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Favorite Books

Reading Holiday Recap

As I mentioned in the Reading in 2023 post, I decided to take a reading vacation just a few days after getting back from our winter vacation.

What I Read

What Went Well

  • I got really lucky and enjoyed all the books I read. My favorite was probably Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date followed by Loki’s Ring.
  • I really liked having a goal of reading a different genre each day.
  • On the first day I got a massage in the early afternoon. This was a great way to emphasize the vacation was suppose to be relaxing and fun. The early afternoon time was also good because it gave me plenty of time to do some reading in the morning and drop by the library to pick up even more books before going to the appointment.
  • It was really nice to schedule this when the kids didn’t have school so I could just sleep in as long as I wanted.
  • It was fantastic having supper options made ahead of time. I basically didn’t have to spend any time on supper at all, just grabbed things from the freezer and heated them up.
  • During the day I read in the purple chair in the sunroom. Jaeger got this chair off Craigslist when he first moved to San Francisco and it is the perfect reading chair. You can lean back and put your legs up on an ottoman or lounge sideways equally well. In one of our moves it lost a rear leg but we propped it up on a short plastic stool and it works fine.
  • I ordered a winter tea sample pack from Friday Afternoon and started each reading session with a pot of tea. The whole setup was very cozy.

Lessons Learned

  • I think having one of the genres being Science Fiction or Fantasy was a mistake, at least with the goal of only reading new authors. It was a little stressful to try to find a new author that I was fairly certain I would enjoy. Instead, it might have been nice to set aside the last day of the reading vacation for a re-read of something comforting.
  • I tried to do too many things on Saturday. In addition to reading a book, I also tried to play a long board game with the family and then go out to dinner with Jaeger. Next time I should probably try to do no more than one non-reading thing a day.
  • Because I knew Saturday would be full, I stared Saturday’s book on Friday. That was necessary to finish the book by Saturday evening but I didn’t find it as satisfying.
  • I was planning to do a little bit of exercise first thing in the morning, before reading, and then going on a short afternoon walk. I felt it would be good for my body to get at least some movement each day. I did well the first two days but less well once I hit the weekend. Though, I didn’t get any weird aches from sitting too long each day so maybe it turned out ok regardless.
  • I do not know why but I kept wanting to snack. This was not something I had anticipated. Next time, I think I should spend a bit more time thinking about reasonable but fun snack options.
  • I didn’t have a plan for what to do when I was done with my book of the day. I purposely picked relatively short books but that meant I was done reading them in 4-6 hours. Because I allowed myself such leisurely mornings this was a pretty good length to finish before supper. However, I usually read in the evening too and wasn’t sure if I should start a new book or do something else.

Other Ideas

  • One of my initial thoughts was to also watch TV/Movie book adaptations. I was thinking things like Jane Austen movies, Agatha Christie episodes, maybe some Shakespeare adaptations. However, we don’t have a great setup for that right now. We have one TV in the living room, which I didn’t feel like monopolizing, and I find it hard to lounge when watching on an iPad or computer. I still like the idea but don’t really know how to make it work.

Ideas for Next Time
Overall, this was an ideal vacation for me and something I would like to repeat. I really liked the one-genre-a-day format. However, some other things I might consider for the future (or not):

  • Book with movie pairings
  • Books I keep meaning to read but haven’t — slightly worried this might make it less fun but maybe not
  • One long book
  • Reading books around a theme, perhaps in different genres.
  • Potentially schedule around an author event
  • Just read books I’ve read before
  • Just read classics

Reading in 2023

Since 2016 I’ve made three interstate moves, have worked at three different jobs, had some extremely fraught years in my marriage, and lived through a pandemic. Now I’m objectively in a good place but emotionally I’m still pretty fragile and I think that’s reflected in my reading this past year.

In 2023 I read more books than in 2022 but fewer pages. About 15% of my reading this year was rereading old favorites and the new books I read were often relatively short. While I don’t keep track of my Did Not Finish stats, I know there were many books this year that I started but did not finish. In most cases, this was not a reflection of the quality of the book but rather it wasn’t the right book for me when I was trying to read it.

If you’re curious, you can see my StoryGraph stats for 2023 here.

This blog post got a little out of hand so a quick table of contents to the sections below:
My Favorite Books in 2023
Hugo Award Nominees
Reading Holiday
Interior Design Books

My Favorite Books in 2023

Below are not necessarily the “best” books I read in 2023 but they are the ones I enjoyed the most. (I linked to the author’s website if they have a good landing page for the book, otherwise it’s a StoryGraph link.)

