Supporting Authors While Staying Home

Many people are hurting during the lockdowns and stay at home mandates most of us are living under. While I focus on things related to books (because that what this blog is about), I realize there are many others who are hurting, especially those who were living from paycheck to paycheck before this all started, and others on the edge.

I’ve written about the challenges facing bookstores. Another group struggling are authors. Imagine in particular that you had a book launching any time after about March 15 or in the next few months. No book tours. Amazon has de-emphasized books. Most bookstores are closed. When things open up again (which may not be for months) a new raft of books will be coming out. Authors with books launching now may face real losses.

How can the reading public help?

  1. Read reviews for books in the genres you like to find out about newly published works. Three review sites open without subscriptions that you might check are Publishers Weekly, NPR Book Reviews, and Kirkus. There are many others and you might have your favorites.
  2. Of course, if you have a favorite author, they may have a mailing list and you can learn about new books they have coming out. Often, they post personal updates that you will never see otherwise.
  3. Your favorite bookstore’s website also is a good source of news about new books. The advantage here is that if you find something you like, you can order them in a one stop shopping experience.
  4. Have you launched an online book group? You could host an author event! I’ve done this in another setting and even was able to arrange book discounts with the publisher.
  5. Once you get into the book, talk it up with your friends on social media so people not only hear about the book, but the reasons why you like it. I often buy books recommended by others. Word of mouth works.
  6. Are you on GoodReads? Add a short review to your rating. Or if you are like me, blog on books. Some creative people even do video blogs or video posts on social media.

Making efforts to support the authors we like is another way of preserving cultural goods during this crisis. I have loved Hilary Mandel’s historical fiction on Thomas Cromwell. So I ordered The Mirror and the Light from my favorite indie store. And the image above gives the book one more well deserved shoutout. Look for a review as well! Perhaps one of the ways of we live with hope is to look beyond this crisis, whether in our support of our favorite bookstores or favorite authors.

Looking for a Long Read?

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Some say we may need to be ready to practice “social distancing” for up to three months. All the things outside the home are off the schedule for now. This might be the time for a long read, one of those big fat books you have thought you’d never have the time to read. Maybe you have it already on your TBR pile, but if not, my good friends at Bob on Books on Facebook gave a great list of recommendations from 82 different authors.

  • Hervey Allen, Anthony Adverse
  • Isaac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Paul Auster, 4321
  • Robert Bolano, 2666
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy
  • Ron Chernow, Grant
  • Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End
  • Stephen Clarke, 1000 Years of Annoying the France
  • James Clavell, Sho Gun
  • Thomas B. Costain, The Tontine
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
  • Daniel DeFoe, Robinson Crusoe
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov
  • Stephanie Dray, My Dear Hamilton
  • Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer
  • Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White
  • James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan
  • Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth
  • Diana Gabaldon, Outlander series.
  • Neil Gaiman, American Gods
  • Benito Pérez Galdós, Los Episodios Nacionales
  • Alex Haley, Roots
  • Pete Hamill, Forever
  • Jan de Hartog, The Peaceable Kingdom
  • Frank Herbert, The Dune Saga
  • Joe Hill, The Fireman
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Battlefield Earth
  • Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
  • Greg Iles, Natchez Burning
  • John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • Walter Isaacson, Leonard da Vinci
  • Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
  • Stephen King, 11-22-63, IT, The Stand, Under The Dome
  • Karleen Koen, Through a Glass Darkly (and subsequent novels)
  • Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas
  • Wally Lamb, I Know This Much is True
  • Erik Larson, The Splendid and the Vile
  • Min Jin Lee, Pachinko
  • Robert Ludlum, Prometheus Deception
  • Norman Mailer, Ancient Evenings, The Executioner’s Song
  • George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones
  • Greg Matthews, Power in the Blood
  • Anne McCaffrey, Pern series
  • Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life
  • Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds
  • Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
  • Herman Melville, Typee
  • James Michener, Hawaii, Texas, The Covenant, The Source
  • Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
  • Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
  • Felix Palma, The Map of Time, The Map of the Sky, The Map of Chaos
  • Christopher Paolini, Eragon
  • Samantha Power, The Education of an Idealist
  • Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time
  • Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Marcus Rediker, Outlaws of the Atlantic
  • Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking With Destiny
  • Nora Roberts, Year One Trilogy
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice & Salt
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series.
  • Salman Rushdie, Quichotte
  • Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
  • Paullina Simons, The Bronze Horseman
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
  • John Steinbeck, East of Eden
  • Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
  • Kathryn Stockett, The Help
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales
  • Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina,War and Peace
  • Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone
  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
  • Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

