I love used books!

I buy a lot of used books. Used bookstores are my kryptonite; I can’t go into one without buying at least five new books. Sometimes people try to tell me that buying brand new books is better than getting someone’s run-down, beat up, second-hand book, but I disagree and I’m going to tell you why.

Can you guess which ones were purchased as brand-new versus used?

        Can you guess which ones were purchased as brand-new versus used?

  • Used books hold more stories than the ones written on their pages. Think about it: who was its pervious owner? Where was it read? Has it been to more countries than you? If that book could talk, it would probably have an exciting memoir to recite.
  • Coffee stains on white pages got you down? Well, stop being so particular! If someone has stained their book it only means that they couldn’t take a five minute break from reading to eat, which has to be a good sign. If someone else couldn’t put that book down, you probably won’t either.
  • Used books are cheaper than new books! Sure, you could argue that e-books are (sometimes) even less money, and using a library card is always free, but sometimes you just need to own a particular book.
  • I might be pretty unique in liking worn out books — I make a point to destroy book spines — and many of my friends shudder when they hear me say I’d rather have tattered pages than perfect, straight ones. While most used books are old and loved, not all of them look it. A lot of used books do look brand new!
  • Sure, that new-book smell is awesome, but musty old books smell great too.
  • Getting lost in used bookstores is almost as fun as reading. They are usually organized in some way, but more often than not the shelves are stacked with more books than you could image. What’s wrong with wandering amongst shelves for an hour or so trying to find that next awesome literary adventure? Nothing.
  • If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some super old books it feels like finding an artifact from the literary world. A lot of old books have hand-sewn spines, beautifully illustrated covers, and hold so much history! These, friends, are the real treasures of the book world.
  • Sometimes used books have notes scribbled in the margins. This is awesome, as it gives you the opportunity to see what previous readers were thinking. Did they interpret that character the same way you did? Did they pick up on some foreshadowing that you missed? These notes will get you thinking about books in ways you might never have thought of!
  • Used bookstores are usually independently owned, and need your support! Plus, owners/staff are always super knowledgeable and friendly.
  • Buying used books is also environmentally friendly. Need I say more?

I love libraries!

National Library Week ends today, but I think that every week should be National Library Week; libraries are totally awesome and should always be celebrated!

Libraries are full of shelves and stacks and little nooks and crannies of books that you are allowed to borrow and read FOR FREE! This is especially awesome for a bookworm like myself, because there’s no way I could afford to buy all the books I want to read. So really, what is better than an entire building filled with books just waiting to be read, that also actively encourages you to come hang out and feed your mind with adventures and imagination and general amazingness? Nothing.

I could go on forever about how much I love libraries. I’ve been frequenting them for as long as I can remember. My local library growing up, which was a converted old railway station, hosted story-time for young children, summer reading programs for tweens and teens, and is still pretty awesome to this day. Back in the ‘90s, it also had computers that you could use to access the internet! Way cool.

In university, I practically lived in my school’s library. Since I double majored in History and English Literature, I pretty much read all day until my eyes started bleeding; it was fantastic.

Now, being a young, hip twenty-something, I still hang out at my city’s local library. It was recently renovated, and is now full of beautiful artwork, high ceilings, tech-labs, performance rooms, and of course, more than enough books to fill my tiny apartment with. It also has a wicked coffee shop inside, which is great for fuelling my brain during those afternoons when I just need to finish the last 100 pages of a totally awesome story.

But I often feel like libraries don’t get enough love. How many of you hang out at them regularly? Or, if you do, how many of your friends or family go with you?

I understand that not everyone loves to read, and most people associate libraries with a love of reading. However, that’s not necessarily true. Take a look at this year’s theme for National Library Week: Libraries Transform.

What does that mean? Well, I like to think that it means libraries, and their programs, transform those traditional ideas and notions of their very own institutions.

