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  • Ginni Chen 4:15 pm on 2015/01/05 Permalink
    Tags: better living through reading, happy new year's!, ,   

    10 Creative Ways Books Can Help With Every New Year’s Resolution 

    Matilda detailWhen it comes to New Year’s resolutions, books have your back like no one else. Remember last year, when you vowed to exercise every day, but your best friend enticed you to watch every episode of Game of Thrones instead? Remember when you planned to eat healthier but your roommate kept baking cookies? Remember when you resolved to be less stressed but your mom called twice a day because she didn’t understand how to use her computer? See, everyone you know and love is out to foil your resolutions.

    Books, on the other hand, will never betray you. In fact, when used creatively, books can help you succeed at every kind of New Year’s resolution. Except juice cleanses. We’re not really sure how books help with juice cleanses, except that their pages can absorb your tears of sadness and deprivation. To help you attain all your 2015 goals, we’ve listed 10 creative ways books can help with every resolution!

    1. Get in shape
    Forget the fad diets and the workout trends. Instead, pick up a 760-page Steinbeck omnibus (or two) and carry it with you everywhere. Lugging around a few pounds of hardcover-bound literature will give you the biceps, triceps, traps and delts you’ve always desired. Not hard-core enough for your 2015 fitness goals? Check out our 10 Workout Tips for Book Nerds.

    2. Swear less
    If you’re trying to be less of a potty mouth in 2015, books are your new best friends. Instead of slipping into unpardonable French, pick a few choice insults from your favorite novels. Not only will your everyday speech be PG, but it’s ever so much more effective to call someone, “You blithering idiot! . . . You festering gumboil! You fleabitten fungus! . . . You bursting blister! You moth-eaten maggot!” (from Matilda, by Roald Dahl).

    3. Control Your Temper
    Trying not to call people names? Intent on curbing your temper in 2015? Don’t just grit your teeth and count to a hundred. Cool your hotheadedness by always having a book handy, and telling yourself you’ll read 10 pages before you react. You’ll become so engrossed in the book, you’ll completely forget your sister-in-law was trying to start a fight.

    4. Spend Less Money
    If you’re watching your spending this year, books can do wonders for your wallet. Hide the $12 your grandmother sent you in the pages of a book. Promptly forget where you hid it, and voila, you’ve just saved yourself from spending $12 on stuff you don’t need.

    5. Slow Down and Enjoy Life
    With the hectic pace of life being what it is, many people these days are resolving to slow their pace and live life more deliberately. You know what really helps you move at a leisurely pace? Balancing a book on your head. That’ll slow you down for sure. Plus you’ll have excellent posture by the time 2016 rolls around.

    6. Meet New People
    If you’re an introvert with aspirations of being an extrovert, there’s no better way to meet people than bonding over books. Not the clubbing type? Be the book clubbing type, and instantly make wonderfully erudite friends who are not covered in glitter, vodka, and sweat. Feeling awkward and shy at a social gathering? Simply say, “The book was better than the movie,” and watch everyone agree with your observation and admire your discerning taste.

    7. Learn a New Language
    Read a classic book in a language you don’t speak. Become fluent in the language through osmosis (or just look up every single word). Proudly tell people you read One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (or any other renowned work of international literature), in the author’s native tongue. Don’t tell people you understood very little of it.

    8. Unplug
    This one’s easy. Want to spend less time online? Read a book.

    9. Be Less Stressed
    Stressed? Get in a bathtub and read a book. Really stressed? Squeeze a book. Open it up and scream into it. Smack a pillow with it. You won’t hurt its feelings. Really, really stressed? Smell a book. No, seriously, smell it. The deliciously comforting aroma of a good book is better than any fancy aromatherapy candle.

    10. Kick Unhealthy Habits
    A wise B&N blogger once said, “The man who lives longest gets to read the most books. And do other stuff too.” So get out there and do everything you can to be good to yourself, stay healthy, and live as long as you possibly can. Because we have lots of books for you to read.

    What’s your New Year’s Resolution, and how can books help?

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2014/12/31 Permalink
    Tags: a long way down, amor towles, , George Eliot, happy new year's!, , , middlemarch, , rules of civility, , white teeth,   

    Our Favorite Books Set on New Year’s Eve (and Day) 

    Amor Towles' The Rules of CivilityHumans are a funny lot; we invent a totally random way of keeping track of our existence, then assign special significance to certain days, and proceed to do things like go to war over disagreements on which days are especially significant. For most people, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are natural moments for contemplation and resolution—or nursing hangovers—which is why they are also great days to read books. When trying to decide what goals to set for yourself in the coming year, a good book can give you examples of what to do—or what not to do, depending on the book.

    Here then, are five books set on and around New Year’s eve that just might have something to teach you—but will definitely entertain you.

    Middlemarch, by George Eliot

    Only a small portion of this classic piece of literature takes place on New Year’s—but any excuse to pick up this amazing novel is a good excuse. The New Year’s Day portion is a great scene filled with Eliot’s typically sharp observations of her fellow human beings. The party thrown by the Vincys is superficially cheerful and jolly, but tensions roil just underneath the surface, as observed by the smart and good-hearted vicar Mr. Farebrother. This is a great scene to read in preparation for heading out to a New Year’s bash.

    White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

    Smith’s insanely creative book begins on New Year’s Day and explores, among many other finely woven themes, how chance affects our lives. When Archie Jones changes his mind about an attempted suicide and finds his way to the dregs of a New Year’s Eve party, where he meets his future wife, it’s just the first of many ways the book celebrates how our decisions conspire to surprise us—and the story circles around to a later New Year’s to underscore the point. Read this book before making your resolutions, to remind yourself that you never know what 2015 might throw at you.

