5 Reasons to Read Even When You’re Crazy Busy

books

So as you all probably know, I’ve been insanely busy for the past month or so. Now that we’re finally all moved into the new house I am working like a madwoman to get ready for a craft fair on September 11th and 12th – Born in the Barn in Sheridan – which I am really looking forward to but also waaaaaaay behind in prep for!

So even when I’m really busy like I have been, I try to make reading a priority. I know that reading is not as important to most people as it is to me. I am, after all, an artist who makes primarily book related items. Nevertheless, I think reading – reading anything! Newspapers, contemporary fiction, nonfiction, the dictionary – is an important habit that all people should obtain. Here’s why.

1. Reading makes you smarter. Reading improves communication skills tenfold, and thus comprehension, conversation, and overall well-being improves as well. Kids that read statistically score higher on tests; though not as aptly tested, I’m sure the same goes for adults. I firmly believe that the reason I did so well in high school and college is because my parents urged me to read as a child, and I soon discovered on my own how much I loved it.

2. Reading keeps you grounded. Sometimes life gets so busy and stressful and complicated that delving into another story entirely helps you sort out your own junk. I find that when I don’t read for long periods of time I am more apt to let my schedule overcome me – which leads to increased stress levels. Reading, even if for only five minutes before bed, helps me figure out my problems of the day and allows me to handle everything a bit better.

3. Reading improves mood. Seriously. Even if the book you are reading is really sad, your mood will be improved by the knowledge that your life isn’t so crappy as the one you’re reading about. Reading is a way to escape into another world, and no matter which world it is you go to, you come out feeling just a little more alive.

4. Reading helps you sleep. If you read for a while before bed it helps to quiet your thoughts from the day and ease into a peaceful rest. Especially if you’re physically exhausted, a couple pages in and you’ll be sound.

5. Reading is fun. Obviously this is the most important reason. Reading is entertaining. Find the right book – something that interests you, not your coworker or the hosts on The View – and you’ll find that reading is one of the most enjoyable leisure activities in existence. And this is a good enough reason to make it a habit worth keeping.

What book/books are you currently reading? I’d love to hear about them!

Read This: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

“What matters to you defines your mattering.”

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I’m on a John Green kick. Honestly, it seems like everything he writes I can’t put down, which is definitely how it’s been with An Abundance of Katherines.

I particularly like this book because it is humorous and highly relatable. The other John Green books I’ve read have had a mask of humor hiding a rather dark and twisty plot. This one is light-hearted, which is refreshing.

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An Abundance of Katherines is about a grown-up child prodigy, Colin, who has only ever dated girls named Katherines – 19 Katherines, to be exact. When he graduates from high school and gets dumped, his best friend – an overweight, funny muslim named Hassan – convinces him to go with him on a road trip, which lands them in Gutshot, Tennessee. Here, they meet a girl named Lindsey and her mom Hollis, who hires the two of them to interview factory workers for a documentary she is making.

“Here’s to all the places we went. And all the places we’ll go. And here’s to me, whispering again and again and again and again: iloveyou”

Along with interviewing the factoring workers, Colin is intent on figuring out his Theorem: a theorem to essentially predict how a relationship will turn out, based on variables like popularity, attractiveness, age, etc. Ultimately, it predicts dumpee vs dumper. (He has been dumped by every Katherine he has ever dated, which is 19 Katherines.)

He is very thorough in describing the Theorem and the math behind it, and this is probably the only type of math I’m okay with reading about. There is just an element of hilarity throughout the whole book that makes it an entertaining read. There is also, however, an underlying theme of the search for acceptance – not only in society, but acceptance of yourself: quirks, eccentricities, and all. It also goes into great depths about what it means to matter in this world, and paving your own path to importance. I definitely recommend this book if you’re in the mood for a fun, quick read.

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

10 Sad Books That Will Make You Appreciate Your Life More

DSCN7479I like being happy, but let’s face it – as humans, sometimes we enjoy wallowing in other people’s pain. And books are the perfect vehicle for doing this. There are times when all I want to do curl up with a nice, sad book, something that is going to give me a good cry and make me ruminate on life a while. In these times I have a few go-to sad books that I would love to share with you. Each of these books has strong, relatable characters involved in some sort of misfortune. Jumping in to the lives of these tragic characters really does lend some perspective on a hard day – at least my life isn’t as hard some of the lives in these books.

