Monday, January 21, 2019

how I read

This is probably a pretty niche post, but two of my favorite bookish friends recently blogged based on this prompt and I found it fascinating and wanted to play along! If you're a reader, I recommend following Natasha and Allena's blogs, as they are both BIG readers (as in 100+ books last year for each of them!!!) and I get lots of inspiration/book recommendations from their blogs and social media reviews. 

So the topic prompt is How I Read- which, like I said, is possibly of interest to only about a dozen people in the entire world. If I promise to throw in some pictures of Millie, maybe about three more folks might keep reading? I promise. Look, here's a down payment.

Like Allen and Natasha, I'll break down the topic into a few sub-sections:
  •  How I get my books 
  •  Where and When I read
  •  What I read
And I'll also start with a disclaimer: I'm a really fast reader. I'm not a certified speed reader or anything (is there a certificate for that?? Haha), but I'd estimate that compared to my peers in school growing up, in college, and coworkers for the 13 years of my 'professional' life, I read faster than almost everyone. I have not had a head-to-head competition with my friends in book club, so I'm not making any claims that I read faster than fellow prolific readers...just the 'general public.' I say that just to explain that one thing that enables me to read a lot of books (relatively) is that when I do read, I cover ground fast.


How I Get my Books

First of all: I rarely pay any actual money for a book of any kind (ebook or physical). I VERY RARELY ever re-read stuff, so buying books doesn't much appeal to me. I generally only buy a book if I think it's something I'll want to loan out to friends a lot, or if it's something impossibly popular that I can't get at the library for ages, or if I'm going to an author event/book signing and feel pressured into buying it (or it's free with ticket purchase) haha. Occasionally if I find a Kindle book I want (and can't readily get at the library) for super cheap (like $3 or less) I'll buy it. But for the most part, I'm 100% a library gal.

(As my book club friends would be quick to point out- it isn't that I don't spend money on books. I just don't spend money on books at bookstores. If we were to add up the amount I spend in library fines each year, though, you would find that I am actually QUITE a generous supporter of the arts!!!)

I go through phases of being a big Kindle reader (either on my physical Kindle or on the Kindle app on my phone) and being a mainly physical book reader. For the last few years, I'd estimate I did most of my reading electronically because my library's ebook loan system was fantastic. They used Overdrive and had a fantastic selection- I was constantly reading everything on my Kindle or phone. But last fall our library changed over to RB Digital and now I read NOTHING on my Kindle. It's devastating. The main issue is that RB Digital doesn't actually work on Kindle Paperwhites, device is useless. I could still read on my phone via the RB Digital app, but I haven't yet. I just haven't had the energy to learn a new library ebook system. It's a lot, guys. And my library makes it so easy to just get whatever I want in physical format, I haven't felt up to learning the new ebook system.

The reason I love reading on my Kindle or phone: IT'S SO CONVENIENT. I can keep my Kindle in my purse, and my phone is basically adhered to my body, so I am never without a book. I can get in so much extra reading time just waiting in lines, killing the last 15 minutes of my lunch break at work, etc. If I'm in the middle of an ebook, then all the time I would normally waste on Instagram or Facebook is immediately diverted to reading. Also, reading on my Kindle or phone is physically so much easier than reading a library book. I know, I am like 100 years old and infirm, but seriously. I read mostly giant novels, and then if it's from the library, it's usually hardback, and like...heavy and awkward. I can't throw it in my purse unless I want to spend the next year in physical therapy. And although I'm not ashamed to show up to dance class with a frigging giant book in hand...sometimes I just literally don't have enough hands available to also carry a tome. I mean, I'm a Suburban Mom. I have my purse, Millie's dance bag (and maybe jacket that she refuses to wear, and probably her water bottle, oh and usually HER because clearly she is an infant and can't walk), MY water/coffee/bev of choice, my phone (prob won't fit in my overstuffed purse), my jacket...what I need is a shopping cart. Or just to have my books be electronic. :)

But alas, nowadays I'm reading mostly NOT electronically. The Georgia library system makes it lovely and painless to put books on hold, and delivers them from anywhere in the state right to the front desk of your chosen library, so that's mostly what I do. I almost never actually go to the library and hunt for a book...I just go online a few times a week, add everything new on my TBR list to my holds list, and wait to get the glorious email informing me that I have books ready to pick up! (Please note that the library stops letting you put books on hold once you accumulate $10 in fines, which is how I am forced into paying off my debts to society...)

