Project Read My Bookcase

Since I started my new job in April I’ve been reading more, which is great. One of the best things about working (particularly in a junior position) as opposed to studying, is that leisure time can be proper leisure time unburdened by residual feelings of ‘I should be studying’ guilt. This is especially true of reading time, which can be proper reading-for-pleasure time unburdened by feelings of ‘I should be reading course-work’ guilt. One of the great things about working in a library, is that I’m working with people who also love reading – so recommendations and book-lending are constant.

When I started this job and simultaneously reduced my commute and expenses by moving back in with my parents, I unpacked all of my books onto my bookcase in no particular order (with the exception of series, which were kept together) and decided I would read/re-read them all in the order they were now on the shelf. In so doing, I would also cull my books by ruthlessly deciding after reading which books should be kept and which given away – through application of the ‘will I ever read this again?’ test. Thus far, project Read My Bookcase has been almost utterly unsuccessful. In six months I’ve only read about 6 books from my bookcase, because other books keep getting in the way!

Firstly, as mentioned above, people at work keep lending me books.
Also, I joined the book club at work. We meet every month/six weeks or so and discuss either one or two assigned books.
The book club books I try to get from the library (either the Glasgow library or the Perthshire library van, depending on whether I’m at my parents’ or boyfriendface’s house), so that I’m not wasting money on the book (and sabotaging the bookcase weeding agenda) if I don’t enjoy it.
Whenever I return a book to the library van, I feel bad if I don’t borrow another book.
Book club reading, library loans, and books borrowed from colleagues all need to be read by a certain date/within an acceptable time-frame and thus take priority over project Read My Bookcase books.

Then there’s the commuting factor. Mostly I now drive to work, but initially from Glasgow I was taking public transport – which I still do sometimes if I don’t want to drive. This means 15 mins on the subway, 30-50 mins on the train (depending which train I catch), and then 15-20 mins on the bus. And then the same in reverse to get home. From a reading point of view, this commute is great (apart from the bus, which makes me travel-sick if I try to read).
There is, however, Commuter Reading Problem 1: duration of commute vs. time required to finish current book vs. how big is my bag, and can I be bothered carting a ‘spare’ book around?
The obvious Solution A = e-reader, but then that wouldn’t help project Read My Bookcase.
I think maybe Solution B = bigger bag.

Of course what frequently happens is that I finish my book on the outward journey, and acquire another book for the return journey. This is even more problematic when it occurs on a journey into town (Glasgow) because thanks to Waterstones’ deals the book (singular) for the return journey generally multiplies into books (plural). (Incidentally, the biggest danger of implementing Commuter Reading Problem Solution B (bigger bag) is that it will involve a trip into town to purchase a big bag, which will mean being in town in the vicinity of Waterstones with an empty bag big enough to fit ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD!!!!!!)

Most of these books bought in Glasgow end up at boyfriendface’s, which essentially means that I also have a book-collection there, albeit a far smaller one. The ‘living between two places’ complication means that frequently when I finish a book I’m at boyfriendface’s and take my next book from there, thus delaying progress onto the next project Read My Bookcase book. In fairness sub-project Read My Books at Boyfriendface’s is progressing at a far swifter pace, and I actually do have a wee pile of ‘unlikely to read again’ books to be taken to the charity shop.

So, project Read My Bookcase is progressing at snail’s pace; however general reading is at it’s highest point since my undergrad (English) degree. I’ve been keeping a list since March(ish) and have read 32 books (39 if you split up several multi-volumes into the individual works, which I haven’t done on the list).

P.S. – I’m probably going to start blogging mini book reviews in order to combat ‘read it 2 months ago; can’t remember anything about it’ syndrome.

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Hello Internet

I’ve been toying with starting a blog for a wee while. I have slight reservations in that I was never able to maintain a diary, and my social media (Facebook) usage goes through sporadic phases, so I’m not sure how frequently this will be updated. We’ll call it an experiment, and see what happens. The timing though, is quite good. I’ve just the other week handed in my MSc Information and Library Studies dissertation, which was a study into individuals’ information sharing behaviour of things that make them happy – for simplicity’s sake, termed ‘happy information’. Am I glad the dissertation is finished?  Yes. Am I glad I did it?  Yes. Am I glad I picked that topic?  Massively – because although the dissertation was really hard work; although conducting and transcribing the interviews was really tiring; although I colossally underestimated how much data 30 interviews would generate, and how hard that would be to inductively organise into any workable format; I also spent three months talking to people about things they have shared that made them happy, and repeatedly re-listening to their stories, and that side of it was fun. It was interesting, heartwarming and hilarious. And although my study looked specifically at people’s motivations behind the giving aspect of sharing, as the interviewer I became a receiver of all this shared happy information – and that was a great position to be in. So, on the back of that I’m going to start blogging about the day-to-day things that make me happy, and share them with y’all. (I say ‘y’all’ – realistically, that’ll be myself and my mum.)

