Armchair Fail

So remember how I said I was arm-chairing the Cybils this year?

Yeah. About that.

I failed to do my research on what Cybils-nominated books my library owned prior to my last visit–and therefore spent 15 minutes on the “Express” internet-accessible computer frantically writing down author last names and the first few letters of the middle-grade fiction nominations. Then I spent the next half an hour or so running through the juvenile fiction stacks trying to locate the books. After eliminating from my list several dozen books that the library DIDN’T OWN, I finally arrived at one that it DID own.

I brought home Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven (by Graham Salisbury) and read it right off.

Calvin is a third-grader (or maybe fourth grader?) who has been given a writing assignment–write an essay about something he wants so badly he can TASTE it, and try to convince Mr. Purdy that he should get it.

Calvin knows exactly what he wants–but the difficult thing isn’t convincing Mr. PURDY. It’s convincing his MOM that she should let him get a dog (even though their live-in helper might be allergic to dogs.)

I enjoyed this book, although I was a bit stunned by how young it seemed. The reading level and the plot are both even simpler than the Boxcar Children which I used to think were the simplest “real” chapter books imaginable. Obviously, I was wrong.

The other thing that I was wrong about was…whether Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven was nominated for the Cybils.

I just took a look at the Cybils website and discovered that it was not Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven but Calvin Coconut: Hero of Hawaii that had been nominated for the Cybils.

Yep, that’s right. Should have written down more than just the first couple of words of the title.

So, I have not managed to read any Cybils nominated titles since signing up for the challenge (although I did notice that Close to Famous, which I read and enjoyed a couple of months ago, is on the list of Middle Grade Cybils nominees.)

So there you have it. My Cybils Armchair fail.

What have I learned from the process? Figure out which Cybils nominees your library has and request them before your visit to avoid mix-ups.

If you want to read more Armchair Cybils posts (from readers who ostensibly actually read Cybils nominated books), check out Amy’s November link-up.

On a vaguely related note, I was so distracted by writing my Sunday School lesson and writing a Systematic Theology paper and working on a project for 2012 this weekend that I forgot to renew my library books. I got the overdue notice in my e-mail inbox this morning. Yeah, so at $0.35 per book per day for 3 days with over a hundred books… That’d make a great story problem for your kids, homeschool moms. For me? It’s my discretionary spending for the month. Budget fail!

Nightstand (December 2010)

It’s the last Nightstand of 2010 and with my move complete, I’m switching things up a bit (Read “What’s up with my nightstand?” for more information.)

So, without further ado, my nightstand:

On my nightstand

Yes, I stacked the books double deep on that first shelf–and had an overflow crate in my closet.

On my nightstand

Adult Fiction
6 Christian, 6 secular, 2 literary

  1. Another Homecoming by Oke/Bunn
  2. Return to Harmony by Oke/Bunn
  3. Tomorrow’s Dream by Oke/Bunn
  4. Munich Signature by Bodie Thoene
  5. Danzig Passage by Bodie Thoene
  6. Jerusalem Interlude by Bodie Thoene
  7. Simon the Coldheart by Georgette Heyer
  8. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (Review by Colloquium)
  9. Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott (Review by S. Krishna)
  10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer
  11. The inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  12. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  13. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  14. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Adult Non-Fiction
At least two from each of the following categories: theology/Christian living, biography, craft/project, and cookbooks.

  1. Confessions by St. Augustine
  2. If the church were Christian : rediscovering the values of Jesus by Philip Gully
  3. Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynn Withey
  4. Winston Churchill : a Penguin life by John Keegan
  5. Super quick colorful quilts by Rosemary Wilkinson
  6. Tie-dye : the how-to book by Virginia Gleser
  7. The pioneer woman cooks by Ree Drummond
  8. Quick cooking for two by Sunset
  9. Composting by Liz Ball
  10. The complete idiot’s guide to stretching illustrated by Barbara Templeton
  11. Bright-sided : how the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  12. How to save your own life by Michael Gates Gill
  13. Einstein’s refrigerator : and other stories from the flip side of history by Steve Silverman
  14. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt
  15. The woman’s fix-it car care book by Karen Valenti
  16. The science of sexy by Bradley Bayou
  17. The pocket stylist by Kendall Farr
  18. Women’s wardrobe by Kim Johnson Gross

Juvenile Fiction
“Chapter” books, middle grade fiction, and YA fiction.

