Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bibliophiles Unite!

Having been born into a family of readers, it's not surprising that I am a bookworm. In third and fourth grade I often tried to read a novel while sitting in class when I found the subject to be uninteresting--much to the chagrin of my teachers, of course. Two of my part-time jobs while in high school and college were in bookstores--best employee discount EVER!--, and nowadays one of the few things I enjoy about flying (other than it being an expeditious mode of transit when needing to travel several hundred or more miles) is the general peace and quiet in which I can read uninterrupted.

Nowadays I am a member of, a site on which a reader can keep track of what she has read, what she would like to read, as well as rate the books and write reviews. The site also incorporates a social networking aspect to it--the reader can befriend or follow other readers to see their lists, ratings, and reviews.

At the end of 2014, Goodreads informed me that I had read 19 books during the year. I was disappointed in this count. Therefore I set a goal to read at least 21 books in 2015. Given the cold weather we had this winter, plus having gotten back into the habit of reading more regularly, I have already surpassed that goal by several books. I also made a conscious decision to read more works by authors who happen to be women or not Caucasian.

The majority of books I read are contemporary novels or recent non-fiction, with an occasional tome thrown in that doesn't fit into either category. This year some of the choices I've enjoyed most were:
  • Me Before You (JoJo Moyes)
  • The House at Riverton (Kate Morton)
  • Cambridge (Susanna Kaysen)
  • 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works (Dan Harris)
  • Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World (Rachel Swaby)
  • We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
  • The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money (Ron Lieber)
  • Men Explain Things to Me (Rebecca Solnit)
  • White Field, Black Sheep: A Lithuanian-American Life, about which I wrote about previously.
  • Bad Feminist: Essays (Roxane Gay)
Although my Latvian language skills are quite good for someone born outside of Latvia, unfortunately I find it difficult to read anything other than children's books in Latvian nowadays. (Honestly, even some of the kids' books are cringe-inducing, with stereotypes that should no longer be used in this century.) I have found much current Latvian literature to be unnecessarily complex and artsy - I prefer my reading to be simpler.

Years ago, however, I read a great many novels by Latvian-American writers; a friend reminded me of this recently when she recalled seeing me - a 10 year old - at camp reading a novel, Homo Novus, by Anšlavs Eglītis. Maybe returning to a book I last read a couple of decades ago would be a simple way of reconnecting with Latvian literature.

However, between books borrowed from the library or friends, and books purchased new or used, I always have stacks of items "To Be Read" -- and that does not even include anything I have purchased on my e-reader and have not gotten around to reading! 

While reading itself is a pleasurable activity, meeting authors and hearing them speak can be fascinating. With that in mind, I plan to attend the National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center on September 5. This year's theme, courtesy of Thomas Jefferson himself, is "I cannot live without books." Could there be a more appropriate slogan for a festival featuring more than 100 authors in one day and attracting up to 200,000 attendees?
I love this poster!


  1. Good morning, wish I could read 21+books this year! I know what you mean about reading in Latvian. The novel that I started with was "Latvieši ir visur" by Otto Ozols. He's got a new one out this year, haven't gotten it yet but might put it on my 2017 list ;)

    1. I figured you might say that. ;-) You know, funny thing - that precisely was the last Latvian language book I tried to read. Was excited at first because it wasn't high-faluting and fancy, and the story was interesting, but then I got bored...

  2. I, too, know what you mean by reading in Latvian - but since I took over the librarian's position in our Latvian school, I am determined to read at least one LV book (all age levels) for each two in English! And - surprise - the first few chapters are challenging, but my brain gets into the flow of the language and I'm actually enjoying it and feeling quite virtuous!

    1. Too funny that some tech error on my end prompted Blogger to send out an old post - on which you then commented. I'm currently snowed in by the Blizzard of 2016; just picked up "Dearie" - the autobiography of Julia Child. It's 500 pages long - if I read that, I'll feel virtuous enough. :) I do wish I could somehow motivate myself to read in Latvian...


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