Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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September 5, 2016

10 Things I Know About You and Your Books

Writing on Paper

From our earliest moments, most writers are avid readers. We devour books – for story, for Craft, for new worlds and new ideas.

We have To Be Read piles (TBR for short) that are taller than small children. Our favorite authors and characters become our friends.

I don’t know if we become students of the written word because we love to read or if we read because we were born to love the written word. All that chicken and egg Zen is well beyond me.

I just flat out love books and every writer I know does too. You might even describe us as “obsessed with the printed word.” It takes a lot of love to go through what we must do to yank our stories from our hearts onto the page.

If you are a writer, there are things that I know about you and your books:

1. I know you get uncomfortable when you are "bookless."
If you are stuck somewhere without a book, you will begin reading any words available – shampoo bottles, food labels, billboard signs. Whatever. Books and magazines are preferred, but in a pinch, any words will smooth your soul. (Do you keep a bag of books in your car trunk like I do?)

2. You read by flashlight in bed at night when you were a child.
When your person-in-charge confiscated it, you waited 5 minutes before pulling the back-up light from its crafty hidey-hole. If they were on to you and confiscated the back-up, you tilted the pages to try to read by the light from the hall.

3. When a book touches you, it is a safe bet that you will not only remember the details of that story, characters, etc…you will also remember where you were the first time you read it and what you were doing that day.

4. I am certain that if you named 10 best friends from the various periods of your life (and were being honest), at least half of them would be book characters or authors.

5. You have different books for different moods. These are your go-to books when you’re in the grip of overwhelming emotion. You keep reading through that stash of books until the feeling gets a little more manageable.

6. Piles of free books by your most cherished authors gives you that same zing of attraction that you felt the first time you saw your true love.

7. When you go to a conference or a book events attended by your favorite author(s), your tongue gets tied in knots and the idea of speaking to them gives you an extreme physical reaction. (I blush, nearly every time, which is a surprise to everyone who knows me.)

8. You have rituals associated with your books.
Whether it’s the way you clean them, sort them, store them or lend them, there is something particular you do with your books. And it makes you feel happy and peaceful when you look at your books after you’ve done it.

(For me, it’s the way I order them and which shelf or room they’re in. My husband knows: don’t be moving my books without telling me, or I will turn into Devil Wife.)

9. On the touchy subject of lending…writers are quite particular about loaning their books.

I know that when someone borrows a treasured book from you and doesn’t return it – or worse, passes it on to someone else without asking you first – your friendship with them changes. You’re probably  still their friend, but you’ll either “forget” to loan them books in the future or you buy a copy from the used bookstore as a back-up and loan them that.

There is an A-List of book-borrowers in your life and you love to have coffee with these people.

10. When a book touches your spirit and transports you to a place you’ve never been, it’s not uncommon for you to read the last page, turn the book over and start at Page 1 to figure out how the author did that.

There are more things that I know about writers and their reading habits but I want to hear from all of you. What are your book rituals? Do you non-writers have book rituals too? Which of the ten “habits” made you laugh?

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About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

64 comments on “10 Things I Know About You and Your Books”

  1. I love to open an old book and smell it!

    I have a bit of a 'thing' for gorgeous bookmarks.

    I have my 'keeper' bookcase in a closet in my office. NO one gets to borrow those. You're a good friend if you even get to SEE it!

    I am crazy proud of my 'autographed by the author' bookshelf, and am always on the lookout to expand it.

    Thanks for the fun blog, Jenny!

    1. Laura, I knew you and I were kindred spirits! I have 'thing' for bookmarks, too. I have a 'keeper' bookcase in my bedroom closet. And the smell of old books is up there with newborn babies and new car smell 🙂

  2. Great timing on this blog, Jenny. Just yesterday, I weeded out my *cringe* four giant bookshelves and listed ones I was finished with on eBay and Amazon. I had no choice--just bought a few new ones and had to make room! Some were easy to part with. Others, well...I somehow found a place for those on their old shelves 🙂 Thanks for a fun post.

