Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where Do Books Come From?

Okay, I 'm not going to launch into some existential rant about the inside an writers mind or some long winded description of the printing process. My title's kind of deceptive like that. What it should say is Where do YOUR books come from?

I was at the library recently after moving back to Michigan. I was short on cash and wanted some books. It's not that I'm not a fan of libraries, just that my local one seems to specialize in romance novels and books for the under twelves and neither is really my cup of tea. Needless to say my trip was kind of disappointing. I couldn't find any of the books I was looking for and this got me thinking: where else do I usually get books? I know, I wasn't exactly musing about the meaning of life, but still.

The Library: When I lived in Chicago I was always at the library. CPL was good to me, and always had an abundance of books. It was the first time I actively used the a library as a means of getting books. As I mentioned above I am not a fan of my hometown library. Also when I was younger I loved to dog-ear pages. The librarians frowned on this.

Garage Sales/Rummage Sales/Thrift Stores: I've always found sales like this to be a fantastic place to find cheap books. You can't really count on there being any specific titles, or that there won't be coffee stains over the one book you're interesting in but for 50 cents it's worth it.

Bookstores - Indie, Used, Chain - Varying prices, varying stocks and varying conditions but you'll always be around bookish people, which is a plus in my book. Since high school  I've always thought of Barnes & Noble as one of my favorite hang outs. I'm also a huge fan of walking through bookshelves and browsing. I've found some of my favorite books that way.

The Internet - While I'm an impulsive buying at bookstores and cheap sales I am very focused with my online shopping. I'm personally a big fan of (part of ebay) for the dirt cheap books. I actually order books online rarely. I'm into browsing amazon for possible good books, though, and then promptly heading over to goodreads to get legit reviews. Oh, and I guess ARC's count as internet books, too, don't they?

That's my list! What about you? Where do you get most of your books from?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Alchemist - Coelho

Paulo Coelho 

Santiago is a Sheperd, not by lack of luck but by choice. He's in it for the adventure, the knowledge and the people, oh and the sheep, he does like his sheep. After have a weird dream about the Pyramids and talking to a dream interpreter and someone who may be a real King he goes in search of his own Personal Legend. Along the way he meets a thief, a crystal artist, and an Alchemist.

I've been hearing about The Alchemist for a while. A kid in my Character Development class raved about it, a friend told me it was the best book she'd ever read. Regardless I was skeptical. A fable written in the 80's? A journey for a Personal Legend? I passed. Well, I passed until I was at Barnes & Noble with a gift card and a list of books that were all out of stock.

What I loved most about The Alchemist was how fast it read. At 167 pages it reminded me of a Disney movie; true to it's theme and straight to the point. Coelho wastes no time in telling his story and the sparse detail really works in this fable setting. I was also surprised by how moving the spiritual and personal messages were. Very rarely do I come across a book that inspires me to go for my dreams, but that's really what The Alchemist is about. At times the"personal legend business seems a bit heavy handed, but overall the it's a very evenly paced story.

I'm not big on recommending books to non readers, but I handed my copy of The Alchemist to my dad along with a copy of the new Decemberists CD and he actually read it. After he told me how much he had liked it and that it was the first book he'd read in decades. What I'm getting at is this - read this book. You might not like it. You might think the concept is a crock of horse dung or that it's just unrealistic but I'm willing to bet it will at least make you think, and after all, isn't that part of what reading's all about?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Literary Hop - Bibliotherapy

Literary Blog Hop
It's hot. This isn't news, unless you're watching the weather channel, then it's the only news. I don't like the heat. I find it very distracting. It makes me want to curl up in a ball on the kitchen floor and lay in front of the vent and read something less than literary. Hell, less than an actual book. I've been reading old Not Always Right posts for like two days. Mindless reading for the win. Which brings me to today's Literary Hop question:

Discuss Bibliotherapy. Do you believe literature can be a viable form of therapy? Is literary writing more or less therapeutic than pop lit or nonfiction? 

I'd never heard of Bibliotherapy before reading this weeks question but  I guess it's something that I, and I assume a lot of other bookish folk use regularly. I know when I'm feeling down, or in need of someone or something to relate to I often look for a book dealing with the same subject. However I find that my literary snobbery tends to go out the window when I'm looking for a pick-me-up. In fact, something light and easy to read without a heavy message is usually more uplifting. Not to say that literary fiction can't be those things, but pop fiction tends to cover that cheery quick read area better. Really it's just about finding the right book at the right time, which I think Christina said in her post.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday -Required Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.

To be honest there wasn't much "required" reading in my high school. I'm still not sure if this was a bad thing. I mean they tried to make me read Huck Finn (sorry Twain fans, not my cup of tea) and Fahrenheit 451 but there were only a couple more books and a handfull of plays that ever showed up on any class agenda. I don't feel worse off because of it and find that being able to discover different authors at my own pace and discretion was a blessing. However there are some books that wouldn't be bad on a required reading list.

