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Posts Tagged ‘bookishness’

It is officially summer in Boston. We’re not quite at the solstice yet, but we’ve survived our first official heat wave and a couple of downpours, not to mention a few perfect porch-sitting nights. Unsurprisingly, my reading inclinations are going where they always go in the summer: mysteries featuring whip-smart female sleuths, and middle-grade novels.

I love both of these genres year-round, but there’s something about sitting on the patio or in the park (I don’t get to the pool very often) with a fast-paced, twisty mystery or a story about kids discovering the world for the first time. Both genres also take me right back to my own childhood summer reading days, devouring books by Beverly Cleary and Patricia MacLachlan, and (on the mystery side) piles of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden stories, some of them picked up in used bookstores on trips to visit my grandparents.

I still own a few of those childhood faves (maybe it’s time for a reread this summer?), but my reading is skewing toward slightly newer stories these days. I’ve discovered a few great middle-grade authors recently, like Gillian McDunn (Caterpillar Summer), Jasmine Warga (Other Words for Home), Kelly Yang (the Front Desk books), and Renee Watson (Ways to Make Sunshine). I am a huge fan of Karina Yan Glaser’s Vanderbeekers series (and the antics of her corgi puppy, Lalo, are my favorite thing on Instagram). I adore Lauren Wolk’s thoughtful novels and Lena Jones’ quirky Agatha Oddly series. And for the perfect summer-camp story, I recommend Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer’s To Night Owl from Dogfish.

Regular readers may remember that I spent last summer obsessed with Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series, set in Chicago. I loved Vic and her adventures, but got a little burnt out after more than a dozen books, so I took a break for a while. This summer, there’s a new sleuth in town for me: Lane Winslow, a British ex-intelligence agent who has moved to rural Canada after World War II for some peace and quiet. Unsurprisingly, she starts finding mysteries to solve, in the company of the local enigmatic police inspector and his cheerful young constable. I adore Lane and her supporting cast, and am already halfway through the series. Iona Whishaw’s writing is both thoughtful and compelling, and the mystery plots are fascinating.

I’ve also read a couple of fun standalone mysteries recently: SJ Bennett’s The Windsor Knot and Stephen Spotswood’s Fortune Favors the Dead. I loved the latest Maisie Dobbs and am looking forward to a new Mary Russell adventure by Laurie R. King this summer. (Clearly my taste, as ever, runs to the Anglophilic.)

What’s your summer reading looking like this year?

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On any given day, I get a lot of email. I bet you do too.

I appreciate the tabs in my Gmail inbox that (mostly) separate the pertinent, interesting stuff from the marketing emails and social media notifications. But some of the best, most surprising messages end up in the “Updates” category.

These aren’t the notes from friends (though I love those) or the emails from my editors about freelance assignments. (Though those are important and sometimes moderately lucrative.) These are the email newsletters to which I subscribe, and they are some of the best things in my inbox.

Here’s a roundup of my faves:

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Shelf Awareness
Full disclosure: I am biased, because (in case you didn’t know) I write book reviews for this smart, funny, big-hearted, bookish newsletter. But I still read it every single day. It comes out in two versions. (I get both.)

The longer-running daily newsletter is stuffed with book-trade news and bookstore updates, plus one book review each day. The Readers edition comes out on Tuesdays and Fridays and is chock full of book reviews and “book candy” – all those fun bookish articles/quizzes/photo galleries you see floating around the Internet.

The Shelf crew is proudly pro-indie bookstore and anti-literary snobbery. We love great books and we want to help people find them, and we love bookish fun in all its forms. Our mascot, Vik (a happily book-obsessed Buddha), likes to dress up for special occasions. I have met some wonderful people, and interviewed a few fabulous authors, through my work with the Shelf.

One caveat: your to-be-read list (or library holds list) will grow after reading the Shelf. But if you’re a bookworm, that’s not really a bad thing.

