A New Thought

Of all the things this pandemic has brought to mind, one that’s surprised me is about writing. For those of you new around here, once upon a time I self-published a book back in 2013.

Recently my manager at work randomly bought and read it and sometimes we talk about it during 1-1 sessions and I swear he knows it better than I do. 😂

But what the pandemic has me thinking about more recently is writing again. Again, mine was self-published and it could have been much better if I’d taken more time on it. When I originally finished I wanted to start a series. I still have that ultimate goal, but I don’t want it to be that one.

Back then I used to take a notepad with me everywhere just in case I had a sudden thought. Now that’s not necessary being home all the time, but maybe I’ll start thinking about it again.

Almost There

In my first post back I wrote about lots of things. The most relevant to the blog was my ongoing attempt to read 50 books in a calendar year, which I’ve never done. But I’m getting close!

Last night I finished my 32nd book of 2020. I still have a little bit to go, but this is now the second most books I’ve read in a single year. My best was 44 back in 2012. As the days and weeks tick by I’ve started reading more each night. It’s a race against the calendar, but I’m doing my best.

How are you doing this year with your reading?

Memoirs, Memoirs, and Memoirs

So far this year I’ve read a few memoirs, with at least a couple more upcoming. This is not a genre I’ve ever really gotten into. There’s no reason for it, just how things have happened.

But this year and going forward I’m thinking it’ll be a new genre to gain more exposure to. Why? Again, no specific reason except that there’s more to read than just mysteries.

So tell me if you’ve read any good memoirs recently.

Will There be Bookstores in 2021?

No, this obviously isn’t happening right now with virus cases, as expected, surging once again in most of the US and world. What happens in the next few months will give us all an idea of what to expect in 2021.

What I really want to talk about is bookstores. It was less than a decade ago that Borders closed its doors, mostly on account of e-books. Barnes and Noble and Books-A–Million (the two largest chains remaining in the US) have been struggling for years before the pandemic took customers out of stores. Half Price Books (my personal favorite) seems to be okay because if their doors are open, then they can buy books from the public.

Months ago I told my brother I thought JCPenney and Barnes and Noble would close for good. So far, I’ve been wrong. All the bookstores around me have been reopened since the spring. That doesn’t mean customers have returned or will be doing so. Though we can still buy online, there are lots of people unemployed or furloughed. Books may not be at the top of the list of needed items.

I’ve gotten this far and haven’t mentioned indies. They are probably the most likely to shut their doors during the pandemic. They can’t host author events and even when open, customers may not return.

Recently I was thinking to myself about Half Price Books not having their 20% storewide or coupon week promotions. If you’re familiar, then you know both of these promotions bring in lots of customers over several days. They’ve moved their sales to their website, which isn’t my preference. I was thinking to myself about the few dollars I could be saving if they’d had their promotions. But what’s important is that they’re able to survive (along with all the bookstores around). That won’t happen, but at least they’re still fighting, like many in the country.

To answer my own question, yes I think there will be bookstores next year. The real question is how many.

I Changed my Mind About Book Reviews

Once upon a time I wrote a post on here called Why I Don’t Write Book Reviews. I checked the date. I wrote it six years ago. You’re welcome to read it, but my view has changed! Is this what it’s like being a politician? 😂

So I thought this would be a good topic for a video. Cool if you watch, meh if you don’t.

How do you feel about writing and/or reading book reviews?

You’ve Gotta Exercise it

2020 is the first time so many different organizations from different aspects of American life have gotten together and made a concerted effort to encourage people to vote. Many would argue it’s because of the current President. The US has continually had very low voter participation the last few decades. Some states and towns are more active than others, of course, but as a whole tens of millions simply do not exercise their right to vote.

There are a litany of reasons for this I won’t go into. It’s gotten to the point that simply encouraging citizens to participate in the election of their officials is an exercise in partisanship. I could volunteer for a nonprofit that helps people get registered to vote (and doesn’t tell them who they should vote for) and somehow it’s a statement against this person or that one.

