June 30, 2014

Let's enter the library by reading about it!

As I watch my piles of unread books diminish and considering my soft spot for everything book-shaped that isn't fiction, I found myself pondering in which direction my reading journey should take me next.

Books. Why not start at the beginning? Or maybe we shall skip the whole delivery-room scenario of giving birth to fat and heavy tomes *ouch* and focus on the time when those wee little picture books have finally grown up and moved out. Where do books go from there? Except for our own bookshelves, obviously. Into libraries. A somewhat crowded yet good home. Given how my town seriously lacks a decent one and commuting all the way to Vienna isn't all that appealing to me, I let my mind wander. Sort of taking a bookish kind of long-distance trip to far away lands, if you will. I've read books about books, but strangely I've never read about libraries. So I did a little research aka browsing on Goodreads and found quite a number of interesting reads, some of which making themselves at home on my wishlist ...

The Library: An Illustrated History (Stuart A.P. Murray and Stuart Murray)
The Library Book (Alan Bennett et al)
Library: An Unquiet History (Matthew Battles)
Libraries (Candida Höfer)

Have you read any of these books and if so, how did you like them? Maybe there are non-fiction reads you'd like to add to the ones above? Please share.

June 27, 2014

Non-Fiction That Separates Fact From Fakery

Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It's True? (Charles Seife)
June 26th 2014, Viking Adult

The bestselling author of Proofiness and Zero explains how to separate fact from fantasy in the digital world.
Digital information is a powerful tool that spreads unbelievably rapidly, infects all corners of society, and is all but impossible to control—even when that information is actually a lie. In Virtual Unreality, Charles Seife uses the skepticism, wit, and sharp facility for analysis that captivated readers in Proofiness and Zero to take us deep into the Internet information jungle and cut a path through the trickery, fakery, and cyber skullduggery that the online world enables.

Taking on everything from breaking news coverage and online dating to program trading and that eccentric and unreliable source that is Wikipedia, Seife arms his readers with actual tools—or weapons—for discerning truth from fiction online.

June 23, 2014

Twinkle twinkle little review star!

Reviews. We read them, we ignore them, we get into heated discussions over them. But no matter how your own stance on book reviews may be, rest assured that there will always be someone else who will whole-heatedly disagree with you. Thus I felt it's time to share with you my personal TOP FIVE review-related observations and insights which I've acquired over the past few years of book blogging ...

If someone loves (or loathes, for that matter) every single book they read, I recommend to take their reviews with a grain of salt.

Judging a book merely by the stars it received is plain superficial. I suggest to read the review and ignore the rating.

Free books for bloggers do not translate into dishonest reviews. Exceptions to the rule are few and far between.

Whether a review should be short or long is entirely up to the reviewer and a matter of personal taste. It's about the content, not the word count.

It is not ok to affront or attack someone when their views on a book collide with your own opinion. We can't all be of one mind, so live and let live.

What's your take on my reviewing wisdoms? Anything you'd like to add? Please share.

June 21, 2014

Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop (Open WW)

Welcome to the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop (June 21st - June 30th)

What's the best way to start into summer? Solving crimes the bookish way, of course. Cozy mysteries being one of my favorite genres, I've decided to give away one of the following books to a lucky winner.

A Killer Read (Erika Chase)
Buried in a Book (Lucy Arlington)
The Christie Curse (Victoria Abbott)
Please note: This giveaway is open worldwide, but only for countries TBD offers free shipping to - please check here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

June 20, 2014

Non-Fiction Circles Of The Infernal Afterlife

Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment (Jon M. Sweeney)
June 17th 2014, Jericho Books

Hell: The word means terror, darkness, and eternal separation from God. Some people think the Bible is clear about hell, but what if they’re mistaken?
With gripping narrative and solid scholarship, Sweeney charts hell’s “evolution” from the Old Testament underworld Sheol, through history and literature, to the greatest influencer of all: Dante’s Inferno. He reveals how the modern idea of hell is based mostly on Dante’s imaginative genius-but in the process, he offers a more constructive understanding of the afterlife than ever before.
Disturbing and enthralling, Sweeney will forever alter what we think happens to us after we die-and more importantly, he will make us reconsider how we live.

June 18, 2014

Does sci-fi run in your blood too?

Science fiction might not be everybody's cup of tea though I'd wager that some of you have read books in this genre. Let's find out, shall we?

Here's my painfully awful (or maybe this should be, awfully painful) result ...

Words fail me and let me just hang my head in shame for good measure. This result is pathetic, especially considering how much I love the genre. To be fair though, I did not include books I started but never finished like, say, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In some cases I simply haven't read the particular book included by a certain author, but another one not listed. And last but not least, there's the slight chance I read books mentioned, but I just don't remember (getting old isn't pretty). Of course that won't exactly bump my result to the next level, but it does lift my spirit, somewhat.