Where and When I Read

As I've already mentioned...if it's an electronic book, I'm reading it all the time. But most of my dedicated reading time is at night. I work full time, plus I have a high-energy, attention-hungry Millie to devote my pre- and post-work hours to, so I don't usually have much uninterrupted time to read during the day. Once she hits the sack,'s on. She goes to bed at 8:30. I'd estimate I'm usually camped out with my blanket, book, and tea by 8:45 p.m., and that's where I stay until about 10:30. All other hobbies have mostly fallen by the wayside. I usually work out either right before or after dinner (depending on who is cooking/who is bathing Millie) and Matt and I tag-team cleaning up the kitchen/house along with cooking, bathing/playing with Millie, laundry folding, and everything else so that once she is in bed, there are no boring household responsibilities left. While I'm reading each night, Matt is also either reading or working from home...we're birds of a feather, I tell ya. Boring birds. But similar birds. 

I try not to read a lot when Millie is up and about (because I'm a very focused reader-- I struggle with being a kind/responsive person when I'm trying to read a book, haha), but occasionally on the weekend I'll read while she watches a movie or something. On the one hand, I want her to see Matt and me reading so that she has a model of adults reading for fun (as I did growing up- my mom was rarely without a book!). Butttttt it's hardly escaped her notice that Mommy and Daddy go through stacks of grown-up library books that rival the stacks of picture books she gets each week. She's with me multiple times a week when we stop by the library to pick up my books on hold. She sees me hauling my book du jour around to dance classes and doctor offices, and she knows ALL ABOUT book club (and aspires to join my book club AND be an author so that book club will come hear her speak). And we read to her all the time. I think she understands that Mommy and Daddy love reading and that's all we do after she goes to bed (which also, I've tried to remind her on nights that she "IS NOT TIRED and DOES NOT NEED TO SLEEP, I ONLY WANT TO STAY AWAKE WITH YOU AND DADDY" that we aren't doing anything fun, just sitting on the couch and which she replies that "reading IS FUN!! I want to read, too!!!"). So I feel like she is getting the memo that reading equals good times without seeing me read/ignore her for hours on end every Saturday!

Preparing to be an author

What I Read

I read probably 92% fiction books. The other 8% (estimated, clearly...although I suppose I could hop over to my Goodreads and do some actual statistical analysis...but nah) is memoirs that read like novels. A negligible statistical amount is other non-fiction...I just don't generally care for self-help/religious inspiration, business/motivational, or pretty much anything else non-fiction. I should probably read more parenting books. Hahahaha. But other than that I don't get caught up in "should." I read what I like. It's my grown-up privilege.

Of my fiction, it's probably an even split between historical fiction and modern. I tend to lean towards more 'literary' books and not as much 'fluff.' I mean, I'll read a popular thriller every now and then, but it's not what I gravitate towards. Same with chick lit. Maybe if enough trusted reader friends recommend something...but I'm not usually reading Elin Hilderbrand/Nora Roberts/James Patterson's backlist. Not judging it, it's just not generally my favorite!

My go-to fiction topical categories are WWII stories (especially if based on a true story!!-- like We Were the Lucky Ones, The Ragged Edge of Night, and The Girl You Left Behind), stories about immigrant families (*cough cough* A Place For Us, Behold the Dreamers, Girl in Translation), and the general format of books that alternate between a modern/historical storyline with some kind of mystery/tales that converge. In general, I like stories that make me think. I want to be entertained, but I want to be challenged, too. And I want the writing to be good. A good story alone is not enough to keep me going, generally. I don't mind crying, I don't mind being disgusted, I don't mind feeling angry. I want to be a better human. Thinking about hard things, thinking about gross things in our nation or world's past or present...these are things that help me grow as a person. So these are the things I want to read about, usually. Except for when I just want to be entertained and escape for a few hours, which also happens, so that's when I'm glad not everyone is as 'heavy' as me and that there are plenty of lighter books there for the taking when I want them!

In general, I only read one book at a time. I am NOT one with five books in progress!! The rare exception would be if I am reading some kind of nonfiction parenting/inspirational book...I can read that AND a novel at the same time. Because in all honesty, I'll read the non-fic book at a snail's pace and it'll probably take me 6 months to finish it (or I'll never finish it)...and at the same time I will have completed 23 novels. Hahaha. Just being honest, though. I will also occasionally work through a Harry Potter re-read at the same time as I'm reading other novels. I know those stories well enough that I don't get it mixed up with whatever else I'm reading. Rereading HP is more like breathing to me, really. :) But if you look on my Goodreads and see it's taking me 4 months to read Order of the Phoenix...well, it isn't that it actually takes me 4 months to read 870's just that I'm only reading it in snippets between my other books. And at this point, HP rereads are more just to savor. Not to power through. Ahhhhh.... 

