Great Comic Friday: Extrapolating

Ok, I vere away from book-related topics for this post, but it was too funny (and fitting) to pass up:

Happy Halloween weekend, all!! Big plans? Anyone going to the Rally to Restore Sanity?

Tag! You're It. - A Meme of Sorts

Rachel at A Home Between the Pages tagged me this week in a meme. I don't usually participate in these, but because I'm writing these posts in advance, I thought this would be a fun post.

The Rules:
(1) Accept the tag and link to the tagger at the beginning of your post.
(2) Answer the questions honestly in your post by listing four things.
(3) Pass on the love by picking four other people to tag and listing them at the bottom of your post. Notify them that you tagged them.

Four Things In My Handbag:
  • My Sony Pocket Reader - an acquisition I haven't posted much about on the blog yet, but I'm slowly coming around to reading e-books.
  • My red Moleskine half planner/half notebook. I still don't keep an electronic calendar, and use these for schedules and lists.
  • Lots of scraps of paper, receipts, envelopes, and the like.
  • iPod touch, which is soon to be replaced with my very first smartphone.

Four Favorite Things In My Bedroom:

  • Our nightstands, which are Ethan Allen, and were my Grandma's, and I have since refinished. I'm in the market for new hardware for them, too.
  • My bed. That's a cop-out, because that's what Rachel put, but seriously, it is so freaking comfortable that I can't even stand to get up in the morning.
  • The ceiling fan, because my fiancĂ© installed it himself, which I find awe-inspiring.
  • The One Line a Day journal, which is 365 pages long and allows you to write one line per day for five years, going back to page 1 on Jan 1 of the following year. Great for easy journaling, and for comparison year-to-year.

Four Things on My Desk:

  • A black Moleskine notebook with wedding planning notes, which is soon to be repurposed.
  • A stack of papers to be filed, bills to pay, coupons to cut, Real Simples to read, etc.
  • A multitude of Pilot G-2 .05 pens, my hands-down favorite.
  • Far too many boxes of notecards and stationary and notebooks, which I buy compulsively.

Four Things I’ve Always Wanted to Do (But Haven’t Yet):

  • Go to Ireland.
  • Learn to walk gracefully in heels.
  • Cut off all my hair.
  • Make a career of book reviewing and bookselling.

Four Things I Enjoy Very Much At The Moment:

  • Autumnal light.
  • The latest Jet Blue advertising campaign, You Above All.
  • Potato-leek soup.
  • Boots.

Four Songs I Can’t Get Out Of My Head:

  • Gone in the Morning (Newton Faulkner)
  • Little Lion Man (Mumford and Sons)
  • La Vie En Rose (Louis Armstrong)
  • Piano Man (Billy Joel)

Four Things You Don’t Know About Me:

  • You will rarely find me without a water bottle in tow. I'm obsessed with hydration.
  • I drink Jack on the rocks. I hate Jack-and-Coke, Jack-and-Ginger, or any other Jack-and drink. Jack. Rocks. Glass. Go.
  • I hated my fiancĂ© when I first met him. Totally "fratastic," was my snap judgment. I'm thrilled to have been proved wrong on this one.
  • My reading of the classics is sparse at best, especially if you discount what I read in high school. My aim is to fix this, someday.

Four Bloggers I’m Tagging:

Sharing is Caring - An Amazon Tale

Last week, Amazon finally learned that crucial lesson that the rest of the world learned in kindergarten: sharing is good for us. For the first time in Kindle's short history, Kindle users will finally be allowed to share their purchases with friends. The lending options will be available "later this year," according to Amazon's announcement.

The sharing comes with a few catches, of course - books can only be lent for a period of 14 days (which, if you're as bad at planning reading choices as I am, could prove problematic), and the owner cannot access the book while it is lent out. Of course, the counterargument to those who protest this last restriction is simple: you can't access a paper book that you've lent to your friend, either, unless you kept photocopies of it on your shelf in the meantime?

Amazon will let publishers (or rights-holders, as the case may be) choose whether or not to participate in the sharing program.