  1. Secret of the lost tunnel by Franklin Dixon
  2. Much ado about Anne by Heather Vogel Frederick (Review by 5M4B)
  3. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelley
  4. Freaky Friday by Anne Rodgers
  5. She’s so dead to us by Kieran Scott
  6. The mystery of the hidden painting created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Juvenile Non-Fiction
Two books per state, 1 state per week for the entirety of 2011–plus a few extras for fun.

  1. Ask me anything a Dorling Kindersley book
  2. Maine by Ann Heinrichs
  3. Maine by Terry Allan Hicks
  4. Massachusetts by Ruth Bjorkland
  5. Massachusetts by Sarah DeCapua
  6. Massachusetts by Paul Joseph
  7. Massachusetts by Trudi Strain Trueit
  8. Massachusetts: The Bay State by Rachel Barenblatt
  9. New Hampshire by Terry Allan Hicks
  10. New Hampshire by Deborah Kent
  11. Rhode Island by Susan Labella
  12. Rhode Island by Rick Petreycik
  13. Vermont by Christine Taylor Butler
  14. Vermont by Megan Dornfeld
  15. Vermont by Ann Heinrichs

Picture Books
75 titles from author “BAR” to author “BAT”
to make a total of 128 titles

Then I checked out 14 CDs and 5 DVDs to bring my library total up to 148–two under the max!

Catch-up Reviews:

For any of you interested in the reviews I promised I’d be catching up on…here are the ones I’ve done over the past month…

…and the rest of these are written and are set to post within the next week…

  • The Narnian by Alan Jacobs
  • Boiling Mad: Inside the American Tea Party by Kate Zernicke
  • Justice that Restores by Chuck Colson
  • Radical by David Platt

What's on Your Nightstand?

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What’s up with my nightstand?

One of my first thoughts when it became apparent that I would be moving from Lincoln to Columbus was to ask about the Columbus public library system.

What I discovered was less than exciting. Columbus’s library is approximately the size of the branch library I used as a pre-teen—the library that I abandoned for the main library once my bookish appetite outgrew endless re-readings of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Furthermore, the Columbus library has a lending limit of 15 titles, a far cry from the 150 I’ve acclimated myself to at the Lincoln Public Libraries.

Taking into account these variables, and considering the goal I’ve been working on for four years (of reading every book in my Lincoln branch library), I decided to investigate the costs of purchasing an out-of-county subscription to the Lincoln Public Libraries.

I’d previously calculated the “worth” of my local (Lincoln) library at more than $5000 per year (using the cost of purchasing my average annual usage rather than borrowing it from the library). Compare to that, the $60 cost of purchasing an annual subscription is chump change.

With an annual subscription in hand, I will drive into Lincoln once every six weeks to load up on the library’s limit of 150 items. Each of these items will be checked out for three weeks and then renewed electronically for an additional three weeks.

This is unlikely to change my standard library usage by much, as my average is slightly higher than 150 items per 6 weeks. However, it will alter my library usage PATTERNS significantly.

While living in Lincoln, I was used to visiting the library once or twice a week, checking out ten to twenty items per visit. I returned items as soon as I had read them, meaning that I rarely had more than fifty items checked out at a time (except during that one summer when I intentionally kept books around in order to max out my card at 167—with 17 in the drop box). I had no system for what books I checked out when. I merely checked out what looked interesting at the moment—and if my reading mood changed, I could always take a ten-minute run to the library to check out something new.

Now, with the library an hour and a half away—and limiting myself to one visit per six weeks—I need a system to ensure that I have enough variety to keep me interested for the entire six weeks.

So, in true Type A fashion, I’ve developed a library-visit rubric for myself.

