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Lessons Learned from the Bookshelf


Writing can be many things. For some, it’s therapeutic, to others it’s an unexplainable passion and some people communicate best by expressing feelings on a blank piece of paper that becomes their canvas. Blogging began for me as nothing more than a place to cultivate my scribbling’s and “spread my wings” in a sense, to see how well I could get along writing by standing on my own two feet.
 
In this past year and a half, all of the opportunities for bloggers who were avid readers opened an entirely new vista – one that is challenging but also has become a virtual place for friends to meet over coffee and enjoy some good old fashioned book talk. After getting “settled” into a routine of sorts, it wasn’t long before I was able to connect with some book bloggers and find many fabulous programs for bookworms. Not only has this opened that entirely new world, it is also an excellent teaching instrument – believe it or not. Reviewing has taught me much about my reading habits – ones that I needed to confront. 

Anyone who may have seen my Twitter timeline from the last couple of weeks will have seen comments about the tedious process I am going through in “weeding” out my book collection. One of the ways that I’ve found is a good test of simplifying life is to de-clutter! And trust me, I am in grave need of doing that. As my mother is so fond of saying, we need keep only the things that there is a proper place for. Reviewing fiction has taught me that I need to – and in fact can be, more selective in what I read. Here are some of the things now easier to objectify.
 
Lessons learned from reviewing: 
 
Selection: If you are willing to look a little harder – beneath the cover, as it were – there is a really wonderful selection of books. Just taking an intense look at the Christian market, it has grown leaps and bounds since I first started discovering it over ten years ago. Janette Oke gradually transitioned into Lori Wick and then I got really “brave” and tried a suspense set of books that are “classics” of their own kind, The O’Malley series. Since then, the market has expanded and is no longer endorsed as just­­ the sort of fiction your grandmother might read. There is such a unique, all-encompassing variety nowadays. Thinking otherwise means you have lumped Christian fiction into one box and don’t feel as if it can be anything else but “sweet.” Trust me, it can be – and is!  
 
Space: As said beforehand, a popular saying at my house is that you should only keep things that you have room for – if there isn’t a place for something (or if you haven’t used it in a number of years), you really don’t need it. This, I have found is truer for my fiction than I thought. There was a time when I’d have stubbornly refused to be rid of any books (they were all loved for certain reasons) I had been gifted and bought over the years. How wrong that philosophy was! It’s been a tedious, long project but in sorting through them, I’ve gotten three or four boxes full to give up and have been shocked how “easy” it was. Never having the urge to pull out something afterwards is a great feeling. And none of them will be missed.  
 
Selective: Before reviewing, I was of the opinion if one book by an author was good, then the rest would be equally engaging. Or because I first fell for ChristianFic through the wholesome Janette Oke stories then naturally, western and prairie fiction was my thing. That is definitely not the case. Reviewing has made me lots more critical. But this is a good thing. Not only do I need to be accountable for reigning in which and how many novels I read but I also need to realize which genres are the “right” ones. It’s tiring to force yourself through a book if it’s not really “connecting” with the reader – and that is something personally that no longer is appealing. Among the opportunities to try authors you may have been curious about but skeptical to try, the review programs have become a wonderful way to define which books are good and which aren’t.  
 
What are some of the things you’ve learned from your bookshelf?
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Rissi
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27 comments:

  1. Usually if a book doesn't grab me in 40 pages, I put it down and move on to something else. I'm willing to try almost anything -- but life is too short for me to keep reading something I don't care about. =)

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    1. Bravo! This is why I've begun isolating favorite genres and authors. It's SO hard for me to finish a book if it's not "connecting" or interesting to me. Unless it's a review commitment, I suspect that I won't be finishing books in the near future if they don't grab me. It's simply too unpleasant to trudge through something so boring. Plus, it's just entertainment after all. :)

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    2. That's also why I primarily only get library books -- my personal collection of novels is very small, since I only purchase things I truly love to read. That way, if I don't like a book/it doesn't interest me, I can just send it back -- not a penny spent! I'm the same way with television shows and movies; if it doesn't hold my interest, I don't finish it.

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    3. After sorting through books one day last week, I came downstairs and said to my mother: "I still have a lot of books!" Needless to say probably a third sort-through will weed out even more. It's been a great process and a "problem" I don't mind having since it's been such a learning experience. Right now I have a "maybe" stack also which I suspect will be more giveaway than keep.