I said the timing of starting this was quite good – I mean that the notion of wanting to start a blog roughly coincided with doing the dissertation, which gave me an idea of things I could write about; which is quite good. The second reason that the timing is good is that today I woke up feeling fantastically happy. I’m not really a morning person, so my daily happiness doesn’t normally set in until there’s something to actively be happy about (something other than the fact that I’ve blearily awakened to encounter another day). So, I’m not entirely sure why I woke up feeling so happy, but it’s likely to be in part a residual happiness dragging over from yesterday. Yesterday consisted of making a serious dent in my to-do list (written in green ink for added awesomeness) with the resultant effect that items are being crossed off the list at a greater rate than additional points are being added (winning!); having a nice catch-up in town with a friend for lunch, before going to see my friends’ (really entertaining) play in the evening. So it was a good day. Equally good – if not better – was the spare time spent in town between lunching and catching my train.

I have new books. I have not one, not two, but FIVE new books. Waterstones’ ‘buy-one-get-one-half-price’ deal played me like a violin that’s been well and truly fiddled – and I know it, but I don’t even care. It started off that I wanted a slim volume that I could read on the train, but that would fit in my (reasonably small) bag. I was browsing and happened across the Translated Fiction stand. Based on the dual logic that the last book I read (The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson) was a) translated and b) very good, and that presumably people only go to the bother of translating books which are deemed better than average in the first place, I began to peruse the stand with interest. Now, my book-selection techniques are generally as follows: I don’t discriminate against books with unappealling covers, but books with awesome covers definitely catch my eye. This is also true of titles. Books I have heard recommended and subsequently spot are also of interest. I place good faith in authors whom I know that I like, comparisons to the writing-style of these authors, and positive critiques on books from these authors. Mostly though, I’ll be swayed by the back of the book description concerning the plot and general content or style. My book-buying spree occurred thus – first, on the Translated Fiction stand I saw a book with a hippo on the front (!!!) called ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ by Juan Pablo Villalobos. The description seemed somewhat reminiscent of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (in the interests of not misleading people,  I should point out that I misinterpreted a bit and it turned out not to be all that similar to Fear and Loathing, but I did enjoy it) and it was a very slim volume. Then I continued browsing and came across….. ‘Grimm Tales’ – a retelling of Grimm’s fairytales by Phillip Pullman! (!!!!) I did not know this book existed – I am so excited. That book was on buy-one-get-one-half-price. It’s also reasonably chunky, and so at this point buying books to fit into my existing bag ceased to be a concern. So then I was looking for a book to get half price, and inevitably found two and couldn’t pick between them (‘A Trick I Learned from Dead Men’ by Kitty Aldridge, longlisted for the women’s prize for fiction 2013 “pitch-perfect…blackly funny, moving”, and ‘The Vet’s Daughter’ by Barbara Comyns – “a small gothic masterpiece”). So, now having three books in the buy-one-get-one-half-price, I obviously had to find another one, and happened across ‘The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year’ which my mum had mentioned during the week, but I hadn’t previously realised was written by Sue Townsend (i.e. the comic mastermind behind Adrian Mole). So that’s my five books. I’m so delighted. I spent far too much money, but since I don’t plan on leaving the flat until I’ve read these, I assume the funds will balance out accordingly.

The knowledge that I had a weekend of to-do listing and reading ahead of me most probably contributed to my good mood. I think though that what really made me happy was that when I woke up, my arms and my nose, and anything outside of the covers, was a bit cold. Through the curtains I could see that it was really sunny and a lovely looking day, but there was a wee nip in the air. Which means….? Autumn’s here. Now, I don’t not like summer – I like nice summer weather for doing things, I love wearing flip-flops, and I like long summer evenings – but now that autumn’s here I can pull on my snuggly jumpers and pretend to be a woolly mammoth; I can stomp about in my fluffy teddy-bear-esque slipper boots; I can curl up in my slanket (blanket with sleeves) while I sit on the couch; and soon I’ll be able to wear my brand new amazing turquoise woolly bobbly hat that I acquired from mum. I can legitimately run up and down the place announcing that Winter is Coming. Now I can make giant pots of soup or stew for dinner every night, with big hunks of crusty bread; and spend evenings curled up on the couch with huge mugs of tea. (To be honest, I do the latter anyway regardless of the seasons, but there’s an added satisfaction when you curl up with tea AND a snuggly jumper AND a blanket.) I think my body knew all this before I’d even gained consciousness this morning. I think that’s why I woke up feeling so happy.