{Reader’s Life} On cleaning out your head.

Cleaning our your head | carolinedonahue.com | the book dr.

Anyone else out there addicted to input?

I’m showing my age, but I’ve always left a little bit like the robot Johnny #5 in Short Circuit who ran around tearing books as he flipped through them at blinding speeds muttering “input, input.” If you have not seen this cinematic gem, here’s a little peek.

It’s so easy to get trapped in the more is more mentality, even with reading. Spending lots of time in the bookstore has created mountains of books that want to be read. And people just keep writing more and more stuff that sounds amazing. It’s easy to get into a frantic busy mentality, even with an activity that is supposed to slow us down and take us deeper into ourselves, like reading.

It was for this reason that I cut my Goodreads reading goal for 2016 nearly in half. I was a crazy reader last year, cramming in books at every turn and not as available to the rest of my life as I wanted to be. It’s such a bewitching identity, isn’t it, being a reader? People murmur with appreciation about how much you’ve been reading and it feels good, doesn’t it?

But what is the point of reading all these mountains of books if we don’t allow them to sink in and really impact us?

There are so many books that I’ve read over and over again because they still give me something when I do. But one thing that has happened that I’m not proud of is that sometimes I read with a plan to “come back later and really get into it” later on. Writing this down feels embarrassing, and I wonder if I’m the only one who does something this foolish.

Life is too short to plan on re-reading later.

Here’s how to suck all the marrow out of each book, Dead-Poet Style:

  • As a traveler’s notebook junkie, my first tip comes from that world: Use one insert in your traveler’s notebook as a Commonplace Book. What’s a Commonplace Book, you might ask? Read this excellent post and find out. You could also keep one of these in any other manner of notebook, or even in Evernote, but I personally like the physical experience of pen on paper. Having quotes and bits of books I have loved close at hand lets me digest them and return to the ideas later, while letting go of the book itself.
  • Another journaling/notebook practice: After finishing a book, take a few minutes to write a little bit about it. What was the book about? Did you learn anything new? Any new actions you want to take as a result of reading it. (hint: this is not just limited to non-fiction. A novel can inspire to-dos like “get a flowy nightgown and spend more time lounging in it with tea, or “the next time I see a sunset, stop and look at it for at least 5 minutes,” or “try meditation” (my guy’s action a year ago after reading A Tale For the Time Being.) )
  • It’s ok to take a break before picking up another book: I have finally gotten to the point that if I finish a book in the evening, I won’t start another one until the next day. I used to try to press on and now I find that counter-productive. I’m going even further in the “let it breathe” direction and sometimes leave a few days between books, even though that makes me a little nervous. The longer you let a book marinate, the deeper it can sink in. 
  • Come up with a one-liner about the book: Once you’ve finished a book, done your journaling session, and seen if there’s anything you want to do inspired by the book, come up with a catch phrase about what it means to you. Sometimes these may not come until later, such as “The book that got me into running” or “new ideas about fear that got me pretty excited.” Sometimes the catch phrase won’t come until later, but having one will help shelve the book in your head and clean out your memory. Try it- think of a book you’ve read recently, give it a catch phrase and then imagine putting it on an imaginary shelf in your head. Doesn’t that feel good?
  • Keep a list of what you read: Even if it’s just in Goodreads, which is how I track my reading. Having a list so you know you can remember what you’ve read, really does make me feel more able to let it go when I finish and also to dive more deeply into it while I am reading, because the need to rate the book when I’m finished causes me to engage more thoughtfully. Plus, it helps to scan over the list a few times a year- I probably do this once a month or so- and then I can muse on what I got out of each book and have a little memory jog- sometimes I’ve completely forgotten some of them!

After using a few of these practices, I’ve been able to feel a bit less crammed with input. The antidote to input apparently is just some output. Even if it’s just for yourself, being able to digest a book a bit before moving on the next will help with that overstuffed dinner feeling that can come after being on a reading bender.

Anyone else have this issue? What do you do when you want to clean out your head and have the most rewarding experience reading a book- I’d love to hear your methods as well!

{Reader’s Life} The Best Podcasts for Readers

Best Podcasts for Readers | Caroline Donahue | the Book Dr.

It’s true: I love books and read like a maniac. But sometimes, I want to do something with my hands while I’m reading. I might want to knit or clean up the house or go for a walk or a bike ride.

I have talked about the audiobooks I love before, and that list might be due for an update, but I have to share the other resource that readers aren’t tapping into already: delicious nerdy podcasts.

I am not only an audiobook junkie, I am also a podcast junkie. There, I said it.

I have culled my overloaded podcast-listening app to share my favorites just for you.

