Friday, October 14, 2016

Feeling Frozen...The Book Buying Sabbatical

Happy Fall, Furious Readers! While the days aren't getting too cold here in New Jersey, fall is always a wonderful time to think about preparing your winter TBR, finishing up your reading goals before the end of the year, and considering which books loved ones will be getting as holiday presents. There are numerous book festivals throughout the country and, of course, October marks Comic Con season on the East Coast.

In other words: we are surrounded by books wherever we go and we can never escape.

Oh, apologies, furious readers, I'm feeling a bit sensitive right now. We are at the midpoint of our "book buying sabbatical" and I am learning a few lessons:

1. This is a lot harder than I thought. With my first post, I had written in an optimistic hand, excited for this social experiment. However, I did not consider my book buying habits, which - to be honest - are not healthy. I notice now that we often bought books because we were 1) bored; 2) had a bad week; 3) passed a bookstore; and 4) noticed we hadn't purchased a book in a few days. While these are great reasons in small doses, you tend to purchase books that aren't always on your list and you often end up stacking those newly-acquired purchases on an already-towering TBR pile. The habit of buying mindlessly is something we all must deal with in our consumer culture, but when it borders on wasteful, then we have a problem.

2. I appreciate independent bookstores so much more. We at Read Furiously are firm believers in the power of the independent bookstore (and are very vocal on our favorites), but this appreciation as blossomed and matured into something stronger. While I enjoy our big-box bookstore chains for their convenience, I also noticed that not buying from them is quite simple. Yes, the coupons and sales are fantastic (and there has been many a good coupon that I had to delete from my inbox during this time), but the reader can walk out without a purchase the same way one does in a department store. There isn't a connection between you and the purchase. With independent bookstores, I found this book-buying sabbatical to be much more difficult. Independent bookstores are the cornerstone of a true reader's experience and there is more to it than a shopping spree (which is always great for the bookstore and, when they can afford it, the reader). It's the moment when a reader pulls a book from the shelf and, after perusing the cover and first chapter, makes the important decision to take it home. Book buying is a meditation, a moment between your next read and a possible next favorite.

3. I love buying books for other people. This I always knew, but I've done this a few times during the book-buying sabbatical and it has been great watching the books immediately leave my house (to keep this fair, I did not keep the books in my house for too long in case I felt compelled to read them) and reaching the home of its reader. Like buying a book for yourself, buying for someone you love is a very special moment and without thinking about myself as I entered a bookstore, I am able to put my entire book purchasing energy into that person. It's a really nice feeling.

4. Libraries are the heroes of the book world. I have the joy of living within walking distance of my public library and you can believe I made good use of it during this time. Not only do you feel as though you've been through a "spree" when you leave with a large stack of books, but a furious reader can also take chances on titles they wouldn't normally choose in a bookstore (sometimes wallets have very loud opinions on what to buy or not to buy in a bookstore).

To conclude: so far, so good. I've actually enjoyed this sabbatical and I'm thinking we can make this an annual activity at Read Furiously. Just a few more weeks to go!  Until then, read well, read often, and read furiously!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stress Free Binging

Editor's Note: The first lesson in a book buying sabbatical: Never go at it alone. I'm happy to report that Adam will be writing a few posts himself to highlight another side of our alternative reading journey.

As a long time comic book reader, there's always been a sense of urgency that comes with reading - a self imposed deadline to make sure you've made enough progress on your TBR pile to justify going to the comic book shop when Wednesday rolls back around. You don't have to read everything you picked up, but if you haven't read anything then it becomes difficult to silence the little voice in the back of your head saying "Do you really need to go back and get more?" New comics come out weekly, and all it takes is one week to really start falling behind. So if you want to get something new, you can't slack off.

Even as someone who reads most titles in trade form instead of single issues (where the frequency of release is much more manageable), I still find a small part of myself secretly hoping I come up empty when I glance over the list of new books that will be hitting shelves each week, that there'll be nothing new I need to add to my ever growing list. After all, it's just nice to have the time to play catch up every now and then.

Being a part of the Read Furiously's Book Sabbatical, I want to take this time to not only catch up reading titles I've fallen behind on, but also go back and revisit titles I've already read.

