Great Reading Month

Summer Reading
Photo credit:

July was a really, really good reading month for me. I just couldn’t seem to stop reading, and whipped through nine books, doing book reviews on seven of them. Books from my local library, downloadable audio-books that I listened to on my phone, even one book that was fetched from the Melcat state-wide lending program. Yes, it was a very good month!

The only thing wrong with a great reading month like July is when it ends. Tuesday morning I turned over the kitchen calendar page to August. Suddenly we’re starting to focus on the kids going back to school, and doing those projects we’ve been meaning to do this summer. In a few weeks, the easy-going lifestyle of summer will switch to a more rigid routine. Routine’s not a bad thing, and keeps us from inertia. But as I like to say, there’s always time to squeeze in a good book.


March Is National Reading Month!

Book Knowledge Tree NS
Photo credit:

While volunteering in our local school library yesterday morning, I found out that March is National Reading Month, although I can’t honestly tell you who declared it so. Was it the American Library Association, the Head Start program, the Department Of Education, the president of the United States? But does it even matter who started it?

It’s still cold and dreary outside, so what could be better than curling up with a book, or listening to an audio-book while you’re driving, or laughing over a book with a small child? Look around your house for a book to read – or re-read one of your old favorites. If you can’t find one, log on your library’s website, and check out their e-book selection. If you want to outright buy yourself a book, there’s always Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook selections, or an actual walk-in bookstore. Whatever way you choose to do it, enjoy reading this month!


Personalized Book Suggestions

photo credit: Huffington Post

Believe it or not, I often have a terrible time finding a book to read. Sounds crazy, right? There’s so much to choose from now, and maybe that’s part of the problem. We live in a time when tens of thousands of books are available – at multiple public libraries, at the download section of the library’s website, school/college libraries, amazon’s kindle store,, and regular bookstores. In this glut of books, I have noticed two things:
1, there are a lot of books using the same tired story-line, and 2, a lot of books are just plain trash with authors competing for the raunchiest details.

I often start three or four books before finding one that I actually like. I’ve looked at book recommendations online, but there’s so many of them that it’s overwhelming. Also, what one person calls a must-read book might be a total bore for someone else. So a week ago I signed up for Personalized Picks at my local library. After completing a detailed survey, they e-mailed a suggestion list of ten books. It looks promising, and I grabbed a few books from the library.

So if you’re having the same problem I am, consider getting a personalized list from your local librarian!

The Death Of Bookstores

jmp 001 bookstore

photo credit:

It seems like every time I read a news story about bookstores, it’s about them closing. Doesn’t matter if they’re selling used books or new books – they are going out of business. The picture above shows the owner of St. Croix Antiquarian Books in the used bookstore he started in 2001. The doors will close at the end of July of this year, since he is retiring and none of his kids want to take over the business. Little Willow Books in Massachusetts is already closed. Barnes and Noble have been steadily closing bookstores in their chain for over 15 years. Today I read that Family Christian Bookstores, which has over 240 stores in dozens of states will be closing all of their stores.

In the days before the internet, I would go into a bookstore and browse a bit to see what was new. Occasionally I would buy a book, but at an average cost of $25 a pop for a new hardcover, the price was just too high for our family budget. But times have changed. I go online to look for ideas of what to read next. When I find a book worthy of owning and re-reading, I look on Amazon for a used copy. Most of the time, however, I simply go to my local library and borrow the books instead of buying them.

I feel a great sadness for the many used bookstores out there, as they are generally one-of-a-kind, family endeavors. They each have a unique smell and feel, and reflect the person that owns them. At my favorite used bookstore (about an hour away), I love to walk across the old squeaky wooden floorboards, run my fingers over the dusty wooden shelves, pick up old paperbacks that are yellow along the edges, and sit on the plain benches sprinkled about the store. I feel amazement at all the book series that I never heard of – science fiction, cowboy tales, and more. Time stands still as I wander the overstuffed aisles. It’s not just a store, it’s an experience.  When I go there, I always buy a couple books because I want this place to survive and keep their doors open. New bookstores are nice, but used bookstores are infinitely better.

The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend – by Katarina Bivald (2016)


I absolutely loved this novel of Sara, a young Swedish woman whose life is wrapped up in books. Books are more real to her than real life. She orders a book from an elderly woman- Amy – in the tiny town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. The two women, who both live to read, become pen-pals, exchanging both letters and books. Amy urges Sara to come for a long visit, so when the store Sara works in closes, leaving her unemployed, she figures it’s an opportune time to visit America.

Things don’t turn out quite as she expects. For one thing, the town that sounds so adorable in Amy’s letters turns out to be a shabby, nearly-abandoned community. And another thing – Amy has just died. So Sara is in a town where she knows not a soul, and has no idea what to do next. The townsfolk convince her to stay in Amy’s house for a while instead of immediately returning to Sweden.

The rest of the story tells how she tries to share her love of books and reading with those around her. Sara gets to know the eclectic residents of the town, and finds friendship, love, and a sense of home for the first time in her life.

Note: There is some sexual content – although not very detailed – and references to categories of books that some readers may find objectionable.

Does The Average Person Still Read?

Handsome man sitting and reading in library

from website of Mid-Continent Public Library

Maybe I’m mistaken, but it feels like people are reading less than they did ten or twenty years ago. I decided to google how much reading people do. The Pew Research Center did a great article on reading habits, which told me a lot of facts I didn’t know:

  • 73% of people in the U.S. said they had read at least one book this year. So I guess that means that 27% of people didn’t even manage to read/listen to one book (how sad).
  • Printed books are still more popular than e-books or audiobooks.
  • “Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months.”
  • 28% of Americans read an e-book this year (I thought this would be higher).
  • Women read more books than men.
  • Young adults read more than people over 65 this year.

    To read the whole article, here’s the link:

So I guess people are still reading, but I don’t often hear people talk about their favorite author, or rave about that fantastic book they just finished. That makes me sad, as I love to share books that were really enjoyable or moving. Do you still read?



Down At The Schoolhouse


photo of Aina Haina elementary school library in Hawaii

Today I volunteered at our school library, which was not unusual. What was unusual was that I got to run the entire library! Awhile back I had started helping the librarian, Mrs. B., every Tuesday morning. I loved it, and looked forward to my time there. When Mrs. B. told me she was moving on to another job, and that there was no replacement lined up yet, I asked her what I should do about volunteering. She shrugged and said, just come in at your usual time and ask someone what to do.

So I got there this morning. There were some students being tutored at the back of the library, but no one else. I was told that since Mrs. B left, no classes were coming to the library. The job had been posted, but no one hired yet. After asking several staff what to do, I was allowed to log onto the computer so that books could be checked in and out. When word got out that someone was manning the library, a few people returned stacks of books, which I quickly checked in and re-shelved. Then a teacher popped her head in and asked if she could bring her class down, and I said, yes please do! Then the library was flooded with 6th graders each returning two books, rushing to grab two more, and standing in line to have me check them out. Those happy faces made my day. After everyone was taken care of, I finished re-shelving the returned items, tidied up the bookshelves, straightened out a section that very mixed up, and laminated a few new paperbacks. When it was obvious there were no more students coming, I left a note on the librarian’s desk, logged out, and went home.

If you’ve never experienced the joy of being a volunteer, look around you for an opportunity. It might be helping in your neighborhood, your church, your school, or a community center. It might be helping a disabled person clean their house, or giving someone a ride to doctor’s appointments. Whatever you find to do, do it with all your heart and you’ll be amazed at how blessed you feel.