Tag Archives: reading

Celebrating Occasions with Books

It’s no wonder that many people love receiving gifts – from gift cards, to big things, small things, expensive things, and all other things in between. Sometimes the gift is just the thing you wanted, and other times it’s something that you hope came with a gift receipt.

When it comes to book lovers, what’s the first thing that they ask for during any major holiday, whether it be their birthday (hey, to them it’s a holiday), Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other day, books are usually at the tops of their list.

But what if you don’t know their reading style? What if you get them a book – or series – that they already have?

It can be hard to shop for a reader, especially when so many different factors can play a part into what should and should not be given them. Let’s take a moment to explore some ideas for your average book lover:

  • Gift cards – they’re a great gift during any occasion, and you can give gift cards for specific stores, such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon. You can really never go wrong with this option.
  • e-Readers – they’re not all expensive and can hold thousands upon thousands of books in just the palm of your hand. From the nook to the kindle, there are several e-Readers that do the job just fine. You can even get accessories for each reader, which makes it more personal, and fashionable.
  • Book-themed apparel – yes, it exists. Haven’t you seen the “Okay? Okay.” shirts looming around some stores modeled after “The Fault in Our Stars“? Or what about the Harry Potter themed clothing items that can be found at Hot Topic? Do a little digging and you’ll find many places carry book-themed apparel.
  • Audiobooks – they can be just as expensive as hardcover books, but audiobooks are a great way to listen to a book for your busy, on-the-go, reader. There’s a wide range of different kinds of audiobooks, but not all books are made audio, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a specific title.
  • Custom designed anything – have you ever viewed Etsy? It’s a website where people can hold little online shops and sell items custom designed for others. You can find many people who do custom bookmarks, totes, and other objects and make them personal to your book lover.

Those are just a few examples of the what you can gift your book lover. They will love anything given to them that’s book themed (as long as they liked the book). It can be challenging, but with so many different tools out there in the world, you can find that some of these things are manageable, affordable, and totally perfect for the book lover in your life.

What kinds of gifts do you give to your book lovers? What kinds of gifts have you received as a book lover? Let me know in the comments!

Kids & Reading

It’s no shocker that kids who read do better in school – and not just in their English classes. In fact, the American Council on Education, as restated on Do Something, says that “53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally ‘almost every day,’ while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.”

Think about that. Just over half of young readers read for fun, while just four short years later the numbers drop over 25%. What would cause something like that?

It could be that the school systems become harder, kids growing up just have less of an interest because it’s “not cool,” or some other factor that prevents them from reading.

According to the Literacy Project Foundation, “Illiteracy has become such a serious problem in our country [the United States] that 44 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their children.” I would be so sad if I couldn’t read to my child when I have one. Stories bring to life so many adventures and create vivid imaginations that can take many children to places they’ve never been – especially in their playtime.

Reading not only brings up literacy and allows children to succeed well into their adult years, including, but not limited to, higher education, attaining a career, and keeping out of jail. Yes, jail. It’s a scary fact (see sources linked above), but it’s true that having the ability to read above a certain level can actually help to enhance a child’s future rather than hinder it.

If you live in the United States (and other places in the world), we have this wonderful place called the library. Many larger cities have their own, as well as many schools, and so allowing children to take advantage of reading free books (so long as they have a library card and no late fees to pay off) is well worth the trade off of having a child who is happy from reading. For a list of public libraries by state, check out this link.

When picking out a book for a child, or allowing them to choose on their own, simply think of their interests: do they like animals? Superheroes? Trains? There are so many wide varieties of books to choose from that they will never be bored of it. I know that, personally, when I walked into Barnes & Noble or my local library at a young age and gravitated toward the children’s section, I was always swept away at the amazing amounts of books and the many, many different kinds I could choose from. I personally enjoyed puzzle books and animal books, but your child may enjoy books like Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, or any other kind of book.

For young readers under the age of eight, I recommend books like Stellaluna, Verdi, and Eloise.

For young readers age eight to thirteen, I recommend books like Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and really anything from this list.