    Rules of Civilty, by Amor Towles

    This under-appreciated first novel is a brilliant, energetic story set in a Manhattan that no longer exists. With a strong female character at its center, Rules of Civilty presents a mystery that starts at a New Year’s celebration between the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1938, but it’s really a celebration of the energy of New York and the thrill of suddenly seeing someone or something you haven’t seen in decades, bringing back a flood of memories. It also contains the world-beating line, “That’s the problem with being born in New York…you’ve got no New York to run away to.” Read this book if you’re feeling a bit settled and wonder if you could use an adventure in the New Year.

    Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

    Let’s not dismiss this book—it’s a modern classic of its genre, and it’s easy to forget what a phenomenon it was back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It’s also a book that begins on New Year’s Day and dives enthusiastically into one of the great inner monologues of modern literature, as Bridget worries, records, and contemplates the proper method of making and keeping resolutions almost from the book’s very first moment. Read it if you’re worried about breaking your New Year’s resolutions—it will remind that ultimately it probably doesn’t matter, as long as you enjoy the debacle.

    A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby

    Any book that opens with its four main characters accidentally choosing the same roof to jump from on New Year’s Eve is a book that really ought to be read every New Year’s Eve, possibly out loud as a new kind of holiday tradition. And since it’s a book by Nick Hornby, it’s also hilarious and satisfyingly plotted, as these people decide to postpone their suicide and the story unfolds unexpectedly from there. Read this any time you think your New Year’s experience is subpar; you’ll feel better.

    What’s your favorite book to read at the end (or start) of the year?

  • Nicole Hill 3:30 pm on 2014/12/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , charlotte's web, , , , happy new year's!, , , , minerva mcgonagall, , , , , , ,   

    9 Characters We Resolve to Be More Like in 2015 

    Ms. FrizzleConsidering the sheer quantity of baked goods that has traveled coast to coast this holiday season, it would be easy to peg weight loss or fitness as a New Year’s resolution. But let’s be real: same story, different chapter. You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darlings. In fact, you can easily draw inspiration from some literary favorites. Here are but a few of the characters we resolve to be more like in 2015.

    Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee)
    As S Club 7 once said, “Reach for the stars.” Discounting the biblical, there are few more wholly, purely good characters than Atticus. The saintly Maycomb lawyer doesn’t let his children, Scout and Jem, backslide, and holds himself to an equally high standard, in more ways than just his heroic representation of Tom Robinson. For 2015, a nice mantra would be Atticus’s wise words: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

    Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
    Minerva McGonagall takes no ish, and she is glorious. Our resolution to act more like Atticus Finch does not extend to dealing with the likes of Dolores Umbridge, who is so artfully treated to McGonagall’s pitch-perfect passive (and outright) aggression: “May I offer you a cough drop, Dolores?” She is as skilled at transfiguration as she is at zingers: “I generally do not permit people to talk when I am talking.” She is wise: “Well, I’m glad you listen to Hermione Granger, at any rate.” And though she’s a strict disciplinarian, she knows how to let her hair down: see Ball, Yule. Basically, she’s perfect.

    Elrond Half-elven (The Lord of the Rings, et al, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
    The saga of Middle-earth could very well have been called Elrond and the Unending Parade of Undesired Houseguests. And he is nothing if not an obliging host, even when Boromir gets sassy at his Council or when a gaggle of hobbits are eating him out of his Last Homely House. Maybe that sense of patience and hospitality comes with being 6,000 years old, or maybe he’s got access to something better than Old Toby. However the Lord of Rivendell does it, his elvish flexibility is something to emulate.

    Arthur Dent (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams)
    Acting like Arthur Dent is a wonderful resolution simply because it seems so achievable. An ordinary (if civic-minded) man is thrust into the middle of repeated intergalactic hijinks and, if somewhat grumpily, rises to the challenge and adapts. The man just wants a cup of tea in his own house, and instead he winds up on a cross-galactic joyride to hell with history’s most dysfunctional Scooby gang (former crush, not-human-after-all best friend, manic two-headed despot, depressed robot, and all). Of course he’s a bit irritable. But overall, he handles the time-traveling, planet-exploding, and temporal-state-shifting with poise. So by Magrathea, you can make it through whatever obstacles are thrown at you.

    Hodor (A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin)
    Gentle giant Hodor is, I’d wager, the most overall contented person in Westeros. I grant you, this is not a high bar to set, but that should not diminish Hodor’s loyalty, genial nature, or empathy. Bran is not always a peach to serve, but Hodor never treats the little lordling like a royal pain in the Hodor. He just keeps on plugging. He is a national treasure of endurance and goodwill.

    Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
    A modern woman way ahead of her restrictive time, Lizzy has a lot to teach us about being comfortable in your own skin. Unlike others around her *coughLydiacough*, Elizabeth is sharp as a tack with a quicker sense of humor and suffers little in the way of foolishness. She’s not perfect (sometimes being headstrong can be a flaw), but she’s an attainable version of confidence and clarity, which is apparently catnip to swoony country gentry.

    Templeton (Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White)
    Charlotte gets all the (admittedly, deserved) praise, but the rat is admirable in his own “carpe diem” sort of way. Life is too short, so eat the danged cake…and the cheese, and the grapes, and the corn dogs, and the whole watermelons…

    The Lorax (The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss)
    Unlike that masochistic martyr The Giving Tree, this voice of the woodlands sets nothing but a healthy example. A tree-hugger with a fabulous mustache, the Lorax is a portrait of stewardship and activism. It should be everyone’s goal this year to plant a Truffula Tree and watch it grow.

    Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus series, by Joanna Cole)
    Because sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is how maintain your joie de vivre. Look to Valerie Frizzle, the world’s most reckless and popular science teacher, when you need some inspiration to make each and every day fun and educational. Forget the waivers and safety training—just dive right into life.

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