We Knew This Day Would Come…


Library,” by Stewart Butterfield, licensed under CC BY 2.0

For years our friends and family have looked askance at those stuffed bookshelves and piles of books in various rooms of our abodes. People asked us why we were buying books when we already had plenty of books to read. People came up with a Japanese term to describe what we were doing–tsundoku, the piling up of unread reading materials. Some tried to invoke Marie Kondo on us to purge our books and only keep what gave us joy. One problem. Nearly all of them give us joy!

Somewhere, deep in our psyche, we knew this day would come. Bookstores and libraries would close. Even Amazon wasn’t a reliable source of books. We would have to rely on the books we have on hand. Forget the toilet paper! Would we have enough books on hand when the apocalypse came?

I’ve got that covered. Some time ago, I calculated that I probably won’t be able to read all the books in our home during my remaining life. It does mean I’ve begun to be more selective in buying new books, and occasionally, I realize that there is an unread book that at this point I’m no longer interested in reading.

I find many of my book-loving friends feel the same way. There is a bit of a sense of vindication, a bit of smugness as they look around at bored friends, and think to themselves, “all I need to do is pick up the next book on my “to read pile.” All along, we’ve lived with the dread that we would run out of books, perhaps a worse fate than running out of that Charmin. No worries, we have our hoard, carefully built up over the years.

Psychology Today article, published back in 2017 raises the question of what books we would want in our “Doomsday” library. English professor Gina Barrecca writes, “I want books and light enough to read them by; I want stories, and history, and poetry, and science and collections on art, music, architecture, religion.” She goes on to list the classic and contemporary authors and titles.

An interesting question is whether we have any books we want to re-read. If we did run out of unread books, would the books we have read and kept be ones we’d be eager to read again. Perhaps that question might also suggest the books that it is time to discard. If it isn’t a reference, and we’d never re-read it, why are we keeping it?

The best books are the ones that growth with us, that are new to us each time we read them because we are different than the last time we read them. It might be an interesting to look at our libraries to see how many of those books bring back fond memories of previous readings and beckon us to come visit again. Those books are a good investment, that keep paying us back reading after reading. When we have a library of those books, we truly are set, if not for the apocalypse, but at least for a long stay at home.


Booknerds are Wordnerds


“Booknerds are Wordnerds,” Photo © Bob Trube

It’s not universal, but if you meet a booknerd (or are one), chances are good that underneath there is also a wordnerd. By that, it means you enjoy learning new and unusual words, or have fun with puns, you like a good turn of phrase or you play word games like Scrabble or Words with Friends, or love to immerse yourself in a good crossword puzzle.

Recently, my “Question of the Day” at the Bob on Books Facebook page was “Curious to see if lovers of books are lovers of word games like Scrabble? Are you?” A number responded and I tallied 109 “yeses” and 22 “nos” to my totally unscientific poll. The number of responses however, and the margin, as well as common sense, suggests there is something to this.

Reading is a celebration of words strung into sentences or verses, paragraphs or poems, engrossing or informing us. Studies such as this one point to a relationship of reading and vocabulary growth. Like many of you, when I came across an unfamiliar word and asked the meaning, a parent or teacher usually said, “there’s the dictionary; look it up.” We do love when authors use words well. Some of us also write, and know the difference between the right word, and the “nearly right” word.

I’ve discovered that the kinds of word games we like to play reflects our personalities. Some of us are much more solitary, preferring word searches, word puzzles, and crossword puzzles. Others of us are much more social and love games like Scrabble or Words with Friends. For some, our love of words spills over into love of facts and we like to play “Jeopardy” or Trivial Pursuit. There are certain games we are passionate about. One person loves to play Scrabble though he rarely wins. Another wrote, “Words with Friends for fun; Scrabble for blood.”

Scrabble was the game most mentioned, which may just be a function of the way I asked the question. Next came crossword puzzles followed by Words with Friends. There were a few other old standards including Boggle (one of my favorites) and Upwords. Bananagrams, CodyCross, word search puzzles, Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy also garnered multiple votes. The most interesting and unusual game was FreeRice, a multiple choice quiz game, that includes a vocabulary version, that donates 10 grains of rice for every right answer to the World Food Programme (this is not an endorsement of the game or organization).

One of my old favorites is Fictionary, because there is no game to buy. All you need is a dictionary that people take turns searching for obscure words that everyone else makes up “fictional” definitions while the real one is mixed in and then people try to guess which is the real one. I’ve gotten hours of laughter from that one!

Not everyone who loves to read loves word games, and that is fine. Some just like reading more and seeing word games competing with reading. The most frequent thing I saw were people who did not feel they were good at spelling. I wonder if there were some bad memories there. I heard someone recently who was a music teacher say that those who thought they couldn’t sing well were often told they couldn’t sing as children. Maybe the same applies to word games.

For many of us, though, our love for books and our love for words and games with words, go hand in hand. Is that so for you?


Christmas Gifts For Booklovers

giftideasRecently, I surveyed a collection of websites that purvey gifts for booklovers. I would categorize many of these as bookish tchotchkes–more or less useless items or knick-knacks, that just add to the quantity of stuff you eventually have to get rid of (or re-gift if you are that tacky). But I thought I would highlight one item from each website that I thought might be useful or just fun (and others might think not, so I would just add IMHO).