Traditionally, libraries have been a place where the general public can go to educate themselves (typically for free) through written text. Now, though, we’ve started to gravitate away from only learning from books, which is a great thing.

You can now go to libraries and access the internet (which might still be a big thing for some people), you can take courses, watch performances, join clubs, meet up with friends, or even learn how to 3D print something. 3D printing in libraries! Who would have ever thought?

Libraries are spaces for thinking, creating, collaborating, and sharing ideas. They now transcend physical books, and offer so much more. You can access digital archives, see special collections, and learn more fun facts than you ever thought even existed. Libraries are bursting with free knowledge.

So what are you waiting for? Go get your library card.

International Women’s Day 2016

In honour of International Women’s Day I’ve decided to tell you all about some of my favourite books by female authors!

Ru, by Kim Thúy

This book, written in vignettes, was originally published in French and then translated into English. It’s beautifully written, and can be finished in an afternoon; yes, it’s that captivating. Kim Thúy has eloquently penned her story on these pages, and brings you from Vietnam to a refugee camp in Malaysia, and ends off in Quebec, Canada. However, the story is told from the perspective of the main character, An Tinh; it is based on Thúy’s experiences (so, autobiographical fiction). Reading through this story, you learn about the struggles, hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears of this small girl, forced into making a new life for herself, as she searches for herself and her home.

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

I remember reading this book in university, and immediately loved it. It’s written by Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros, and tells the story of a young girl, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in Chicago. Similarly to Ru, it is written in vignettes, and is beautiful. However, the vignettes are not in chronological order, so the reader is forced to piece the story together. The House on Mango Street weaves together Esperanza’s story as she goes through her teenage years, and becomes a young adult. She struggles to find herself, but finds solace in writing. This helps her discover herself and her culture, and allows her to make a better life for herself by eventually leaving Mango Street; however, Esperanza vows to always remember her roots.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

If you’re a young twenty-something, fresh out of college and trying to figure out who you are and where you belong, this is the book for you. It’s comforting to know that others, albeit fictional characters, experience the same struggles and pains as you do. What’s not so comforting is learning that the author of one of your favourite books committed suicide because she was so depressed. The Bell Jar explores the life and mind of its main character, Esther Greenwood, and her battle with mental illness. The story is, inevitably, dark, but worth reading. 

All three of these books have obvious links to International Women’s Day — they are written by females — but their larger themes are also extremely important and still topical in today’s world. So today, celebrate all the women you know, everywhere, and take the time to reflect on their journeys, struggles and successes. All of these stories are important, and make us who we are. 

World Book Day!

Happy World Book Day!

I am terrible at blogging! But whatever, less time spent writing about books means more time reading books, right? Right!

In celebration of World Book Day (which should really be every day), I shall share with you all my favourite book of 2016 (so far).

Gold Fame Citrus, by Claire Vaye Watkins

IMG_1910Gold Fame Citrus is probably one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read in a while. I usually like my sci-fi full of aliens, adventures through space and complicated scientific theories that I only kind of understand (or at least pretend to understand), but this book is on a whole new level. It’s science fiction in a new way that I had never considered before. Imagine if an extreme period of climate change and ecological decay, predicted to take tens of thousands of years, was sped up and happened in the span of roughly 10-15 years.

What happens when the state of California, and its surrounding areas, are completely dried up, and everyone is forced to move to the east coast if they want any chance of survival? What happens to the people who decide to stick it out and forage for food, live off the land, and become one with the desert?

That’s what the two main characters, Luz and Ray, decide to do. Luz and Ray have a complicated relationship, but it’s beautiful. They only have each other. Their situation is clearly not ideal, but they take care of one another and always share their rationed cola.

After finding a toddler, clearly neglected by her caregivers, they decide to try and make it east to start new lives for themselves. But crossing a desert, which has already swallowed up an entire mountain range, is not easy. Especially when you get caught up with a group of people who truly believe that the desert chose them; they also may or may not realize that they’re in a cult.