This is an uncurated list. I only left out a couple of religious books, The Bible and The Lost Books of the Bible. I can’t guarantee you will like all the books on the list. But there is probably something you will like. But there is probably something here for most tastes. I didn’t specify what “long” means, so the recommendations are of various lengths. Whatever you choose, when you finish, there will be plenty left to read. And one thing you don’t have to worry too much about with this list in this anxious time is what you will read next.

Trying to Read in a Crisis

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Image by FotoRieth from Pixabay

When the thought was raised of “physical distancing,” that sounded like heaven for a reader. And maybe it has been for some.

Not so far for me, and it may be you see less reviews from me. Typically, I’ll end up reading about 120 pages a day most days. This past week, if I can read 30, I’m doing good.

Some of it is work-related. I work in a collegiate ministry where we are making a rapid shift from face-to-face to digital. I happen to lead one of the digital areas of our ministry, and lots of time has been spent in Zoom calls figuring out how to do that. I just finished a nationwide call with university faculty trying to figure out how to convert their courses from face-to-face to online. We were using the some of the same software they will be using–and learning from each other in the process.

Some of it is just getting our household in order. We had the chance to move up a bathroom remodel. Now I wonder if a week later it would have even gotten done. In recent weeks we had been stocking up at the grocery–before the long lines. We had a sense this was coming, but there has been some extra time just getting our ducks in a row.

But a good part has just been distraction. I find myself checking the news reports more than is good for me and commenting with others online. Apart from finding out what the latest mandates are from our state, I don’t need to do too much more. I know it is going to keep getting worse for a while. I know I have to stay home and stay clean and not touch my face. It’s like it was in 9/11, except this won’t be done for awhile. The news coverage can draw you in, and agitate your thoughts and depress your heart. And it can distract from enjoying a good read.

Probably the best thing is to check in with my nightly news once a day, and stay away from news coverage the rest of the time. Sometimes I leave the phone in a different room so I’m less tempted to check it. Someone mentioned getting out for a walk. Haven’t done much of that recently, and I find that always clears my head. I sleep better and focus better. Replace screen time with walk time!

And maybe I just need to accept that my page count will drop for awhile. Maybe as things settle in that will change. I suspect in all sorts of way, this is a time where we need to be gentle with ourselves as well as with each other. It might even be a way where to get liberated from some compulsions. Some people waiting for me to review a book may have to wait longer. Right now, in the big scheme of things that doesn’t seem important.

These days, I find myself giving thanks that I’ve been preserved through another night, and at night through another day. I’m thankful to take a breath of air outside my door and scent the coming spring, which gives me hope. I give thanks for meals enjoyed at home. I give thanks for the quiet around me as I write. And when I can, I give thanks for the minutes I can spend with a book and a cup of coffee. The present crisis reminds me that all these things are gifts, gifts with which I may have become far too familiar.

Bibliophiles in an Age of Social Distancing

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Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com. [Comment: Advice is that masks should only be used by those who suspect they are infected, not the general population]

The rise and rapid spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus) has brought a new phrase into common usage–“social distancing.” This is the practice of literally keeping your distance from other people. It means avoiding large crowds or close contact with people, especially anyone manifesting symptoms of being ill. If one has been exposed to someone with the illness, it can mean self-quarantines, usually of 14 days, and longer, of course if you contract the illness. In some parts of the world (e.g. China, S. Korea, Italy), “lockdowns” have occurred enforcing social distancing on everyone. This is possible in any municipality, something most of us have never seen but probably ought prepare for. One piece of advice has been to stock up not only on essentials and non-perishables, but also on entertainment, including books.

I suspect for most bibliophiles, this is not a problem with our burgeoning TBR piles, although we are glad for the excuse to stock up (even though this is one “essential” we already have enough of). We might even whittle that pile down.

For most of us, “social distancing” is not a problem either. We have been using books for social distancing (particularly if we’re introverts) for most of our lives. Having our nose in a book usually is tantamount to hanging a “do not disturb” sign around your neck, except for the oblivious few who ask, “what are you reading.” Even then, all you have to do is hold up the cover or spine and show them (making an impromptu bioshield as well!).

