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Category Archives: Reader’s Life

{Reader’s Life} Comfort Reads

book dr comfort reads

It still amazes me how many people think I only read “hard books.” You know, the giant brick-sized classics that take weeks (or months) to finish. They think I don’t ever indulge in comfort reads. So. Not. True.

Yes, I read Proust and I liked it. Yes I chewed my way though A Little Life‘s 800 pages like a maniac. But here’s what else:

I spend a lot of time taking in content. I proof-read all day so I’m often squinting at text the majority of my daily life. When it’s slow, I can easily head home and jump into something serious, but if I’m proofing or editing long-form text, forget it. If I don’t downgrade the intensity of my reading I’ll end up watching those cute puppies shows on tv again. Yes, that happened. And yes, it was the only thing I could handle at the time. It’s called reading burnout. Not pretty.

I’m sure I’m not the only reader out there who sometimes needs a cozy read- one that’s like a nice blankie that will wrap you up and feel welcoming and safe, but not too overwhelming when you’ve had a tough week. It’s Friday, but I’m exhausted. It’s been a long one. So I will not be going for one of the serious books I’ve got in the reading queue. I’ll be headed for one of these beauties:

Comfort reads to turn to when you’re so burnt out you can barely see, much less concentrate.

Long title, but you get my point. Here we go:

  • Favorite Children’s Lit. Don’t even try to read an adult book right now. You don’t have to go to Corduroy level, but Harry Potter, mentioned above, is a great reading rest cure. (Bonus points if you read it under this blanket) As is any series you loved as a kid: Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, even Sweet Valley High if you’re really looking for a nostalgia trip.
  • Sci-Fi. Full disclosure- I’m not a huge sci-fi reader, but when done right, it can really take you completely away from a stressful present. Don’t go for something super long like Dune unless it’s calling you. A nice Philip K Dick is just right on length and not pummeling you with challenge. I did not read The Martian, just saw the film, ( I can’t believe I’m saying that either) but I suspect it would be equally effective. At the very least you know that whatever kind of crap week you’re having, his is worse.
  • Cozy Mysteries. Do not read this as Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or any kind of brutal slice ’em and dice ’em type of thriller. I’m talking about cozy mysteries- the ones with lead characters like Miss Marple. Well-meaning types who are navigating the line between nosy and helpful. Anything by Alexander McCall Smith, especially the Sunday Philosophy Club or No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is ideal. The entire 44 Scotland Street series is so cozy too, even if it isn’t a mystery. It’s like literary hot chocolate. As in the drink, not the band.
  • Graphic Novels. This is a new category for me. I never read graphic novels or comics at all. I even was a bit of a snob about them. I’m not talking about Maus or Persepolis, just the genre in general. But I am really falling in love with it now that my guy has been able to curate for me. Being able to take in a story with fewer words and just as much plot and emotion is a gift when you’re tired- also good when sick. I got Bitch Planet for Christmas from my guy (I asked him to get it for me, he wasn’t trying to make any comments) and I think this would be a great weekend to read that one. Others I love: Craig Thompson’s Carnet de Voyage (warning- you’ll want to run to the airport and fly off immediately), the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and Sex Criminals. Ok, clearly this genre brings out my inner vixen. But maybe that’s good for burnout, too?

I hope this will help you wind down this weekend… and if all else fails, I won’t judge you if you turn to television. We have HBO and have been working our way through Game of Thrones. (No spoilers please! We’ve just barely started season two- there’s a long way to go…) A little television every now and then doesn’t kill us. And my desire to watch a few shows, read some magazines & lit journals, and catch up on podcasts is why I set my reading challenge for 52 this year instead of 100. Granted, I’m now reading longer books, but let’s all avoid reader burnout, ok?

What are your favorite comfort reads? Please do share in the comments. And if you want to cozy up and start reading medicinally, subscribe to Footnotes and join us over in the Secret Library book club. We’re having a great time with Tara Mohr’s Playing Big. Come discuss! (I did not put self help on this list for a reason- sometimes I find it too exciting and it makes me want to take a bunch of action. Like the time I read Fluent Forever and rearranged all our furniture and got so excited I had insomnia. Gentle self-help only when tired, please!