  • A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow (read A Spindle Splintered first) – Another Sleeping Beauty retelling. Both books in the series are novellas and are nice quick reads.
  • The Bald Mermaid: A Memoir by Sheila Bridges – I continue my obsession with reading interior design books. While look for new books, I stumbled across this memoir by interior designer Sheila Bridges.
  • Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn (this is the second in the series, Legendborn is the first) – Legendborn is one of those books where I immediately bought it after reading it from the library. It’s a King Arthur reborn story and I loved how it centers the story around a Black woman. Bloodmarked took me a little longer to get into but once I did it was also fantastic.
  • Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher – I think working for a university made me appreciate this book more than I would have otherwise. However, it’s a fun book regardless if you like cranky people trying to do the right thing in spite of themselves.
  • Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl – I’m fairly certain I found this via Modern Mrs. Darcy but I can’t remember what made me pick it up. Regardless, I found this memoir both interesting and delightful. It’s the story of a food critic going undercover in order to provide real reviews.
  • Good Neighbors: The Full Collection by Stephanie Burgis – This is a delightful fantasy romance. The heroine is technically savvy and very suspicious of people. It’s a quick fun read.
  • The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison (it would be best to read The Witness for the Dead first)
  • How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis – I wrote a whole blog post about this book but I think I managed to miss the essence of why I like it. This book gives you permission to not be perfect. It’s ok to try for “good enough” and if that bar is still too high, to just concentrate on staying alive.
  • Love Poems for People with Children by John Kenney (re-read) – This is a short collection of snarky poetry. As I recall, I didn’t mean to re-read it but had wanted to refer to one of the poems in it and the next thing I knew I had read the whole thing. Love Poems for Married People is also fun. The New Yorker has a couple of the poems here.
  • The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism by Jen Gunter – I haven’t reached menopause yet but it’s probably only a couple of years away at this point so I decided to get a head start on reading about it. This was a good book and one I expect I’ll read again in a couple of years.
  • The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray – This was a delightful murder mystery. I’m impressed by how Claudia Gray brought together so many of Jane Austen’s main characters under one roof. However, I particularly liked her descriptions of the two young people who work together to solve the mystery.
  • One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good by Regina Leeds – Still one of my favorite organizing books. Mind you, I haven’t followed any of her suggestions, I just like imagining a perfectly organized life. That said, I’m thinking about trying a light version of her approach this next year. We’ll see.
  • Red Team Blues by Cory Doctorow – Most of Doctorow’s books are not for me. However, Jaeger notified me about a kickstarter he was doing for his newest book at the time, Red Team Blues. I took a look and the premise sounded interesting. In addition, I am very anti-DRM (I want to own my books, not lease them, and be able to use them on all of my devices) so it seemed like a good fit. I got the audio version, which is how I usually listen to mysteries, but Jaeger bought the hardcover. It’s a quick fun story and I’ll probably listen to it again.
  • Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod – This was a recent holiday listen and I really enjoyed the dour and moderately cranky professor. After years of being harassed for not decorating his house for Christmas the professor snaps and commissions an excessively gaudy display to be installed and then leaves for the weekend. When he returns, he finds a dead body in his house. Everyone wants to believe it’s just an accident but the professor thinks something else is going on and starts investigating.
  • Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke – Slack is my work’s primary communication method so a story about someone somehow getting uploaded to an internal Slack channel was quite fun.
  • The Splinter in the Sky by Kemi Ashing-Giwa – This is the type of Science Fiction novel I particularly enjoy. One person starts out with a hopeless situation and manages to both survive and win in the end (at least for some definitions of “win”).
  • System Collapse by Martha Wells (if you have never read a Murderbot book, start with All Systems Red) – Murderbot is loved by many and I’m no exception. I love Murderbot’s annoyance with having to deal with people.
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – As I get older I appreciate books with older protagonists. I love the idea of a group of retired people getting together and solving crimes. Plus, they all have their own backstories that we start learning.
  • Translation State by Ann Leckie – Another book in the Ancillary Justice universe. It would be best to read that series first. I’m always impressed by how Leckie can write very different perspectives.
  • Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto – Another older woman who decides to solve a murder. This was such a nice cozy book.
  • The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – This was a really fun story. I love the idea of a real witch pretending to be a fake witch on social media.
  • Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes – This was probably my favorite space opera of the year. It’s an interesting story and the ending gets delightfully operatic.

Hugo Award Nominees

I did not set a reading goal for last year but reading the Hugo Award nominees is often an unofficial goal and I did fairly well this year. I read:

