Rediscover yourself?

I’m (slowly) reading Michael Harris’ Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World. It’s about the benefits of embracing solitude and how difficult that can be in Western society. It’s quite interesting and I’ve highlighted enough quotes and ideas to fill my blog for weeks, but, right now, I just want to focus on one:

I don’t want to run away from the world – I want to rediscover myself in it.

I think that a lot of people (especially some of the more social people I know) assume that solitude and loneliness are the same thing. When I tell people that I like a bit (a lot) of solitude in my life, they immediately start worrying about me being lonely or telling me that I am lonely. But, solitude isn’t about being lonely and some people love having time to themselves, even if it’s just a few minutes. Solitude isn’t about not having friends or family, not feeling connected to your community, or not being able to spend time with people when you feel like being social. Solitude is about taking some time for yourself. It’s about ignoring your phone (calls, emails, text messages, social media, etc.) for a little  while. It’s about letting your mind be blank or letting it wander off into those dusty corners you rarely visit. It’s about letting the sound of the rain, wind, crickets, birds, river, orchestra, etc. be the only thing you focus on for a little while. It’s about taking time to reconnect with yourself.

I think that this line from the book resonated with me because I was (and still am) on that journey, but I haven’t yet found the path I need and I’m still worried that others will think that my willingness to disconnect, declutter, and simplify are an attempt to run away. All of the changes I’ve made in my life these past few years were just my attempts to find my path and get back to solid ground.

Taking time for myself – whether it was early morning walks, time to sketch, or my new digital free Sundays – is just a way for me to get to know me. And, instead of disconnecting me from my community, it’s actually been making me feel more inclined to participate with my community. Instead of feeling heavy with the stress of what I was trying to make my life into, I’m feeling relaxed with the not-normal-but-works-for-me life that I’m working towards.

I know that I sometimes make finding time for solitude sound grand and easy, but it’s not. Certainly, it’s easier for someone like me who likes to take time for myself and let my mind wander, but I’m sure this sounds like a nightmare for many of my extroverted friends. Nonetheless, I would encourage everyone to find a few minutes here or there to be alone with your thoughts. Maybe that’s just stopping for a few breaths in a park on your way to work, taking the dog for a walk without your phone, sitting quietly with a loved one for a cup of tea, or meditating. The key is to take some time without distractions – no phone, no radio, no TV, no chatter from your BFF who had the most ridiculously awesome gossip. Those things can come later.

Try it, and maybe you’ll rediscover something about yourself.

Re-reading books

The most recent Lit Chat with Lauren and the Books (#3) had Simon of Savidge Reads as a guest, which was delightful because he’s delightful. They had a lovely chat about the questions, which were: Do you re-read books? Why or why not? Are there any specific titles you go back to regularly? What makes you go back to them?

Up until recently, I would have said a very firm “HELL, NO! … … … Except for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

It’s not that I’ve never re-read books. When I was a kid, I re-read picture books over and over and over again. And, when I was still convinced that I wasn’t a reader (i.e., having a hard time finding new books I wanted to read), I re-read a number of favourite books from when I was younger. I’ve re-read a number of Diana Wynne Jones, CS Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, maybe a Janet Lunn, and several Terry Pratchett books.

But, on the whole, I’ve always been really against re-reading books. I couldn’t understand why so many people re-read books or (shock! horror!) re-read them annually! Of course, I also liked to pretend that I never re-read books. All the times I read/listened to/watched all the variations of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy apparently didn’t count. Nor did the fact that I have been slowly (very slowly) working on listening to all the Terry Pratchett Discworld books, even the ones I’d already read. And, as I started trying to remember books I’ve read in the past, I realized that I’ve also re-read (and would not say no to re-reading again) a number of favourite series from my childhood: The Chronicles of Narnia, the Time Quintet series, and the Chrestomanci series.

Then, Sara Baume happened to me. Almost as soon as I finished reading A Line Made by Walking, I knew I was going to re-read it. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that I really wanted to re-read. 

But, I “never” re-read books! No. Not me!

I have two main issues with re-reading books: there are lots of other books for me to read and I’m afraid that I won’t enjoy them the second time around.

The time factor is easily dealt with by finding audiobooks. I listen to audiobooks when I commute and sometimes when I’m doing chores, so I can easily listen to a couple of books a month and sometimes it’s nice to listen to something that I don’t need to focus on or that’s fun.

The enjoyment factor can’t be helped. We all grow, change, and evolve, so we won’t necessarily like a book that we loved 10 years ago, or even 2 years ago. Does that mean that we should avoid re-reading any books? Clearly not. We just need to go in with an open mind, cleared expectations, and the knowledge that we might not love it the second time. And, if you find that I you don’t love, or even that you hate it, that’s OK. It just means that you can make room for new favourites.

