Books, books and more books

I’m ready to admit it.

I suffer from attention deficit disorder. If I wasn’t certain of it before, I am now. Technology has propelled me toward this official self-diagnosis.

Evidence?

My book collection not only clutters my house; it’s beginning to clutter my electronic bookshelf.

When we finally sold our house in North Little Rock a year ago, we made a small profit and indulged in some techy stuff. Two days before my birthday, I got a smart phone. A few weeks later we got an iPad, and a couple of months after that we got a new laptop. All Apple products (yes, we’re “Mac snobs” and have been for years).

All these electronic devices now “sync” with one another. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.

One good thing is apps.

Another good thing is the Cloud.

When you have three complementary electronic gadgets, all from the same brand, apps and clouds can be a lovely thing.

It means you can load up with BOOKS. And read them anywhere.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE BOOKS? Not lately, but, yes, I have mentioned it. Unfortunately a bunch of Suzy & Spice got wiped out a few months ago, so some of my book-loving references have gone away. Poor you. Because some of them were book reviews. About books I got FREE just for writing reviews about them. (One really cool thing about that is that a couple of these books’ authors posted thank-you comments at Suzy & Spice. And another one saw my previous reviews and wrote me a letter asking me to review her new book. So I did.)

But back to the book clutter.

Bruce Oakley and I (I’ve begun calling him “Bruce Oakley” since he got his own Facebook page; if you FB much, you’ll understand) … well, we love books.

This can be a dangerous thing.

Our house in North Little Rock, the one we sold because we moved to Batesville, had wall-to-wall built-in bookcases in three rooms. It’s basically what sold us on the house 13 years ago, especially for Bruce Oakley, who never met a book he wanted to give away.

That’s not entirely true; he has managed to part with several items from our vast collection before and since we moved from a 2,600-square-foot house to a 1,740-square-foot house.

But, golly, do we still have lots of books! We even have boxes of them that we still haven’t unpacked 2½ years after moving.

I’m working on that. Got it down to just a couple of boxes now. Cookbooks, classic books, running books, gardening books, financial stewardship books, you name it. Books, books, books.

If you’re a true book lover, you understand how hard it is to part with a book – or to pass up a free book on a give-away table. (Many of our books were acquired when we worked for “the state’s largest newspaper” – books from the food editor’s table, or the religion editor’s table, sometimes even the travel editor’s table [even though I don’t really enjoy reading “travel” books]. Heck, we even got some of the books from the book editor’s table! Imagine that.)

We’ve acquired a couple more bookcases in the past several months. We have one still in the box – we’re still trying to decide where to squeeze it in (we bought the bookcase for my mom, but she changed her mind and we decided to keep it). We recently hung shelves in the office/sewing room to store non-book items so we could be a little more organized. This has meant some of the boxes on the floor under the table in that room have been emptied onto the bookshelves and other things have taken their place. (Sounds contradictory and counterproductive, but organizing clutter is a process, people!)

A work in progress. Still working on unpacking, sorting … and reading.

Nevertheless, we have given away a few dozen books in the past couple of years. I’ve donated several to our “church library,” which doesn’t really exist except for a small collection of books that I donated in the hopes of someday having a real church library. Our church here Batesville is a lot smaller than our church in North Little Rock, and I realize that when and if I decide to push for a “real church library,” I no doubt will be elected its first librarian. (Be careful what you wish for.) And we sent a bunch to a friend’s son who’s in the Peace Corps in Rwanda. He lives in a house with no electricity and has to read books with a headlamp. Does that make you more fully appreciate your books, your good lighting and your ability to read? I hope so. It does me.

But back to the electronic techno-gadget-thingie stuff.

Paring down our collection of physical books has been a good thing, spacewise, but now … I have discovered ebook readers! (Discovered is not so much the word as now have access to, on all my cool electronic devices.)

And what’s even better (or worse, depending on your perspective) is that you can obtain books with “1-Click” ordering, and many of these ebooks are FREE!

Did I mention that I love FREE?

And here’s where the ADD admission comes in: Just like with my physical stack of books and magazines on the nightstand, and on the floor by the bed (and in the tote bag I carry to work every day), I have a virtual stack of books that is beginning to pile up in my electronic cloud. (A cloud means you can access the same stuff from different devices by being signed in using the same username and password. It even remembers where you are in your book, magazine or newspaper so that when you’re on a road trip with your iPad, say, you can pick up where you left off reading on your laptop back home in your cozy chair. A virtual bookmark.)