 

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Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s newsletter
Anne Bogel writes a smart, thoughtful, charming blog at Modern Mrs. Darcy. I also love her monthly-ish newsletters, which inevitably contain thought-provoking musings, lovely photos and links to blog posts you might have missed. I sometimes save the newsletters to read again.

Anne’s voice is warm and inviting, and she’s always finding and sharing good stuff. It’s a pleasure when her newsletter pops up in my inbox – it’s like getting a letter from a friend. (I count her among my Internet friends.)

 

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Innocent Drinks newsletter
When I lived in the UK, I developed an addiction to Innocent smoothies, which are tart, fruity, delicious, and (sadly) not sold in the U.S. Innocent sponsors the annual Big Knit, in which they ask folks to knit tiny hats for their smoothie bottles, then donate part of the proceeds from each behatted bottle to charity. They publish a weekly e-newsletter full of updates from Fruit Towers (their office), tidbits about smoothies, and humorous absurdities. (I’ve always thought it would be a hilarious place to work.) The newsletter makes me laugh, and crave smoothies.

I also subscribe to a few bookstore newsletters (from Brookline Booksmith, the Harvard Book Store and the Bookstore in Lenox); Hollywood Housewife’s newsletter; and the New York Times daily headline email. And, of course, I always like to see an email telling me I’ve got a library hold to pick up.

What are the best things in your inbox?

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I get asked this question at least a couple of times a month: How do you find time to read so much?

I realize my book list is long even for an avowed bookworm – which I am. (Last year, introducing me at a staff retreat, my Boston-born supervisor summed me up this way: “This is Katie. She’s wicked smaahht and she reads a lot of books.”)

I’ve always been a voracious reader, but I’ve read even more than usual the past few years. So I thought I’d share the factors (and a few tips) that have helped make that happen.

First and foremost: I choose to read. That may sound obvious, but most of us have some measure of choice in our leisure activities, and reading is often the one I choose.

Second (and definitely related): I keep a lot of books around. I buy a fair amount of books, but I’m also an avid library user, and I always have several (piles) of books handy. This helps me sneak in a few pages over breakfast, before bed, or while I’m waiting for dinner to finish cooking. And I always have at least one (usually more) books in my bag when I’m out and about.

Third: I’m a fast reader. I don’t speed read; I don’t (usually) skim; I just read quickly. I always have. I realize this isn’t a helpful tip, or something you can change (past a certain point) – but it does help me read a lot. (Anne touched on this recently when she talked about unfair advantages.)

Fourth: I’m always reading several books at once. These are often different genres, but usually include fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes it’s “challenging” fiction plus a middlebrow mystery or young adult novel.

Related: I often tackle classics or stimulating nonfiction earlier in the day, when my brain is fresh. Currently, I’m reading a few pages of Middlemarch over breakfast most mornings. And I love to unwind with something gentle before bed.

Fifth: I have built-in reading time – on the subway. It takes about 45 minutes to get from my house to Harvard Square, and while I sometimes pull out my smartphone and surf around online, I spend most of that time reading. (This is another argument for carrying more than one book in my bag; some days I spend a lot of time on the train!)

Sixth: I read a few “assigned” books for review each month. My review gig for Shelf Awareness means I get a stack of new books every month for review. I get to choose which ones I review, which means I don’t have to slog through a book I’m not enjoying for the Shelf. This is liberating, and helps mitigate the overwhelm. And those review deadlines are great motivators.

Seventh: I’m always hearing about great new books, thanks to several sources. These include the eponymous site where I’m part of the review team; both versions of Shelf Awareness, which I read avidly as well as contributing to; and the plethora of bookish folks in my Twitter feed and blogroll. I think it’s crucial to be excited about what you’re reading, and these sites and people help keep my to-be-read list fresh (and long).

Do you build in reading time, or read more than one book at once? Any other tips for squeezing in more reading time? Or any great book recs? I’m always looking for those.

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