Day 30: How to Get in the Reading Habit

This is a bit supplemental, but along with my book list and thoughts on lit from yesterday, important.

I read a lotThis year I decided to track how many new books I read in a year. I set a goal of 175, to read before Jan. 1, 2013.

I hit that goal last week.

That’s a LOT of books. (No, to my father, who reads this: I did not BUY all of those 175 books!)

So, people always ask: “How do you read that many books?” or, its companion, “I never have time to read.”

Part of it is reading is in my DNA. I can’t imagine not having a book with me wherever I go. I might forget my wallet or my cellphone, but a book? Never. I read in the tub, for pete’s sake.

Where I’d spend most of my time, if I could.

Second, I’m usually reading several books at one time. This is carryover from college. Two liberal arts majors means a lot of reading, so I had to be able to juggle books for Brit Lit Survey with 19th Century American Lit, and foreign policy. Again, habit.  But this also means I can finish books faster, because if one book is lagging, or is dense (like Catherine the Great, which I’m reading now–it’s dense. Good, but dense), I can switch to something a bit faster or lighter. That’s an important thing to remember–not all books are “equal” in the time it takes them to read. I can polish off the new Alexander McCall Smith novel in an hour or so. Wolf Hall took me a lot longer, partially because I was enjoying the writing, and partially because there’s a lot going on there.

(This doesn’t mean I don’t love AMcS–I do. He’s in my top five contemporary authors. I just mean his books read very easily.)

One of my many bookshelves

Third, I like a wide variety of books. I will read just about anything. I love kid lit (I’m a huge fan of Rick Riordan’s mythology series–Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, and the Kane Chronicles), but I also will read books on creativity or science or schizophrenia. (Yes. For fun. I’m weird.)

Fourth, I have friends who like to read, so we’re constantly swapping recommendations.

If you want to get into the reading habit, like anything else, it takes practice. But my first suggestion is to find what you like, and then go for it! I love discovering new authors just for this purpose, because there’s a whole new bunch of books to start reading. They don’t have to be classics (although I’d prefer if you didn’t read Dan Brown. Please? Plleeeeeeease?).  They don’t have to be big or impressive.

As a kid, I would go into the school library and just grab books that looked good, and then check them out. I suggest this as a way to start, if you’re really lost. Or check out those books you “should have” read, but never got around to (see my book list!). I did this post-college with the Russian authors. My focus was British Literature in school, so post-school, I did a “Big Russian Novel” for a few summers. That way I plowed through Anna Karenina, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. I have War and Peace, but that might just never happen. This summer, I read A Farewell To Arms, and Steinbeck, a few years back: East of Eden. Other books I read this way: almost all of Thomas Hardy and Edith Wharton (I’m still working on both of them); Dante’s Divine ComedyMadame Bovary; Notre-Dame de Paris; Charlotte Bronte’s Villette (ring a bell?), Frankenstein; Dracula; Middlemarch, and essentially all of Dickens, except for Hard Times, which I read in college (and didn’t really like). A Tale of Two Cities is one of my all-time favorites. Now, these might all sound like hard, school-y books. Here’s a recommendation: watch the BBC versions (the recent ones, like Bleak House with Gillian Andersen, or Little Dorrit ) and then go read the books. This works especially well with Dickens, because his later books (like the two I just mentioned) are so dense.

Biographies are also a good place to start, or history. I love British, French and Russian history. Colonial history is my favorite part of American history, so I’ve read John Adams and 1776.  Pick a part of history you like and go for it. Kids books are actually a great place to start here. My love of royal history started with the Dear America diary series!

The point is, to read. Keep books around, dip into them at your leisure. It’s not school. There will be no test, no quizzes, no “which characters were in Starbuck’s boat in chapter whatever of Moby-Dick” (yes, that was a question on a pop quiz in my 19th Century American Lit class. This could be why I am so averse to Melville…)?

Part of the Jane collection, top shelf; autobiographies and memoir, second shelf.

Even when I’ve been able to do very little else–when sitting up was hard–I could always read. Granted, it might not make a lot of sense, but I did it! (I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the CICU post-transplant. Let me tell you, I had some plot twists in there that JK Rowling never thought of…) You don’t need a Nook, although I have one, and it makes sharing fun. Reading can be free!

