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  • Nicole Hill 7:00 pm on 2017/08/17 Permalink
    Tags: , the book nerd's guide to life,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to the Worst Reading Spots 

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    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.  

    There are people in this world who are prone to falling asleep just about anywhere, anytime. There is a term for their condition: narcolepsy.

    To my knowledge, there is no term for the chronic condition for which I exhibit symptoms: the tendency to begin reading wherever and whenever, with little regard for situational awareness. I’m sure there’s a German word for the underlying feeling of this book compulsion. There always is. That said, some places are better suited than others for hosting bookworms for extended periods of times. And some reading places, well, they downright suck.

    The Last Table in the Coffee Shop
    As far as reading nooks go, your favorite coffeehouse is pretty much the holy grail. It smells wonderful. There are caffeinated things along with pastries. People tend to be more absorbed in their own worlds and less likely to start book-interrupting conversations with you. And the seating tends toward individual over communal. Basically it’s your house, but with better stuff: you get to feel as if you’re engaging with the world without having to interact with it fully.

    But the worst thing about coffee shops is also the best: they are so good for long-term stationary pursuits that nobody wants to leave, ever. Once the cozy armchairs are taken, they’re dead to you for hours. It’s not like vultures leave prime meat just lying around. For latecomers, all that tends to be left is the table nobody wants. Either it’s directly in the sun on a 100-degree day, or it’s stuffed into the darkest corner, or one leg is several inches shorter than the others, or the last person who sat in the chair died.

    It’s not where you want to be.

    In the seminal Gilmore Girls episode “An Affair to Remember,” plucky and neurotic Rory Gilmore is on edge, this time because her roommates are driving her bonkers and she needs to find a place to study. Hither and thither she goes, trying to find the perfect study spot, forced to wander constantly because of noise or drama or Sookie’s thousands of mini-quiches.

    Finally, she finds the perfect tree on the Yale campus. It’s her tree, perfectly shady and quiet. And then some ruffian ruins everything by claiming the spot the next day.

    This is how most of my attempts to read in nature go. Inevitably, there’s one tree or one shaded spot that’s perfect, but taken, and I wind up accidentally sitting on an ant pile or under a bird bathroom.

    Your Desk
    Who among us has not spent a few hundred lunch breaks hunched over a novel and our sad desk lunch? The problem, of course, is that your workspace at your job is no safe space: you’re fair game for passing coworkers or the incessant pinging of your email. It’s hard to even get through a chapter, especially if one of your hands is occupied with a sandwich. And we haven’t even mentioned the harsh glare of the fluorescent lights overhead. Not only do they make your skin look wan and deathly, they make the small text of a mass market paperback all but indistinguishable from hieroglyphics for everyone not blessed with 20/15 eyesight.

    A Treadmill
    I have the natural grace and poise of a platypus on roller skates. Coordination is not a specialty. Treadmills and other gym equipment tend to require balance and functional motor skills. For me, at least, little of that is possible without concentration. I do find the gym boring, so I’m always tempted to bring a book to prop up on the treadmill or the elliptical machine. But then there’s that pesky coordination and concentration business. I can’t focus on the book and on my legs at the same time, so I either sprain an ankle or have a terrible reading experience. Really, it’s a tough choice.

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to the Worst Reading Spots appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 7:00 pm on 2017/08/03 Permalink
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    The Book Nerd’s Guide to the Lies I Have Told 

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    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.  

    Forgive me, dear reader, for I have sinned. Many times. Many, many times. I have told many untruths, spread many falsehoods, been overall dishonest about that which I consider so sacred: books.

    It is not with malice that I have committed these misdeeds. On the contrary, most often, they have been intended to shield others from harm or disappointment, or to preserve the credentials I alone believe I possess.

    To atone, I present just some of the myriad lies I have told to perfectly ordinary strangers, to beloved friends and family, and to more than one presumptive coworker. For context, I have added the truths they hide.

