Category: Discussion

Five Times It’s Hard to Choose a New Book

I’m a pretty voracious reader, and if I have a good book on the go, I will pick it up in preference to most other things I could be doing. So the time that I am most likely to fall behind on my reading is between books. When I’ve finished one book, but haven’t yet decided what I’m reading next, it is all too easy to pick up other things, or spend my evening scrolling through Twitter. When I noticed this habit, I started paying attention to what was going on, and looking for ways around the problem.

The Book Hangover

Image of The Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterSometimes I’m just not emotionally done with the last book. I may have turned the final page, but the story or the characters are still taking up headspace, leaving no room for a new read just yet.

Solutions: Write the review! Getting those feelings out into word form can clear the air. However, I usually need to sleep on it before I can start writing. Alternately, pick a totally different read. If I’m stuck on the YA fantasy series that has just come to an emotional finish, making my next read a non-fiction title can get me started on a new book, even while I’m still processing the last one.

Don’t Have the Right Book

I get most of my books from the library, which means waiting my turn, sometimes for weeks or months if it is a popular title. When I’m really just craving a particular book, it can be hard to settle for anything else.

Solutions: The only real cure to this one seems to be giving in and buying the book in question. I try avoid this through the proactive approach, keeping an eye on what is coming out and placing my holds early so that they will show up shortly after the book is released. But sometimes I am weak.

Too Many Choices

Image of a stack of booksThe opposite of not having just the right book can be having too many books. I own a lot books, and usually have at least a dozen more checked out from the library at any given time. If I’m not in any particular mood for a certain type of book, it can be really hard to settle on something from among the available options.

Solutions: Getting around this one usually means looking to my reading goals to help narrow down the field. This year I am trying to read more books by Canadian authors, and more non-fiction, so I’ll use these criteria to make a much more manageable short list to choose from. If this seems like too much work, checking which library book is due next is also an easy way to have the choice made for me.

Should Reads

Goals and due dates can be useful guidelines for what to read next, but sometimes they get the better of me. If a book is due back soon, or I have an ARC that is nearing its release date, I feel like I should be reading it, even if I’m in the mood for something else.

Solutions: My strategy for dealing with this sticking point depends on my mood. If I’m feeling energetic and diligent, I will promise myself that I can read whatever I feel like for the next book, AFTER I read this one that I should get to now. If I’m tired or upset, I’m more likely to throw “should” out the window, and reach for whatever I think will be the most enjoyable. I also stopped accepting review requests earlier this year so that I would have fewer “shoulds” on my plate.

Decision Fatigue

none-of-the-above-optionsFor me this last one is the hardest and the most common reason that I get stuck between books. If I come home tired at the end of the day, with all my energy and will power used up on other tasks, the idea of having to make a choice is just too exhausting. This is usually when I end up reading Twitter for hours, even though I know it will leave me feeling like I have wasted my evening.

Solutions: Reading schedules and plans seem to work to a certain extent. If I have time, I sit down and look at my blog schedule, library due dates, upcoming ARC releases, and general reading goals, and pick out the next two fiction and non-fiction books I will read. However, this risks running into the “Should Reads” trap, where I know what I should read next, but I don’t really feel like it. See above!

Do you ever get stuck between books? What do you do to get yourself reading again?

Five Ways Audiobooks Make Life Better

Audiobook2I used to be a dabbler who only listened to audiobooks on road trips. Since I get motion sickness, they were pretty much the only form of entertainment I could indulge in.  But in the last few years, as options for accessing and downloading audiobooks have proliferated, I’ve become a pretty hardcore listener. Not only do I read more thanks to audiobooks, but I have discovered that they can make a variety of unpleasant tasks much more bearable.

Audiobooks Cure Road Rage

I live in a suburb of Seattle with a huge commuter population. A lot of people who live here commute into the city, and a lot of people who live in Seattle work out here. The result is terrible traffic, and a drive to work that should take me ten minutes can more than double if undertaken at the wrong time. But if I have a good audiobook in the CD player, I actually don’t mind being stuck in traffic. Sometimes I’ll even sit in the car for a few minutes when I arrive, just to keep listening! (The other secret to conquering road rage is snacks; don’t drive hangry!)

Audiobooks Get Me Off My Ass

I used to be all about the music while I was exercising, because focusing on a book is pretty hard during brisk cardio. But recent knee problems have really slowed me down, and right now my primary form of exercise is walking. Depending how my knee is feeling on any given day, sometimes it is really more of a gentle saunter around the neighbourhood at a geriatric pace. Some days I can just relax and enjoy the scenery, but other times the pace is frustratingly slow. Audiobooks give me something else to focus on, not to mention that they help me convince myself to get up off the couch and out the door in the first place.  (The other thing that keeps me honest here is my FitBit.)

