Reading Nook Ideas

Although I’m no fan of built-in reading nooks – I just couldn’t get really comfortable in any of the ones I’ve tried so far – I do like the IDEA of reading nooks, or at least the notion of devoting space in one’s home specifically for reading (vs., say, conversation).

One of Bored Panda‘s list-making mavens has collected the largest collection of reading nook photos I’m aware of: 72 of them. Some could be installed in ye average home or apartment; others are, um, rather unique and wouldn’t fit in just anywhere.

And of course not all home-owning (or even apartment-renting) readers are lucky enough to have the views featured in some of these photos. Still, one can dream.

Take a look and see if any of them appeal to you.

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“The Consolations of Illiteracy” by Phyllis McGinley

There are
books that one needs maturity to
enjoy just as there are books an adult
can come on too late to savor.

So wrote the poet Phyllis McGinley in her wonderful essay published by The Saturday Review in August 1953.

You can read McGinley’s delightful musings on the upside of her “bad education” here (with the tail-end of the article here, where you will need to scroll down a bit to find it).

My eternal thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Patrick Kurp, for bringing my attention to this marvelous writer – and, in particular, to this charming (and often amusing) essay of hers. Kurp provided the links to the essay at his always-excellent blog, Anecdotal Evidence.

Another Roundup of Bookish Quotations

Another trove of quotations about books, bookstores, reading, and readers posted recently to Facebook:

Posted July 31, 2022 to the Facebook page of I Love Reading Books
Posted July 29, 2022 by Rational Thinker to the Facebook page of English Literature and Linguistics
Posted March 25, 2022 by Kaimeyto K Sapporo to the Facebook page of English Literature and Linguistics
Posted by Muraleedharan Nair to English Literature and Linguistics’ Facebook page
Posted February 7, 2022 to the Facebook page of For Reading Addicts

Hundreds of other bookish quotations have been gathered together here.

Confessions of a Used Bookstore Worker

Carl Lavigne is a would-be published writer who works at a used bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He posted this week to Literary Hub an article entitled “What Working at a Used Bookstore Taught Me About Literary Rejection,” but it’s actually a series of musings on what it’s like to work in a used bookstore. From a bookstore shopper’s perspective, Lavigne’s observations and confessions are alternately charming and alarming.

Read Lavigne’s article.

Why You Should Be OK with Owning More Books than You’ll Ever Read

Several years ago, Kevin Dickinson wrote an article for the website BigThink about why owning more books than a person could possibly read over his/her lifetime is A Good Thing.

Turns out there are several plausible justifications, not just one.

One of the things I learned from reading Dickinson’s article was the origin of a Japanese term that surfaces periodically in various bookish blogs I follow.

Tsundoku is the Japanese word for the stack(s) of books you’ve purchased but haven’t read. Its morphology combines tsunde-oku (letting things pile up) and dukosho (reading books).

Dickinson mentions this term only in passing; you may want to read his entire article, which, incidentally, includes links to other, related articles.

The Miracle of the Interlibrary Loan System

If you, presumably a book-loving person, are not aware of (or have forgotten about) interlibrary loan, you are missing out on an extremely useful tool for maximizing the scope and rewards of your Reading Life.

ILL is a service available at most public libraries, even smaller ones; in many cases, the service is free to library cardholders. Even when a library system chargers a fee for the service, ILL can save you hundreds of dollars in obtaining books to borrow that you might otherwise be obliged to purchase to get hold of.

Many library systems allow cardholders to place ILL requests online, so you don’t even need to visit the library until your book (or magazine article) arrives.

In my own case, because my reading habits don’t dovetail very well with the sorts of books (bestselling fiction, for example) that branch public libraries tend to purchase, I’d guess that at least 70% of the books I’ve read over the past 40+ years I’ve obtained via ILL. (I may be overestimating that figure, purely because I’m so enthusiastic about spreading the gospel of interlibrary loan.)

Whenever anyone asks me why I value public libraries so highly, I usually mention two things: (1) public libraries are one of the few U.S. institutions anyone can visit and use without any cash changing hands, and (2) public libraries offer interlibrary loan services in addition to being great places for book lovers to browse in and borrow books from. Access to ILL is certainly, all by itself, worth getting a library card for, whether or not you visit public libraries very often to browse there.

