Living With A Book Addict – Hooked on Books Works For Me

As some of you know, I wasn’t the biggest reader before Kim started this blog.  Yes, I read occasionally for fun, and sometimes I have to do some reading for work and school (believe me, reading scientific literature is like wading through concrete sometimes).  Other than this however, I really didn’t read much.  Once Kim began blogging and distributing the multiple book review requests out to myself and others, the amount of reading that I did increased.  It was slow going at first, and I almost felt as if I needed to learn how to read again.  I found myself rereading passages often, not really absorbing the information.  Other times I felt as if I was skimming, skipping words here and there or finding myself in the middle of a paragraph without knowing how I got there.  Yes, I know this sounds a bit strange, but it makes sense considering the changes my brain had to deal with at the time.  In thinking of the science of it (yes, I always think about science), I realized that my brain was changing from a math/formulaic centered approach, with my work and class taking the primary role.  However, this infusion of literature really threw my brain for a loop.  Now that it’s adjusted, however, I feel slightly different.

It’s almost as if I’ve re-centered my way of thinking.  My vocabulary, on paper and in person, has improved.  I’ve been less forgetful, and I’ve had a bit of an easier time remembering what I’ve read and learned.  I know it sounds strange to attribute all of these improvements to reading more, yet it really is the only discernible difference that has happened in my life in this particular time period.  I still have the same job, classes, friends, etc.  I really do think that increased reading has helped me refocus my brain.  Now I wouldn’t call this some sort of crazy cure-all, but I’m beginning to understand why researchers always extol the benefits of word games or puzzles as we age.  This “mind exercise” helps keep us sharp, and wards off the creeping threat of dementia and Alzheimer’s as we age.  So, what can you do to get in on the action?  You don’t need to go crazy and read a ton more, just increase your mental workout slightly and keep at it.  If you didn’t read the newspaper or news online before, now is the time to start.  Never tried a crossword or Sudoku before?  Give it a shot.  I promise, as long as you are consistent, you’ll actually begin to notice a few changes.  Good luck!  Now, what was I doing before I decided to write this… (just kidding).

Living With a Book Addict – Becoming a Real Book Addict?

Hi there everyone, and welcome back to another “Living With a Book Addict” post.  As you may have deduced by the lack of these types of posts, I’ve been quite busy reading ARC’s (Advanced Reading Copies) that Kim has received from publishing companies for me, as well as finishing up books that have been in my own little to-read pile.  I was quite excited when I got my first ARC (The Second Messiah by Glenn Meade), and have since gotten a few more that are quite interesting. (Keep your eye out for new reviews from me)  What I’ve come to find is that publishers are quite happy to get the word out about their publications, and are happy to send out these copies as long as we review them in turn.  Sounds like a good deal, right?  I certainly think so!  I am now surrounded by more books than I’ve ever been in my life (well, discounting our trips to The Strand, I guess…).  Therefore, it is with a humble hanging of my head that I must announce that I am becoming more and more like a book addict every day.  How can this be, you ask!?  Well, although I have written many a posting on the humors (and sometimes difficulties) of living with someone as dedicated to books as Kim is, it seems that I too have come under the spell of books and can’t resist their charm.

Living With A Book Addict – Traveling With A Book Addict

(Note: as you read this we are currently cruising towards Italy.  That is as long as we didn’t miss getting on the boat…)

What do you get when you have an 8 hour plane trip to Europe?  8 hours of uninterrupted reading, of course.  At least that’s how Kim sees it.  Yes, your beloved blogger Kimberly and myself, along with my sister-in-law Christine and her fiance Jason are going on a 7 day cruise in Europe!  We begin in Barcelona, traveling to Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples, Palma Majorca, and finally returning to Barcelona.  It’s both Kim and my first trip to Europe, and we couldn’t be more excited to go.

I usually don’t consider myself a nervous traveler, but planes do make me slightly uncomfortable.  Facing an 8 hour trip across the Atlantic is something I’d rather not do, but I’ll most likely be able to distract myself with books and movies.  I hope to make a good dent in the first book of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.  As most of you know, Kim is quite a fan of said series, and has even appeared on the well-received podcast “The Hunger Games Fireside Chat”, discussing the upcoming film and other Hunger Games related materials.  As for Kim, I believe she will be bringing a total of 4 books in her carry-on, as well as another 8 or so in her luggage.  Normally this would be cause for some astonishment, but as you know I am quite used to this now.  I can only hope that our carry-on will fit in the overhead compartment.

Aside from reading, I’m quite looking forward to the ability to experience Italian culture and cuisine.  Christine has made quite the itinerary for us to follow at our ports of call, and we will be renting a car in Rome to see the sights.  Jason and I get to drive the rental car, and I’m quite interested to see how driving will be in Italy.  Fortunately, we’ll still be on the right side of the road, although the kilometer/mph change will be disconcerting at first (how do you say “I meant to go 100 kilometers an hour instead of miles” in Italian?)