Here they are: My Top 10 Podcasts for Readers:

  1. New Yorker Fiction. Let’s start with a classic. This is a beautiful format: an author reads a favorite story published in any previous New Yorker issue and discusses why it was meaningful to them. Just lovely.
  2. Slate Audio Book Club. For those who wish they were in a book club, but can’t imagine scheduling one. Bonus: These hosts pick the best books and have excellent commentary.
  3. Revisionist History. For Malcolm Gladwell nerds and history buffs. This show started recently and I’m already heartbroken that it’s only going for a 10 episode season, much like GoT. If this intro video doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will.
  4. Books on the Nightstand. New episodes every Wednesday with the enticing feature “Two Books we can’t wait for you to read,” at the end of each episode. Good for those who need book-buying enabling, and want a peek inside the publishing world.
  5. Drunk Booksellers.  A nod to my much-beloved Book Soup days. Plus, this one is for those who like GIFs in their show notes and a theme song called “Bitches in Bookshops.” The rowdy choice of this list, for sure.
  6. Literary Disco. For those who get overwhelmed with a weekly show. This one comes out monthly, on average, and covers a wide variety of genres. They’ve done Sci-fi, fiction, a book on writing itself. Nearly 100 episodes waiting for you.
  7. The Secret Library. Shameless self-plug. This is my show, where I interview authors and book professionals about the process of writing and creating books. This is for you if you want to go inside the book-making world.
  8. Let it Out. The feel-good health and wellness show of the list. Many authors in the mix including host Katie Dalebout who just published an excellent book on journaling. Great for feeling warm and fuzzy.
  9. World Book Club from BBC. It wouldn’t be me without a British link, would it? Incredible mix of authors with contemporary books as well as old classics.
  10. The Guardian Books. Ok- two British shows. This one crosses the line between talking about books and the cultural context surrounding them.

These shows are all, at the time of posting, still active and releasing new episodes. I could do an entire post just on the shows that are no longer active, but still have episodes online you can listen to after the fact. That may come in the future. Until then, enjoy listening to some nerdy deliciousness that will hopefully delight your bookworm hearts.

Have any podcasts that you love? Please share them with the rest of us in the comments…

{Dear Book Dr.} 52 Books That Will Change Your Life!

52 Books that Will Change Your Life | Carolinedonahue.com

One of my very first projects here at the Book Dr was to ask for letters from readers. This was originally the entire concept of the Book Dr. site.

In the past couple of years, this home has grown to a place for even more than that, but I still love prescribing books for various life situations and challenges.

People wrote lots of letters. They wrote about how shitty online dating can be. Wondering how to write a Bollywood memoir. Feeling that a novel was needed after a long bout of non-fiction. I loved answering these letters with suggestions of books that would be helpful.

Over the course of working on these letters and developing this blog into something more, I realized there were a lot of topics that I wished people would ask about so that I could suggest books in response. I had a first aid kit of books just waiting for someone to ask for it.

But people never know you have the perfect solution for their woes unless you tell them about it, right?

So here I am. I made this eBook, 52 Books That Will Change Your Life for those of you who want a book that will help in a variety of situations. I’ve broken things out into topics and have a number of books that I love and have been indispensable to me and others I’ve shared them with on the topics of money, relationships, growing up, health, support (and spirituality), building skills, and expansion & adventure.

I’ve read these books over the past decades and each one has stuck with me ever since I read it. Its concepts and ideas still serve me and it’s a book that I have recommended to someone else because I loved it.

I’m working on more of these lovely eBooks because they are such a joy to write and dream up, and you’ll find this one and others to come in the Secret Library section of the site here. It’s open to all subscribers to Footnotes, which brings letters for book lovers right to your inbox.

Sign up here, and you’ll get the password to the Secret Library where 52 Books That Will Change Your Life is waiting for you right now.

Happy reading!

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{Tarot} What I’ve learned from my first 10 readings

100 Tarot Readings | Caroline Donahue the book dr.

About a week ago, I had a slightly bonkers idea that I wanted to do 100 tarot readings.

In the next two-and-a-half months.

I am nothing if not dedicated when I get something into my head.

This project, of course, was on top of completing my coaching certification, working with my existing clients, and my current day job.

But even so, I can’t tell you what a joy it has been to do the ten readings I have over the past week.

First of all, I am still blown away by the response. I thought I might get a few people liking my post on Facebook and maybe saying “good for you.” I did not at all expect to have Skype chats both with total strangers as well as friends from overseas I hadn’t talked to in ages. It’s honestly as much an excuse to have a love fest with a bunch of cool people as it is a way to share tarot with all of you.

I have learned some things even beyond this… one is that despite my seemingly wide interests, it all comes back to reading. Whether I’m reading tarot or reading books, it’s all about reading over here at the Book Dr. And you can bet my clients get book recommendations. I have to share the reading love.

Other tidbits and insights: there is no way I could have gotten the insights I have already had if I were only reading for myself. I do read for myself very regularly- I pull a card daily and usually do something longer about once a week or as the mood and life strike me. But the weird thing about tarot is that when I read for myself, I get a lot of the same cards. I’m still me, with the same issues and the same hangups.