With an imaginary weekly deadline looming over my head each week re-reading something can feel a bit frivolous at times. You only have so many hours a week you can dedicate to reading, shouldn't you be spending it on something new, something that'll help quell the bookshelf worth of paperbacks and hardcovers making up your TBR pile (which is actually a full TBR bookshelf with mini-TBR piles in front of it at this point).

So having the opportunity to step back and really reflect on my reading, this seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in some titles I want to revisit.

First up is Fables by Bill Willingham. With over 22 books in the series (if you don't count crossovers, standalone graphic novels, and spinoffs), I made it as far as volume 18 before I started falling behind, and as the series drew closer and closer to the end I started to come up with more and more excuses to put off reading the rest of the books.

As we entered the Book Sabbatical though, and I no longer felt the pressures of an oncoming Wednesday, it seemed the right time to return to Fabletown once more. Not just to finish off the series, but to re-read it all, from Legends in Exile to Farewell. I now had the luxury of time, so why not take a cue from Netflix and binge on a book.

But Fables seems like a the right choice to start. It's a series I began reading over ten years ago when I was still in college, and in some cases I haven't revisited the storylines in just as long. A lot of time has passed since then, and I'm a much different person now, my interests in some cases have done complete 180s. So the idea of going back and seeing how the books hold up is an exciting one.

Even as I was reading Fables the first time around it was one of those titles where my interest waned to varying degrees throughout it's run, so I can't wait to see what will it be like to read it all straight through. Will it be like when my wife and I try to pace ourselves watching Orange is the New Black only to end up finishing it in a single weekend, or will it be more like Arrow where the only reason we made it through season one was because we kept in on in the background while we did other things.

Regardless of the outcome though, just the luxury that the Book Sabbatical has offered, the opportunity to go back and reflect on the titles that have shaped me as a reader is a great one. And after Fables I've got a great queue lined up for other book series I've been looking for an excuse to dig up.

So till next time, Furious Readers.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to Brian & Bobbi! In Stores Now!!

Happy Friday, furious readers! First of all, I am so happy I had my 5th anniversary edition of Brian & Bobbi before our book buying sabbatical (the perks of working for Read Furiously...and being married to the author). Otherwise, I would be in serious book agony trying to figure out how to get my copy.

I am so excited to put the spotlight on Brian & Bobbi, especially since it falls on the one year anniversary of The M.O.T.H.E.R. Principle, Volume 1. An anniversary edition on the anniversary of Read Furiously's first title! I think it is a good sign.

Five years ago, author Adam Wilson and illustrator Franco Viglino released the graphic novel Brian & Bobbi, a classic superhero story for the 21st century. Brian is born with superpowers, but no one seems to care while Bobbi is the daughter of a superhero who doesn't seem to care about her. The two find each other and their friendship gives them both an agency to help them find their place in the world. That's the classic part of the superhero story. The 21st century lens is illustrated through characters that are both flawed and inspiring. One of the largest concerns about female comic characters is their lack of development, but that isn't the case with Bobbi. She manages to be funny, endearing, selfish, desperate, and powerful throughout the graphic novel. She wants Brian to make a name for himself so others will notice her - she is left abandoned by family and culture, but learns very quickly she won't win if she strings herself to the classic hero narrative, AKA Brian. One of my favorite parts of this novel is watching Bobbi realize her own worth while still keeping her friendship with Brian. She is her own woman, with her own destiny, and this is something that young readers - both male and female - need to see in the comics they read.

Conversely, Brian's story begins in a vague-stereotypical hero's journey and ends in an extraordinary destiny. Once he moves out of the "typical narrative" of crossing the threshold, Brian discovers that he can become his own superhero on his own terms, which is more of a blessing than he realizes. Choice is the theme throughout Brian & Bobbi - both characters have to decide whether to be their own original creation as they navigate the superhero narrative that is expected of them. Adam Wilson plays with these boundaries of expectation versus reality seamlessly and creates a story that is character-driven through the action and humor that drives so many human stories (or in this case, not human?).

Franco Viglino brings his own style to the panels the same way Adam Wilson tells his story: using influences we are familiar with (you will notice the panels have a manga feel to them) while creating something completely different that is entirely his own. The panels are well-paced, to match the quick-wit dialogue, and the action sequences provide us with more than superhero grimaces and closeups. There are beautiful moments of skyline views that allow us to inhabit Brian & Bobbi's world.

