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eBooks for the Polar Vortex Win!
January 25, 2014 | 4:41 pm

polar vortexHas anybody else been freezing this week? Thanks to the 'Polar Vortex,' which I had never heard about until this winter, we've been spending the last week shivering indoors. Regulations prohibit taking the kids at school outside if it's colder than -20 C (-4 F) and we've hit that benchmark more than once in the past few school days. Yesterday, we took them out for the first time, and my internal thermometer didn't completely recover from the jolt. I arrived home shivering, and when even my usual cosy fleece didn't help, I broke out the spare comforter and made myself a little...

Can reading make you more stupid?
January 24, 2014 | 4:45 pm

There, thought that would grab your attention. And of course the answer is no. But I'm using that title to point up the somewhat asinine headline of a recent article by Dan Hurley in the UK Guardian: "Can reading make you smarter?" To which many might immediately answer: What else is reading for? And others might ask: Well, if reading can't, what the hell else can? [caption id="" align="alignright" width="238"] Dan Hurley: The smart money's on him - maybe...[/caption] But then, Hurley has quite a lot invested in the business of smartening up your smarts. He's the author of Smarter: The New...

Consumers: love the work, hate the artist?
January 24, 2014 | 10:00 am

Book Riot's wonderful 'Reading Life' feature has an essay this week responding to Woody Allen's recent Golden Globes tribute. Kit Steinkellner writes about reading the media commentary the morning after, including a tweet from the son of Allen's ex-wife Mia Farrow excoriating the GGs for paying tribute to an alleged child molester. From the article: "A lot of response pieces to this story have asked the question “Can we despise Woody Allen the person and still cherish Woody Allen the artist? Can we hate the man but love his movies?” Steinkellner, as much a book fan as a movie one, correctly points...

Read the Harvard Classics Every Day This Year
January 23, 2014 | 2:25 pm

harvard classicsThe Harvard Classics has been a reading literary project that has fascinated me ever since I first heard about it a few years ago. It was compiled in 1909 by the then-president of Harvard University, who boasted that he could put together a collection of books which would fit onto a five-foot shelf, which would contain everything a common person needed to read in order to obtain the rudiments of a classical liberal arts education. What a project to put together, and what a project to undertake to read! A complete set of them, long available via MobileRead thanks to a...

Reading routines: what’s yours?
January 17, 2014 | 6:09 pm

reading routinesA link in today's morning roundup featured a great quote from productivity guru Merlin Mann---"Don't just play with your phone. Go out and produce something." It spoke to me because one of my goals for the year is to spend less time goofing around on my phone playing Temple Run, and more time reading, writing and doing useful (and satisfying) things. I've tried to structure my downtime a little more efficiently lately, and I've actually gotten into a pretty good groove with my reading routines. I love hearing about what and how other people read, too. I'll share mine. Feel...

What Does Your Perfect Night at Home with a Book Look Like?
January 13, 2014 | 2:02 pm

Nate at The Digital Reader alerted me to a great little article called Nine Reasons Being a Book-Loving Shut-In is Better Than Being a Social Butterfly. "Don't go out, stay in!" the article begins. And then, author Mark proceeds to enumerate the perks of the home reading experience: unlimited food and drink of your choice, a comfy chair, no dress code and an unbeatable commute. This was a timely read for me because I had an unusually busy holiday season, with much family time and very little alone time. My first week back, I was fantasizing about the quality quiet time...

How reading can bridge the social divide
January 12, 2014 | 4:28 pm

readingAustralian website Momentum Books has just shared a post listing "Nine reasons that being a book loving shut-in is better than being a social butterfly." And while it's always good to see quiet solitary reading defended, there are also plenty of reasons why reading can actually help your social life. And why ereading helps even more. And anyway, finger-wagging and us-and-them thinking isn't always that's positive. So let's go through the list. Reason 1 deals with the nasty accidents and spillages that can happen in a bar "you only went to because your friends made you." Well, what about all the...

Self-Publishing: A Question of Quantity vs. Quality?
January 9, 2014 | 12:16 pm

self-publishingMy post on reading 'goals' for 2014 struck a nerve; several of the comments were about people whose choices last year were limited---by availability, by financial issues, by choices made via book club or other external factor and so on. People were delighting in the prospect of picking their own stuff! One comment especially struck a nerve with me. 'January' had this to say: "2013 was the year of the indie book for me. I vowed to give more new authors a chance and, at the same time, save money on my book habit. After 12 months of substandard writing, I can...

Do you have any new year’s reading resolutions?
January 6, 2014 | 2:37 pm

reading resolutionsIt is that time of year again---resolution time! For me, it's the same few goals I set every year: lose weight, eat more vegetables, try not to worry so much and read more books! But...what kind of books? A spate of Goodreads friends have been posting 'reading resolutions' for the new year. Here are mine! 1) Read 100 books. I set a goal of 50 last year and fell just shy; I am hoping a loftier goal will inspire me to spend less tablet time goofing around with Temple Run and Drop 7 and more time reading! 2) Do a thematic reading project....

Reboot your brain for 2014: Read a novel
December 29, 2013 | 10:22 am

Here's some news that will not surprise most writers, or readers, but which brings some good neurological data to back up their views against science-fixated skeptics: Reading novels can improve your mind. Physically, noticeably, and measurably. New research from Emory University, "Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain," published in the journal Brain Connectivity (where it is available in full as a PDF) and made available via eScience Commons, has found that "actual changes in the brain that linger, at least for a few days, after reading a novel." [caption id="" align="alignright" width="143"] Pompeii - erupting...

Lucky kids get ‘reading net’ in their parents’ in-home library
December 23, 2013 | 11:26 am

booknetYou know, this isn’t what they usually mean by “reading on the ‘net.” As if I didn’t have enough reasons to be jealous of a family that can afford to keep an in-home multistory library/reading room, such a family went and commissioned an interior design firm to figure out how to make reading in it more appealing to kids. So they spread out a great big hammock-like net to give the kids their own space to flop down and read their books. (More photos at the link.) Hey, forget kids, that would make reading more appealing to this 40-year-old...

Why Don’t French Books Sell Abroad?
December 16, 2013 | 12:15 pm

french booksAn interesting thread at MobileRead has been discussing this article from BBC News, which poses the question 'why don't French books sell abroad?' The article points out that many French novelists from the pre-war period---Flaubert, Dumas and so on---routinely make the literary rounds in English. But why do so few contemporary authors cross the great divide? Posters in the discussion raise several theories, ranging from prohibitive costs for translation to the suggestion that contemporary French authors simply aren't writing stuff that people find interesting. One poster raises the point that graphic novels (called BDs) are very popular in France and might...