The Books That Changed Our Lives – Jess’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

Guest posting today is Jessica Bade of The New 20-Something.  Thanks for joining us!!

What constitutes a favorite book? I’ve been thinking about this question ever since Kim came to me with the challenge of writing this post. It has been such a challenge because it is extremely difficult for me to pick out a favorite book just as it is to pick out a favorite song, movie or food. Just as I always do when charged with a challenge that seems too big for me to grasp, I break it down to the root question; what constitutes a favorite book?

By this point, you are probably thinking that I am a little flaky and indecisive. How can she not even narrow it down to two or three choices? Well, frankly, choosing two or three would be like picking out just two or three of my all-time best friends. Don’t worry; I narrowed down the process a little by thinking about what makes a book one of my favorites…in bullet point list form!!!

  • It is a book that I wish I had written myself, but know that I could have never even thought to write because I had never looked at the world in that way before I experienced it through this book.
  • I want to read it over and over again…and I do…and every time it is a little bit different.
  • I think about this book constantly. While I am reading it, I am finding myself ducking into closets at work just to read a chapter. When I am not reading it I am thinking about the characters and thinking about what they should do and what is going to happen.
  • When I have finished reading this book, I want to be a better person. I want to laugh more, I want to hug my parents, I want to go on a trip to Europe, I want to start a revolution, and I want to realize my hopes and dreams. After reading a great book, it feels like you just got back from a great vacation because, in the end, a good book takes you out of your living room (or utility closet) and transports you someplace else.
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Some of my favorite authors have managed to do some or all of these things for me extremely well. Chuck Klosterman brings me inside his rental car as he drives across country in search of truth about himself and the world around him in “Killing Yourself to Live.” Mitch Album brought me into the home of a dying Morrie in “Tuesdays With Morrie “ to listen in on a lifetime of advice from a man who has lived a lifetime. I connected with women a world away in Khalid’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and realized my inner feminist and patriot. Chuck Palahniuk introduced me to countless flawed characters, who despite their flaws are searching for something essential that is missing in their lives, whether it be beauty, love, companionship, or a good swift kick in the teeth. Most notably Chuck and I have explored the power of beauty with the Queen Supreme Princes Brandy Alexander in “Invisible Monster.”   I’ve sat in traffic just to feel a part of society with Victor Mancini in “Choke,” and listened in as a former cult member crashed an airplane in “Survivor.” Not to mention the time I took a peek into the opulent roaring 20’s and experienced the poison that can be vanity in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.

Just as every person I have ever met in my life has played some (even a minimal part) in who I am and what I hold dear to my heart, every book has done the same. I could never say that just one person changed my life and helped me to get where I am. I could never say that just one book has changed my life for the better or the worse. It is a combination of all of the lessons each book teaches me that adds a little piece to the puzzle that is who I am.

GIVEAWAY- One lucky winner will be given a copy of Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman.  Leave a comment below of your favorite journey a book has taken you on.  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. 

Switching to the “dark side”

Seems to me, the one thing us book lovers love just as much as the actual books is the place in which we experience them for the first time. About a month ago, I guest blogged with a piece about my undying love for bookstores. (You can read my post here)  Since then, I have noticed that almost every guest blogger on this site, as well as the literary genius, book reading priestess Kim herself, has mentioned or written on the calming, inclusive, and warm feeling we all get some going to the bookstore. That being said…I am going to reveal a SHOCKING revelation…I got a NOOK!

Yes, me, the girl who loves to wander around the store aimlessly and hum along to bookstore music has purchased a device that puts a chasm between me and my love ! How did such a thing happen you may ask? Well, I started thinking forward. I started thinking differently.

When I first heard about e-readers, I was really, and truly against the idea. What’s wrong with a book? Was there a particular portability issue with a soft cover? How could anyone truly enjoy reading a book when they can’t enjoy the simple accomplishment of turning a physical page? I really thought about that for a long time. Then I realized that the Nook as well as other e-readers such as the Kindle are made for people like me…the avid book enthusiast. I’ll be honest, it took a while for me to evolve my thinking to the point t hat I actually own one and have officially finished my first downloaded book, but I think there is a little more merit in the idea than one would think.