Gold Fame Citrus is a harrowing story, but Watkins presents it with beautiful prose. I recommend reading this book if you’re looking for an original story packed with emotions.

December Reading Roundup

Yes, I realize that it is actually January, but I’ve been so busy for the past month working and drinking egg nog that I haven’t been able to write about all my literary romps! So, fellow book nerds, feel free to check out these short reviews about some of the books I read in the past few weeks!

Room, by Emma Donoghue

This book starts off like an episode of Criminal Minds, but better. Why? Because 1) it’s a book (duh) and 2) it gets into the minds of the victims: a young mother and her five year old son who are being held in a single room. Jack was born and raised in the room, has never left, and is content with his life; he has no idea what is outside the four walls he knows so well. His mother, on the other hand, remembers everything about her former life and wants nothing more to escape. I wasn’t sure about whether or not I would enjoy Room, but I did. It was a beautiful, powerful story about survival and love, and it’s told from Jack’s point-of-view, which is both heartwarming and frustrating. I’d recommend Room to almost anyone. 

The Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey

Have you ever heard of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis? It’s this weird fungal disease that more or less turns ants into zombies. The fungus attacks the ant’s brain, and begins to manipulate its behaviour. Once the ant dies, it releases a disgusting looking spore from its head, which then later infects more ants. What makes this disease even more interesting is that it only infects certain hosts.

What does this have to do with a book? Well, imagine if this disease evolved into a form that was able to infect humans, because that’s the setting of The Girl With All The Gifts.

In this post-apocalyptic tale, humans that have become infected with the new strain of ophiocordyceps are referred to as “hungries,” and they attack and eat other people. Those that have gone unaffected live in heavily protected areas. A few military personnel, however, live at a base and conduct experiments on children who have been infected but do not display typical “hungry” behaviour.

What sets these children apart? Why are they able to (sometimes) resist the desire to attack and eat humans? Do they hold the cure to this infectious disease? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler

I’m going to be honest and admit that I am not familiar with any of Amy Poehler’s work (other than her role as “the cool mom” in Mean Girls). I saw her book on a lot of “You Need To Read These Books” lists and decided to give it a go.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Amy Poehler is a queen. Her book is filled with solid advice that will also make you a queen. She spills a lot of tough truths while simultaneously making you laugh. Read this book. Just do it. 

PS — if you want to see everything I’ve been reading, check out my Goodreads account.

2015 Reading Challenge

This year I challenged myself to read 25 new books, and kept track of my progress through my Goodreads account. I am proud to say that as of last week, I successfully completed this challenge! Now I can spend my December re-reading some of my all-time favourites (I’m coming for you again, Gatsby!).

Today, I decided to re-visit all the books I read this past year, and challenged myself to write one-sentence reviews. If you’re looking for some new reads to wrap up your year, check these out! 

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, by Vincent Lam

Written by a Toronto-based doctor about being a medical student in Toronto: this book gives you more insight into the world of medical care than Grey’s Anatomy ever could.

Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

While some excerpts were great, others weren’t, so I defiantly wouldn’t say that it defines a generation.

2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

I don’t even know how to begin explaining my love for Clarke’s work, or 2001: he spins a masterful tale about life on Earth and beyond.

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

This book is full of female, twenty-something angst, and I love it; funny and sad, Plath will welcome you into her world and make you feel at home.

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway makes me feel in a way that no other author can, and this book is no exception; I don’t even know how to describe it except by saying “it’s real.”

A Dance With Dragons, by George R. R. Martin

I still hate all the Starks.

2010: Odyssey Two, by Arthur C. Clarke

Dave Bowman comes back!

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

I really don’t understand the hype around this book — it was only alright.

A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby

Another book full of angst, but also ripe with strange friendships that develop over a pact to not commit suicide.

2061: Odyssey Three, by Arthur C. Clarke

You never know what you’re going to find in space!

Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer

One of the greatest pieces of non-fiction I’ve ever read, and a compelling story about one young man’s journey to find himself.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard

If you want to know what the character’s in Shakespeare’s Hamlet do while off-stage, read this play, because it’s hilarious.

The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells

Martians that can’t cope with Earth’s atmosphere or various diseases, so despite their invasion, humans still come out as victors.

Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer

Area X is full of secrets that will drive you mad, potentially to the point of death.

Armada, by Ernest Cline

This book is full of totally awesome nerdy references, but the ending falls short.

Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

Only Kurt Vonnegut writes like Kurt Vonnegut, and you don’t realize how true his satire is until it’s over.

Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk

This book made me pretty uncomfortable, but that’s what Chuck Palahniuk does, so I’d still call it a success.

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton

DINOSAURS!

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., by Adelle Waldman

Hipster romances in Brooklyn.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

This book tells the story of a wonderful world of magic, but tries too hard to make a sub-par romance spark.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving

I’m still concerned about what actually happened to Ichabod Crane.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

This story will melt your heart in a spooky way.

Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

The story is gripping, and will leave you turning pages and trying to figure out what is happening, but in the end, you’ll be let down.

A Study in Scarlett, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock and Watson meet for the first time and it’s hilarious.

Fans of the Impossible Life, by Kate Scelsa

Very similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and would have probably been better if I was still 16.

“It came from City Lights…”

When people walk into my apartment one of the first things they see are my bookshelves, and one of the first things they say is, “Wow, you have a lot of books.” I guess they aren’t wrong.

Being a huge bookworm/literature nerd, I do buy a lot of books. I even have duplicates of some (they have different covers!). My bookshelves are literally full, and a lot of my books are piled on top of and in front of each other, or wherever they fit.

Everyone thinks my book collection is awesome, expect my Mum, who is constantly complaining about “all those damn books, taking up space.” Listen, Mum, they’re all piled up in my apartment, not your house, so stop it.

While my mum complains, the majority of my friends are often asking how I am able to afford all of these glorious, wonderful books; this question is usually quickly followed by, “So, can I borrow one?”

Well, my friends, the answer is simple: most of my books come from used book stores, thrift shops or garage sales. There’s no way I could ever afford to buy all my wonderful books brand-new from Chapters. As for borrowing books, that depends on whether or not you dog-ear pages, which is unforgivable.

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This past weekend I visited one of my favourite used bookstores: City Lights Bookshop, located in downtown London, Ontario.

I’ve been going to City Lights with my Dad for as long as I can remember. Whenever we venture into the realm of London, we make our way downtown to get lost between the stacks of this magical, wonderful little shop.

If the teeming piles of used books don’t excite you, then their hilarious, retro decorations will. The walls are adorned with weird posters, literary quotes, action figures, comics and more. The decor is also always related to whatever section you’re in.

When you’re browsing Canadian literature, for example, you’ll see Canadian flags everywhere. The sci-fi section, on the other hand, is covered in Star Wars prints. There used to be a cardboard cut out of Captain Kirk, but he wasn’t there this time.

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Every time I venture into City Lights, I leave with at least five new books. While five books would likely cost you $100+ at Chapters, at a used bookstore, you’ll likely only need $25-50, depending on the quality of the books.

The staff at City Lights are also super friendly, and more than willing to answer any questions, provide recommendations, or help you find your way through their piles of books. The shelves in this place can be intimidating, especially since they look like they will topple over at any given minute. However, the hoards of books only add to its cozy atmosphere.

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The layout of the store might seem a bit confusing — some of the aisles bend and turn where you least expect them too — but this shouldn’t sway you from browsing! Just think of it as an epic adventure which will probably end with you finding more treasure than you thought you would.

If you ever find yourself in downtown London, I highly recommend stoping by City Lights Bookshop. You can find it nestled in the corner of Richmond and King Streets. In the meantime, enjoy all the awesome photos of their stacks of books!