Friday, January 7, 2022

The Secret Lives of Books: Used and Rare by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

Jane Austen has a quote, "If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad." While I do love a good adventure abroad, I often apply this mentality loosely and seek adventure where it may be found right where I'm at. For me, one of the best adventures is what I've just begun calling, "Booklarking". I love finding interesting and uncommon books---all the more better when I find interesting and uncommon things hiding inside them! In fact, I've recently made a commitment to try to leave something behind in every book I finish---a bookmark, receipt, candy wrapper, dollar bill---anything that will delight the imagination of the next reader as so many "forgotten bookmarks" have delighted mine.

I recently found this first edition copy of Used and Rare by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone --- a book about the couple's own booklarking adventures of the 1990s. I didn't happen to look inside the day I bought it but when I went to read it last month, I found it contained a couple of splendid treasures!

I really enjoyed this fun, if a little dated, look into the life of these amateur book collectors. What started out as a hunt for a meaningful birthday present ended up taking the couple on an adventure to learn the ins and outs of book buying and collecting---the thrill of the chase and the self control it takes to walk away from what seems like the perfect book. 

The book was written during the time when computers were just starting to be introduced to the general public for business and recreational use. There were several fun instances where I said to myself, "Oh yes, I remember that." One in particular was their thrill in finding that the library could print their cards right there in front of them (amazing technology, they said!) 

 Usually when I read something biographical/memoir-ish I stop about 10-15 pages in to look up what the author is doing now---especially with a book as "old" as this one. (I graduated high school in 1997.) However, this couple had been having such a great time in this story that I was wary to look up anything on them for fear that perhaps their marriage didn't work out. I would be sad to think of them not continuing on these kinds of fun adventures together. About half way in, I finally couldn't stand it any longer and had to see what they were up to. Sure enough, their author pages seem to indicate they are happy and thriving---I'm so glad. In fact, I was so glad that I actually wrote the wife an email to tell her so. I'm sure I'm on somebody's weirdo list now but rarely do I engage so well with a memoir. ha! 

 Another interesting part of reading this book came with the forgotten bookmarks I found inside. In the front cover was a Barnes & Noble receipt from July 3, 1997. Someone in the Boston, Massachusetts store purchased this as a new release. Later in the book was a very early advertising bookmark for in the days when it was just an online bookstore. Some quotes from the back of the bookmark include: 

" Earth's biggest bookstore." 

"Offering 2.5 million titles (more than 14 times the number of books you'll find in the largest chain superstore), we're sure to have the book you want." 

" has a wealth of information about the books and authors that interest you" (including) ... "Personalized E-mail notification about your favorite subjects and authors." 

 I don't remember the last time I actually bought a book on Amazon but I thought it was sadly ironic that this new and novel internet business was being advertised in this book about all the unique and often family owned book shops of the 90s---the same ones that Amazon long ago put out of business. 

 A second delightful irony is that my copy of this book is listed on several websites as being worth $50-$60. Ha!! I wonder if the receipt and Amazon bookmark add to that value at all? No matter---my book sharing ethics compel me to freely pass this book on to another reader and let them discover all the same wondrous things that I did!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

2022 Reading Challenges

Another new year is coming in and I've cleared the entire 2022 calendar for reading...

Yeah, I know, I said that last year. This blog saw, what, two posts? Three? And one of them was done hastily last night. I got the reading in---kind of---it's the blogging about reading for which I crashed and burned. Maybe my opening line should read, "Another new year is coming in and I've committed to keeping my reading blog updated..." That's not as catchy, is it?

I've looked over several awesome reading challenges out there and have settled on those below. Mt. TBR was greatly reduced in 2021 when I went on a purging frenzy and got rid of well over 100 books. We'll see what kind of a dent 2022 can make.

This challenge takes place right here at Belle's Library. You may read any book published during or about the Victorian era (1837-1901). 

I'm hosting this challenge for a second year. Read all the things you missed out on as a kid---or revisit some old favorites! 

This challenge encourages us to read a minimum of four books and offers monthly themed challenges.

This one is new to me this year, though I do think I participated once upon a time. The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge at The Intrepid Reader. Choose your era and go to town! I think I'll attempt the Medieval Level at 15 historical fiction books. Use hashtag: #histficreadingchallenge on social media.

I actually have quite a bit of Georgian/Regency books on my TBR. I love this era!

This is a set-it-yourself challenge that runs for 5 years. Commit to reading at least 50 classics in 5 years.  You can see my list here: The Classics Club.

Daughters of Promise runs the Brighter Winter Reading Program during the months of January and February. They offer a challenge sheet and prizes!

What great reading challenges have you discovered for 2022?

The 2022 Children's Books Reading Challenge -- for Adults! #2022ChildrensBooksChallenge

Last year while browsing my TBR shelves to prepare for my 2021 reading challenges, I found something unexpected: I had a lot of children's books there. I began this challenge to motivate myself to read some of them and I actually did finish a few. I've still got some leftover and have added a few throughout the year, so I think it's a good idea to give this one a second run!

I know a lot of adults really enjoy reading youth or young adult fiction but, other than the occasional classic, I've never really been into it in my adulthood. Still, I must be somewhat interested or I wouldn't have 10-15 or so children's books hanging out on my TBR!

So, I've created the Children's Books Reading Challenge...for Adults! Sure, I read with my kids all the time---but this year I'm challenging myself to read more children's books by myself.