  • Best Novel – all 6 nominees
  • Best Novella – I also read all 6
  • Best Novelette – 5 of the nominees. There’s one author I have given myself permission to not even try because, while objectively a good writer, they never work for me
  • Short Stories – all six short stories though a couple I had to read via computer translation
  • Series – This is always a hard one for me. Usually I try to read at least one book in each series. This year I had read books in 5 of the series but have never read any in this year’s winner, the Children of Time Series
  • Best Graphic Novel or Comic – none
  • Best Related Work – none, though Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road still intrigues me
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form – I watched two of these: Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won, and Turning Red which I also liked
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – none
  • Best Editor, Short Form – probably none – short stories are hard for me
  • Best Editor, Long Form – I did reasonably well, for me, in this category and ended up reading works edited by three of the nominees. That’s only 50% of the nominees but it’s 75% of the nominees with English works (as far as I could tell, two nominees only edited works available in Chinese).
  • Best Professional Artist – none
  • Best Semiprozine – none
  • Best Fanzine – only one
  • Best Fancast – I’ve listened to episodes from four of the six nominees
  • Best Fan Writer – I think this is where I may have inadvertently read some of the nominees’ works but I didn’t vote in this category
  • Best Fan Artist – none
  • Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book – I read four of these nominees and started a fifth which I was unable to finish (but may try again later)
  • Astounding Award for Best New Writer – I read works from three of the six

Reading Holiday

I’m once again reluctant to make a reading goal for next year. However, I have decided to start the year with a reading holiday. I’m taking three days of vacation from work, around a weekend for a total of five days. This is before the kids go back to school so I don’t have to worry about waking up early or making school lunches for them (they’re perfectly capable of getting their own breakfasts/lunches at home). In addition, this gives me extra time to relax and recover from the chaos around Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. I’ve been mulling this idea for about a month and it took a while but I have a general idea of what I want the reading vacation to look like.

I’ve decided to try to read one book a day during the reading holiday. I’m not entirely sure if I can realistically do this or not. I’ve definitely read entire books in one day but I don’t know that I’ve ever done it multiple days in a row before. Each day will be a different genre and I’m going to try to stick to authors I haven’t read before. I’ve identified both a first choice and backup book (in case I start the first book and hate it, or I can’t get it in time). Most of these books look like they should be quick reads.

Thursday – Young Adult or Juvenile

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker

Backup: Damned If You Do by Alex Brown

2nd Backup: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Friday – Romance

Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake

Backup: Ana María and the Fox by Liana De la Rosa

Saturday – Mystery

The House Keepers by Alex Hay

Backup: The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries edited by Michael Sims

2nd Backup: Death on the Down Beat: An Orchestral Fantasy of Detection by Sebastian Farr

Sunday – Memoir or Non-fiction

Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions from a Happy Marriage by Helen Ellis

Backup: Now What?: How to Move Forward When We’re Divided About Basically Everything by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

Monday – Science Fiction or Fantasy

This one I’m a bit stumped. I was originally planning to read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin but belatedly realized it wasn’t SFF (I’m not sure why I thought it was).

My backup is The Salvation Gambit by Emily Skrutskie. I’ll probably make that one my primary and come up with another backup. On the other hand, I have quite a few SFF books checked out so maybe I’ll just grab one from my existing TBR stack.

Interior Design Books

I’m still reading a lot of interior design books. It’s slightly obsessive and there’s something going on there but I’m not exactly sure what. It’s probably related to moving so much the past couple of years and being determined to take root this time. In any case, this is a bit tricky because while the library generally will buy books I request, they have been reluctant to buy more interior design books. After my most recent request was denied I asked and was told that it was due to shelf space and that they don’t circulate well enough to justify the cost. Clearly, I could straight-up buy more interior design books but we spend a lot of money on books already and I’m reluctant to buy interior design books because I rarely reread them. If I don’t think I’m going to reread a book, I usually weed it which seems overall like a waste. After some thought, I’ve decided to try buying used copies. I don’t love this approach because, unlike the library or buying directly, the author doesn’t get any cut of my purchase. However, if I end up really loving the book I can always repurchase it new.

Thoughts on Cleaning

I find it very soothing to read organizing and housekeeping related books. I’ve read many over the years. One of my favorites is Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. I suspect I like it for the same reason Constance Grady relates in Why a manual by a control freak is the best thing to read when the world is out of control. My main regret is there isn’t an audio version available. Though, at 896 pages long, I can’t even guess how many hours that would take. As a result, the book I currently listen to the most is One Year to an Organized Life by Regina Leeds.

I particularly like listening to these type of books while I’m cleaning house. One day while browsing the library audiobooks I stumbled across How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis. This book is radically different from the ones I usually read. The book gives permission to do the bare minimum you need in order to have a house that is safe and comfortable for your needs. While it is very different from how I usually think about cleaning, the concepts discussed really caught my attention. I bought both the audiobook and ebook versions so I could listen and review again as often as I wanted1.

I am definitely happiest when everything in my house is perfectly clean and everything is in its place. This will probably come as a shock to Jaeger as early on in our marriage we had to have a discussion of what “clean” means. To me, clean means there is no dirt but for Jaeger it means there isn’t stuff laying around. So he would be upset about how dirty the house was and I would be very confused because the toilets had been bleached, the mirrors sprayed, and the furniture dusted even while our stuff lay around the house. However, when I pickup things, everything has to be picked up2. I lean towards an all or nothing approach when it comes to clutter.

