Monday, February 29, 2016

February #ShelfLove Update

This month's discussion topic is Book Significant Others and I'm afraid my answer is rather boring. Though I've encountered plenty of swoony characters, I don't really get into the whole bookish crush thing. Most of them already have a leading lady ::cough, cough:: Jamie Fraser ::cough, cough:: and it's the more the relationship I enjoy reading about than just the guy. So Claire can keep her man and I'll just keep on enjoying their romance from the sidelines.

Now, onto my #ShelfLove update...

I was on the fence about whether or not to count picture books for this challenge and have decided I will for a few reasons. First of all, there weren't that many unread ones from before 2016, so it's not like they will majorly inflate my progress. Secondly, I borrow SO MANY from the library, it's a good reminder to not keep passing over the few unread ones at home. And lastly, I made it one of my 2016 goals to read those stragglers at least once, so this is a good opportunity to make good on that goal.

On Goodreads, for rating/record-keeping purposes, I add children's books individually even if I am reading them from a collected volume. For this challenge though, I will just count the collected volume as one completed "book" from my shelves to keep things simple.

Picture Books
Jumbo's Jungle Colors
Llamas in Pajamas, by Russell Punter
Ten Playful Penguins, by Emily Ford
The Paddington Treasury, by Michael Bond
Mouse Cookies & More: A Treasury, by Laura Numeroff
Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury, by Arnold Lobel
Tomie DePaola's Mother Goose

Children's/Middle Grade
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
Winne-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne
When We Were Very Young, by A.A. Milne

Young Adult
The Winner's Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

The Year of Reading Dangerously, by Andy Miller
The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma

TOTAL: 13 books read from my shelves + a TON culled from my collection

In 2015, I only read a total of 20 TBR books for #ShelfLove the whole year, so I'm very happy with my progress thus far. Even if I didn't count the picture books, I think I'm still doing pretty well.

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How has your 2016 reading been going?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Classic Short Stories (and Poetry)

Selected Shorts: Edith Wharton
Publisher: Symphony Space
How did I get this book? borrowed from library

Selected Shorts: Poe!
Publisher: Symphony Space
How did I get this book? borrowed from library

I've been wanting to revive my Classics Club participation, so at the beginning of the year, I rewrote my list focusing mostly on children's classics. Those are still the classics I'm most excited about, especially now that I am a parent, but I've also been meaning to branch out and try more short stories and poetry. So when I was looking for audiobooks to borrow from the library in early January, I thought I'd try listening to some. And I'm glad I did! I am not the best at analyzing or interpreting literature and short forms are no exception, but listening is its own unique experience and it really worked for me.

I think I liked the Edith Wharton stories far better on audio than I would have reading them in print because the performances really enhanced the work. There were multiple narrators and the stories were read before a live audience. The audience wasn't intrusive, but sometimes their reactions reinforced my understanding of what I was hearing. Wharton is known as a keen observer of society and most of her observations are not flattering, but she is oh so good at it. I don't think I will continue on with her longer works, but these four stories (Mrs. Manstey's View, Roman Fever, The Reckoning, and Xingu) were a great introduction to give me a feel for her work.

I was a bit more familiar with Edgar Allen Poe before listening to this collection and his work is just as dark and creepy as I remember from high school. The stories (The Tell-Tale Heart, The Masque of the Red Death, The Cask of Amontillado, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Black Cat) could be a little hard for me to stomach at times, but I think that is just a sign that horror is really not my genre -- classic or not. The poems (The Raven, The Bells, and Annabel Lee) were so rhythmic that I found myself often getting lost in the words, but not necessarily understanding what was being said! I listened to some of them twice to really figure out what was going on and even pulled out my print collection a couple times for reference. I definitely don't think I will be seeking out more Poe, but I do think this was a great introduction to some of his most famous works.