Want to join? It's easy! Just let me know in the comments below. If you have a blog or a Goodreads account you'd like to link up, even better! Then, every time you read a book for the challenge, just come back here and let us know about it with your thoughts or link in the comments. That way we can all be inspired! Let's use this hashtag: #2022ChildrensBooksChallenge on social media so we can find one another easier.

What books qualify? That one's simple: it's up to you! Anything you think could be found in the children's section of a library or bookstore is applicable, as well as timeless classics that the whole family would enjoy. Here is a list I made from Wikipedia that I'll be working from.
I can't wait to see what everyone is reading!


2022 Victorian Reading Challenge #2022VictorianReadingChallenge

The last seven years, I've read everything "Victorian" I could get my hands on. I still can't seem to get enough, so this year I'm renewing my commitment toward Victorian studies. I'm still fascinated and there's still so much to learn! Read on for a phantasmagorical reading challenge for 2022---
Victorian style!

More than any other time in modern history, the Victorian Age saw the most change to European and American societies. Many agrarian, rural communities transitioned to urban centers of industry. Men and women began to talk about and take steps toward redefining their traditional roles. Theories about God, the origin of man, and the practice of religion began to be publicly put forth, challenged, refuted, or solidified. The Victorian Age saw a great revolution in the western world and it's a topic that fascinates me endlessly.

Over the past few years, I've collected a good stack of Victorian novels and have several on my book wish list. I spent a week in England a few years ago, visiting the Brontes' old stomping grounds, and even wrote and taught a class on Victorian Sci Fi and Fantasy literature. This year's reading challenge will be all about the Victorians.

The Rules

*Books published during the Victorian age (1837-1901) are acceptable.

*Books written about the Victorian age are acceptable, no matter what year they were published.

*Stories are not limited to Victorian Britain. Read about what was going on in other parts of the world during this time!

The challenge is open to everyone everywhere---you don't have to have a blog or site to join. Just comment with the link to your online review (Amazon, Goodreads, BookCrossing, or elsewhere) and we'll come visit you.

How to Participate

Leave a comment below letting me know you're in and add your blog link if you have one. You can link directly to your home page or to a post you've written about the challenge. You can join at any point during 2022. Share this challenge with your friends so they can join, too!

Every time you finish a book for the challenge, come back and leave your thoughts/link in the comments---then we can all be inspired! Also, here's a hashtag for us to use so we can find one another easier: #2022VictorianReadingChallenge

Failed Utopias: A Book Review of The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Have I ever told you how much I love Nathaniel Hawthorne? Maybe here? Or here? Perhaps here? Oh yeah, and this one. Well, if you aren't already aware, I think he's genius. Witty but not obnoxious, compassionate but not pathetic, intelligent but not droning---Hawthorne gets people. I especially enjoy his works on religious hypocrisy because he shows us our faults without being preachy. He knows he has the same faults. Even in this Victorian era story I just finished, he made some good counter culture points about the abilities and aptitudes of women. He's always seemed to be a man outside of time---the Tesla of professional writing, maybe?

I initially picked up this book because it was Hawthorne and secondly because it is on the 1001 list. However, when I sat down to read it and perused the back cover teaser, I became intrigued by the story that seemed similar to some of the communities we've seen attempted within certain groups of people in our area. I think we are again in a time when people are looking to break away from the failures of society and find peace at whatever the cost. I have encountered several people in the last couple years who wanted to break off from society and form a set apart community. While I agree and believe Messiah followers are to be set apart spiritually, sometimes requiring us to be set apart physically, I’m pessimistic about the success of a set apart community functioning with equality in this 21st century world. Mainly because I think human nature gravitates toward the idea that every established group like this must have a leader. Think about any group activity you've been involved in, whether big or small. In most cases, we work ourselves into hierarchies of intelligence, ability, aptitude, and attitude---even without really meaning to. Because I think every man should be in charge of his own household, and every single woman in charge of herself, this model is obviously not ideal.

I think it's the similarities in motivations between Hawthorne's Blithedale and the potential communities I've known here that strike me as interesting. People who crave this self-imposed segregation, for whatever reason, often see it as a chance at Utopia. If everyone just works together and pulls their weight, what could go wrong? As Hawthorne shows in this faintly-autobiographical work (Hawthorne himself took part in a failed attempt at commune life), it takes more than a willingness to tolerate one another to make a non-mainstream community like this work. In his chapter, "A Modern Arcadia" his mostly level-headed narrator, Coverdale, says, "On the whole, it was a society such as has seldom met together; nor, perhaps, could it reasonably be expected to hold together long. Persons of marked individuality---crooked sticks, as some of us might be called---are not exactly the easiest to bind up into a fagot". People who want to be completely free of their societal responsibilities to anyone else often find themselves alone and cynical as everyone else realizes they need one another.

Near the end of the story, the commune experiences their first death and realizes they've not really thought through how they would handle laying to rest one of their own. However, Coverdale seems to have received a pretty solid takeaway from his summer at Blithedale. He says, "But when the occasion came, we found it the simplest and truest thing, after all, to content ourselves with the old fashion, taking away what we could, but interpolating no novelties, and particularly avoiding all frippery of flowers and cheerful emblems." It appears they've learned that the simple life is not about changing everything, but just letting go of all the extra and finding beauty in the understated.

While most Victorian literature I've read can become really preachy really fast, The Blithedale Romance, like everything else I've read from Hawthorne, tells a strong moral tale in an entertaining and relatable way. I truly think he is a one-of-a-kind author.