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Reading

Top Ten Tuesday Books I Disliked, but I’m Glad I Read for Bragging Rights

  1. Les Misérables. Um, yeah, you can tell when authors are writing serials and don’t have enough talent or story to fill them. Sorry, Hugo, I don’t want to read 40 pages each about a minor characters, a Napoleonic battle with the only connection a piece of thievery, and the Paris sewer system. I would like more developed characters. Oh, I grant that the story is epic, but for all those pages, not much seems to be said, developed, or completed.
  2. Brother Karamazov. A bunch of absurd, disjointed, irrational, sanctimonious philosophizing. The pathos builds and then falls flat (there isn’t a death sentence for one thing, and I got bored for another). I liked Alyosha the best, but Dostoevsky had to spoil him with some incongruous preaching at the end. No real love story. No real tragedy. No real story. Tons of awful characters. I liked all the legitimate broters, but all the women they loved were . . . I’ll go with harpies, to put it mildly.
  3. Plato’s Apology. Something for school. Don’t remember a bit.
  4. The Aeneid. Ugh, and overrated and boring. Sorry Virgil, you are no Homer.
  5. The Great Gatsby. Overrated in the extreme.
  6. The Time Machine. Horror.
  7. Into the Wild. Something for school. Bizarre, poorly written, and depressing.
  8. Cloud’s by Aristophanes. Something for school. Don’t remember a bit.
  9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I was disturbed by the book (at the end) and by my reaction (I was so fooled for one thing) . . . probably more by my reaction.
  10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I liked this for the historical perspective, but I found most of the characters unlikeable, and the story featured some really freaky, vile episodes.

I’m linking up here for Top Ten Tuesday (late of course).

My Reading Systems

How I Find What to Read
o In the early stages I relied mainly on friends, family, pulling directly from shelves (VERY early), and homeschooling.

o Now, my main sources for fiction are other bloggers.

o My nonfiction is more of a mix; friends, websites (not usually bloggers), and my research.

o I’m not really an off-the-shelf reader because 1.) I almost always order my library books and 2.) I have trust issues. I don’t even always digitally pull off the shelf (although I do sometimes for nonfiction and reference); I always like to hop over to Amazon for a bit more information. I do think I need to try to pull off the shelves a bit more because I could be missing out on interesting books.

Managing My TBR List
o TBR lists can be huge, so I prefer mine to be digital. I want to collect every book that someone recommends, so that I don’t forget about it plus I want to follow my own inclinations.

o I’m trying to only use the library site as much as possible; I sorted my library list into categories, and I’m trying to discipline myself to hop right over there when a blogger mentions a book instead of bookmarking and prolonging the process.

o I still need to streamline my interlibrary loan list for those books that aren’t available at my library; I think this needs to be an Excel file.

o I have a re-read list in my reading journal because this tends to be small and re-reads are often impulsive.

Obtaining the Books
o I almost NEVER buy books unread. I’ve purged many books of my own that I have read because of the quality of the physical book. Books are expensive and space consuming, and I’m really picky, so it is essential that I borrow.

o I live in a different county from my preferred library, so I like to order lots of books, so that I have a ton of options to last me for a few months. I’m still trying to perfect my system.

o For books that I plan to read in their entirety, I aim for these four categories: dense fiction, light fiction, scholarly nonfiction, popular nonfiction. I’ve also been gathering a random assortment of books to peruse for reference (cookbooks, historical fiction, craft books, etc.).

o We have the option to suggest a purchase which I like to use.

o We have an interlibrary loan system which allows 3 requests per months. I think it is hit and miss, but I need to utilize it better.

How I Read
o I have started to put sticky notes with chapters/sections broken down onto dense books, so that I can break down the reading a bit at a time and feel accomplished (sometimes I am able to get into the rhythm/discipline of reading after doing a few chapters or sections).

o I am a slow reader but for me at least, I think this helps my comprehension because when I’ve sped through things, I’ve noticed that I don’t absorb the information well.

o I dislike e-books; I have a Kindle app on my laptop with multiple books. I’d like to read some of them, but I don’t find this method of reading easy or comfortable, and I don’t feel that I absorb the content as well which is the most important part!

o I usually read in bed, probably should get some better habits going.