I re-read The Martian Chronicles last year. It wasn’t was life changing as it had been when I first read it, but it was still good and I don’t regret re-reading it. If anything, I’m sort of glad that I’m able to let go of the curiosity about whether re-reading it would be a good idea or a bad idea.

Do you re-read books?

I already own this #book, but I really love this cover #art - Martian Chronicles, by #raybradbury

This post was inspired by Lauren from Lauren and the Books (YouTube) who recently started a series where she’s answering questions from Lit Chat : Conversation Starters about Books and Life by Book Riot, which you can buy via her affiliate link or via pretty much any book story (ask your local book shop for it!).

What’s your favourite book?

I have never once been able to answer this question with any ease. Even on those rare occasions when I can name a singular book, it usually comes with stipulations: favourite book at the moment, favourite book in a specific genre, favourite book in particular mood, etc. I don’t have a favourite book. I don’t think I’ve ever had a favourite book.

Heck, I don’t even think I have a favourite genre. I used to think I did (fantasy), but I’ve been trying to expand my horizons in the past couple of years, and I really enjoy a number of genres. I suppose if I had to pick, I’d probably pick fantasy (especially magical realism) or literary fiction, as most of my top rated books fall into those genres. I like books that feel magical. They don’t have to have, or even hint at, actual magic, but they have to feel magical: a special sort of bond between friends, evocative writing, a hint of mystery, a quiet beauty overlaying the story, etc. I also enjoy quiet books, books with wit, books that celebrate people with flaws and fears, books that echo their antagonists personality, or books that don’t rely on an epic climax or conclusion.

But, how does one pick a favourite book? How does one even pick a favourite author?

I have authors who have been instrumental in my reading life: Margaret Atwood for writing books that gave me new insight into what stories can be, Ray Bradbury for charming me with his writing style, Terry Pratchett for writing books that I can read or listen to even when I’m grumpier than the hounds of hell, Graham Oakley for showing me that kids books can have both humour and detailed art, JonArno Lawson and Shaun Tan for showing me that books don’t need words, Neil Gaimen for igniting my imagination, Catherynne M. Valente  for enchanting me with her imagination, John Scalzi for writing complex but accessible SciFi that doesn’t make me (a woman) feel like an outsider, etc.

All of these authors have taught me something and given me a great deal through their books, but I wouldn’t call them favourites. I don’t/haven’t read all their books, nor have I loved all of the books that I’ve read by them. Admittedly, I used to think that Atwood was my favourite author, but I’ve found other authors and books that speak to my inner Canadian wilderness:  Jocelyne Saucier, Jesse Ruddock, and Heather O’Neill come to mind.

In a way, I’ve always been a little envious of the people who have a favourite book (or two). I feel like there must be a great deal of comfort in knowing that you can always turn to that book and enjoy it.

That said, not having a favourite gives me a bit of freedom and flexibility, because I don’t have to worry about being crushed if I meet someone who hates it or find out that the author have opinions that I find very problematic.

Where do you sit on the matter? Do you have a favourite book, author or genre?

This post was inspired by Lauren from Lauren and the Books (YouTube) who recently started a series where she’s answering questions from Lit Chat : Conversation Starters about Books and Life by Book Riot, which you can buy via her affiliate link or via pretty much any book story (ask your local book shop for it!).

Some of my old books have pretty trippy covers. Love them! #RayBradbury #books

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Get a hold of your shelf update

Oh, hey. I had a fully successful month, with regards to the #getaholdofyourshelf challenge, which was kind of nice.

May’s challenge was to read the shortest book, so I read several. I pulled three short books and added a short book that I’d already partially read. And, I finished all of them!

For June, my challenge is twofold because I finally picked one of my audiobook challenges, which means that I have to listen to one of my Audible audiobooks that I’ve been ignoring. The overall challenge is book with the best title.

I started Lullabies for Little Criminals on my way to work on the 1st and I’m loving it. I probably won’t start the others until a little later in the month as I just got a mass dump of very popular books from the library (I won’t be able to renew them and returning them un-read will mean having to wait weeks before I can get them again). While I want to read them both, I’m mostly excited for The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

Reading update, May 2017

I started May with almost 70 hours of audiobooks from the library. That’s a daunting number, even for an audiobook enthusiast who listens at about 1.5 speed. Thankfully, I returned one of the longer ones almost immediately because the production quality was poor (and the library had a print copy).

All those audiobooks meant that I didn’t finish my Novel Editions book in time for the book club discussion. I was surprised by how disappointed I was about missing it. Despite this disappointment, it was a good reading month. I completed my #getaholdofyourshelf challenge (for once!), finished last month’s #getaholdofmyshelf pick, and participated in the Savvy Reader readathon.