In Harris County, TX there are nearly 5 million people. I was looking into a candidate recently before going to the polls and I checked up on their electoral history. They’d won a previous race with 16k votes. There are more than 2 million registered voters in the county. Those 16k people hardly would be considered representative of the 2 million voters or 5 million residents, but they voted and wielded great power.

We could go town to town and see similar situations play out every election year. It’s none of my business who you vote for or why. Maybe you’ve already mailed in your ballot or you’re making a plan to go in person, the how is up to you. Democracy doesn’t work when everyone stays home.

In the midst of a pandemic it’s understandable that many are still hesitant to go out in public unnecessarily. I’m 28 and for seven months I’ve stayed home as much as possible. In Texas I’m not given the ability to vote by mail. So I’ll be voting early, right around the time this goes live.

If you’re in the US make a plan to vote. Know the hours of your voting location or mail in your ballot as soon as you can. There are countless nonpartisan websites that will help you get to know local candidates if they’re unknown to you.

On Award Winning Books

I’ve read several award winning books this year. Going as high as the Pulitzer and National Book Awards, but also more regional prizes. I’ve never read a book simply because of its praise, but when seeing “winner of the Pulitzer Prize” on the cover it does raise my expectations just a tad for the book.

Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t found these books to be consistently great. Some have been downright bad. Now that I’m writing this it is starting to make sense. I wouldn’t enjoy every best picture nominee/winner. I wouldn’t enjoy every album nominated for album of the year. I guess I’m biased because books are the medium I enjoy the most. So if a book is said to be good, it better be?

Am I losing it or what? 😂

I Need More Goodreads Friends

I’ve always tracked all of my reading. I’ve had Word docs and spreadsheets set up to document just about everything you can think of. That was before I embraced Goodreads. But now I’m using it more than ever. I only have 17 friends and most of them don’t actually post any updates.

At this point the app (or website) is the easiest way of holding yourself accountable. It’s so easy to use and you get to keep up with what your friends are reading and posting. I’ve seen people with thousands of Friends and think to myself, “Is this Facebook?”. Not really looking for that, but racing everyone (unknown to them) to reach our reading goal for the year is kind of fun.

I think you can add me here.

Do you use Goodreads at all?

Reading During a Pandemic

I will first acknowledge I’ve been one of the lucky ones during these last few months. I never faced the prospect of a furlough or layoff and still don’t. My employer did what many others were forced to do this Spring and sent just about everyone to work from home. Six months in and it’s impossible to know when things may go back to “normal”.

With that said, I’ve been reading quite a bit more these last few months. My eight hour shift is eight hours. No 20 minute drive. No waking up an hour before my shift. That extra time has translated into more pages read and more sleep, if I’m being honest.

Once I finish two more books 2020 will be my second best year of reading and after 15 more would be my best. I’ve settled into a routine recently. Every night after the end of my shift I try to devote 30-60 minutes to reading. Some nights I do it. Some I don’t. But I’ve come up with a two-part plan going forward. I try to read one book during the week and finish another each weekend. I’m about to finish my 5th book this month, so it appears to be working.

Now could I have done this same thing without a pandemic changing daily life? Yes. But I know myself. It wouldn’t have happened.

What have you done differently this year? More reading? Less? DIY projects around the house? Tell me, tell me.

Bestsellers and Me: Brave New World

In returning to the blog (posted all five days I planned to last week!) it also means a return to my channel. With my first video back I’m starting a new series. Clearly, it’s called Bestsellers and Me. The idea is to follow up with a video whenever I read a bestseller. I can see the gears of your brain turning, “But what qualifies as a bestseller?”. Glad you asked. For my purposes I’m going to consider a book a bestseller if it has more than 100k ratings on Goodreads. Easy enough.

First in the series is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It would be cool if you watch, but no hard feelings if you don’t. You can also just tell me what you thought of the book.