day nine: goodreads and good books

January 9, 2017 @ 6:30 am | Filed under: Books

salviabee

1.

Leslie in VA absolutely made my week with this comment:

Many, many years ago. . . you gushed over “Fruitless Fall” and that book truly changed our life. I read it, my husband read it and our older kids read it. My husband (phobic of bees) wanted to get bees (still does). Fast forward to today and my oldest son, 21, now works on a queen bee farm in Hawaii. He was truly inspired by that book. Thank you for your part in him finding his path!

I told Scott, “I feel like I was just given a George Bailey moment without having to get to the desperate jump-off-a-bridge stage first!” Thanks, Leslie, really. And thanks to all of you who’ve let me know my book chatter has been meaningful to your family life at some point or other. It means a lot to me to know that, truly. 🙂

2.

Leslie went on to ask,

Also, thoughts on goodreads? I think it is a valuable tool but decreased activity over the past year. Are people reading less, not using it, is there another site? I have been keeping track of our books for over 5 years (kids have different shelves) because I often draw a blank when asked for suggestions for a certain age. Wondering what you think of its usefulness?

Have you read Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter? Delicious!

Taking the last question first: I have not! It’s been recommended to me by a number of Bonny Glen readers over the years, and I think I even snagged it on Kindle at some point. Why haven’t I read it yet?? If anyone understands my reading tastes, it’s you folks. Perhaps I can make it a January treat.

As for Goodreads, I too enjoy it but my use comes in fits and starts. I’ve been somewhat more consistent at updating my books in the past few years…at least, until October hits. Then, if it’s a year I’m serving on a Cybils panel (and since I’m now chairing the YA Fiction panel, every year will be that sort of year), it all falls apart. I can’t keep up with the logging.

I’ve tried once or twice to log my kids’ reading that way, but it’s hopeless. Too darn many books. Beanie does log her reading at her own account, though.

I admit I seldom read Goodreads comments on books I’m interested in—not the general pool of comments, that is. I do enjoy reading the remarks left by my Goodreads friends and acquaintances. It’s always fun to enter a book and discover six of my GR pals gave it four stars.

Oh, but about those stars—I hardly ever give any! Sometimes I’ll award them, but only if it’s (in my opinion) a four- or five-star book—and I’m terribly inconsistent at that, having entered many excellent books without putting in any stars at all. It bothers me that a three-star rating (which is supposed to mean “I like it”) is considered by writers (and readers) to be a lackluster, low rating. I don’t want to deflate someone’s scores (and feelings) by seeming to give it a bad grade. And writers work too hard on books for me to go around slapping a depressing two stars on their efforts, even though I’m bound to feel ‘meh’ about some of the books I read. So—I mostly ignore the whole star machinery. A zero-star rating isn’t factored into the book’s score. And it certainly doesn’t mean I thought the book was worth zilch. Some of my lifelong favorite books show up as zeroes in my list, because I didn’t bother with the stars.

I keep thinking I could use Goodreads to log incoming review copies, but there too I get bogged down by the busywork of entering titles.

In the end, my sidebar booklogs are a more accurate reflection of my year’s reading. I wish I’d begun keeping them sooner than 2008!

How about the rest of you? Do you have a good(reads) system?

3.

A tangent: as I write this, at 8:30 Sunday evening, I’m listening to Rose and Beanie play a piano-and-violin duet in the next room—a song from one of the Zelda games, I believe, quite lovely—and my heart’s about to burst with delight. They each started group piano classes around age eight. Rose ‘graduated’ from the music school last spring, at age eighteen. Beanie still attends, along with Rilla, who’s in her third year. And Huck is beginning this week.

Beanie has been taking violin lessons for about a year. The instrument she plays on was given to me by Scott, my senior year of college. He knew I’d always wanted to learn and found a second-hand three-quarter-size violin somewhere. I took lessons for a few months from an elderly fiddle player who taught me out of an old hymnal. I confess I didn’t get very far. I was self-conscious about practicing in earshot of my roommates. The violin got bumped around through several moves, suffering a broken bridge at some point. And the bow disintegrated. The summer before last, Rose spent six weeks in Colorado with my parents and was given the rather amazing opportunity of assisting their neighbor, a violin repairman, with the restoration of my old instrument. She brought it home to Beanie, who’d been pining to play strings for ages.

And here we are. They sound, to this mama’s ears, utterly magical. When they play, I don’t just hear melody—I hear history.

4.