    “I’ve never read it all the way through, but I’ve read parts.”
    I have never read that book, but I have seen it mentioned on many best-of lists, and I feel more than slightly ashamed that I haven’t read it. None of this has compelled me to pick up the book, but I have read its cover blurb several times as I’ve added it to then removed it from my online shopping basket.

    “I love [insert author]!”
    Ah, yes, that author is either trendy or beloved and their works have languished in various to-read lists I have compiled and left for dead. I have no idea if I’ll ever read their books, or if I’ll appreciate them, but I recently read a think piece they published that I agreed with, and I follow them on Twitter.

    “Oh, me? I read just about everything.”
    I read several genres, but there are just as many that I either can’t stand or have no interest in determining whether I can stand. I am afraid of alienating you, however, so I’m going to make a blanket statement that is true of virtually no one. Now, please throw out a handful of authors, and I will proceed to tell you if I’ve ever read any of their books. (But see point one: I might lie.)

    “The book was way better than the movie.”
    I have never read the book this movie is based on. Even though I greatly enjoyed this movie, I feel safe enough, after years of similar experiences, in saying the written work is better, even though there is a good chance I will never confirm this sentiment.

    “I don’t know where my copy is. I must have loaned it out.”
    I know where every copy of every book I own resides. They do not leave my house because I trust no one, and I am not about to make an exception for you, no matter how responsible you seem. I have examined your behavior over the last several months and have identified at least three flaws, which I’ve promptly exaggerated in my head and categorized as full-blown psychoses.

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to the Lies I Have Told appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 7:40 pm on 2017/07/06 Permalink
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    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Saving the World 

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    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.  

    Friends, we do not live in optimistic times. Turbulence is all around us. The news is nothing but a depressing parade of horrors. It’s easy in these times to turn to books to escape, to plunge onward into fictional worlds unknown or to retreat into well-worn favorites. And I think it’s worth saying up front and in bold: It is perfectly all right to escape from time to time.

    But if there’s anything I believe, it’s that reading fiction is about more than just escapism. Likewise, reading nonfiction can be a necessary window into the familiarly unfamiliar. Books can change the world through the minds of their readers. If you don’t believe that, I invite you to sit a spell and listen as I extol the virtues of what Hermione Granger has done for the young women of my generation.

    If you don’t see how reading can save the world, consider what you can do with a good book—and then please consider my suggestions a helpful starting place on your quest.

    Seek Out New Voices

    It’s entirely too easy to fall into a reading routine, going back to the same genre or author time after time. Why fix something that ain’t broke? But if you fail to branch out to new authors, new genres, or new subject matter, you’re missing out on thousands of insightful perspectives and life-changing voices.

    Diversifying your reading habits is about more than picking up a graphic novel every once in a while, and, unfortunately, it can sometimes take a little hunting. But find authors who don’t look like you. Read books about topics that make you uncomfortable. It’s a nice exercise in empathy, and, you know, it’s another excuse to pick up excellent books like these:

    Learn from What Has Been

    History repeats itself, again and again and again. But if history falls in a forest and no one’s around to read it, did it really happen? It’s best not to test that theory, because the answer is yes.

    Arm yourself with knowledge. Swath yourself in context. Read about all that has come to pass and may come again, whether it’s racial violence, systemic discrimination, or the dangers of nationalism, as in these fine books:

    Understand What Is Now

    To continue our tour of turns of phrases, remember that what’s past is prologue. Getting insight into this moment—the reality we inhabit, even if we don’t want to admit it—is another of reading’s gifts. It’s a gift in the same way going to the gym is a gift. In the words of Ron Weasley, “you’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it.”

    Realize What Might Be

    There is a reason we return to dystopias time and again. Even if we wish it were not so, we can see parts of ourselves and our realities in these bleak worlds.  Even the most outlandish premise has a ring of truth, which is why 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are enjoying some of their best sales in years.

