my time or money on a book that isn't satisfying.  And let's face it, just because a book is on the New York Times list doesn't mean it is a good, satisfying book.  So experiment, and you might find that special Something New!

8.  Join a Book Club

It isn't that hard to join a book club or even form a new one.  Most of the time, you can just ask your friend who is always reading about whether they know of a book club.  Now, granted, it may be more difficult to find a book club that you gel with, so just experiment.  In the meantime, you can join book clubs that interest you on Goodreads -- we even have a Red River Valley Reader's Club that we have started, because its fun to see what people around here are reading.  I saw an interesting poll on Goodreads the other day that most people who are involved in book clubs are members through this virtual membership venue, and so long as the venue is inspiring you to read Something New, and you are getting to participate in an active discussion about that book, I think this is just great.

 I hope these Hints help you make this 
September = Something New in your reading.  
Happy Hunting!