Making Reading a Habit

Forming any type of habit is hard. If the action was something you really loved to do – and had copious amounts of time in which to do it – then you wouldn’t really have to try and make it a habit, right? Habits take foresight, planning, and some willpower, too. No matter how great a start, there’s always that day where you let your actions slip… and then suddenly you’ve not done the thing you set out to do for days or weeks (or sometimes even months).

However a bibliophile’s best intentions, making reading a habit is hard work. Even if reading is your favorite thing in the world to do, sometimes the book you’re reading sucks. Sometimes something else important (or interesting) gets in the way. Sometimes you run out of time. Sometimes you don’t make time.

In the past week, I started working at a second job – which doubled my time spent away from home each week from a reasonable 21 hours to 42, plus a daily commute between 45 and 70 minutes six days per week. I used to have whole days off where I could go shopping, watch a movie, read in the middle of the day, do the crossword puzzle for the span of a whole cup of tea… the possibilities were endless. Now I get two full days off out of every fourteen, and sometimes I’m out of the house for a full 12 hours.

Making time to read – when a scant 30 or 60 minutes has to be spread across all the blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts to which I subscribe; the TV series I really want to watch (both current and backlogged – ah!!! Orphan Black!!!); my ever growing pile of magazines; the walks I need to take with my dog – can sometimes feel like a chore. Sometimes I’m sick of giving that only hour of free time to a book, day after day. Sometimes I feel like watching the pilot episode of yet another TV series on Netflix because, ahem, I’m paying $8 a month and I haven’t watched anything since the middle of June. (And yes, I keep track.)

So why do I read, day after day? Why do I give up Tumblr time or Orphan Black time or sleep time?

Because I love to, and I’ve decided to make reading part of my daily routine.

Yeah, I really love to sleep. But I also really want to find out what happens in Westeros. There will be some days where I’ll sit in front of the TV for an entire season of Doctor Who. Maybe I’ll watch YouTube videos while simultaneously scrolling through Tumblr and losing the (SO. FREAKING. ADDICTING.) game 2048. I might even make the excuse that the best place to wait for my laundry is sprawled out on the couch while I catch up on stuff I’ve DVR’d. But come bed time, I’ll be in bed reading.

So what if it’s only 30 minutes. Who cares if, at 25 pages a night, my current read, A Dance with Dragons, is going to take me over a month to finish. What matters is that I make time to read, every night, day after day. And when other stuff gets in the way, and I forgo my nightly habit? I start over again the next.

Some tips to form your own reading habit:
1. Figure out where and when you’ll read.
What’s the best time for you: At night before bed? Between work and dinner? While exercising? While driving to work? Is there a place in your home that doesn’t already have a function? Get creative and comfortable.

2. Find a format that works for you.
Are you into holding physical books? Do you prefer the portability of an e-book? Do you like the hands-free aspect of audiobooks? Unless you’re stuck on one format, try some out and see what works when.

3. Create some sort of way to track your reading. (If you really want to make reading a habit, this is a must.)
There are great riffs on “don’t break the chain” memes – which give you positive reinforcement by showing you how many times you’ve performed the action you want to make a habit – or you can make sometime less formal like buying a cheap calendar you don’t mind staring at the whole month and crossing off days or creating some type of chart or table in your word processor. Whatever the tool, figure out what works for you.

4. Read, yo. (And don’t beat yourself up when you don’t.)
Reading every day/night for a specified amount of time or pages is the most surefire way to make daily reading a habit – but slip ups habit and the best advice I can give is to not give up. Only have time for a quick ten minutes? Awesome! Skip a day? No problem! Just start again the next.

5. Adjust as necessary.
Tweak your plan as necessary or else scrap it completely and pick a different goal such as reading x books per year/month/week. Again, find what works for you.

How do you make reading a habit? What gets in your way?

New video: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

In which I review One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and give it 4 stars for its trustworthy narration, accompanying illustrations, themes of autonomy and power, and suggest you have a conversation about the novel with others and/or give it a re-read after exploring its historical context.

