Little Free Library project…

I’m going to be sponsoring a Little Free Library in our neighborhood. “Take a book, return a book.” I enjoy looking at the pictures of all the little free libraries people have built. Here’s one repurposing a pay phone booth, which is extinct now, of course.

Littel Free Library in a pay phone

It would be nice to build the equivalent of a Little Free Library using e-books, but giving the restrictions placed upon them by publishers, that doesn’t seem likely. Fortunately, paper books will be with us for a long time. Just because I have and enjoy a Kindle doesn’t stop me from buying paper books. My urge to share books, as well as to support community meeting places like our local bookstore, also keeps me buying them.

Gender-izing children’s books…

This issue of gender-izing toy and books for children hurts both boys and girls. Parents, let’s refuse to participate.

What we are doing by pigeon-holing children is badly letting them down. And books, above all things, should be available to any child who is interested in them.

I applaud the Independent‘s book reviewers for taking a stand: Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex – Comment – Voices – The Independent. I’d like to see more newspapers, blogs, and websites join them.

Also see the Let Toys Be Toys campaign.

Accidentally reading about reptiles…

srpsnakeI realized with the first two reads of the year, I have an accidental theme going on: reptiles in my fiction! With Swamplandia! it was alligators; then there is a snake in The Burn Palace. Our upcoming book club read is set in Texas, so I wonder if a lizard will figure into the plot.

That got me wondering how many of my past reads featured reptiles, so I did a quick search. Snakes are by far the most common reptiles to show up in my book reviews and summaries. Going back in time, I see there were significant snake scenes in:

As for alligators and crocodiles, there is only Swamplandia! that I can recall. There may have been a crocodile in The Poisonwood Bible.

There are quite significant cosmic turtles in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, from which I’ve read Small Gods, and in It and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. As for actual turtles, they don’t seem as common, although the Mock Turtle in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland certainly comes to mind.

I also can’t seem to find any books I’ve read with lizards in them, although there are dinosaurs of course in Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Would you be more or less likely to read a book with a snake in it? I’d rather meet one in fiction than in real life, that’s for sure!

Here’s a list of fictional reptiles from Wikipedia and a list of Reptiles in Fiction on LibraryThing, if you’d like to seek out even more reptiles in your fiction.

Vintage vs. Penguin: On being seduced by book covers…

Who cares what it's about? It is a very pretty book.

Who cares what it’s about? It is a very pretty book.

I have been rearranging my books, necessitated by a large Christmas haul of mostly beloved classics. I hate to admit it, but I mostly organize my bookshelves based on aesthetics– books all the same height together, for instance, or a publisher’s similar designs together. In this latest rearranging, I noticed how many black and white and silver books I had, and how nicely they go together on the shelf. Then I went through my husband’s books and picked out some of his b&w books that looked interesting. If I read them and like them, I may steal them to fill out my shelf.

I’ve always really been attracted to Penguins, especially from the Penguin Classics line with their black covers. Now I’m starting to notice that Vintage has some very attractive books, also mostly in muted or neutral colors. I have no trouble passing on books once they’ve been read, but those pretty books, they earn their place on my limited shelf space.

I do most of my reading on Kindle, but I still love print books, mostly just love looking at them and browsing through them. I especially love minimalist covers or anything that looks pulpy and vintage. What do you look for in a book cover?

Book cover: Nocturnes | Knopf Doubleday.

Bonus: Reading lists!

Since I didn’t post yesterday, and I’ve pledged to post every (week)day this year, here’s a bonus post. Although, I am cheating a little since I previously posted this on my book journaling blog.

I love book lists. What reader doesn’t? Although who actually reads all the books on a book list before getting distracted and moving on to something else? Like perusing more book lists!

I have been thinking about my upcoming reading for the next year and looking at a lot of book lists. Some of my favorite discoveries have been on ABE’s site, a store that sells rare books. Their features archive has a ton of fascinating book lists, all showcasing the gorgeous first edition covers. Although I suspect that some of these books don’t actually exist, such as Kitty Lit – Cats on Classic Book Covers.

Next year I’m going to try some theme reading that will last all year long. One theme is to read around the world, sampling books either set in or by authors from countries not my own. Another will be a sample of different types of crime fiction, a genre I haven’t read in-depth in quite a while. I also might choose books based on the events of the day. Book lists are going to help me find the books.

Here are some more book-listing sites:

Gutenberg the geek…

At left in the foreground, a printer removes a...

At left in the foreground, a printer removes a printed page from the press. The printer at right is inking the plate. In the background, compositors are using cast type. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just downloaded and read Jeff Jarvis‘s Kindle single, “Gutenberg the Geek” (free to Prime subscribers, 99 cents otherwise). It provides a short history of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, drawing parallels between his initial business and how the printing press revolutionized every area of human endeavor and Silicon Valley tech start-ups and how we are currently going through a similar revolution with the Internet. At the end, Jarvis offers a persuasive argument for protecting the openness and public nature of the Internet, since we still cannot predict what revolutionary changes it will bring about in human civilization, just as in the early days of the printing press, no one could foresee that it would power the Reformation, enable the rise of modern science and create entirely new professions. It’s an entertaining and informative read (less than 20 minutes) that will be of interest to anyone who cares about books, technology or entrepreneurship.

How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

“Non-reading is not just the absence of reading. It is a genuine activity, one that consists of adopting a stance in relation to the immense tide of books that protects you from drowning. On that basis, it deserves to be defended and even taught.”

How To Talk About Books You Havent Read on Brain Pickings is a great piece that helped crystallize some ideas that had been swirling around in my brain. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I will read, what I will read next and whether I should continue reading what I am reading now. My reading time is limited, and I want to spend it in the best way possible for me. Since I’ve become so conscious of what I read, I have consistently read books that I have enjoyed more and that have made me think more.

There is that tinge of guilt that comes with not reading something, especially if it is a deliberate choice. I really ought to read ______ (fill in the blank with important literary work here). Well, this post banished all those guilty feelings. I can read, not read, skim, give up, just read the review in the NYT, as I choose, because it all becomes part of my collective library. Even the books that I don’t read have meaning to me.

The post even provides a system of categorization of unread books: unknown, skimmed, heard about, forgotten. Those books too may be weighted on a scale from an extremely positive opinion to extremely negative. I immediately put this rating scale into practice when going through my library and trying to decide what to read or reread next. A forgotten book associated with an extremely positive feeling got put on my “to read” shelf, while one with a negative or even neutral opinion was placed in the donate pile, as I knew I wouldn’t want to reread it.

I realize that not everyone delves so deeply into their reading life as to categorize books they haven’t even read yet, but it is a comfort to know that I am not the only one to do so. Indeed, there is a whole book dedicated to the subject. To be truthful, I probably won’t read that book, since this summary on Brain Pickings gave me all the food for thought I needed.

Some quotes about books from books…

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” – A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin

“Sleep is good,” he said. “And books are better.” – A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies …. The man who never reads lives only one.” – A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin

“It’s all that reading that does it, Dietrich. It takes a man out of the world and pushes him inside his own head, and there is nothing there but spooks.” – Eifelheim, Michael Flynn

“My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.” – The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives. – American Gods, Neil Gaiman

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” – The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” – Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.” – 1984, George Orwell