Reading Notes
o I’m hit and miss on this; I’m trying to discipline myself. I have done everything from written on scrap paper to typed in a document to written in a notebook.

o I recently page-numbered and added a “Contents” section to my reading notebook; I want to make that an early stop for notes; I can draw from these notes for posts and expanded thoughts.

o I have copied some work that I had on scrap paper into my reading journal, but sometimes, I think I may need to use scraps when I want to write an organized piece on a larger scale.

o I’ve also tried to start writing brief thoughts on books about which I don’t have much interest in analyzing deeply, so I can type up my monthly summaries quicker. I need to work on the content of these better, so that I can give other people more information.

o I have a separate quote book for quotes which I’ve been trying to use more; I think a digital source might be better, so I can find favorites again quickly.

My Reading Habits and Stratagies

I’m came across this post on ways to read more in college, and it got me thinking about what I do or need to do in order to read. I want to go through the aforementioned list with my thoughts, and then write another post on a few more actions I take that help me personally.

~Read one book at a time
I think that this is a personal thing. I can find it difficult to be motivated to read one book at a time when that one book is dense. Some books are hard to slog through but are worth it. And some are a bit more like candy. I could definitely be more disciplined in my reading, but I still think that having a few books in different categories (e.g. dense fiction, light fiction, scholarly nonfiction, popular nonfiction) is a helpful way to read widely and deeply.

~Read what makes you happy
I think this only applies to the light fiction category. I “need” this category to pull me away from the Internet, to help me stick to reading, to de-stress, etc. I oftentimes have a hard time finding enough of these books though, and so I turn to my small favorite reads; I LOVED how Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas called this concept having a “literary medicine cabinet.” 

~Take your book with you everywhere
This is a great idea, but one I still need to implement more consistently. I also like to bring my knitting everywhere, so I can be a bit of a crazy bag lady.

~Use reading as an incentive
I think this is more personal too. Again, this is where the multiple books come in for me. I kind of use the light books as a help to reading the heavy ones. I sometimes read, knit, repeat. But I think that I prefer reading my fun books straight and this would make my work slide (if you haven’t noticed discipline is a problem for moi).

~Don’t force yourself to read
I GREATLY disagree with this for everyone;  I think everyone should be reading hard books and most people don’t find those easy. Additionally, I don’t expect to desire to read period, I have to exert discipline. I think that is for these reasons: psychological reading issues, habitual lack of disciple (e.g. laziness), and computer addiction (e.g. lack of self-control).

Fiction Analysis and More Bookish Links

I wanted to write out some of my thought process for choosing or rejecting fiction (it IS important to be able to know when you are wasting your time and brain; this blogger mentions her 40 page rule, I prefer a different way) and some questions to help me analyze the books (my review ability could use some improvement). Now, I’m more intuitive than clearly analytical in my thoughts, so I don’t think in this organized way, but I wanted to formulate a neat set of questions drawn from my thoughts on how to choose good fiction. I’m trying to utilize my reading notebook more effectively, so I wrote the questions and prompts in there.

  • Is the quality of the prose high?
  • Is the quality of the story high? Is it interesting?
  • Is the tone forced? Is the action manufactured? Is the drama manufactured? Does the emotion feel genuine? Try to pin point the “why” of your answers.
  • Is the immorality, language, violence, etc. gratuitous or cheaply shocking? What is the proportion of bad to good? What is the tone toward these issues? Is it sympathetic? Indifferent/amoral/blasé? Hostile? Are the issues implied/subtly handled or graphic and explicit? Are they excessive/essential to the story? Can you cut/cover them and have a good story?
  • Describe the plot, the situations, the characters, the moments. What do you like? What is the feeling and tone of the story? How do you know this?

Now for some bookish links.

Some literary holidays. I’ve filled my calendar with many of these, and I will probably have some posts on this.

A conversation between two of my favorite authors, Jeanne Birdsall and N.D. Wilson. Some really great words here, on the importance of beautiful prose (YES, YES, YES! The lack of this is a/the significant reason I despise much of modern grown-up novels), on depth in characterization, on deep treatment of themes, on magic and Americana (Natalie Lloyd does this too; I LOVE this). This is just an awesome discussion, can they have an online bookclub?!!!!!! Or podcast (I’m not into podcasts, but this would be one that I would WANT).