Classics Club #8

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shelf Control #7: Brian Selznick

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Lisa of Bookshelf Fantasies where we each share a book from our shelves we'd like to read soon. I need a break from the new releases, so this is just perfect for me! Come on and join in :)

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It's been awhile! This week I'm actually going to share three books by the same author, Brian Selznick:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret


The Marvels

How I got thembought at my local indie bookstore

When I got them: November 2015 during their holiday sale

Why I want to read themI've actually just recently read The Invention of Hugo Cabret and it was great! I'd been intrigued by Selznick's mixing of text and illustrations in a full length novel ever since I first heard of it, and my first experience of his work did not disappoint. I'm really looking forward to diving into the other two soon!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Resetting My TBR

Back in September, I really started thinking about the unread books in my collection and decided I would hold myself accountable by posting my "starting" and "current" TBR numbers on my sidebar. Since then, I've been tempted to re-set that starting number as my current total started creeping up instead of down. I decided that was the opposite of holding myself accountable though and instead slowly worked on moving that number back in the right direction.

However, now that I've done a major clean-up of my shelves, I think is IS time for a re-set. There has been a huge jump down in my total (yippee!), but that is due largely to culling rather than reading. While I have been reading from my shelves more than in the past, I think chopping 85-ish books off my TBR gives me far too much of a "cushion" to really have a sense of my progress. So, as of today, my starting number will be 500 instead of my original 580. At one point it had crept above 600, so while 500 is still a very large number, I'm very glad it's not as high as it once was.

It felt so great to finally let go of some books to places where they can be put to better use, that I'm certain I will continue to cull more. But I've put a lot of time into this project and I think I need to take a bit of a breather and re-evaluate again later with fresh eyes. Admittedly, it was easier to pass on books I had already read, but by being more honest about how my tastes and interests have changed, I know there are even more TBR titles on my shelves destined to find new homes.

Apparently this is what progress looks like... Please feel free to have a good chuckle about that!

Empty spaces! No doubling up! No stacking above the rows!

I spy half an empty shelf!

Letting go of ARCs really lightened my nightstand!

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Thanks for following along with this little book-reduction project of mine! How many books are on your TBR list?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A New Year's Bookshelf Clean-Out + Where to Donate Books

Like many avid readers and book collectors, I've always been a little defensive of my overflowing shelves. No matter how well-meaning or innocent, I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to comments or questions about how many books I own, feeling the need to explain and justify my hobby. "There are worse addictions to have than my addiction to books!" is a phrase I have used many times. And I use the term addiction very loosely because true addiction is no laughing matter -- it's not like reading or books are ruining my life, relationships, or finances. Rather, books and reading enrich my life and bring considerable enjoyment to my days. Books are a joy to share with my young son, other family members, and friends, not to mention all the like-minded book nerds I've "met" through blogging.

I am so very fortunate to be educated and literate with access to a fantastic library system and the means to buy books as well. While I have gotten a little click-happy with ordering books online more times than I'd like to admit, I always feel good about supporting local book stores. I love browsing and discovering some hidden gem or interesting title I had never heard of before. The odds of this sort of serendipity occurring seems to increase if I'm in a used bookstore which just adds to the fun.

However, I recently realized (again!) that I no longer had any shelf space left. As Andy Miller wrote in The Year of Reading Dangerously, "I had confused 'art' with 'shopping'. Books, for instance. I had a lot of those. There they all were, on the shelves and on the floor, piled up by the bed and falling out of boxes." While my collection is fairly well contained, I couldn't help but see myself a little bit in Andy's observation. Book shopping is fun in its own way, but it doesn't hold a candle to the actual reading. That's the really fun part.

So what's a bookworm to do? Cull, cull, and cull some more. If you're looking for some ideas of where to send books, here's where this round of culling is headed:

1. Schools via Reach A Reader's ARCs Float On
Bloggers, check this program out! This is a great way to responsibly deal with review books you are done with or that are so far past their publication date that it's time to let them go. I chose to offer the teachers I contacted finished books as well since I have so many to pass on right now. Personally, I'd rather pay for media mail shipping and know my old ARCs are going someplace they are wanted, than to push them on local schools that aren't actively seeking out or willing to accept them. I contacted three different teachers, received prompt responses, and have been busily boxing everything up to get into the mail. If there is a teacher in the directory near you, you might even be able to drop them off. Reach A Reader also has many more resources listed here for additional donation options.

