In Theory I Like Re-Reading

I talked before about how my re-reading habits have changed before I was a blogger and then when I became a blogger but I have been thinking a lot about re-reading lately and why/why not I don’t do it.

In theory I would say I am pro re-reading but in practice? NOT SO MUCH.

 

Why I Don’t Re-Read:

1. TIME, my TBR-list & also the desire to experience new stories — This is the biggest factor & honestly I need to get over this. As a blogger I have these shiny new review copies that always seem to take up my time and I don’t make TIME for re-reads which is a shame. I’m always so stuck in the whirlwind of new releases that I don’t think about it. And it’s not even that I think “oh, well I won’t have anything to blog about” because I have NO problem blogging about a re-reading experience…it’s just I’m so stuck in the world of new books. And not even just NEW releases but just any story I’ve never read before. It’s always so EXCITING to read something you’ve never read before and I always love meeting new characters and going on new adventures.

2. I’m sometimes afraid they will not hold up to what I first thought: It’s a scary thought to me. That I could read a book love it and then years later HATE it. That the words that once really resonated or a romance I fell for could just fall so flat. I mean, I get that I change and grow and so do my tastes but also sometimes I just want to have those good memories of the book. It would be a sad day to read a book I considered a favorite (especially a childhood favorite) and just dislike it so much.

Why In Theory I Like Re-Reading:

1. Cozying up with old friends is fun: Seriously, sometimes it’s just a comfort to settle in with characters you love or a story that left you breathless. I tend to always reread portions of favorites when I’m in a reading slump because they just remind me why I love reading.

2. As much as I’m afraid the book holding up, I get excited about the new lens I might view it: We are always growing and changing and the lens in which we view the world changes through experiences and such. I think it’s exciting to pick up on things I might not have before or see a character/the story in a different way because of the time that has passed and the ways I’ve changed since my first reading. Wouldn’t it be amazing to re-read a favorite book and then just have all these other elements and words change you all over again in a different way. I remember when I read Eat, Pray, Love at the age of 21-ish I immediately thought, “I want to re-read this book again when I’m 30.”

3. It solidifies the favorites: Yes, it sucks to not feel the sparks on a re-read but how amazing is it to be like YEAH THERE IS A REASON THIS IS A FAVORITE!! I want to read it over and over again!

 

What I Want To Do To Change My Re-Reading Habits:

In 2015 I want to re-read more. It’s that simple. I want to choose a book a month that was important to me or I considered a favorite (some will be childhood books so I know they will be quick reads) and re-read it.

I want to reflect on where I was at in my life when I read it vs. where I am now. How I remember thinking about it vs. how I do now. I want to not be afraid about the fact that sometimes we grown in and out of books. I want to not be afraid that sometimes a book is really important and shapes you at a certain point in your life when you need it but it’s okay for it to not be as meaningful upon a re-read. I don’t want to be afraid of not loving it this time around but rejoice in the fact it really meant something to me at one point but now I have books that do that for me now. I can acknowledge the impact. Remember it fondly. Be a little sad. But really I want to explore these books that shaped me and look at how myself and the world has changed since my first read.

I know I started to wax poetic there for a moment about something like re-reading but honestly it fascinates me that I will probably NEVER have the same experience reading the same book twice.

 

Some Books I Want To Explore In My Re-Reading Adventures:

I haven’t decided on ALL the re-reads I want to do but these I know for sure.

+ On The Road by Jack Kerouac — a favorite in college and I’m super curious if 29 year old Jamie will see it in the same way that pretentious 19 year old Jamie did. The Jamie who had all these fantasies for what life would be like and how it would unfold.

+ The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath I talked pretty personally about this and where I was at in my life when I read this book and I’m just really curious how I’ll see it vs. how 18 year old Jamie did in the middle of one of the single worst times in my life.

+ The Giver by Lois Lowry — This was my all time FAVORITE book growing up. I re-read it about 10 times as a kid.

+ Just One Day by Gayle Forman — This is a more recent one (Nov 2012 I think) so I don’t have a ton of distance from it but it really CHANGED my life. It’s a Gayle book so I know it will hold up! IT WILL.

 

So let’s talk about re-reading! Do you re-read often? Why/why not? Have you ever re-read a book and then it didn’t live up? Tell me anything about your re-reading habits!

A Personal Response To A Shocking THING That Happened

I typically never write posts about drama or any THINGS happening in the book world (minus the Speak Loudly/book banning thing years ago) because 1) I don’t like getting blogging community specific to isolate my readers who aren’t in it and 2) I generally don’t have the energy to rehash these things… but something that happened over the weekend has given me a lot to think about so I feel I must.

