This Is My Genre – Tell Me Yours Tag

I was tagged by Jackie at Death By Tsundoku yesterday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time – I’ve been a real slacker here lately.  In between bingeing on new Gilmore Girls, the Thanksgiving holiday, and my family being sick, I haven’t felt much like blogging.  This is the kick in the pants I need to get back on track!this-is-my-genre-tell-me-yours

Drew@TheTattooedBookGeek created this tag.  Check out his blog!

Question 1:  What is your favorite genre?

While I enjoy many different genres, my go-to favorite is mystery (with a special shout out to British mysteries.)

Question 2: What is your favorite author from that genre?

Nope, no way, can’t pick one favorite.  Some of my favorites include Ruth Rendell, Michael Connelly, Agatha Christie, and Robert Galbraith (A.K.A.,  J.K. Rowling.)

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Michael Connelly

Question 3:  What is it about the genre that keep pulling you back?

I love the challenge, to see if I can solve the mystery before the detective/main character does (I usually can’t!) I also love the page-turning, immersive quality of mysteries.  I love literary fiction but I can more easily put a novel in that genre aside, while with (good) mysteries I am so caught up that I don’t want to put them down.  I love the sense of resolution and tidyness that mysteries can (usually, but not always) provide.  And with long-running series, I love seeing how a beloved character develops and changes over time.

Question 4: What is the book that started your love for the genre?1036967

Well, I’ve written before about how the Nancy Drew series and Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game were integral to my  love for mysteries from a young age.  But I also fell in love with mysteries early on by devouring the Nate the Great books by Marjorie Sharmat, the Cam Jansen series by David Adler, and the Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald Sobol.

Question 5: If you had to recommend at least one book from your favorite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

Oh man, this is tough.  I’ve got a few picks that I think are good places to start for a mystery newbie.  For a more literary take on mystery, you can’t go wrong with Kate Atkinson’s terrific Jackson Brodie books.  The first one is Case Histories.  It’s one of my all-time favorite reads.  410dvepm1dl-_sy344_bo1204203200_For a classic British mystery, go with Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Orient Express or The A.B.C. Murders.  For a lighter/cozy-ish spin on mysteries, try Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series.  the_sweetness_at_the_bottom_of_the_pieThey feature an 11-year old precocious British girl with a passion for chemistry and tempestuous relationships with her sisters.  Oh, and she happens to help solve murders.  The first one is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  And for a grittier, more violent detective series, try Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books.  Set in Los Angeles, Harry is a Vietnam vet and a maverick detective, often fighting corrupt government officials and fellow policemen.  The first one is The Black Echo.

Question 6:  Why do you read?

I read to learn, to connect, to vicariously experience, to empathize, and yes, to escape.  I read because it’s a central part of who I am.  I read because books are “uniquely portable magic,” as Stephen King said.

Thanks, Jackie, for tagging me.  This was fun!  I’m going to tag a few people because I’d be interested in their takes on it, but if you don’t have time to participate, no worries!  And if I don’t tag you but you’d like to participate, please do so!  Or tell me your favorite genre in the comments below!  If you also like mysteries, tell me some of your favorites.

Tag:

Katie @ Never Listless

Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons

Tara @ Caffeinatious

 

 

 

 

 

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Browsing

the-lost-art-of-browsinghappy-1Yesterday my son and I went to our local library, the one in the county in which we live, not the one in the next county over, where I work.  I like to take him to the library and let him pick out some things himself, as opposed to me bringing home items from my workplace library (which I do regularly.)  He chooses books and dvds rather quickly, almost haphazardly, although occasionally he will plop right down in the floor in front of the stacks and read a book to himself.  (That brings me no end of delight, as you can imagine.)

My husband asked me to choose a book or two for him.  He’s a reader, but not voracious (obsessive?) like I am.  He’ll read a book over a couple of weeks, and when he’s finished he may not pick up another book for a month or more.  (I know, it’s hard for me to fathom!) He doesn’t read fiction (!) but instead enjoys biography, memoir, history, and sports books.  It’s hard to find a book about baseball that the man hasn’t read.

While I was looking for a biography for him, I kept finding things that appealed to me. And I was struck by a feeling of nostalgia for something that I hadn’t even realized that I was missing.  I miss browsing.  I almost never browse anymore.  Between my library holds list, my massive TBR, and the books I own but haven’t yet read, I don’t make time to wander the stacks and choose a book on a whim.

