Reading and Writing

What is it about a day spent reading that leads into a night spent writing?

There seems to be some basic need of a reader to continue the joy found in reading by contributing words, thoughts, stories of their own. Yet when sat in front of a blank sheet of paper (digital or lined), the words scatter, the thoughts escape, and the stories seem too far out of reach or too silly to commit to after all.

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Unseen Academicals

Currently Reading: Unseen Academicals

Author: Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fiction/Humour/Fantasy

We are moving, so most of my spare time is imagining where books, pans, etc. will go in my new home while packing them into boxes haphazardly. Luckily, my knee has been out of commission, meaning that I am unable to do much more than sit with my knee elevated and a book in my hand. Getting me through this pain and idle period has been Unseen Academicals, another Terry Pratchett humour fantasy.

Sadly, this is about soccer/football. Given this is my favourite past time, I feel a little like I have chosen badly. I read for a bit, try to stand, realise my knee still hurts, and return to reading. I just want to kick the ball around for a bit! Once I overcome my pathetic and very real self-pity over this knee injury, I find I really enjoy this book.

Terry Pratchett’s wit is so subtle that it can be missed if one skims, rather than absorbs, the text. When you take your time to let the text wash over you, you will find you are reading a rather scathing satire of sports fans, fashion, and university rivalries. At times you are reading a very bitter social commentary disguised as a small quip against the established ways of thinking. At other times you are reading a novel about non sports fans learning football. At all times, you are reading an enjoyable novel written by one of the best fantasy humour authors to have written.

If you want a quick, fun, yet meaningful satire, I recommend any Pratchett novel. (Maybe not The Colour of Magic, but even Terry didn’t recommend starting with that one.) This novel falls in line with what is expected from a good Pratchett novel, which is like saying “this earl grey falls in line with what is expected from a Twinnings earl grey; perfection, served at the right temperature, no sugar, no honey, and a splash of milk.” That is to say, Pratchett is a wonderful read, every time. And, even more enjoyable with a good cuppa.

-A Bookish Girl

Book Hoarder?

I have a lot of books on kindle that I have yet to read. I have a pile of books in my bedside table that I have not yet read. And, I keep obtaining more books. I receive the BookBub and the Booklover’s List of free to $1.99 ebooks daily, and purchase many of the free ones. I go to Barnes and Noble to get out of the house, and typically end up with a book or two.

We just bought a house and are moving in the next week. I packed up my reading room (soon to be updated to full library!) a couple weeks ago. Since packing all the books and resolving to catch up on my unread kindle books, I have somehow obtained an entire box of new books. Many of which I have read in the interim – so they will being going from box to shelf. It is not a practical system. I do feel a bit of shame that I have so many books. Our reading room accounts for over 50% of the boxes we have for this move.

Does any one else struggle with this? Do you think your books account for a majority of your belongings? Or should I be concerned about my possibly hoarding habit?

-A Bookish Girl

Quiet

Currently Reading: Quiet

Author: Susan Cain

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Research

Susan Cain writes a thoroughly researched, yet charming book about the strengths of introversion in a loud world. If you are an introvert struggling to fit in or trying to better understand your needs, this is a great read. If you are an extrovert with an introverted child or loved one, I would strongly recommend you read this book.

As an introvert in a corporate environment and an academic environment that loves group-think and group work, I often feel exhausted after a working day. I come home and to unwind pour a bourbon, play a show or song that I am familiar with, and begin to cook. I am not a fan of a bourbon a day or the feeling that I am so wound up I need a release. I blamed this discontent feeling, this need to recentre and rebalance on a job that I am not thrilled or excited about doing. Reading Cain’s novel helped me realise that I am wound up because my very open office plan – with less than fifty square feet of workspace and dividers so low that I can see the entire desk of the eight people around me – may be a cause of my discontent.

But, I am an engineer. Though I may agree with an idea, I never believe it until I have tested it for myself. I went to work, armed with Cain’s advice, and sceptical that small changes would make me enjoy working – or at least feel less like I need a drink.

  1. I got to work early. I am not a morning person, but I knew the office would be a ghost town. I wanted to see how I would feel about the office without the crowd. Oddly, I actually began to get work started and felt somewhat engaged. I didn’t have any new work, I just was able to get focused and started on the job I have had sitting on my desk for a few days. I got it done in just a couple hours.
  2. I found solitude. In a way. This took a few tries to nail down just right. I have tried several times to drown out the noise around me with headphones. I played classical music loud enough to drown out the noise around me. This often resulted in a major headache or just a quicker withdraw of energy.

    In this novel, Cain mentions a study that showed that introverts performed worse when music was too loud. I realised that maybe the volume should not be so loud that the noise around me was completely covered by my music, but should be at a volume I was naturally comfortable listening to before background noise was introduced.

    This actually worked! I can hear those around me, but it is not overwhelming and my music isn’t so loud that I get a headache or feel drained. Instead, I am able to hear my own thoughts and enter my own realm of thinking and working.

  3. I sought out moments. I call them moments, these are the times I completely separate from the office. After I have just gotten out of a big meeting, had to do a lot of work with a group of people, or have had to work with someone who completely drains me of any energy, I find my ability to work is laughable. If I try to sit at my desk, I will fall victim to web surfing and probably end up with another book ordered from Amazon. So when I feel my energy slipping away and the tension beginning to tighten up, I go outside. Once out of the confines of the office, I meditate for five to ten minutes. (I felt bad about this at first, but I am doing it less often and for less time than the smoke breaks of my co-workers, so it evens out.)

I have felt so much better adopting these very, very simple strategies at work. They are things that I naturally wanted to do but did not really know why. Quiet helped me understand myself, accept that I do have to work differently than those around me, and to feel confident in working in a way that allows me to flourish.

-A Bookish Girl