Watch it below or check out my other videos on YouTube.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read Time Travel

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was ten books for people who’ve never read “x”, so I chose time travel because it’s something I love to think about and read about and dream about.

65063071. Blackout by Connie Willis
Blackout (and its sequel All Clear) features time-travelling historians from Oxford University in 2060 and focuses heavily on how individuals initiate cause-and-effect during World War II in England. A must read for anyone even remotely interested in time travel or who just loves books set in England during the 1940s. Willis did a phenomenal job doing her research.

1354142. The Boy I Loved Before by Jenny Colgan
Flora (and her parents) go back in time in body only – and only a handful of people (including Flora’s bestie Sashy) are aware that Flora’s current consciousness has been transferred to her seventeen-year-old body. A fresh take on the theory of time travel and what it means to get a second chance.

5487393. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
For all you Austenites out there – a cute romance about what happens when Courtney is abruptly pulled from her present-day Los Angeles life and wakes up in the body of Jane, a “gentleman’s daughter” from Regency England. Check out Rigler’s sequel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, for Jane’s side of the story.

4. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Book one of Harkness’ All Souls trilogy about closeted witch Diana, vampire geneticist Matthew, and how the underground paranormal society turns upside when they meet. This is on my list because SPOILERS Diana comes into her ability to time walk, which features heavily in the book’s sequel, Shadow of Night SPOILERS but its a must read, even if you don’t like witches, magic, or vampires. The trilogy’s conclusion, The Book of Life, just came out in 2014 as well.

25951385. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
A modern take on time-travel through memory and reincarnation via its unnamed narrator, recovering in a burn ward following a car accident, and Marianne, a sculptor who insists the two were once lovers in medieval Germany. Davidson’s ability to write about (and totally inhabit) the different cultures and time periods is enough of a reason to pick up this book.

91824786. Hourglass by Myra McEntire
The first book in McEntire’s Hourglass trilogy about people who have the time gene, Hourglass focuses on seventeen-year-old Emerson who sees apparitions, glimpses of what was bleeding into what is, and her gradual acceptance of how she fits into the larger time-travelling word. Check out the novel’s sequels, Timepiece and Infinityglass.

1105124 7. I Went to Vassar for This? by Naomi Neale
The summary pretty much sums up why I love this book: “A microwave mishap blasts a modern-day ad executive back into 1959 – a strange new world with no Internet and no iPods, but one very hot next-door neighbor.” A quick read that still manages to pack in humor and critiques of 1950s society.

140508. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
One of more well-known books about time-travel, focusing on Henry and Clare – how and when they meet, the love between them, and fate. Trust me – the movie did not live up to how much I adore this book.

And to round out my top ten, here are some books I haven’t yet read:

9. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
“Al, owner of the local diner, enlists high school teacher Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession – to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke.”

10. The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen
“Zed is an agent from the future, a time when the world’s problems have been solved. His mission is to keep it that way – even if it means ensuring every cataclysm throughout history runs its course, especially The Great Conflagration, an imminent disaster in our own time that Zed has been ordered to protect at all costs.”

11. A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson
“Euclid, Illinois, is a town of many shortcuts, between houses, through orchards, and across fields. Josh, a local artist and longtime resident, knows these irregular pathways well, but is thoroughly taken aback when a hasty dash down a familiar walk deposits him fifteen minutes in the past–literally. At first, Josh is more intrigued than alarmed by this accidental time travel. Then a lost young woman appears, claiming to be from 1908.”

Bargain Bin Book Haul

If you’re a serial book buyer (like me), then you know the jittery excitement a used book sale can produce. There are the rows and rows (and possibly rows) of books once loved and then forgotten, ready and waiting for your finger to lazily sweep across its spine and be tempted enough by the title or the author or the color or the font or the size (etc., etc.) to pick it up and quite possibly bring it home. There are the sweaty palms you get just thinking about what kind of out-of-print gems or lingering title on your to-buy list (because we all have one) you’ll find inconspicuously sitting next to a mass market romance or last year’s best seller.

