Bookish Questions: Idle Time & What It Says About Us

BookishQuestionsIdleTime

Let me start with a distinction between “Idle” and “Free” time. In my mind, free time is time when you’re free to do anything you like for leisure, while idle time is those moments between activities, such as waiting in line, commuting to and from work, waiting for the bus. It’s basically the time you have between activities you either have to do or have chosen to do.

If I think through my day, I spend some idle time talking with my husband over a cup of coffee every morning, post waking and prior to getting ready for the day ahead.

What I do during my commute to and from work depends on how I’m getting there. Most days I prefer to walk, and while many of the people walking with me prefer to have headphones in, I always listen to the world around me. Same thing if I bike, but that’s more for safety reasons than an actual decision that I like one thing over another.

If I take the bus or train I always have my kindle with me. I tend to leave pretty early in the morning and can snag a seat without too much difficulty, in which case I always read. Others around me tend to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, while a smaller faction read physical books or ebooks, then there is a smaller group still that does none of the above and watches traffic as we speed toward our destination.

Dr Hops commutes just under an hour to his lab twice a day, and is a huge advocate of Podcasts, and I always get a rundown of the things he heard that day when we sit down for dinner. One of his favorite quotes is below and is also how he sees things. He loves that each podcast is a different topic that he would never have known about had it not been featured. He loves knowing a little about everything, and it colors his choice of idle time activities.

It’s what I do–I drink and I know things.
–T. Lannister (Game of Thrones)

I have a friend who puts together playlists the night before so they are constantly trying out new music. I have yet to hear of a band and them not already have them on one of these playlists ready to go.

If I have a later morning because of errands or dog related appointments, the train and bus are normally too crowded to sit, and I almost always have a coffee with me, so I’m stuck holding on for dear life as the MBTA shuttles me through Boston traffic. For a while I listened to audiobooks, but I don’t like being confined to only finishing a story during a particular time, and I always end up reading the book, leaving me with nothing to do on the commute once again.

Sometimes I people watch and wonder where my fellow commuters are heading. If I see someone else reading a book, I always try to see the title.

What do you do during idle time, waiting in lines or on your morning commute?  

What do you think our choice of activities during those little stolen minutes says about us?

How much do you think our idle and free time activities overlap? 

Bookish Questions: Firsthand Censorship?

BookishQuestionCensorship

Our first step is to define censorship, other than the obvious editing of your own work, I would include prevention of others from reading a particular work for any reason. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom offers the following definitions when attempting to challenge the appropriateness of literature from public consumption:

Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental overtones.

Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or appropriateness of the material in question.

Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the presence and/or appropriateness of specific material.

Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement challenging the value of the material, presented to the media and/or others outside the institutional organization in order to gain public support for further action.

Censorship. A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.

Growing up in a rural southern town, this was completely rampant. My school and public library system both edited what they felt was appropriate content, not just for students, but for the adult public as well.

Anything dealing with “sensitive” topics like gender issues, sexual orientation, race, scientific theory on any topic which would contradict religious doctrine, and religions other than Christianity were all excluded from the shelves. No books from the northern perspective for the Civil War were included. We also had an edited reading list for literature, and books discussing reproductive health and venereal diseases fell under vulgar content, and an abstinence only program was put in it’s place.

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The only example I vividly remember is that the Harry Potter series was published when I was in 9th grade, and was excluded even after it became wildly popular, because it dealt with witchcraft and “un-Christian values.”

Growing up very poor, I couldn’t purchase the books I wanted for two reasons: they don’t give the books away just because you want them, and most of the local bookstores wouldn’t have stocked them anyway (for the same reasons the public library didn’t carry them).

This wasn’t localized to my little town or when I grew up, my husband was raised about 45 minutes away from Memphis, just across the Arkansas border and remembers that not only did his school ban all dungeon and dragon related books and guides, the local book store chains did as well, so you couldn’t even order it if you actually had the money to do so. To give you perspective, I graduated in 2000, and only a few families in my area had home computers, my husband graduated in 1993, so neither of us had an option to purchase the books online.

bannedbooksbradburyquotePeople act as if banned books and active censorship are a thing of the past and at this point we are simply celebrating how liberated we’ve become but we still have so much work to do. We SHOULD celebrate how far we’ve come but we also need to recognize that many of these issues are STILL A PROBLEM. This year marks the 34th year of the protection of readers rights, and we need to continue the momentum.

See the “Celebrating the Liberation of Literature” interactive banned book timeline HERE

Have you ever not been able to read a book because it wasn’t available? Did you have books you couldn’t read in high school or college because they were deemed inappropriate? Did you read these books anyway? 