As I’ve been reading for others, I have gotten new cards. I’ve also pulled cards that opened up the meaning of the card in ways I couldn’t have expected. My personal favorite so far? Pulling the Chariot as “something to let go of” in a spread about finances. As I shared about the charging energy of the card, my client and I had the same aha at the same moment- let go of using charge cards! I’m still smiling about that one.

And even beyond all of this, the most beautiful thing is the warm welcome and enthusiasm I have felt from the community as I’ve jumped on Skype and seen a new face- often that of a total stranger- and then, at the end of 30 minutes, I sign off feeling like I’ve made a new friend and that the Book Dr. world has gotten a little bit cozier and a little bit more intimate.

I’m so grateful to everyone who has let me read for them so far… I can’t wait to find out what I learn over the next 90 readings to come.

If you’re interested in being one of the 90, sign up for a Skype reading over here on my 100 readings page. I can’t wait to meet you and see what we learn!

xxx to all,



{Reader’s Life} How to prolong a book after it’s over.

How to prolong a book after it's over | Caroline Donahue Book Dr.

Sometimes it’s really hard to let go when a book ends.

I should know. I’m the queen of trying to stay inside a book once it ends. Any good story ending is cause for heartbreak – I openly cried at the breakfast table the day after my fiancé and I watched the series finale of Downton Abbey. How dare they end that show!

So what are we to do when we finish a book that we’re not ready to leave?

I have a few techniques to keep the love going and to stay connected. Not all books are as enduring physical objects as the manuscript pictured here, that I thoroughly ogled recently in New York at the Morgan Library, so we have to make our own fun to keep the story going.

Here are 5 ways to keep a book alive after you finish it:

  1. Embody your favorite character. This is for the more theatrical of you out there, but I have been known to whip out the garter belts and hook my tights to them for weeks after a read of Henry and June. Wearing skirts and garter belts and riding around on bicycles and writing in my journal while wearing a kimono keeps me in that world indefinitely. Eventually I am much encouraged to stop complaining of my weak constitution and pining for Paris so I move on, but it’s lovely while it lasts. For any book, try wearing an outfit your main character would love, cooking her go-to recipe, reading her favorite book, or trying a new makeup look- try this youtube channel for those historical fiction lovers our there!
  2. Choose your own soundtrack. I love this one. When I really love a book and can’t let it go I find myself making up what the soundtrack of the movie would be. Make a Spotify playlist and throw on any songs that feel like they belong on the soundtrack. Then listen to it while going about your day. If you’ve done step 1 as well, this will be doubly impactful.
  3. Read the book in its original language or in translation. Some of my very favorite books were written in translation. Since I already know the story, it makes it a little easier to go back and read the original. A great one that’s been translated from English into multitudes of other languages- Harry Potter. If you miss Harry, why not try him in French or Italian or Spanish? I have a copy of The Elegance of the Hedgehog in French and can’t wait until my skills are good enough to read that one the way it was written. That would be such a proud moment.
  4. Plan an adventure. Bonus points if you can take an actual trip related to a book you’ve recently read, but leaving your city probably isn’t even necessary. Was the character in your book fascinated with art? Then try going to see paintings from a similar period in history at a local museum. Loved a book that featured food as a major character? Try a restaurant you’ve never been to before and imagine the characters from the book joining you. Another surefire way to get into the spirit of a book outside its cover is to search for buildings or architectural tours in your city that feature details from the period when your book occurred. See what those times and spaces might have been like and check out new buildings to boot. Whenever I’ve read Jane Austen or something featuring grand old houses, I don’t despair that I’m not in England (well I do, let’s be honest) because I can go to the Huntington Library, which basically looks like Pemberly or at least the Bingley’s house. Sitting out on that lawn, I feel like I’m right inside her novels. Look for something that relates to your book in your area, and you’ll likely find a favorite new hangout. And for the truly dedicated, plan a trip to visit the locations of your book. There may even be enough people who loved it that there’s a dedicated tour waiting for you.
  5. Learn a new skill. Whether you love detective novels, romance novels, classic literature, or any other sort of book, the one you loved dearly probably featured a character with skills you don’t currently have. My love of crime fiction has lead me to attend forensics seminars given in Los Angeles and I was absolutely fascinated. Is your character a knitter? Try your hand at making a scarf. The weirder or more obscure the hobby the better- it will give you that much more visceral an experience of the book. What about snowshoeing? Block printing? Smoking fish? Think about how your character spent his or her time and then find a friend or class who can help you try it yourself.

I hope this inspires you to hold onto the world of the books you’ve loved. I know I have been heartbroken to put one back on the shelf and haven’t wanted to give up that world. Now you can keep it going for a bit longer.

Have you ever figured out ways to stay in a book’s world longer than when you were reading it? I’d love to hear about it! Please share your adventures in the comments below… Let’s all stay in love with our reading together.