Tag Archives: library

Checked Out

requiemI just realized not just that I read a lot of series books, but that there are also a plethora of series books out there, more so than it seems like there were back in the day. We’ve come a long way from Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. I even recall reading the massive horde of Star Trek books that were out there once upon a time. It was even interesting to read the ones by the same author, or to compare the different authors’ styles of that series.

So, last week I was reading the second book in the Divergent series, and this week it’s on to the third (and final) book in the Delirium series. Requiem has been out for a little while now, but I was caught up reading a bunch of other stuff. In fact, it’s been so long since I read Pandemonium that I had to go and read a synopsis of that book to re-familiarize myself with the fringe characters and the plot at the end of that book. Ah, the glory of series reading!

Here’s what I have Checked Out this week:

  1. Requiem, by Lauren Oliver. After I got caught up on the series again I realized once again why I liked it in the first place. Society is breaking down, which makes sense since the society is based on this “cure” that will stop people from falling in love, because they say that love is a delirium that makes people do stupid things. Well, duh! I’m really interested to see how this one winds up.
  2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. This one is strange, but it still has my attention enough that I renewed it from the library. Ooh, that would make a good entry. Renewed. Anyway, this store is a magic portal to another dimension, or something like that. Okay, so I’ll admit I’m slightly confused. I may just start this one over from the beginning again.
  3. The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez. This book club selection reads like just what it is, a book club selection. It is literary without being too stuffy, so I’m enjoying it. I just hope others in the group appreciate it as much as I have been so far.
  4. Running Blind, by Lee Child. This is the fourth book in the Jack Reacher series (see, another series book!) and I happen to be reading them in order, but I just got this one and I’m excited to get started on it. I think I may finish Requiem first, though, and get that series finished.
  5. Psychos: A White Girl Problems Book, by Babe Walker. I might be about to check this one back in. It’s the second book in a series, but I haven’t read the first one yet, and I thought it wouldn’t be a problem, but this is not a standalone book. I’m getting quite a bit confused as I read along, so I might just return it until I’ve read the first one. I’m going to read a few more chapters and then make the decision.

There was this biography of Johnny Carson that I picked up last week from the local library that I really want to read, but it’s a “new” book and I just don’t have the time to read it right now so I sent it back. I put it in my phone’s list app, however, where it joined 10 other books that I need to get back to when I find the time to read them. Also on the list of books I need to get to pronto is the final one in another series, The One, by Kiera Cass. I was enchanted by the other two, so I look forward to when it finally comes in through the library.

Happy reading to you!

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How I Choose Books

picking-a-bookHonestly, choosing books can be a daunting task, especially for a prolific reader like myself. So, what do I do when I want to read a book but I’m unsure of exactly the right book to choose? Here are some ways I choose books:

  1. Library-hopping. It’s a tradition I created shortly after moving to upstate New York involving a day where I travel to at least four libraries in the area, sometimes with my wife and sometimes not. I don’t leave any of the libraries without at least one book from their “New Book” racks.
  2. Library-stopping. Libraries are amazing because they offer a wide selection of books for absolutely no money. Library-stopping means going to just one library and randomly choosing a row of books to peruse and choose from. I could spend from an hour to three hours leafing through books, but when I leave the area I will have at least three books to read further.
  3. Book store visit. I haven’t been to a book store in ages, but when I went more often it was definitely an interesting experience. The glory of a book store is getting to see and hear others talking about and exploring new books. That’s the one advantage of going to a book store, all of the new books.
  4. On-line. I’m huge into goodreads, and having that network of friends online who are also big readers, it’s a great experience. Reading reviews and seeing fresh new books in every genre, including the bestsellers and the niche books, all in one place is an eye-opener. The only issue of on-line browsing is that it’s either go with the eBook versions or try to find the physical books after the fact in a library.
  5. Friends, family, and co-workers. Recommendations, recommendations, and more recommendations. They work both ways, too. If someone tells me they really loved a book and it’s worth my time, I will add it to my list to read. I’ll also put it on my list to read of they say it was a horrible read and I should totally avoid it. I like to make up my own mind, and if the book was so polarizing to them, what was it? I place those books even higher up in my queue. The only books I don’t read are the ones they say were “just okay.”

Take today, for example. I stopped at one of the local libraries, one I hadn’t visited in a while. I took a good long look at their new books and brought two home with me, even though I’m already in the middle of reading two books. It doesn’t hurt to have the books here in the house waiting for me. I’ve waited long enough for them.

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Ode to the Personal Library

“The room was full of bookshelves, from front to back, from wall to wall.”

I haven’t seen a room like that outside the confines of a library in about a month of Sundays, maybe even longer. It seemed like in another era it was common to have rooms such as the one described by a colleague of mine yesterday. And the house that contained such a room didn’t even have to be a mansion, even though those bastions of civility also had large insular libraries. A regular, standard house in the olden days would have perhaps a converted closet as a book repository, but it was still there. What happened?

This is one thing we cannot blame on technology, or at least not entirely. The personal library began its demise a while before the rise of the internet, or even computers for that matter. During Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s and 1940s, coming out of the Great Depression and leading into the second great war, the United States began to wholly embrace more and more the idea of the public library. It was no secret why, either. Books were expensive to own, and even the rich realized their own monetary vulnerability after the stock market crash.

“It’s that smell of opening up a new book, and cradling its spine carefully, that sparks that fire.”

Federal and state funds began to be pumped into maintaining, increasing, and creating public libraries throughout the country. For the first time, the popular novels of the time were being purchased and advertised by the library system, and people were going in droves to get those books without paying their hard earned money for the privilege. It was the golden age of the public library, a time that many older people look back on wistfully. That flourishing time started to fade by the 1970s with the increasing popularity of the mass-market paperback that was finally cheap enough for the average American to own, and it continued to decline with the rise of the personal computer in the 1980s.