Read Furiously is proud to introduce its release of the 5th Anniversary edition of Brian & Bobbi, complete with a new cover and featuring a cover gallery that includes all of the concept art by Franco Viglino for the original cover. With this edition, we are including a pin-up gallery featuring artwork by the talented Alex Schumacher, Randi King, JC Grande, Lynn Carper, Nolan Moore, and Rodolfo Maximiliano. You can purchase your copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and (most importantly) at your local independent bookstore. You can also get your autographed copy from us at The Furious Reader.

Enjoy your new #FridayReads, furious readers! As always, I remain your humble book blogger telling you to: read well, read often, and read furiously!

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Do You Book Freeze? Part 2

Once we figured out how many books we had, we began to consider the growing trend of participating in a "book freeze." For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a "book freeze" or "book ban" is the decision, made by the reader, to abstain from purchasing books for a specific number of months. Some book freezes last a year or a few months, or some don't last at all (as The Odyssey Online delightfully pointed out).

BookRiot and Broke By Books offer a great start to readers hoping to begin and to survive their own book ban/freeze, and I found them to be the most helpful in my research. Collectively, the blogs and reader websites all share the same idea:
  • It is usually referred to as a "ban" or "freeze" 
  • Most participants stress the importance of having a library at your disposal (to fight those book buying urges and to keep your TBR in tact)
  • There is a strong emphasis on creating wishlists and cashing in on a reward after the ban/freeze
These are all great pieces of advice, but the amount of books that are before and the idea of "banning" or "freezing" my book buying leaves me to believe that we at Read Furiously can take this one step further. I like the idea of putting a stop to book buying in order to assess and to play catch-up with my TBR, but I feel the process can be more reflective than disciplinary.

Let's be honest - if I were to "ban" myself from buying books as though I did something wrong each time I bought a book, my book ban would look a little like this:

Beginning on August 1st, we at Read Furiously are entering what we wish to call a "Reader's Sabbatical." Similar to a book buying ban or freeze, we will not purchase a book for 3 months, ending the sabbatical on November 1st. We chose to rename our book buying ban or freeze by following in the footsteps of Marie Kondo's concept of "sparking joy." I am so proud of our book collection and I don't want to think we are entering this book buying ban to punish ourselves for loving books. Instead, I want to take these 3 months to finish my TBR pile and to consider what books bring us joy and what books can be donated or gifted to bring others joy. 

And so it begins, furious readers! Time to enter the "Reader's Sabbatical." Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been purchased (via midnight Potter party) and our reading lists have been created. Along with my usual posts, I will also keep you updated on our 3 months of bookshelf bonding.
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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Do You Book Freeze? Part 1

All furious readers understand two fundamental truths: 1) books are expensive, and 2) we purchase more books than we have time to read, resulting in overflowing TBR piles and overwhelmed bank accounts. Yet, all furious readers understand the thrill and joy that comes with walking into a bookstore, making a purchase after choosing a title carefully (do we go with a favorite author? do we take a chance on a new title?), and bringing home said title to meet the rest of our books. It is a beautiful experience that can be understood universally by furious readers - to us, a book is more than a book and this desire to read and to collect drives our overstuffed libraries. As we all know, there is no better illustration of happiness and contentment as a house filled with books (maybe if it is also filled with coffee and tea as well?).

Recently, we decided to move, which means we had to pack up our books. Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of readers more than having to figure out how to pack their books. Luckily, we have a method that works - using tote bags instead of boxes to fit more titles and to eliminate sore backs - but we decided to catalog our books before we packed them.

Our app of choice is LibraryThing which allows you to scan your books, organize them, and connect with a community of readers. You can catalog a certain number of books for free or you can catalog and pay a yearly or lifetime membership fee for an indefinite number of books. So we cataloged, and we packed, and we purged, and we ended up with...

...over 2,000 books. In case you want to know what 2,000 books look like in one room, don't worry, we have a few pics for you.

