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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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 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.
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.
This is the fourth and final entry (for now) in my series discussing the books I’ve been reading lately. Today we’re taking about Emma Cline’s The Girls.
The book takes us into the lives of the Manson family, one member in particular. It leads up to their most notorious crime. It’s a fictionalized version, of course. On the surface you might be intrigued when hearing that, but don’t be.
When I go to the bookstore (only Half Price Books) I always check online first to see if my store has what I’m looking for. Buying this book was one of those rare occurrences I happened to see it on the shelf and though I knew nothing about the story itself, I remembered when it was first published it had been quite the bestseller. So I bought it.
The book alternates between the 60s and the present when our protagonist (if you can even call her that) is middle aged. I hate repeating myself from an earlier post in this series, but nothing happened. The book doesn’t go into the actual crimes committed. It gives a perspective from within the family before they’re committed and talks about the aftermath. But again, nothing happens and chapters stretch on and on of nothing. It couldn’t be more exhausting.
Upon completion my first thought was that I’d have been better off reading a true crime account of the family and their crimes. Maybe I will at some point. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I’ve rated three books this year as one star. This is one of them.