What’s your favorite type of book to read? Do you branch out in your reading, or do you stick to one subject?

31 days: Day 1: Blogging about literature!

So for the next 31 days, this blog is being hijacked by the muses of literature. Specifically: gothic lit and fairy tales.

I’m participating in the 31 days project, and the topic was suggested/inspired by two friends. One wanted some writing on gothic lit–which is a lot more than just Dracula and Frankenstein, thanks–and another mentioned how interesting the history and backstory behind fairy tales were (I was telling her about it during Once Upon A Time). So: the dual themes.

There’s a lot to work with here, but if I run out before the 31 days are over, we’ll cover other parts of lit. What the heck is a Romantic Poet? Why didn’t Charlotte Bronte like Jane Austen’s writing? Is Jane Regency or Victorian? And what the heck did the Victorians write about? (Short answer: EVERYTHING) Maybe we’ll detour into the 20th century and Virginia Woolf, or visit Edith Wharton in NYC.

But first–we’re starting with gothic lit, tomorrow. What exactly is Gothic Lit? (It’s way more than what you think)

If you’re new here, my qualifications are thus: I have a BA in English Lit (focus on British Lit, but I did study American a bit, too). And I read just about everything I can get my hands on.

I hope you enjoy this month with me!  And if you have any questions, drop them in the combox, and I’ll do my best to answer. If you miss a day, I’ll have a “31 Days” tab at the top of the blog, so you can catch up.


What kind of reader are you?

 I am: 

The Bookophile. More than reading, you just love books. Old ones, the way they smell, the crinkles and yellowing of the pages; new ones, the way they smell, too, the crispness, running your hands over a stack of them at the bookstore. You like books rescued from the street as much as signed first editions; you like drugstore paperbacks, you like hardcover new releases, you like it all. You just like books. To you, they are an object of beauty, and you would never, ever hurt them in any way. Suggested bookophile reads: Anything you can get your hands on. God, that’s gorgeous, isn’t it? 

Find out what you are here

I see Jo’s boys at the top!

“…which just proves that more people need to read Louisa May Alcott.”—The Gargoyle

I am reading The Hobbit: or, There and Back Again

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The Hobbit: or, There and Back Again on

30 Important Books: No.4, Little House in the Big Woods

I think every girl in America reads these at some point. And I was no exception. This was the first “chapter book” I read, the year I was in first grade. We were divided into reading groups, and the group I was in got to read chapter books of our choice. (But not really our choice: we got to choose one out of a group of five.) I chose Little House, and was smitten. I remember reading it on the bus going to and from school, and quickly read the rest of the series in succession. (Even On the Way Home, which I totally didn’t get in second grade.) Laura was about my age in the first book, and how I wanted to make syrup candy on the snow, or go to a sugaring dancing, or play with a pig’s bladder balloon! Or watch my dad clean his rifle! And I loved the stories of Christmas and the illustration of the well stocked storage pantry. Churning butter sounded delightful.

This planted the seeds of historical fiction love, which lead, in turn, to the American Girl books and dolls and all of that. Laura had a gift for making ordinary life come alive (who isn’t starving after reading Farmer Boy? That whole book reads like a menu!) with precision and detail. And even though I had yellow hair like Mary, I was much more like Laura. Sitting still wasn’t my thing, either. 🙂

Seven Quick Takes Friday–Vol. VIII (Memorial Day Summer Kick-Off!)

  1. SUMMER! SUMMER! “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” So in this Quick Takes, I’m going to give you seven (well, six) things that I am going to do as an homage.
  2. Read my new Shape magazine next to an open window and listen to birds chirp.
  3. Go swimming!
  4. Start the annual Jane Re-Read: Sense and Sensibility. Tonight. Oh yes. 🙂
  5. See lots of summer theater! Tonight: Hamlet at Columbus Civic (You KNOW you wanna come!), then Sunday, Actors’ Theater’s Scarlet Pimpernel in Schiller Park. Lots of Sword fighting. Lots of awesomeness. 🙂 
  6. Write more of L&A. I wrote some new scenes today. Well not new. Scenes that had gotten lost amid the Widget 1.0 crash/doomsday. But I think (gasp) that they’re better this way.
  7. Oh, and the cast list for Ragtime will be posted. At some point. 🙂