At “63 Gifts for Booklovers and Avid Readers” I found a “Personal Library Kit” right at the top of the list. I wrote recently about the books we lend and never get returned. If this bothers your bookish friend, here is a gift that might help.

The Best Non-Book Gifts For Bookworms” featured some really nice throws. We have one on my reading chair that I like to wrap myself in on chilly mornings when I get up to read, and it is one of those things you can never have too much of.

22 Affordable Gifts For Readers” offers a “Book Lovers Journal”. They write, “Readers know the stress of seeing another list of the best books to read this month, this season, or this year. It’s hard to keep track of a reading wish list when there are so many genres and authors to tackle! This journal helps organize any reader’s inventory—the notebook includes spaces to record books you want to read, books you’ve loaned to or borrowed from friends, and the contact information for your book club. The main attraction: Pages and pages to record details from the books you’ve read, making it easy to reference and recommend your favorite novels in the future.”

Uncommongoods website has a number of suggestions, some which I saw elsewhere, but one looked particularly fun. It was the “Storymatic Game” which is a game that provides a series of “prompts” that allow a group to spin out their own stories.

50 best literary gifts for a modern-day book lover” features an abundance of posters with book quotes, phone covers, e-reader covers, t-shirts and other items. I liked the personalized library sign that you could custom order.

The transparent book weight that I found on “24 Insanely Clever Gifts for Booklovers” caught my eye. It is transparent, keeps your books flat and protects them from spilled food and drinks! Insanely clever indeed.

Bookish Gifts Under $20” features a t-shirt that says the obvious: “This is my reading shirt.” Others may be more fashionable. None is more basic than this!

Gone Reading” has some of the nicest bookplates I found at any website, if you want to identify whose library that book that is in someone else’s library came from.

Of course, nothing says love to a book lover like books themselves. Astute book lovers will have created an Amazon wish list that will give you ideas. Looking at their GoodReads profile is another way of figuring out what they’ve read and what they like. Sometimes, I’ve appreciated gifts of books that are just outside the range of what I usually read–for example a book on social media shaming that I recently read is probably not one I would have picked up, but given my presence on social media, it ended up being a really fascinating read (thanks, Ben and Hannah!).

You might think a gift card to be a cop out. But not to the book lover! Knowing you have to spend so much at this particular store makes for fun as one thinks about that wishlist. It is easy to do that big chain of bookstores or that online seller. But I would suggest that this is your chance to support that favorite Indie store trying to make a go of it, particularly if this means introducing them to a new customer. By the way, I would recommend for the regular followers of this blog, and particularly my reviews, buying a gift card from Hearts and Minds Books. I asked my good friend there, Byron Borger, if they sell these and he said, “Oh yes, for any amount. We can send them to the recipient with a little note or, of course, to the person ordering it to sign themselves.” Typical of the personal service orientation I’ve come to expect from these folks, and what you will find from any good Indie.

Happy shopping for that book lover!

Coming tomorrow: My best books of 2016!

Gifts for Readers

One of the comments I received on yesterday’s post on bookmarks was from someone who had never received a gift bookmark. I suppose it takes a bibliophile to recognize the things that bibliophiles like. But here are some hints in case you have a bibliophile in your life:

1. Of course, there is the humble bookmark.  Something that is artistic or literary, and durable makes for a nice gift that reminds someone of you every time they read!

2. Many readers keep some form of book journal–a record of the books they’ve read.

3. Book weights come in handy for holding the book open while you are reading. Similarly, there are book holders and book stands that serve the same function.

4. In the same vein are various forms of lap desks or pillows to prop your book on in bed. Many of these accommodate iPads and e-readers as well as regular books.

5. Booklights are nice particularly if you are traveling or don’t want to keep someone awake you are sharing a room with. Just make sure to buy something durable with a long-lasting light bulb for which replacements can be found.

6. Things to hold or protect your books are helpful. This can range from a protective cover or case for an e-reader or tablet to messenger bags or totes to carry your books to the library (or beach).

7. Bookplates are a nice gift to friends who lend books so that the lendees can at least be reminded whose book it is (lendees sometimes genuinely forget!). Not sure this actually helps in getting your books back. But someone, I believe C. S. Lewis, commented that our library in eternity will be the books we’ve lent and were not returned! There are also journals or library cards one can use to keep track of borrowed books if you are inclined to keep track of such things.

8. A nice set of bookends is always a great gift–don’t buy something gaudy or ugly though!

9. There are all sorts of novelty gifts from t-shirts to, believe it or not, Jane Austen air fresheners! I still treasure the t-shirt my son bought me many years ago saying, “So many books, so little time!”

10. Finally, booklovers never mind a gift card to a bookstore. If you can find one for an indie store near the booklover, even better!

Of course, you may decide that your booklover really needs something far more practical than books, like socks or other clothing items. They may not thank you as effusively, but, if you keep them from looking like they’ve been out on the streets too long, that is also a good thing!

I’ve never shopped at either of these sites but Gone Reading and Levenger provided inspiration for this article and might for you. For my book loving friends, what have I missed? What was the best non-book, book lovers gift you received?