Battle of the TBR: My Book Buying Ban

So, as of today, after going through every book in the house that wasn’t my boyfriends (and some that were that I want to read eventually), I have 95 books on my physical TBR. 95. That’s actually insane. This is also not counting some books I’m waiting on from a book-swap, which will take the total to 102.

I argue it’s because I love books. I love shiny new hardbacks of recent releases, I love battered paperbacks from charity shops, I love a cart full of 1p secondhand titles on Amazon, I love buying books as a treat, buying them when I’m sad, buying books recommended by friends, and stocking up on a new author I’ve discovered.

But it’s ridiculous. I keep buying books faster than I can read them – and I read them fast. And the sad thing is that I hardly even feel excited about them anymore – books that I was so desperate to buy now sit forgotten on my shelf as I bring more and more into the house. I needed an intervention, and since all bookish areas of social media are filled with adverts, promos, reviews, and endless jokes about people not controlling themselves in bookshops, the intervention needed to come from me.

So here it is – I will stop buying books. Period. Until my TBR is down to 10 books (which I feel is a reasonable number to have waiting in the wings for my attention) I will not be buying books. There will, of course, be some exceptions: books from author events (I have one that I’ve already bought a ticket for in July), gifts, and book swaps (just because I’d rather trade with someone than donate them to somewhere they might never made it onto the shelves).

Given that I read anywhere from 50-70 books a year when I’m studying, it’ll take me around 2 years to get through it – not including any gifts and swaps, of course, which will make it even longer to get through.

I’ll try and do a monthly update on how I’m doing, which books I’ve received from my rule exception, and how I’ve felt going through backlist books rather than newer (more exciting?) ones.

Have any of you been on a book buying ban before? How did it go?

Hygge + Happiness: Books About Denmark

As I’m sure anyone who has wondered into a bookshop recently will know (or reads any lifestyle blogs, for that matter), almost every middle-class Brit is talking about Denmark and hygge – myself included.

Over the last few months publishers have been capitalising on the trend, with literal stacks of titles sporting the buzzword, offering cosiness and happiness and an idillic lifestyle in our very own England. Although I don’t see a few blankets and candles as a fix all for 21st century blues, I wanted to share two books I’ve really enjoyed on the subject, and the lessons that I’ve taken from them.

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The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

This first book is a memoir-cum-cultural profile, written by a British lifestyle journalist who moves to Denmark with her husband when he is offered a job with Lego. The chapters are split into a month-by-month basis, with each section titled by a uniquely Danish cultural phenomenon. Her chapter on hygge appears fairly early in the book, but the ideas and the word itself appear frequently throughout her first year of living in abroad. She openly talks about what she thinks works culturally (and the things she thinks don’t) and the difficultly she faced as an outsider, but overall the book is a lighthearted and well researched peek into day to day life in Denmark.

What Russell emphasises as being the biggest impact on her personal happiness is the balance between work and home. In Denmark, the day finishes far earlier, and clubs, childcare, and family time seem to be built into everyone’s week. Although things such as family time, and time doing activities like walks, cycling, reading, or cooking all come under the heading of ‘hygge’, the shorter work days and government assistance are something country specific. Russell frequently theorises that it is the combination of personal choice and public policy that results in such reportedly high levels of happiness in Danes, and that short of actually moving to Denmark some aspects of life are not easily replicated elsewhere. However, she does argue that adjusting mindset and priorities are key in happiness at work, home, and with your own happiness, making sure that time is taken to spend time with loved ones, eat good food, and take life a little slower.

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Buy it here.

 

The Little Book of Hygge – Meik Wiking

Although this little book is also non-fiction, it couldn’t be more different in its approach. Written by a Dane, Wiking attempts to give a comprehensive guide on exactly hygge is, why it is important, and how to achieve it in every aspect of life. This volume is chock full of gorgeous photos, recipes, DIY projects, and even clothing tips.

After my first cover-to-cover read through of this book, I’ve so often gone back to it in times where I’ve needed a little pick me up. The tips Wiking gives range from the lifestyle altering to the most basic, so whenever I’m in need of a cosy break from the day to day, there always seems to be something that I can implement immediately.

 

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Buy it here.