I realize that part of this may stem from the fact that I often have a busy and impatient five year-old with me, but I don’t blame it on him.  It’s my own fault entirely that I’ve let browsing go by the wayside.  Years ago, I didn’t have a massive TBR list.  I didn’t keep 15 items on my library hold list and constantly fiddle with it in order to ensure that they don’t all come in at one time.  I allowed myself the pleasure (and the risk) of selecting books based on the jacket copy and my mood.

I’ve found myself thinking about my reading goals for next year, and chief among them is making room for browsing and random picks.  I have even considered erasing my Goodreads TBR, but I can’t quite do it yet. ( I have this fear that I’ll forget about these great sounding books and then where will I be??  Oh wait, I’ll be browsing.  I’ve got to ponder this further.)  But I was thinking that I could set a goal to read a random whim pick once a month.  Wait – that sounds funny.  Set a goal to be more random!  Clearly, I’ve got control issues, but I didn’t even realize how it extended to my reading life.  You can see why I’ve not yet let myself request ARCs.  I’ve got enough issues already!

Do you browse libraries or bookstores regularly and select items based on mood?  Or have you forgotten that you used to enjoy it, like me?  Can you imagine getting rid of your TBR list, or does the thought make you panic a little bit?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

Books With Happy Endings

I’ve been mulling over this post for a few days now, ever since a regular library patron of our branch asked me a seemingly innocuous question.  “Have you read any good, happy-ending books lately?” I was completely stumped.  So many questions swirled in my brain. Had I read any good happy-ending books lately?  Had I ever?  What was wrong with me that I couldn’t think of a single book to recommend to her?  Why do I only read sad books? Would I be a happier person if I read happier books?

I know that I used to read happy-ending books.  I went through a huge “chick-lit” phase in my 20’s.  (Yes, that term is problematic, but I do find it an apt way to categorize a large chunk of my previous reading habits.)  These were books about young women in their 20’s, mostly looking for love, a good job, and their identities in big cities like New York and London.  I was in a medium-sized Southern city, with a job I wasn’t sure about, but I still felt a kinship with these young women.  Most of them eventually found what they were looking for, or at least got started on a path that they liked, and it was comforting to read.

garden-spellsI’ve read and adored authors like Elinor Lipman and Sarah Addison Allen, who both write smart, charming fiction about love, family, and relationships.  They’re mostly happy in the end, usually.  I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion last year and thought it was adorable and fun.  (Although I don’t feel compelled to read the sequel, The Rosie Effect.)  Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Attachments were pretty happy and funny.  So I know that every once in a while I do read on the lighter side.

Looking at my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge, out of 62 books read thus far, I’d classify only 7, maybe 8, of them as “happy-ending books.”  That equals about 11%.  No wonder I totally blanked when my library patron asked me to recommend something.  I am often attracted to messy, bittersweet, or downright sad books because I read to experience and learn and feel.  I want my reading to teach me something – an emotional truth, the reality of a person’s life on the other side of the world or someone totally different from me in my home region – I want to experience it all, the good and the bad.  I look for connection, for understanding, for enlightenment.  That said, sometimes I just want a thrilling page-turner!

9780007161195-us-300I don’t mean to say that because I seek emotional realism and complexity in my fiction that I am better than someone who reads mostly for escape.  I have already wrestled with book snobbery years ago and I won.  I thankfully left that crap behind.  I know that people read for many reasons, all valid.  These just happen to be my preferences and habits, most of the time.

I know that there is room in my reading life for both the emotional texture I crave and the restorative practice of escape. I saw that patron a couple of days after she asked me my question, and I told her that she’d really gotten me thinking about my reading habits.  I said that I am going to start mixing in more happy books, taking a chance on authors or books I may have previously not given a fair shake to.   Besides, I want to be able to help the next person who comes in looking for that sweet, feel-good story when they’ve had a rough week.

So this is where you come in, dear readers!  Give me your picks for books with happy endings.  I need some inspiration!  My library patrons and I thank you.

Going Back To One Book At A Time

For most of my reading life, I was a one book at a time reader.  It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve started reading multiple books at one time.  It seemed to be working for me… until all of a sudden it didn’t.

