Ahh, Thanksgiving weekend. Well, for those of us in the US, anyway. A four day weekend! If you work it right, you spend the first day with relatives and stuffing yourself, and then you can spend the other three days relaxing.

Me, I’m going to spend them reading. And probably doing Havi’s 77 Things game. Also, I hope, recovering from the cold I’ve caught. *blows nose loudly*

Catch you on the flip side, people.

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Book Nurseries

Man, I think my books breed at night.

That’s the only explanation I have for why I am constantly short on bookshelf space. Every time I move or reorganize my books or otherwise try to get them all sorted and properly sitting on shelves, I find I have nowhere near enough space for them.

My To-Read Shelves

I have a few books I haven't read yet. Just a few...

I don’t buy that many books every year. Or get that many as gifts, even, these days (people who have seen my to-read shelves tend not to give me books. I’m not sure why).

Anyway, it’s a neverending dilemma, and when I moved to my new apartment, things were complicated by the fact that it uses baseboard heaters for warmth… and they are mounted along the nice, long walls in the main area. Walls with no windows. Walls which are perfect for bookshelves. But it’s unwise to block a baseboard heater, and I didn’t really relish the thought of having bookcases several inches out from the wall anyway (here in earthquake-ridden California, it’s wise to have bookshelves bolted to the wall, or at least shimmed to lean back against it).

I found enough wallspace for my existing bookshelves, but that wasn’t nearly enough.

After much angsting and gnashing of teeth and swearing at the friends who suggested tentatively that I consider *tfu tfu tfu* purging my collection, I hit on the somewhat-obvious solution: wall-mounted bookshelves!

So I hied myself hence to Southern Lumber and got myself some lumber and hardware. I had to backorder the brackets — I needed twenty-four of ’em, and they only had twelve — but by the end of this week, I will have my bookshelves. Forty-two more linear feet of space for my books to rest on between their bouts of breeding more books.

We’ll see how long it takes for this bookshelf to fill up.

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Churchill and Books

“What shall I do with all my books? was the question; and the answer, “read them,” sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.”

– Winston Churchill, “Hobbies” in Thoughts and Adventures

There’s an awful lot to like in this quote, which I found in A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas Basbanes (his books are must-reads for all bibliophiles), but I think my favorite is the first sentence. I get asked all the time by people who see my book collection whether I’ve read them all, whether I’m going to read them all, what I am going to do with them, why I have them.

It’s always kind of fun to reply that yes, the ones on the main shelves, I have read. All of them. Many more than once. Then I always point out my to-read shelves. That’s fun, too, watching people’s eyes widen in comprehension as they realize that I own more books I haven’t even read yet than they own books at all. With some of them, it’s more books than they’ve read in their lifetime.

Some folks just don’t seem to get the voracious appetite for reading that bibliophiles of my stripe tend to have. I’m always reading at least one book in my spare time, usually more. I have a stack next to my bed, and others scattered around my apartment, in my field bag, in my car. Every so often I go on a simplifying spree and try to get down to just one or two books at a time, but the number invariably climbs back up.

I suppose it’s a crazy concept for some folks, but I buy books in order to read them. As a voracious collector, I can kind of understand people who collect books they never read — it’s like collecting action figures and keeping them in their packaging — but it is so not my style.

The other thing I love about the quote up there is the way he talks about books — they’re an ocean, a group of people, items to be held and touched and opened so that the eye may fall upon the page. The ocean bit in particular strikes me, since I’m one of those people who falls into books the way you might dive off a cliff into the sea. If I’ve been reading long enough, getting me to stop reading and come back to regular life is a little like hauling a drowning person through the surf and doing CPR on the beach until they cough up all that water and sit up. I come up from books confused and bedraggled and tired — and wanting desperately to dive back in.

It’s kind of a masochistic thing, being a bibliophile. But we can’t help ourselves, any more than a rock’n’roll fan can help going to shows that leave her battered, with ringing ears and a huge smile.

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30 Day Book Meme: Day 30

What book are you currently reading?

I am, as always, reading a bunch of books. One of them is the Luck in the Shadows series, by Lynn Flewelling. SO GOOD. It’s in the same setting as her top-notch trilogy about Queen Tamir II, but a couple hundred years later. It’s fascinating to see what’s changed, and to see how the events of the previous books affected the landscape and people in the newer ones. Awesome.

Wow, I made it to the end of the meme! Go me! This means my feed will get a bit quieter, but I have lots of things planned, so stay tuned!

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30 Day Book Meme: Day 29

Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)

Character death is a subject I have some strong opinions on, as anybody who’s heard me rant about Joss fucking Whedon can attest.