What happened: I’m not going to go into details of what happened or analyze it for you or really give too many opinions. The only opinion that matters: what this author did was so wrong. It crossed a huge line. I read THIS article (it goes to a safe link so they won’t get hits) and was appalled. Basically an author stalked (no literally STALKED as in went to her HOUSE) a blogger who I know and wrote an article about it trying to pass her craziness off in this cutesy, funny matter. I was not laughing because no matter what this blogger did or didn’t do…stalking is a line that I’m NOT okay with. Dear Author wrote about this in detail so I’ll link that if you want more on this.

I’m not really here to talk about WHAT HAPPENED or give opinions other than how it made me feel personally as a blogger.

I started blogging in 2010. I wanted to talk about books I was reading and connect with other readers because I had nobody in my circle of people to talk books with. It was a smaller community then and publisher/blogger relationships were still in the earlier stages of forming. I fell into this community and became friendly with a lot of people quickly. I’ve met SO many people I met online IN REAL LIFE — at conferences and events and such. I have felt safe in this really wonderful part of the internet that I call home. My readers are lovely. I’ve had LITERALLY no drama in my blogging life.

I would have never, back in 2010, imagined a blogger could be stalked by an author over an opinion they had about their book — regardless of how the book blogger talked about the book or what she did or did not do.

I tweeted this after I read the article and processed it:

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A few things I’ve thought about since this:

 

ONE // I have always felt safe in this community and have been VERY open. I feel like you guys are my close friends and in some ways..family. Because of that safety, I’ve let my guard down and forgotten that the internet CAN be a scary place and is not always used for good. I haven’t given out OBVIOUS personal information but I think about the little ways someone could EASILY piece together important details if they wanted to and were looking that hard. I’ve tweeted landmarks across from where I live to local bloggers without even thinking twice about who was looking. I’ve not even thought twice about sending packages out with my return address and real name to giveaway winners. Everyone knows my husband’s name. My niece’s names. I’ve said where I used to live to authors and bloggers who are local and that my sister still lives in that town. I may have mentioned her name randomly (though I typically just say my sister).

Individually these things are probably not problematic but if the wrong person who I’ve wronged or who becomes obsessed (and no dear god I’m not saying I think this would happen to me) or WHATEVER gets a hold of it and wants to find out more personal details? THEY COULD. I’m not saying I’m not going to close up shop and stop being personal but it has definitely give me a lot to think about and I’ll be more vigilant about what I’m sharing online.

TWO// Younger bloggers and readers, please be careful. I’m a 29 year old woman and I see the mistakes I’ve made. The times I’ve let my guards down. I know it’s easy to feel comfortable but be careful about where your address is going. Your personal details. Who you are talking to. It’s a good reminder to all that we don’t always know who we are talking to and what kind of person we are interacting with. Talk with your parents about it. Think about where you can be safer.

THREE// It’s a scary time to be a blogger in a way — even in this bookish space. I’ve seen a book blogger being sued over something she wrote about a publisher. And now I’m seeing stalking. The bullying and the trolls and such were scary enough to me. I do not want to quit blogging but I’m finding myself overwhelmed about how things have changed since I started. I don’t write a lot of SUPER negative reviews because I generally don’t have the energy to spend that much time on something I disliked but it makes you think about how all it takes is for one person to become so enraged and so obsessed about the things you have written. The opinions you have.

FOUR // Just know that when I hold giveaways or have your personal information for ANY REASON..I destroy it. You can feel safe that your information will never be given to anyone other than who I have informed you would have it (ie: when a giveaway is sponsored by a publisher and I sent your info to a publisher).

FIVE // I KNOW that this is not the majority of authors. So many authors have been equally as disgusted and have spoken out about how this is NOT OKAY. I know that this is not the norm. That is comforting. I know that this community is mostly comprised of lovely people. I know this. But I think we can all do with being a little bit safer.

 

I know I’ve had a lot to think about after this. I’d love to know what it’s made you think about especially in regards to your safety as a blogger and internet user and how you safeguard yourself! (My intention is not to open this up to nastiness at all. I have my opinions of ALL aspects of this and I’m keeping most of them to myself and to close friends because that’s how I roll. So that kind of conversation isn’t going to be welcome here. Stalking is wrong. The end. You will not change my mind on THAT part).

8 Reasons I Struggle To Put Down A Book

I HATE when I’m reading a book and I’m not really feeling it. Because then…one of the hardest bookworm decisions has to be made. To put down the book or keep reading? I mean, it’s a tough decision. If I don’t put it down I am at risk for subjecting myself to something awful and possibly putting myself in a dreaded reading slump. I recently had a REALLY tough time putting down a book —  I put it down and was so close to talking myself out of it. But my book people on Twitter stepped in and off to the library I went to return the book.

I realized there’s many reasons why I struggle to put it down. Let’s explore them.