I don’t want to make a self-quarantine or a lockdown sound like a “snow day.” But staying healthy includes emotional health, which is probably not enhanced by listening to constant news coverage about the virus. This can even prevent you from sleeping well or getting out and getting fresh air and exercise in the open air. If your state health department is on the ball, their daily bulletins are probably all you need (and we all probably can recite the basic guidelines in our sleep). You can take the rest of that time spent and instead of feeding the 24/7 news cycle to do all the other things I mentioned, plus work from home–and read!

This can be a time to find friends online, whether on Facebook or via video calls to talk about books we like. Pull up your computer, and a glass of wine, or other favorite beverage and chat with friends about books you like.

It may also be a time to explore new books you want to read. Look up your favorite review sites (hopefully including Bob on Books!), and make your list to reserve at the library, or order from your favorite indie (which may be struggling during this time). Put that “want list” together.

Some of us like film adaptations of books, especially those we have read. Perhaps you can make a plan to read or re-read the book, then watch the film and see how it measures up. Netflix subscriptions make this easy.

Reading can be a good way to practice both self-care and care for others during this time. We readers have long known that you don’t have to travel on a plane or car to travel the world (as well as other imagined worlds). Nor does physical isolation require social isolation. As long as we are in good health, we can interact with others in various online media, and turn our love of books into a shared love.

Stay safe out there, friends.

Super-readers and the Rest of Us

I asked a question recently at the Bob on Books Facebook page about how many pages a day people read. Most people were in the 25 to 100 page range. But I was surprised by the numbers who read 200, 300, and in a couple cases 500 pages in a day (Warren Buffett is one reputed to read 500 pages a day). I call them the super-readers. There are also some who listen to up to 8 to 10 hours a day to audiobooks. I’d put them in the same category.

It was interesting that the super-readers generally read novels, some reading one or even two in a day, and where people distinguished between fiction and non-fiction, they always read more pages of fiction.

Some of this probably depends on the number of words on the page. Mass market paperbacks often have lower word counts per page (not always), which might account for the ease of reading so many pages. And some books are page turners while others, you plod through.

My own reading tends to be on the heavier or denser side (with exceptions!) and most days, I read 100 to 120 pages, which was kind of middling for this group of respondents, but still on the high side in the general population. I usually finish three or four books in the week. I have increased the number of books I read since I’ve begun reviewing.

Season of life has a good deal to do with this. One of the super-readers, at least, self-identified as a retiree. Sometimes those who read choose not to do other things, like watch TV or videos or spend significant time online. Young, working parents often don’t have much time to read, other than read alouds! Sometimes, visual impediments slow down reading as well.  I would suggest that this ought to be one of those no guilt, no shame zones. I just don’t think you encourage someone to read more by making them feel bad that they only manage to read ten pages a day, if that.

Nor do I think those who are “super-readers” should be made to feel weird. Now, if they do this to the neglect of good self-care, care for important others, or neglect of obligations, it might be time to re-examine that super-reading lifestyle. Again, no shame here–probably none of us are perfectly “balanced” in our approach to life–and sometimes we need to make adjustments–more sleep, less food, more exercise. Sometimes other adjustments mean adjusting our reading habits as well. My father always said, “life is a series of adjustments.”

As I’ve probably said in other posts, the real issue is whether our reading is forming us into healthier, more flourishing human beings. It means perspective that takes life with just the proper amount of seriousness and not more. It means fostering imagination that broadens the options at hand as we approach the task of living. It means having the information we need to make good decisions. It means better understanding where we’ve come from to have a sense of where we ought go. And sometimes it means diversion that enables us to return to our daily tasks with fresh energy.

Mortimer Adler said, “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” That, for me puts all this about page counts and reading goals in perspective. However, for those who would like to read more, or more consistently, here are a couple articles, one encouraging reading 20 pages a day, the other 25, something most readers can do in around a half hour. My own suggestion is read as you can, try to take in what you read, and do it each day. Chances are, you will notice yourself reading more over time. I have.

 

My Ideal Bookstore

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The religion and theology alcove at Blue Jacket Books, Xenia, Ohio, now closed. © Bob Trube, 2015.

