Thursday Quotables: The Sense of Style

quotation-marks4I’m currently reading The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker, after reading So Many Books’ review.

It’s incredibly interesting, but also a very slow read. I’m slowly digesting a page or two at a time. Some parts are revelatory, and others — like this one — are just plain funny:

Like an actor with wooden delivery, a writer who relies on canned verbal formulas will break the spell. This is the kind of writer who gets the ball rolling in his search for th eholy grail, but finds that it’sneither a magic bullet nor a slam dunk, so he rolls with the punches and lets the chips fall where they may while seeing the glass as half-full, which iseasier said than done.

Avoid cliches like the plague — it’s a no-brainer.

Thursday Quotables is a weekly event hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies!



Countdown to 2014’s Top Ten Books: Nonfiction

  As I work on my Top Ten list for 2014, I have some categories of books that may not make the top ten, but deserve special recognition anyway. Today’s category is nonfiction – a big category, I know, but here’s what I loved. (I have already reviewed most of these, so the links are to my blog posts instead of Goodreads).


5. Crafting: Rustic Modern Crochet by Yumiko Alexanderimagegatewoodwork

4. Faith: Still: Notes on a mid-faith crisis by Lauren Winner

3. Memoir: Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

2. Business: What Works for Women at Work by Joan C Williams

1. Memoir: My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff


Readers: What were your favorite nonfiction reads in 2014? 

I don’t think I like reading anymore.

“It’s not too bad. She just has to read fifteen minutes every day, and I sign off on her reading log.”

My friend was introducing me to the horrors of elementary education, 2014 style. In my area – please tell me this is only in my area – students have to read fifteen minutes EVERY NIGHT, and document it.

Even in elementary school, I was an avid reader. I’m sure most book bloggers can say the same. Do you remember those Scholastic catalogs? My mother refused to let me buy any of their books because I needed to spend more time outside. My favorite Saturday tradition was going to the used bookstore with my dad. And I’d read my parents’ entire library by the time I was sixteen.

Yet it only took those nine words, “She just has to read fifteen minutes every day”, for my inner eight year old to come up with this:

Maybe I don’t want to read fifteen minutes a day.
Maybe I don’t like reading so much after all.

Besides that, I can’t imagine any way to make reading more tedious than doing it in fifteen minute chunks. I didn’t read the rulebook, but it sounded like you couldn’t do a 1 hr 45 minute reading binge on Saturday and take care of the whole week. Fifteen minutes per day, because someone said that was good for you, like broccoli.


My friend didn’t disagree with my rant, but had a beautiful solution: “I have her read to her little sister. That way it’s fun, and everyone gets some book time.”

I have to know, readers: Do you — can you — read in fifteen minute chunks? And how does the idea of a daily requirement make you feel?

Photo courtesy thejbird via Flickr. license

The Pre-Bookshelf Project

After years of drooling over built-in bookshelves in books, blogs, and friends’ homes, we’re actually working on a bookshelf project for our living room.

Okay, it’s going to be an Ikea hack… but it still counts!

I’m most excited about moving – and organizing! – my books, which are currently crammed into a small bookshelf, two sets of cubes, and generally stacked up in random locations.image

It’s not time for that yet (more posts on bookshelf organization later!) but while we’re in planning and construction mode, I’d like to finish as many of my never-before-read books as possible. If my usual success rate is 25%, then I’ll be able to get rid of around 50 books before the big move.

Of course, I have to actually read the books first.

So what’s the best way to approach this problem?

  1. Follow my usual rule of “read the good books first” – keeping my reading speed up by staying enthusiastic
  2. Read the ones I think will be bad first, since DNFs take less time per book?
  3. Start with the ones that are wishlisted on, so that I can get them out of the house NOW?
  4. Start with the ones that are NOT wishlisted on, so that I can list them and start the FIFO wait?

Too many choices! So, for now, my reading shortlist is:

  • The Goldfinch – a library book that I need to finish in time for a book club meeting next week
  • The Masterharper of Pern by Anne McCaffrey – just because I am on a Pern kick. I guess that’s reason #1.
  • Bless the Bride by Rhys Bowen – reason #4, above, and a favorite author.
  • Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane – reason #3, above
  • What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson – because I want to give it to my sister in November.

That leaves 50+ unread books laying around the house!! Hopefully I can get to them soon. Readers, I’d love to hear your strategies for cleaning up a backlist.

Liebster Award!

One of my favorite book bloggers, A Book and A Quilt, nominated me for a Liebster award! What this means is that I get to answer a series of really  lovely writing prompts.


1. What is the first book you remember reading?

I Can Do It Myself. It’s all about the things that Ernie (of Sesame Street fame) can do by himself. The dramatic ending is: I can read this book! I can do it myself! I still love a good ending. Continue reading

Listening to Audiobooks: What Works

Audiobooks always seem like a great idea.

I spend many bored hours in the car every week, and I’m always looking for extra reading time. Audio should be a perfect fit. In practice, though, it’s really difficult to make the format work for me.


Challenges with Audiobooks:
  •  Pacing. I read much faster than the audiobook. How much faster? Think auctioneer, or the legalese at the end of a car commercial, or a hyperactive mouse. In comparison, audiobooks’ pacing seems slow to me. If a book has a natural slow spot – one that I could skim through when reading a book – that’s where I’m going to completely lose interest in the audio version.


    My current audiobook

  •  The first chapter. I am a canary for slow first chapters. I’ve been known to re-read the first few pages of a book several times before feeling pulled in. Before I get to that point, I often miss some really basic cues like setting or a major character. This problem is amplified for me in audio, and it’s much harder to re-scan a few paragraphs to catch up.
  •  Patience and Memory. I like instant gratification. When I really enjoy a book, I gobble it up in a couple of days, and in that time, the characters live with me even when I’m not reading. Listening to an 8 hour audiobook during stolen hours in the car means I’m taking 2-3 weeks to finish the whole thing. During that time, I’m probably also reading other books; I may lose interest, or get confused about some of the plot elements. Coming back to the middle of an audiobook after a long weekend can feel a lot like picking up a new release in a favorite series: you know you like it but you can’t remember exactly why.
What works for me:
  • Pick my genre carefully. Some translate better to audio than others. My favorite genres for audio are children’s books and YA. These books face similar issues to audiobooks: children need a fast moving plot. Plus, kidlit is just plain fun. What just does not work for me: big historical epics and literary fiction.
  •  Be mindful when I start a new audiobook. My least successful audiobook starts somehow also coincide with setting out for a 5 AM road trip on a busy interstate. Wait until you’re through that first cup of coffee, out of the city, and settling into a driving rhythm. Or, start your audiobook at home, maybe while cleaning or cooking – whatever is meditative for you.
  •  Set reasonable expectations. Someone out there must be listening to the 18 hour audiobooks, or they wouldn’t be published, but I limit mine to 8 hours. Another way to deal with length: start out listening, and finish reading. I’m not sure my local librarian likes it when I check out the audio AND print version of a book at the same time, but she hasn’t stopped me yet. (I’d love to hear some of my librarian readers weigh in on this issue…)
  •  And finally, have fun with it. I’ve used audiobooks as a way to screen books that I want to read in more depth. I can download 10 e-audio books at a time from my library. So if I have a 5 hour drive, I can listen to thirty minutes of each book and get a feel for which ones are worthy of my reading hours. It’s like entering my TBR pile in a reality show, where I get to read the winner.


Next time: My recommendations in audiobooks.

This post was inspired by a review from A Work In Progress.


Readers… How do you make audiobooks work for you? Do you have a favorite format?