1. I think “IT COULD GET BETTER” and history has made this be true for me.

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Some of my favorite books started out rough or slow (Code Name Verity and Jellicoe Road). I can’t imagine not having those stories in my life!! But there are more books that DIDN’T get better…that weren’t that one that was worth pushing through. But I get so caught up in the fact that books I may have wanted to put down have been SO WORTH IT. Even though mathematically that’s a small percentage. But I’ve never like math anyways.

 

2. I’ve invested so much time into it.

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SERIOUSLY THOUGH. Let’s say I spent an hour or so reading a book. I CANNOT GET THAT TIME BACK. I could have been reading something else so I might as well just finish so it wasn’t wasted time. Plus, LET’S BE REAL….an unfinished book can’t count towards my Goodreads challenge and I can’t figure out a way for the pages I DID read to count in my pages read count on Goodreads. I NEED TO GET SOME SORT OF CREDIT FOR READING WHAT I DID. I might as well just finish the damn book to do that.

3. I like finishing what I start.

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It’s true. I hate starting something and then leaving it unfinished. (Although look at all my unfinished series…IT REALLY DOES BOTHER ME. I swear). It just nags at me.

 

4. I’m NOSY.

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I like to know what happens in most cases. Even if I’m not really digging it I mostly ALWAYS have the desire to know what happens. Even if it’s excruciating for me to keep reading or putting me in a slump. Sidenote: Book friends are so useful in this way. I always get them to tell me what happens if I don’t want to finish a series or a book.

 

5. It’s just kind of my personality.

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A problematic part of my personality. I suck at letting things go. This is why my closet has tons of things I haven’t worn in 5 years in it. I’m always like BUT MAYBE I WILL WANT TO WEAR IT. Toxic friendships? Took me years to let some go. I always try to tell myself things could turn around. It could change. People will be less sucky. Miserable situations? YEP I JUST TRY TO FIGHT THROUGH IT HOPING IT GETS BETTER. I’m just the worst at letting go….even when I know I should.

6. I spent money on it.

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I wish money grew on trees but ALAS IT DOES NOT. So if I spent money on a book? I feel the most guilt in the world to not finish it. I know I could pass it along or donate it but I still feel guilt like WOAH. This is also why I’ve gotten better about being more selective with what books I buy.

7. I have an obligation & I feel guilty.

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If it’s for book club, it was a gift, a bff’s favorite book or I said I’d read with a friend or anything like that? I AM DOOMED. I’ve only ever not finished one book for book club but I did have to put my foot down with that one because I was in a major slump because of it.

8. I’m unsure whether it’s the book or ME:

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I wrote this post “It’s Not You, It’s Me…Or Is It?” a long time ago but this is still a huge issue for me. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s just a mood thing or it’s not the right time…or if it just really IS the book. If it’s a ME/outside factor than I’ll try to pick it up again sometime later (in an ideal world).

 

It’s a hard moment when I’m faced with dilemma of quitting a book. ALL THESE FACTORS MAKE IT SO HARD TO MAKE A DECISION.

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LET’S TALK:

Are you good at putting down books you aren’t into? What factors make it hard or easy for you?

I Think I’ve Made A Terrible Mistake

I’ve always loved lending out books. As a kid, I practically begged my sister to borrow books from me. I love being excited about a book and getting others excited. I’ve converted some of my friends into readers and it’s delightful. Even when I’ve had to mourn some lost books, I’ve still joyously lent them out to friends in need of a new book for their vacation or just life in general. I don’t even get too worried about wear and tear to my books because you know how I am. In fact, I’m more scared to borrow books from other people than I am to lend them out. (I think I’m a weirdo in that regard maybe?).

But in my book zeal, I’ve realized I may have been a little too hasty with my lending.

 

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I’ve lost track of what I lent out and I’ve lent out things that perhaps I shouldn’t because it kind of gives me heart palpitations to think of ever losing.

 

3 situations I’ve found myself in lately:

1. Forgetting what I lent out: My little sister came to visit and said she wanted some new books to read. I was practically bouncing up and down that she wanted some books. So I loaded her up with 10 or so books and I can’t even remember which ones. The only one I do remember that I lent her FOR SURE is Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour which you know I super love. She said my cousin (who is also her age) wanted to borrow some too and I was just so excited to connect with them over books that I was out of control. I’m honestly terrified I’m never going to see these books again and I can’t even REMEMBER which books they are. I need to make people sign them out like I did when I was little APPARENTLY. Also, my sister is not ummm very responsible in keeping track of THINGS? About a week after I lent them out I had a moment of sheer panic for my books after my “OMG PEOPLE I LOVE WANT TO READ” high wore off.