Have an amazing weekend, everyone. Happy reading.


{Reader’s Life} 5 Journaling Prompts for Readers

Journaling Prompts for Readers

Part of the reason I love to read is the impact a good book can have on my life. I know I’ve been going on and on about one particular book I’ve read recently and how hard it has been to move past it once it’s over.

Something I haven’t written much about here is journaling and how it has become part of my reading life. Because a good book isn’t one that just makes you keep turning the pages until it’s over, it’s one that keeps the thoughts it inspired long after you finish it. I have compiled a number of journaling prompts for readers that I like to use myself.

Here are some of my favorite journaling prompts for readers:

  • The Check-in: One of the hardest parts of finishing a book is letting go of the characters. The same way it’s possible to dialogue through journaling with parts of ourselves (critic, scared parts, etc) it’s also possible to check in with a beloved character later on. Try writing with two different pen colors. Ask them how they are, what they are up to, what ended up happening to them after the book was over. Then write the response in another color pen. I Perhaps you nay-sayers won’t trust this input, but I love this idea. We don’t always get a sequel to satisfy our longing to know how a character ended up later on.
  • Advice: Sometimes I read a book and find myself wanting to take on aspects of a character. This could be for any number of reasons. I could love their fashion sense- Henry and June always has me wanting to ride bicycles in dresses with slips and garter belts around the country side- or I could love a character’s approach to life. One of my heroes of literature is Lottie Wilkins from Enchanted April. I watch the movie or read the book every April. But sometimes, I’d just like Lottie’s advice. I can either do a back and forth dialogue like the suggestion above, or I can really get into it and write Lottie a letter. Two ways to go about this- just write the letter in your journal, or you can go whole hog and write a letter and mail it (to your own address) to the character. When the letter arrives, take some time to get in to character as the character. Maybe go to a cafe or somewhere this character would like to be. Then read your letter and respond to it. I say mail it back. The advice will have had a few days to percolate by then and you may be amazed at how spot on it is once you get your letter back. Bonus points for beautiful stationery and pens!
  • The Quote Entry Point: For the less woo-woo of you, this one will feel more reasonable. Pick a favorite quote from the book and copy it, word for word, at the top of a fresh journal page. Then free-write on anything that comes up. What inspired you about this passage, how you want it to impact you, and anything else that comes to mind. You may veer away from the book or stay right with your passage the whole time. Either way, whatever comes is a great way to digest your book and take it out into your life beyond the page.
  • The List: Oh how I love me a list. And sometimes book- especially nonfiction ones- work best with a list. When I’m reading nonfiction books, I do like keeping a list while reading so I don’t forget the tips and suggestions I’m reading. You know the feeling- “I’m so fired up! This book is going to change my life!” Then, cut to two weeks later “I loved that book- what was it about again?” So keep a list whenever you read something that inspires you. I also like to keep a Commonplace Book in my Traveler’s Notebook of inspiring quotes and ideas. Yum. In addition, I like to make a list of ideas or things I want to try after I finish a book that really moved me- this makes more sense for fiction. Items are a little more “Write that letter I’ve been meaning to send for three years” than “Start using software to track spending.”

Do you journal in connection with the books you’re reading? Please share any prompts or exercises you love in the comments below, or drop me a line at caroline[at]book-dr[dot]com

Holiday Madness

Hello! I’m still here, I promise.

The holidays are upon us and, sadly, this also the time of year when my work explodes with deadlines.

I have been dreaming of so much that I want to give you in 2016, and I cannot wait to get started. Please look for a new issue of Footnotes in your inbox tomorrow with more on that…

This weekend things calm down a bit and I’ll be posting a couple of treats before we get to the new year.

Lots of love! I hope you all are enjoying loads of cozy reading time with cocoa or, my favorite, glühwein. 

{Reader’s Life} My Favorite Pens

favorite pens

As you may have noticed, I am a collector. I collect stories, books, and I make lists. On paper.

So, as a collector who makes lists on paper, I have long been in search of the perfect fit. I have bought many in hopes that it would become my favorite pen. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that this perfect pen does not exist.