While few things make me happier than sitting down to read in the evening in a perfectly clean and organized house, it’s not something I realistically have the time for if I want or need to do anything else. In my ideal world, I’d have a three day weekend that consists of:

  1. A rest day
  2. A house project day (paying bills, installing shades, organizing cupboards, etc) and
  3. A cleaning day

Sadly, I do not regularly get three day weekends. I almost never get three day weekends where I don’t have to account for how the rest of the family is occupying themselves.

These days even though it feels like I should have enough time to fully clean our house on Sunday, I don’t. At least, I don’t for the way I’d prefer to clean the house (in strict top to bottom order starting with the master bathroom and ending in the kitchen). This is true even though Calvin is responsible for the kids’ bathroom, our half bathroom, and the family room and Jaeger is responsible for all the floors3.

So, back to How to Keep House While Drowning. Since first listening to it, I’ve started tinkering more with my house cleaning routine. When I have a limited amount of time to clean, I try to focus more on what will have the most impact rather than going sequentially through my checklist. This is a hard shift for me but I’m slowly getting better at it. When I enter the bathroom I now ask myself what will make me happiest to have clean. While theoretically I would like to cobweb dust the ceiling every time, unless I actually see cobwebs, it’s usually not worth my time. On the other hand, the toilet and shower are two areas I want to clean every time4. My priorities in the bathroom are pretty consistent but I tend to have less consistency in the kitchen. One week I might really want to clean all the finger prints off the stainless steel appliances whereas another weekend I might choose to deep clean the sink5. The living room . . . well, it hasn’t been dusted in a while.

I feel this is a more balanced way to approach cleaning and, while it’s not prefect, I think it’s a reasonable approach for now. My Sundays still feel too full but when I sit down in the evening I feel better about the overall results.

  1. In completionist mode, I also want the physical book but I haven’t decided yet if I’m actually going to buy it
  2. This mirrors how I cleaned as a kid also. My room would gradually get extremely messy and every so often I’d stay up all night cleaning and it would be absolutely prefect for a couple of hours.
  3. An alternative option, which I have used sometimes in the past, is to hire house cleaners. However, I find managing everything that goes with hiring house cleaners to be even more stressful than cleaning myself. As Davis notes, another favorite suggestion people have is to clean while you go or to clean a little bit every day. This doesn’t work at all for me so I found the part where she talked about how it also doesn’t work for her to be very validating.
  4. Normally the shower wouldn’t be so high on my list except for some reason this shower starts growing mildew at an astonishing rate. Also, for the record, I really, really hate clear glass shower doors.
  5. Another hate I’ve developed is for built-in Corian sinks. Yes, there’s no annoying caulk lines to clean around and I do like that. However, our current off-white sink stains at an unbelievable rate. The only way I’ve found to deal with it is to take baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and leave it to soak for hours and even then it doesn’t always work.

Reading in 2022

This year I read 97 books which is slightly more than last year. My reading still ended up on the fluffy end of things. However, I did manage to read most of the Hugo nominees this year and I even have a head start on books to nominate for next year.

I continue to read a mix of physical, ebook, and audiobooks. However, I read fewer ebooks this year than last. Last year, I thought that I wasn’t able to find physical books I wanted to read because of the library’s smaller size, relative to the other systems I’ve borrowed from. However, they might have been buying less than usual due to pandemic reasons. I’ve had a lot more success in 2022 requesting books I want to read from the library. I’ve also been more proactive about requesting they buy specific books I want to read and the library has, for the most part, bought the books I request1. I have also been spending a lot of money at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Enough, apparently, that when I went to pick up one of my recent purchases and told the staff member my name she said, “Oh, you’re the one that orders a lot of books.2.”

This year, only 32% of the books I read were in audio format. I’ve slowly started listening to podcasts again, including Marketplace, which is taking up some of my potential audiobook time.

I read a lot of books and most of them were good. However, these were my favorites:

Next year I’m not going to aim for more than 97 books. However, I think I’m going to try a reading goal, though I haven’t decided on the specifics yet. Whatever I decide, I’ll probably look for a relatively short goal of 5-10 books. I want something that can gently push me to try new books without stalling my reading.

  1. I think they’ve declined to buy my suggestion only once and in that case I wasn’t able to find a traditional review to point them to.
  2. I’ve been preordering more than usual this year which is why they’re coming in as orders rather than me just picking them off the shelf.

Progress Reading the Hugo 2022 Nominees

I feel like I’ve been in a reading slump except I just updated LibraryThing with the books I’ve read since March and it was a fairly respectable number. Last year I didn’t even try reading the Hugo Award Nominees. However, this year I think I’m on track to read a good number of the 2022 nominees.

Best Novel
I’ve read all of nominations except for A Desolation Called Peace which I’m currently reading. All of them are good but very different. In many ways, Project Hail Mary is my favorite, probably because of its naive belief that science can solve all problems. However, I didn’t love some of its passages dealing with women (or the lack thereof).