There is a graphic of a tweet doing the rounds as I write that says:

“Escape room idea:

Just a well-stocked bookstore with clearly marked exits. You have one hour to get out. Good luck.”

For most of us who are bibliophiles, the outcome would be no escape. And we’d be perfectly happy with that.

But it got me thinking. What is my idea of the ideal bookstore? I came to an interesting conclusion, thinking of the various bookstores I’ve visited. There is no single ideal. I’ve visited “hole in the wall” bookstores that I have really loved, bookstores in houses, bookstores in converted storage buildings, indie stores, and chain stores and liked them all. I think of a tiny paperback store in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan that had a stash of great vintage science fiction. I’ve visited great new book stores, used book stores, and some that sell both. Probably my best answer would be: they have books!

But if you pressed me, here are a some things that make a store one to which I want to return:

  • It is distinctive, even if part of a chain.
  • It has engaging booksellers who actually seem interested in helping you find the next great book. I still remember the booksellers at Acorn Books, now closed, as some of the best. By the same token, I’ve interacted with a number of Barnes & Noble booksellers who went to great lengths to track down books their online site says are available but I could not find–in one case locating a book in a stockroom that had not yet been placed on the sales floor.
  • They have a selection that goes beyond the popular books that I either have or don’t want.
  • In my case they have strong sections in science, history and biography, crime fiction, science fiction and literary fiction, and religion and philosophy. I always remember my first visit to a Borders that had all of these. I thought I was in book heaven.
  • Sometimes, it is the unique vibe of the bookstore. I think of one small store in a college town that is incredibly well curated, both in terms of new titles, and “consigned” titles, many from college professors. My kind of place!
  • A bookstore cat adds to the ambiance of any store. This might be something for Barnes and Noble to consider as they try to reinvent themselves!
  • I love used bookstores of any time, but the ones where the books are actually organized in some semblance of order, and where stock has been dusted some time in living memory is a plus.
  • I think of stores that are great family places, where you, your spouse, and your children of different ages can all find interesting books.
  • While cafés are nice, some are pricy and make me choose between that frappuccino and that book. Just give me comfortable seating scattered around the store where I can browse books I’m considering purchasing.
  • I enjoy stores where the booksellers have made recommendations, either in sections or on notecards by the books. I’ve bought books for on the basis of that.
  • Of course, because I read a lot, I always like finding books at a discount. I have found how much they depreciate when I try to sell them. I’ve also come to appreciate that only sales of new books provide royalties to the author.

I could go on but I suspect you have come up with some other qualities of great stores. I hope you will add them to this post in the comments

Remembering the Books That Have Made Me

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Southworth & Hawes, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Public Domain via Wikimedia

I came across a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson recently that rang partly true. He is reputed to have said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so they have made me.”

I think of this ringing partly true in the sense that I read quite a few books, even in a given year, and part of the reason I began to write reviews on Goodreads, and this blog, is that otherwise, I do forget some of the books that I read. It also seems only partly true, because some of the books were not memorable. I don’t think they became a part of me. After all, not all the food I eat becomes part of me, or makes me!

At the same time, there are a number of books that I’ve read that I do remember. William Manchester’s biography  of Churchill helped me understand the extraordinary greatness and courage of this man. The Lord of the Rings captured my imagination with the idea of ordinary people caught up in a great adventure. Francis Schaeffer was the first Christian writer to demonstrate that Christian thought had any relevance to the wider culture. H. Richard Niebuhr shaped my thinking about how we might engage that culture. Wendell Berry helped me think about technology and the land and community and what it means to have a sense of place and to love that place. The writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. helped me understand the urgency of the civil rights movement, particularly his message, “Why We Can’t Wait.” John R.W. Stott showed me the power of careful study that brings forth the message of scripture. Science writers like Lewis Thomas, Brian Greene, and Stephen J. Gould have instilled wonder as I’ve considered the world around me. All these have shaped and made me, at least my mental furniture.

Still, this quote leaves me wondering. Memory is a funny thing. There are memories not at conscious recall that arise–in a dream, with a smell, or a sight, or a random comment. Sometimes the contribution of some books to my mental life may be no more than a piece of a thought. Sometimes, books simply remind me of what I’ve already understood, like a recipe I’ve enjoyed before and enjoy again. Sometimes a fictional character will stand out in a singular way, and at other times remind me of those I’ve known.