The Persistence of Print.

Improve your vocabulary. I was putting a list like this into an Excel file and realized I might have the opposite issue for some of these words; I use the big words when I’m frustrated and so they are exaggerated and not accurate. I added these words to the other list I found, some of them repeated or had different suggestions, and I’m not sure I agree with all of the choices.

These quotes can apply to reading as well (sometimes the mainstream “reader” community seriously annoys me and reading merely as a hobby and only reading fiction is one pet peeve).

Learning techniqueWhich led me to this channel.

National Library Week: Websites and Research

This should be my last post for National Library Week unless I do a round up. I only did a cursory exploration of my library’s site (and I haven’t looked at my town library for this week).

I’ve already listed some items essential for research under media, but I thought I needed another post for more items that didn’t exactly fit under any other category.

In addition to information for all the items I listed before, my library’s website also has

  • educator, parents, teen, and children’s pages
  • a Genealogy page (as well as archives at the main library)
  • a page of all sorts of Internet links
  • a page listing sites with free Internet classes
  • Treehouse accounts available to checkout
  • a library newsletter
  • a partnership with a self-publisher e-book site

What I Read in March

Re-Reads
The Elusive Pimpernel and El Dorado. The succinct version of my opinion of these is similar to the first, so you can check out my January reads for that. I could rant and rave about how little we get of Percy and how stupid and selfish Marguerite is and how much we have to endure her, but I won’t  . . . for now.

Freckles and The Girl of the Limberlost. These are sweet, but I still found a lot to irritate (no, really?!). I love the nature descriptions and some of the romance. I disliked some of behavior and especially the attitudes.

Dragon Slippers and Dragon Flight. I wanted something light and easy; I don’t enjoy these as much as I did at first though. Creel is really getting on my nerves.

Light Fiction
The Grave’s a Fine and Quiet Place. I am thankful the weird conspiratorial elements are left out of this one. I found it too gross. I enjoyed it well enough, but I thought the story overall was unsatisfying, simplistic, and incomplete. The humor (the best part) is still great.

Dense Fiction

The Brothers Karamazov. Well, this had the potential to be a really thrilling novel (if the author cut the excessive, absurd, and rambling sermons), but by the end everything fell flat. I think it is hard to key up a reader when the penalty is not the death penalty; there is less trauma, less believable pathos. Plus I was sick of just about everyone and the plot.

The Old Man and the Sea. Poignancy and pathos. Although the story dragged, yet Hemingway’s artistry kept me interested although I was fearing a sadder ending (I’ve read at least two of his short stories). Prose is what makes a real writer great, NOT a extravagant story line (which anyone can plot).

The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway is a great writer but wow, his characters are almost always horrid. I got the feeling of almost, if not definite ant-social disorders. Zero conscience, dispassionate/removed discussion of others feelings, using/abusing others (cruel, rapier taunting), little real feelings besides short bursts of manipulative anger are exhibited, those characters who are sensitive are portrayed as odd, caricatured, rather flat anomalies. Unbelievably crass womanizing lechery. Hard, constant drinking. (All this applies to the two short stories I read as well).

Popular Nonfiction
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. I wrote tons of notes on this, but I really didn’t get much out of it. I thought it over-complicated and gimmicky, maybe someone might find a concrete yet abstract plan helpful, I don’t. I also found much of the descriptions and word-choices to be poor and to add unnecessary distraction and confusion. I preferred what I culled from my interpersonal communication textbook (very specific yet simple points that everyone can use at anytime, e.g. “you” sentences are accusatory, “we” often are presumptive, deceitful, and manipulative).

Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World. I found this extremely useful; the world of the Pilgrims is explained to give a context to their actions and role in history. This type of history is my favorite, and in my opinion the most essential aspect of studying history because you cannot understand events without understanding the times. While this seemed well-researched, and I appreciate the over-arching idea, the organization, editing, and writing could have used work (hence the popular nonfiction categorization). I think far more footnotes and factual evidence is needed also. However, I think the good is well worth sloughing through all the bad.

National Library Week: Engaging the Community

I think I will put one more up because I can’t really group my last two lists together logically. This whole National Library Week series has been rather slip-shod, but it is supposed to be a starting point.

