Friday, November 17, 2017

A Very Bookish Holiday

With the arrival of the holiday season comes the pressure to pick the perfect gifts for your loved ones. I know I struggle to find gifts that are meaningful and that serve a real purpose, so this year I put together a list of books that I'd recommend to give to the bookworms in your life.

You can access my 2017 Holiday Gift Guide by clicking here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Birthday Q & A

Hey, Readers!

Today I turn 25 and to celebrate, I asked readers to submit their questions to me via Instagram. (You can find that post here.) As I type this, I'm already receiving birthday wishes from bookish friends all over the world. So thank you. I am incredibly grateful for my bookish community and feel so lucky to have made real friends who love books and reading just as much as I do.

Questions about Reading Habits & Preferences

As a teacher I have to ask, HOW do you read all the books you do? I have read 50 this year so far, but I don’t know how you do it. Do you have a reading schedule?

The short answer is that my reading fluctuates based on what's happening in my personal life. In years past, I've averaged between 50 and 70 books (during my college and graduate school years), but this year has been an outlier. I've read over 100 books already and it's mostly due to the fact that I've prioritized reading and made more room for it in the margins of my life. (I've also read books averaging less pages than in previous years.) I set a Goodreads goal each year but it's a flexible goal - I don't feel the need to read a certain number of books each month. 

I've talked about this recently on my Instagram, but I make it a priority to stick to my bedtime routine, which includes at least an hour of reading each night before I go to sleep. That's when I get the majority of my reading done. But I also sometimes get to read for a few minutes before leaving for work in the morning, and I do put aside time on weekends to read as well. So I guess you could consider that as somewhat of a reading schedule, but the truth is that I just love reading and that's what motivates me to pick up books so often.

My fellow teachers out there know that often our work follows us home, and I'll admit here that during progress report season, my reading definitely declines. Other than that, I try to be as efficient as possible during my prep time at school and after school to get things done so that I can bring less home with me. Keep in mind too that in this season of my life I don't have children, so when I come home I have space and time to do what I want to do.

I’m curious how many books you read a week during the school year vs the summer — it seems like a lot!

This past summer, I read probably 3ish books a week. I wasn't working, we were moving, I was transitioning to a new job, so I had more free time on my hands and could spend more time reading during the day. During the school year, I generally read 1-2 books a week.

What makes the perfect reading spot for you? Does it change with the seasons?

My hometown is right on the water and there's a little beach that's generally unknown by tourists, so I like to take my book there and sit by the waves. That beach is one of my favorite spots in the entire world, and I can spend a whole day reading in the sand, only taking breaks to float in the ocean and comb the beach for sea glass.

In the fall and spring, I like to bundle up and take my book to a park in my hometown that overlooks the open ocean. The water is really important to me, so when I can be in that setting, I feel most content.

In the winter, my favorite spot is curled up on the couch with a big cup of tea, a soft blanket, and my kitty. (And preferably a Christmas tree twinkling in the background.)

Does your boyfriend like to read as much as you? 

I don't think he'd describe himself as a bookworm, but he does enjoy reading. He's pretty particular about the books he picks so I like the challenge of finding something that peaks his interest. I asked for your recommendations for him here and it was so helpful, so thank you! I would say he does most of his reading as it relates to the news -- he's extremely well-versed in politics so he does a lot of informational reading on that subject.

Do you purchase the books you read or borrow them from the library? Do you have to stop yourself from purchasing books like many of us here do?

I do both! I love using the local library, but I'm also a pretty sentimental reader, so I love keeping books on my shelves. There's a Japanese term to describe a person who hoards books, tsunkdoku, and  I think it can be accurately applied to me. Specifically, it describes someone who buys books but doesn't read them and let's them grow in various piles. It can take years for me to actually read a book after I buy it. In growing my personal library, I do a lot of library sale shopping and I rarely buy brand-new hardcovers, unless it's for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club or the Diverse Books Club. When I use the public library, I tend to put things on hold that I know I want to read. I also like to wander the stacks and pick at random.

