In the margins….

What kind of a reader are you?  An e-reader? Do you listen to books? Or is there something about being able to hold something tangible, flipping the pages as you go.  I love audiobooks.  I love e-readers.  Such smart ideas and perfect for traveling!  But there is no replacing my first love- being able to hold the book in my hands, smell the pages, using my favorite bookmarks to hold my place and highlighting and writing as I go.  Yes, its true you can also do that with e-readers, but its just not the same for me.

There are some people who love their books so much they’re afraid to crack it open and break the spine.  No dog-eared pages, pristine pages with no notes, underlined quotes or highlighted sections.  I personally don’t see how you can fully appreciate the book that way.  Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and throw their books in the mud or anything like that.  But, why not have a conversation with the book?  Show it some love, show it how much you appreciate it – what you like, don’t like, how you feel when your favorite character does something or says something that resonates with you.  Or leave yourself some notes for the next time you read it (if you’re a rereader).  *Disclaimer: I do not encourage this with library or borrowed books.  Any book that is you own, go ahead!*

I feel like I get so much out of the book when I do this, and I get to appreciate it, and myself so much more.  By the way, its also a lot of fun when you go back and reread some of your notes from the last time you read the book.  Then leave new ones and see how differently it affects you this time around.  Maybe I’m a nerd, but I really get excited about this.  The books in the used book store that look like they’ve been read time and time again, that have been dog-eared, that may even have a few little notes in it for me- those are the ones that I want to read.  They speak to me, and tell me stories beyond the words on the pages from the author.

I’m reading Life is a Verb by Patty Digh right now.  Its nonfiction but an awesome book about enjoying the simple things and life and living each day to the fullest.  Patty Digh is down to  earth and the way she writes feels like you’re sitting in her living room having a conversation.  I’ll get to the point, I did not mean to turn this into a book review but let me just say Patty’s books are really very good.  But she has also intentionally designed her books with TONS of room in the margins especially for you, dear readers!  She makes her books so beautifully attractive and inviting for the readers to join her in the conversation in her living room as you are reading the book.  It’s brilliant, and I haven’t seen many others like it!

Do you write in your Bible?   Do you highlight or underline your favorite scriptures?  Do you have birthdates and wedding anniversaries written in the front?  Is it a gift from someone special? Have they left you a little note inside the cover? Do you use your colored pencils and draw a little heart around 1 Corinthians 13:4-7?  And each time you read a passage, you see or understand something different each time.  As you’re reading the Bible, you’re having a conversation with yourself, but also with God and learning more about Him and more about yourself.  It’s a beautiful thing, and when I’m reading and making notes in other books as I read them, I am doing the exact same thing.

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To Read or not to Read….

It’s more than just a question.  It’s actually a little more complicated than it sounds.  Is your first response a resounding and triumphant “YES, READ!”?   Bear with me for a moment.  You see, one of my New Year Reading Resolutions was to stop reading that book that I’m having a hard time getting into.  It’s hard. Its almost like breaking up with someone “Its not me, Its you.” “I’m just not that into you.”  Harsh, but true.  How many times have we felt obligated to finish a book.  Why? Why do we do that?  Are we afraid to hurt the book’s feelings?

I remember two books that I could not finish in high school: Flatland and Old Man and the Sea.  Flatland is great if you’re a mathematician.  It’s about a dot who lives on a line and meets a triangle and a square, then a circle and a sphere and the whole hierarchy of shapes with sides.  NO, no, don’t go. You see what I mean about that one, though? Two sentences and I’ve almost lost you already.  Old Man and the Sea just might be the most overrated book ever, in my opinion.  Ok, I know its Hemingway and I mean him no disrespect but this old man goes fishing and catches a big fish or something and his hand gets cramped up so he gets dragged out to sea in his little boat.  I don’t know what happens after that, its about as far as I got.  Lots of metaphorical wonderful meaning, I’m sure but just not for me.  Maybe you loved it – but that’s my point.  Just because you can’t get into the book does not mean that someone else won’t love it.

I’m currently reading The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare.  I want to love this book. I really do. I absolutely adore The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series.  I’ve read them all like five times.  However. I’ve started The Bane Chronicles over a week ago; and I’m on page 40. Which is really bad for me. Usually I’ve got 40 pages done in 20 minutes, easy.  The only reason I’ve had a hard time putting this one down is because it ties into the other books that I love so much and provides a little background story for the next time I read them.  BUT, I’ve decided that I’m putting this one down for now.  I may go back to it later and try again, but if I don’t – its OK.

So, there were a couple of other tactics that I’v tried when I am struggling through a book.  For instance The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  Both really good books, and I just had to know how they ended, but they were going a bit too slow for my taste.  So I skimmed and skipped.  Skimmed over chapters and pages to look for key events so I did not miss anything too important, and skipped to the end.  I think that’s why we (or at least I) get suckered into reading these books that I’m really just not enjoying – there’s some part of me that just wants to know what happens at the end.  It’s like rubbernecking on the freeway; everyone does it – it’s an awful accident, someone gets hurt but we have to know…what happened, who hit who, was anyone hurt, are the cars totaled, is it anyone I know? Do you ever go back home later that evening and look it up on the news for more information? To see if the persons involved are OK? This is my version- for readers, anyway. Skim and Skip.

So the next book that you start to read but you’re just not enjoying as much – don’t be afraid. Let it down easy if you want, or just rip the band-aid off.  Save it and try again another day, give it away, donate it to a library or a little free library.  Give it a new life and a chance to meet someone new who will give it the love and attention it deserves.  You’ll both be happier in the long run and you’ll be able to say ‘it was for the best.’  Look at all the lovely, wonderful, mind-blowing books I’ve been able to read since then!