2. Lending out favorites. SIGNED FAVORITES: My friend borrowed a bunch of books from me (and recently returned them…AH THE RELIEF)  and I was SO excited because I have gotten her into YA. She would read a little bit here and there but never YA. And now she’s hooked. SO OBVIOUSLY I hooked her up with my favorites from Gayle Forman (among others). BUT THESE WERE MY SIGNED BOOKS. And I trusted her no doubt. But I realized I maybe need some “borrowing copies” for my favorite books so I don’t have to part with my signed. WHAT IF SHE LOST THEM? Especially my Gayle’s. Can’t replace these personalized copies.

3. Lending out books to people who then lend them out to someone else: So my friend who borrowed my Gayle books? Well, she lent them to her sister-in-law and then her mom. NOW, she asked. She did. But I felt so awkward saying no and plus I WANT EVERYONE TO READ THE GAYLE BOOKS….so I said yes. I HAD NEVER HAD THIS HAPPEN BEFORE. I was ill-prepared and it scared me for my books to get even further away.

 

And now I’ve found myself with a bout of book lending anxiety. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, friends. I’ve never really ever felt TOO nervous about lending and I’ve done it freely and joyously but now I kind of just want to be like THEY ARE MIIIIIINE. NO.

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But I really just like getting friends hooked on books I’ve loved. I’ve had a lot of personal success with lending my books and letting friends discover new favorites (my one friend who lives in my complex has been a READING MACHINE and has discovered all sorts of new authors to love from borrowing my books).  I know a lot of other people don’t like feeling like their friend’s personal library…but I’ve never minded it.

So now I’m all like: to lend or not to lend? Do I need to maybe have boundaries with certain books? Actually write down what people borrow? Stop lending so freeeely? I DO NOT KNOW.

 

What about you guys? Do you lend books out to people? Have any lending horror stories? How do you choose what books you are fine with lending?

Life Is Too Short For That!

I was having a conversation with the wife of one of Will’s friends about what I read and she said something along the lines of “Ah yeah..I read some YA…gotta have those guilty pleasures.”  I know she meant it harmlessly, knowing her, but it still made me rage-y under the surface FOR SO MANY REASONS. I made a little comment about how my reading life has gotten BETTER since I started reading young adult and then changed the subject because I REALLY didn’t want to get into it.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been totally guilty of using the term “guilty pleasures”  back in the day. I used it when I read Twilight and when I first started reading YA in general. I used it when I liked watching certain reality tv shows. I think when I used the word I was trying to play it off like, “I don’t REALLY like this but it entertains me/is so addictive.” I think that when I used to say it, it implied that I should be embarrassed about it. That my tastes are beyond it. BUT I AM ADMITTING THAT SO IT’S LESS EMBARRASSING.

Sidenote: The thing is, in my head, I still THINK of certain things in that same box that I deemed “guilty pleasures” but I don’t feel GUILTY about them anymore…but don’t have a better phrase for it? There’s an array of tv shows/movies/books that fall in that category for ME. (I mean, really, some of the reality shows I’ve been known to watch??). What I mean, in some cases, I know it’s like JUNK FOOD but I still ENJOY IT. And that’s OKAY. (Also, I keep those things to myself so that I don’t make people feel bad if it is THEIR favorite and it’s my fun thing that I’m not being critical about though I could).

Back then I think I personally wasn’t confident enough to own what I was reading or watching so I felt like I HAD to offer up that “guilty pleasure” to justify it. Because I couldn’t just like it because I DID. I had some sort of image I wanted to put out there, I guess, and those “guilty pleasures” would somehow tarnish that.

But here’s the thing I realized after college….life is too short for me to pretend to like things I don’t like or denying myself things that I DO like. It’s too short not to let myself be 100% passionate about things I feel so deeply just because someone else might scoff at it or deem it not as worthy as something else.

I spent a lot of years in college doing just that. I pretended to like things I didn’t like just to fit in with the group of people I hung out with. I pushed aside a lot of the things I truly LOVED because I felt ashamed about them. I tucked away the true passions of my heart and snuffed out some of those fundamental things that made me ME. Because I didn’t feel confident to own them like YEAH I LIKE THIS SO WHAT? I cared too much what people thought and I let it dictate what I did/liked. And honestly? I kind of felt a little lost. I was happy but below the surface sometimes I felt like I wasn’t being the truest ME. Eventually I got to a really miserable point a year or two after graduating college where I was SO sick of living like that. Denying myself things I liked. Forcing myself to be interested in things I wasn’t.

So I just stopped one day.

I embraced all that I loved no matter what anyone thought about it. I stopped pretending to be into those things I wasn’t which was the biggest relief in the world — seriously NO MORE PRETENDING TO LIKE FOOTBALL. And I can honestly say I’ve felt more like myself than I ever have before and I LOVE IT. I can’t make up for the missed time when I wasn’t doing that but I will never ever let anyone, or my bouts of feeling self conscious, EVER let me feel guilty for the things I like.