Additionally, we’ll have an extra day or so ahead and after our cruise in Barcelona.  My sister recently returned from a semester in Spain, and although she never went to Barcelona, the stories she’s told me about the people and culture seem to be really inviting and exciting.  Unfortunately, although she spoke almost fluent conversational Spanish, I can speak no more than a 1 year-old Spanish baby would.  Hopefully we can get by on some good ol’ fashioned English.

So, next time you hear from me I will be a world traveler (ok, not exactly world, but more than I’ve seen before).  Until then, happy reading and bon voyage!

(Not) Living With a Book Addict

Hello there fellow readers.  Kim is visiting friends at the Cape this weekend so I’m here to provide another installment of “Living With a Book Addict”.  As you may have guessed by the title, I’m be chronicling the phenomenon of being alone in our apartment for the weekend.  As some of you who have been in long-term relationships know, time apart from your partner can be both good and bad.  It’s healthy in the fact that it allows you both to have time to hang out with friends and do activities that are more suited to a group of guys or girls (i.e. girls night out, guys night out).  However, it also highlights the fact that as a partnership, you work best together, and it makes you realize that you are one half of a whole.  It’s an important way to view one’s relationship from “outside” so to speak, as you can gauge the impact that not being with the other part of your relationship has on your own well-being and feelings.  But, enough with the analytics, here are some of my more astute observations sans my better half.

Firstly, I don’t know what it is about Kim not being here, but it drives the cats crazy.  As you may already know, we have two cats: Belle and Sebastian.  Sebastian, although the smaller of the two, is on crack.  He never stops running, jumping, eating random objects, etc.  Although apparently because Kim isn’t here, they must sense something is up.  Last night at the wee hour of 4:30 AM, both Belle and Sebastian were trying their mightiest to wake me up.  Knocking over pictures on our dresser, walking all over me, and in general meowing loud enough to wake the neighbors.  Of course, they do this regularly to wake me up, but for some reason since Kim isn’t here they decided to do it earlier and with more gusto.  Maybe they figure they can get away with it because she’s gone?

Also,  I now know for certain that I am exceedingly lazy.  Unshaved, I woke up yesterday at 10, which is pretty late, and puttered around for a while before doing anything of consequence.  I did run yesterday (1.5 whole miles!), which is something I haven’t done in years, and that basically did me in for the rest of the day.  I now realize the effect Kim has on my calendar and motivation as a whole.  As some of you know, she loves calendars, she happens to have three going continuously (the blog, work, and our regular events), and she is definitely the one that keeps us scheduled and on time.  Without her, I’d probably start resembling Joaquin Phoenix of late.

Finally, I’ve just begun to notice a lot of little things that I miss without her here.  Instead of waking up with her next to me, I have Sebastian staring at me crying for food.  Instead of having someone to talk to about my day and what I’m feeling, I end up talking to the cats as if they could hold an intelligent conversation with me.  In short, all the things that Kim does for our relationship and in general having another person there to lean on, share your feelings with, and laugh with, are readily apparent.  I definitely miss her.  I don’t mean to get overly gushy, but I think it’s definitely been an interesting experience during our time apart.  Now, I must bid you all adieu as I believe Sebastian has knocked something over in the dining room.  Until next time, happy reading!

Living With a Book Addict – The Beer Book Edition

So as most of you know in reading my posts, my counterpoint to Kim’s book passion is my passion for beer brewing.  I’ve been doing it for around a year, and it incorporates a lot of the things I like in general: science, the ability to be creative, and a delicious result, beer!  Additionally, it’s more economical than buying beer of a similar quality as it costs approximately $30 per batch (resulting in approximately 50 12 oz. bottles).  Although it may seem like there is little in common between our passions, there is actually a large market for home brewing books.  Although home brewing has been around for decades, there has been a huge increase in interest recently with the increasing availability of quality ingredients and the proliferation of online brew shops.  With this explosion of interest, there has been much more emphasis on technique and method in order to steer new home brewers in the right direction.  To that end, here are three crucial resources that I’ve used in my growth of a home brewer:

Cover ImageThe Complete Joy of Home Brewing (Third Edition) by Charlie Papazian

This book is the epitome of a common home brewing axiom: relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.  Often, new home brewers tend to over-worry about small details of their home brewing process.  This axiom is used often to reassure them that 99% of the time the brewing and fermentation process is self-correcting.  The fact that producing beer is often self-correcting and nothing illness-causing can be formed from making it, shows that it is difficult to truly mess up.  Therefore, newer brewers can heed Papazian’s warning and really relax.  Papazian’s writing style is humorous and candid, while he makes sure to hit all the finer points of brewing.  Informative and fun, this book is a great primer to home brewing, where techniques can be learned and built upon.

