Books should be on the ballot

America needs more books and less candidates.

There’s one thing that no one can agree on, and that’s politics.

Before you stop reading, afraid that this is some sort of propaganda, it’s not. In fact, this post is about one thing I think we all can agree on (at least, I’m going to assume that because you’re reading this post you have some interest in the topic at hand), and that’s books.

Both sides like to save money. But the estimated cost of illiteracy to businesses and taxpayers is $20 billion per year. Yup. Billion. That’s a lot of wasted money, especially when you consider the sad and ironic truth that our teachers aren’t paid nearly enough.

Before you start saying, “Well MY candidate promises this and this about improving schools,” have any actually said anything as simple as “we need to promote reading”? Sure, they’re all WRITING books, in fact, roughly 58 candidates from the past 15 years have written over 150 books between them. Clearly they’re concerned with adults reading what they have to say. How does that help future generations?

Reading books does what no other media can do. It builds imaginations, it builds neural pathways, it fosters ideas. Movies can never do that. Sure, they have their place, but watching movies is what you do when you want to be entertained. If you want to be enthralled and involved, you read. KIDS need to read. One study shows that creating a steady stream of new, age-appropriate books has been shown to nearly triple interest in reading within months (from Harris, Louis. An Assessment of the Impact of First Book’s Northeast Program. January 2003).

Teachers are buying books for their classrooms out of their own, underpaid pockets. Why? Because THEY know what they’re doing and care enough to do it selflessly. So when statistics show that illiteracy has such a huge impact on education, why aren’t we looking at the most simplistic fix instead of newer, fancier tests.

This isn’t a left or right wing idea. It’s just logic. Let’s all unite under the campaign of books.

Books should be on the ballot
Who’s with me?
Because that’s what it comes down to. Get kids more books. Heck, get EVERYONE more books. Make reading THE priority. When a presidential candidate makes books (and NOT just to sell their own!) and reading his or her main platform, then I’ll listen.

Without a Book: A State of Panic

I found myself in my car yesterday on the way to a doctor’s appointment in a panic when I realized I DIDN’T HAVE A BOOK WITH ME.

This is kind of a lie. I found two books in my car, but they were both coffee table books, and I couldn’t see myself sitting in the waiting room balancing a large copy of British Art from 1500–1800 in my lap.

As I see plenty of people in waiting rooms waiting patiently without books, I assume that finding one’s self bookless while having to do something involve waiting does not strike everyone’s heart with fear the way it does mine.

How do people survive without books? Smartphones and magazines don’t cut it for me. I’m quite an impatient waiter and they just don’t capture my attention enough. Small snippets are no good. I need to get lost to make me forget that one of my legs is asleep and my appointment was an hour ago but there are still 3 people who haven’t been called back that were here before me.

In any case, I settled for a magazine, which almost caused a dangerous shopping spree as it triggered a furious smartphone window shopping session when I saw a pair of workout pants I liked in the magazine (except they cost $98 which was sobering even in my desperate state).

Yes, only a book will do.

Silly cat, that's not how you read.
Silly cat, that’s not how you read.
books, golden book

What’s the point of book reviews?

I ask this because I know my personal taste in most things is vastly different from other people. I assume this holds true for everyone. So why would you let someone else who likes different things than you tell you how good a book is?

I get movie reviews. The story is laid out for you. You don’t have the liberty of imagining what the characters look like, how they speak. It’s also much more limited than a book in that it needs to fit neatly into about an hour and a half. Now, I can guzzle a book in a day or less but I don’t think I’ve ever finished anything with a proper storyline in that amount of time…maybe a Sweet Valley High or something, but definitely not a normal-sized adult (and I don’t mean “adult” in a 50 Shades of Grey sort of way!) book. So if there’s bad acting, if the climax sucks, it’s probably a fair assessment that a movie review would be useful to most people.

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How many bad books have you read, but you finished anyway because you felt you needed to see how the story ended? And how many movies have you stopped midway through because they were horrid? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll finish even the most horribly written books just because I felt compelled to, but I could care less about a bad movie.

books, golden book
I don’t think anyone needs a review to guess what happens in THIS book.

In conclusion: I’ve never bothered with a book review, but judging by the internet, there certainly seems to be a plethora of them. So who’s reading them?

Used bookstores are better than 100 lotto tickets.

I’ll start with this: I’m not gonna lie. I’m not a fan of eBooks. “Of course,” you say, “you make you living off selling paper books.” While this is very true, and a good reason for me to dislike eBooks, I have other reasons. You can’t flip through an eBook. You can, but shouldn’t, take your electronic reader in the pool – tis a sad day when you soak your book, but the price of replacing a book pales in comparison to replacing your electronic device. And I mean, c’mon, there’s nothing like curling up with your nose buried in real pages.

But that’s not the biggest reason.

It’s browsing.

If that doesn’t make sense, you’ve never whiled away a few hours in a bookstore, poking through shelves looking for hidden treasure. And the only place you can truly do this is in a used bookstore.

