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!

10 Books That Should Be Made (or Remade) Into Movies STAT

So, I’m not one of those people who obsesses over books and consequently hates their movie counterparts (I do obsess over books, but I also obsess over their movies). You know the type – they whine about book scenes left out of the movie, characters whose hair is the wrong color, music choices that seem too upbeat for the moment, etc., etc. Minutiae is what I call all of this.

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I love movies based off books because the movie is someone’s artistic interpretation of a novel that is already a work of art. So it’s basically turning art into more art, and who can hate that? Some of my absolute favorite movies are based off of books: The Great Gatsby (2013), Anna Karenina (2012), Pride and Prejudice (2005) (though many people fault this movie for being too “artistic”, which I think is absolutely ridiculous), Jane Eyre (2011), the Harry Potter series, Divergent (2014), and I could go on and on. When one of your favorite books becomes a movie it’s just adding to the magic of the story – it’s like the book will never truly end, and that is a special thing. There are many other books I have been anxiously waiting to become movies though, so if any of you reading this are movie producers…GET ON IT! Note that a few of these books are already movies. I know, I know, but honestly, some things just deserve to be updated.

1. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. This short novel would make an awesome movie, no doubt about it. I know that not a lot of people know about it, but that definitely shouldn’t be a reason for its absence in the big screen world. Ethan Frome has poignant themes and stark imagery – perfect for translating to movie. Ethan is stuck in a marriage to a sick, cold, and bitter woman, but when a young Mattie Silver enters his world (hired by his wife to help keep the house) it’s like he’s seen spring again. So they start an affair, and we all know that movies about affairs are too juicy to resist.

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2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I know that the 1939 version of this movie is still highly regarded and loved, but to quote the famous line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I think that the strides we’ve come in cinema and technology could make an absolutely amazing version of this timeless saga. Joe Wright, this one’s for you. Scarlett O’Hara’s trying and inspiring survival through the Civil War and Reconstruction is a story that should be told again.

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Gone With the Wind Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $6

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. There are a few versions of this movie available, but like Gone With the Wind, I think major things could be done for this story. Imagine Baz Luhrmann directing it – it could be a masterpiece. Wuthering Heights is a dark, twisted love story, which is what people want to see! Cathy and Heathcliffe love each other deeply, but are too selfish to do anything about it, so they end up simply destroying everything around them. So full of heartache and tribulation and beautiful images of the moors, what could be a better movie than this?

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4. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Honestly, I think every Edith Wharton book should become a movie because I love them so much. House of Mirth would be great on film because the story of Lily Bart is so relatable, heart-breaking, and tragic. When a strong character is the center of a story, you know it’s going to be a fantastic movie.

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House of Mirth Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $7

5. The Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle. Take a hint from Narnia – this classic childrens’ series needs to be made into a  series of movies. While I obviously hope that children will continue reading the series through the ages rather than skipping the books for the movies, I think movies could do the series a service. Because Narnia has been made into a couple of movies, kids know about the series and are more interested; I could see the same thing happening with The Time Quintet. The series is based on the Murry children, who are the children of scientists and are intelligent young things. They are forced to grow up quickly as they find their world in danger from evil forces in parallel universes.

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6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I cannot believe that this hasn’t been made into a movie recently. Sci-fi always has a huge following, especially when it hits the big screen, it seems, and this story deserves a rank among the best. It’s about a future society that has banned all reading material and is simply obsessed with technology (sound a little familiar?). The story focuses on the firemen, whose job is to keep fires at 451 degrees – the temperature that burns paper. When Guy Montag, a fireman and the main character, meets Clarisse McClellan, a girl who loves people, nature, and simplicity, his eyes are opened to possibility that destroying the practice of reading might not be so good after all.

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Fahrenheit 451 Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $7

7. Any Agatha Christie books. I love the old Agatha Christie movie renditions – so debonair, so classic! – but I think we need a couple new ones. Maybe directed by Wes Anderson. Kind of like how they redid Sherlock Holmes except more quirky and less dark. Those would make for great movies. Agatha Christie basically invented the modern mystery story, so all of her books are pretty flawless. My personal favorites: Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

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8. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. This is a new favorite for me, and I think it would make a really cute movie. It would fall into the ranks of movies like The Spectacular Now or the Fault in Our Stars; a deep-feeling story about the inner lives of teenagers muddling through this weird world of ours. What I like about Stargirl is that it is optimistic – not many movies about teens are, these days. Stargirl is a quirky, individualistic, fantastic character, one who refuses to back down and disappear into the realm of social norms and peer pressure. With the beautiful Arizona setting and the humorous tone, Stargirl would make a wonderful movie.

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9. Macbeth by Shakespeare. I’m sure there are lots of versions of this on film, but I really think a Tim Burton version needs to happen. With the witches and the potions and the crazy wife and the murder…it would be a thriller no one would soon forget.

