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!

Book Recommendation: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

DSCN8345

After the whole mice debacle, I decided it would be appropriate to finally read this acclaimed novella with mice in the title. Honestly, it is bizarre to me that after two years of advanced high school english and three years of honors english classes in college, I never read this book. It is both replete with symbolism and short, an english teacher’s dream. Nevertheless, I was obliged to read this treasure on my own.

DSCN8340

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a powerful and touching tale of friendship set during the Great Depression. Lennie and George are laborers who travel from farm to farm to find work; George cares for Lennie, who has a mental disability, like a brother.

DSCN8343

The story pivots around the dream of these men – that one day, they’ll be able to have a farm of their own, living off the “fatta the land”; Lennie would have his very own rabbits to care for. However, this dream is really just that – a dream. These men, symbols of the entire underclass during the time period, are dispossessed, imprisoned by their own lives.

DSCN8342

Lennie, a large, childlike man who does not know his own power, has a fatal flaw – he loves soft things. George’s patience is tried again and again, because he knows that Lennie’s disability is dangerous and cannot truly be controlled, but he still is loyal friend to Lennie in spite of it all. The final climatic scene is the ultimate sign of love and sacrifice – a shock, but one that sits really deep with you, and stays a while after reading.

DSCN8350

Though this book is not long, it is a story that lives on even after you finish reading it. I found myself returning to the characters again and again after I finished, wondering about certain pieces of dialogue or actions. I highly recommend you read this book if you haven’t yet – it shouldn’t take long.

“A guy needs somebody―to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.” 

DSCN8349DSCN8348

Update on the DeRocher mice situation (if you want the full story, click here): After catching those first two mice, we haven’t seen or heard a peep since. We hope this means the problem has been solved!

Book Recommendation: Looking for Alaska by John Green

 DSCN7758

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.

DSCN7747

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.

DSCN7753

“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.

DSCN7755

“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

DSCN0768DSCN0767

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).

DSCN0761

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.

DSCN0739

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.

DSCN0737

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.

DSCN0738DSCN0742

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

DSCN0740

DSCN0741

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.

DSCN0755DSCN0756DSCN0754

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!

DSCN0770DSCN0766DSCN0769