But here’s the really embarrassing part: The reason there’s such a pile is that I start a book and don’t necessarily finish it right away. Right away meaning within the next couple of years. And then I pick up a different kind of book and don’t finish it, either.

Here’s an example, and why it can be so embarrassing: A friend and former colleague of mine from 20 years ago wrote a novel that has been quite well received. It has gotten some really, really good reviews. Right after (or maybe right before) it hit bookstores two years ago, I mentioned it to Bruce, who emailed my author friend and said he’d like to buy an autographed copy for me for our anniversary.

Well … my friend wouldn’t let Bruce pay for the book, promptly shipping us a copy along with a note saying it was good to reconnect after losing touch.

I emailed him to say thanks, and that since he wouldn’t let Bruce pay for the book, we donated $25 to Heifer International in his honor. And then we got to talking about the past few years.

Some history: He and I worked together at a newspaper in California. He was my supervisor, and I was the first babysitter of his first child. I really liked his wife, and in fact I still have a photo on my wall of her standing next to me, both of us smiling as I proudly hold their new baby girl. I house-sat for him and his wife for a week (someday I’ll tell you about having to crawl through their doggie door when the garage-door key wouldn’t work). I swam in their pool, loved on their pets and ate dinner with them once or twice. That was pretty much the extent of our socializing. (It’s hard to socialize with someone you work with when you’re both on the evening shift and have different nights off.) We were friends but not BFF’s, you know what I mean?

So when I moved away, and then he moved back to Seattle, we gradually became the kind of friends who only exchange Christmas cards, except that I am terrible at sending Christmas cards. It was kind of one-sided. I enjoyed seeing the kids age as the years passed, but it wasn’t enough to prompt me to get off my duff and actually send them a card.

One year I noticed that the Christmas cards were signed with only his and the kids’ names. No wife’s name. And since it’s not the sort of thing you write back about and say, “What, did you get divorced or something?” I simply wondered what had happened.

A few years later the cards stopped coming. Can’t say I blame him, I thought. I never send them a card.

So it was one of those wish we hadn’t lost touch kinds of things. Someone you really like and admire but no longer know much about.

And when we started emailing two years ago, my friend shared some of what had happened in the intervening years. Yes, they had split up. She moved away, and later was killed. To honor his privacy, and since I haven’t read all the book-publicity interviews to know how much he has shared publicly, I won’t say more than that.

But he told me that’s where the book came from. This experience of losing this woman he had loved, the mother of his children.

The book’s main character is a teenage boy who has lost his twin brother, so the circumstances are different, but you can still feel the pain and grief as my friend fictionalizes this horrific and life-altering thing that happened to his family.

The book is really, really good (except for the occasional foul language, which offends me on one level but remains true to the teenage character).

And two years later, I still have not finished reading it.

Yes, embarrassing.

But let me defend myself just a little. For the past four years, I’ve been in school at night while working full time during the day. Because of Bruce’s disease, I’m now the main breadwinner. I was trying to get a second degree because of my midlife career change, which happened out of necessity (it allowed us to move to Batesville, where the job opportunities are far fewer).

I was crazy half the time, trying to keep up with it all. This past spring, I decided not to return to school in the fall. I regret that I couldn’t finish what I started, but it was the right decision for my family.

And I’m just now catching up with my life. And my books.

In the spirit of decluttering our house, I was overjoyed to be able to start obtaining virtual books. I have a couple of snob friends – or really just one snob friend who has several snob Facebook friends – who wouldn’t be caught dead with an electronic book reader. They are old-school when it comes to books. They prefer to read them the old-fashioned way – on paper.

Too bad for them. There are so many advantages to ebooks. (Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the list today.)

And then, a few weeks ago, while I was jogging with a couple of friends, one of them mentioned a book she got from Inspired Reads, a service that offers free (did I mention I love free?) and very inexpensive books for your Kindle. Well, I was all over that. I found the website, signed up for the daily emails and began amassing my collection of books for Kindle. (Did you know you can download a free Kindle app and not have to purchase the actual Kindle device? So then you can download free Kindle books! I also have iBooks, but the Inspired Reads selections are for the Kindle.)

And the books you can download (free!) aren’t just stupid, crappy books that no one wants to read. There are some good, thoughtful reads out there. They’re “the best Christian Kindle Books on a Budget.”