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Probably the most tragic love story of all time. Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff grow up and together and have loved each other their entire lives, but they are both so selfish, conceited, and ego-centered that their love ends up destroying them.

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Wuthering Heights Bookmark // Peels and Posies on Etsy

2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The main characters of Gone With the Wind have a similar problem to Cathy and Heathcliff – they are selfish. Rhett and Scarlett are both hard-headed and independent, and they fall in love completely, but in the midst of war and turmoil their love simply cannot endure.

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3. The Lifted Veil by George Eliot. This short novel is a haunting tale of a loveless marriage. The main character, a poetic, dying man, tells the tale of how he blindly fell in love with his wife, despite seeing visions of what their married life would be like. This 90 page book really makes you think about life and how the choices you make affect it.

4. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. This is also a short, poignant tale about a man on his deathbed, who, as he dies, realizes that his life has been empty and void of love. A startling look at the inner life of the common man, this novella is sure to bring tears for humanity.

“The very fact of the death of someone close to them aroused in all who heard about it, as always, a feeling of delight that he had died and they hadn’t.”

5. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. Everyone knows the story of Gatsby and Daisy (thank you Warner Brothers), but have you read it? This book is one of the strongest works of literary fiction written by an American author. The characters are memorable and colorful, and the twisted plot unforgettable. You don’t get the full effect from the movie – if you haven’t read this one, it’s a must.

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The Great Gatsby Bookmark // Peels and Posies on Etsy

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Such a story. Such a saga. Les Mis, also a movie based on a book that demands to be read, is about a righteous man who is served a cruel slice of life. In all of his trials, he remains a good good man, and this is why his tragedy is so heartbreaking. It is a story of the rise and fall of the common man, and anyone who loves literature must read it.

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Victor Hugo Bookmark // Peels and Posies on Etsy

7. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Another short novel about a bitter marriage, Ethan Frome is a singular story that parallels the harshness of a New England landscape to an adulterous marriage. When Mattie Silver comes to work for the Fromes, to care for the house and Mrs. Frome, who is chronically ill, Ethan falls in love with her. The lengths he goes to escape his embittered wife is audacious but becomes his undoing.

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8. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This story follows the lives of a missionary family who has gone to Africa. The arid African landscape changes everything they have ever known – including their hearts. This poignant novel is riveting from the first page to the last, and I think I cried throughout the entire last half.

“It’s frightening when things you love appear suddenly changed from what you have always known.”

9. Atonement by Ian McEwen. Perhaps you have seen the movie. Atonement is about how the clouded judgement of a young girl and her quick words of accusation can upheaval an entire life. Set in the English countryside during World War II, this novel is engaging and never short for emotion.

10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This lyrical novel is the story of an African American woman’s fight to become her own person during the Depression era. Beautifully written and well worth a few tears or more.

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“Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”

I hope you enjoyed my list! What are your favorite sad books to read? Tell me in the comments!

Book Recommendation: Looking for Alaska by John Green

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No, this book is not about someone with really poor geography skills. Looking for Alaska by John Green is a harrowing coming of age story that centrals around Alaska Young, a beautiful, emotionally troubled teen.

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The story begins when the narrator, a boy called Pudge (Miles Halter), decides to discover his “Great Perhaps” (from the last words of Francois Rabelais) and leave his normal high school to go to a prestigious boarding school in Alabama. Though Culver Creek is not at all as extravagant as he had expected, he does end up grasping that elusive Great Perhaps when he becomes close friends with Alaska (the girl for whom he also has incorrigible feelings), his boisterous roommate The Colonel, a boy called Takumi, and a girl named Lara. And when a tragedy hits their friend group, they don’t let it destroy them, but rather grow even closer because of it.

I’ve got to say, I’m rather impressed by John Green. The first book I read by him was The Fault in Our Stars, which was really good, but – I felt – a little flat in terms of characters. The themes were rich and thought-provoking, but it seemed like all the characters had the same brain stuffed in different bodies. Looking for Alaska, on the other hand, does not have this problem. All the characters are elaborately unique: The Colonel, a short, poor boy with a huge brain and an even huger heart, Miles Halter, a timid boy who never had friends until getting to boarding school, Alaska Young, a girl so troubled by her past that she’s let herself become entangled in a sticky web of suffering, and even the secondary characters are full of life.