      Reviewing has made me realize I like more than "safe" fiction and it's been a fun journey. :)

      (The other biggie this project has revealed is how awesome my aunt is: She's gifted me lots of books. ;D)

      Television shows I give at least two to five (preferably the longer) episodes from personal experience. It seems to grow so much in even that sort of a span. With books, I am less patient. *sigh*

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  2. I'm definitely that girl who has a obsessive love for books! I collect books (and have hundreds!) because I personally LOVE books myself. But my other very important secondary reason for collecting books is for others, as well. I have younger siblings, peers, and younger friends who know that I have a very large collection of books and so they come to me for reading material. Providing a mini-library, so to speak, of clean, appropriate fiction for others is really important to me. Growing up, I'd go to the library and read almost anything. As it went, I began reading a lot of junkie fiction at a young age and even reading WAY too much romance novels (even Christian ones) LONG before I knew how to not let romance go to my head or how to not let my girly-sappy love of romance turn into something that got more fleshly and out of control (which it did for me for awhile, in my case). So for me, I LOVE collecting books so that I can provide a safe reading place for others, specifically any children that I may have some day (or even just my cherished nieces and nephews). It's my investment into the next generation. Because since I LOVE to read so much, I'm bound to have a child of my own or a niece/nephew who eats books at quickly as I do! Plus...I really just love books! I get a sort of "high" when I mingle with my books, haha. Anyways...all that was free information, no charge. ;)

    This is a great post! I have a hard time getting rid of books (they're like drugs to me, haha) but in the past year or so, I've gotten better at weeding out the ones less than par. For me the question I always ask is, "Do I want this book influencing my children/nieces/nephews someday?" That will go a long way in whether I keep a book. Of course, keeping in mind the different age levels of books - I love Redeeming Love and it's such a great book for older teens & up, but certainly not for anyone younger. ;) Anyways, this comment is getting really long - but I get that way when I start talking about books.

    Great post! I need to start applying some of those tips to my own collection!

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    1. Any and all talk of books is most welcome here, Kellie! :)

      You summed this up beautifully. A love of books was fostered in me when I was still young - which I partly credit to my parent's never wanting us to watch television or too many movies. (Hardly anything was appropriate!) My entire family loves reading - it's a guilty pleasure for us, and is something we've indulged in. A lot. (It's sort of our 'one weakness.' ;D)

      Like you, I always thought, "there'd be NO way I want to get rid of any books! Love them all!" Stubbornly I clung to that. Surprisingly it has been remarkably easy. I've come to a point where any book I force myself through is NOT a pleasant read so it's been helpful to curb favored genres and discover which authors are most likable. Now the question to ask is: "Will I read this again?" Because of my sometimes "compulsive" thought that all books (in the genres I like or market) are "good," I forget that sometimes its best to pass up the latest bestseller. It's a slow process but so far, it's gone well.

      Loaning out books is always something I am delighted to share. It's why I hope to find an avenue to sell some of the books (some are brand-new) or perhaps find good homes for them. :) If someone else can enjoy something that is just sitting around gathering dust, I'm all for it.

      Loved your feedback - and instilling a love of reading into the children I someday hope to have is a definite must! They will simply *have* to like it. :)

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  3. A book can touch in a way nothing else could.
    Yay for bookworms!!!!!

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    1. *High Five*

      Yes - we bookworms must stick together, Ella. :)

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  4. Hahaha oh my goodness, if there's one thing I learned it's that space is gold! I have to really, really love a book to keep it because otherwise I'd have to move out. As a book swapper, then blogger, then later a reviewer I've gotten way more books that I used too and that's not a bad thing in terms of I've been introduced to a lot of great new authors and genres but the space they take up is huge. There's only so much bookshelf space, closet space and under-the-bed space that one has and I've really had to prioritize. Like you, I have found that it is so much easier to get rid of books now than before I started doing all the online book stuff. It's nice though to be able to pass on books that I've read and reviewed to friends and family and hopefully introduce others to reading through blogging.

    Great post!

    xoxo,
    Renee C.

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    1. That one is a biggie, isn't it!? It made me smile to read about your predicament: I've exhausted all of my "hiding places" also. Needless to say this can be both challenging and frustrating. ;)

      As a book swapper, then blogger, then later a reviewer I've gotten way more books that I used too and that's not a bad thing in terms of I've been introduced to a lot of great new authors and genres...

      This^ is so true! At first, reviewing was more of a fun way to read favorite books and perhaps pick up a new genre or author. Now it's a great "teaching tool," I'd not give up for anything. I've always been the sort of reader who assumed that I liked prairie fiction just because I once read Janette Oke's books and adored them. Needless to say, no longer is that the case! It's helpful to finally be able to realize that not every book is right. Gone are the days when I force myself to read through a book that isn't interesting (unless it's a review commitment, of course). It's a good feeling.