Best Novella
I’ve read all of the nominated Novellas. Fireheart Tiger is my favorite.

Best Novelette
Another category I’ve read everything. I liked the variety in this category but I don’t have a clear favorite.

Best Short Story
I haven’t read anything in this category. However, the good news is they’re short stories so I can procrastinate and then cram them in at the end.

Best Series
Well . . . this is a tough category for me. In many ways, I wish it were a favorite author category rather than best series. The only series I’ve read all of the books is The World of the White Rat, by T. Kingfisher and it’s my clear favorite. T. Kingfisher has definitely been a comfort read for me the last couple of years. The first book in the series is Clockwork Boys.

Best Related Work
I’m probably not going to read enough in this category to vote but we’ll see. I have a hard time reading non-fiction unless it is to learn a specific skill. However, I did read Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism which was very good. Maybe I’ll get around to some of the others.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
So far, I’ve seen half of the nominees in this category: Encanto, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Space Sweepers. I enjoyed all of them and am finding it hard to rank them.

Best Fancast
This year, Be the Serpent was the only fancast I had listened to prior to the nominations. However, after the nominations came out I downloaded and listened to at least a couple from the other podcasts. Our Opinions Are Correct is my favorite of the new-to-me podcasts but I’ve enjoyed all the episodes I’ve heard of the others also.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
I always feel conflicted about this category because I’m not a teen so it feels weird to be voting in a YA category. That said, I’ve read four of the six nominees so far. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the last two. I started reading a couple of pages for both of them and they haven’t caught me yet. However, I should probably go back and try again. Of the ones I’ve read, Iron Widow was the most engrossing and Chaos on CatNet was the most charming.

Astounding Award for Best New Writer
Finally, we have the Astounding award nominees. I’m doing surprisingly well in this category having read at least something from four of the six authors. I loved Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn and really need to pick up the next book in the series. However, every author I’ve read in this category is good.

Categories I’m (probably) Ignoring
There’s always categories I’m not interested in or don’t know enough about to feel comfortable voting. This year, it’s probably going to include:

  • Best Graphic Story or Comic
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
  • Best Editor, Short Form
  • Best Editor, Long Form
  • Best Professional Artist
  • Best Semiprozine
  • Best Fanzine
  • Best Fan Writer
  • Best Fan Artist
  • Though, I may get around to having an opinion about the Best Editor categories. We’ll see . . .

Reading in 2021

Overall, I read 94 books this year.

I started this year with a goal of finally finishing a Sirens Reading Challenge but I didn’t finish. I was doing reasonably well till late spring and then I was getting bogged down and not reading because I wasn’t in the mood to read the books in my TBR pile. So, I threw any sort of reading goal out for the rest of the year and just read books. I didn’t even attempt to read the Hugo Award nominations1 or purposely read Hugo-eligible works for next year. However, that’s ok. I needed fluffier books and I appreciate that these books existed when I needed them.

Probably one of the biggest shifts, both this year and last compared to previous years, is the number of ebooks I’ve read. If you give me an ideal reading environment, I still prefer physical books. However, I found it easier to browse for new books via Overdrive instead of first finding books that sounded interesting and then hoping that the library had it. My current public library is the smallest of my adult life2 and so the selection is smaller than I’m use to. Mind you, if I run across a book that sounds particularly interesting that the library doesn’t own, I do request the library buy it and, so far, they have approved every purchase request I have submitted. They’re a good library. It’s just obvious they have finite resources and need to prioritize books they know will check out.

This was a pretty good audio book year for me. 41% of the books I read were in audio format. This is the first year that I’ve been driving with Julian daily, during which we listen to audiobooks, and it looks like that increased my audio reading a little bit. Though, probably the biggest change is that Jaeger and I swapped evening duties back in 2020. I now do the dishes, while he puts Julian to bed, which allows quite a bit more listening time than in the past. I’ve also reduced the number of podcasts I listen to. I use to be a faithful Marketplace listener but I’ve had less energy recently to deal with the news3.

Favorites Books read in 2021:

  • The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews – I haven’t finished this series yet. So far, I’ve read novels 1-9.
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – After I read this book, I felt like everything would be ok after all.
  • The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes
  • Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg – I have no idea why but I find this book weirdly calming and bought the audio version for my night time listing.
  • Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher – I love Kingfisher and own this book as a physical book, an ebook, and an audio book.
  • Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher – I own both the physical and ebook versions of this book, the audio version isn’t available yet.
  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
  • Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

  • Books from the Sirens Reading Challenge:

In a completely different vein, I’ve also been thumbing through a lot of interior design/home books to get ideas for our house. I didn’t include all of these in my reading count because I didn’t read some of them cover to cover. However, my favorite house-related books were:

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to try any reading challenges this year. For now, I’ll just take it one day at a time.