    When we are at our lowest national moods, we can take a perverse sense of comfort in the apocalyptic. We gobble up scenes of chaos and angst, because inevitably the sun comes out again. Hope wins a minor battle. History bends toward the good.

    So it’s important to indulge these desires. They complete an arc, even if the novels themselves end on ambiguous notes:

    Take Care of Yourself

    When it feels like the world is closing in on you, books can make for wonderful self-care, whether you prefer fiction or non. Reading is the very definition of taking some “you time.”

    If that means rereading The Babysitters Club in its entirety, so be it. You do you. But I have other suggestions if you’re looking for something a little different to open your mind or calm your mood.  They do the trick for me. 

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to Saving the World appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 4:34 pm on 2017/06/15 Permalink
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    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Breaking Up With a Series 

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    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.  

    As wise prophets throughout the years have said, breaking up is hard to do. Even in an amicable separation—when both parties choose to leave, parting as friends—it’s not a clean process. There are swirls of emotions, pangs of regrets, bookshelves to empty and split.

    The process of breaking up with books themselves can be just as painful. As we discussed last time we were together, falling in love with a book is a real and powerful sensation. Within the space of a single narrative, you can form a long-lasting relationship; one book is enough ammunition to annoy your family, friends, acquaintances, and casual hangers-on with your repeated recommendations for the rest of your natural life.

    That’s nothing, though, compared to the investment of time and emotional energy when you’re in it for the long haul with a book series. If I had a nickel for every tear I’ve cried over the Outlander series, I’d have enough money and financial stability to support two husbands. Two handsome husbands, each desirable in a unique way and conveniently separated by hundreds of years.

    But I digress. The point is, I’ve invested a lot of myself into this continuing series of ever-expanding doorstopper novels, and I’m on the hook for the rest of forever. There’s no going back, just as there was no way to back out of Hogwarts and just as there is no option but to wait the interminable wait for Winds of Winter. I have entered into lifelong commitments, no matter the ultimately satisfying emotional distress each of these romances might cause.

    But what happens when a book relationship becomes toxic? When is it time to pull the plug on a series? As I see it, all of these situations fall into four categories.

    Pull the Plug

    Let’s say you loved the first book in a planned four-book series, but you hated its follow-up. You’re halfway through the series, and you’re only 50 percent satisfied. I’m not a mathematician—which is why I’m here talking to you—but those numbers don’t yield a whole lot of return on investment. If you barely made it through New Moon, you’re not going to be in a good frame of mind by the time you hit Renesmee. Bail out before you totally forget the good times you did have with the story. It’s better for all parties involved.

    There’s Some Gray Area

    You absolutely adored the first two books—in fact, you forced them onto your book club’s schedule even though they were outside the genre specifications. You thought the third book was okay, but had to slog through the fourth and fifth novels. You thought the sixth book was going to be the last, but the author pulled a switcheroo and, no, now the series is going to have seven installments.

    What do you when you’ve soured on a series with two full books left? You have to be honest with yourself: how much do you still care about these characters? Do you need to know what happens to them? Were your favorites killed off and now there’s only the annoying rabble left? Is your to-read list eight times longer than all the books in this series stacked together? If so, it seems safe to cut your losses.

    But if you still hold a torch for the hero (you just question his life choices), then maybe two books aren’t all that much of a burden to bear. After all, conclusions are exciting, and you just might find the magic you lost in the middle of the story. 

    Stick with It

    If you’ve stuck by a series over the years, novel after novel, and it’s down to the final installment, just keep going. It doesn’t matter if you’ve disliked nine of the twelve books. If you truly loathed them, you would have stopped reading years ago. There’s something in this story you just can’t quit. Go back and reread the first novel. There’s a good chance it’ll remind you why you first flirted with the series, and that will help propel you to the finish line.