The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling - These books were my childhood. Mind you I grew up with Harry in a way that any other generation could never really experience, but still, there is a lot to learn in these seven books. It's a little ambitious to include all of them for "required" reading but with so much material there is a lot to discuss and even more room to form free opinions. Plus some of my best friends stem from the fact that both of us are Potterphiles.

The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - I wasn't actually required to read this. I really wish I had been. At the ripe old age of 19 I met Holden for the first time and had the strange experience of still being able to relate to his silly teenage problems while detesting him for his shortsightedness. I still loved Catcher by the time I finished it, but can't help but think it would hold up better in my memory if I'd tackled it three years sooner. It's good to have a protagonist kids can relate too. Holden can be that protagonist, or not. It's up to the reader. I'd actually prefer that everyone read Franny & Zooey but don't think it should be "required" in the same school sense.

Shakespeare - Shakespeare or some group of guys calling themselves Shakespeare - What movies are you watching when you're in high school? Would those be teen comedies? Would a good portion of these comedies contain certain aspects of plays by a certain Bard? Yes. Go read some Shakespeare. See if your teacher can get you the individual copies with the translated pages if you have a hard time with the language. He's funny, he's prolific, and once you've read Hamlet & Macbeth you'll start to understand all those weird references your parents were making and also why I named my last goldfish Ophelia.

Brave New World - Huxley - I picked Brave New World over 1984 and Fahrenheit 451because the parallels to today's society are unmistakable, It's a pretty easy read and has some of the same issues as 1984 & 451 present.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Lee - Meet the first book that I was required to read and actually liked! I don't remember much about To Kill a Mockingbird. It was 9th grade, there were all those teenager feelings going on, but regardless I loved this book in a way I didn't think was possible with something my teacher deemed a "Classic". It was great exposure to a different time and setting, and dealt with some incredibly important themes.

Animal Farm - Orwell - Satire, Fable, Fairy Tale, Animal Farm is one of those books that kid's should read to A. Understand the Soviet Union (and probably in a History class instead of whatever English) and B. as a cautionary tale. It's a good book. It's short. It's all the things required reading should be. Okay, maybe not, but teens should read i.

Pride & Prejudice - Austen - There are certain classics that will always have their audience, and love struck teens will always find a place within the pages of Pride & Prejudice. It's one of those "classics" that makes reading classics fun. Plus everyone should read a little Austen and it's doesn't have the same heavy themes as many of the other books I am insisting your future children read.

My name is Oskar and I approve this message.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Foer - Not many books can deal with 9/11 and World War II without becoming to heavy to process, but Foer manages it masterfully. It would be good for teens to read about these two major events in a contemporary way and there is just so much love between these pages. Sheesh. Oskar's namesake even agrees with me!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It All Ends

Unless you've been living under a boulder or something you are probably aware that the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hits theaters tomorrow at midnight. If you're like me you're crazy excited and more than a little sad. If you're not like me than you'll probably want to stop reading now. Since I've reread the whole series twice within the last 12 months and have been watching the movies every night this week I got to thinking - this is the perfect marker to the end of my childhood. Since '97 I've been obsessively reading Harry Potter. Deathly Hallows came out the summer I graduated high school and it is really fitting that the last movie comes out all of two months after I graduated college. I wanted to share with you some of my favorite Harry Potter memories plot based and otherwise. I mean, how often is a book going to come around that's going to change the way a generation views the world?

I'm ten and sitting in my 5th grade class. I don't remember my teachers name. Maybe it's really 4th grade. This isn't the important part of the story. We don't have "reading time". These are Michigan Public Schools and they are far to busy slashing the budget, even then, for such frivolities but my unnamed teacher still sits down my class and starts reading Sorcerer's Stone. We're all vaguely aware that this is probably something cool but no one really knows what's happening. She only gets a couple of chapters in before the class descends into anarchy.  Actually now that I think about it I was probably  eight. 

I'm really ten this time and actually starting to enjoy this reading thing. Weird, right? I stay up all night reading these books I got for Christmas last year. I wasn't interested in them at the time but I'm bored and want something to read. I stay up all night finishing Sorcerer's Stone and then have to pretend I'm sleeping when my mom comes to wake me up for school.  The rest of the week goes by similarly, me reading the only three books that are out and being way to excited about them. 

I'm about to start high school and it's one of those weird transition  summers where nothing really seems right. Order of the Phoenix comes out. My mom goes to pick up my pre-ordered copy and wins a free one, too. I spend many a little league game reading "those books" and avoiding the parents that think that because Rowling's writing about magic we're all going to Hell. Sirius dies while I'm one of those uncomfortable folding chairs that parents bring to games. It's an ice cream day for my brothers team but and I start rereading Order in the shop. I mean I couldn't have read that right, right? Only minor characters like Cedric Diggory die. Sirius was to cool for that.

High school is surprisingly less sucky than all previous schools. It's the first time I'm actually friends with fellow readers, and more importantly fellow Harry Potter fans. My best friend and I stay up crazy late theorizing about who the Half Blood Prince could be, and then a year later making list after list of what the remaining Horcruex's could be, at least when we weren't talking about Snape's questionable goodness.  I don't remember if we were ever right with any of our predictions.