But reading doesn’t have to be limited to those kinds of books. Let a child dip their toes into some more mature reads (obviously not too mature, depending on their age) and see if they can handle the language and structure. It can be a challenge, but sometimes that’s just what they need.

So what do you think about the importance of reading for a child? Do you think it’s worth it to have someone who enjoys having a big imagination, a broader vocabulary, and a sense of adventure? Sure, reading doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen (except the broader vocabulary part), but it still does allow them to find more dreams in the world than what may seem to be out there. We all know reality can be a harsh place to live in, so why not allow them to dream for just a little bit longer?

Do you think it’s important for kids to read? What would you recommend to a child under the age of 12? Do you remember what you read as a kid? Let me know in the comments!

Manga – A Growing Trend

It’s no surprise that so many people have become attached to many fictional characters in manga. Not only can they see the character in picture form, but they get a much deeper sense of who they are, their actions, how they react in different situations, etc.

Today, there are many different types of conventions (“cons” for short) that people get the opportunities to dress up (cosplay) as their favorite characters to the best of their abilities, as well as what their wallets will allow. Some cons are Anime Boston, Comic Con, Anime Expo, and more, including outside of the U.S.

There are many genres in manga, just as their are in regular books: romance, sci-fi, ecchi, harem, paranormal, horror, school life, shoujo/shonen-ai (girl/girl love; boy/boy love), and more. Some manga (most, really) are series that can stretch on for over 40 volumes, and then there are some that span just one or two volumes.

Why is it so big? The characters, the art style, the stories, all come together to create something that is visually stimulating for a lot of people, where regular word books just don’t cut it. Not only that, but many manga get turned into anime (think Pokemon), which bring those characters to life on screen in 2-D animation.

It’s been a growing trend in the U.S. for over twenty to thirty years, especially with series such as Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Gundam, Naruto, and Bleach, to name a few. Each series produces characters that kids and adults alike feel connected to and want to learn more about them while enjoying the fun, dramatic, scary, and weird antics that they get themselves into.

Some of my personal favorite manga are Fushigi Yuugi, Ayashi no Ceres, Hot Gimmick, Ouran Host Club, Kaichou wa Maid-sama!, Kashimashi, and others.

To read some manga online, check out MangaFox or Manga Reader, or any free site, to see some great books.

Have you read manga? What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Make Good Art

I wanted to take a moment to write about Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech at the University of Arts, Philadelphia in 2012.

I’ve heard this speech before, probably when it first came out, or maybe in a classroom, but I didn’t really get it then. I mean, I understood what he was saying, but I didn’t fully grasp the concept that Gaiman was talking about.

As I listened to the speech again, I realized something: everything he said is true.

As someone who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in English Studies, my options for jobs in my field are limited. Many jobs, in many fields, require you to have previous experience before you can get experience, or they require something else of you before you can really start. It’s a tough world right now for certain degree majors, but it’s not impossible.

Gaiman’s speech was one to inspire, for sure, but it hit something within me that rings truest of all: Make. Good. Art.

It doesn’t matter if the work doesn’t get published or never leaves home, it doesn’t matter if you make money or not from what you do, but what does matter is that you make it and that you enjoy it.

Reflecting back on my college career I went through three majors before landing on English: biology, earth science, pre-major (no major), and then English. I was thinking of going into education to have a more solid foundation for which I could lay my work, but I didn’t want to be in school the rest of my life, so I went for the next best thing, something I knew I was really good at: English.

I love to write; I have since I was a child and since I started writing stories as part of classroom assignments or for fun. I once wrote over 100 pages on the computer when I was just eleven or twelve, something that many people may not even fathom to do when they’re twenty or thirty. I was immersed in story and I had such a vivid imagination that it always came naturally to me.

But I still wanted to be a veterinarian. I still wanted to study dinosaurs. Don’t get me wrong, those pursuits are amazing and if I had had the ambition and drive to continue my studies, I would have, but as someone who struggles majorly in math (minus a few select subjects), I couldn’t do it. I was constantly disappointed in myself, and I knew my parents were, too, even if they didn’t want to admit it.