Multiple Books (1)I started feeling unsettled and anxious about having 4 or 5 or 6 books on my nightstand in various states of being read.  (I am an anxious person by nature, so that this minor thing would cause me anxiety is not surprising.)  My focus has also been horrible this summer.  I know there are other factors involved (only child starting kindergarten, the ridiculous, disgusting, horrifying,but-I-can’t-look-away news cycle) but I think having too many books going at once is part of the problem.

So I’m going to try to go back to what used to work for me.  I’ll try reading one book at a time, with the exception of an audio book.  I am going to try to control myself with my library holds so that I don’t have too many things coming in at once and become overwhelmed. (The modify holds function on the online catalog is the best!)  I am going to try and PUT DOWN THE PHONE when I’m home.  I might put it on top of the fridge, that seems like a nice out of the way place!  And that nightstand of mine could use a good cleaning out anyway, regardless of what I happen to be reading.

These are my ideas.  Basically I just want to slow down.  Settle.  Breathe.

Are you able to juggle multiple books well, or do you find that it makes you scatterbrained and crazy?  Are you feeling like you need to find ways to gain more focus?  If you’ve experienced what I’m describing I’d love to hear your ideas about how to recover one’s attention span.

 

(Sort Of) In Progress

My son starts kindergarten Tuesday.  His dad and I are feeling all kinds of feelings, as you can probably imagine.  Excitement, nervousness, sadness, disbelief all rolled up into one state of what I call general “floopiness.”  Consequently, I can’t seem to concentrate on reading.  I finished Lumberjanes Vol. 1 on July 15 and since then I’ve been reading things in dribs and drabs.  (It was cute, by the way.  I’ll definitely get the second volume and see how I like it.)  I find myself wanting to watch movies and The Great British Baking Show on PBS more than I want to pick up a book.  (I am slightly obsessed with that show – it’s everything delightful!  Beautiful, intricate baked goods, humble, adorable British people who seems to genuinely like one another and want one another to do well – I just love it.)

I had to return Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl to the library today – woe is me!  I was only 164 pages into it, but it still has a pretty lengthy holds lists.  I couldn’t keep it any longer in good conscience.  I really am enjoying it.  She’s a marvelous writer, marrying memoir with passion for botany.  She makes botany really interesting!  She makes me want to plant trees!  I may go ahead and buy it before a copy makes its way back to me at the library.

16158542I’m listening to The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown on CD in my car.  It’s the sort of thing that I probably wouldn’t pick up to read in paper form, but Michael Kindness’s glowing recommendation on Books on the Nightstand persuaded me to try the audio book.  Oh, and the fact that it’s narrated by the late Edward Herrmann, a.k.a. RICHARD GILMORE from Gilmore Girls!  As promised, he does a fantastic job narrating.  I’m a little over halfway through and think I’ll be able to finish before I must return it to the library.  (More holds!) It’s pretty fascinating, weaving the biography of one of the young boatmen in particular with history of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the rise of the Nazis in the lead-up to the 1936 Olympics.  I am enjoying it much more than I thought I might!

9781481440875_custom-83c869fee28f9137f21e4e8c5eae3529468e813a-s300-c85I’ve started Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon but haven’t gotten far.  It’s definitely intriguing.  Some sort of shapeshifting alien has landed off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria, and a diverse cast of characters are all dealing with the aftermath.  I think I’ll try to get back to this one tonight!  And I’m also halfway through Fables Vol 9: Sons of Empire .  Graphic novels seem to be about my speed these days with my short attention span.

So it seems that I’ve got a case of what Stefanie from So Many Books calls “The Middles.”  I predict that in a few weeks, when my family settles into our new schedule, I will bounce back with more focus and a renewed zeal for reading.  I hope that you all are having a good summer!  Tell me what you’re currently reading in the comments.  Or if you’re like me and having trouble concentrating, what is holding your interest these days?

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Delights

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is Top Ten Bookworm Delights.  I really like this topic – it is sure to be filled with things we all might be able to identify with as voracious readers.  But there are sure to be unique spins on it as well, and things that don’t really hit our own bookish buttons.  So here are some of the bookish delights that give this passionate book nerd joy.