So own your reading choices and all the other things you love. OWN THEM. Wear your love for it like a badge. Drop any guilt anyone makes you feel because I guarantee, when you are on your death bed, you won’t be regretting the fact you were confident with your choices and the things that made you YOU. You won’t wish that you hid them more and were less your self.

I could think of a million words that describe my reading choices — smart, fun, pleasurable, life-changing, evocative, etc- and let me tell you…no form of the word guilt is in there anywhere.

I’m A Distracted Reader…Like The Worst.

I can get lost in a book all day with the rest of them — completely and utterly absorbed in the world or the character’s journey and not even realize that it’s turned dark and Will went back to bed an hour ago. But when it comes down to it, at my core, I’m a very distracted reader — something that even Will has pointed out lately.

There’s the distractions of other people wanting to talk to you or requiring your attention….or cute nieces who want to play with you while you are reading on vacation.

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But my biggest distractions?

 

My brain, the Internet and Netflix.

 

My brain:

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 My brain never stops. It’s always jumping around. This is why I have a hard time sleeping. I will be reading and something  on the page will spark something in my brain and I will start thinking about that or go research it or what not. Or I will get up from reading to put my laundry in (that I forgot to do) and then I will find myself embarked on an intense cleaning session for 3 hours all because I couldn’t find a lipstick I randomly thought about because I was washing the shirt I wore out the last time I wore that lipstick. I might get up to use the restroom and will see my nail polish and start painting my nails. Or maybe I’m really stressed about something and the whole time I’m reading I realize my brain is just thinking about it OVER AND OVER AGAIN and I’ve been reading the same sentence for an hour.

My brain just doesn’t cooperate sometimes for reading. It takes A LOT for it to finally settle in.

The Internet:

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This might be the WORST of them all. It’s so awful!! I’ll read like 10 pages maybe and then be like OH I need to pop on Twitter or check my email and the next next thing I know an hour has passed and I’ve just been scrolling or getting lost in link after link. Or it’s a continuous read 10 pages, refresh ALL THE THINGS, read 10 pages, refresh ALL THE THINGS (still nothing, Jaim), read 10 pages, refresh ALL THE THINGS and then get sucked into a Twitter conversation. Or maybe I’ll go to the park to specifically read and leave with 4 pages read because in my quest to get the most PERF outside reading picture to put on Instagram I got sucked into the internet.

Lately I’ve realized HOW BAD my addiction/the distraction has gotten and I decided that I would put my phone and laptop in a place that I could NOT reach from my reading spot. (That was pretty much my only solution that wasn’t getting rid of my phone/laptop or putting a shock collar on myself and letting Will zap me every time I went to reach for one of them). And you know what happened??? I’ve gotten SO MUCH MORE reading done because of it. I’m way too lazy to get up and retrieve my phone/laptop every time I get the urge to refresh ALL THE THINGS. So I sit there and reading and then maybe after an hour I do a little checksie on the interwebs and put it back down & read. It’s funny how when it’s right next to me it just CALLS to me to refresh and check in.

NETFLIX:

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Sometimes I go through random obsessions with new shows on NETFLIX and they just CALL TO ME while I try to read.  Once I get into a show that’s ALL I want to be doing. Pretty much why barely any reading got done when I marathon-ed Breaking Bad last year. I’ll be on the couch reading and it’s like THE OBSESSION just calls out to me and, in the case of tv shows, I just find myself wanting to be ONLY in that world…doesn’t even matter what book I have in front of me. I think this is why I can go a week or two without reading much…because every time I try to….that jealous & needy bitch Netflix is like I AM YOUR ONE AND ONLY SOURCE OF ENTERTAINMENT UNTIL THIS SERIES IS OVER.

 

I definitely think technology, especially my phone and my laptop, end up being the BIGGEST and most detrimental distraction for me + my reading time…and really with any other sort of productivity actually. Changing my habits has definitely helped a little bit! Honestly sometimes it’s a wonder that I get any reading done between these 3 things!

 

Let’s TALK:

Are you a distracted reader or once you are in the zone you are IN and not coming out? If you are a distracted reader, what are your biggest distractions?

But There’s Always Something Else At The End

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

I just finished Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer and I’m feeling unsure how I want to talk about it, other than just generally knowing I want to talk about my connection to this book. Whether or not I’ll “book talk” it later, I don’t know, but that’s the freedom I’ve given myself by hanging up my book reviewer hat.

What Belzhar Is About:

Belzhar is about a girl who gets sent to a school for kids with “issues” and they are supposed to heal. The main character has lost her boyfriend and gets sent there because she is unable to cope with it. She gets put in a special English class and there are only like 4 other kids in the class and it’s SUCH a hard class to get into and nobody knows how anyone gets picked…but every year kids in this class proclaim it as life-changing. When she gets in the class, she realizes they are going to be studying the works of Sylvia Plath the whole semester and they are given a journal writing assignment that leads her and her classmates to Belzhar…a place they all almost can’t believe is real.

