Small Life, Slow Life: 11/100 {All the books I’ve been LOVING + reading challenge + the library!}

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One of the things I missed during the early, sleep-deprived days of being a new mom was READING! I was an English major and have always been a voracious reader. My most favorite days in school were when those little Scholastic flyer-booklets would be passed out. Nothing smelled better to me than that recycled paper, promising all the new stories I could read. I’d bring them home to my moms and they told me I could pick out as many books as I wanted. (So generous and also so smart. Something we’ve already adopted with V as well.)

My first job out of high school was at Bookstar, a smallish bookstore which later became Barnes & Noble. They had a policy then that we could check out any hardcover book we wanted, as long as we kept the dust jacket at work and didn’t damage the book while reading it. This was how I read the first four books in the Harry Potter series, since I hadn’t read them yet (or shamefully, even heard of them). My manager said I would need to know which book he had the Nimbus 2000 in, and in which he had the Firebolt. (I never did end up needing to know that, though. But thank God he made me read them.)

In Japan, I had a Kindle, so I read a lot as well. There were also a couple of places we could find books in English. One of my most favorite books of all time, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, I found randomly in Tokyo on a dusty paperback rack (do you remember the metal bookracks that would spin? It was one of those), and picked it up out of pure curiosity. It’s still in my top five favorite books of all time.

Anyway, when the beginning of this year came around, I decided that I simply had to read more, sleep deprived or not. (I made some other changes at the beginning of the year as well and have stuck with most of them, but that’s for another blog.) And so I challenged myself on Goodreads to read two books a month for a total of 24 by the end of this year. I quickly realized that I was going to surpass that, so I upped it to 30. Here we are in September and I think I’m probably going to need to up it to 40. I’ve already read 25/30 and I just started on #26 today!

How on Earth are you reading so much?! you’re asking. Well, I’ll give you a little secret.

(It’s the library.)

I know, I know, no one has gone to the library since we were kids. But! Listen! Do you even know all the cool stuff the library does now?!

First of all, you can check out 30 books at a time, and you have three weeks to read them. No more of that 10-day nonsense. And not just books — they have DVDs, audio books and even eBooks for almost any title you can think of. If you check out something from your local library, you can extend that three weeks almost endlessly.

But here’s the real kicker and how libraries are different from when we were kids: if they don’t have the book you want, they will get it from another library, and send it to your library. FOR FREE.

For free!

“I’m introverted and I don’t want to talk to a librarian,” you’re saying, because you’re kind of uptight like that.

You don’t have to! You can sit your pretty little butt on your couch and do all of this from your phone, using just your library card and your phone number. Search and order any book you want. I do it all the time. Sometimes I get really overwhelmed when they all come in at the same time and I have to read nonstop around the clock so I can turn them back in on time!

Y’all, this has actually changed my life. I have read every single thing I’ve wanted to read under the sun this year and I haven’t paid for any of it! I have purchased a few books that I really fell in love with, but other than that this has cost me nothing!

V’s bookshelves are already overflowing, so when I want to test out a new book for her, I request it from the library before I decide if I want to buy it for her. And since she’s been in her awful Elmo’s World phase, I’ve checked out those DVD’s from the library too so that I’m not endlessly fast forwarding to the end of Sesame Street episodes.

Anyway, that is how I am reading so much and I have read some really incredible titles this year. For a family on a super tight budget, the services the library offers are so generous and incredible. When you check out an ebook from them, you download it right from amazon. It is so easy.

I found out about all of this through an online book club I’m in called Novel Grapes on Facebook. I know the founder, Jacki, and she was always saying that she was waiting on this or that to come from the library. She lives in Colorado, and I figured there was no way California libraries would do all of that. Well, I was WRONG. Libraries everywhere do all of that!

I’m even proselytizing on my instagram.

Sometimes you may have to wait a little bit for like, super bestseller books, but I’ve never had to wait long at all for anything. And they email you when your hold is ready to pick up, and to remind you when your books are due. Can you tell I’m obsessed?!

Okay okay, enough about the library. But they are awesome and you should go.

So, like I mentioned, I am 25 books in and I thought I would share what some of my absolute favorite books have been so far this year, and I would LOVE to hear what you’ve been reading. I am always looking for my next favorite book!

Favorite books I’ve read this year:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Okay before you kill me, the movie was such a pile of crap and made me so angry that C and I actually considered walking out. But the book? No. The book is a dream. It is a siren song for nerds. If you ever liked JRPGs or the band Rush, this book is for you.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi. You know that beginning part of falling in love where just their name lighting up your phone makes you smile like an idiot and want to roll into a happy ball all over your bed? This whole BOOK makes you feel like that.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I also enjoyed The Sun is Also a Star, but this one edged it out in my opinion.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. I’m not sure how I had never read Tyler before, but she is a master and this book made me ache and cry and truly love her characters. I couldn’t pick a favorite. (But probably Ezra.) I now have 10 of her books on my “Want to Read” list.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Man, this one will punch you right in the guts, but it is so worth it.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. A real book lover’s book. Easily one of my favorite books I’ve read in several years.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. Made me scared to walk around the house alone at night. Couldn’t put it down!

Honorable mentions:

The whole Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro. These are so much fun.

No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury. Really good for toddler parents. A breath of fresh air.

The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary. Changed how I parent and how I relate to my daughter. It’s a slow read but very important. Every parent should have this book.

The Mister Rogers Parenting Book by Fred Rogers. I saw the documentary “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” with my friend Elizabeth and we cried through the whole thing, it was so good. Mr. Rogers’ tender advice even translated through his writing. I recommend!

Scythe by Neal Shusterman. I just finished this today. I’ll definitely read the others in the series. He creates a compelling dystopia.

Okay, so what have your favorite books been so far this year?! What do I need to add to my (already super long) to-read list?

4 thoughts on “Small Life, Slow Life: 11/100 {All the books I’ve been LOVING + reading challenge + the library!}

  1. Hi Jen. Hisashiburi! Hope you are well. Looks like you are doing great. I recently read The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris. Fascinating and gripping. A little hard going at first while you learn to understand the main character but once you do it is truly brilliant. The last half of the book I read in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down.

  2. I am a librarian. This posts makes me so happy! 😁

    Reading has also been one of my goals for this year. I’m constantly struggling to allow myself the time to read (and otherwise slow down and nurture myself). Has it been difficult to give yourself time to read? Do you have advice for making time for reading amidst a busy schedule?

    • Ahhhh Karen! I have a mini-crush on all librarians now and truthfully think I missed my calling; I should have been one! Thank you for commenting!

      So because I’m the mom of a young child, I have to squeeze in reading whenever I can. This means I read on all of my ten and thirty minute breaks at work — my coworkers know not to disturb me. I also read for about thirty minutes before bed after I put my daughter down. Sometimes I’m lucky and she goes down early, and I can read longer. It’s a real struggle when there’s a show on that my husband and I like, because I’ll often choose the show instead of the book.

      ALSO, if I’ve checked out a library book on my Kindle, I read on my phone using the black-screen feature (so it’s extra dark) WHILE I am putting my daughter down, so I don’t disturb her and she doesn’t try to see what I am looking at. All in all, on a good day I can fit in about an hour and a half of reading. I used to be able to read during her naps, but she stopped napping recently, sigh.

      It’s also why I look forward to going back to work after my days off — there are no ten or thirty minute breaks when you have a young child!

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