How do you prioritize your TBR? I'm sure a lot has to do with DBC these days but do you ever feel overwhelmed?

My TBR is definitely primarily influenced by the DBC since our launch in September. This month, I'm reading our November picks alongside members and previewing a few titles for early 2018. From there, I prioritize books I'm working on for partnerships with publishers. My main publishing partnerships are Random House and Simon & Schuster, so my followers see a lot of their new releases on my feed. Next, I add in Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club picks. I've also just recently joined the Black Heart Reads Book Club on Instagram, and occasionally I'll jump in on the picks for Emma Watson's book club, Our Shared Shelf. I don't go into each month with a set TBR, because I like the flexibility of picking books based on my mood. So if I stop by the library and pick a few random titles or get something new from the bookstore, I don't feel bad about shifting my pile to make room for those. Case in point, this week I read El Deafo for the DBC, Murder on the Orient Express to prepare for the movie, I'm currently reading Braving the Wilderness in partnership with Random House, and I picked up A Death in the Small Hours last night because I borrowed it from the library. So my reading has been all over the place just in the last week.

To answer your second question, yes. Since I founded the DBC, I've felt overwhelmed a number of times by the combined demand of the club and my own blogging life. We're still working on streamlining our processes within the DBC, so it's taking more time behind the scenes. Eventually, I'd like to redirect that energy to actually interacting more with our members. And in the meantime, I'm putting less effort into blogging. But I'm giving myself grace, too.

 Do you ever DNF books you aren't loving?

Absolutely! I abandon books all the time. Just recently, I abandoned Hunger by Roxanne Gay, because I couldn't handle the intensity of the content. I'll also abandon a book if it's just not holding my interest. I'm a firm believer in the right book at the right time, so if something isn't working for me I'll try it again at another time.

I'd love to know your favorite podcasts and favorite audiobooks. I'm trying to get into audiobooks but having a hard time!

In my experience, becoming an audiobook listener takes practice! I don't listen to audiobooks or podcasts in the car because my attention wanders too much. I listen while I get ready in the mornings, walking on the treadmill, or while cooking and cleaning. You can find a whole list of recommended audiobooks here. My favorites have been: A Wrinkle in Time (read by Madeleine L'Engle), The Tale of Despereaux, A Quiet Life in the Country, Anne of Green Gables (read by Rachel McAdams), and A Man Called Ove. My favorite podcasts are: What Should I Read Next? (I'm on Episode 72!), Overdue, Sorta Awesome, and most recently, Ear Hustle. I also find that during busier seasons, I prefer podcasts over audiobooks because my attention can't be sustained for quite as long.

Questions about Blogging & Instagram

How do you make time for blog posts and Instagram? Do you set time aside on the weekend? And how much time do you devote to those things?

As you may have noticed, I've been on somewhat of a hiatus from writing blog content. Right now I'm focusing on growing the DBC, so blogging is my last priority. It used to take a lot of time out of my week (somewhere around 20 hours), so I took some steps this fall to reduce that demand. At the moment, I spend probably a half hour each weekend taking snaps for Instagram (which is only necessary because we don't have daylight anymore during the week), and I write up the posts just before I share them. I spend quite a bit more time on DBC-related tasks right now, and I'm okay with that. When I'm on Instagram, the majority of my time is spent responding to direct messages. I'd say that probably takes me a half hour each day total to make sure I can get back to everyone, plus another half hour or so sending encouragement to all my fellow bookworms! At this point, I don't always have time to respond to every single message which is unfortunately one of the downsides of a growing account, but the interaction is what's most important to me.

Do you ever think about leaving teaching and doing something with your blog, books, etc as a full time job?