I don’t want to give anymore away than that, but I immediately knew this was going to be an interesting book for me. The Bell Jar changed my life, so I was interested to see how the works of Sylvia Plath would change these kids.

My first Bell Jar reading experience:

I was a senior in high school. My mom had just been diagnosed with brain cancer and was told she had maybe 6 months to live (she ended up living for 2 years though, FIGHTER she was). The chaos that was unleashed on the day of that diagnosis forever altered my life. It wasn’t an after-school special where we rallied around each other and lived out her last days frolicking in the sun and such. There was anger that none of us knew what to do with. And that anger became as volatile as an active volcano. One night, everything was too much and I left. I packed a bag and called a friend and I left. I ended up living at a friend’s house for a month or so (a friend who, I might add, had the perfect Full House kind of family which made it harder for me). I only saw my family in counseling sessions until I returned home.

I was feeling very alone and, while thankful for the family housing me,  just felt like nobody understood. I was in this violent sea of anger and confusion and grief, just being thrashed by waves and feeling like I couldn’t keep afloat. I went to the library and decided to give The Bell Jar a try. No idea why. I just had heard of it and decided I wanted to read it. I will never forget reading this book in a room that was not mine, surrounded by people who couldn’t understand what I was going through. I stayed in that bed until it was over and I wept and I wept and I wept.

Someone finally put words to what I was feeling. I no longer felt alone. Or crazy. I understood Esther and that feeling of all-consuming isolation, like you are absolutely alone, trapped inside a bell jar nobody can even penetrate. I wrote like crazy after that experience — I knew I had to get it all out. I felt the tiniest light of hope in one of the darkest and confusing times of my life. That book helped me out of it in a way.

My experience reading Belzhar:

The characters in Belzhar know that bell jar feeling so well. As they each reveal their stories, you see the aching loneliness they have because of situations in their life. Soul-crushing pain and grief and guilt and confusion. There was one quote in particular that just really encapsulated both of our experiences:

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But then they start reading Plath & writing in their journals. And these words – they save in a way. They let us know we aren’t alone. They allow us to feel outside of ourselves, which is exactly what helped the numbness dissipate for me. They give voice to things you couldn’t even assemble into words. Let you slip into somebody else’s life for a bit or get an outside look in to your own life.

Belzhar Meg Wolitzer

If I read The Bell Jar prior to that year, I probably wouldn’t have felt the way I did about it on a personal level. But words find you and take you where you need to go. Just like they did the characters in Belzhar — though definitely in a more physical way.

Reading Belzhar reminded me of the power of words and how healing they can be — whether they are the ones we breathe into ourselves or the ones we put out into the world for others to breathe in. It reminded me of how sometimes you read a book that your soul really needed you to read. It reminds you of your humanness and that we don’t have to share the burden alone. That’s what I loved about the English class in Belzhar. They didn’t have to share their burdens alone anymore — they had each other to share their pains and their guilt and the weight of the world they were each carrying.

And it reminded me of the hope…

There is more to that ribbon passage I shared above. It continues:

Belzhar quotes

It’s the kind of hope I had at the end of The Bell Jar that is mirrored in this book. When I read the end I saw that Esther knew that things weren’t going to be automatically easy, but she had reached the end of the ribbon where there was something other than infinite pain. She knew she could still descend into that madness and it would be hard, but there was hope. And 18-year-old Jamie, who felt so lost and knew that harder things were going to come because a cancer was currently wreaking havoc on her mom’s brain? She needed to know there was going to be something at the end of that ribbon. Something different. That it wouldn’t be endless pain.

As I read Belzhar I found myself instantly transported back to that time in my life and reminded of how powerful words can be. Things have been rough here in the present — not hopeless, but hard enough that it’s tough remember to have hope — and I think reading this book took me to a Belzhar of my own…a Belzhar I needed to go to right now.

SEEKING THE PERFECT BOOK

I KNOW…it’s Tuesday and I don’t have a top ten list up. My list is actually up at The Broke and the Bookish today so go check that out! I figured since I did the list over THERE perhaps I would talk about something that has been weighing on my mind recently.

Most of the time I’m pretty good at knowing what books might be the right ones to suit my mood (because you know I’m a crazy mood reader so that’s important). But lately I’ve just had a hard time because what I want is so, so specific. It’s not even a particular genre or theme or what not that I’m looking for. Nothing I can really anticipate.