It appears that the details of the lending program are still fuzzy. Case in point: will lending be available to any Kindle App users, across platforms, or just other Kindle users? I'm also unclear on whether or not sharing options will be made clear to buyers before purchasing - has anyone heard more about this?

Read the original announcement or the TechCrunch article for more information.

A Magic Carpet (Quote of the Day)

“A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way." -Caroline Gordon

I tried to articulate a similar thought in a recent post, Why Read?.

Great Bookmark Friday: Nightlight Bookmark

A few months ago, I posted a Great Bookmark Friday featuring a lamp with a little bookmark ledge to hold a book:

Now, I can do you one better - a bookmark/bookstand/nightlight/stroke of genius - the Mark Night Light Bookstand. And the best part? It is for sale.

[Book off, light on]

[Book on, page marked, light off]

Pretty clever, no? I'm wondering how well it would work for a paperback vs. a hardcover. I have a thing against breaking the spines of books, if it is at all possible to avoid it. It looks like the angle on the triangle isn't so bad, so maybe it wouldn't be a problem. Regardless... pretty genius. Of course, now I can't seem to find one actually on sale anywhere. Has anyone seen this floating around out there in the interwebs land?

Help! Honeymoon Books Recommendations Needed

Ok, book-loving readers. The question of the year is upon me. I leave for my honeymoon on Nov 1. One week in Mexico, two six-hour flights (in first class!), and that means plenty of time for reading.

Keeping in mind that I always overpack (I shudder at the thought of being stranded somewhere without a book - or a bookstore), I've made a long-list of 12 which will probably be culled down to about 3-4 paper books and 1-2 e-books to take along. Here's what I have so far:

The Great House
Our Tragic Universe (halfway through this on my Pocket Reader)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Bad Marie
The Historian (which I've started but haven't had time to finish for this month's readalong)
Love in the Time of Cholera (re-read)
Wheel of Time #8 (I'm trying to catch up in my re-read for Vol 13, which comes out while I'm away!)
The History of Love (re-read)
Packing for Mars
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
The Corrections

Wow, that's incredibly fiction-heavy, and clunker-heavy, so if anyone has any suggestions for rounding out my choices, I'm open to suggestions.

Any thoughts? What would you take on a week-long trip to Mexico? Do you read the same kinds of books on travels as you do at home (I do, but I like my books to be fitting for the trip, so maybe Matterhorn isn't the best match for a honeymoon...)?

Jay-Z's Memoir Gets the Big Creative Ad Campaign

Did you all hear about Jay-Z's upcoming memoir? As a bookish-type working in the ad industry, the Big Creative campaign behind the book has hit all my radars and appeared on at least 50% of the blogs I currently follow. It seems that Droga5, an independent ad agency out of New York, has devised a clever, interactive campaign for fans, involving large reproductions of the book's pages appearing in various locales discussed throughout the book. The enlarged places will loom on standard advertising mediums - like billboards, bus stops, and building sides - as well as less conventional spots, like the bottom of a hotel pool or the felt of pool tables in a local pool hall.

The best part is that these pages are all unannounced, and form a kind of scavenger hunt for those eager-beaver readers looking to participate (and the winner gets tickets to see Jay-Z and Coldplay in concert).

There's something wonderfully refreshing about a new kind of ad campaign for the publishing industry - for all our talks about the need to change and to breathe new life into the world of printed pages, most publishing ads (for those publishers that still take the time and money to even run print ads) look the same, featuring the cover of the book, maybe an author head shot, and a series of blurbs from recognized authors and critics praising the book as "the best of its genre" or "my favorite book of the year." The ads amount to little more than a re-organization of the elements on a book's jacket and (in this humble book-loving advertiser's opinion) do precious little to make a book stand out from the dozens of other titles offered for sale each month.

But this? This is different. This is new. This is refreshing, and this turns heads. Decoded stands out from the crowd... even if it is yet another celebrity biography/behind-the-scenes (or in this case, lyrics) kind of book.

Great Photo Friday: That's What She Said

Personally, I think I'd classify this one as a win. From the ever-hilarious FAIL blog.

The Novel: Live!