It's 2007 and I get up at six o'clock to get a wrist band. not just any wrist band. The wrist band that will hopefully get me Deathly Hallows before two in the morning. There are still 50 people ahead of me in line but I manage to squeeze into the "A's" and I impatiently wait the rest of the day to go to the release party. My whole group of friends sits around Barnes and Noble with fake wands looking at costumes and being generally excited. There is some weird scavenger hunt, but I've never been any good at those.  I get my book and am home before 2. I read until 5 when the excitement of the day and the fact that I got up at the crack of dawn to get a silly wrist band knocks me out. I get up again at 9 and read until I finish. I don't care if I'm the girl who loves spoilers, this time I'm avoiding them at all costs and the only way to do that is to finish Deathly Hallows before anyone else I know. It's a frenzied read, I've discovered that each of my rereads has been more enjoyable without the pressure of finishing a beloved series hanging at the end of each page. I cried through the entire battle, I hadn't bothered to take off my make up so by the time I'm mourning a Weasly it stings to keep both eyes open.  

I go to college, I make new friends, the one thing all of us completely agree on is how much we love Harry Potter. We have other things in common but this is a connecting thread. Which leads to tonight, another four years later with another one of my best friends re-watching Deathly Hallows Part 1 and the speeches the cast and Rowling gave at the London premiere. I'm way to excited to watch something that isn't Harry Potter related and I should probably paint my nails Russian Navy, after all, I'm a Ravenclaw at heart.  Mostly though I just want to send out a thank you to JK Rowling. My life would be so different if I hadn't discovered what a joy it could be to completely disappear inside a story. I think it was on her Oprah interview that she said the best compliment she ever received was the time a fan came up to her and said "you are my child hood." Well, ditto.  

I hope at least a few of you will be crying with me tomorrow night.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Authors I'd DIE to meet

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.
This weeks topic is:
Top Ten Authors I'd Die to Meet

1. JK Rowling - I'm sure she's on most peoples lists. I wouldn't even want her autograph or anything, just to thank her for my childhood and some of the best books I've ever read. Okay, maybe I'd ask her fro Rupert's number.

2. Jonathan Safran Foer - I absolutely love his books. I did get a chance to see him speak about Eating Animals but I didn't actually get to meet him. I'd still like the chance to say hi.

3. Stephen Fry - I know, not just an author but IT'S STEPHEN FRY. HE'S BRILLIANT AND AMAZING AND BRITISH AND ADORABLE AND I WANT TO MEET HIM. Okay, I'm done yelling.

4. Milan Kundera - I am such a fan of his work. Even though I am pretty sure he would be cranky and generally not fun to be around I would still want to meet him.

5. Jane Austen  - Yeah I like Jane Austen. She was a pretty awesome lady. I'd love to talk to her about her books and how progressive some of her female characters are. Maybe we could have tea and then go to a ball?

6. Charles Dickens - Yes, I'd meet Charles Dickens. Then I could punch him in the face. SMACK. Black eyes everywhere! Bloody nose! No Hard Times!

7. David Sedaris - He's so awesome and funny and adorable. I always look forward to his new story collections. He's be great to actually meet.

8. F. Scott Fitzgerald - I'd love to go back in time and have dinner with him and Zelda. Flappers, booze, the Lost Generation. Yes please. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Leaving Van Gogh - Wallace

Carol Wallace

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I saw that everyone has heard of Van Gogh, you know, that guy with the pretty sort of impressionist paintings who was missing part of his ear. You probably sited Starry Night as your favorite painting when you were little and didn't know other paintings existed (I did). Leaving Van Gogh is about the last year of Vincent's life. Told from the perspective of Van Gogh's physician - Dr. Gachet - Wallace captures the pain and the occasional joy that marks Vincent's in around the doctor and the work he's creating as well as providing an interesting look into the 19th century's mental health practices.

Leaving Van Gogh was your typical artsy historical fiction. It provided a good insight into his deteriorating mental state and created a very sympathetic character in Vincent. When he's on he's really on, creating art, having interesting conversations, flirting with young woman, the usual for an artistic mad man. It's this Vincent that makes the novel so haunting. He is so aware of the other part of him, the depressed part that has fits and scares people that when he's just a normal man he is so passive and apologetic. Wallace's portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh is definitely what make's this story.

While Vincent is an important character, it is Dr. Gachet who the story is actually about. We see everything through his eyes as he interacts with the Van Gogh family, works on his own art and tries to make a happy home for his children. With that said, Gachet's obsession with mental illness can detract from the story. As the novel progresses the reader finds themselves spending more and more time inside Gachet's memories of sanitariums and on his wife's fight with TB.  While these insights are interesting at the start, they become more self involved and less relevant as they take away from the present situation with Vincent. The main issue I found with these memories was that constantly changed the pace of the novel. Leaving Van Gogh started out as a quick, smooth read but around the half way mark I found myself shooting through the present day and struggling to get through the flash backs.

Overall Leaving Van Gogh is a good read, especially if you're interested in Van Gogh's art or the mental health system in the 1800's. At 288 pages it is a short and thought provoking summer read.