And I try to ask for recommendations and I’m so unhelpful because I can’t even begin to describe what I REALLY want when people ask what I’m looking for or in the mood for. I tend to say something like, “I want a mindblowingly good book” and then I get some good recommendations but I realize how subjective it is and how maybe that’s not even what I mean.  I mean, I’ve read some mindblowingly good books recently. Some GREAT, AMAZING books that I would reread and recommend over and over again until I’m blue in the face.

And the mood I’m in right now? Those books, that I’ve given 4 or maybe even 5 stars, don’t even fit the bill of what I’m looking for right now. No matter how much they moved me or made me cry or REALLY GOT INTO MY SOUL. It’s weird.

Sometimes I want something and I don’t even know what it is that I want. I just know what feeling I want.

 

If I took out a Wanted ad for this book I’m looking for it would look something like this:

 

The book I’m looking for would be so profound and so earth shattering I’m pretty sure the axis of the earth might shift.

The take action kind of book.

The  I-will-never-be-the-same kind of book. A book that changes the landscape of my heart and my brain and my soul.

I want a book that makes me feel ALL THE THINGS and I mean ALL THE THINGS.

I want a perfect book and not even a technically perfect book but the book that feels so perfect you don’t even know if it’s real.

I want the best book and not the kind of best book that has to be recognized as the best book by the world.

I want a book that will make me consider not reading any more books because nothing will ever compare to it but it also makes me want to read ALL the books to find THAT kind of book again…because I NEED the fix of experiencing it.

I want the kind of book that I know was meant to find me. That I don’t know how I’ve ever lived without.

The book that lingers and lingers and is impossible to push from my mind no matter how many books I read in between.

I want a book that doesn’t even know it’s that kind of book.

I want a book that feels like it was written for me. Like an author scooped out the pumpkin-y insides of my brain and my heart and my soul and all the icky and beautiful and confusing things about me and made magic with it.

I want a book that is hard to explain why it makes me feels all those ways because words seem flimsy and dull when describing it and all you wish is that you could start a new language wherein you just FEEL things that people mean.

A book I almost don’t want to talk about. Because once I try to put it into words the magic is almost lost in some way by doing so.

 

I sound nutty probably. I don’t even know if what I want exists. Or if I’m just building it up too much. Romanticizing it. I know I’ve felt it before.  I know I have. But, hey book, if you are out there….make your way to me! I don’t want every book I read to be like this for me because that would be a whole lot of hearts bursting and souls changing and a whole lot of feelings I can’t deal with on a daily basis. But I just know that I need THAT kind of book right now. I really do.

 

Let’s TALK:

Am I completely batshit crazy or do you have moods like this where you need a very specific book like that or that you don’t even know what you want but you know what you want to feel? Do YOU have a book that has made you feel this way? Am I building up that SEEKING PERFECT BOOK notion so it’s almost unattainable?!

I Got The Message Loud & Clear: Reading Isn’t Cool.

Mostly my family and friends are very supportive of my love for reading even if they don’t altogether get it. As a child I was just as much of a voracious reader but honestly there’s always been this underlying “poking fun” with some of my extended family and it just makes me cringe when I think of it.

Even today as an adult I get these comments from them “reminiscing” about my childhood reading tendencies and while, I’m not super upset by them, they just get under my skin. As a kid, they made me feel bad too. And that makes me sad because why should a kid feel bad about reading??

There was, even now, these comments about how I was the lazy one out of my sister and I because I would rather sit and read.

And I just think there is something wrong with making a kid feel like they are lazy because their hobby of choice happens to be one that includes sitting (I mean, yes sure my butt hurts from all sitting I do while reading). I played outside and was VERY active as a kid but I always had a book with me no matter where I went as I do now (especially when I had to visit their homes) and would prefer reading to anything. But just because I was reading was not because I am lazy. There were many times where I felt like I should be “more active” like my sister because of their comments and I felt this shame that, because I liked reading, I must be lazy. I was at my baby sister’s graduation two years ago and one of them was telling Will ALL about how they could never get me up to bake cookies with them like my sister would because I was soooo lazy and would just sit there with my book. Insert questions if I’m still just as lazy. (Spoiler alert: I AM AND I LOVE IT. IF YOU CALL IT LAZY, I DON’T CARE).

There were so many comments about how I was “quiet as a mouse” with my nose in a book all the time and the way they said it it never sounded like a good thing in comparison to how my sister was.

This would happen when they were talking to their Bingo friends or introducing me to someone. “Oh this one you’d never know she’s there because she’s always reading.” “She’s so shy and quiet” or if I was reading after a long visit at my grandma’s house I would hear comments about how I should be more social LIKE MY SISTER. It always made me feel like I was this strange mutant. Also, it’s a big pet peeve of mine to assume because I like to read that I am automatically socially awkward or quiet. I AM QUIET BECAUSE I AM READING. Even as an adult I think they still assume I’m this quiet little mouse which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve never been that. It always made me feel like I was not as fun as my sister.