In the Inspired Reads daily email, you first have to wade through the list of Christian fiction, most of which doesn’t really light my fire, but then you get to the non-fiction, which has some good titles. You should check it out. Most days I just skim the list and delete the email because, even though they’re free, I simply don’t need to download every single free book out there. When I said I had begun “amassing my collection,” I didn’t mean that quite as literally as it sounds. I’m building my electronic library slowly, trying to be selective while also taking advantage of some of the books I otherwise would pass up. Because they’re FREE.

And I know of another great way to get free books.

If you’re a blogger, check out BookSneeze, another site with Christian books. BookSneeze will send you a book (physical or electronic) just for agreeing to review it on your blog and post the review on a book-related website (such as Christianbook.com or Amazon.com). I’ve obtained several free books from BookSneeze, and most of them are really good. Book Sneeze doesn’t require you to write a positive review – just your honest opinion.

So … back to the ADD thing again. (See what I mean?) I start reading a book, life gets busy, I stop reading the book, and I pick up a different book and start reading that one. Then life gets busy and the cycle starts all over. I have several unread books, just waiting to be loved.

But I’m turning over a new leaf, so to speak. I’m not going to start reading any new ones until the previous pile is finished.

Notice I didn’t say I would stop obtaining new books, just reading new ones. After all, who can pass up a free ebook?

I should be finished with Adios Nirvana within the next week.

Or so.

What books are on your nightstand and piled next to the bed? What books do you need to finish before adding more to your stash? Tell me, tell me!

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5 thoughts on “Books, books and more books

  • Monday, November 12, 2012 at 8:39 am
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    E-books are a great way to keep the stacks on the bedside table at a minimum 🙂 You can check out free e-books from the Batesville public library, too!

  • Monday, November 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm
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    Nicole, it was with great sadness that I took my North Little Rock and Little Rock public-library cards off my key chain last week. It’s been 2 1/2 years since I’ve used them, and I was finally able to part with those little pieces of plastic. I figured my Independence County library card was enough for this Batesville girl to have!

    Thanks for the reminder that there are plenty of free hard copies sitting in that big ol’ building on Main Street.

  • Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm
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    Suzy, I read your comments with mixed feelings — joy at your wisdom and levity, but also pangs of wistfulness and ache for what has past (’nuff said).

    As for the book’s foul language, it got me firmly kicked out of one town in New Brunswick, Canada, which declared the narrator’s voice too raw and offensive for the local stomach. I have no qualms; we are who we are, and our characters are who they must be. The themes — of grieving, healing, and the importance of friends in the process — have carried over to my new book, which I have just finished and offered to the fates (i.e. my agent). We’ll see where it goes.

    Writing young-adult fiction has truly helped and inspired me. As for the books on my bedside table, let’s see: “Jack,” a biography of JFK by Herbert Parmet; “Lando,” by Louis L’Amour; “Breakfast of Champions,” by Kurt Vonnegut; and “Medea,” by Euripedes.

  • Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 9:23 pm
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    I can’t wait to read (or at least start reading!) your next book. I look forward to hearing more about it, and I hope it’s a huge success.

    As for what’s on your nightstand, those titles (or topics) don’t surprise me at all. I remember conversations we had about Kennedys, Vonnegut and especially my dad’s favorite author, Louis L’Amour. I still have Dad’s paperbacks – hard to part with those.

    If we don’t talk again for a few weeks, consider this your long-overdue Christmas card. 🙂

  • Monday, March 25, 2013 at 3:42 am
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    Suzy, I am still working on ‘SEVEN” , have “LET GO” by Sheila Walsh waiting in the wings. Plus I am still trying to finish my Bible Study on “Life Interrupted” which is Priscilla Shirer’s study on the book of Jonah. Have my daily devotional called “A Gentle Spirit” that I’m way behind on and we’re about to start a 5 week study on the book “A Thousand Gifts”. Thank goodness I’ve already read that one! Plus I have a Grandmother’s Bible that has a daily devotional. Do you think I might have some of that ADD you say you have? 🙂 one problem is that I am finishing my BSN at UALR and have a lot of homework, then have mandatory continuing education for my national certification in the Society of Head & Neck Nurses and THEN we have monthly mandatory education for my job. Can you imagine having homework from 3 different places??? UGGGG. AND I have FIVE grandchildren that I want to spend time with!! So I can identify with your life……… Vicki

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