The short answer is yes and no. I've wanted to be a teacher since I was little, but it can be incredibly hard and frustrating to be in the field of public education. The best thing about teaching is the children, and the worst is that unfortunately, it's not always about the children. So sometimes I daydream about turning my career path towards something to do more with literature. But then I think about the kids that I work with, and I know that I would miss them too much. On hard days, I think that maybe life would be easier if I did something different. But on hard days, I also wonder if anything else would feel quite as fulfilling as the work I do now. I'll also say that I didn't intend to become a special education teacher (I have licenses to teach both in the classroom and as a special educator), but my crew of kids has my whole heart. I know that I'm good at what I do and I'm a fierce advocate for the needs of my kids, so there's also a part of me that believes I was meant to land in a special education role all along.

How do you, or do you, separate your Instagram life from your personal life? Do you keep a separate personal Instagram account or just use this one for everything? (I tried keeping 2 separate accounts for a while but it became too much so just wondering how other people do it!) Do you ever worry about getting judged for your reading choices or for what you share on Instagram?

I do have a separate account on Instagram for my personal life. And even though I've received follow requests from bookstagram followers there, I don't generally accept them. That account is how I keep up with family members, friends from high school and college, and the families I used to babysit for.  I don't post on it often, and occasionally I'll post something similar on both my accounts (such as with our Halloween costumes this year), but it's important to me to have that separate. 

As a reader, I like what I like and I'm not apologetic about it, but I do recognize that my opinions aren't going to be shared by all readers. If I was that worried about what others thought, I wouldn't continue with the blog or the DBC. I try to stay pretty true to myself, and so far the feedback from my readers has been that being myself is entertaining enough. (My boyfriend likes to say I'm genuinely quirky and that's why people think I'm interesting.)

When did you start TST and how did you grow it? 

I started TST on New Year's Day in 2014. It was a creative outlet for me while I was an undergrad, because I didn't have a reading community at school and felt like I wanted to talk about my love of literature with others. It was actually my boyfriend who suggested that I start blogging. At the time, I remember saying to him, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could get free books?" I laugh at that now because four years later, my shelves are overflowing with the generosity of publishers, but the free books aren't the best part of TST. It's the reading community, and having a space where I can talk endlessly about books with readers who are just as excited as I am. TST grew pretty organically -- I don't even have a business account on Instagram, and it's really just for fun. I don't make money (besides Amazon affiliate commissions, which are practically negligible), and I genuinely enjoy it as an extension of my reading life. TST experienced the most growth after I appeared as a guest on What Should I Read Next? and from there I've had a pretty steady increase of readers joining in on the conversation, which just makes my heart happy. I honestly don't know what direction TST is going to take in the future, and right now it's a question that I'm not feeling pressured to address, so thanks for following along with me as I figure things out on the fly!

Miscellaneous Questions

You seem like a very organized person. 
How do you organize your day and your time and all you do?

This is probably my number one most-asked question, so I'll address it in another post. The short answer is that organization is something that comes naturally to me, and I enjoy being and staying organized. I get anxious pretty easily when things are out of order and being organized is one way I deal with unexpected changes in life, which are always inevitable. As a special education teacher, much of my teaching style is based in establishing and maintaining routines for the benefit of my kids. Similar to my students, I thrive in routine and structure, so I put it in place for myself in every possible area. Because I've received so many requests, I'll share more about precisely what I do to keep organized in a future post.

 Do you struggle to make time for other hobbies?

Reading is really my only hobby during the school year. Being a teacher means that I'm up at 5am to exercise before work (because I'm too worn out by the end of the day) and that my nights are often spent planning lessons, writing reports, or debriefing with my colleagues over the phone. I also keep a pretty early bedtime so I'm at my best for my kids, so there's just not whole lot of time for other hobbies. Generally, that doesn't bother me, because I find reading to be very fulfilling as a hobby. In the summers, I like to practice my sewing skills and cook. If organizing counts as a hobby, then you can add that to my list too.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? (Another reader asked a similar question: Do you have any dreams of living elsewhere in the world or are you content in Massachusetts?)