“If you are that bored I can find you something to do”

I AM NOT READING BECAUSE I AM BORED, PEOPLE. I do not need a hobby as they always would try to suggest.

“She’s in her own world.”

Nah. I can hear you talking about me. But really this world I’m in right now is better than the one where I have to listen to you talk about your Bingo drama or talk about what a bump on a log I am because I like reading more than I like watching your soap operas.

These are just a few of the comments I would get frequently. I’m sure my extended family wasn’t TRYING to be cruel or anything but even now they speak about me in a way that I don’t like and as a kid it made me feel really bad about myself. Like I should be ashamed to be a reader because it was lazy or because I wasn’t as FUN and SOCIAL as my sister (which was not at ALL true). It stuck with me when I became a pre-teen (which is what I think was part of this HUGE gap of my reading history) because I thought boys wouldn’t like me if I was bookish and that people would think I was a “loser” for liking books. Being a bookworm wasn’t something that sounded very cool to my extended family so it probably wouldn’t be very cool to all the boys I was trying to chase and the new friends I wanted to make.

Being a bookworm held such negative connotations and even more so in middle school and high school where so many kids would proclaim how boring and uncool they thought reading was. So I stuffed that part of myself down very far for a long time and it took until the end of high school for me to start being open about it again. But even then I was all “Oh I read Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath (which I truly loved) but it made me feel like I was COOL and INSIGHTFUL in a way that admitting I read the latest Nicholas Sparks wouldn’t.

I got the message loud and clear: READING WASN’T COOL. And that makes me sad that so many kids end up thinking that. Hiding their love for reading like it’s a dirty little secret. Like being a bookworm means something it doesn’t. That’s the beauty about being part of the online reading community…you see we bookworms come in MANY MANY varieties. We don’t all share the same characteristics. Being a reader does not mean you are ONE CERTAIN WAY. Being a reader isn’t something to be ashamed of it and I’m not quite sure how it ever got to be looked upon in that way.

I love being a reader and I am proud of it being a part of who I am!

Let’s talk: Has anybody in your life ever made you feel bad about being a reader? When you were younger did you get the message that reading wasn’t “cool”? Did it impact you?

The Best Medicine When I’m Feeling Down…

I’ll be honest, friends. I’ve been feeling rather down. Things have been good in some ways but also there’s just a lot of things that have been stressful and discouraging and I feel like I’m just treading water here. I feel such a lack of control over a lot of things and some days even existing is hard and exhausting. It’s just one of those kinds of tough patches and I just try to ride it out as much as I can — being intentional to change the things I can and know that things will get better.

Some of these days are harder than other and I have to get out of my own head. Somewhere along the line I was having a bad day and I found a way to lift me up a little bit and it’s become my sort of foolproof plan on the days where I feel like I’m going to break.

I’ve found the best medicine for these days is wandering the library or the bookstore.

I spend a good hour or two just wandering and browsing with no real intention or end goal. I just wander. I pick up books I’ve never heard of. I browse in sections of the bookstore I wouldn’t typically go to. I creep on what people are looking at (you all know I’m a book creeper). I move books I loved so that they can be seen (SORRY BOOKSTORE PEOPLE). I read from books that look interesting and jot down the titles for later (okay I type them into my phone but jot sounded better). I find new interests. Discover new things. I TOUCH ALL THE BOOKS. There’s so much freedom in just wandering and picking things up on a whim. Potentially holding your next new favorite book or that book that will change your life.

ALL THOSE WORDS. ALL THOSE STORIES. They calm me. They do. It’s incredibly freeing to not rush into a store with a goal of something to pick up…some sort of intention. I’m allowed to go where my whims take me and there are no expectations. As the time passes I find the stress and that negative energy have lessened.

But mostly it helps me to remember that the world is so much bigger than this day. All those stories neatly lined up on those shelves contain hope, struggle, magic, perseverance and so many more things that are part of the human experience — some better or worse than my own. It helps me to remember in these moments I’m not alone. People have been there before me and people will be in the future. This is one day. ONE DAY of my story. One little slice of this great big world and what it has to offer me and what I have to offer it. Maybe it should make me feel small and overwhelmed (okay I DO feel overwhelmed because SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME) but for some reason it doesn’t.

There’s all sorts of perspective to be found in wandering in the bookstore and even though it doesn’t fix everything…it sure does help my heart and calm me down a bit. And I just enjoy being surrounded by all those books.

I think this is one of the many reasons I love reading so much — sometimes it’s so calming and  helps me get out of my own head or sometimes it gives me perspective I need/offers up something that helps me think about what I’m going through. It always reminds me that I’m not alone. That this is fleeting. That there is reason to hope and persevere.

Books = the best medicine. I don’t care what anyone says or if it’s not scientifically proven.

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