          

Our weekend picture book reading:

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. A pencil draws a host of characters, and then when they clamor for color, he draws a paintbrush to help out. But when he draws an eraser, things begin to go downhill…my kids love this book, from the mild chaos created by the Calvin-esque eraser to the beleaguered pencil’s clever solution. This book would pair nicely with Harold and the Purple Crayon—or that Looney Tunes where Daffy Duck is being tormented by the paintbrush that created him (wielded, of course, by Bugs Bunny).

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton. I wrote about this gem in 2008: “This was one of the Cybils nominees, and when I read the library copy, I knew it was a keeper. Sweet, funny story about a rather curmudgeonly bear who, despite his best efforts, finds himself playing host to a persistent and amiable mouse. I showed it to Scott, who instantly pegged it as a perfect Rose book. Endearing art, charming story.”

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee. From my 2013 booknotes: “A series of quirky creatures is reading a series of little books, each smaller than the next. Very clever way to play with the convention of the codex. All those adorable nested books are irresistible to my kids. And the art, oh the art: utterly to swoon for.”

How to Read a Story by Kate Messner and Mark Siegel. <– This last one, I’m informed, will be our Monday pick, if we can find it. It fits nicely with the meta-book themes of The Pencil and Open This Little Book, which is probably what made Huck think of it. Some of you will recall that I caught Huck on video reading this one out loud, back in 2015. (Those character voices—oh my heart!)


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Comments

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  1. Goodreads is an on again-off again proposition for me. My husband keeps encouraging me to track my reading, but to me it feels like one more layer of Thing standing between me and the simple enjoyment of a book. It’s hard enough to find quiet time to read without finding the time to log in to one more site and determine how many stars this one gets. Some books are undeniably excellent, and I try not to read books I would have to rate at one or two stars, but there’s lots of stuff in the mushy middle that’s Good Enough But Not Quite All The Way.

  2. I keep trying Goodreads and failing to love it. I’m trying to figure out why. My current theory is that I think Goodreads feels like an all or nothing proposition to me. If I’m not going to log everything, what’s the point in logging anything? And there’s no way I’m going to be consistent about it. Logging in there just doesn’t have the same war fuzzy feel as firing up the blog to write a post about the book. I do like occasionally looking at my friends’ reviews.

  3. I love your/Leslie’s story about Fruitless Fall and the violin’s history <3 <3 <3 So happy-making.

  4. I got mad at Goodreads and quit, before I really got started, when they started friending all my FB friends for me. Sorry, but I don’t want, necessarily, to hear about what all those people are reading; I have my own group of friends for that. I’d like to decide who I follow.

  5. About the knitting item in your sidebar: my daughter just had her first day of knitting class today. I think they are going to make finger-less gloves for the first project. But I really need some dishcloths. I’ve read something about how acrylic yarn has special cleaning powers. It can be hard to knit with, though, if it doesn’t feel nice.

  6. I love, love, love it when my children play music together. It may be my favorite thing.

  7. Thank you Melissa for your posts on books that your family is reading. I feel that what you journal here is such a treasure. Speaking of treasures – I’m reading aloud “Charlotte’s Web” to my children and we are all loving it. Brings back wonderful memories of my childhood and my kids are so wide-eyed and engaged while I read about sweet Wilber. When I was little I identified with Wilber. Now that I’m older I see the story through the eyes of Charlotte. We have read other E.B. White’s books (Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little) and find them so heart felt and stirring. We could read his works all day long. Can you recommend another author who strikes the same kind of chord in the hearts of a family? I want to plant beautiful landmarks in my children’s hearts through their childhood so one day they can remember how we used to read aloud and get swept away. Thank you so much again!

  8. Thank you for your generous reply. Please let me know when the “groupie” badge is ready. . . it was made for me! I have been strutting around like a VIP since reading your post. . .

    I like and appreciate goodreads simply for the ease of keeping track of what I would like to read, actually read and for glimpses of what others are reading. I never feel compelled to write a review (good thing because I am better at reading words than writing them).

  9. I have tried (and failed) to keep up on Goodreads several times. I have found success with Pinterest. I do a board per year, easy to keep up on, and easy to look back at previous years. I just love your bookish posts.

  10. My library borrowing history list is more or less my best reading log. It doesn’t include everything but a lot. It is also zero effort from me which helps! I’ve also started a tumblr of books I enjoyed as a child and have tracked down. I enjoy the retro covers and it’s building a record of my early reads.

Go ahead, make my day