    1. Gem, to keep myself from becoming a crazy book-hoarder, I do the same. I can only have my 6 small shelves. Once they get packed, I have to go choose.....

      That's a hard day.

  3. BOOKS!!!!! I'm a crazy bookaholic. The UPS driver delivered a BN box the other day and said, "it's a small one this time. What happened?" And funny enough, I was badgering my husband Saturday about taking over one of the mostly unused rooms and turning it into a library. Because I'm out of bookshelf space and BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Ah, you must touch the books! I go through my buying-fests but they happen on the Kindle. And Kindle Unlimited has given me a new lease on life. It's like an endless library membership for $10 a month. And when I LOVE a book, then I buy the hard copy. 🙂

  4. Terrific blog... Love it! I cherish my books that are signed and personalized by other authors. I never loan books and rarely, rarely part with any, even ones I don't love. And when I walk into someone's home and there's nary a book in sight? It nearly cause me to stumble.

  5. Oh yes, I do have special places I keep different kinds of books. Craft books, non fiction books, books by my author friends, books I have loved for years. I want to know where each one is shelved and I do not use any library system for shelving them. ;o)

  6. I have lots of books myself. My mom told me I was an early reader. I always had a book with me. I finished tests early, and always had plenty of reading time in study hall. I could spend all day at B&N or the library
    and not feel like I'm missing anything. Get me Amazon or B&N gift cards for presents and I'm happy.

    1. My school didn't have study hall, and now I feel so deprived! And I'm with you on the Amazon cards, Joseph. I'm a complete Amazon Slut. I LOVE my Kindle Paperwhite. 🙂

  7. Books...one of my loves. And always has been. My mother used to laugh and tell people I would read the cereal boxes at breakfast. When I got my Kindle, I had found a new and dangerous source for my addiction...endless books available as long as the money was in the bank account. LOL But I once walked into a bookstore with my adult son (also a big reader) and told him to smell. After he did, I told him that the 'smell' of a bookstore isn't something you can get from Amazon unfortunately.

    1. That new book smell is the one thing I miss with the Kindle. But I ADORE the immediate access to more books, even when it's 2 am, and I love that no one can see what I'm reading, and that the books don't take up any space. That's just aces, because I don't have room for more bookshelves.

  8. Fun post, Jenny. When I was a kid, I used to pretend to be afraid of the dark so I could keep my nightlight (it had one of those tiny orange bulbs.) I would lay on the floor with the book under the nightlight and read. At that time, I loved Pippi Longstocking and Encyclopedia Brown. My other secret is I'm sometimes tempted to get a job at Barnes and Noble stocking shelves. I love everything about books, especially touching them. They are great lining shelves too. Crazy?

    1. Oooooh, you are a smart girl, Stephanie. I'll confess, I read it all. Every book Louisa May Alcott ever wrote. ALL the Nancy Drews, all the Hardy Boys, all the Bobtail Twins, the Lone Rangers, the Daniel Boones. If there was a series that happened before 1980, it's pretty likely that I read it. 🙂

      And I think we'd all like to work at B&N part time. That's a great way to feed the addiction!!

  9. YES! I loved the one about characters being your friends. Growing up, I was sure that Laura of Little House on the Prairie and Nancy Drew would have been my besties, if only we'd known each other in person.

    Another thing I've seen about myself and other book lovers: We treat bookstores like museums. We walk the aisles slowly, gaze lovingly at the book covers, read the plaques (or, rather, back cover copy), strike up conversations with others looking at the same displays, and carefully conclude which pieces we can see in our home (or hands).

    1. So true on the book store/museum. I totally do that.

      I was mad friends with Rose from Eight Cousins and with Jo March in Little Women. And Laura from the Little House books, and...and... I loved them all, along through Harry Potter and the heroine from Bridges of Madison County. 🙂

  10. In fifth grade I decided I wanted to own a bookstore (when I grew up) so I could read all the books. I kind of do, but it's called my house, and I don't sell the books. I do loan my favorites, why wouldn't I want others to read them, and if they don't come back, I get to buy them again!