When I started pursuing English Studies with a focus on Professional Writing, and then later adding Art as my minor, I knew that it should have been my first choice going into college. I had found the passion that had been dormant for so long in me spark once again, I found the will and drive to be creative again. When it came to my writing classes (not the ones that focused on literature) I told stories that moved, confused, astounded, and amazed my fellow peers and professors.

I had found where I belonged.

Now, as a graduate, that passion is dwindling yet again. I started writing my first novel, just two sections of it: the end and a middle-to-end section, but two sections nonetheless. I have ideas written down of several other novels and I realized something: I have so many passions, but I am so afraid of what might happen, or not happen, next.

I am worried about helping to support my fiance and I as we come closer to our marriage date and his return to school, I am worried about not being able to find a job in my field that I will enjoy, I am afraid of the future, of what’s to come. I am just afraid.

But listening to Neil Gaiman’s speech sparked something in me that I should have never let go of: just keep writing.

I have put this blog on the back burner because life keeps happening, and I don’t want to do that because I enjoy seeing people actually enjoying my voice and opinions. I have stopped writing because I am afraid and worried that I won’t get anything published eventually or, even more presently, unable to finish a single story. I have put what I love on hold because of “life.”

Well, life can suck it.

I love to write, I love to read, I love to be creative to the point where I am more passionate about it than anything in the world.

So why not just keep making good art?

Book Clubs

Have you ever wondered what a book club is? Have you ever wanted to start one but you were unsure of how to go about doing it or couldn’t find enough people to join you?

Book clubs can be a fun way of sharing experiences, likes, and dislikes among book lovers. Pretty much the person in charge of the book club picks a book that everyone in the club has to read within a certain time frame and then they discuss it in detail. This can consist of various questions that were thought up and the person in charge has to make sure that there’s flow for each question before moving on to the next one, and more.

It can seem like a daunting task, but it’s really not all that bad.

If you join Goodreads, there are plenty of book clubs on there to join; you just need to find one that’s right for you. Or start one!

To start a book club, think of the following things before beginning, or as you go:

  1. Find people to start the book club with. Start small with just you and two friends, and before you know it, you might end up with ten more people joining down the road. The point is to start small and build up.
  2. Think of a theme or set genre for the types of books you want to read. Do you love mysteries, but the rest of your group prefers sci-fi? Find a common ground for everyone to stand on and start there, branching out afterward.
  3. Write down questions for discussion. If you are the person in charge for the first meeting, make sure you’re prepared (actually read the book) and have some questions on hand to ask your fellow club members. Write them down so you don’t forget.
  4. Pick a time frame. If you start a book club, decide on a book, and then just say, “Have at it!” then you’ll never meet up again until probably a year later. Be realistic in your time frames:
    1. For larger books (over 500 pages) or series, try having meetings monthly, one meeting per book.
    2. For smaller books (less than 500 pages), try having meetings bi-weekly.
    3. If you’re ambitious, finish one book per week, but make sure it can fit in with everyone’s schedules!
    4. If you prefer, have set chapters to read rather than completing the whole book so the book can be drawn out and you’ll have more to talk about.
  5. Bring snacks! Book club meetings can take a lot of time, so be prepared to serve some snacks so everyone can be satisfied and think of something to talk about.

Okay, so number 5 isn’t really a requirement, or something you really need to consider, but it’s still nice to have something to munch while you’re thinking of the answer to the question that was asked.

Book clubs can be fun for everyone and they don’t have to take a lot of time. Set your meetings for an hour each meeting and try to meet your own personal goals and guidelines to however you have it set up. Just be sure to have fun with it and keep on reading.

For the Love of Reading

Reading is a gateway to a world unlike any other. It can be set in reality or Mars. It can be a great way to de-stress from a long, hard day, or a way to just have some fun. It’s entirely up to you on how you view it.

But why is reading so great?

Let me first start by saying why I love it: it helps me to get away. I am a very imaginative person, and so to be able to have a way to channel that imaginative and creative side of me into something other than drawing is relaxing and fun for me.

I especially enjoy young adult literature. There’s a sense of innocence in many of the books, but there’s also a deep sense of self and adventure in many of the novels I have read. It’s nice to be able to read books about teens and young adults that can be so relatable, and yet some reach the very stretches of the imagination.