Of course, the main difference between using ILL and browsing a public library for your next read is that, with ILL, you need to know, exactly, what you’re looking for. If you’re in the habit of garnering titles of interest to you that you notice on the Internet sites you visit, or through word of mouth from your friends who are also readers, you’re probably also in the habit of putting those titles on a list. If you’ve checked the catalog of your local public library and don’t find the title you want to get hold of listed there, do not despair – or decide your only choice is to buy the dang thing. Remember interlibrary loan: in 99% of the cases, your friendly ILL librarian will come to your rescue. And once you’ve used ILL successfully a couple of times, you’ll find yourself an ILL convert/proselytizer yourself.

A couple years ago, someone named Nick Ripatrazone wrote a story for the website Literary Hub about how the interlibrary loan system works – and how it got started. You might find Nick’s article, “InterLibrary Loan Will Change Your Life,” worth reading.

Happy hunting!

P.S. Libraries don’t usually lend out, via ILL, rare books, genealogy texts, reference books, or – and this is important to remember – recent bestsellers). But anything else: no problem. Your aforementioned friendly ILL librarian will do the research of tracking down some library (usually the one nearest the library he/she works in) that owns the book (or magazine article) you’re looking for, and pretty soon you’ll likely be summoned to your local library to borrow it.

Too Many Books?

Writer Lynne Tillman has an unusual idea for how she might solve the Too Many Books problem facing most life-long avid readers:

As a kid-reader, I thought a library was the great thing to build in life. Now, unless you have a huge house with enormous rooms, this desire leads to mayhem and depression. Now, I give away books I didn’t particularly like or will never read again or can easily find. With digital, with online and actual libraries, do I need to keep so many books, though I have a small hoarder in me. Once, I believed, apart from my love of books, having a library meant I was intelligent, well read, etc. Now I know that is absurd. I will never ever part with many books. Maybe I’ll have them cremated with me.

Tillman made this remark in a recent interview published by the New York Times.

Resources for Reading Groups

Reading groups have been a part of American life since colonial times. They will probably continue to pop up as long as books are published. Some reader somewhere will feel a keen impulse to share his/her excitement about a particular book – or with book-reading in general – with other readers, and eventually the critical mass necessary to form a reading group will again emerge.

Although it takes only two people to make a pact to read and discuss books together, most groups involve several individuals.

Luckily, there are several excellent handbooks on the market that can help steer a newborn or about-to-be-born reading group toward success.

Although you might want to scan the Amazon reviews for each of these titles before making a purchase – or tracking it down via your local public library – these resources are listed here in most-recently-published order:

A Writer’s Homage to the Reader

Junot Diaz. Photo by Lily Oei.

Excerpt from a 2008 speech made by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz at an Australian writers’ festival:

Writers might be word magicians but we readers are the new alchemists. Without a reader a book is simply a stack of papers dense with type and edged in glue. But when a reader grabs hold of a book, when a reader introduces her mind and heart and body to a book, that book is transformed, becomes something extraordinary.

Readers supply the galvanic human spark that bring these Frankenstein creations we call books to life. Readers transmute cold paper and stale ink into vibrant human gold. Readers are the nervous system of literature and readers alone can reach through time and space an connect one imperfect human soul with another they have never met. They can bridge the spaces between us, all through the simple act of reading.

We readers, I suspect, will be remembered more than any individual writer for safeguarding that delicate web of human interconnectivity that so many forces wish to buy, capture, enslave, and mine.

Readers will be remembered long after we [writers] are all gone – for holding the line against the dehmanizing forces of our civilization. Even if tomorrow all the books of the world disappeared in a flash of woodpulp and binding it would be you, you readers, who would keep the dream of that human alchemy alive.

For it is in the simple act of reading where the living and the dead, the real and the imagined, meet. It is in the simple act of reading where we exercise those two most sacred of human vocations: compassion and creativity. For as we know, without either of these primes there is no possibility for a humanity present or past worth talking about.

A transcript of Diaz’s entire May 2008 speech was published by Australia’s Sydney Herald.