Not because there aren’t any good pens out there, but because there are different needs for different situations. I have narrowed it down at this point to, gulp, NINE writing implements that I use on a regular basis. When I got them together to photograph them, I was a bit horrified that there were so many. I dream of being the simple person with just one of everything. And, while I have pared my things down for the most part to those that give me joy and no others, I guess I’m just the type to have a lot of pens.

I thought perhaps all of you book lovers might relate? In service to anyone who might love pens I give you:

The Book Dr.’s List of My 9 Favorite Pens

Here they are, with pros and cons and good situations for each, from left to right:

  1. Calligraphy quill. I got this in the gorgeous kit compiled by Maybelle Imasa-Stukulis. She is a gorgeous calligrapher that I have been learning modern lettering from via her online courses. This pen is good for hand dipped calligraphy, makes luscious strokes of a wide range of thickness, and feels deliciously old-fashioned. That said, it would be a bit heavy handed for a grocery list. Although, I suspect Maybelle probably has done it. I imagine that her house is filled with scrolls and dreamy fairy tale writing. I could be wrong.
  2. Ateleia Brass pen. I found this one either through Eunice Roe’s post about her favorite pens, or through Baum-Kuchen. I adore this pen. I have the version that takes either the Hi-tec C refill or the Pilot G-2 refill. I am a pilot G-2 lover, but I hate all the plastic that you throw away when finishing one. This seemed like a brilliant solution and it truly is. It has a nice heft, has been developing a wonderful patina and I love the smoothness of the writing. Why isn’t it the perfect pen? It’s a bit fussy to get the little screw-on top on and off and I am afraid of losing it. So I have relegated this one to home use only- it’s lovely for my journal or Traveler’s Notebook or writing letters. But I don’t feel it’s right for out in the world.
  3. Lamy Swift in Imperial Blue.  I found this one in an airport bookshop in Miami while waiting to check in to our flight to Havana a few weeks ago. There was an unusually knowledgeable staff member and we quickly dove into our mutual love of pens. He let me try every single Lamy in my quest to find a truly smooth gel rollerball. This one has been a dream. I love that the clip retracts smoothly into the body of the pen when the point is clicked out and the ink is smooth and lovely. I’ve only had it a few weeks, but this is my current favorite for most writing situations. I also adore the color. It’s elegant and crisp. Total win.
  4. Pilot Namiki Vanishing Point Fountain Pen. People go truly bonkers over this pen. I once pen stalked someone on instagram for months- or at least it felt like it- trying to determine what the pen was in her feed. People kept referring to it, but not by name. “I’ve got the get that pen!” WTF is it, I kept wondering and even asked her (more politely than that) and got no reply. Finally, I realized it was this pen, that I had in my drawer. Here’s the thing. It’s even more expensive than the pens above. It writes like a dream if it’s the only pen you ever write with and you write a lot. It doesn’t leak, and the retractable point is clever. Other than that, it’s a diva. If you leave this pen lying about for a day, it will take forever to get it going again. I have found it a bit better with the bottled ink converter, but still. It needs more coddling than I often want to provide. Of course, as I’m testing it right now, it’s writing flawlessly. So.. try at your own risk.
  5. Lamy Safari Fountain Pen. This was another favorite early on, and still is, under the right circumstances. First off, it is both incredibly smooth and very reasonably priced. The line is gorgeous and smooth. The only downside? It leaks. At least with the refillable converter for bottle ink, which I prefer using for Noodler’s inks, which are so yummy. I’m willing to have stained fingers, but I would never risk carrying this around in a purse. Again- good for letters and low-pressure writing. It has a tendency to jam up from time to time and stop writing before it runs out of ink. I shake it or fiddle with the converter to get things going again and it’s fine, but that would be a deal breaker if I were a reporter or someone taking notes at a live event. For someone looking to get into fountain pens, this is a great first option.
  6. Modern Fuel mechanical pencil. Ok- this is a bit of a cheat, but I adore this thing. How could I say no to a mechanical pencil that will last a lifetime? It’s heavy and built like a tank and it is a joy to hold. You can specify your preferred lead thickness as well. If you do accounts or have to write in pencil a lot and want a sexy writing implement, this is the one. The only downside is that I most often write in pen, so this clearly won’t suit for those moments.
  7. Retro 51 Tornado. I have the Vino model, which is cork and delicious to hold, but sadly doesn’t appear to be available any longer. There are many other options in this line however, and it is a lovely rollerball. My issue with this one isn’t with the pen, which is gorgeous and functions wonderfully. My issue is that the refills I have found haven’t been as smooth as the original one that came in the pen. I have found the black refills to be superior to the blue ink, and I am having more luck there. Perhaps my memory is clouded, but I want gel rollerball ink as smooth as is in the Lamy. As I test it now, I think it feels pretty good. I’ll have to run it against the Lamy and see how that goes. Wow- I am really that crazy.
  8. Kaweco brass Sport Fountain pen. I do love brass. There are a lot of pros to the Kaweco line- they fold up very small and then extend to full-length pens with the cap on. This pen looks and feels like an heirloom and is developing the warm brass patina that I love. It writes well, but not quite as smoothly as the Lamy Fountain pen or the Pilot when it’s in a good mood, but it is by no means scratchy or fussy. My only issue is that it’s a bit heavy to carry around. And it’s pricey, although much cheaper than the Pilot.  As an at-home pen, it’s a dream. Great for letters or journal or other list-making.
  9. At last…the Kaweco Sport Roller Ball. This one also came close to perfect. Light-weight, folds up to nothing, perfect for travel and writes beautifully. Again, the refill was not as good as the original. I suspect the shop I ordered refills from accidentally sent me ballpoint instead of rollerball.  Give a try in a shop if you can. This one is inexpensive and brilliant in almost all cases. If you get the right ink in it, I’d recommend this first to any pen seeker.