I would love to live in a cottage overlooking the ocean, with a wildflower garden and a sunny reading room. Wherever that exists, that's my dream. In reality, I love our hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts and want to eventually move back to raise a family there. What's important to me is community, and Marblehead has a wonderful spirit that I haven't seen replicated in the other places I've lived so far. There are town traditions that really mean a lot to me, and being near the ocean is good for my soul. So I guess you could say that my dream would be to move back home. If we ever got the chance to move abroad, my first choice would be Denmark. I love their culture and I wholeheartedly agree with their approach to education, so I think I could be very happy there as well.

Where's the coolest place you've traveled?

In high school, my parents gave me the opportunity to travel abroad with a community service organization called ARCC. My first summer with them, I traveled out of the country for the very first time on a 30-day trip to Thailand. There, I explored almost the entire country, visited temples, rode an elephant, attempted to speak Thai, and learned how to scuba dive off the coast of Koh Tao. It was the most incredible experience of my life. The second summer, we traveled on another month-long trip to Spain and Morocco. I stayed with a host family, tried my hand at Spanish and Arabic, learned to surf on the coast of Morocco, rode a camel through the Sahara desert, and hiked through the Atlas Mountains. Throughout those trips, we volunteered in schools and orphanages, and I gained a new understanding of connection and community. I'm grateful for those two months because I think they shaped me in a lot of ways.


That's all I can answer for today, but thank you to everyone who submitted questions! More importantly, thanks for being a reader of TST. This community is so wonderful and I'm grateful that you're here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New in Children's Lit: The Kid Lit Exchange Network

Read Review and Share with Kid Lit Exchange

Readers, today I want to introduce you to a network of readers that I am so proud to be a part of. Kid Lit Exchange launched over the summer and when I read about Kate's mission to put more children's lit into the hands of reviewers I was instantly on board. Members of the KLE network work to spread the love of kid lit by reviewing upcoming & recently released titles and the readers who are part of the network are so enthusiastic about children's literature that it makes my heart happy. Kate works so, so hard to make this network run smoothly (and simultaneously is a devoted mother, caretaker, wife, dog mom, and enthusiastic librarian) and I am so grateful for her brilliant ideas. When I launched the DBC, Kate and I had some long talks about how to integrate these new ventures into our already-busy lives, and she has been a wonderful source of wisdom and sanity for me throughout the process of building the DBC. I am so excited to have her and Laura here today to give you the full overview of the KLE!

• • •

With over 140 members and growing, Kid Lit Exchange is a powerful network of librarians, teachers and parents getting the word out about great books for kids of all ages. The idea is simple: educators and parents share books with each other and give honest reviews on social media to help promote a love of reading.

Join us in a conversation with Kid Lit Exchange founder Kate Olson and Kid Lit Exchange Leadership Team member Laura Gardner - both school librarians and avid readers of kid lit!

Laura: Let’s start simple: How does Kid Lit Exchange work?

Kate: Okay! Here is the simplified version of the process: a book is shared with me from an author, publisher or another reviewer. I post it on our Instagram account (@kidlitexchange) showing the book cover and summary and sharing the genre. Reviewers in our network then request it on that post, and then the magic begins! The book is added to our gigantic Google Sheets database by our wonderful database team, and the book is then shipped to the first reviewer. The reviewer reads it, writes an honest and constructive review of at least 100 words and posts that review on Instagram and Goodreads (and maybe also their blog, Facebook, Amazon, etc). Then they look in the database for the next reviewer and mail it on. And repeat! This has gotten a LOT bigger now, with 5 additional book shippers added!

Laura: How did you come up with the idea for Kid Lit Exchange?

Kate: Honestly, this was one of those “pondering while making a snack for my daughter” ideas that was brought about after I requested to join a middle grade book/ARC sharing group on Twitter and was told there was no room available…….I had no idea what to do next, and was a little let down since I had so many ARCs of my own to share, so I decided to start my own that had no member limits! I also wanted it to include ALL of KidLit, since I am PK-12 school librarian and read widely in all of these age groups and genres. In addition, I wanted to help reviewers and readers who don’t have access on their own to galleys. (ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy, or galley -  a version of a book that is provided to reviewers prior to publication date. These copies can not be sold or added to library collections, so are perfect for sharing with additional reviewers to get more coverage for a book.)