      Love your idea of giving the books to family and friends, Renee! How neat. Glad you stopped by with some thoughts. Loved reading them. :)

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  5. What a neat thought! I think it's taught me to try a much as possible and not give up. I don't believe in starting a book and never finishing because I was too lazy to finish. Sometimes books are slow, but it's so rewarding to finish them! Plus you can say you've read it, not just part.
    I didn't think I liked reading mysteries until my friend gave me "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie. I was SO gripped by that book! I sat down and read it in two hours, despite the work I had to get done. Ha!
    So, trying "new" genres and finishing what I start are what I've learned. :)
    Great post, Rissi!

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    1. I'd say MOST of the time I'll finish a book. But in learning what my likes and dislikes are, I am hoping to avoid this - having to force myself through it. I do agree with you that it could be considered "lazy" but I also realize my time is worth something and when it's mere "entertainment" (which is the type of book I prefer), I don't want my reading material to be boring but rather entertaining. As my mother is fond of saying, "life is hard enough - watching a movie or reading a book should be relaxing." :)

      That's very cool, Maria! I adore the ITV Maple telly series so perhaps the books would be an interesting read. Must look into that - mysteries are a fabulous genre. And speaking just for Christian fic, they are wonderful. Glad you found mysteries through such a classic source.

      Trying new genres is always a cool way to expand beyond what's comfortable.

      Glad you shared, Maria! Enjoyed reading your thoughts.

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  6. Rissi? If you ever decide to get rid of that particular bookshelf of books, please just send them my way, okay? ;) Yes, pulled up that picture to full size so I could see them all...and most of them are ones I'd love to get my hands on/already love/really want to read. :)

    Anyway, neat post! :) My thoughts...

    Yes. The more I blog, the books/authors I discover that I want to read. But I don't have time, which hurts! But I'm continually amazed by just how many GOOD books there are out there, especially when I remember how hard they were to find at first.

    Space...my problem. Since I'm still living at home as I finish high school, I have fairly limited space. And while I have more books than any of my friends (I'm a lending library to them all too...), I still feel short on space and have to get rid of more than I'd like. It's probably good though. ;)

    Again, good post!

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    1. Ha-ha! Thanks, Charity! You'll be first on my list if I ever decide to put these in the "giveaway box." Right now, there are about four boxes full. Don't know how the method getting rid of them will be decided - seriously I have enough to start a small store! This project has also taught me that my family is awesome - so many of the books have been gifts. :)

      Hear you on that dilemma: Finding the time is hard. I don't want to sit around all day reading no matter how good the book is. So mornings and nights are my reading time. (About to sign off tonight to do just that - who knows maybe I'll be off-line the entire weekend. :D)

      Ugh! Yes, space is a problem. Between my entire family, we could start a small library also! LOL! ;) Although I've not gotten rid of the books yet, I have felt so much better knowing they are already "sorted out." They are the ones I now know can be gotten rid off without any real sorrow. It's sort of liberating. :)

      Thank you for reading this, Charity! Your feedback is appreciated. I always think I'd like to publish more things like this but often struggle with inspiration. Must work on that. :)

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  7. Ooooo! Book getting rid of ideas...Paper Back Swap. Swapping with other people online (*ahem*). Giveaways! All depends on the kind of book, you know. :) Have a fun weekend of reading, digital free or not! :)

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    1. Ha-ha! Great ideas - thanks for all of them. I can use all the help I can get!

      Yes, exactly - know what you're saying about the type of book. I have held off going the giveaway route since most of the books are older publications even though they're in excellent condition. A dilemma would be most people have read them or aren't interested. I'll think it over because I would like some avid readers to get enjoyment from them. :)

      You too, Charity! Hope your weekend is fun-filled. :)

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  8. I've definitely learned that I may not enjoy every single book an author has written. It's actually why I have a hard time answering the question "Who's your favorite author?". I may really, really, really like one book but not like another at all by the same author. Or I may only like one book from the author's many titles. I've always thought I may be kind of strange that way, but decided that it was just me and oh well. Good to know I'm not alone in this! :) There are a few authors that I've yet to find a book of theirs that I didn't like. But usually there's at least one of their books that didn't particularly strike me.

    As for space, I do periodically go through my books and weed out. Some books are harder to weed out than others! I confess there are several still on my shelf that I adored from my teen years, and I just can't get rid of them yet. They were so precious to me then. It'll probably happen one day, but not yet. (I also find that I have to allow plenty of time to do the weeding out. Inevitably because in order to figure out if I want to get rid of a book, I must first skim through it really quick. Kind of silly, I know, but one has to do what one has to do. ;)

    This is also why I'm so thankful for my Kindle! Makes storage much easier. But it will be a LONG time coming before I go only digital. I like my real books quite a lot. As my exploding bookshelves will testify to. :D

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    1. "Who is your favorite author?"