    By the time you’ve read all but one book in a series, you’ve poured too much of yourself into the effort to quit. You owe your younger, less haggard self the closure. Stay strong and tie up the loose ends, though no one’s saying you have to run out and buy the hardcover on release day. Take your time. See it through. In the long run, you’ll thank yourself.

    Chart Your Own Territory

    But what if your book series doesn’t fall into a nice linear story? What if it’s a Discworld situation, and the story moves in one thousand directions across close to fifty novels? Let’s say of those thousand directions, you only like five. It’s important to remember that Congress shall establish no law tying you to the output of a genre, author, or expansive book series. You’re a free-thinking individual, and you should feel free to read only the installments you like in a nonlinear book series.

    If you’ve lucked into falling in and out of love with a series of novels that work as standalones, you have the best kind of relationship trouble. You can follow the characters you love, and leave for dead the characters you don’t. This is living the dream, my friends.

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to Breaking Up With a Series appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2017/06/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , lovecraft country, matt ruff, the book nerd's guide to life,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Being in Love With a Book 

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    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.  

    Nine days out of 10, I’m inclined to agree with Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hell is other people.” On those days when the rest of the species disappoints you, it’s so natural, so easy to rely on your No. 1 coping mechanism: a good book.

    This is why I believe it is entirely possible to be in love with a book. You see, books fill a void often left by interactions in this world. Sure, what you’re reading can often tear your heart out, stomp on it, and shove it back into your chest. But it doesn’t discourage you or fill you with regret. A book’s challenges and heartbreak only make you love it more.

    Better yet, a book doesn’t discourage you from loving again. A healthy relationship with a book isn’t monogamous at all.

    I’m happy to announce I myself am in a new book relationship with the unexpected and haunting Lovecraft Country, the one-two punch of otherworldly and Jim Crow horrors you never knew you needed. Right now, I’m in the phase of the relationship where I sing its praises to everyone I meet. I want to shout from the rooftops about my undying affection for this book.

    What other phases of book love are there? Oh, I reckon you’re familiar with them, on the off chance you’ve ever loved another—homo sapien or hardback.


    You see it, in the center display, among the new releases. Its striking cover catches your eye. The typography seduces you. You come closer, because you must. Once that book in is in your hands, you know it’s coming home with you, and every sentence of its backside blurb confirms for you the rightness of the situation.

    You have more errands to run once you leave the bookstore, and it drives you crazy that you can’t tear open its page right now. But you pull it out of the shopping bag and place it, regally, on the passenger seat. You want it to understand your interest.

    Casual Dating

    When you finally do get a chance to dive into your new reading relationship, the infatuation only grows. You find any and all excuses to sneak some time with your book of choice. You take up recreational bathroom breaks at work, and you upsize the clutches you take out to dinner with you so you can squeeze in some reading between courses.

    This is the stage of book love that has you sharing favorite passages on Snapchat, and your Instagram is nothing but various shots of the book in different locations: perched on your lap by the pool, swirled artistically in a blanket on the couch, peeking out from beneath your cat, etc.

    Long-Term Relationship

    You’d think that once you finish a book, your relationship with it would mostly end. Instead, it’s just the beginning of a much more serious commitment. Now you must proselytize. You must persuade the rest of the world not only of your love but of the belief that they too much love this book. You work the title into conversations entirely unrelated. You compare real-life situations to key plot points (without revealing too much, of course). You shoehorn it in as your book club’s next selection just so you can re-read it.

    Till Death Do Us Part

    There are some books you know are destined to be bequeathed in your will someday. Your grandchildren, once they have proven their merit through a series of challenges, will inherit this precious tome one day—once they pry it from your cold, dead hands.

    These are the books that inspire you to tattoo yourself with their quotations. These are the books that survive countless moves and a number of real-life relationships. These are the books whose covers are falling off because of the number of times you’ve re-read them—and the number of times the dog has yanked them off the nightstand. These are the books who understand the meaning of well-loved.

    What books have you in it for the long haul?

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to Being in Love With a Book appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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