During each library visit, I will check out:

  • 75 children’s picture books
  • 6 juvenile fiction books (includes both Middle grade and YA fiction titles)
  • 15 juvenile fiction books (12 of which will be exploring six of the fifty states, as I intend to take a brief book tour of the 50 states through juvenile titles in 2011)
    14 adult fiction titles (6 Christian, 6 secular, and 2 which classify as “literature”)
  • 15 adult nonfiction titles (at least 2 in each of the following categories: theology/Christian living, biography, craft/project, and cookbooks)
  • 15 compact discs
  • 5 DVDs

That takes me to 145 titles. I imagine that the majority of these will be predetermined—picked before I even walk into the library, possibly even placed on hold so all I have to do is check them out. The final five are my wildcard picks, to be picked at the library simply based on what I feel like.

In less than 600 words, that’s what’s up with my nightstand.

Tune in tomorrow to see what’s ON my nightstand after my first visit following the above rubric.

Four Year Reading Update

Sunday marked a special day for me–the four year anniversary of the beginning of my project to read every book in Eiseley library (except the ones I don’t read).

In that four years, I have consumed 2174 library items, 1890 of which were books, 857 of which were “full length” (not picture books or children’s easy readers).

Library Item Use in Past 4 Years

Per Year Per Month Per Week Per Day
Total items 543.5 45.3 10.5 1.5
Total books 472.5 39.4 9.1 1.3
Books (excluding children’s picture books) 214.3 17.9 4.1 .6

Notes on Each Category of Books

Items over 4 years Items in last year Notes:
Juvenile Picture Books 596 472!! Author last names beginning in “A” closed
Juvenile First Readers 49 0 3 authors closed
Juvenile Chapter Books 79 2 6 authors closed
Juvenile Fiction 238 53! 20 authors closed
Juvenile Nonfiction 68 6 Favorite category? Biographies
Adult Fiction 297 49 43 authors closed
Adult Nonfiction 503 94!! See my little challenge below
Videos/DVDs 125 33 These seem to be coming in too fast for me to watch them–I’m not much of a movie person
Cassette Tapes/Compact Discs 159 60 The more I travel, the more I listen to. I’ve been traveling a bit this year.
Periodicals 57 16 I haven’t figured out how to do these, since the collection expands so rapidly!

I don’t have much of a “system” for reading–I pretty much read what I want to when I want to. But I do have a special tab in my planner set apart for books.

First, I have the categories from the Dewey Decimal system all typed out (to the ones place, meaning I have 000-Compute science, information & general works, 001-Knowledge, 002-The book, etc. up to 999-Extraterrestrial worlds). “Closed” categories are highlighted.

Second, I have a list of closed and open authors for each category (picture books, first readers, chapter books, juvenile fiction, juvenile nonfiction, DVDs, and adult fiction). One side of the list contains closed authors written in pen. The other side houses penciled in “open” authors–that is, those authors that I have started to read but whose works I have not finished. These serve as a reminder for me to grab books from open categories (and to avoid reading new acquisitions from categories I’ve already closed–unless I really feel like it.)

Finally, I have my TBR lists. These are divided into sections of the library, and contain penciled titles plus the appropriate call number. When I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for at the library, I run about and collect titles that are on these lists.

When counting up my nonfiction reads, I discovered that over half of my reading came from two large Dewey decimal categorizations (hundred’s place). I was wondering if any of my readers could hazard a guess as to which categories are my favorites. Here are your options:

000-Information (Computer Science, Library Science, Encyclopedias, etc.)
100-Philosophy (Psychology, Logic, Ethics, etc.)
200-Religion (Bible, Theology, Comparative religions, etc.)
300-Social Sciences (Politics, Economics, Law, Education, Traditions, etc.)
400-Language (Linguistics, Grammar, Foreign Languages, etc.)
500-Mathematics/Science (Math, Astronomy, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Life Sciences, etc.)
600-Technology (Medicine, Engineering, Agriculture, Home ec. Management, Buildings, etc.)
700-Art (Landscape art, Architecture, Decorative arts, Photography, Music, Performing arts, etc.)
800-Literature (Poetry, Drama, Essays, Speeches, Letters, Satire, and Literary criticism)
900-Geography and History (Travel, History)
Biographies-Self explanatory!

So, what do you think? What two categories are my favorites?

Reading Meme

Borrowed from Carrie, who borrowed it from Barbara, who got it from a Booking Through Thursday prompt.