The readathon was part of the 50 book pledge challenge. I signed up for it for reasons … I honestly can’t remember why. It seems a little pointless as I already have a personal challenge on Goodreads, but I’ve been really enjoying it. We get little badges at milestones and for reading specific books or authors, the online community (especially on Twitter) is quite active and supportive, and the people running it are oozing with enthusiasm. Best of all, it’s based in Canada, which is a nice treat for us Canadians.

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What I read:

Get a Hold of My Shelf update

I bought about a million times more new books in April than I read (slight exaggeration). Emma, who started #getaholdofmyshelf, is trying to keep her books balanced (only acquiring as many as she reads). If I was doing the same thing, I’d be screwed.

I’m not sure if all the buying was because of all the fabulous new publications, or just because I was getting tired of winter and using books to make myself feel better. Probably both!

Regardless of the reason, my TBR (to be read) pile is expanding instead of shrinking. Also, in April, almost all the books I read were audiobooks or books that weren’t on my TBR shelf (i.e., mostly from the library).

I don’t mind having a decent TBR pile, but I find it overwhelming when it’s too big. Personally, I like have a dozen or so books sitting around waiting for me to read them so that I always have a few options when I’m in a slump or randomly find that I’ve finished all my library books. Unfortunately, my pile is at least twice what I’m comfortable with and I want to read every single last book, so I won’t be getting rid of any.

Anyway, the challenge … In April, the challenge was to read the book I had been most excited to get when I bought it:

As much as I wanted to read these two books, I just got stalled and I’ve been having trouble finding the time to read. April was busy, I guess.

My May challenge is the one that I’ve been desperately hoping for these past three months:

May challenge: The shortest books.

Thank you bookish gods! I have a number of books I can choose from, several of which I bought recently and desperately want to dive into. I allowed myself to first pick from the non-poetry books because I would otherwise be reading nothing but poetry all month. I love poetry, but I have some short, non-poetry books that I really want to sink my teeth in.

I ended up pulling three books, because I couldn’t pick just two. And, I’ll use this as an excuse to finish a short-ish book that I started in March.

My #getaholdofyourshelf books for the month. For May, I picked shortest book, so I pulled 3 and then decided to add The Children's Home, which I've already started.  I sort of cheated because all my shortest books are poetry books, but I really want to re

Reading update, April 2017

April was a slow start for me, in terms of reading. Most books were finished in a mad rush in the last half of the month. And, most books were also audiobooks. It was just one of those months: I was busy for the first week or so, overwhelmed by all the reserved library books that were suddenly available (mostly audiobooks), and just completely off my usual schedule. On the bright side, most of the books I read were fascinating, thought provoking, and/or excellent.

My one disappointment was that I didn’t read nearly as much poetry as I had hoped. April is National Poetry Month in Canada (and the US) and I wanted to make my way through most, if not all, of the poetry books I had on my shelf. In the end, I only managed to get through two. Both were fairly dense and took me longer to get through than usual, but, mostly, I just had too many other books on my plate. I think that I’ll try to read a couple more poetry books in May, but probably I’ll go back to reading one poetry book per month.

It feels a bit like cheating to have “read” so many books that were actually read to me. But, 5 of the audiobooks I finished were ones that I’d put on hold weeks ago. I just had the bad luck to have them all come in a steady stream over the month (and, in fact, I’m currently trying to plow through 3 long ones that all arrived within the last couple days of the April – “reading” things quickly is hard when you’re interested in the story). Each of these books were read while walking to and from work, eating my lunch, mindlessly doing dishes, and even (on the rare occasion) just sitting in my reading chair enjoying the rare bit of sun we’ve had over the last few weeks.

I’ll be interested to see how many audiobooks I get through in the coming months. Spring is (finally) in town and that means that I’ll start taking the longer routes home more and more often. In addition to this, my office is moving further away from home. My walk will be about double what it is right now. While I sometimes choose to listen to music or nothing at all (especially when I’m in the quieter, bird-filled parts of my walk), I typically listen to audiobooks on my commute. Also, with the longer commute, I’ll be losing a bit more of my free time after work, which means that I’ll have less time to read physical books each day. It’s a good thing my library has a great collection of audiobooks!

That’s all, for now. I hope you all had a lovely April.

I’ll post a #getaholdofyourshelf challenge update in the next day or so.

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This is what I read:

Novel Editions – book box subscription

This is not sponsored. I just like Novel Editions.

Book boxes are bookish mail, which is awesome, but they’re also a great way to discover books, genres, and authors you might otherwise disregard. Many book boxes also include a few token gifts related to the books or the box’s theme. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find ones that are Canadian. Doubly so, if you’re looking for general fiction (YA seems to be the most popular book box genre).

There are a number of US and UK based subscriptions boxes, but given the value of our loonie these days, they’re not worth the cost, even before adding shipping. Thankfully, I found a Canadian adult fiction book subscription service: Novel Editions.