What are your thoughts on the hygge trend? Let me know down in the comments!

Why I stopped rating books on Goodreads

About halfway through this year I stopped giving books starred reviews when I marked them as read on Goodreads. Although I still find the website a useful tool for keeping track of what I’ve been reading (plus I find the yearly reading challenges great motivation for me to get off Tumblr and get reading), I find the rating system really unhelpful in categorising what I’ve read.

 

I almost always think a book is great once I’ve read it

Before the elation of finally finishing a book has worn off, I’m always inclined to give it 4 or 5 stars as I mark it as ‘read’. Usually, within a few days my opinion of the book as a whole is properly formed, and it may be that I didn’t actually find it that engaging, or I realised some elements or characters were problematic.

 

It’s not always that simple

It also happens quite often that my enjoyment of the book was very high, despite me knowing that it wasn’t well written, was problematic, was cliche, etc. By giving it either a high or a low rating based on these things I’d have to ignore another element of the book, and I really don’t have time to rate a book and to justify it, or to explain that I understand why it may not be a ‘good’ book even though I’ve given it 5 stars, nor, do I think, should I have to.

 

It makes reading seem like a chore

Feeling like I had to think about a rating for a book once I’d put it down straight away was something that played on my mind all the way through reading it, and not rating one book but then rating another made me feel stressed and as though I’d been neglecting a responsibility. By deciding not to rate anything on the account I made my reading experience much less stressful, and it meant I wasn’t rushing to form an opinion on anything that I’d read.

 

Do any of you rate books on Goodreads? Do you find it helpful?

Consumerism in the Bookish Community

I’ve felt for a while, especially as someone who mainly interacts with the book blogging community through Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube, that there seems to be an overwhelming emphasis on the attainment, rather than the enjoyment, of books.

 

Although I appreciate a good shelfie as much as the next bookworm – especially as they work as fantastic inspiration for how to organise my cheap ikea shelves in increasingly creative ways – hauls, posts about spending ‘every last penny’ a month on new releases and crazy TBR piles are far more common than fan art, reviews, or even discussions (obviously this is just my own personal experience of the community, which I appreciate depends entirely on who I’m following. Although I do completely relate to an overwhelming need to obtain works of literature, and therefore end up with shelves upon shelves of unread novels, we seem as a group to be not only normalising this behaviour, but encouraging it – the true mark of the modern bookworm is the one that is excessively spending and collecting.

 

I also see a lot of positivity posts on Tumblr regarding bookworms that can’t afford the latest releases, or special editions, or that worship their local library. Although I think these are fantastic, and it’s important to make any community feel welcoming and accessible to people from all backgrounds and lifestyles, there is still a heavy emphasis on can’t. That these people can’t afford these habits, that they would given they had the opportunity to. What about those who don’t want to?

 

This kind of conspicuous consumption is also encouraged by societal assumptions, where the reading of books, and even literacy itself, has for centuries been viewed as an occupation of the cultured and the academic in most societies. Where a fashion blogger who owned 200 pairs of shoes that she hardly ever wore would probably be ridiculed by others outside of that community as vapid and as wasting money (note that I’m not saying this is an appropriate reaction, but that’s for another post), whereas a book blogger with 200 unread books is seen as completely normal and relatable, and likely as intelligent and worldly by someone outside of it.

 

I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of these actions myself – far from it. But when you’re fighting a battle to actually appreciate and make use of the things you already own or can borrow from the library, it’s difficult to fight that wasteful, consumerist urge when it’s seen as normal and enviable in your online circles.

 

I’d love to know everyone else’s thoughts on the matter, so please feel free to join in on this discussion!

How to Keep Reading on a Busy Schedule

 

Since coming to university, I was worried that I would lose the time to keep up with reading new releases and tackling my TBR on top of everything I needed to read for my classes, working a part time job, and just generally having more social commitments. What I’ve actually managed to do, however, is hugely increase the number of books I’m reading per year, despite having things booked in almost every day of the week. I thought it might be good to make a quick list of the things I’ve been doing to fit my main hobby into a busier lifestyle, and to maybe help some people who aren’t managing to get as much done as they’d like.