Speaking of Emerson, it strikes me that I’ve read little of him or the other American transcendentalist tradition. From what I know, I probably would not be in entire sympathy. But Emerson has helped shape the American mind, even among those who do not remember reading him. Perhaps it is time to read some of him, perhaps to be made, or to see what I make of him.

Reading for Human Flourishing

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Young Man Reading By Candelight, by Matthias Stom — Holland, Public Domain

Last week, I reviewed a new book, Mathematics for Human Flourishing by Dr. Francis Su. Yesterday afternoon, I had the chance to facilitate a conversation with him. One of the observations I’m thinking about from his presentation was that we often talk about math in terms of educational success and job skills. Rarely do we talk about how math answers to deep human desires and cultivates the virtues that enable us to flourish. It occurs to me that we often talk about reading in similar ways to math: important to educational success and good jobs.

No question that this is true. But I wonder if that is all we focus on, we miss some of the things that foster flourishing readers–children and adults who not only can read, but find that reading makes us more fully human. Reading connects to deep human desires and cultivates virtues, as does math.

“Tell me a story.” Human beings are story-shaped creatures. We love stories–hearing them, telling them, living them and making sense out of our lives through stories. Some of the very best stories have been written down in books, and we often find ourselves within those stories.

Reading fosters imagination. The words on the page become images in our minds, so powerful and real, that we are often disappointed that movie adaptations are not nearly as good as the story we’ve imagined. Imagination enables us to envision what is and what could be, and to capture the imaginations of others.

I learn to empathize with those whose experiences I may not have shared. I am neither a woman nor a person of color or a resident of any number of countries. I will never fully understand the experience of any of these. But reading their narratives with a openness to their lived experience  can help me understand a little better, or at least show me how much I don’t know, which is also progress.

Reading builds human connection, whether between a parent and child, or two friends who discover they both like a particular writer or series of books and love to talk about them together. Sometimes our differences in taste are interesting. Why someone liked something that left us cold or vice versa can be offer insight into ourselves or others.

Sometimes we have genuine questions about something we just don’t understand, whether it is the history of our home town, how to repair our car, or the fabric of the cosmos. Reading can enrich our understanding of our world, and empower us to engage more effectively with it.

Reading causes us to reflect on the human condition. What is admirable? What is despicable? And what kind of person do I want to be? How have people faced adversity? What makes the difference between those who become bitter and those who become better?

And lest we get too serious, reading can be fun. Silly rhymes can make us laugh. Stories can amuse us and bring us joy.

I wonder whether in the press to pass standardized reading tests, our children may miss the opportunity to discover these humanizing aspects of reading, that also make reading deeply satisfying. I also can’t help but wonder if parents and educators who are in touch with these deeply human longings and weave them into their practice will educate more highly motivated readers.

 

 

Power Tips for Traveling with Books

Do you like to read when you travel? For many people loading up some books on your e-reader (maybe from your local library) or audiobooks on your phone or tablet is the way to go. If that is you, you needn’t read further. But there are some of us who don’t want to abandon the feel of print books on a trip. Or you may not want to be dependent on being able to re-charge a device to read. So I turned to the power readers on the Bob on Books Facebook page to get their power tips for traveling with books.

First, a few don’ts:

  • Don’t take library books. If you lose them, it could cost big bucks.
  • For the same reason, don’t take that irreplaceable treasure.
  • Leave that fat hardback behind. You really don’t want to lug that thing around airports.
  • And don’t read and drive!

And now for the power tips:

  • The big consensus: take paperbacks–more compact and disposable
  • Take books you are willing to donate or pass along when you finish them. That way you don’t have to carry them home. Maybe you can even exchange them with someone else. A number suggested taking “throwaway” paperbacks. Then again, some of us think that’s a sacrilege!
  • One person suggested taking a fat paperback and slicing away the parts they’d read.
  • One way not to read and drive is be the passenger.
  • Some don’t start with books but pick them up along the way. It gives you a reason to detour into that interesting bookshop, or even a local thriftshop or library sale. You might even look up bookstores at your destination ahead of time.
  • Take slim books that fit into a handbag, or messenger bag.
  • On the other hand, there were those who aren’t concerned about space or weight. They said pack fewer clothes, pack a bag just for books, or take more than you think you will need. I guess that’s the value of roller bags.
  • Take sunglasses for reading outside.

