A bookish break and more musings on e-reading

The Nocturnal Librarian has been on spring break. I visited family in Austin, TX and had a very good time. Besides good company, excellent restaurants, funky local shoppingUT’s museums, warm sunny weather, and live music, I relished the bookish delights of the Austin area. We shopped at the Austin Public Library Bookstore, Recycled Reads, and the indie bookstore BookPeople, visited the Ransom Center‘s King James Bible exhibit, and saw some of Dr. Suess’s original Lorax drawings at the LBJ Library and Museum and an exhibit of his work at Art on 5th.

On planes and in airports, I saw more e-books than print. On one flight, I noticed my seat-mate reading The Hunger Games on an iPad, (which explained why he was in no hurry to de-plane). As Michael and Ann observed on the Books On the Nightstand podcast (#170), it is increasingly hard to pick up reading ideas while traveling because e-readers make books nearly anonymous. I made a dent in my “to-read” piles and am hopeful some fellow traveler snooped on the titles, because they are both terrific: Homer & Langley by E. L. Doctorow and In the Stacks: Short Stories About Libraries and Librarians edited by Michael Cart.

When I got home I reminded my son, who is home this week, that we now subscribe to the New York Times electronically. He made a very sharp observation which I had overlooked, since my husband and I read the paper in shifts (he departs for work while nocturnal people are still sleeping). You can’t enjoy communal newspaper reading — swapping sections around the breakfast table — with an e-reader.


Reading Resolutions?

It’s the time of year for resolutions or, as Jeff Goins writes at Zenhabits, for “sustainable habits.” If reading more is among your resolutions, one way is to join a reading challenge.

Words and Peace blog links to two dozen themed challenges. One that intrigued me is “Books Published in the First Years of My Life.” Sarah Reads Too Much is hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge, and Jillian at A Room of One’s Own hopes to read “books I started but didn’t finish” in 2012.

Last year I reached The Europa Challenge‘s Ami level by reading fourteen Europa Editions. Europa publishes “literary fiction, high-end mystery and noir, and narrative non-fiction from around the world.” I’ve enjoyed expanding my literary horizons, so this year I’m going for Cafe Luongo level.  Like many reading challenges, The Europa Challenge fosters discussion via its blog, Twitter feed, and Goodreads group.

Goodreads encourages members to define their own 2012 Reading ChallengeBooks On the Nightstand “12 in 2012” challenge participants also customize their goals, such as reading twelve books in a particular genre or twelve books they already own. Another challenge posted at Goodreads is “Around the World (in 52 Books)” which sounds daunting but very appealing.

If you’re just interested in making more time to read, emulate Ann Kingman. On Books on the Nightstand’s podcast #161, she mentioned her plan to read for an hour every morning.  “25 Literary Resolutions” at the Los Angeles Times’ Jacket Copy blog, includes time-related ideas. 

A habit I hope to form in 2012 is reading in tandem with my teen, who doesn’t want me to read aloud, but is amenable to the idea of reading and discussing the same book. She has also challenged me to re-read the Harry Potter books, which I am starting today.

What are your reading resolutions?

Sorting out stress

From the reference desk, I have been observing how students deal with end-of-semester stress.  Some admit they are just barely on top of things, others are highly organized.  One night I helped a student find sources for a history paper on the Gulf War. She told me it was due the next morning but that she works better at the last minute.

Knowing your own comfort zone regarding deadlines and planning is a great way to manage stress. But what if that’s not enough? I was intrigued this week by a story in the Washington Post about George Mason University Law School’s “Puppy Day” during finals.  Pets are indeed an excellent help in relaxing. More on that in a moment.

Elgin Community College in Illinois hosts a “Stress-Free Zone,” which provides spa treatments, “back massages, cotton candy and popcorn, tea and hot chocolate, a coloring corner and a Play-Doh table.”  If your school doesn’t provide such amenities, the Independent Florida Alligator offers several DIY stress relief suggestions, including practicing breathing exercises, cooking something healthy, talking with a friend, working out, and laughing.

The hosts of  Books On the Nightstand, Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, recently asked listeners/readers to share their comfort books. Returning to a favorite genre, author, or childhood story can be a great stress reliever. My grandmother, a teacher and librarian who lived to be 96, swore by mysteries for a brief escape. Our mutual favorite, the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman, is perfect; the books are short, fast-paced, smartly plotted, and fascinating, with plenty of humor and nothing so scary as to disrupt your already limited sleep.

A new hobby of mine, Zentangle, is a simple way to de-stress artistically. You can check out patterns online (Google “tangle patterns”) or try how-to books. I recommend Totally Tangled or Yoga for Your Brain by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. In no time you’ll be making your own tangles. The results are very satisfying and mind clearing, and you could turn your stress-management into holiday gifts.

I’m enjoying a new app St. Nicholas brought my teens and I that teaches mindfulness meditation. I learned about buddhify at Action for Happiness, and it’s a well-organized and simple tool which I’m finding very helpful.  So far it’s one of the best entry-points to meditation I’ve tried.

Even if you’re not a student, December can feel pretty stressful. I combined two stress-relieving activities before work last night: I rested my hand on my purring cat while using buddhify. I fell asleep, which is not really the goal of meditation, but woke from the short nap feeling better. How are you sorting out your stress?


** Welcome Advent Conspiracy visitors! Please scroll down or take the link to “Making Merriment Meaningful,” and thanks for reading.