What are you reading right now?

Founding Faith by Steven Waldman.

Oddly, that’s all I currently have going. I expect that to shortly change :-)

Do you have an e-reader?

No sirree, Bob! I’m a paper and ink girl–a semi-Neo-Luddite (as much as one can be while being an avid blogger, that is!)

Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

I’m always reading several books at once–but I like there to be only one fiction title going at a time. I have a harder time keeping fiction plots and characters straight if I’ve got more than one going at a time. So fiction generally gets read in fits and bursts instead of a few chapters a day like the rest of my reading.

Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Yeah–I started keeping my books out of the library forever so that I could get them all reviewed! I also occasionally wonder “How will this look in my Nightstand post?” But I never censor my reading for Nightstand posts, even though I’ve thought of doing so. What you see is what you get–although it doesn’t always mean what you think :-)

How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Less often than I’d like. But there are just too many books to be read–and too many IN my comfort zone to keep me busy.

What is your reading comfort zone?

Girlie novels (certain Christian romance novelists, chick lit, stuff that’s all about interpersonal relationships), Juvenile and YA fairy tale adaptions, memoirs, sociological type stuff. Okay–my reading comfort zone is pretty wide. It’s easier to say what ISN’T in my comfort zone than what is.

What ISN’T in my comfort zone is mysteries, suspense, science fiction, smutty romance novels, and fiction that makes you think. (It’s the fiction that makes you think that I’d prefer to read more of, by the way).

Favorite place to read?

In the bathtub.

What is your policy on book lending?

I only lend books I own :-)

and books that I know the library doesn’t own.

Otherwise I direct people to the library.

Christian living/theology/doctrine books, I lend out carefully on a few conditions:

  1. I have to know who has what
  2. The person I loaned the book to has to actually read the book
  3. The person I loaned the book to has to be willing to either write notes in the margins or discuss the book with me once they’re done or both!

Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Of MY books, absolutely. Generally, though, I only write in nonfiction titles–I write arguments, Scripture references, other thoughts, etc. And, as I mentioned above, I beg anyone I loan books to to do the same.

What makes you love a book?

I love a book that I don’t have to work too hard to get into =). And I like if it portrays good and evil as good and evil. I like…

Man, that’s a hard question. I’m not sure what makes me love a book. I just know that I love it.

What will inspire you to recommend a book?

For fiction, if it is well-written, engaging, accurately depicts reality (good and evil, interpersonal relationships, etc.), and has some cross-genre appeal. Otherwise, I tend to qualify my recommendation as to where it fits within the genre.

For nonfiction, if it is well-written, engaging, and addresses a valuable topic in what I deem to be a thoughtful (or at least thought-provoking) manner.

Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Fiction that makes me think. I tend to want to turn off my brain when it comes to fiction–but from my brief forays into fiction that makes me think, I know that it’s worthwhile. I just don’t take/make the time and mental energy to read them.

Favorite biography?

That’s a tough one. I tend to remember the person being “biographed” rather than the biography itself. The only thing that comes to mind is not strictly a biography–more an autobiography or a memoir. But I love Corrie ten Boom’s Hiding Place

Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

I haven’t read much from the “inspirational” front this year. I’ve been more into the “get down to the nitty-gritty, challenge your faith, figure out what you believe” front. Lots of exercising my mind towards the things of God, not a lot of “heart-warming” stuff.

How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

Not sure how I feel about it. I do give negative reviews. But whether I should, and how I choose which books to review (even though I had a negative impression of them)? I guess I give negative reviews when I think there’s a good possibility that some people could be led astray by the book if they don’t read some truth about it, or if a book had pros and cons, or if I expected a book to be good based on other reviews, book jacket flaps, whatever and was disappointed.

Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Plato’s Republic. I was in sixth grade. I wasn’t intimidated then. I am now! Then, of course, I didn’t feel the challenge of having to understand it. I read it, but didn’t understand it. Now I’m frightened.

Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Despite reading and enjoying everything my library owns by Tolstoy apart from these two titles, I’m still intimidated. It’s a Russian novelist thing. I’ll get over it eventually.

Favorite fictional character?

