The Pleasure of Reading at Random

January 25, 2016

Since I decided not to participate in any reading challenges this year, I’ve been having so much fun! Instead of considering whether or not a book falls into any of my chosen challenge categories, I’m reading almost entirely at whim. Yes, I’m still reading from my own shelves—lest the books completely overtake my closet—but when a book catches my attention, sometimes I immediately request it from my library. Here’s a peek into what I’ve been reading since 2016 began:

Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss novels. I’ve finished Street of the Five Moons and I’m reading Trojan Gold. (I read Borrower of the Night and Silhouette in Scarlet last year.) Even though I know I’ve read these before, I don’t remember anything about them. I’m thoroughly enjoying Vicky’s adventures with that slippery character Sir John Smythe. 

Ngaio Marsh’s Death in Ecstasy. Last year, I bought a handful of Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn mysteries at my library’s bookstore. These vintage mysteries are a cut above the average—interesting plots and characters as well as some humor. I’m now developing a literary crush on Roderick Alleyn. 

Last week, I read about How to Blog a Book on Leanne Sowul’s blog. I picked it up from the library this morning, though I haven’t yet had time to open it.

The Cruelest Month is the third book in Louise Penny’s Three Pines series. I just discovered these books, and I’m loving them. Oh, to be enjoying the hospitality of Gabri and Olivier in the local bistro. 

How am I keeping track of all these series books? I just learned about from Danielle over at A Work in Progress. FictFact is free, and in addition to keeping track of your series reads, it can also help you with recommendations of other book series, help you connect with readers with similar tastes, and let you know when a new book in your series is about to be released. Sometimes it’s tricky to find out which book comes first, or next, in a series, and now I don’t have to rely on my memory to keep track of where I am in the ones I’m reading.

To round out the month, I borrowed two books that had been on my TBR list for ages: Bridget Jones’s Diary and Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Bridget was a hoot, and Beatrix Potter is fast becoming one of my heroes.

Even though I loved participating in reading challenges, I’m rediscovering how much simple pleasure can be had when I have no agenda, and no rules to follow. Now let’s see what that Vicky’s up to…

What have you been reading lately?

See what I mean about the books taking over? This is just one shelf.

Alexandra Johnson

Journaling Through Life--The Simple Pleasure of Keeping a Journal

May 15, 2015

You’re probably not surprised to learn that I keep a journal. (In my usual let’s-make-this-more-complicated-than-it-needs-to-be fashion, I actually have more than one type of journal, but that’s another story.) Journaling has accompanied me from high school to college, from my first full-time job, to getting married and moving cross-country to Florida—and beyond. There have been times when life kept me too busy or distracted for regular journal entries, and times when I wrote several pages every day.

The oldest journal I have (other than the pages I still have from my creative writing class) is from 1982, when I was a freshman in college. Part of that year I wrote in a battered black and white composition book, and part of the year I used a cloth-covered blank book. Those journal entries contain lots of exclamation points and underlining, and a palpable desire to grow up. I flipped through a couple of the journals pictured below, where I found entries from when I met the guy who was my “first love” and a brief mention of the first time I had a significant conversation with the girl who is still my best friend.  There were entries after we experienced a 6.1 earthquake, and after my husband asked me to marry him. (And plenty more, but I decided I needed to put down the journals and walk away or I might not be seen again. Reading old journal entries can be addictive.)

Choosing a journal or notebook and just the right pen is a source of pleasure as much as the actual writing. The best journals are just the right size and heft, but I’m also happy to use journals my friends give me, even if they aren’t quite ideal. Their love and thoughtfulness more than make up for any perceived imperfection in the book itself.

As a writer, I find my journals indispensable, but what about if you’re not a writer? Is there any value in keeping a journal? I think so. There are many reasons to keep a journal—as a way to remember important-to-you events, as a way to blow off steam, to clarify your thoughts, or to focus on something in particular (such as what you’re grateful for). Journals can be anything from a few lines written in a notebook now and then to a daily diary sort of document. You might keep a nature journal, an illustrated journal, a words-only journal, or something in between. As Alexandra Johnson wrote in Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal, “Keeping a journal is one of the few ways to remind oneself of life’s unnoticed gifts.” 

If you want to journal but don’t know where to start, you can always use those pristine pages to make lists, paste in ticket stubs, business cards, and other bits of daily life. You can examine questions like: how am I feeling? What do I want to accomplish today (this week, this year)? What do I like about myself? What would I like to change? Describe your surroundings, your family, your pets, yourself.

You can fill a journal with favorite quotes and bits of wisdom, record your dreams, write down your family history. Or treat it like a scratch pad, as author and photographer Karen Walrond does, and jot down phone messages, ideas, grocery lists, whatever you need to record during the day. Click here for a list of journal-keeping ideas.   (And if I haven’t convinced you, click here to read Leanne Sowul’s “Ten Ways Journaling Can Make Your Life Better.”) 

My journals have been friends to me, absorbing grief, anger, elation, and joy as need be. They contain my story, even if no one but me ever reads it. Memory can be false, but journals can reveal the truth (for instance, I don’t remember staying up until the wee hours on a regular basis when I was my son’s age, but my journals from that time reveal that I often did!). Writing things down helps me work through what I really think, before those thoughts get unleashed on the world, if they ever do. Journaling through life has made it that much deeper and sweeter—and happier.

If you keep a journal, what type is it? Do you ever go back to reread it? What have you learned from keeping it?

Hobby Club

Link Love the Twelfth

February 27, 2015

Happy Friday! You know what that means: the weekend is almost here. Time to play! If it’s too cold to play outside, or you just feel like playing online instead, here’s a dose of Link Love. Enjoy!

If you don’t have much time to practice your passion, you need to make that practice smarter. Leanne Sowul’s guest post “5 Ways to Practice Smarter When You Don’t Have Much Time to Practice” explains how.  I used several of these principles during my recent 31-Days-of-Sketching experiment

This old (2013) post on Raptitude contains some solid common sense. But like David, I don’t always live what I know. I’m looking at you, number 10. For even more common sense advice, click here

Leo Babauta consistently posts thoughtful and well-written pieces on Zen Habits. Two of my recent favorites: “Getting Lost in Just Doing” and “An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit.”

“Busyness is a lie that will break you.” So much to love about this post.

I already have too many hobbies, but I know people who are looking for something new to try. If you’re one of them, check out Hobby Club.  Every month, you’ll get to try something new, and the cost is only $12 for the entire year!

Meerkat cam

I love this video for one of my favorite songs, Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.”