Have you heard about this? It's been buzzing around the bookish interwebs for a few days now, but for some reason I just had the time to actually read through an entire article on it (in today's Shelf Awareness). The project includes 36 authors, one Nancy Pearl, six days and a to-be-written novel. And the best part? The public is invited to watch this amazing feat, either live, at the Hugo House in Seattle (complete with happy hour drink specials!), or online at

While this is certainly not the first collaborative book-writing effort we've seen of late (remember the 24-hour Book from last year, and the Twitter book with Neil Gaiman?), it certainly stands out among the crowd. Here's a little preview:

According to Shelf Awareness, "the book is not a weather report, and the heroine, Alexis Austin, is a brave 14-year-old coping with death and a few other things that a young girl shouldn't have to deal with."

Intrigued? Read the first half of the novel online, and tune in from 10am-10pm (Pacific time) to watch the progress. Join the live chat each evening to bid on fun merchandise (such as signed books and homemade pickles) - proceeds go to Seattle Arts & Lectures' Writers in the School Program and 826 Seattle, a non-profit writing and tutoring center for students in Seattle.

And need I remind you to stay tuned for the final product, due 10/16?

Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

It is hard for me to review this book without a bias, because I'm fairly certain that Gretchen Rubin is actually me, living a different life. So much of what she writes about herself hit so close to home over my reading of this book that I'm actually a bit creeped out about it.

But let me back up, and begin by putting this book in context: I never read self-help books. I find that, for the most part, they are preachy, repetitive, obvious, and mostly boring. Let me then add that though The Happiness Project would be shelved in the self-help section of many bookstores (if not the biography/memoir category), it is so far from a self-help book that I can't even begin to list the differences. And that's a good thing.

Instead of writing a how-to-be-happy book, Rubin has approached the subject of happiness as a memoir. The subtitle gives it all away: "Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun." Long-winded? Maybe. To the point? Absolutely. But by offering us an account of her own attempts at happiness instead of a how-to, Rubin's book avoids the pitfalls of preachy dullness.

Perhaps, though, what I appreciated most about Rubin's happiness efforts is that she in no way suggested an overhaul of one's current life. Instead, she argues,

"My project wasn't like [Thoreau's or Elizabeth Gilbert's]. I was an unadventurous soul, and I didn't want to undertake that kind of extraordinary change... I didn't want to reject m life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen. I knew I wouldn't discover happiness in a faraway place or in unusual circumstances; it was right here, right now."

The result is an accessible happiness, the kind that doesn't require major advances from publishers for funding,* abandoning the responsibilities of marriage and family, or any form of drastic, life-altering, stress-inducing change. Not that these excursions and life changes don't have a place, but they don't have a place in Rubin's book.

What Rubin's Happiness Project amounts to is a collection of little, manageable changes: go to sleep earlier, make checklists, get something burdensome finished, clean your closets, be nice, smile more, jump up and down. This is not, she argues, the be-all, end-all to happiness, but having energy, organization, and the right attitude are certainly no small part of it.

Bottom line: Rubin's inspiration for The Happiness Project hit her on the bus - "The days are long, but the years are short." Anyone who's lived at all knows that a truer statement could not be found - this just about sums up every trite quotation there is on long days, remembering good times, appreciating the now, and so on. In her memoir/self-help-esque/inspirational book, Rubin strikes the perfect balance between memoir and inspiration for those seeking it. She offers an accessible and scalable solution for anyone looking to try their own Happiness Project**, and a fun read littered with quotes, interesting ideas and funny anecdotes for those just seeking a good ol' account of one person's year.


*That's Elizabeth Gilbert, for those of you who didn't know that little spoiler about Eat, Pray, Love.

** If you'd like to start your own Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin offers some suggestions and supplies for getting started over on her blog. You can also join the 2010 Happiness Challenge (although I suppose it's a bit late into 2010 for that?). I'll be making my own project for 2011, following her inspiration.

Local Books App from Library Thing - A Tool for the Traveling Reader

Travel much? Read much? Then Librarything has the perfect app for you - Local Books. The app has been out for some time, but for some reason just hit my radar (And I've downloaded pretty much every other free book-related app for my iPod. Even some not-so-free ones).