Not only that, but I have read manga, romance, fiction, historical, fantasy/sci-fi, religious, and many subcategories within those categories. There’s a whole range of genres of books that are accessible to those that are willing to read – so go out and pick up a book!

When reading I often put myself into the hero or heroine’s shoes, and so when some actions happen I react appropriately to those situations, such as when a romantic scene is happening: I tend to get butterflies. Or when someone is pissing off the main character I start getting pissed off. It’s a way for me to drop whatever is bothering me that day and just let go of it all.

So what can you do to start loving to read more?

  • Pick up a book! It’s not going to kill you to go to the bookstore, the library, or even online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble and buy an e-book.
  • Listen to an audiobook. I had a classmate that fell in love with reading again because of audiobooks. Some of the people who read it don’t sound great, but try to enjoy the story regardless.
  • Start or join a book club. What better way to read than being forced to meet up with people to discuss a book at length? Search around for local book clubs or start your own!
  • Pick up books with stories that interest you. It sounds like a “well, duh” answer, but we are often forced to read books through school that we otherwise didn’t enjoy, or even hate, so try to go for a genre or type of story that you’re interested in, such as dystopian societies or dragons or romance.
  • Find someone to read with you. This is similar to the book club idea, but it’s not exactly the same thing. Find a friend or someone close to you who will be willing to read a book along with you so you have someone to discuss every intimate detail with. It can be a life saver when you’ve just read something you love and need to talk about until your throat runs dry. Also try online communities where you’ll get even more people who will enjoy it with you!

The possibilities are endless. Reading isn’t just for school or something that has to be a chore, as many younger people, and sometimes even older people, find it to be. It’s fun, exhilarating, and completely worth it.

Take the time to make a list of your likes and dislikes in a book, then go searching for some! Always start off at your local library if you’re uncertain that you might like a book enough to buy it. The books are free and the librarians are often very happy to help with any questions you may have.

So how about it? Do you love reading or think you’ll be able to?

 

What are some of your favorite types of books? Why do you love to read? Let me know in the comments!

Literature Classes: Pros and Cons

As I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate career, I figured that I would give my own view and take on how some types of classes are and how they can impact you if you’re thinking of becoming an English major, or are one. Let me first talk about literature classes and the pros and cons behind them.

Literature classes are a major art of being an English major, even if you’re concentration is in Professional Writing. The culture, the texts, and even the classroom discussion are integral parts of what it can mean to truly be an English major.

In my university there are two main types of literature classes available to students: British and American. The classes are broken up into time frame, because there are typically a lot of pieces of literature in a given class, and so to be able to break up the amount of time that has to be covered is actually very useful.

There are other types of literature classes, such as African-American, Women’s, World, Children’s, Jewish American, Caribbean, and, of course, Shakespeare. These are just courses offered at my university, but there’s many different types of literature that can be studied if it fits your fancy.

When taking a literature course know that it’s going to be reading intensive. You often won’t find a literature course, no matter the level, that only has one or two books/stories to read. Typically you may only have to get one textbook, but there are many, many stories that have to be read and interpreted and talked about in the classroom. It’s not an easy task, mind you, it’s actually quite difficult.

So, with that in mind, let me list some of the cons of literature classes first.

  1. They’re reading intensive. If you don’t like reading, then don’t take a literature class. If it’s required by your college/university, then suck it up. You may just find that you actually like what you read.
  2. The texts are often very complicated to understand. Many of the novels and stories picked for literature courses were written before 1900, so the language, syntax, grammar, even spelling can be different from what you’ve already grown to know.
  3. A lot of the texts will be boring. Depending on if you have a desire to learn more of the time period you’re studying and the stories made by authors of that time, you may find what you’re reading to be boring. It’s okay; a lot of students feel that way.

Those are just the top three cons of a literature class. If you’re not a big reader or aren’t into a certain time period, then make sure your university offers a diverse amount of literature classes.