Laura: I love how Kid Lit Exchange reviewers aren’t just librarians and classroom teachers. Can you share more about why you decided to open this up to parents, as well?

Kate: If you think about who has purchasing power for children’s book, I would rank them from librarian with MOST, and then parents! Teachers definitely have power, but not necessarily funds. Parents are the ones who actually buy books for their homes and are the gatekeepers for home libraries. What better profile, then, for book reviewers of this genre? In addition, some of our reviewers aren’t even parents, but are adults who are avid readers of YA titles. So many adults read and buy YA! Their voices matter too.

Laura: What are your goals with Kid Lit Exchange?

Kate: That’s a big question! And a question that I’m honestly still trying to answer myself. My original goal was to get ARCs into the hands of readers who normally aren’t able to get access to them AND get more reviews for kidlit titles. However, the goal is definitely expanding now! I would love for Kid Lit Exchange to become a go-to source for publishers and authors as they seek to gain honest and constructive reviews for their forthcoming titles as well as a platform for reviewers to share their reviews. We plan to feature a review for each title on our website to help reviewers gain exposure as well.

Laura: Kid Lit Exchange has only existed since early July 2017 and it’s already grown so rapidly with over 130 reviewers and 200+ reviews (and growing by the minute) ; what’s that been like?

Kate: It has been CRAZY! Crazy good, but pretty overwhelming! It started as a casual little thing and then totally blew up. I have definitely learned a lot of lessons about working with a force of volunteers (people are VERY quick to sign up, but not always very excited about follow-through) and that delegation is imperative for growth. Thanks to Madeleine from Top Shelf Text for reminding me of that! If I let it, running KLE could quickly become a full-time job…..but of course it can’t be since I already have one of those! Oh, and KLE is an unpaid hobby that actually COSTS me a ton of money. I do it because I am passionate about the project, but can not let it overwhelm my life. That’s where the leadership team comes in to help!

Laura: Well I for one love reviewing for Kid Lit Exchange; it’s a fun way to get early access to new books, meet fabulous IG reading friends and spread the word about awesome books for kids! Thank you so much for starting it!

Kate Olson is a PK-12 librarian in a small rural school district in Wisconsin, as well as a reviewer for School Library Journal and founder of Kid Lit Exchange. She lives on the top of a giant hill in the middle of nowhere with her husband, 3 feisty children, and dogs named Max and Booker. She can be found on her blog The Loud Library Lady and on Instagram as @theloudlibrarylady and Twitter as @theloud_library.

Laura Gardner, a National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media, is Teacher Librarian at a large middle school in Massachusetts and reviews books for School Library Journal and Kid Lit Exchange. She lives near the coast of Massachusetts with her husband and two kids. Laura was awarded the School Library Journal (SLJ) School Librarian of the Year Co-finalist Award in 2016. She is on Twitter and Instagram as @LibrarianMsG.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reader Recommendations with Lisa Snead

Hey, readers!

Today I have another round of Reader Recommendations for you from a fellow bookworm. Lisa also inhabits the bookstagram world as @imlisaann and blogs over at Lisa Ann Reads. I'm really excited about her picks today because I haven't read a single one of them yet!

Lisa, tell us a little about yourself!

I'm an Austin, Texas transplant from the East Coast, Red Sox fan, disability rights attorney, wannabe yogi, and enthusiastic dog mom. I can almost always be found with a book in my hand. My go-to books are usually LitFic, WWII fiction, or narrative non-fiction, though I'll read almost anything. Bonus points for well-done magical realism.

Our bookish tastes totally align. Tell us some of your favorites!