Audiobooks Keep My House Clean

"I was thinking about cleaning and doing dishes and laundry... Then I found this book to read instead."We’ve all seen the various memes where a woman looks at all the household chores that really need to be done, and then decides to read instead. When my clean-freak instincts are warring with my laziness and preference for reading over most other tasks, queuing up an audiobook allows me to appease both parts of myself. When I don’t have an audiobook on the go, laundry goes unfolded, and clean dishes sit in the dishwasher until they absolutely must be unloaded. This one goes beyond household chores and applies to pretty much any mindless task that has to get done.

Audiobooks Get Me Through Migraines

A bad migraine can lay me out flat for an entire day. At the worst, I can’t do much of anything but lie in a dark, quiet room, and tell myself it will pass. But when a migraine is just coming on, or starting to ease, it can be really tempting to try to carry on as usual, even though I know that screens, lights, and reading can all make things worse. Audiobooks can be a distraction from the pain, as well as a way to convince myself to stay in bed when I know that is really where I should be.

Audiobooks Help Me Indulge in Rereads

During my six years of university, the better part of my leisure reading during the school year consisted of rereading my favourite books over and over. I was doing so much reading for school that I just didn’t have the bandwidth to process new books for fun. But since leaving school and starting my blog, I’ve largely focused on reading and reviewing two new books every week, which has put a big damper on my rereading. Audiobooks help me sneak in rereads while still keeping up with my posting schedule. And if the audio version has a good reader, it can be almost like reading a favourite book for the first time.

Are you an audiobook lover? How do they make your life better?

What I Learned From Participating in Diverse Books Tag

The-DiverseBooks-Tag

Yesterday, I published a review of Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra. I requested it from the library a few weeks ago, after participating in the Diverse Books Tag meme, started by Naz at Read Diverse Books. I was excited to participate, and pretty confident that I could find books I’d read for each category. After all, I make a deliberate effort to read diversely, and my tastes are pretty eclectic. As I read Naz’s original post, I was already making my own list in my head. I was even thinking about doing two posts, one of books I’d already read, and one for books on my TBR pile, as I got excited about sharing all the many great books I know about. Pride, as they say, goes before a fall. And I fell smack into a continent-sized hole in my reading history.

I couldn’t find a single book in my blog archives that was set in Latin America. I had a couple books about Latin American characters, or by Latin American authors, but none that took place there. But surely I had one on my embarrassingly large TBR pile that would fit the bill? I found books set in China, Cambodia, and Japan. India, Pakistan, and Lebanon were all represented. Ditto Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Definitely no shortage of books set in Canada, the United States, or Europe. But not one set anywhere in Latin America. Honestly, even Latin American authors were poorly represented. I have more books set in fictional places than I have books set in Latin America.

So I dived into the bookish Internet, and got sucked down the rabbit hole of research. I perused book lists on Goodreads, and took advantage of the ability to search books by setting on NoveList (look for this tool on your library’s databases page). I love magic realism, but I set out to look beyond the obvious options, like Gabriel Garcia Márquez or Jorge Luis Borges. So I started searching Best of Latin American literature lists from recent years, looking for more contemporary writers. My interest was piqued by César Aira’s How I Became a Nun, published in 1993, about a child who is perceived as a boy, but feels like a girl. But not ready to stop there, I kept browsing, getting drawn into lists about door-stopping historical fiction, and the popularity of child narrators in Latin American fiction. I specialized in English Romantic literature at school, and so I was particularly fascinated to read about how Romanticism came to Latin America just as many countries were gaining independence. I wanted to fill the gap I had found not just with one particular book that fit the bill, but with a wider knowledge about what I had been missing. In the end, I requested Ways of Going Home from the library, but that was really only part of the point.

In the blogging world, we tend to regard memes as fun posts, useful for taking a break from more time or labour intensive posts, like reviews. They are great for connecting with other bloggers, and discovering new ones that share your interests. This one also happened to be educational, exposing a blind spot I was completely unaware of. It was a good reminder that being a diverse reader isn’t something you are, it’s something you do, and keep doing. And apparently I needed to be reminded.

Who are your favourite Latin American authors? Please recommend some books to help me continue exploring Latin American literature! I’d be particularly interested in recommendations for books by Latin American women.