Why? Because $$. Moolah. Cashola. Monies. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t grow on trees for me. Sure, I love a new book. But if I’m going to invest the type of cash required to buy a new book, I’m pre-planning that shiz. I need to damn well know that I am going to LIKE this book.

So, you see, new bookstores really aren’t as fun. And I suppose you can “look inside” eBooks but let’s be real, it’s not the same.

Used bookstores are where possibilities are endless. You have the luxury of judging a book by its cover! The world is your oyster (and if you wanted to, you could buy a book about oysters)! You never know what you’ll find, and you can gamble on what you’re not sure about. Sure, you’re not always going to be able to find the newest, hippest titles but hey, you ever heard of CLASSICS? They’re called that for a reason! They’re timeless! Plus, are you POSITIVE you’ve read everything worth reading from, say, 1962? You may not even KNOW what you’re missing!

Can you tell me this doesn't pique your interest?
Can you tell me this doesn’t pique your interest?
Got kids? The same principle applies.

Who doesn't like burgers and hot dogs? And pretty pictures of them?
Who doesn’t like burgers and hot dogs? And pretty pictures of them?
Reading a book transports you to another world.

Have YOU been to India? You could be, if you stumbled across this gem!
Have YOU been to India? You could be, if you stumbled across this gem!
A used bookstore is your spaceship. The journey is just as amazing as the destination.

Yes. As a used bookstore owner, I AM biased. But you also know I’m right!

I’m a book addict, and it makes my life difficult.

I feel your pain, Lisa.
I feel your pain, Lisa.

Disclaimer: This is all very tongue-in-cheek and not meant to make light of real addictions. All in fun!

Being a devourer of books can make for a hard, hard life. Here’s why.

1. For a true book addict, reading before bed won’t help one fall asleep. In fact, they’ll stay up later. The motto for this problem is “Just one more chapter!” And then it’s 3am.

2. People frequently ask you what you’re reading while you’re reading, which makes reading difficult.

3. Even worse, you get so involved in your book that you’ve effectively shut out all life around you, so you don’t hear when someone asks you what you’re reading. Or when your spouse falls off a ladder and is begging for medical attention (full disclosure: the second part has never actually happened personally, but I can imagine it could).

4. The inevitable depression that comes with finishing a book. The magic fog lifts and you’re thrust back into real life.

5. The even more agonizing pain of finishing a book…that ended not even remotely close to the way you wanted it to.

6. Having to choose a new book after you’ve finished the last one.

7. Seeing a movie after you’ve read the book. Outside of the obvious story differences (Jurassic Park was the first book/movie experience I had with this, and I’m still not over it), the actors never even remotely look like you’d imagined the characters.

8. This one’s for those of us who prefer paper books…overloading your luggage with enough books to last you through vacation. Oh, the horror!

9. Having to do pesky responsible things that eat into your reading time, like go to work. Who needs to make a living, anyway?

It’s all very sad, isn’t it? If you’re like me, you understand these issues we face on a daily basis. Every day is a new challenge.

But truth be told, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Books as decoration: look smarter while making things pretty.

Pinterest makes you feel like you, too, can be an interior decorator. Those carefully crafted posts make it look SO easy to have a Homes & Garden-type house, right?

Yeah, right. That’s why there are entire pages dedicated to pinterest fails.

So here’s what I suggest. Decorate with books. There are a bazillion blog posts out there that offer all kinds of ideas on decorating with books. For this very reason, I won’t bore you with how to make invisible shelves that make stacks of books seem to float on your wall, or impart upon you the joys of decoupaging with torn book pages.

I’m gonna tell you how *I* do it. I fancy myself as a rather crafty person, but by no means am I ever gonna pursue a career in interior decorating. In spite of this, I do think the world of my book decorating skills. It took a little while to really perfect it, but I’m so pleased with the results.

1. Start with Ikea. When I bought this, it was the Expedit line, which it seems has been changed to KALLAX now.ikea expedit I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with this, unless you’ve been living under a rock that doesn’t have an Ikea store. I like these because they have cubbies. I love cubbies! Not that I would hate to have a wall of built-in bookshelves, but since I don’t, Kallax it is.

2. Here’s where you’re gonna get judgy. Get your pretty books, get the ones that have great titles, or the ones that make you look smart (sure, I totes read War and Peace in Latin), coffee table books, whatever. Now sort them. Themes are up to you.

3. Get your chatchkes (is that how you spell that?) – match them with your themed, sorted books.

4. I know you have pictures in picture frames. Everyone does. Get those.

5. Awesome bookends are a must. If you don’t have any, make some. Or garage sale.

6. Now pile, stack, shelve your themed books in individual cubbies. Add the appropriate chatchkes and bookends.

I call this "Fashioned to Death."
I call this “Fashioned to Death.”

7. If one of the cubbies looks a bit empty, add picture.

I call this my "sassy" theme. The blurred mess in the frame is my wifi password so guests don't have to ask. So courteous!
I call this my “sassy” theme. The blurred mess in the frame is my wifi password so guests don’t have to ask. So courteous!
Books and cats...what more do you need?
Books and cats…what more do you need?

And ta-dah! You’ve just decorated with books. You’re welcome.