But that’s not all literature classes are made of. There are some benefits to taking a literature class, such as:

  1. You learn about different cultures, subgroups, and how certain styles of writing were created. If you haven’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein then you most certainly will in some form of British literature. I learned that her novel was a turning point in how the “Gothic” themed literature came to be.
  2. You learn how to critically analyze and break down a text. This can be tricky, but as you further advance in different types of literature classes you will be able to better understand how to break down a sentence in a long paragraph or how to interpret what a certain scene represents within the history and context with which it was written.
  3. You gain a new appreciation for writers before our time. There are many, many rich and engaging stories that were written hundreds of years ago that we can still read and discuss and argue about today. There are still topics to discuss – and that’s major.

Those are the top three pros that I personally gained from taking many literature classes. Though most of my classes consist of writing, given my major, I have still taken several literature courses not only to fill requirements for my major, but also because I am purely fascinated by the text, language, and culture that can be learned about from literature.

It takes a lot of time and patience to be able to get through some works of literature, but if you’re able to make it through you will learn many things you might otherwise have not known, and that’s the point of learning, right?

The Effects of Reading Daily

Reading can take you on a whole new adventure that cuts through the mundane, everyday life you may or may not lead. From Middle-earth to Indiana to Paris to Avalon, reading fiction can bring you to places you might never otherwise see with your own eyes or during your life time.

So what are the effects of reading? Well, a study that was published in December called “Short- and Long-term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain,” published in Brain Connectivity, suggests that, according to an article on Psychology Today, that “reading fiction was found to improve the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to visualization of muscle memory in sports.”

This is actually pretty neat once you think about it: your brain uses muscle memory for things such as riding a bike, driving a car, using a pencil, and other tasks you can do on a day to day basis. That same muscle can be used to put your imagination on a “joyride” through the eyes of the main character of the story.

But have you thought about reading daily? It can seem like in our busy lives that we barely have time to use the bathroom, let alone read. If you set time for reading ten minutes a day, then you’ll be using that same muscle suggested in the study (the sulcus) to possibly change the way your brain works.

Not only will it effect your brain, but it can also effect your speech and the way you look at your day to day tasks. I have a friend who has been a part of several Shakespeare plays, including “Hamlet,” and she can sometimes be found to be quoting and speaking in Shakespearean lingo. It can be entertaining, but then again, it can be difficult to understand what she’s saying sometimes.

If you read daily, though, you can open new worlds in your mind – and frankly, staying in those worlds is a lot more fun than real life.

Imagine being able to stay in a world where you can be friends with Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters from John Green‘s novel, “The Fault in Our Stars.” Though the story has a sad turn of events in it, the characters themselves are quite fun individuals and I know I would personally want to be friends with them.

When a novel is able to grab your attention and pull you in, it can be a thrilling moment and you just want more. I know that when I read something that I enjoy I am easily taken to that world and can relate very easily to the main character, experiencing their emotions, actions, speech, etc. I love that feeling because it’s something that’s out of the mundane and out of the norm.

If you read daily, you can experience that euphoria often and enjoy the world the author conveys in their story. Take the time out of your day to read – just ten to fifteen minutes a day, or longer if you have the time. It can be both rewarding and fun. Just make sure to pick something you know you’ll enjoy or it’ll be all for naught!

Fiction vs Nonfiction

First off, let me just say that everyone has their own personal preferences as to what they like and dislike in a book, and these are just my views and opinions on these two genres.

The two major branches of classifications in a book are fiction and nonfiction. If you don’t know what the differences are, let me tell you:

Fiction is a story that can be either real or imaginary, but takes place in a setting that is created by the author. Think of stories like “Divergent” by Veronica Roth or “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen.

Non-fiction is a story that is based in real life and can fall under the categories of autobiographies, biographies, historical, memoir, and more.

Each major genre branch has many little branches that like to “grow” from them, let’s say. For fiction there are genres such as historical, romance, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, teen paranormal romance, etc. For non-fiction there are genres such as lifestyle, historical, biography, etc. There are many different genres to read in this world, and there are also many different forms of these genres, particularly those in print, digital, and magazine.

