A deluge of paper

One of the single greatest pleasures of my adulthood has to be the means to give in and embrace wholeheartedly my love of the printed word. My addiction doesn’t stop, though, with books. I am also an unreptentant lover of magazines and the last few years have seen an exponential increase in the number of subscriptions that make their way into our house. Some days I feel as though my household alone is keeping the magazine industry alive and well. Lest you think I exaggerate, shall I confess to the subscriptions that flood this house?

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for our news fix:
Macleans
Time

to keep us in the know locally:
Toronto Life

for all things food:
Canadian Living

for our entertainment updates:
Entertainment Weekly

for long form journalism:
Vanity Fair (incidentally, this is also my longest subscription, as I’ve had this consistently since my last year of high school)
The Walrus
The Atlantic
The New Yorker

for Little Girl:
Chirp
American Girl Magazine

I think the tipping point from solid subscriber into extreme paper fanatic may have come with The New Yorker subscription, a recent addition to the stable of subscriptions that march their way into the house, and which I previously had in digital-only form. I just couldn’t stop myself when the offer came in for the paper version and the digital version. The New Yorker was always the magazine I longed for but could never justify financially and I must say it’s been pretty exciting opening my mailbox and finding it waiting for me each week.

Until very recently I was incredibly uptight about reading a magazine from beginning to end. I was never one of those people who would flip through wildly, jumping from article to article. Instead, I would read diligently from cover to cover – every article, every blurb. As you can guess, this led to a certain degree of stress as more issues arrived. Yes, this meant I would end up reading on topics that I might not have ever come across, but inevitably I would find myself slogging through an article just to finish it. Hardly a good reason to finish something and a waste of valuable reading time. Recently though I’ve finally come to an epiphany that I don’t have to read every single article. If something doesn’t appeal to me and isn’t engaging I can indeed skip to the next article. A revelation! I’m sure you’re laughing, but for me (a rather uptight, obsessive compulsive individual when it comes to things like this) this has been life altering. As long as I’m reading the majority of the magazine, most of the time, and I’m enjoying what I read, then I’m getting the value out of it.

This revelation has actually extended to other parts of my reading life. Lately, I’ve been freer in giving myself permission to drop a book – to not merely put it aside and then slog through it later, but to put aside forever. As I get older I am realizing that there are just too many books, and too many good books to waste time on those that don’t hold my interest.

That’s my confession. A staggering amount of paper that works it’s way into my house weekly and monthly in addition to books (oh, and those pesky one-off magazines I also read). (I do want to note that most of my magazines do see a second life elsewhere as I pass them along before they are recycled. I did try to move to a digital-only existence, and that is how we read The Economist, but while I love magazines on the iPad there are times when the paper version is just better.) So what magazines do you read? Are you a subscription addict? How many is too many?

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Returning…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to come back to this space. It’s been a long time. A quick glance at the last post says it was oh… nearly two years ago. ::faints:: That’s a lifetime out here on the internet. But life, it intervenes, you know? In the last two years we’ve moved twice. I started working again after a long absence raising Little Girl (who, it must be said, is now a whopping FIVE years old. How did that happen?) Speaking of, Little Girl has a lot more activities, playdates and other adventures to go on, as her world expands – adventures that take us away from home and reading.

And yet every year when the renewal notice comes for this domain name, I faithfully plunk down my money. I like to think it isn’t just wishful thinking, that I’m not tossing my money away. I want to believe I can find a way to come back here – to find the time to write meaningfully about books and publishing and writing. During this rather extended blogging break I’ve come to the realization that to do so I have to find a happy medium here. In my internet wanderings I have found (in my own opinion, of course) far too many book “review” blogs that can hardly be said to review anything. The short blurbs that are written are barely more than summaries of the book with the odd “I liked” or grade thrown in for good measure. I can’t in good conscience waste my time (or the handful of readers that may stop by here) with that type of review. But by the same token, I cannot continue to write the intensive, multi-page, meandering reviews that I used to write. I simply don’t have the time, and I’m not surr many have the inclination to read them.

And so I need to find some sort of balance. Because here’s the thing… I really do love to read. I love sharing and discussing and arguing over books and articles and publishing and literary scandals and whatever book-ish things are the topic of the day. What better place to do that then with a whole internet of fellow readers?

I believe that this space may evolve as I see where is goes. I also love magazines and long form journalism and online read-alongs and want to find a way to incorporate those interests.

Stay tuned and we’ll see where this goes,

Library love

Most of my life, up to and including the days of university, I took most of the books I read out of the library because I just couldn’t afford to do otherwise. Then, as life became busier I found I was returning more and more of those books late and spending a small fortune on late fees. The cost of those fines, combined with my desire to have those books on my bookshelf, led me to think perhaps I should just own the book. Solves both problems, right?

A small sampling

The problem is that I became an incurable book buyer. (Also, I have worked at two publishing houses – one as an intern, and one as part of my career.) Because of this, I now have many bookshelves that are (over)stuffed with books. If I add up what I’ve spent on books – well, it gets a wee bit frightening. Something about putting a child through college. Between the money spent on books, and the lack of shelf space (and the possibility of needing to reinforce the floor with steel beams to support the extra weight), I realized I needed to make a change.

So last year I committed to re-engaging with the library. I started slowly, using the library in my home town. Then I discovered that the library in my home town really wasn’t very useful, such as only carrying the third book in a series. After a quick review of the policies, I found to my delight that I was still entitled to a Toronto Public Library membership. I renewed my membership, and I’ve been happily taking out books since.

Right now I have quite the haul. Some of the titles I currently have out are:

  • The Abstinence Teacher – Tom Perrotta
  • The Story of a Widow – Musharraf Ali Farooqi
  • Nikolski – Nicolas Dickner
  • Lauchlin of the Bad Heart – D. R. MacDonald
  • Secrets to Happiness – Sarah Dunn
  • Good to a Fault – Marina Endicott
  • The Origin of Species – Nino Ricci
  • The Great Karoo – Fred Stenson
  • The Outlander – Gil Adamson
  • Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese
  • Traveling with Pomegranates – Sue Monk Kidd, Ann Kidd Taylor
  • The Sister – Poppy Adams

(Clearly, I’m on a Can-lit kick.)

One of the things I’ve been enjoying most about the library is the lack of guilt I now feel if I choose not to finish a book. I started The Sister by Poppy Adams, a sort-of gothic novel of two sisters, and found I wasn’t enjoying it one bit. Thirty pages later and back in the bag it goes. No need to finish the book out of a sense of obligation to the money I’ve spent on it. No shelf space sacrificed to a less-than-deserving book. No guilt at all.

It’s also solving the dilemma I have frequently faced with books that I want to read but know up front that I’ll likely never read again, such as Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn. Now I happily borrow those books, I revel in the fluff, and I don’t give a moment’s worry to precious shelf space lost.

Then there is the simple variety of books I can take out of the library. Where I might feel guilt about buying three books in a single day, with the library I can take out five, even ten books in a single day without batting an eye. For the insatiable book lover, who needs books as much as she needs air, and wants to surround herself in books, this is a very good thing indeed.

However, where I run into difficulties is with those books that I read and love – for example, Galore was a library book. Do I go and buy a copy for home? How do I now justify spending the money on a book I’ve already read? What do others do? Oh, the dilemma!

I haven’t entirely cured my book-buying (although, I haven’t purchased a book since December. A record in recent years!) but I’m definitely a recovering addict. I still return books late to the library, but even there I have become a little more diligent. And the fines are a small price indeed, for the company of those many books.