  1. Unlike Jaeger who read most of the main categories.
  2. Well, the smallest that I regularly got books from. Longmont was smaller but that was when I was working at High Plains and so I had access to their excellent collection.
  3. The podcast I currently listen to the most is Fated Mates which is all about romance books. I don’t read a lot of romance at the moment but I love listening to people talk about it. Some of their Trailblazer episodes are particularly fascinating.

Book Stuff: Organizing Digital Books

Our family owns a bit over 2000 books. The majority of these are physical books. However, my digital editions are increasing rapidly1.

Many years ago . . .
My first memory of reading a digital book was when I was in high school2. My father had bought several educational CD-ROMs. One of these CD-ROMs contained a bunch of public domain books, probably related to Project Gutenberg, but I can’t remember for sure. This was how I discovered the Sherlock Holmes stories which I read on one of those old CRT monitors. However, while I enjoyed the novelty, it was a lot more comfortable to read physical books.

Toward the end of college I got a Handspring Visor. I read some Baen ebooks on it but that was mostly it.

When I started at High Plains Library District, at that time Weld Library District, I remember opening a drawer at the reference desk and finding two very clunky ereaders that had a selection of books loaded on them. I can’t remember what brand they were but I remember they had enormous wall wart adapters. I don’t remember anyone asking to check them out.

In 2006 I got my first iPod which was when I first started listening to downloadable audiobooks. At the time, it took me around 45 minutes to get to work so I had a lot of time to listen to audiobooks. Downloadable audiobooks were easier to use than CDs and didn’t involve trying to change CDs while driving down the freeway. All my audiobooks came frome the library. As such, there was no organization problem since the books disappeared when I was done listening to them.

Our family got our first Kindle at the end of 2011. Jaeger was the one that wanted it but the library subsidized it because they wanted staff to be more familiar with these new-fangled devices3. After about a year we realized that organizing books on the Kindle was a problem, particularly if you were reading books within a series. I researched how other people were dealing with the problem and came up with a file naming scheme to try to eliminate at least some of the problem. At a high level, it boiled down to renaming each book title to be series name, series number, a dash, and finally the title.

Once I started buying audiobooks, I stored them in iTunes on Anna, my old kitchen computer. I used Calibre for my ebooks. However, Anna is quite old and running out of space4. I also no longer listen to my audiobooks on an iPod that requires being synced to a physical computer.

Current Organization
In modern times, I haven’t fully embraced ebooks5 but still own around 240. I also own around 150 audiobooks, many of them duplicates of the ebooks since, as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes that’s a cheaper way to buy them.

Last year I finally decided to store my “digital library” on Google Drive. I already used Google Drive and knew it worked with all my devices. Once I had the basic concept sketched out, I upgraded from the free 15 GB to 200 GB6 and started my migration in earnest.

Google Drive’s search is fantastic. However, I still wanted to be able to browse my books so I created a hierarchical folder structure. At the base is my Digital Library folder. Next are folders for Fiction, Information, Music, Personal (mainly photos and small videos), Picture Books, Recipes, Temp, and Video. Within the fiction folder are folders for each author. Within the information folder I’ve roughly organized by subjects (such as biography cooking, travel, etc).

In both the fiction and information folders I have a folder for each book title and then, if they exist, a folder for M4B, MP3, and eBook. It’s probably a little over the top to have so many sub folders but it helps keep related files together, particularly in the case of MP3 when there’s often many files.

Preparing Books for Uploading
For eBooks, I open them up in Calbrie. If necessary, I strip the DRM7 and then convert the book to both MOBI and EPUB. I probably don’t need the MOBI format anymore but at this point it’s habit. Once converted, I upload the MOBI, EPUB, and original eBook file to Google Drive.

It currently isn’t convenient to use Anna so I now use Myfanwy, my Linux laptop, for audiobooks. It took me a while but I finally discovered OpenAudible which works great with my Audible and non-Audible audiobooks. For Audible books, I strip the DRM which converts the audiobook to one MP3. At that point, I’ve been converting them to M4B format also but I’m not sure that gives me any real benefit so I may stop. The books I get from are divided into multiple MP3 files (one per chapter, I think) which I find annoying. I use OpenAudible to convert them to a single file and then often also convert them to M4B. Once all the conversations are done I upload the MP3 and M4B versions to Google Drive.

Using the Digital Library
During the day, I read/listen to my digital books on either my iPhone or iPad. Because of this, I usually use the original vendor app to read/listen (i.e. Audible, Kindle,, Downpour, etc). However, some of my content I didn’t get from one of the main vendors. In those cases, on the iOS devices, I usually read in iBooks and listen using Bound because it has direct integration with Google Drive.