I like the idea of having the bookstore at my fingertips. While I love sitting in the leather chairs or in the aisles of the Barnes and Noble…I also enjoy laying in my bed or sitting on my couch and browsing the entire library on my little e-reader. Just as I do in the store, I choose some books at random and others at suggestion. I read the back of the book and take a peak inside. Then, without having to stand in line and being tempted by the little chocolate balls at the checkout counter, I purchase my book and get reading without even having to wait the extra half hour to drive home first. I still get to turn the pages, but instead of feeling the pages fill heavier from right to left, I watch the little bar at the bottom of my text to tell me how far along I am. Reading my first book on my Nook was actually very pleasant. In fact, this is my official declaration of my acceptance of the e-reader!

Don’t get me wrong, I will still frequent the book store and will always continue to buy physical books. There is nothing like turning an actual page, and displaying finished books on the shelf, but I do believe that the e-readers bring a great deal of convenience to those of use who enjoy diving in to a good read at any time. While I may have crossed over to what some reading naturalists feel is the “dark side” of the literary world, I do make this promise….I will always make time to visit my favorite book store and pick up a good read. Sometimes, you just have to mix it up!

The 21st Century Bookstore

My friend Jess is a great journalist as well as a huge book fan.  She wrote the following piece for my blog.  Hope you enjoy!!

Jess says:

The 21st century bookstore is very different from what I imagine one was like 100 or even 30 years ago.  Consider how far we have come from the early days of the printing press when having possession of an actual printed book was considered to be one of the greatest status symbols and privileges there was. Now, we have E-readers and book downloads that completely eliminate the need for paper books altogether. While I am all for technology I do not think my love affair with books and the bookstore will ever end.

To be clear, the 21st century bookstore should not be compared with the likes of other modern retail shops like the grocery store (practically a competitive sport from the parking lot to the shopping carts ramming you in the ankles) or even the modern dining experience (usually with plastic tablecloths and people sitting at tables on their cell phones ignoring the people they obviously agreed to dine with). The bookstore distinguishes itself because it is the only retail shopping location where I can enter and feel calm, content, and like I belong. It is the only retail shopping location where I go out of want or enjoyment rather than necessity.

The bookstore greets shoppers with the aroma of over-priced coffee and mounds of table displays piled with best sellers. While I admittedly take a few minutes to browse the best sellers and occasionally get myself a coffee, I generally head toward the back where the “die-hard” readers become visible and the “bookstore music” becomes audible. (On a side note, I have always said that if Barnes and Noble sold a soundtrack, I would probably shell out the $15.99 for it).  It is in wandering through the aisles and reading the backs of books I have never heard of, where I get lost. I do not really feel like I am deep in the clutches of the epitome of consumerism, but rather, hiding away among the shelves in my own little world.

I always gain a sense of inclusion and belonging while hiding away in these back aisles. I always see those who like to literally sit on the floor or on the side of the shelves out of eagerness to read the first chapter, or those who appear to have been sitting in the strategically placed leather chairs for hours (undoubtedly having read close to an entire book for free). It is in these moments that I feel as though I am among people who enjoy a good read, just like me. I love the fact that reading is one of the few tasks a person cannot do while talking or texting on the phone. To me, this is an escape, and in the back aisles of the bookstore you will find those who are also escapists of a modern age.

There is definitely an argument for the fact that retail bookstores are set up very strategically from the books they choose to pull out of the shelves and display separately, to the over-priced coffee, right down to the unnecessary array of bookmarks, gift cards, book lights, and candies sold at the front checkout counter. Furthermore there is also a legitimate argument for the fact that books cost too much and today’s literary blockbusters are not worthy of such acclaim or sales (I’m talking to YOU Stephanie Meyer).  This 21st century landscape is the only one I’ve ever known. Older people always say things aren’t the way they used to be in a negative way, but for me, the 21st century bookstore is one of the only places where I don’t feel bombarded by eager sales associates or trapped in a digital age. A person sitting and reading a paper book will always be the same as it ever was.