But then came the audiobook, digital reading devices, iPads and other digital tablets, as well as other forms of home entertainment, such as DVDs and surround sound, and the personal library received a further hit. Now, of course, we are in an age where more often than not the personal library is not a room, but is a folder or “bookshelf” on those digital reading devices. Many people who own them brag about being able to fit hundreds of books on one device, those same hundreds of books that would have been physically on those bookshelves in that library that used to be a major bragging right among homeowners.

“To maintain a personal library in the current architecture of the country is to be avant garde.”

So, you can see why this personal library my colleague spoke of arrested my interest so completely. My own personal library has taken a hit just as so many others have as well during this past twenty years. Don’t get me wrong — we have bookshelves — but the books we own are more likely to be in boxes or they’re children’s books now, sitting sweetly in a small corner of those shelves. The rest of the shelving space has been commandeered by DVDs, CDs, and board games. But I haven’t given up.

Books can be found relatively on the cheap these days, by visiting library book sales that hand out books for 10 cents or a quarter. And they’re not horrible books either, but books that were popular a mere year or six months ago. I could outfit my future personal home library with the entire Twilight series for less than a dollar, in hardcover. That’s one way to renew my faith in mankind, or it’s just another nail in the coffin of the personal library as the books I’m getting for fumes have been donated in droves by people who were dismantling theirs.

Soon, we’re going to build a new place, in five or seven years. In that new home I will have a private study, the walls of which will be lined with bookshelves filled with books. Books old and new, books large and small. Lots and lots of books will finally commingle with each other in the spirit of brotherhood, and none will be left out in the cold. Maybe it will be one pebble tossed into the pond of disinterest that can spark the interest of others. Then I will be the one talking about my room “full of bookshelves, from front to back, from wall to wall.

And I just might invite you, if you’re lucky.

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Library Blues

thWhen I first became a teacher, one of my initial classes was full of seniors who were taking the writing class as an elective. One of my first lessons focused on the importance of reading and deciphering what you read. Because it was an elective, I was using some books that weren’t readily available at the high school, so I suggested going to the local library to get the books. I was surprised at the response to that from one young lady.

BlondeGirl: I’m never going to a library.

Me: Why not?

BlondeGirl: Those books are soooo dirty.

Me: No dirtier than your phone.

BlondeGirl: Oh. Ewwwww.

That’s one of the bad raps the library gets, that so many people use the materials that they either get worn out so much faster or they’re so filthy from that same overuse. Too many library haters exist these days, even with the recession and the cost of books not really going down. Perhaps the rise of eBooks and eReaders can be attributed to the decline of the library, but while bookstores have utilized these eReaders to stay alive, libraries too have gotten into the virtual game.

I have an application called OverDrive that allows me to order eBooks to rent from the library system in the Utica area. I can check out the books and upload them to my Nook to read at my convenience. Plus, if I’m worried about the condition of the books from the library itself I don’t have to touch a single one. One of the letdowns, however, is that the library only has so many digital copies it has purchased, and some of the waiting lists are ridiculously long.

There are also some people who clean off the books they get from the library with Lysol and various other cleaning products. Good luck to them, but I’m of the opinion that the things you have in your own house have numerous germs. What’s a few more? I just try my best not to think about it. Instead I think about all the money I’m saving by checking those books out instead of buying them for a ridiculous amount of money.

I have an app on my phone called BookMyne that gives me access to my library account, and it keeps track of the books I’ve checked out and their current value if I were to purchase them. It’s crazy to look at those numbers with over $15 dollars a book, and I’ve read some of the most current, most expensive first-run books from the library. It also helps that my wife is a librarian and finds out about upcoming releases long before they come out, so I can get my name on those hold lists and get the books soon after they’re available in the system.

Now of course I’m thinking about where those books have been. Where’s my Lysol?

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The Collector

books_0646I collect books. Not just good books, either. I mean, most times I have no idea if a book is in fact good when I pick it up. I just know I want to have it, so I add it to my collection and ask the hard questions later. Or never at all, because I have collected so many books that I’ve never even read. There they still sit on my bookshelves, or in large plastic containers because I ran out of bookshelf space. They sit there staring at me from those shelves, taunting me for my lack of forethought and for my inability to just leave them where they were instead of scooping them up and letting them collect dust.

My problem is that I visit too many libraries, actually. And I know what you’re thinking. I should just check books out of those libraries and return them when they’re due. But every library I go to also has a book sale, and I can’t seem to pass one by without at least browsing. Then browsing turns to buying, and before I know it I have a bag full of books and a lighter wallet. I can’t seem to resist those books because they’re usually 10 cents, or 25 cents, or 50 cents apiece, and when brand new books are usually $10 dollars or more, it’s just too good of a deal to pass up.

Sometimes I buy books because of their titles. One book looking at me from up high right now is The Bride Stripped Bare, and another is Off Season. Other titles include The Possibility of Everything, The Girl in the Steel Corset, Sold, and The Size of Thoughts. The titles or the book covers draw me in, so I pick them up and add them to my collection. Yet I haven’t read a single one of them. The reason is a simple one. I keep going to libraries.

The cycle is a vicious one, but I’ve worked hard on curbing my need to keep buying these books. In fact, the last several times I’ve visited libraries I haven’t bought a single book, and I think that’s progress. Of course at the same time I have six library books checked out at the same time, but at least I’m not paying for them. And I’m actually reading them. One day I’ll get back to The Bride Stripped Bare, and then I’ll feel justified in keeping it. Maybe.

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