    1. Now that's a fine attitude, Fae. I tend to want to keep the original books, but I always wanted to own a bookstore/coffeehouse too. And now they are common place. I had that dream at least a decade before the B&N/Starbucks alliance existed!

  11. Have you sent spies to my house? I have always loved books. And my library grows every year. My kids are the same way. After homeschooling for 24 years, I thought I would declutter some of their books. After setting some aside for the kids to go through, my son flat out told me "you're not getting rid of our books, are you Mom?" Well that answered that. Books have always been my closest friends. I have refined my tastes over the years, but still find reading a book to be the most entertaining way to spend an evening.

    1. We have our ways, Jocelyn! And my mother understood my heart enough that she saved my Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Louisa May Alcott and Winnie the Pooh series, so now I have them for my daughter. 🙂

  12. What a fun post! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has a hard time meeting favorite authors. Even when it's a book signing, and I know that I should say something fan-like and encouraging, I'd rather disappear under the table than bla-bla-blather something mundane.

  13. I had to laugh about #2. I don't remember my parents ever taking away my reading at night. As I recall, I went through a period of time as a kid where I had trouble sleeping at night. My dad put up a reading light on the wall by my top bunk and I sat there many a night reading until I was actually tired enough to sleep.

    1. WOW - you were a lucky kid. I'd have loved to be able to have free reign for reading. I had a lights out time that was in stone. After that, I had to get creative. 🙂

  14. Yup, that's pretty much it. All of those things. Oh, no, wait. I do not carry a bag of books in the trunk of my car. I have to share a vehicle with my husband and he detests clutter so the bag of books had to go.

    Great stuff. I hope I'm on your A-list of book borrowers.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

      1. Oh, you know it. The e-reader and - in case I've totally spaced out and forgotten to stuff the Kindle in my purse, I have a back-up Kindle app on my phone. Locked and loaded, my friend.


  15. What a great post! Let's see what my responses are. 1. I have been only been bookless once, on a ski trip where I sprained my knee on Day 1 and was trapped in the condo since walking on ice with a bum leg is not recommended. Finished my book, found a People magazine and read that Elton John's car had been stolen. After that I always had back-ups. 3. You bet I remember! Sherlock Holmes. Found the complete stories in the library, took it home early that afternoon, sat down to read -- and looked up because it was getting dark. Awesome! I could go on, but I'm reading King's 11/23/63 and have to get back to it. Thanks for the post!

      1. I have not finished it yet, but so far 11/22/63 is an amazing novel on many levels. I think if it holds up it will stand as one of the best things King has done in years. And yes, I have had better ski trips. Actually, I've had better trips to the dentist.

          1. I'll make you a deal. Download a sample of 11/22/63. If you can read it through the janitor's (Hoptoad Harry's) story and not be hooked, I will be amazed. Also, King completely avoids the problem of the saggy middle. I think you could figure out how he does it and blog about it . . . (Yes, that's a hint. I'm not sure how to articulate it; maybe you can.) Okay, I'm done! This is a great blog!

            1. Oh James, you're not going to like me....I'm a HUGE King fan - I buy everything when it comes out at full price,(and Jenny KNOWS how cheap I am), but I didn't care for this one. To me, it dragged. He put in too much amazing detail - like the author who couldn't stand for all his amazing research to go to waste....

              1. Speaking of being frugal...have you discovered the adrenaline shot of Kindle Unlimited. All the authors I talk to love it and I read 18 books last month for $9.99. 🙂

  16. Yes! This is me. It's so nice to find people who truly understand! I don't ignore chores, lose the children in the garden and miss what my husband is saying because I want to read, I have to read! Or my soul will shrivel and die like a jellyfish on a hot rock.