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I love this book because every time I read it I find something new. There's the obvious appeal for sci-fi fans since the book follows children training for a galactic battle against an alien species coming to take over earth. Even outside of this, however, the book raises important questions of what it means to harm one person to save the many, the necessity (or not) of telling the truth to those impacted by it, and even what it means to be a child growing up in a time of war. I love that this book is being taught in the local high school curriculum here. While Ender's Game is full of buggers and blasters, don't let the word "aliens" turn you off. I'm not usually an alien fan and very picky about sci-fi, but Ender's Game is a book with cross-genre and cross-gender appeal--the aliens are just the tool to set the stage for the larger questions Card is raising. (If you absolutely love sci-fi, the rest of the series is worth a read, particularly Xenocide and Speaker for the Dead, but otherwise, I'd just stick to Ender's Game).

The March Trilogy by John Lewis

Before you judge me, this trilogy is literally the only graphic novels I can remember reading since the days of reading Archie and Jughead while waiting for my mom to finish paying for groceries. Representative John Lewis is perhaps best known for his leadership during the Civil Rights Movement, including marching with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama. March is the story of his early life and his life in the movement, culminating in that march. Interspersed within the flashback of his life are scenes from the inauguration of President Obama. Y'all--I never thought a comic book could make me cry, but here we are. I'm tearing up again just thinking about it. The novels are inspiring and more easily accessible than his actual autobiography--Walking With the Wind (which I also recommend). They're also sobering to read as current events seem more and more to remind me that this work isn't done. These are best savored--it would be easy to speed through them, but I found I got the most out of them when I made a point to read them slowly over several days.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

This recently-published memoir recounts Alexie's memories of his mother and the larger impact she had on him, his family, and the reservation where Alexie grew up. The memoir is told as an amalgam of essays and poems, with parts of the poems sung as First Nation chants. I highly recommend the audiobook--there are times Alexie is chuckling while reading, others where he can barely speak through tears. He also sings the chants he's interwoven into the poetry. This book made me laugh, tear up, and get angry at the treatment of First Nation peoples in this country.

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Not to brag too much but I have a pretty uncanny ability to predict twists in TV shows and books--it kind of annoys my boyfriend. With that said, I completely missed the twist in this book the first time I read it. The story follows a social worker as she recovers from an assault and becomes entangled with trying to discover how one of her clients became homeless, all within a world where The Great Gatsby is not a work of fiction, but rather historical fact. I couldn't put this book down and still pick it up at least once a year for a re-read. (Significant trigger warning for sexual assault.)

• • •

Thank you Lisa for sharing these great reads with us! I've bumped at least one of these titles onto my must-read-soon list!

See any favorites above? Have a recommendation for Lisa based on these picks? Let us know!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Rules of Magic (& Giveaway!)

Note: Top Shelf Text received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

I get so excited for the fall reading season each year that I tend to start my fall reads pretty early. As soon as we had our first signs of fall in September, I picked up The Rules of Magic, which I'd been looking forward to since reading Practical Magic earlier in the month. Both of these titles were on my Spooktober Reads list last week, but I want to talk a little bit more about why this series has quickly become my number one recommendation for fall.

Practical Magic and Rules of Magic both tell the story of the Owens family, whose ancestry dates back to one of the original Salem witches. The story is more magical realism than fantasy -- everything about our current world remains the same, but with an added touch of magic and mystery.

In The Rules of Magic, we get the story of The Aunts, the two women who raised Sally and Gillian in Practical Magic. We learn about their childhoods, more about the origins of the Owens' curse, and about the tragic times when the two women dared to fall in love. 

I love to read books about witches, and I have a feeling that my preference for this type of story is based in where I was raised -- in a small town right next to Salem, Massachusetts. We have great history in our town -- both related to the Salem Witch Trials and related to the colonial era in general -- but I've always loved the culture related to being a witch. 