I’ve found various community events and library and reader support sections and activities listed on my library site including:

  • Political gatherings
  • Author meetings
  • Children’s events
  • Community events
  • Artist meetings
  • Book review blog
  • Book discussion kits
  • Book fund
  • Library book sales that support the library
  • Donating books to the library

National Library Week: Extra Services

Yeah, this is why I like scheduling. Because I usually don’t have the brains to do something on the spur of the moment, and I don’t have the energy/motivation when working. I got two posts in my series for National Library Week.

I looked at my calendar though, and I see there is another Library literary event later in the year, so hopefully, I can put more effort into that week . . . if I plan. I’m going to do a couple more quickie list posts even though the week ends today.

Anyhow, here are some community services I found my library offered:

  • Immigrant services
  • Bookmobiles for kids and adults
  • Book mail and others services for those with disabilities
  • On site computer classes
  • Test prep classes
  • A student/bus/library combination card
  • Tax filing help
  • Scholarships

National Library Week: Media

I want to do a post a day for National Library Week, but that is a bit of a stretch which is why this is so late.

Everyone knows much of the media available at libraries, but some of the types of media and some of ways we can access these media can be overlooked or underutilized.

I found my public library system to be in some respects as useful or more useful than my University library in college. Some of the books I needed could be obtained there. A local newspaper’s historical editions was available digitally at the public library while at the University available only on microfilm.

I loved discovering my library’s “Suggest a Purchase” option (often that means when you suggest a book, you automatically have it reserved); even some of my “obscure” books were purchased.

I’ve loved re-discovering interlibrary loans (need to pick that up; my interlibrary loan list is growing!).

I just noticed my libraries eMagazine button, I think it might be new.

If your library has more types or more formats of the same types, please share!

Books:

  • paper (with options to suggest a purchase and to request an interlibrary loan from libraries all across the nation!)
  • eBooks
  • audiobooks in three formats (C.D.’s, Playaways, and digital)

Newspapers:

  • paper
  • digital
  • digitally scanned historical

Periodicals:

  • journals
  • online journal databases
  • magazines
  • eMagazines

Audio-visual

  • movies on D.V.D.’s (mine has a FAR better selection than Netflix)
  • (your library may have; mine doesn’t but maybe in the future) digital streaming through Kanopy
  • music on C.D.’s
  • digital music
  • sheet music

Lectures

  • D.V.D and C.D. courses (e.g. The Great Courses)
  • links to tons of sites with free lectures

National Library Week

Modern Mrs. Darcy linked up to a literary holiday list which sent me off to find a more full list (here) which I used to fill out my calendar. I wanted to do some posts on this, and I’ve wanted to utilize my library system better; I’ve been slowly discovering more and more services, but this has only been recently even though I’ve had access to this library for ages. So, I’m going to do a series of posts on my library system.

My library history:

I grew up in an idyllic “small-town” city. The population when we left was between six to eight thousand (it is a little over eight now). I think we had three decent sized libraries in our library system, and we used two of these. We left right around when the library started switching to computers, I think, maybe? Anyway, these libraries had plenty of books for children, tweens, and young teens plus a nice interlibrary loan capacity. I wasn’t an adult when we used this system, so I don’t know how it would feel now.

We then moved to the suburbs of the largest city in our state for two years. This city is not in but is close to the top 20 most populous in the U.S. (although swallowing farms, suburbs, and small towns to increase city limits is an interesting way to increase size). We lived less than 10 minutes from two of the eighteen libraries in this system although we only used one then (I think there may have been a few less then, but there have been more in the past). This is a Carnegie library system (! I just found this out recently; so cool). I was still too young and limited (we really did not have much computer knowledge then) to fully appreciate everything this system had plus I was in my reading mental drama period.

Then we moved to our current location, a “city” of well under 2,000. This library system was a shock; one tiny, tiny library with a scarily small parking lot (lots of driving fear here) with no funds for many interlibrary loans; the library has recently massively increased in size although not in content. This is NOT the library I mention when talking of my library, but I do want to include it in this week, and I want to set a week or a month to see how much I can find to read there.