Are you a science fiction fan? How many of the books have you read?

June 16, 2014

Why you shouldn't take books with you on vacation!

Some folks like to do it, others not so much. Reading while on vacation. Most people are shocked when they find out that I'm of the latter persuasion, never taking a book (not to mention books, plural) with me when I travel abroad. Seriously. Never. Ever.

Let's not dwell on the fact that there are legitimate reasons for having reading material handy while travelling. Just think about passing time on airports and some such (I suggest you try people watching instead). Equally I'm not going to frown in case anyone's idea of surviving a long flight is by sticking their nose into a book (I propose doing crosswords and pestering everyone sitting in your vicinity to help you out if you can't guess right). Of course the journey to and from your travel destination isn't what this is about. It's about what lies between.

So you booked a trip to, say, the Peruvian Andes or maybe Rome. What will you pack? Passport, money, camera, sunscreen, change of clothes, the usual suspects. Books? Now here's where things get interesting. Being an avid reader you will probably wonder why anyone would refrain from stuffing reading material into your luggage. So let's for a moment forget about the more obvious downsides of hauling books along on your next vacation to far away lands. You certainly know the ones. Heavy suitcase. Books (or worse, Kindle) damaged by salt-water. The necessity of barf bags, because the bus that takes you up meandering roads from the airport to your final destination makes your stomach a little queasy. These are just minor considerations though. Ultimately there really is only one reason why you should consider leaving your books on their shelves when you travel. You read that right. One reason only.

If you get on one of those painfully long flights half way around the globe to explore ancient ruins, climb picturesque mountains or visit exotic places on distant shores, you might want to use every minute of your vacation doing that instead of hiding behind a book (which you could have done a lot cheaper if you had stayed at home in the first place). I recommend to enjoy the view and you might want to take Augustine of Hippo's quote to heart - The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page - and let your journey be the only book you need while travelling! If you still find the strength to read a couple pages before going to sleep after a long day of being out and about, you're doing something wrong. Exhilarating exhaustion is what you should be aiming for, not bedtime stories.

Afterthought. Maybe I'm simply too adventurous of a traveler to appreciate some leisure time in between exploring ancient ruins and discovering quaint little shops. Apparently I have no talent for sitting still when I'm travelling. Then again, that's not quite true. I rather enjoy sitting on a tree stump, breathing in the fragrant air while enjoying the magnificent vista over a National Forest as much as basking in the late afternoon light in front of a seaside cafe while nibbling on some local delicacies.

And when I finally return back home I can only hope my books didn't destroy my favorite pair of shoes or, pardon my French, shat on my pillow.

Are you taking books with you when travelling? If so, have you ever considered leaving them at home? Or maybe you're more like me and don't read while travelling either? Please share.

June 13, 2014

Non-Fiction Filled With Light Switch Moments

Light Bulb Moments: 75 Lessons for Everyday Living (Talayah G. Stovall)
June 9th 2014, Hay House

"Have you ever had one of those experiences when the light bulb just went off? You thought to yourself, 'Now, I get it! That was the lesson I was supposed to learn in all of this!'" Light Bulb Moments is a collection of 75 lessons learned through everyday life.
In each chapter, author, life purpose coach and speaker Talayah Stovall shares personal stories and anecdotes to help guide us through life's ups and downs. Discovering your purpose and passion; developing persistence, hope, patience, faith and forgiveness; setting clear and actionable goals for the future; and understanding the value of friendship and love are among the many treasures found in this wise little book.
Key messages include:
• Your passion can become your livelihood
• Successful people often fail their way to success
• Whatever you don't control, controls you
• Distinguish between your goals and your wishes or dreams
Lighthearted, warm and compassionate, Light Bulb Moments will inspire you to pursue your greatness and create a vision for your life as you want it to be.

June 11, 2014

Quote Garden - I am too fond of reading books to care to write them ...

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

I write because it gives me the greatest possible artistic pleasure to write. If my work pleases the few I am gratified. As for the mob, I have no desire to be a popular novelist. It is far too easy.

A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets make a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.

In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

Oscar Wilde

June 9, 2014

It's a topsy-turvy book-buying-world!

Just a couple days ago a thought breezed in through the open windows which, a few years back, would have been considered both sacrilegious and ludicrous by yours truly. Now I welcome it with open arms and plan to nourish it, because I feel it is time for me to move from what was formerly known as book-hoarding-until-my-downstairs-neighbor's-ceiling-starts-sagging method to a more simplified way of book accumulation. But let's start at the beginning ...