Not sure where to go if you’ve answered yes to the questions above? For assistance with challenges to library materials, services, or programs, please contact Kristin Pekoll at the Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or via email: kpekoll@ala.org.

Bookish Questions: What book has been on our TBR the longest?

BookishQuestionsLongestTBR

For some reason the plot summary of The Pillars of the Earth gets me interested every time I see it, but I always overlook it when I go to pick up the next book in my queue. Part of the reason is the daunting page number for the first book. No matter the book, 900+ pages is a major commitment.

The next book that I’m actually extremely interested in but I always over look is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The synopsis of this book is intriguing but I also am really interested in the praise it received as being one of the most popular books given to soldiers during World War II. It was mentioned again in “When books go to war” where it was discussed as being one of the most traded books by soldiers, and how it went through multiple printings because men carried the copies with them in the trenches.

One of the classics that has been on my list for a while is North and South. This is another that I really want to want to read because it’s mentioned so often on blogs and as top reads for classics. A classic I genuinely WANT to read is Northanger Abbey. For some reason, this one also always tends to get shuffled to the side, and every 6 months or so I put it back on the top of my TBR, only for it to begin the inevitable slow spiral back down to the bottom of the pile.

Bookish Questions: Death of a Favorite Character

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I’ve felt the deaths of many characters through the years, and when the story completely takes over, I think all readers really feel the loss. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and the story that has stayed with me the most, and left me crying like a little baby, can be summed up in a single word… Always.

Other stories have left me clutching a tissue while my bewildered husband stares, but nothing, for me, comes close to the last moments of Severus Snape. Still Alice, The Nightingale, Where the Red Fern Grows, and The Book Thief all stay with me, but there is something special in Snape’s story as well as his never ending devotion to one of the few people who was kind to him. He wasn’t a perfect person but despite that, and how horrible he was treated both in school and at home, he gave all that he had to give.

To me, this is a story of how small acts can greatly influence the lives of others, and is but another example as to why it’s always a good idea to be kind to others. You never know their struggle or when will be your last chance to say goodbye.

Bookish Questions: Book characters left out of adaptations?

BookishQuestionBookCharacterOmitted

lotr

My answer for this one is super obvious for fantasy fans, and that’s Tom Bombadil from Tolkien’s first book in the Lord of the Ring series, The Fellowship of the Ring.

I’m not a die-hard LOTR fan, but I did love this character. One of my favorite scenes with Tom was when his wife Goldberry was asked who Tom is, and her response was simply, “he is.” This simple statement sums up his character for me and I understand why he was omitted, but I secretly hope that if The Hobbit can become three movies in and of itself, Tom might eventually get his own movie.

Bookish Questions: Do you remember a time when you were not a reader?

So I’ve decided to start a reading-centric theme a few times a month regarding questions related to reading or how books and literature impact our lives and the world around us. I’ve seen this question come up a few times on booktube and several blogs, and thought I’d address it now as the first question in this series.

BookishQuestionsNotAReader

For me this is a very clear-cut pre- and post-reading line. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in rural Arkansas and due to family circumstances, I didn’t have health insurance. I didn’t see the doctor unless the visits were covered by the state’s child vaccination program. This means I also didn’t have an eye exam until I started kindergarten (which I initially passed). About halfway through the year though I started having trouble in class and my teacher recommended the nurse give me an eye exam. I failed the test and they recommended my parents take me for a formal exam… which I failed epicly.*

Because this was such an important event in my life, I still remember most of the conversation with the doctor, which went a little like the dialogue below. I don’t remember if it was shapes or letters, since I was 5 and couldn’t read.

Doctor: [normal spiel about not being scared, it’s not going to hurt, and where to look]. Ok, I’m going to bring up the screen now and I want you to tell me what you see.

Me: …..

Doctor: [eye exam is up and ready to go but there is awkward silence] Are you okay? Can you tell me what you see?

Me: I’m waiting for you to put the test up. Is it up now?

I’m now a scientist, so you can imagine what it was like for an overeager, intelligent child to struggle learning how to read. I learned to read about a day after receiving my first pair of glasses. This revelation was amazing to me. It was like a light went off. I exclaimed when we left that “Trees have leaves!” and then launched in to an explanation to my mom that I KNEW trees had leaves, but I didn’t realize you can see them like this… which promptly made her cry.

I was just about to turn 6 when my very first pair of glasses came in, and went from a nonreader to reading at the 6th grade level in about two months, and then never looked back. There have been times in my life [cough, cough, graduate school] when I read less, but I always have been and always will be a reader.

*When they bring up the test all I see is a light spot on the wall. That’s it. My prescription is currently -11.0 (left eye) and -10.5 (right eye).