The example I always use of the right way to kill off a character is Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. To sum up: Boromir is gradually seduced by the Ring and attacks Frodo in an attempt to take it. Frodo escapes and Boromir is horrified to realize how he has betrayed the trust placed in him when he was made a part of the Fellowship. A bunch of orcs attack and he dies trying to save Merry and Pippin. He fights valiantly, taking many arrows. He speaks briefly to Aragorn one last time, and the two of them reconcile the tension between them (a vast over-simplification: Aragorn is the heir to the throne which would otherwise be Boromir’s).

So, Boromir’s death enables him to regain some of his lost honor and go out doing the right thing on all sides. It’s a necessary, cathartic death (his actions toward Frodo were appalling and unforgivable), which makes it satisfying even while one grieves the loss of a man who, while imperfect, was in many ways very good and honorable.

Good stuff.

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30 Day Book Meme: Day 28

First favorite book or series obsession

The very first was probably Dracula. Holy moly I loved that book. I read anything to do with it at all and was soon the foremost sixth-grade expert on the fellow. I could talk your ear off about the historical guy Stoker loosely based the character on (Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, on account of his dad was nicknamed Dracul and the “la” ending meant “son of.” Aw, yeah. I still got it.).

I watched every Dracula movie my parents would let me get my hands on, along with every vampire movie they’d let me see. I read everything even loosely connected to vampires in the local library, and started amassing the formidable vampire-related book collection that forms the heart of my library’s Special Collections section.

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30 Day Book Meme: Day 27

If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!

Hm. The answer to this used to be “vampires,” but with the current Twilight craze I’ve had to give that up. There’s just too much crap vampire fiction out there. I read a lot of crap stuff back when I first became obsessed with vamps, and eventually figured out how to tell if a book was going to be decent or not pretty quickly and started avoiding the crap ones.

It’s really diminished the number of vampire books I read these days, let me tell you.

I still read quite a number of them, though. The Harry Dresden books have a couple of vampires as recurring characters, and so do a couple of other urban fantasy series I read.

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Book Drive!

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled updates with this special bulletin!

Every year, I do National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). Basically, it’s a world-wide event where people decide they’re each going to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November… and do. Pretty awesome.

This year, the organizers of NaNoWriMo are doing a book drive, in partnership with Better World Books. All proceeds will be going to the free, nonprofit creative writing programs these awesome folks offer kids and adults. I’m the bookdriver-in-chief for my region, the South San Francisco Bay Area, and I want you to send me your books!

You know, that book you thought you’d like but wound up thinking was only so-so, that monstrosity your distant (or not-so-distant!) relative gave you in a clear sign they don’t know you at all, the book you’ve got multiple copies of because people keep giving it to you… we all have books like that. Hell, even I, the person who usually starts backing away in horror and whispering “heresy!” when people talk about culling books, managed to find some I’m going to give to the drive.

Got some books you don’t need anymore? Send ’em my way! Drop me a line or leave a comment here with your email address, and let’s set up a handoff (or I’ll send you my mailing address).

Let’s do this!

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30 Day Book Meme: Day 26

OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending

Easy. The original final chapter of A Cl0ckwork Orange.

Needless to say, there are spoilers here. If you don’t want to hear about the ending to the book (and film), STOP READING NOW.


So, as originally written, our protagonist Alex goes on his horrible rampage, is brainwashed to be a good person, is basically destroyed by that, and is turned back into a little bastard of a thug. Then, in the last chapter, a far older and wiser Alex reveals that he basically grew out of his horribleness, and that humanity is good, blah blah blah.

It totally ruined the point of the damn book.

Fortunately, the American publisher realized this, told the author he was an idiot, and cut it, so that it ended with Alex being a horrible little bastard again. It’s a far more effective ending, and actually fits with the rest of the book. I’ve no idea why Anthony Burgess thought his sweetness-and-light ending was a good idea, but he was wrong.

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30 Day Book Meme: Day 25

Any five books from your “to be read” stack

Hah! Try my “to be read” shelves. Or even, “to be read” bookcases.

I have a lot of books I haven’t read yet.

Anyway. Five picked more or less at random:

  • By Blood We Live, an anthology of vampire stories edited by John Joseph Adams
  • Reading in Bed, a collection of essays about “the glories of reading” selected and edited by Steven Gilbar
  • The Heart of Philosophy by Jacob Needleman (that bastard got me interested in Philosophy again, after I swore off it during college. I have shaken my fist at him in person for this.)
  • Charles II by Ronald Hutton
  • The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker and Leslie S. Klinger

Why do I have a bio of Charles II up there? because he was a friend of the original badass rock star: John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. That was a man who knew how to party, and I’ve studied his life and works in depth. He claimed repeatedly to have been continuously drunk for a year. He was banished repeatedly, on one occasion for writing a rude poem about Charles and “mistakenly” handing it to him during a large event. He partied so hard that he died in his early thirties of what appears to be syphilis aggravated by cirrhosis of the liver.

Top that, Keith Richards!

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