Novel Editions, which is run by Alex, has monthly themes, a book or two, and a few small gifts related to the theme or book. Alex also hosts a monthly online book discussion, which is relaxed and casual (you’re not expected to have studied the book – it’s just friendly chit-chat). The book group Facebook page is also open to other bookish chit-chat at any time.

Here are the books (and my thoughts) since I started my subscription:

January

As soon as I read the book summary, I was worried – it didn’t sound like the kind of book that I usually pick up. But, despite a slow start and a lot of unanswered questions (clearly, there’s a sequel coming), it was a fun and interesting female centered adventure. The gifts were very apt: tea, lavender and bubble bath (tea, herbs and potions – all relevant to the novel).

I talk more about it in my book review.

February

I was a little disappointed with February’s box, but only because I didn’t feel that the books weren’t great choices – one didn’t match the theme very well and the other was by an author with dubious claims to indigenous heritage (someone whose work I’m currently avoiding). That said, they’re both excellent books and I’m glad they were shared with so many readers.

I wrote about The Break twice: in a reading update and in a stand-alone review.

March

This book started out great, but I was really annoyed with it fairly quickly. Despite this, I don’t regret reading it because it’s an interesting concept and quite suspenseful. But, to be honest, the only reasons I didn’t quit the book was because of the book club.

You can read my review to get the full scope of my annoyance.

April

I’m very excited about this book. I discovered Andrew Wyeth by accident last year and I love his paintings (especially his paintings of windows). I coincidentally bought a used book of his art a few weeks ago and the cashier mentioned this book. A couple days later, Alex gave us a hint about April’s book and I was very excited about the possibility that it was the same book. I’ve been eagerly waiting for the box ever since, hoping that my guess was correct. I haven’t started it yet, but it’s on the top of my pile.

This month’s box also had my favourite set of gifts (honey, lavender linen spray and some wooden plant markers).

I’ve only been subscribed for a couple months, but I’m really enjoying the boxes and book club. The variety of books have been really good and, so far, they’ve all been good reads or good fuel for discussion. Also, this has been a great way to expand my reading – half of the books are ones that I would never have picked for myself (much more, if you look back to the month’s prior to when I started my subscription). And, while I didn’t enjoy March’s book, I did go looking for other mysteries or thrillers to read (including a great one by Louise Penny, A Great Reckoning) because it was a good reminder of how much fun it can be to read mysteries and thrillers.

Do you subscribe to a book box? Do you know of any good Canadian ones I should check out? Or, does your local book store provide a similar service? (I wish mine did!)

From YouTube: Not A “Proper” Reader?

In her video Not a “Proper” Reader?Ariel Bissett talks about being a “proper” reader. Her comments are specific to public readers (book bloggers, booktubers, reviewers, etc.) and the expectations relating to how much they should read, but they’re valid to everyone. It doesn’t matter how much others read. Just read. It doesn’t matter which books or genres you enjoy. Just read.  It doesn’t matter if you mostly read magazines or comics. Just read.

… if you only manage to read one book this month … nobody cares! It doesn’t matter! Did you enjoy the book? That’s a more important question.

As someone who used to struggle with the label “reader” and with the idea of keeping up with others, this is a really important topic for me. I wrote about it last year in my post On quitting books and I will write about it a hundred thousand times more if I need to – you do not need to conform with what society, media, or anyone tells you. Find what you love and enjoy it.

Reading project: CBC’s 100 novels

Did you know that CBC is more than just a news site? They have a whole section on books and it’s a good resource for Canadian content (books, authors, bookish news, etc.). They host Canada Reads and they have many lists with a plethora of themes. Several of the lists focus on CanLit (Canadian Literature). For example, the 100 Novels That Make You Proud to be Canadian list. It’s a very interesting collection, including a little bit of everything: Essex County (graphic novel), The Handmaid’s Tale, Monkey Beach, and even Bear (yes, the Bear that got a lot of buzz because of its racy bear-ish content).

I’ve only read 11 off the current list, but I’ve been meaning to read more of them. Not all of them – for example, I still haven’t gotten over how much I hated the last Mordecai  Richler book I read (over 20 years ago!), so I’m unlikely to read another.

If I dedicated myself, I could probably get them all read (or, at least started) within a year or so, but I don’t want to let them get in the way of new books or other reading challenges that I’ve given myself. Every so often, I’ll check the list again. And, if I’m ever feeling super patriotic, I might even dedicate a whole month to reading a few books off the list.

The goal isn’t to finish them all, but to try most of them. As mentioned on this blog many times, I refuse to force my way through a book.

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Side note: If you took a peak at the list, you’ll notice that Anne of Green Gables is missing. For some, this omission is sacrilege. But, fear not, they included it on their YA list, 100 Young Adult Books That Make You Proud to be Canadian.