The Local Books app shows you local bookstores, libraries, book places and bookish events near you. Each location that appears is complete with photos, a detailed description, and, for events, the date and time to be there.

What more could the bookish traveler need when exploring a new city? Or, for that matter, what more could us bookish residents ask for when seeking to squeeze every last bit of literary life out of our homeplaces?

Local Books is compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Anyone know of something similar for other platforms - the Droids, Palms, Blackberries and other smartphones of the world??

Read with Inclination (Quote of the Day)

"If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read." -Samuel Johnson

Taken from The Happiness Project (p. 228).

Why Read?: An Impassioned and Somewhat Confused Argument

I never thought I'd see the day when I actually had to answer the "Why read?" question. To be quite honest, I thought it was self-explanatory and universally accepting. Reading is good. For you, for those around you, for societies, for politicians, for thinkers, for writers, for students, for entertainment. But it seems that that assumption pre-supposes an innate love of reading that (sadly) does not exist in everyone, which has lead me down the path of trying to set forth a clear argument for why reading is essential and enjoyable.

I'll say this, too: this proved more difficult than expected, if for no other reason that I have tried to assume I am arguing to someone who does not already have an appreciation for books - of any sort.

Reading is fundamental. We are taught to read as children not merely because it has become a near-necessary skill to surviving in today's sign-driven, advertising-laden, directional world (though this does seem to be one of the main factors driving literacy campaigns around the world), but because reading opens up a previously unseen world to us. Reading opens our eyes to new worlds, new worldviews, new perspectives, places, people, ideas, and things - while simultaneously reinforcing our own views, perspectives, and experiences. A novel, as much as a travel memoir or biography, can teach us, tell us we're not alone in our thoughts, guide us, shape our growth and our development - all in the pages of one book, fiction or non.

What is more, reading gives us a kind of social currency.

"Have you read the third Stieg Larsson book?"
"No, just finished the first."
"Oh, I can't wait to hear your thoughts on #2 and #3 - I liked #2 best."
"If you liked that trilogy, you'll probably like..."

What is more satisfying to a certified bookworm than to trade book recommendations, expanding lists of books you want to read while spreading the word about a gem you've recently uncovered?

But there I go, slipping into talking to those already persuaded again.

Slowly, as television and computers have come to dominate the average American's "entertainment" time, we have forgotten to appreciate the knowledge held in books, thinking that that same knowledge can be gleaned from television, movies, and the internet.

Which, to an extent, is true. If you are looking for non-fiction knowledge, The History Channel, Discovery, CNN and a plethora of other stations provide just the clipped documentaries we're after (and I love them as much as the next documentary junkie). If you are looking for escape through some captivating plot line, sitcoms and dramas are on offer a-plenty. If you want a taste of "life" in another's shoes... well, there's "reality" TV for you. And this doesn't even begin to touch on the millions of articles, stories, videos, pictures and social media updates on the great wide interwebs.

The question, then, becomes not "Why read?" but "Why read instead of watching television/watching movies/going online?"

And there, I'm stumped. I'm not sure I have the answer, and I'm sad to say I'm not sure we can convince the non-reading public to join us in our reading crusade. Reading has to be enjoyed on an individual level, not because someone told you it is enjoyable. You can shove books into children's hands and demand that they read them, test them on their contents, but until we can find a way to prove that it reading is enjoyable, enriching, and all those wonderful deluxe adjectives we associate with our precious tomes, it is nothing more than work.

And that, I believe, leads us back to that bookworm's love of recommendation: because we think, rightly so in most cases, that if we can just find the right book, the right story, the right memoir, novel, polemic, biography, history, whatever - we might be able to shed some light on our impassioned love for reading. Maybe we'll even have a convert on our hands.

My Best Friend (Quote of the Day)

"My best friend is someone who will give me a book I have not read." - Abraham Lincoln
Buy it on a tote bag at Barnes and Noble. Don't worry - I have one, gifted by the best cousin/librarian-in-training ever.