As for how I choose what to read, I feel like that's where I've grown the most as a reader over the last few years. I've learned to be much more selective with who I take book recommendations from. Just because someone is a friend and fellow reader doesn't mean we like the same kinds of books!! And that's okay! Goodreads comes in really handy for this. If a friend whose reading life I'm not super familiar with recommends a book, I like being able to first browse their Goodreads history. Do we read similar stuff and rate things similarly? Then maybe their recommendation will work for me. Did they give 2 stars to 20 books I gave 5 stars to, and vice versa? Then maybe we just aren't into the same books, so maybe think twice before diving into what they've deemed "must read." Doing a few minutes of research before starting a book has proven REALLY helpful to me during the past few years. If I see a book, read the description and it sounds interesting, and think I might read it...I try to stop and look it up on Goodreads first. Sometimes I'll see that a lot of my friends have read it, and I can browse their ratings and use that to determine whether the book will be a good fit. Sometimes I'll see no one I know has shelved it, but I can browse random people's reviews to make a better guess. But doing a tiny bit of pre-research has really led me to select books I'm more likely to like...which means I'm more likely to read them fast...which helps me read more! In the past, I would just pick up a book if a celeb/lots of randoms on FB/blogs/Insta recommended it...and you know, I may or may not like it. But surrounding myself (virtually) with like-minded readers has really helped me make better choices for me. 

Anyway, congrats to anyone who made it through all that! I guess for my benediction here, I'll just say GO READ SOMETHING. Anything! But make it something you'll like!! The end. :) 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

semi-annual check-in??

Hello there, strangers. Remember the glory days of 200+ posts per year?? Ha. Yes. Those days are not these days. But may as well drop in with an update when I can!

We're alive and well here. Millie is nearly 4.5 years old and full of drama, opinions, and love. She is thriving in school- I am so, so, so happy with our neighborhood public school experience this year. She's learned so much! I mean, I know all kids learn so much, and I don't think she's actually Mensa material or anything, but I'm just regularly shocked with how smart my girl is. Nothing gets by her these days...which is why you might have noticed me frantically researching and ordering books about where babies come from last week. Because yeah. Don't worry. She actually asked "but HOW does the sperm GET in the mommy's tummy??" annnnnnnnddddd all my best-laid plans of being honest, scientifically accurate, and not awkward got thrown in my face. Bahahaha. WOW. I thought I was gonna have a few more years to formulate the perfect answer to that one, but apparently not. (Also, in case you are a fellow adoptive-after-infertility parent and thought you would be able to get by with "I don't know, I've never been pregnant/had a baby!" as an answer to questions about babies in tummies will not. Start making a plan for a better answer today!!)

Still- uncomfortable questions aside, this is a really fun age! She is super into drawing and writing and VERY MUCH wants to learn to read. Most days she comes home from school and reports in a terribly disappointed voice that "it was a good day, but they did NOT teach me to read yet." She also regularly informs me that I am mean and I have broken her heart because I won't teach her to read. I know. I'm the worst. Soon, little one!! 

Matt and I are in the process of becoming (hopefully!) foster parents! It's something we've been interested in for years, but never felt that the time was really right until recently. And now we're gung-ho. Hahaha. We're 1/3 of the way through our state training, all the way through (I think?) with our paperwork, and approximately 0% through with our home study. And maybe 10% through with our gathering of boring documents/doing things to get said documents (like get a physical so that we can get a medical form completed...get CPR training so we can get a CPR form completed...). So it'll probably be a few months before any actual kids besides Millie come into our home, but we are excited! We are not necessarily looking to adopt again (everyone asks this so I figured I'd just share, haha). We're not opposed, if the situation comes up, but that's not what we're going into it for. We're just hoping to be a warm home and supportive environment for kids while they're away from their parents. Millie is very excited to be a "helper sister" and asks every day if we "can go get some kids today" we might just be picking them up at Target. Sooo maybe we have some more sensitivity training to do with her, perhaps. Hahaha. Once (if?? haha) we are approved, we will hope to open our home to kids Millie's age and or two at a time to start with! 

Not much else going on, really. I read a lot? Haha. I completed 71 books in 2018. My goal had been 40, sooo...I met my goal. In June. Ha. This year I set my goal as 52- a nice book-a-week pace that should be manageable for me, even if a new kid (or multiple new kids?!) introduces some chaos into my otherwise predictable life and reading time. My favorite book of 2018 was A Place for Us, by Fatima Mirza. I read it last summer and have never stopped thinking about it, so a few weeks ago I actually BOUGHT IT (in hardback!!) (unheard of) and am currently REREADING IT (also unheard of, I RARELY reread books). It's just as good the second time, so far. So if you're looking for a slow-paced, character-driven (NOT plot-driven), beautifully-written look at family relationships...maybe that's the book for you. I just love it. Also, if you're a reader, I highly recommend joining Goodreads and being my friend. :) It's such fun to have a place to interact with fellow bookish folk, and my reading life has really improved in the years since I've been spending more time on Goodreads! 

Annnd that's about it. Life is pretty lovely and predictable these days, hence the need to shake things up a bit with foster care!! Look me up on Instagram (erikab543) if you want to keep up with Millie's antics in real time...she's a nut, for real. Also this morning she told me something was "crazytown," so apparently she is actually 13. And probably by the next time I get around to blogging again...she may actually be 13. See ya then!!