When looking at the big umbrella of fiction and non-fiction, there are different factors to consider when picking out a book (or looking for a website) that you should consider before you pick one up:

  1. Are you in the mood to read about something that is made up and that has a plotline? Or are you interested in someone from the real world, whether that be a politician, an actor, or an author?
  2. Do you tend to be more of an artistic mind or are you more of a forward thinker? This can actually make a big difference when you choose the types of books you read. If you have an artistic mind where you have a vivid imagination or are thinking of getting ideas for your own story, then maybe you want to read at a fiction book whereas someone who’s more business oriented will want to read a non-fiction book or magazine to just pass the time or learn more about the world.
  3. Do you prefer digital or print? Thought eReaders are becoming really big nowadays, that doesn’t mean that print is going out of style anytime soon. For many books, though you can easily find them for an eReader, if you don’t own one or you spend more time online but are looking for a fictional novel to read, you might be out of luck. Think about getting an eReader from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble – it’s an investment that can be worth it.

Though it can be a toss up as to whether or not you want a book via a certain type of “printing” you can still decide what you prefer to read by also making a pros and cons list.

Fiction Pros: Fun to read; engaging; imaginary worlds; sometimes they’re in a series; many different genres for every type of interest

Cons: If they’re hardcover they can be expensive (as will a non-fiction book); cheesy covers; it’s a gamble – you may pick up a really great book with a great story, characters, and setting, or you may pick up a dud

Non-fiction Pros: Easily relatable; entertaining (magazines); factual (most of the time); useful resources

Cons: Sometimes boring; topics retold over and over again; magazine subscriptions can get expensive

All in all, it’s really up to you. If you’re a person who doesn’t read a lot but is looking to pick up the hobby, this list I made may or may not have helped. If you’re a seasoned reader, then you know what you like and you know what you can look out for. I find that both non-fiction and fiction books have their own charms and their own curses, but when it comes down to it there is only one person who can determine what they want from a book, and that’s you.

The Magic of Books Before Bedtime

It’s no wonder that it can be overwhelming in today’s world.

From keeping up with schedules, to finishing things for work, to running around trying to catch the kids, to feeding the husband (or your cat); it can be a stressful day, and night, so what do you do? It can be nearly impossible to find the time to wind down and just enjoy yourself in the solitude of your own room or area of the house with the chaos that surrounds and fills every pore in your body.

The thing is, when you finally do have the time to wind down and just relax, you’re wiped out and can barely keep your eyes open long enough to use the toilet once more before going to bed.

But have you ever thought of changing your schedule around so that you have time to read before sleep? According to this article by Megan Kaplan on Upwave, “Winding down to sleep mode begins with calm, relaxed activities, like curling up with a book, writing in a journal or taking a hot shower — whatever slows you down.”

And it’s true! If you feel that you haven’t had exactly the best night’s sleep in a while, you’ve probably hadn’t had the time to wind down with something that can relax you.

Curling up with a good book – or a horrible one – can relax your brain and muscles because you aren’t looking at “blue light” or something that stimulates the brain, such as a computer or TV.

Not only do books not emit blue light to make you want to stay up for hours on end even though you’re exhausted, they’re also filled with words that you can use your imagination to see. The thing with modern technology is that, in many aspects, it’s been taking away our imagination and our creative ways. As children we would read books without pictures because they were an escape or a way to go on new adventures without ever leaving the couch at home.

Try that now as an adult. You might feel as though you aren’t doing it right or you’re out of touch, but even the most avid readers have their own “dry spells” that they deal with.

Here’s a few tips to think about before you go to sleep tonight:

  • Turn off the TV, dim the lights to a safe reading level, and pick up a book or eReader. (Do not use a phone or HD tablet for this as those devices can still emit a blue light effect.)
  • Make a schedule. You want to be able to have the time to read before bed, so make sure you allot enough time to get as much reading done as you want before sleeping.
  • Read for only 15-30 minutes. It doesn’t take much before your brain becomes tired enough that you won’t be able to keep your eyes open for much longer.
  • Pick a book that you’ll enjoy. You don’t have to pick the most boring, droning book out there to help you fall asleep faster. Reading your favorite novel can be just as satisfying (if not more satisfying) as reading a less exciting book will be.

Take the time, curl up with some tea, and read a good book; you just might be able to sleep soundly again!