I live in a commuter county next to the city I used to live in. I work, visit, and shop in the outer suburbs of the city which takes 20-40 minutes depending on where I go, the route I take, etc. I’ve only ever driven downtown once in my entire life (although I’ve been more than once, but not often), and that took almost a decade of driving to accomplish (but I need to drive downtown at least a couple more times to get to the historic main library with all the archives and such! Maybe next year for library week?). I bring my pay-stub to show I pay taxes (because of work), so I can get a library card. If I didn’t work in the city, I could (and would) pay a fee. If you live outside a big city, I suggest you see if you have similar options.

I just like going over memories and trying to put everything in context. The public library system was a huge part of my childhood, especially since I was home-schooled.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I liked That Were In Non-Favorite/Disliked Books

I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday.

1. Murder Must Advertise (I love Lord Peter but dislike most of the short stories; some are the most disturbing murder mysteries I’ve ever read)
2. Austenland (I think I liked the main guy [I liked him in the movie, so maybe this is cheating] but the descriptions were so gross)
3. Twilight series (I liked Jacob but have a like/shame relationship with the books)
4. I Will Repay (I liked the Scarlet Pimpernel, but I think this is one when he plays a significant shadow role)
5. Eragon (Murtagh)
6. House of Many Ways (I don’t like the Howl’s Moving Castle sequels, but I loved Howl)
7. The Sign of Four (I disliked this but I like Sherlock Holmes)
8. The Inheritance (this is cheated a bit, but I disliked the overwrought novel but loved the movie and all the characters therein)
9. Anne of Ingleside (the most boring Anne books, but I like most of the main characters . . . in the other books)
10. The Hunger Games trilogy (I have a like/hate relationship with the books, but I like Finnick and Peeta)

Little Women Blog Party Tag

I’m joining Molly Rebekah’s A Ramble Through the Woods Little Women blog party; Abby from Lavender Spring is her co-host. I think the focus is mainly on the 1994 film version, so that is how I will be answering the tag questions (also, I strongly advise listening to the soundtrack Molly uploaded whilst answering the questions). I’m a glutton for punishment; Jo and Laurie’s ending is one of the most devastating storylines in literature.

1.) Is there anything from the book that you wish were in the movie?
Well, I wish nothing had been changed (that I liked; I would totally be okay with the directors putting Laurie and Jo together). The John and Meg proposal scene is one of my favorite proposals in literature. I love the chapter “Secrets” and the ensuing results (note: the Anne of Avonlea movie plagiarizes part of this chapter as well as other parts of Little Women; I’ve been meaning to go into that into more detail, and I even purchased the screenplay just for that purpose . . . one day, one day).

2.) If you could change one point of the plot, which would it be?
I think we all know my answer to this one. Jo and Laurie. I think I need to re-read and devote an entire post to this.

3.) In Chapter 13, the March sisters and Laurie talk about “Castles in the Air,” basically their unrealistic but lovely hopes and dreams. What is your castle in the air?
I’m pretty sure mine is basically like Meg’s.

4.) What would you most like to see in a new adaptation of Little Women, whether in book or film? Any specific actors, setting, or time period changes?
An accurate portrayal with actors and actresses the CORRECT ages (most of those girls looked way too old or weren’t even girls anymore). I would prefer better costumes, they were very underwhelming.

5.) What is your favorite dress from the movie?
The peach one Amy wears when she gets her letter about Beth. This one; I cannot for the life of me find a better photo that shows the lovely skirt. I also love her hair style.

6.) Which March sister(s) do you relate to most?
I’m probably like all of them, except Beth. I have Jo’s temperament with Meg’s domesticity and wishes and Amy’s taste and some of her wishes.

7.) Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Little Women?
I like parts of 90’s film (music and Laurie) and part of the 30’s one (most accurate John and Meg proposal scene).

8.) What is your favorite quote from Little Women? (Movie quotes count!)
Hard to pick and I’m too lazy to get out of bed, walk two steps and grab the book, and peruse it. So I will grab a light one from Goodreads and hope it is accurately quoted.

“Jo’s nineteen hair-pins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!”

9.) Do you have a favorite scene from Little Women?
I’m going to go by book “scenes.” The proposal as before mentioned; the whole saga of Jo submitting her story/Laurie’s secret as before mentioned; the picnic . . . yeah the book is better.

10.) Aside from the March sisters, who is your favorite character from the story?
Um, LAURIE!!!!!!! I do like John Brooke in the book though, the movie doesn’t get him at all right.