I loved this reader’s ideas: “I have a small clip on LED light to read by in-flight thus avoiding using the overhead light which can still be annoying to other passengers. I use my book to store little reminders of my holiday within its pages like my used boarding pass, the receipt from a nice restaurant, a pretty leaf, a postcard. By the time I’m home it’s become a journal!”

My reading friends had some great ideas, don’t you think? Here’s a few I might add:

  • Think about what kind of trip this is. If there are quiet evenings in an Amish Inn, you could pack something that takes greater attention. On the other hand, if it is a work trip with intense meetings, or a beach vacation with family, something light or fast-paced makes sense.
  • I also leave the heavy hardback at home, even if I’m in the middle of it. I usually take two or three slim paperbacks and my e-reader. The e-reader is my fall back if I end up flight delayed and get through the print stuff.
  • I take less if I know there will be a conference selling books or I’ll be in a place known for its bookstores. I don’t have to explain.

There are times for other things than books when traveling: meetings, friends, scenery, recreation, good food for starters. But good trips have “down time” or even time to “introvert” for some of us and books are the perfect complement to those times. Then there are times in cars, trains, buses, and planes (or waiting in terminals) when a book is a good way to forget you are in this big impersonal place with thousands of people you don’t know. The book is your friend.

 

Holding Your Books

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Have you ever thought about how you hold your books? Most of the time, I suspect our book holding maneuvers are subconscious as we shift a book from one hand to another, or re-position a book or ourselves.

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Ladakh” by Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

I didn’t think about this so much in the past as I do now. Depending on the print size, my lap is too far away for these aging eyes and holding a large book in my hands gets tiring. Or I will cross my leg, and prop the book on my lower leg, until I uncross and recross my legs the other way. Resting the book on a table is another solution, but that means sitting at a table, hunch over if it is flat, or I hold the book propped up on the table

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Photo by r._.f from Pexels

I’ve always been a bit of a fidgeter. Sitting in a chair for very long and I have to move around. Sometimes I read standing. Sometimes laying down–until I fall asleep. Sometimes even laying on the floor.

Then there is the challenge of holding the book open. Many will not lie flat and so need to be held open.

Yet for some weird reason, I still usually prefer print to e-books, except for walking on my treadmill.

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Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Apparently people have been devising ways to cope with these challenges for years. Winston Churchill often worked and read at the standing desk pictured above–the original hands free reading. The desk here holds several open at once. I’ve seen some use drafting tables in this way. You just need some kind of ledge at the bottom to keep the books from sliding off.

Alternately, people have used book pillows to rest the book closer than a lap. There are acrylic book stands that can be placed on tables or wood book podiums that can be placed on a table.

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Photo via Pikrepo licensed under CC0 1.0

A variety of bookholders have been created for those who like to read in bed. These vary from lab desks and pillow desks to various bed tables, and even bedside tables like those whose in hospitals where the base is wheeled and slides under the bed and the stand tilts and can be adjusted to the ideal height and angle to “consume” your book. Here is a BookwormGadgets post that features a number of these products.

There is still the problem of holding your book open hands free, ideally in a way where it is easy to turn the page when you are ready, but secure. While some better books lie open of themselves, and are easily held, many either have to be held by one or two hands, and hardbound books can be awkward.

There is a Flipklip book holder that holds the book open but allows you to turn pages easily. There are various other page clips which are great at holding books open but need to be removed as you turn pages. If you are reading on flat surfaces, there are various types of bookweights, which probably work better than the stapler I sometimes use to hold a book open when I’m writing a review. Another BookwormGadgets post describes a number of these products.

Maybe this all seems fussy, and there are times when the book, the chair, the lighting are perfect, allowing us to lose ourselves. However, the existence of all these products suggest that I’m not the only one who finds holding a book in my hands or on my lap is not always optimal. All the items we have devised actually are quite ingenious, and many diehard readers end up using one or more.

It also reminds me of what an ergonomically exquisite thing an e-reader is–easily held, allowing one to set fonts. lightweight, and capable of holding not one book but thousands. It makes me wonder why so many of us still love print books–and reminds me what peculiar creatures we bibliophiles are.