Ok! Now you know the depth of my mania about my favorite pens. Please do let me know if you have any collecting manias, as it would make me feel a bit less loony. Or of you love pens and want to share about them… please do comment below or head over to FB to discuss…

{Read for Free} Part Three: Secret Libraries




I often feel like a bottomless pit when it comes to books. There are never enough. At this point in my life, I know there will never be enough books- I will never be all done and move on to something else entirely.

I must have books.

Only once or twice have I been stranded without adequate reading and let me tell you, it was painful. I felt my chest tighten up and my breathing got pinched. What am I going to read? My eyes darted around looking for something, anything. It’s the worst feeling in the world. So I make sure I always have reading available.

At a certain point, it became quite clear that my desire to buy and read books would not be financially sustainable unless I won the lottery. So, I’ve had to come up with creative ways to read for free. If you haven’t read part one or two of this series of posts, do check them out. There are more tips in there to get you to free reading in no time.

Today we are on tip #3: Secret Libraries.

Now this isn’t a 100% free library, but it does come as an added benefit to a service many people have already: Amazon Prime.

Yep- 100% free books, if you have prime.

The fine print: each Prime membership account- so if you share it with a roommate, spouse, or partner then this counts as one account, not two people- can check out one book for free each calendar month.

But how do I find these books?

Good question! Here’s the slightly tricky answer:

You can only find this content on your Kindle or another amazon device. So if you don’t have one, this feature won’t work for you. If you do, then this helpful tutorial should have you all set up in no time.

Hey now, I don’t have a Kindle. Got any tips for me?

Yes! One of my favorite ways to read free books is the Little Free Library. I have long wanted to put one up in front of my house. We are set way back from the street- UPS and the mailman and the NY Times delivery are forever lost on the way to our house, so I am considering collaborating with my neighbor on the street.

Little free libraries are adorable little book structures out on the street that allow you to take a book and leave one behind, if you’d like. I love this process- it has often been seen in hotels overseas, which l loved. Just recently, I spotted one in the cafe Daily Dose in downtown L.A.:

read for free

I love that it’s an experiment and that it’s such a huge shelf of books.  I hope it goes well. Next time I’m down there, perhaps I’ll drop off some of the books we have languishing in the garage.

Keep your eyes open- these free bookshelves will start popping up if you’re looking for them. It’s a bit like mushroom hunting, I suppose.

I’ll be back soon with part 4 of the series… Let me know if you have other tips on how to read for free in the comments. I’m always looking for new reading resources.

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