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Category Archives: Reader’s Life

{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…

{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.

{Reader’s Life} How to Hide What You’re Reading in Public

How to hide what you're reading in public | Book Dr. carolinedonahue.com

Why might you want to hide what you’re reading?

Once, a friend and I broke up with boyfriends the same week. We had actually met through these same boyfriends. It was rough.

However, we were both readers so we grabbed at the first solution we thought of. “Let’s go get breakup books,” we said, and headed out the Grove, that gigantic outdoor mall in the center of Los Angeles, about 5 minutes away from my apartment at the time.

We did not hold back. An hour or so later, we emerged from the enormous Barnes & Noble, plastic bags stretched taut with bright-colored paperbacks promising to turn us into happy single ladies on the prowl in no time.

And then we ran into her boss.

Thankfully we did have bags, but even so -after a few minutes of chatting with the boss chat, her boss went rogue.

“What did you get?” she asked, starting to reach for one of our bags. We cowered and backed away.

“You know, nothing much,” my friend said. “Nice to see you!”

We evaporated.

This was not the first time that I craved reading privacy.

In graduate school, I often read books that were a bit, shall we say, awkward to carry around in public.

Books with titles like Never Good Enough. These titles, meant to help people plagued with shame and perfectionism, seemed to think nothing of shaming and poking at their readers’ wounds with insane covers.

I submit exhibit A:

never good enough book dr caroline donahue

Honestly, this version is better than the one I read. I remember the title being all caps, bright red. This looks a bit softer, more playful even.

There are many reasons you might not want to walk around with books on display. Anyone reading self help probably wants some privacy. Whenever I’ve been nursing a broken heart or dealing with grief over the death of a job, a pet, a dream, or a loved one, I’ve been raw, to say the least. I don’t want to chat about what I’m reading. I want to hide what I’m reading and keep myself together by applying the words like balm on my ragged self. And sometimes only books will do. We can regulate the pace of the conversation, you can put a book down when it’s getting to intense, and just breathe.

This is ok. In fact, sometimes it’s the very best thing you can do.

Which leads me to this…

Let’s cover the obvious first: Kindle or iPad (or whichever device you choose.)

It’s true. There were no Kindles when my friend and I got sideswiped by her boss. And there definitely weren’t back around the turn of the millennium when I was getting my masters. So, in the past ten years, e-readers have changed the way we consume self-help. No more must you parade your inner self around out in public.

Sure, it’s fantastic to read novels in restaurants and hope some debonair thing offers a glass of wine to discuss your reading. But that is unlikely to happen while reading Never Good Enough, When Things Fall Apart (how many times has that book been my best friend?), or if you want to read Escape From Cubicle Nation in the office cafeteria during your lunch hour.

Yep- if you haven’t bought the book yet, getting it on Kindle is an excellent call.

But what if you don’t have an eReader? What if you’re just not into them?

How can you hide what you’re reading if it’s a physical book?

I’m glad you asked. Just because you prefer a physical book doesn’t mean you have to be exposed to the world. Your best bet is…

Buy the book in hardback.

Yes, you heard me right. Look it up used on Amazon and buy an old hardback copy.

Why might you do that? Because you can take the jacket off. You can even throw it away.  Do you think anyone can tell what book this is?

How to hide what you're reading in public | the Book Dr.

Ok yes, if you’re super sneaky and get up close to read the spine, you can. But from across the room? Nope.

**Bonus- removing the color scheme of the jacket removes the context of the book. This book presents as a novel. Maybe something like Henry James. There are no pastels or wavy lines or pictures of people looking downcast on the cover. This will go right under the radar. I tested it… no discussions were initiated, no questions, nada during my lunch.

It was lovely- I felt safe to read and enjoy without feeling worried about the perceptions of others in the room. Maybe they wouldn’t have noticed at all, but I felt safer, and I enjoyed the book much more.

But, you may ask, what if I already own the book? I don’t want to buy another copy in hardcover!!

Of course not.

So for you, option 3…

Remember the old school brown paper bag textbook covers made out of shopping bags?

I do, too. That is definitely an option, excellent if you’d like to doodle all over the cover.

However, I was so charmed by this young man’s tutorial about how to make a fabric book cover in less than 5 minutes, I just had to share:

If you, like me, have a lot of fabric laying around from unfinished projects, perhaps your mind will be blown on this one like mine was. I see myself covering books left and right… This looks so tactile and satisfying.

And I love the idea of treating a book well that is taking care of me.

Our selves can get pretty beat up from time to time in life. The act of wrapping a book in some beautiful fabric feels like a ritual to wrap up the part of me that is needing support and love.

Let’s all take good care of ourselves, and do what we need to do out in the world to make it a comfortable place to be, even when we might be having a hard time.

I hope this helps you read wherever you m ay want to… bus stops, doctor’s offices, restaurants, bars, airplanes… anywhere you need some gentle care.

What books do you prefer to keep private? Do let me know in the comments, or drop me a line at info [at] carolinedonahue [dot] com

{Interview} Book Dr. Featured Blogger at Parchment Girl

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I’ve got an interview to share!

I’m so honored to be this month’s featured blogger over at ParchmentGirl.com Her blog is fantastic- lots of other great bloggers to check out as well as reviews, book suggestions and so much I think all of you will love.

I’ve got a number of books that I’m dying to review over the weekend and an exciting new thing to share on Monday. Can’t wait!

Have a beautiful Friday, everyone. I’ll have a bunch of posts coming at you next week… get ready, ok?

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