Before I even owned an eReader the very idea of ever buying one felt quite unnecessary to me. Sure, it had that whole futuristic Start Trek gadget vibe working for it, but bottom line was that I saw myself as a bastion of tradition. That tradition, obviously, included the good old dead-tree-variety of reading material. Then stuff happened. Book blogging mainly. And inevitably my will lost a game of poker with my curiosity and I purchased my very first eReading device. That historical event took place a bit over three years ago and was mainly influenced by the fact that reading eGalleys on the computer screen sucked big time. What can I say? I slowly grew a liking to that little battery-powered toy and roughly a year later I was lured in by the Kindle. It made me neglect my old eReader over night. It was sleek and fast and have I mentioned yet all those amazing eBook deals on Amazon?

So the spell had been broken. Or rather my decision to read the printed word the way it had been done for centuries, by flipping papery pages, underwent some revision. Of course, at first I read both kind of books, but slowly I noticed that I read a lot more of what I had downloaded on my Kindle than diminishing the unread book stacks which had started to accumulate even more dust now than ever. This tells you a lot about how much I loathe household chores as well as where my loyalties have apparently shifted to over night. Some years back I would have scoffed at the very idea, now I've decided to even kick the formerly thrifty used-book-buying to the curb and resort to feeding my Kindle instead.

Some of you might wonder why and frankly, it's quite simple. Space. I've grown averse to cluttered spaces and as wonderful as bookshelves with pretty book spines may be, once you start cramming books into boxes, storing them in every available space in the apartment, the whole bookish ambiance suffers. Cost. Being quite the frugal reader I've mostly bought used books through AwesomeBooks in recent years. Now that they've cancelled free shipping for international orders the average price of a book almost equals what you'd pay for the eBook. Convenience. Downloading an eBook takes mere seconds. And reselling English books is the drag where I live. No one seems to want them, not even for a buck a piece.

From here on out I shall (mostly, anyway) buy eBooks. Who would have thought I'd ever end up a proponent of no-tree-died-for-that books? That makes me wonder whether I should add environmental friendly to the list above. After all, no tree logs running down to the mill. However, I have no idea about the impact scrapped eReaders might have on the environment. There's a thought for another day (and possibly another blog post).

What kind of books do you mostly buy - hard copies or eBooks? What influences your decision whether to go paper or digital and which of the two do you personally prefer? Please share.

June 6, 2014

Non-Fiction That Keeps Batman On Track

Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York (Ted Steinberg)
June 3rd 2014, Simon & Schuster

This is the story of the monumental struggle between New York and the natural world. From Henry Hudson’s discovery of Mannahatta to Hurricane Sandy, Gotham Unbound is Ted Steinberg’s sweeping ecological history of one of the most man-made spots on earth.
Here is a tale of "the world with us"—lots of us—a groundbreaking book that recounts the four-century history of how hundreds of square miles of open marshlands became home to six percent of the nation’s population.
Steinberg vividly brings a vanished New York back to life. You will see the metropolitan area anew, not just as a dense urban goliath but as an estuary once home to miles of oyster reefs, wolves, whales, and blueberry bog thickets. That world gave way to an onslaught managed by thousands, from Governor John Montgomerie, who turned water into land, and John Randel, who imposed a grid on Manhattan, to Robert Moses, Charles Urstadt, Donald Trump, and Michael Bloomberg.
This book is a powerful account of the relentless development that New Yorkers wrought as they plunged headfirst into the floodplain and transformed untold amounts of salt marsh and shellfish beds into a land jam-packed with people, asphalt and steel, and the reeds and gulls that thrive among them.
With metropolitan areas across the globe on a collision course with rising seas, Gotham Unbound is a penetrating history that helps explain how one of the most important cities in the world wound up in such a perilous situation. 

June 2, 2014

I went up book mountain ...

 ... and returned with stone tablets (or maybe just actual running-on-batteries tablets) with the Ten Commandments. Literary, obviously.


Thou shalt not have only one book.

Thou shalt make unto thee vivid images of the book worlds you immerse yourselves into.

Thou shalt not take the name of authors in vain.

Remember World Book Day* to keep it holy.

Thou shalt honor thy favorite authors.

Thou shalt not destroy a book.

Thou shalt not steal a book.**

Thou shalt not lie about how much money you really spend on your book splurges.

Thou shalt not covet your neighbors' book-stacks.***

Thou shalt not covet your neighbors' state of the art electronic reading device.

I dare say, I pretty much covered all the important rules of conduct when it comes to being a virtuous reader. The question being - how virtuous a reader are you? Have you ever broken any of the above commandments? Please share.

*April 23rd
**or download pirated copies of eBooks, for that matter
***no matter how big or nicely shaped ... the stacks, not the neighbor

P.S.: Feel free to share my Literary Commandments on your own website, but please link back to my blog - thanks!