11 February 2014


I'm going through one of those times in life when I'm being faced with a bazillion important decisions that need to be made and it feels like they need to be made right. now. Life feels very turbulent and chaotic, and yet ironically, life in this little apartment feels boring and mundane. I don't know which way we're supposed to go and sometimes I don't even feel like I know how to figure it out. A few insightful moments this past week have me feeling hopefully and giving me a hint of direction. Usually I like to obsess, analyze, research, and plan when I feel this way, but today I'm making a point to focus on the little things: new pink sparkly nail polish, my husband's kiss when he left for work this morning, a good hair day, when Abigail put on a bracelet and searched me out to show me and say, "pretty!" And so today I'm blogging about books. Simple, distracting books.

Matt and I are both big into books. We were both raised in households that encouraged reading and made books readily available. I loved reading so much so that I majored in English (Lit) in college, even though I didn't have an end job in mind for my degree. When we got married, our combined libraries totaled about three shelves and our first book wall was made:

Our books in our first apartment together back in 2008. Ah, the shelves look so empty!

We were a pair of newlywed, book-loving, DINKS, and walking into a bookstore together was like two heroin addicts on payday. We encouraged and enabled each other's addictions. We got excited about each other's book purchases. We bought books and read books and talked about books. We Googled pictures of home libraries and dreamed of what ours would look like.

When we moved to Florida for law school in 2009, we sorted through our collection and left a good chunk in my parents' basement. The rest were packed up into banker's boxes and paper boxes (the two ideal book-moving boxes), and hauled them down to Florida.

Each time we moved, we'd go through our collection, donating books we didn't really like or had no interest in reading, but more books were coming in than going out, so our library kept growing.

From our Florida apartment after Abigail was born - 2011.

After we had Abigail and only a very part-time income, we cut back on our spending, but book-buying was always our weakness. One Christmas, I bought all the books on Matt's Amazon wishlist that were used for less than $1, many of those only $.01. Even with a $50 budget, you can get a lot of books when you're basically only paying the $4 cost of shipping.

Our biggest book dump was when we moved from Chicago back to Michigan last summer. We found a used book store that paid decently for used books and our book collection had grown the point that we barely had space to hold them all.

The library in Chicago in 2013. That built-in was very wide, we estimate that it held almost an entire bookcase worth of books.

When we arrived back in our home state, we pulled most of the books out of my parents' basement (leaving only our kid books - Matt's Hardy Boys and my Thoroughbred series, that sort of thing). The new library collection required a 4th bookcase. We also have a small two-shelf case that holds my cookbooks, craft books, and parenting books that isn't pictured below.

This picture was taken today.

So with parents like us, is it any surprise that Abigail likes books? We read books together almost every single day, books are a part of the naptime and bedtime routines, and she gets new books for almost every single holiday. While we obviously supply her with board books, the girl is not prejudice. She loves skimming through novels off our bookshelves. She'll pull off Robinson Crusoe or Atonement or a Michener or anything else on the shelves she can reach and just sit on the floor pointing to the words.

Photo from early fall in Chicago in 2013.

Ever since Abigail could hold her own head up, I've been reading books with her. Her therapists noted early on that Abigail looked at books from left to right and top to bottom before most typically developing kids. A child with Ds doing something ahead of a typically developing child is incredibly rare.

Abigail's personal collection holds about 60 books that she has free access to.

We also have about a dozen "special books" (ie, picture books) that she reads with adult supervision.

After I took the above pictures, I pulled out Abigail's current favorites. A few were scattered around the apartment, but these are most of the ones we read on a daily basis:

I love that she loves her Bible!

I personally don't have a favorite book or author. My favorite genre is "classics" (ie, stuff by dead white guys), but I do branch out and read more modern stuff when the mood strikes me. I'm known to go on author kicks (most recently I was on a Hemingway kick) or get cravings for certain themes (most recently I had a craving for post-British de-colonization of Africa).

My Vonnegut collection from my Vonnegut kick in high school.

Oddly (embarrassingly?) enough, I actually have a really bad memory for books I've read. I can't remember the plots or main characters in books I read only a month ago. I can recall general themes and whether I liked the book, but that's about it. It's wildly frustrating. I'm actually worse with movies, to the point that I often don't remember that I've even seen a movie only six months later. Despite my crappy book memory, I still try to read two books per month minimum.

There is one major point on which Matt and I differ when it comes to our books: he likes quality, I like quantity. I love a good Bantam or Signet classic.

I can pick out a good Bantam or Signet from an aisle away - the books are always short in height, the pages cheap, the typeface heavy, and they have the same exciting smell. I see a Bantam and I smile. Why? They are dirt freakin' cheap! I see a Signet and I think, "Wow - I can get a 1200 pages of literature for only $7!"

To me a way-awesome shopping trip is walking into a bookstore with a $10 bill in my pocket and walking out with enough book to keep me busy for weeks a few dollars leftover to treat myself to a coffeeshop mocha to toast the opening chapter.

So what does Matt have against my Bantams? Take a look for yourself.

Sick-tight bindings, tiny margins, cheap pages, and heavy typeface. I think it gives him a headache every time he thinks about my Signets. Fortunately for Matt, he doesn't read my dead white guys, and these publishers typically only do classics. Unfortunately for him, he reads primarily non-fiction which usually comes with a steeper price tag. But when we does read novels, I steer him toward a Modern Library or a Scribner. More expensive in price, but way easier on the eyes. And actually, Barnes and Noble (Borders used to too) carries two different lines of store-brand books, but the slightly more expensive one is still very reasonably priced and just as good in terms of readability as the more expensive ones.

Well, if you are still reading this post, I thank you. Talking about something light and easy and fun has been a much-needed break for me. I show my gratitude with a series of cute Chica book-pics:

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