One of my favorite spots in town is a little pond named Redd's pond, named after Wilmot Redd, one of the convicted Salem Witches. She died by hanging in 1692 at the height of the hysteria, and her memorial marker is located in this very graveyard where I went to snap some photos of this book.

I love being immersed in the world of the Owens family, with all of its eccentricity and ethereal boundaries between our world and the supernatural. The Rules of Magic is, in my opinion, even better than Practical Magic, but I do recommend reading it only after you've read the first. It may be a prequel, but the story in Practical Magic lays the groundwork for this newest release. I can only hope that we'll see another book featuring the Owens sometime in the future!

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Rules of Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1501137476
Format: Hardcover
Source: Simon & Schuster

Giveaway with Simon & Schuster

Giveaway CLOSED!

Congratulations to Amy Collins, Tricia, Chelsea Diane, Pam, and Christine Wells!

Please get in touch with me at with your full name and mailing address!

• • •

There are some lovely, fabulous people working behind the scenes at Simon & Schuster, and they've generously partnered with me to give away FIVE copies of this book to TST readers!

Rules of Entry

In the spirit of Autumnal celebration, leave a comment below telling me the best Halloween costume you've ever worn!

Mine had to have been the year my grandmother made me a beautiful pink silk princess gown, complete with a fur hemline. I adored it. (I have always been princess-obsessed.)
Shoutout to my Nonna for her awesome sewing skills & creativity!

U.S. Entries Only, Valid through Friday, October 13th at 7pm EST.

Friday, October 6, 2017

How to Read More in Your Busiest Seasons with Kate Lane

Hey Readers!

Today I'm introducing you to one of my favorite new bookstagram friends. Kate makes me laugh daily in her Instagram stories, has great reading taste, and is an overall cheery and wonderful human. I'm so glad to have her here to talk about how to read more in busy seasons of life.

• • •

Hi, book friends! My name is Kate, and I’m the reader behind @katereadsbooks_! I’m a graduate student pursuing my Masters in Counseling in my hometown of Birmingham, AL! Oh, and I am also a TOTAL bookworm!

Since staring my bookstagram account, I have received endless questions on how I find the time to fit reading into my already busy schedule (commuting back and forth to grad school, running around like a crazy person at my internship, studying for qualifying exams, etc). BUT, obviously, I’m not the only book addict who is busy! Life can be crazy and sometimes finding time to read is difficult, and may even feel impossible during some seasons of life. Today, I wanted to share a few tips that I've picked up along the way that I hope will help and encourage you to read more in spite of your already full schedule. (Also, pre-apologies for my excessive use of words in caps, but I NEED you to feel my emphasis.)

1. Always have a book with you.  

We’ve already established that life is crazy, but you NEVER know when some downtime may present itself. Be ready by always carrying a book with you! I know that I’m definitely more inclined to waste time on social media during those free minutes, but I ALWAYS feel more productive when I spend that time reading rather than scrolling!

2. Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks.

You may not have endless time to sit down and read, so wouldn't it be nice to be able to read WHILE doing other tasks?! HELLO, AUDIOBOOKS! You know what you can do while you listen to an audiobook? Pretty much anything: drive, do laundry, cook, go for a run, go for a walk (more my style), get your nails done, clean your house, etc. Look at all this available reading time I just found for you!!! Audiobooks are the perfect way to find time to fit more books into your busy schedule. (Ps use your local library card to download audiobooks on apps like Hoopla and Overdrive!)

3. Put your phone up while reading.

If my phone is anywhere near me when I’m reading, I WILL get distracted, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who’s like this… So getting rid of that distraction will open up more focused reading time! I have started to leave my phone in another room when I’m reading. This tip doesn't really create MORE time to read, but it does help you to better devote the little time you do have to actually reading!

4. Read books you LOVE.

I’m a firm believer that we find time for the things we love. If you’re super engrossed in a book, and can't wait to find out what happens next, you’ll have no problem watching less TV to finish it! Reading books you love, and putting down books you don't enjoy will help keep you far away from a reading slump that could SERIOUSLY kill your reading life! When people tell me they don't like reading, I tell them that they’re just not reading the right books for them! Find books you truly love, even if it’s in a genre you wouldn't have expected, and you will read more than you think possible. Promise.