 

Read on Public Transport

Seriously, this where I get most of my reading done. Although since first year I don’t actually take the bus to university anymore (but when I did, even five minutes a day got me through a lot), I do still take the train to visit family and friends. Since I generally can’t get any internet on trains, and I’m surrounded by strangers rather than friends, it’s such a great, uninterrupted stretch of time where you can read in peace.

 

Listen to Audiobooks

Although I don’t do this as much, I know my boyfriend reads (listens?) to most of his books this way. Audiobooks are great instead of music on your walk to college/work/a friend’s house for pizza, and you can get through one in no time if you have it on whenever you’d normally listen to music. They’re also great for when you’re tidying or doing chores, because it means you’re actually doing something semi-fun when doing the dishes.

 

Take a Book Everywhere

Although I know most die-hard bookworms do this, carrying a book or an e-reader in your bag wherever you go really does come in handy. You never know when you’ll have ten minutes to kill while waiting for someone, or you may just get to a lecture early and want something to do other than endlessly scrolling through Tumblr on your phone. Cramming in a few pages in a break that only lasts a minute or two can still get you further through your current read.

 

Prioritise it

Even just making sure you take half an hour a day – maybe with breakfast, or before you go to bed – can be a great way to get a huge chunk of a book read, and it a great way to switch off and relax for a little bit. This generally will mean sacrificing a little time that you might otherwise spend watching Netflix or Facebook, but it almost always feels more productive. If you do read before bed, it’s actually better for your sleep pattern if you’re staring at a page rather than a screen; that is, as long as you don’t hit on a plot twist at midnight and have to keep reading.

 

Stay Active in the Community

I’ve found that since running a book blog, not only the number of books I’ve read has risen, but so has my motivation to read. Just by browsing a few blogs, joining Goodreads, or just having BookTubers on in the background really motivates me to shut off the computer and read afterwards. It’s also meant that I’ve met a lot of amazing bookish people that I can chat/fangirl/cry to about new books, or even find readalongs or readathons, giving you a set timeframe in which to read, with the bigger reward of being able to share it with other people who will get just as excited as you.

 

Hope you guys have found this helpful!

What ways do you keep on top of your TBR when you’re busy?

Easy to Read Classics

So, I basically love reading everything. Literally everything. YA, contemporary, mystery, thriller, non fiction, literary fiction – but my honest to God first love with books is classics.

Although when I’ve got a huge TBR to tackle I tend to stay with quick, easy books, most of them new releases, I have a few classics that I keep going back to and that are easy to understand and always keep me engaged.

 

Jane Eyre

This is hands down one of my favourite books of all time. I was about 11 when I first read it, and I was struck by how normal  Jane  was, and how raw her emotions were. Because the narrative starts off when Jane is still a child, the language is much simpler, and only becomes slightly more complex when she reaches adulthood. The characters are well defined, the story is dramatic and iconic, and the feminist MC makes this a book I can just fly through in a couple of sittings.

 

Sense and Sensibility

Although I do love Pride and Prejudice, this Austen work is one that I completely fell in love with when I read it a few years ago. As it’s slightly lesser known than P&P, the plot is more of a surprise than expected and has wonderfully sassy female leads. Austen generally is very easy to understand and read given the time period in which she was writing, but the stories and characters are still wonderfully complex and engaging.

 

The Picture of Dorian Grey

Basically the gayest book ever written, with a wonderfully conceited MC. The writing is beautiful and poetic, but Wilde never obscures his meaning with over flowery language, only adds to it. Although the text is more dense than some of the others on this list, the book is much shorter with (sometimes) better pacing.

 

1984

Although this is such an iconic book with a constantly referenced premise (Big Brother, anyone?), the plot is still thrilling and surprising, with succinct but well crafted prose. As it’s set in what designed to be a dystopian future, it’s so easy to get lost in the sinister society Orwell creates in this surprisingly short book.

 

Little Women

Despite being a fairly hefty book, because this novel is aimed at a younger audience the language and plot are a breeze to get through. I adored this book when I was still in primary and I adore it even more now; I immediately connected with all the sisters, and their first Christmas in the book is so pure and lovely that this is such an escapist book to me. What I love is that it’s not all twee, either – tragedy does strike, and the drama is so real and personal.