Obviously, this number provided us with a moment of reflection and gratitude for the chance and means to have this many books, while also allowing us to take stock in what it means to be a furious reader. Our culture has the tendency to be concerned with quantity over quality, and with store coupons, employee discounts, professional writing perks, and library sales, we have built a collection we are both proud of as furious readers...but still a bit intimidated by it. However, it also makes me wonder - can a furious reader have too many books? Is there a "magic number" for a library? If we can only read so many books in a lifetime, combined with our usual rereading habits and new titles that come out every month, why hold on to so many titles? Do all of them bring us joy, to invoke the KonMari method?

The bigger question lies in curation. In the act itself, curating offers a chance to self-assess, to validate, and to annotate our literary artifacts.

And so I ask, furious readers:  Do you book freeze?

As per usual, I have some thoughts (and plans) on the subject.

To be continued....
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Warm Welcome, a Sincere Apology, and a True Lesson Learned

Hello, my dear furious readers! I am about to welcome you back, but I'm afraid it is I who needs the welcoming back, as I have left for far too long with no explanation. My explanation is this: the last half of this year has been a transition of life choices, creative endeavors, business prospects, and (naturally) furious reading. We have released our first Read Furiously title last August, The MOTHER Principle, and we are preparing for more fantastic Read Furiously news in the coming year, including Volume 2 of The MOTHER Principle.

Of course, among the life changes that occurred throughout the first half of this year, the last couple of months have had me within the throes of an existential reading crisis in which I struggled not only to finish a book, but to choose my next book. Surrounded by books, talking about books, and being an active member of book culture, I learned very quickly that we put too much pressure on ourselves as readers. This was a tough pill to swallow since reading, for me and many others, is associated with relaxation and pleasure. But even a reader's lifestyle comes with challenges.

However, all is well - I have discovered our first title to lead us back into the furious reader's discussion: Daniel Pennac's The Rights of the Reader, translated by Sarah Ardizzone and illustrated by the infamous Quentin Blake. An excellent link to a poster version of the book can be found here.

Originally published in 1992, The Rights of the Reader focuses on Daniel Pennac's experience with his personal reading and teaching his reading philosophy to students. While I did not agree with all of his thoughts, and that is to be expected when reading about the act of reading, I did find it to be the most helpful of the nonfiction pieces about this topic. Usually these types of books are written in the form of memoir which can read as a bit self-serving (if anyone finds a reading memoir that isn't self-serving in their travels, please, please pass it along!). A quick search on the Internet revealed that many readers are split between supporting Pennac's message and outright rejecting it. The book is divided into four parts and it scaffolds our reading journeys from childhood to adulthood: the joy of being read to, the frustration of being forced to read classics in school, and the gift we finally give ourselves when we rediscover the love of reading.

I really like the idea that Pennac gives readers back their "rights." Often, reading is viewed as a chore or as a race we can never win, so we shouldn't try (again, referring back to the social shame that we put upon ourselves because we haven't finished an extensive novel like War and Peace). Pennac argues that understanding our rights will allow us to be kinder to ourselves whenever we pick up a book. Naturally, this speaks to me as an editor at Read Furiously because this is a huge part of what we do: to encourage reading in all forms without the added societal pressure we bring to the table. However, I did struggle with some of the "rights" that Pennac expresses in his text. While I agree that we need to enjoy reading, sometimes challenging ourselves by not skipping a passage or by reading something outside of our comfort zone (i.e. an intimidating classic or a genre one isn't used to reading). As furious readers, we know that reading is a very delicate relationship between the text and the reader. Right now, I am trying to find a personal balance between challenge and comfort (more on this when I actually figure something out!).

What we should take away from Pennac's text is a good reader encourages the love of reading. Pennac tells stories of dedicated teachers who read aloud to their classes and readers who share their favorite titles and stories with their loved ones. What's more, it has inspired other readers to share their own rules for reading.  Since working in a bookstore, especially in the Children's Section, finding the right book, for anyone, is a difficult task. Add to all of the confusion and white noise that we hear growing up (if a book is too hard, you shouldn't read it, or magazines and comic books aren't considered "high-level" reading, which I find vexing) and we have created a generation of confused readers. The Rights of the Reader helps alleviate some of that pressure we place upon ourselves. This is a slim read and one I highly recommend for all furious readers. It is a call back to our roots, when reading was a pleasure activity before it became one laden with expectation.

The moral of the story is this: Read however you like. Just remember to read.

In closing, I leave you all with this:

It's good to be back.  : )

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