  17. okay, Jenny, so how did you get inside my head and my heart???? I'm a very private person and strive earnestly to "hide" my addictions and quirks, like toting books with me wherever I go...doesn't matter....even to "parties." I keep something to read in the car just in case the social tension gets too much for my introverted self. When I pack to go away for business or pleasure, I pack more books and magazines (and yes my laptop, too) than clothes. I spend more on books each month than I do on groceries...well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but still....I gave up dry cleaning for book buying. I gave up yoga, pedicures, special coffees when I retired from teaching just to maintain my book habit. I honestly have two six-foot book shelves in my study that are jammed full of books TBR. And every week brings more. I fear the grid black out not because of the usual reasons people fear it, but because I will have no access to buy books. Sigh....and so it goes, but how did you know???? Great post!!!! Sandy

    1. Thanks, Sandy! And I know because I have that same heart. And the Kindle really changed the way I packed for vacation - I too used to have to decide between shoes and books. It's was dreadful. 🙂

  18. Always have a book on hand! Whenever my husband complains of a long wait at the dr.'s office, or wherever, I always tell him "you should have taken a book." LOL No time is wasted when you're absorbed in a good book.

  19. There have been times at B&N where I brought a book into the cafe, started reading it, then it was closing time, and I realized I had almost finished it. I wound up buying it.

  20. Since I left Corporate America about a year ago and now apply my writing skills to far more interesting subjects (love triangles, Mother Nature's wrath, Marilyn Monroe's shenanigans), I find that words and the books that house them are like friends you look forward to having lunch with. You get the privilege of sharing their strains, pains and gains. And in doing so, you escape your own. As creative word wranglers and warriors, we get to tell our stories and hope that others join us for the ride when they need an adventure most in their lives. And if they love our story and keep our story (and may be stingy about sharing our story because they can't part with it), then we've successful sent a gift out into the world with a bright red bow on it. Here's to more gifts with red bows! *raises his water glass in a solitary toast*

    1. That's not a solitary toast, Chris! That's the toast and dream of many of us writers. I'm so glad that Marilyn Monroe's shenanigans are going to live on in your book - can't wait to read it!

  21. Yup, I get a little panicky if I don't have a book lined up to read when I finish the one I'm reading. I do however, have a strange approach to reading a book. I turn to the last page, write that number down, divide it by two, then divide it again in my attempt to find the book's approximate 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 spots so I can relate events to the common plotting pattern. I also keep a note book with personal reviews of books I read. Many's the time I've checked that 'Reading Adventures' notebook when I want to recommend a book or author.

    1. Being bookless is just a terrible feeling. Fascinating that you read that way! I can't do that on the first pass, but I do it a lot for a second pass if I love the book. Do you do it for every single book?

  22. Fabulous post. I did locum jobs (I'm a psychiatrist) for a few years (whilst studying American Literature, what a surprise!) and although I might not remember a lot about some of the cities where I worked, I can tell you for sure where the bookshops and the libraries are. I'm so happy when I discover a new bookshop. And I fell in love with Hay-on-Wye, the book town in Wales (UK), so much so that I worked there for a little while. Due to personal circumstances I've had to be on the move quite a bit for the last few years and my Kindle has saved my life, as I don't think I would have manage to travel and drag as many books with me as I would have needed.

    1. Olga, what a fascinating life you lead! I have always wanted to visit Hay-on-Wye. Visit, stay, write there, attend their annual conference...it's on my bucket list. 🙂

  23. Thank you for this great post, Jenny, and also for the wonderful replies. I imagine if we were all able to be together in a room, though we were total strangers, time would stop as we stumbled over each other's sentences talking about other peoples' words. I have always called my books my "friends" and many of my live friends would sort of make fun of me. How good it is to know other book-lovers have that same sentiment.

    1. Wouldn't that be the most marvelous gathering, Don? That's my favorite part about writers conferences...a bunch of book-lovers in the same room. If you haven't already, you should attend some, just for the fun of the late-night book chats. 🙂 The off-the-beaten tracks ones are the best: DFWCon, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Surrey...I could go on and on.

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