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The Book Blog

profile-icon Randi Gibson

In a world brimming with captivating stories and enticing book covers, every reader has experienced the overwhelming sensation of having an ever-expanding To Be Read (TBR) list. The allure of countless titles tempts you, creating a delightful yet daunting challenge: Where do you start?

The struggle is real, and if you've found yourself surrounded by an intimidating stack of books or a digital library that seems to grow faster than you can read, you're not alone. The key lies in mastering your reading time, and in this blog, we'll take a journey to unravel the secrets of efficient time management for book lovers. Whether you're an avid reader with a knack for multiple genres or someone looking to reignite their reading habit, the following suggestions are designed to help you not only navigate your literary labyrinth but also relish every moment spent within its pages. 

Alright, picture this: you're standing in the midst of a bookish buffet, and you're wondering, "Where do I even start?" Your TBR list is like a feast of books, but let's be real—not every book can be wolfed down at once. So, kick off by checking in with yourself. What vibes are you feeling? Craving a dive into an epic fantasy realm, hungry for some mind-bending non-fiction, or maybe just cozying up with a classic? Go with the flow and choose what tickles your fancy. And here's a neat trick: organize your TBR crew based on urgency. Sort them into "Must Read Soon," "Read in the Next Month," and "Long-Term TBR" categories. It's like giving your books a VIP pass or telling them, "Hey, I'll get to you when the time is right." And, you know what? Flexibility is your best friend here. If a book suddenly winks at you, feel free to shuffle things around. It's all about going with the reading flow, and by doing this, you're paving the way for a chill and enjoyable reading journey.

Now, let's talk goals. We all love the idea of conquering a mountain of books, but let's not turn it into a reading marathon, shall we? Take a peek at your calendar—daily, weekly, monthly. What's your game? Work, family, life stuff—consider it all. This is your reality check before diving into those reading goals. Break it down, my friend. Instead of aiming to devour a whole library in a week, slice it into bite-sized chunks. Set goals like finishing a chapter, hitting a page count, or spending a cozy time with your book each day. It's like turning a reading mountain into a collection of manageable hills. Speed? Yeah, it's your pace, not a race. Read at your speed, soak in the story, and savor the journey. Remember, it's not just about ticking off books—it's about enjoying the ride. And when you hit those goals, give yourself a virtual high-five. Finished a tough book? Awesome! Read a set number of pages? Fantastic! Celebrate those wins, big or small. Positive vibes make the reading adventure even more awesome. So, get real, set goals you can crush, and celebrate the little victories.

Alright, let's spice up that reading life! Variety is the secret sauce to keep your reading adventures thrilling and avoid falling into a literary rut. Ever find yourself stuck in a genre loop? Break free! Venture into uncharted literary territories. If you're a die-hard fantasy fan, why not dip your toes into a juicy mystery or try a heartwarming contemporary novel? Mixing genres keeps things interesting and introduces you to hidden gems you might have overlooked. Balance is key. Don't limit yourself to fiction or non-fiction—try a bit of both! Dive into a gripping novel to escape reality, then switch gears with a thought-provoking non-fiction book that expands your horizons. It's like having a buffet of literary delights! Variety isn't just about genres; it's also about the length of your reads. Tackle that massive fantasy epic, then switch to a collection of short stories. Short reads can be like literary snacks—quick, satisfying, and perfect for those busy days when time is of the essence. Paperbacks are cool, but have you tried audiobooks or e-books? They're game-changers! Audiobooks let you "read" while jogging or doing dishes, and e-books save space in your bag. Mixing up formats adds a layer of excitement to your reading routine.

Let's talk about turning reading into your daily jam. It's not about squeezing in time; it's about making reading a vibe, a ritual, a thing you just naturally do. First things first, find your reading nook. It doesn't have to be a fancy armchair by the fireplace (though that would be cool). It could be your comfy couch, a cozy corner in your room, or even a blanket fort. Claim your spot and make it your reading haven. Timing is everything, they say. Pick a time that suits you. Morning coffee and a chapter? Lunch break escape into a fictional world? Or maybe a bedtime story rendezvous? Whatever floats your literary boat. Light a candle, grab a cozy blanket, or put on your favorite instrumental tunes. Make it an experience. The more you associate reading with good vibes, the more you'll crave those bookish moments. Don't stress about marathon sessions. Break it down. Even 15 minutes a day can work wonders. It's not about the quantity; it's about the quality of your reading time. Little by little, you'll sail through those pages. Tell someone about your reading routine. Share your bookish excitement. It could be a friend, a book club buddy, or even your pet. Talking about your reads adds a social flavor to your solo reading adventures.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to mastering your reading time. It's a personal journey, and the most important thing is to enjoy the process. So, whether you're diving into a new genre, setting reading goals, or turning every mundane moment into a chance to read, embrace the magic of books. Happy reading, and may your TBR list be ever intriguing and your reading time ever delightful!

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profile-icon Brenda Hoffman
What do Flannery O'Connor and a backward-walking chicken have in common? Read on to find out!
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profile-icon Kayla Cook

A few of you who attend book club meetings on the Palatka campus may be aware that I’m no fan of Jane Austen. I think her books are boring, her writing is mediocre, her romances are both unrealistic and undesirable, and every character she’s ever written is one of the most insufferable people to ever not exist. These are opinions that have scandalized many an English major and casual classic lit enjoyer alike, but I don’t say these things simply for the shock value—I genuinely struggle to find anything enjoyable about her books.