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“I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”

What is really fascinating about this book is that everything and everyone in it is brutally honest – there is no sugarcoating. These kids aren’t the image of perfection – they make a plethora of mistakes, including but not limited to drinking, smoking, and hooking up (“But there was so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I’ll have more time for reading when I’m old and boring.”) – and they know that what they are doing isn’t necessarily on the straight and narrow. Nevertheless, their knowing rebellion is refreshing, and I found myself rooting for them in spite of it all. Furthermore, with their honesty in regard to their own actions also comes an honesty in their way of looking at the world – they are not blinded by what others of their age, perhaps, are.

“What is an ‘instant’ death anyway? How long is an instant? Is it one second? Ten? The pain of those seconds must have been awful as her heart burst and her lungs collapsed and there was no air and no blood to her brain and only raw panic. What the hell is instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant of blinding pain feels particularly instantaneous.”

This novel delves into some really deep issues about life, death, love, and friendship. If you feel like a quick read with some profound themes, I definitely suggest this one.

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“Alaska finished her cigarette and flicked it into the river.

‘Why do you smoke so damn fast?’ I asked.

She looked at me and smiled widely, and such a wide smile on her narrow face might have looked goofy were it not for the unimpeachably elegant green in her eyes. She smiled with all the delight of a kid on Christmas morning and said, ‘Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.”

Homemade Books are Magical, and Bookish Terminology

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I love books for both their content and their aesthetic form. If I wanted to just read all the time I would merely own my ebook and chuck the rest, but that’s just not the thing. I have hundreds upon hundreds of books because a house doesn’t seem homey without them. I like the way the stacks look on the shelves, I like how they make up the main part of my decor, I like how they smell and make lots of thoughts run through my head and how the covers make patterns from a distance.

I LOVE BOOKS.

So last fall I had an epiphany. I make a bunch of stuff – crafts and the like – but never had I made my own book. Because, I mean, come on, it’s a book. Yet books are my favorite form of art and my most treasured possessions. Maybe I hadn’t ever thought about making one myself because they are so revered in my mind. But when I started to realize all the possibilities, I just about lost it.

Obviously, thoughts aren’t pre-collected in the books I am binding, they are blank, but that’s okay. They can be filled with art or words or anything really, and the best part is that everything that goes into making one is essentially scraps (cardboard, white paper, leftover fabric pieces).

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Look at this beauty. Okay, so maybe only a devoted book lover would actually go to the trouble of binding her own notebook. Sure you could buy one at Barnes & Noble that would probably look more slick, but I like choosing exactly what goes on the cover and knowing my own hands hewed it. This specific book (which says “Oh Sweet Love” not “Oh Sneet Love” as my brother initially thought) is going to be used as a guest sign-in/words-of-wisdom book for my wedding.

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Teaching myself how to bind books was really fun because I learned all sorts of bookish terminology. For instance, the cluster of pages pictured in the image above is called a signature.

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The page edge opposite the binding is called the face. Because I don’t do a final trim of the face, the edge is rough. This is called a deckle.

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Sewing the books together in signatures rather than all at once is called oversewing, and is practiced to allow more flexibility to the spine.

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Of course there are lots of terms that I won’t mention here because I don’t want to bore you. But I do want to say that I love seeing the way the cover looks before it becomes a cover, and how the spine is glued to the fabric first.

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Essentially this process of learning how to bind books has caused me to deeply examine not only the form of the book, but of the mechanics behind the book as well. It makes me greatly – and I mean greatly – appreciate those dedicated souls in the olden days who hand bound everything. One book takes me half a day to make, and this is at a relatively brisk pace. It’s a lot of work, and yet we have millions of books in print today. This amazes me. Not to mention, binding books that are printed are waaaaay more complicated – you have to number the pages, within the signatures…Makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

If you’d like to try your hand at binding books, this tutorial, The Basic Binding of Books by Jamie Butler, is a great one to use. Happy booking!

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