      This is a tough question. I don't think I could pin it down to any one name either. I can sympathize with that one, Kara. Usually there's a good chance that I'll like any new book by a favorite author. But occasionally they disappoint. Such an example is Susan May Warren. She writes an impressive variety of genres and each one she does VERY well. Nope, you are definitely NOT alone in this. :)

      It's a good, liberating feeling to weed out books now and again, isn't it!? I used to be the girl who was always like, "no way could I get rid of my books!" How wrong that was! It's been easier than one would think to take a hard look at those shelves and pull out something you'll likely never read again.

      Actually, it's not silly at all! Your idea of skimming through a book is a good one. It's a good way to help along the process. :)

      Aside from the fact that the initial cost is high to purchase any of the e-readers, I am stubborn and do not like the idea of it. I like it for the sake of storage (or if the person travels a lot which for me isn't necessary since I don't) but in all other regards, it just isn't the same. There is nothing like getting a book in the mail, opening it and holding that fresh-off-the-press paperback. :)

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    2. Yes, I can definitely understand your hesitation and don't blame you at all. There's nothing like a a real book, nothing! :)

      But I do travel at least twice a year to visit my family back east. Believe me, when I'm packing my suitcase, I appreciate having just a small ereader. Having to find room for the 5 or 6 books (or more!) I wanted with me was hard! I appreciate it on the plane also.

      Travel is what ultimately made me decide that I wanted an ereader. I was planning a trip and having an extra hard time choosing only a couple books to take. (That's really hard actually, because what if I want to read one I don't have with me? That would be just terrible! ;) Anyway, I finally gave in.

      But still! I maintain a huge love of real books and don't plan on changing my mind on that any time soon. So I'm a bit stubborn myself. :D

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    3. If I travelled, it would be a nice thing - packing a small Kindle (e-reader) is much easier than a stack of books. :) Plus, yes, having it on the plane is always a plus - I watched movies the only time I've flown. Anything to pass time!

      So long as there is still paperbacks on store's shelves I'll be happy though I'd have to admit that at some point, I'll probably own one. It's just that initial cost is... high. And I detest the idea of reading on a screen since I'd rather print out something (such as an on-line story/article) than read it on the computer.

      Appreciate your feedback and tips on the pros of an e-reader, Kara. It's always helpful. :)

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  9. I got rid of a couple dozen books last year when I combed through my collection and took out every book that didn't have characters I love -- now I'm trying to do the same for my movie collection. Harrowing work, but necessary.

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    1. Oh, yes! It is hard work but in the end, the job is one of those that makes you feel good at the end of the day. I've started pulling out some DVD's that are no longer ones I like but mostly, the focus is on the books. For now.

      Good luck with your movie collection, Hamlette! Hope it goes as well as your book sorting. :)

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  10. I know exactly what you mean! I'm really trying to step back and be choosy. It isn't easy!

    Great post!

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    1. No, it isn't, Rosie! You said that right. At the end of the day, it's always a bit of a victory if you can conquer it in some small way. It's all about those baby steps...

      Thank you for reading!

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  11. Good post, Rissi! I also notice that reviewing makes me think differently while watching a movie or tv show or reading a book. While before I would often just think: 'Hmm, this is bad' or 'Wow, this is good', now I often find myself making mental remarks about the acting, the storyline, the way you feel about the characters etc.

    And you are right, there so much to read in Christian Fiction, you really have to make a choice. I remember 10 years ago I would simply pick up a book when I knew it was Christian Fic, but now I'm much more picky. Lucky for all the review sites that give me good ideas!

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    1. It has been really good for me as a reader, Birdienl. I needed to learn how to better curb which books I chose just because I was overwhelming myself with review copies and thinking that each one was worth reading. Fortunately, they aren't.

      Love how you've described reviewing: We've come a long way from simple statements like "this was good." :)

      Christian fiction has grown in the ten plus years I've been reading it. It's gotten so much stronger and more intricate and that is worth applauding. :) There are some great review sites! They are out there just to tempt us methinks. LOL! Just kidding, they provide helpful, usual information that is often decides whether or not we'll chance a new author. :)

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    2. So true, birdienl. I too now read (and watch) and am better able to formulate what I like and dislike about this or that. I'm still not great like many of my favorite book bloggers are, but I'm definitely improved from when I started. :)

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