At night, I listen to audiobooks to help me fall asleep and go back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night. I only listen to a subsection of my audiobooks that are interesting but I already know what will happen next so I don’t stay awake to find out. Unfortunately, I need an audiobook app that has a sticky sleep timer. That is, if the sleep timer stops a book but I start it again with my earbud, the sleep timer automatically restarts and will once again turn off the book at the 20 min mark. As far as I can tell, there are no iOS apps that will do this. I have spent countless hours looking. As a result, I use the Smart Audiobook Player app on my old Android phone at night. There’s certainly a better way to transfer the audiobooks onto my Android device. However, for now I download them to Myfanwy and then from there transfer to my phone’s SD Card8.

  1. In 2020 we bought 23 Audible audiobooks, 3 Downpour audiobooks, 5 audiobooks, and 31 Kindle ebooks for a total of 62 downloadable books. By comparison, we bought 2 physical audiobooks and 30 physical books for a total of 32 physical books. As an aside, the Kindle ebooks were almost always discounted while the physical books were almost always full book-cover price.
  2. Probably high school, maybe middle grade, I can’t remember for sure.
  3. Ok, they weren’t super new-fangled. By this point, Amazon had released 4 models of the Kindle.
  4. Giving her an SSD many years ago was a great upgrade at the time but it’s only 500 GB.
  5. Sometimes I’ll read one while waiting in line at the store and I’ve grudgingly switched to eBooks when flying.
  6. I’m approaching the 200 GB limit so have reluctantly upgraded to 2TB, the next level up, and expect to stay at this level for quite a while.
  7. To be clear, I strip the DRM so the books will work on all my devices/apps and they’re more future-proof.
  8. That said, this phone hasn’t gotten a security update since 2017 so I rarely let it connect to the internet.

Book Stuff: Organizing Physical Books

There are many ways to organize books. Each house I live in I organize them slightly differently. However, usually there’s at least one “featured” shelf, a general fiction shelf, a non-fiction shelf, and a kid’s shelf. This time we have a built-in bookcase in the living room which I put all our Hugo award nominees and winners (as well as the “not-a-Hugo” awards given out in the same ceremony)1.
Built-in bookcase with games and books.

Also in the living room are our three very cheap bookshelves which have survived being moved five times so far. You can see the shelves are starting to bend and we daren’t put our computer science books on it anymore. I have kid books on the bottom three shelves, so Julian can reach them, and some of our adult non-fiction (mainly travel and history) on the top two shelves.
Three book cases side-by-side with books.

In our entry way we have most of our fiction books. I don’t want to buy more bookcases until we find a permanent house and I know what will fit. However, space is getting really tight so I’m having to get creative with how I can fit all the books while also allowing (some) room for growth. That’s while some of the series are stacked vertically. I’ve also started interfiling the few DVDs we have, mainly because I don’t have a better place to put them.

Three bookshelves crammed with fiction books.

In our Wallingford house I had a bookshelf in Julian’s room that contained his favorite books. The downstairs “playroom” had a lot of built-in shelves that I used for overflow picture books, juvenile books, YA, and travel. Without those built-ins, I don’t have enough space for all of Julian’s books in the house. I have one large shelf in his room that contains the read-aloud chapter books he likes, old board books he still enjoys looking at, easy readers, library books, and about half of his picture books.

The house we’re renting comes with a detached garage that has a second unfinished level. I thought it’d make a good play area so I set up our smaller tent with a rug, blankets, pillows, and a bin with the other half of Julian’s picture books. Julian enjoys reading in the tent, it makes things feel more adventurous.

REI brand tent, with rain fly on, setup in an unfinished garage. (In case you’re wondering why the rain fly is on the tent, it’s to protect the books and blankets. The garage has bats and isn’t 100% weather-proof.)

View from inside the tent. Blankets on floor, books in a plastic bin, and a pillow that reads "Just One More Chapter".

Most of our technical non-fiction books are in our bedroom in Jaeger’s sturdy double oak bookshelf. Calvin has some books in his room but not a lot. He’s currently more an audiobook listener than a physical book reader. I have a couple of shelves of cookbooks in the kitchen and then various other books scattered around the house.

  1. If one book in the series won, I put the whole series on the shelf.

Book Stuff: Buying Books

I usually read new books through the library. However, once I find a favorite series or author I buy them. Quite an expensive habit when you move as much as I have recently, books are heavy. However, my new place never feels like home until my books are on their bookcases. I almost always buy the physical book and then, if I enjoy listening to the book, I may buy the audio version and possible the ebook version.

Physical Books
I usually buy physical books from my local independent bookstore. Up in Seattle, that was Elliott Bay Book Company1 , Ada Technical Books, and sometimes Third Place Books (usually when they had author events). Elliott Bay was particularly convenient because if I timed the bus just right I could request a book and pick it up on my lunch break. Ada Technical Books isn’t super big but has a really nice collection of STEM books for children. I bought my favorite t-shirt from Third Place Books.

Since moving back to California, I’ve been shopping at Bookshop Santa Cruz. I’ve ordered their Book Bundles several times as gifts which are pretty fun.