And now for my last and absolute favorite tip…

5. Completely ignore all your work, and spend most of your time reading.

Now, this tip is one that I’m pretty fond of, and utilize often. I only WISH I were kidding!! This was meant to be funny, and make you laugh, but honestly, sometimes this is how I get reading done! I completely ignore everything and choose to read a book instead. Sometimes it’s needed (#selfcare), and sometimes it’s a total avoidance method. BUT, it is a real way that I find time to read in my busy life.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bookish Buys: Capsule Books Subscription (with Coupon!)

Bookworms, I want to introduce you to the one subscription box that I'm actually loving this season. Capsule Books just launched over the summer and I connected instantly with the idea behind it. Capsule Books launched this subscription with an intense focus on the feelings that books evoke as we read them. Each season, readers can select a box featuring one of three emotions. Inside each box are three books meant to stir that very emotion within the reader, along with a handwritten letter, blank stationary card for sending snail mail and sharing a love of books, and a fun bookish item.

When Capsule Books first started their rep search over the summer, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the promotion for the box. There are a lot of bookish subscription boxes out there, but I had never felt compelled to try one because I wasn't interested in acquiring more stuff. Since we've moved, I've been really conscious of bringing new items into our new space -- asking myself if the item has a long term purpose or serves us in making our little apartment feel like home. Ordering a box that comes with a lot of things that will sit unused didn't appeal to me. Obviously, though, books are exempt from that line of questioning, so a box that offered only books was right up my alley.

As a rep for the company, I had the opportunity to pick out a box that resonated with me. In the fall season, there are three different feelings to choose from:

Mono No Aware

From the Capsule Books website:

Mono no aware translates literally to “the pathos of things” or “a sensitivity to ephemera.” It is a Japanese term for the wistfulness felt because of the passing of time. There is no word like this in English. It’s melancholy tinged with beauty, especially aesthetics in nature: the passing of time marked by seasons, the changing of the leaves, the melting of snow.

Each of the books in this box take place in Japan.


From the Capsule Books website:

Flâner literally means “to stroll idly,” without any goal or destination in mind. While the word itself is a verb and not so much a feeling, there’s a certain beauty in strolling along the streets leisurely. It is this feeling we feel when we decide one day to just walk around, and look at the people and the buildings and find the beauty in details we so often miss. It is this feeling Francophiles spend their whole lives chasing.

Each of the books in this box take place in France.


From the Capsule Books website:

Nabokov can describe it better than we ever could. “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

Each of the books in this box were written by Russian authors.

I debated between the Mono No Aware and Flâner capsules, but ultimately decided to go with the Flâner because although I spoke French for many years (I'm now incredibly rusty), I've never actually been to the country and haven't read many novels that take place there. When the little blue box arrived I was curious to see whether I would recognize any of the titles. Though one of the books is by Earnest Hemingway and therefore one that I had heard of (but not yet read!), the other two hadn't been on my radar at all. I loved the handwritten note that accompanied them, which recommended reading the novels in chronological order. I also loved that it came with a cute Penguin Co. corner bookmark, which I put to use right away and have been transferring from book to book as I read.

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The box is relatively expensive at $50 for one season, but if you calculate the price of buying three paperback novels, it actually comes quite close. Plus, you get the added bonus of a fun surprise and (what feels like) a personalized service. When you buy more than one season at a time, you save a little on the cost overall.

I think the box would make a great gift for a bookish friend, and if you're a first time customer, you can use the code TST15 for 15% off from now through November 30th.

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Capsule Books expanded my reading life this fall and prompted me to read some more classic and "high literature" -- in other words, those fancy literary fiction books that don't usually pique my interest.

Have you tried a subscription book box? Which one of the Capsule Books emotions most resonates with you?