Elizabeth Bennet

The longest I’ve gone without reading.

Summer 2006, Jacksonville Florida. Two months. Only read the Bible. Challenging. Growing. It was my “Summer of One Book.”

Apart from that? I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a day since I learned to read. And I’m not exaggerating at all. (Just ask my mother and siblings!)

What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

My sisters shrieking wildly because my brother had just proposed to his girlfriend.

Other than that, I am NOT easily distracted. I was one of seven children, homeschooled, in an 1100 square foot house, remember?

Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

A&E’s Pride and Prejudice

Most disappointing film adaptation?

I’d ditto Carrie and Barbara and say Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story. I don’t know that you can even call that an adaptation.

What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

Absolute boringness or complete and utter heresy. I’ve done it with only a handful of books: Oz Garcia’s The Healthy, High Tech Body, Larry McMurtry’s Books: A Memoir, and Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You. Those are the only books I can remember stopping reading (without writing myself a note to pick them back up again.)

Do you like to keep your books organized?

Yes–but the organizational system varies. My fiction is ordered by author’s last name. My nonfiction is ordered by topic. My Biblical reference/Christian living is ordered partly by topic, partly by last name, and partly by what looks good on the shelf :-). My library books are ordered either by size or by due date, depending on how confident I feel that I’ll be able to get everything read before it’s due back!

Reading the Aa (Verna Aardema)

Reading My Library I’ve been working on my own quest to read every book in Eiseley Library since September 5, 2006. I’ve been doing it in a remarkably unsystematic way. But when Carrie at Reading to Know decided to read the picture books in her local library and record it at Reading My Library, I was struck by her system.

Not that I’m ready to give up my haphazard approach to the library entirely. But for the picture book section, Carrie’s approach seems incredibly sensible.

So, I went to my library and got every picture book by the first author in the alphabet–who just happened to be Verna Aardema.

Aardema’s signature is retelling folk stories from different cultures, primarily African cultures but with the occasional Latin American culture thrown in. She includes a lot of onomatopoeia, particularly for the sounds animals make.

I was not universally impressed with Aardema’s writings. While none of the books were bad, per say, few of them were really anything special. While the stories were vaguely amusing, most had little point. Silly things happened, the end. I tend to prefer stories that either have a plot or a moral. The majority of Aardema’s stories had neither.

There were two exceptions, however–and those exceptions were pretty exceptional.

Bringing the rain to Kapiti Plain book cover

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain was featured on Reading Rainbow in one of its earliest episodes–and the book certainly deserves it. Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain tells of a plain suffering from a drought, and a smart young cow-herder who brought the rain to Kapiti Plain. The book is told in a sing-songy manner that builds an additional line with every page. So when one page starts with “This is the cloud all heavy with rain, that shadowed the ground on Kapiti Plain”, the next page builds with “This is the grass, all brown and dead, that needed the rain from the cloud overhead–The big, black cloud, all heavy with rain, that shadowed the ground on Kapiti Plain.” And so on and so forth. This is a well written, enjoyable tale that is a delight to read.

Koi and the Kola Nuts book cover

Koi and the Kola Nuts is a second jewel from Verna Aardema. Koi is the youngest son of an African chieftan. When his father dies, his brothers get all the inheritance. All that’s left for Koi is one Kola tree. So Kola harvests the nuts from his Kola tree and sets off to make his way in the world. He meets a variety of different animals in various predicaments and has compassion on them, offering them his Kola nuts to solve their problems. When Koi finds himself vying for the hand of a neighboring chieftain’s beautiful daughter, the friends he has won for himself certainly come in handy!

Koi and the Kola Nuts is a story reminiscent of Aesop’s “The Lion and the Mouse” but with fun twists of its own. The story reads like a cross between a traditional fairy tale (where a boy tries to win the hand of a princess) and a fable (where animals teach a moral) with a little Biblical spice added (Koi’s situation at the beginning of the story reminds me of Jacob and Esau receiving a blessing from their father Isaac). Add in Aardema’s characteristic onomatopoeia and you’ve got a winner of a story.

Now, between Aardema and a couple of other authors, I’m done with Aa-Ab. Next up? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just have to see!