And then there’s the cold hard fact that, no matter the publisher’s sticker price, the highest you’ll pay for a book is most likely $5.00 (but probably only 50¢ – $1.00).

Because I work at a library, I almost always get first dibs on newly withdrawn books or off-hand donations being put on the for-sale cart (which is its own kind of torture). But there’s also the pure joy of walking into a library not-always-visited or finding out about a library’s much anticipated yearly book sale that really gets me going. I just love looking, even if nothing really catches my attention enough for me to buy it.

Aside from the two noted, all the books below were bought at book sales for under $2.o0 each – and they aren’t even everything I purchased. (I think I went into the book sale room at my library every day I was working, and actually purchased a full bag of books on three separate occasions. Oops.)

My haul

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Title by Author: Retail Price / What I Paid
And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini: $28.95 / $2.00
The Selected Words of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen: $27.95 / $2.00
The Host by Stephenie Meyer: $25.99 / $2.00
A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson: $14.95 / $1.00
A Conspiracy of Tall Men by Noah Hawley: $14.00 / $1.00
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: $14.99 / $5.38 (@ B&N)
The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen: $15.99 / $3.59 (@ B&N)
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley: $8.99 / $1.00
Incendiary by Chris Cleave: $15.00 / $1.00
Crime and Punishment by Fodor Dostoyevsky: $11.95 / $1.00
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne: $14.99 / $1.00
World War Z by Max Brooks: $9.99 / $1.00
Roots by Alex Haley: $2.75 / 50¢
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood: 50¢ / 50¢

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I bought this book not only because I loved the film but because it’s been hanging around in the world since 1964! So cool!!

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I LOVE Winnie the Pooh, but I’ve never actually read any stories by A.A. Milne. The colors on this book jacket were beautiful AND there’s this gold-leaf edge on the pages. So, that’s awesome.


This book (and its jacket) looked so intriguing that I had to pick it up.

I seriously picked this up to read the summary because of the fonts, colors, and graphics. Such a simple design but still beautiful.

Here’s to happy book hunting!

New Domain

When I started this blog two years ago, I wanted a place on the web that could highlight my professional accomplishments, where I could post all the academic work I’d done because I was going to be well-known (or something… I don’t really know) in the world of library science.

But that didn’t really work out, and, per request from one of my former teachers, I removed some assignments and made everything else private. Then I started a video blog and re-vamped this blog a couple of months ago to focus more on the book reviews about which I’ve been vlogging and writing outside of my career as a Professional Librarian.

In effect, this blog became less about real-life me (a.k.a. rachelalexandr) and more about online me (a.k.a. thewasofshall). Hence the name change.

rachelalexandr.com will still function until the end of August, but I’ve changed my blog name and url to thewasofshall.com – I’d be much appreciative if you could change your links as well. If you’re arriving here via my wordpress link, rachelalexandr.wordpress.com, don’t fret – that will always work because SOMEBODY HAS MY WORDPRESS NAME ALREADY. >:(

Staff Review: Coraline – Neil Gaiman

Originally posted on READ THIS:

coralineReviewed by Rachel

By all accounts, Neil Gaiman’s children’s book Coraline is a strange and creepy piece of fiction. It features another set of parents for its protagonist, Coraline Jones, who live through the hallway behind the door that goes nowhere. Copies of her next door neighbors, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, perform nightly for an audience of talking dogs. And everyone she meets while in this other world has black buttons sewn into their eyes. As Coraline explores this other space, she has to use her wits and cunning to out-smart her other mother and rescue her real parents before black buttons are sewn into her eyes.

But Coraline is written as a strong female character who is brave for taking on her other mother, and braver still for doing it while fully understanding the consequences should she lose. This braveness permeates the whole of the novel, and cements…

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