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Macbeth Bookmark by Peels and Posies on Etsy, $7

10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. This book. So dark and funny and twisted and weird. The perfect setting for a movie. Another option for Tim Burton or Baz Luhrmann. It takes place in this huge house with this messed up family, the Blackwoods. As the story progresses, you discover that this family has a very dark past – a past of poisoned sugar on the blackberries one  night six years ago at family dinner. Only three of the Blackwoods are left, and two are seriously impaired. The narrator, Merricat, seems the most likely culprit, but was it her? See how perfect this movie would be?!?

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So these are my top ten choices for books that need movie counterparts ASAP. What about you? What books would you like to see made into movies? Leave your opinions in the comments!

PS: If you’re curious about these books, I’ve got more in-depth reviews on a few:

House of Mirth

Stargirl

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Book Review: Candy Freak by Steve Almond, And My Newfangled Understanding of the Mystical World of Candy Bars

I used to scorn candy as food for the fat. There was no culinary expertise to it – it was merely the gluttony of America realized. When I would see someone impulsively grabbing for a Snickers bar in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart, I’d think to myself, Wow. I wonder if he realizes he’s just eating a bunch of junk.

My eyes, however, have been opened to the delicacies of the candy world, the intricacies, the complexities, the awe-inspiring delectability…Candy Freak by Steve Almond is one of those books that changes you. Yes, it’s about candy, and maybe you think it beneath you (like I did at first), but the simple fact is that candy is more than just fat and sugar combined.

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Have you ever taken a moment to consider the major candy companies of today? There are three of them, all most likely very familiar to you – Nestle, Hersheys, and Mars. Essentially every candy bar you see in the grocery store is from one of those three candy companies. But this book dredges up the long lost days when the candy market was not monopolized by these power houses – when each area of the country had it’s own unique brand of candy. It’s sweets like these (the few that still exist) that are the kind to eat.

Almond makes it his mission in this book to tour as many of the small, family-owned candy companies as possible. And this added up to about five. So he tours the companies and he eats the candy and he describes the candy and oh….how hungry I was the entire time I went to read! He details the most obscure and delicious sounding candies from all over the country: the Valomilks of Kansas, the Idaho Spuds of Idaho, the Big Hunk, Rocky Road, and Abba-Zabba of California, and (to my utmost delight and excitement) the Twin Bings of Sioux City, Iowa, the very part of the country my husband is from!

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Apparently around here everyone knows about the Twin Bings. I, of course, a Southern girl at heart, had never heard of such a thing. When Almond described it it sounded kind of gross, too.

Imagine, if you will, two brown lumps, about the size of golf balls, roughly textured, and stuck to one another like Siamese twins. The lumps are composed of crushed peanuts  and a chocolate compound. Inside each of the lumps is a bright pink, cherry flavored filling.

I never have liked the fruit and chocolate combo. Fruit is such a natural, delicious, healthy thing that to smother it in chocolate just seems wrong. And the melding of the flavors never sat quite right with me. Along with the crushed peanuts, I just didn’t know what to think. My inner child was screaming in horror, but the new me, the one who likes to experiment with food, wanted secretly to find this candy bar and snarf it down.

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Lucky for me, I happened upon it while grocery shopping at Fareway yesterday. There it was, sitting on the bottom shelf of the candy rack in primordial glory, a beacon of hope for the unconventional amidst all the obvious bars –  Snickers and Milky Ways and 3 Musketeers. So I grabbed it, my first impulsive candy bar buy since…well, ever, actually. And I decided to conduct my own experiment, like Steve Almond did in his book.

(I must say I was still slightly affronted when the cashier asked me if I wanted it left out, as if I was some candy-obsessed gourmand. I haven’t gone so far, lady. Of course you can put it in the bag. Geez.)

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So here it was, the Twin Bing, in my very living room. Healthy by no means, against my deepest beliefs about eating only what the body needs…I stared at the package for a while. It was pretty. Then I opened it and it wasn’t pretty.

But I took one bite and was hooked. It’s like Steve Almond says: “I had begun to relish (secretly) the salty zest of the peanuts, the sugary bite of the cream center, which called to mind cherry bubble gum…” There’s just something about it that is so different from your typical candy bar.

This is the type of candy I can justify eating, because at least people like Marty Palmer of Palmer’s Candy Factory in Sioux City, Iowa are real people, not chocolate making robots (which is how I picture Nestle, Hersheys, and Mars in my head, somehow). So you should definitely read Candy Freak, especially if you’re not too concerned about gaining weight in the week or so it will take to finish. I mean, now that I’m done with the book I’m no longer thinking about candy 24/7, so I’ve gotten back to my regular healthy routine 😉

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