My beef with Austen began in the summer of 2018, when I took a class at the University of Florida on her writing. I had never read any of her books before, nor had I seen any films based on her books, but I had high hopes that I would enjoy that class because I was a history major and an English literature minor, and because I loved period dramas. I was quick to learn, however, that Austen’s stories lacked the elegance and nuance of modern historical fiction, the intrigue of late 19th and early 20th century mysteries by authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, or the humor and drama of William Shakespeare. Her books were bland by comparison to anything I liked or was used to, and on top of that, none of her characters were even slightly relatable. I was severely disappointed, and though I did well in the class, I didn’t enjoy a single minute of it past the first day.

But hold on—I promise my whole point in writing this isn’t just to go on a rant about Jane Austen and drag her through the mud for being a just-okay writer. Allow me to briefly digress.

A few days ago, I saw a video on YouTube Shorts in which a man was reacting to popular “classic rock hot takes,” and he opened it with one I’ve heard dozens of times: “The Beatles are/were overrated.” He politely disagreed. He went on to explain that a lot of the musical styles and sounds prevalent in the Beatles’ music might sound boring, primitive, basic, or even just plain bad to listeners in the present day, especially those of us who are used to hearing current popular music, but that’s not because the Beatles weren’t talented composers and musicians, or because their recording equipment was poor quality. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The Beatles were groundbreaking musicians who pioneered a lot of the techniques used in modern music recording, they used state-of-the-art equipment that a lot of other artists didn’t have the money or influence to access, they experimented with different types and combinations of instruments, and, not only did they define the music of a generation, they have also been credited with inspiring and even inventing some genres of music which would become more developed in the decades following their career as a group.

This YouTuber’s opinion about the Beatles made me stop and think, not about the feats of innovation and creativity performed by the Beatles in their own time, but about my own “hot takes” about Jane Austen. The more I thought, the more I came to realize that perhaps my assessments of Austen have been too harsh. I have always known as a scholar, an educator, and a writer myself that Jane Austen was highly innovative and influential in the development of the modern novel, but I had never really stopped and thought about what that meant. I merely accepted it as a fact of literary history, never really considering why it might have been true and not just something I’d heard half a dozen English teachers say and needed to remember and claim to agree with in order to get a good grade.

Of course Jane Austen wasn’t as interesting to me as the modern historical fiction I enjoy reading, or even as exciting as the Victorian detective stories I’ve loved since childhood. Comparing her to Shakespeare is entirely unfair as well because writing for the theatre and writing a novel are two completely different art forms which require different sets of skills. Jane Austen is boring to me, but that isn’t because she’s a bad writer. It’s because she did what she did first. The same conventions, themes, tropes, and depth found in later writing couldn’t be found in her writing to any currently impressive degree simply because they hadn’t been invented yet, or were still developing.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of Jane Austen’s books. They have never appealed to me, and they probably never will, but that’s okay. They were a product and an impetus of a certain period of literary history that existed well before the one in which I find myself as a reader, and with that in mind, my respect and understanding of these books and why they are the way they are have increased.

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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

If you aren't reading young adult fiction, then you are missing out. I have discovered that young adult authors are some of the most imaginative writers I've encountered. They have to be. Have you ever tried keeping the attention of a teenager? It’s a challenge!

If you want a great YA author to start with, I can’t recommend anyone more wholeheartedly than Neal Shusterman. He has a long list of great books and book series. I'd count a few of his YA series among my favorites of all time. He is going to hook you early, and he's going to make you think. That’s just the way it is with Shusterman.

My sister (a reader whose opinion I trust dearly) recommended his Arc of a Scythe trilogy to me. I'll tell you upfront- this one did not disappoint. Like some of his other works, this series is set in a futuristic society where technology has taken over for the benefit of the people. Health care is advanced. Death is no longer a natural occurrence. To make up for this, a chosen group called the “Scythes” controls the population numbers by "gleaning" people. Gleaning is the equivalent of death, and the Scythes are a revered and powerful sect of society.

Shusterman always does a wonderful job of developing the main characters that you want to follow. Whether you love them or hate them, they will capture your interest and won't let it go. This series is no different. In the first book, Scythe, you’re introduced to this futuristic world. You also meet the Scythedom and many of your main characters of interest. It also doesn't take long to see some issues with this "too good to be true" way of life offered by the "Thunderhead," the all-knowing cloud of technology running the show. Thunderhead is the title of the second book, which is action-packed. You'll learn more about some Scythes' corruption and the Scythedom's breakdown. You'll also begin to see the weaknesses of the Thunderhead. And, of course, your main characters are all over the place! So much drama unfolds. Book three, The Toll, is a rollercoaster from beginning to end. I can’t describe this one without spoiling anything. But just know that I couldn’t put it down.

Oddly enough, as enjoyable as this series was, it still isn’t my favorite work by Shusterman. My heart still belongs to the Unwind Dystology. I still need to finish the Skinjacker trilogy, which I plan to do *soon*. Shusterman has also mastered the standalone novel. If you feel like diving into your emotions, you must check out Challenger Deep. Keep your tissues close by.

Let me know if you're ready to get caught up on ALL of Neal Shusterman's greatest works. I went on a Shusterman shopping spree last year, so the Palatka Campus Library has you covered!

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