2. My grandmother's account at her local used bookstore 
I have an account there too, but seriously, I don't need any more credit than I already have! My grandmother shares an account with two of my aunts, so they often run out of credit. This particular store only takes paperbacks, so any books I didn't think would work for high schoolers, I have in a bag for the next time I visit. It obviously doesn't have to be your grandmother, but if you know someone with a trade account at a used bookstore, I'm sure they would appreciate a little bump to their balance if you have extra books to share.

3. My local used bookstore
This store takes hardcovers, so any of those that didn't seem like a good fit for a high school are going there. Mostly this has consisted of mid-life, middle age, finding-peace-after-divorce type of fiction -- which other than a familiar author name catching my eye, I don't even know why I even picked up these types of books and I'm considerably older than a high schooler! I don't send all my books here, but I do like supporting a small, independent business. 

4. My brother's girlfriend's mom
I found out she reads Nora Roberts and despite the fact that I used to read her books, I haven't picked any up in the past several years. My own mom has borrowed and read them all, so I'm glad others have and will enjoy them, but it's time for me to move on! It's definitely worth asking around if you want to share some excess books with friends and family.

5. Better Worlds Books donation bin in my library's parking lot
A handful of books I didn't think the schools or bookstores would want are going here. If they can't use the books in their online store, they get recycled, so this is often a last-ditch option for the odd stragglers I don't know what else to do with. See if there is a collection bin near you here.

SOME of the piles to be boxed up.

Some additional ideas:

1. Donate to a Little Free Library
A few months ago, I gave a friend a big pile for her Little Free Library, but I didn't want to overwhelm her with another avalanche of books. If you don't know anyone who runs a Little Free Library, you could start your own! Also, the whole premise of these libraries is "take a book, leave a book" so could always participate as a patron of any Little Free Library you come across. Search for one near you here.

2. Donate to a nursing home
Before I moved, I worked at a nursing home/rehabilitation center and we regularly received book donations to share with the patients and residents. I would recommend contacting them ahead of time to make sure they are willing to accept your books and have the space to store them, etc. You'd want to ask for the Recreation or Therapeutic Recreation (TR) Department.

3. Donate to a doctor's office or other organization
While I mostly think of magazines when it comes to waiting room donations, I know my son's pediatrician has a rack of picture books in every exam room. I haven't done this myself, but I'm sure when the time comes I could ask at the desk if they needed any additional books. If finding a local organization to share your books with is important to you (and you'd like to avoid shipping fees!), it can't hurt to ask! Call, email, or ask the next time you are visiting or nearby. Be aware they may decline your offer for various reasons (don't need any more books, don't want/need the types of books you are offering, don't have storage space, don't have anyone to sort/handle/distribute the donations, etc.), but you never know! If you inquire ahead of time, you give them the opportunity to evaluate whether or not they are willing and able to put your books to good use. Shelters, schools, after-school programs, day-care centers -- there a lot of options if you want to do some research.

4. Donate to a Library Book Sale
In my experience, a lot of libraries do NOT accept donations, unless they have a Friends of the Library group that coordinates book sale fundraisers. If your library does have a Friends group that runs these sales throughout the year, ask about how/where they accept donations. Some accept books year-round and others might have designated drop-off times or dates.

I feel like I was evaluating my collection pretty ruthlessly, pulling out well over 100 books, but I still have A LOT of books left in my house! So what the heck kinds of books are still on my shelves if I got rid of so many? I'm mostly keeping favorites, unread books I am still excited to read someday, and what I will loosely term "classics." That last category includes a LOT of children's books for various ages I'd like to share with my son as he gets older.

I am hoping this experience will help me to let go of books I'm done with more easily in the future and also be more mindful about future book purchases -- honing in on what is worth adding to (or keeping in) my collection versus what is just adding to the clutter. And let me tell you, knowing that so many of the books leaving my home would be going into classrooms made it SO much easier to let them go. That was my biggest lesson I think -- having a plan and knowing that any books I remove from my collection will be used and appreciated helped make my decisions about what to keep and what to give away so much easier.

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Have you ever done a major culling of your book collection? Do you have any other tips, tricks, or donation suggestions to share? Please tell us in the comments!