  • Owning a signed copy of a favorite book with a personal message.  I was lucky enough to attend a book talk and signing by the amazing Jess Walter in 2013.  He’s one of my top five favorite authors.  I got to briefly speak with him at the signing, and told him that my book group book for the month was his Beautiful Ruins, and that it was the second time I’d be reading it.  He graciously seemed to appreciate my gushing and wrote this inside my book:IMG_3276 “For Laila – Thanks for reading – twice.  Best wishes. Jess Walter.”
  • Visiting bookstores and/or libraries when on vacation.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks up bookstores on TripAdvisor along with restaurants and attractions, right?
  • Looking at my newly reorganized bookshelves.  I wrote earlier this year about my messy bookshelves.  They’re still kind of messy, since I store games and DVD there too, but at least the books are separated into fiction and nonfiction/poetry, on two different sets of shelves.  Alphabetical by author.  I like feeling more organized.
  • Marking a book “read” on my Goodreads shelves.  I am hopelessly addicted to Goodreads.  It satisfies all my list-loving cravings.  Shelving the recently finished book into multiple shelves (and adding it to the annual list of What Women Born in the 1970s Have Read This Year) makes me ridiculously happy.
  • My Eat Sleep Read mug from Malaprops.  I love Malaprops, a fantastic independent bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina.  On a trip there last fall with my husband, I snagged a fabulous bright red mug that has EAT SLEEP READ on one side and the store logo on the other side.  It makes me happy every morning when I drink my coffee.mug
  • My Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice tote.  I bring this to work every day and it’s a wonderful, beautiful upgrade from my previous market tote bag.  You can peruse Out Of Print’s bookish tote bag collection here.
  • Still owning and rereading your copy of an old childhood favorite.  My childhood copy of The Westing Game  by Ellen Raskin is still in decent shape after all these years.  I reread it a couple of years ago and it’s still BRILLIANT.  I also listened to the audio and it’s fun too.  I’m glad I managed to hang on to this one.IMG_3277
  • When a child or parent tells me that a book that I recommended for the child was a winner.  I am a Senior Assistant at a small library branch, and we are less than a mile from an elementary school, so we get a lot of kids in here.  Just today a parent told me that the books I’ve recommended for her daughter have turned out to be great choices, and that always makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.  I will do anything to help foster a child’s interest in reading!
  • Bookstore gift cards for birthdays/holidays.  Because I clearly do not have enough books, right?  (Ha ha!)
  • That wonderful moment when you finish one book and haven’t yet chosen your next one. This might be my favorite bookish delight of them all.  The possibility!  The bounty!  It’s always an exciting moment for me. Only a true book nerd will understand.

So tell me, friends,  what are some of your own bookish delights?  Did any of mine resonate with you?

Do You Reread Regularly?

I listened to an episode of Books on the Nightstand the other day from back in September (episode 349, to be exact,) and hosts Ann and Michael were talking about rereading books.   They had both reread one of their favorite books for a then upcoming book talk at Booktopia ( the bookish weekend events they used to host.)  Ann had reread Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Michael had reread Any Human Heart by William Boyd.

It was a very interesting discussion.  Neither of them had been dedicated rereaders at all, mostly because they both work in publishing and have so much reading to do for work, and keep up with new things that their publishing company (Penguin Random House) doesn’t publish as well.  But Ann shared that the experience of rereading one of her all time favorite novels may have pushed her into being someone who makes time to reread.  She said that this time she was not so consumed by the plot, obviously because she knew the story line already.  This allowed her to pick up on things she thinks she missed the first time around, when she was frantically turning pages.  She mentioned that a couple of characters stood out to her more this time around, and she realized how central to the novel they really were.  She didn’t know how realistic is was of her to expect very much rereading in the future, given her line of work, but she said that now she has a new understanding of the benefits and pleasure of rereading books.

Michael enjoyed his reread, but did not come away from the experience with a new vision of himself as a reader.  He said that there were simply too many books coming out all the time that he wanted and needed to get to, and rereading just wasn’t something he saw himself doing.

Last week I posted about rereading Middlemarch, and how much I am enjoying the experience.  In reality I might reread one book a year, but I always want to reread things more than I actually do.  One blogging friend mentioned that she’d never reread a book before, but that it sounded like fun.  I suggested maybe trying a childhood favorite first, and see how that goes.

IMG_3192
Need to reread some Kingsolver.

So all of this got me wondering, how many of you guys make time to reread?  Is it one book a year?  Two?  Do you read a particular book in a particular season every year?  Or are you more like Michael, and simply have too many new books that you’d rather make time for?  I’d love to hear what you think.