I also occasionally buy books from Amazon, usually when I need them really fast.

For many years I bought mass market paperbacks. This was due to cost as well as it being easier to carry around2. Now, I prioritize the book’s looks over price or size. Sometimes I end up with multiple editions of the same book if it’s later released in a more attractive format.

I love audiobooks. I listen to my favorites during the night to help me fall back to sleep and new ones are great when I’m doing something that leaves my brain relatively free. For a long time I had a Downpour subscription. At first, they were DRM free. However, I discovered by accident that they had also started adding DRM’d books, depending on the publisher. I figured that if I was going to have to deal with the hassle of DRM, I might as well get an Audible subscription instead3. I kept it for a couple of years. However, the Audible subscription always made me a bit uncomfortable because of how hostile Amazon is to libraries. Last fall I was going through an audiobook buying binge and I decided it was a good time to pickup a second subscription via In February, I decided it was time to get rid of my Audible subscription and just use I lose access to some of the Audible-only authors but so be it.

eBooks are my least favorite format. I usually stick to Kindle unless the author/publisher is promoting a direct download somewhere else4. Unless I am particularly obsessed with the author, I only buy ebooks if they are on sale or if I can buy the ebook and then add on the Audible version for less than the audiobook would cost by itself. The one exception to this is chapter books for Julian. Amazon has a feature they call Immersive Reading which is amazing. Julian can listen to chapter books that he couldn’t read himself while also being able to watch the words as they’re spoken and see the pictures5. It’s not a replacement for reading with your kid but it is a really nice supplemental option6.

  1. Thanks to Elliott Bay, I can never remember how to spell Julian’s middle name because we spelled it with one less t.
  2. Through college, I required my main coat have a pocket big enough to carry a book.
  3. I had the Audible Premium Plus plan because I wanted to be able to buy books, not just temporarily listen to them — that’s what a public library’s for.
  4. Such as the monthly ebook from
  5. Overall, this works really well. However, occasionally editions get crossed. For example, the US edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factor is paired with the UK edition of the audio and it turns out they Americanized some of the words and concepts in the US edition so it doesn’t perfectly match with the audio
  6. I’m also annoyed that traditional publishers didn’t come up with this option before Amazon did. Granted, audiobook rights aren’t always sold with the book but it was such an obvious value-add option.

Book Stuff: Where I Borrow Books

There are many things I feel like I should talk about. I keep thinking I should do a post about our move or online school this year. However, those subjects take more energy than I have. On the other hand, books are always fun to talk about. So this is a post about random book-related things. Originally, this was going to be one post but I suspect it would become unbearable long so I’m going to chop it up into a couple of different posts.

For much of my adult life I have been spoiled because I worked at a public library. This made it very easy to request and pickup books. True, I telecommuted for quite a few years. However, I was working part-time so if I couldn’t arrange my book pickup to coincide with the occasional trip into work, I still had time after work to take a trip to the library with Calvin.

One of the first things I did after moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains was figure out where my local library was. Turns out that was a tricky question. We are located almost exactly between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, both are about 30 minutes away. However, since we are technically in Santa Cruz county, I decided I’d start by getting library cards for the family at Santa Cruz Public Library. I was very excited to see that they were offering curbside pickup, albeit during limited hours1. Picking up books worked fairly well while I had a flexible schedule. However, their hours were still fairly limited and as I got busier it became harder to time my trips off the mountain to coincide with when the library was open.

Fortunately, Santa Clara County Library District has a bookmobile with a monthly stop only 15 minutes from our house2. We can only request up to 12 titles per library card so it requires me to spend more time managing my requests than I’m use to. However, the convenience of having the books delivered to us is worth it. Plus, they have a really great collection. My one quibble with using them is that because I live in Santa Cruz county, I’m not directly funding them. To salve my conscience I made sure to donate at least as much as they’d get from us in property tax if we lived within their taxing district.

While I love physical books, I also read ebooks and listen to eaudiobooks3. I think all the libraries I have access to have both Overdrive and Hoopla. However, I have a strong preference for Overdrive. If I have a specific book I’m looking for and it’s not available on Overdrive, I will look at Hoopla. However, when I’m browsing, I only browse Overdrive. I have a hierarchy of where I look for those books. Because I live in Santa Cruz County, I try to check out ebook/eaudio from the Santa Cruz County Library when it’s available. This is because e-versions are insanely expensive for libraries so it seems fair to me that I put most of that cost on the place where I live. However, if it’s not available there, then I look at Santa Clara County Library.

Next post, to be published sometime in the nebulous future, I’ll talk about where I buy books.

  1. The Seattle Public Library started offering curbside service the day after I left so I had been without physical library books for months at that point.
  2. Unlike Washington, most California libraries in this area will give you a card even if you aren’t in their service area.
  3. I almost never checkout physical CDs. Downloadable audiobooks are so much easier to deal with these days.