 Cover ImageHow to Brew by John Palmer
  
This book was definitely written for me.  Starting with easy to understand methods that walk a brewer through a typical brew day, How to Brew then moves into the more complex science behind the brewing process.  The chemical properties of the mash, the effect of sugar conversion on the finished beer, and yeast strains are just a few of the things that are covered in technical detail.  I find myself going back to this book often, as it provides new information every time I open it.  As someone with a science background, I like how Palmer discusses the science but makes it understandable enough for someone without such a background.  He shows us how although making beer can be a simple process, it can expand into different levels of control that can make a good homebrew even better!  The first edition of his book in its entirety can be found online here

www.Homebrewtalk.com

How do I even explain this site?  Although it’s not technically a book, it helps me just as much as the other two resources, serving to augment the basic techniques I’ve learned.  Always changing, the site is full of experienced members who are more than happy to help newer members with their home brewing.  The site is full of DIY instructions, product reviews, commercial beer reviews, and much much more.  I visit it often to improve my brewing process, and it’s a great environment for me to share the things I’ve learned with newer members.  I’ve even sold a few of my unused brewing items on the site.  It’s an awesome resource for anyone who loves to make beer.

So there you have it! The above are the three main resources that I consult in my brewing.  I definitely encourage anyone who has an interest in brewing to check them out.  Also, I’d love to help those of you considering home brewing!  You can contact me by using the form here, on the contact page.  Happy brewing!

Living With A Book Addict – Week 4

Yes, it’s true; I am reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  As most of you know I’m not all that adventurous when it comes to reading.  Yes, I have diversified my reading ever since I’ve been with Kim, and yes, it’s been quite an adventure, but this is definitely a stretch.  Kim pushed me to read this book because it’s one of her favorite Tudor/Victorian era books that she has read.  Admittedly, I was pretty hesitant at first.  All I could imagine was that it would be overly romantic or flowery and wouldn’t move fast enough to keep my attention.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only is Philippa Gregory’s novel full of history and adventure, the plot moves fast and the characters are engaging.

Historically, I find it amazing that King Henry held so much power.  Obviously, he was politically powerful and the center of society, but nothing drives this home more than the power struggle within his own court.  This is personified in the Boleyn family’s ruthless quest for power.  The men of the family use the women as pawns in the chess game that is Henry’s court.  It is no matter that Mary has aspirations and goals of her own, her status as Henry’s mistress makes her an invaluable aspect to the family and therefore she is no longer her own person.  Anne, in contrast, flourishes in her situation.  She is, by nature, cold and calculating.  The extremity of the ways in which she took over her sister’s position and supplanted Queen Katherine obviously makes her more memorable in the eyes of history.  However, it is really interesting to see this through Mary’s eyes.

So, back to my original point: I would have never read this book if not prompted to.  Although I am not currently finished with it, it is totally changing my view on these types of books.  I had previously thought of this book as a romantic, washy novel that had little substance (sorry Phillipa Gregory).  Now after reading it for as much as I have, I now view it as a historical work that provides new insight into the lives of those individuals I had only read about in history books.  It has breathed new life into my interest in history.  So, I’d like to thank my wonderful better half for opening my eyes to this novel.  For those of you, who like history, or even just an exciting story, check it out!

Living With A Book Addict – Week 3

Hello there fellow blog readers.  It’s been a long week, but not an uneventful one.  This past weekend I attended a bachelor party in Atlantic City, a conference in Cambridge, Mass, and in general had a lot of work to do.  Therefore, my apologies that this post is a bit late.

So, where were we on the book front?  Well, as expected Kim, Adam, and I took a trip to Barnes and Noble yesterday and picked up some books (yes, I also had coffee for those at home keeping score).  Of particular interest is the first installment of a series of comics called Walking Dead.  These tell the story of a man who awakens to find himself alone in zombie-infested Georgia.  Similar to 28 Days Later, he must orient himself with his surroundings and find his family while trying his best to avoid becoming a zombie entrée.  We originally heard of this series via a show on AMC that is based off of these comics.  It’s really interesting stuff (I love a good old-fashioned zombie apocalypse), and the show is really well done.  Unfortunately there are only 6 episodes this season, but it’s already been picked up for another season.  Gina, I know you read this, so don’t tell me what happens!

Anyway, zombies are a good segue into what I thought might be a good topic for today: the paranormal/undead.  I’ve always been interested in this sort of stuff, but ever since vampires sort of exploded into the collective consciousness of America, everyone has been scrambling to get a piece of the undead pie (so to speak).  Originally Kim was obsessed with the Twilight series, as were most females when the series of books and movies came out.  However, once the original Twilight mania ended, Kim and I found a little show called True Blood on HBO.  As most of you know who watch the show, it is the adult-ified version of Twilight with much better writing.  Kim read though all 9 books in the series in 5 days (yes, you read that correctly) and we promptly began to watch the show week after week.  In a nutshell, it is amazing.  The series mainly takes place in Louisiana, which already is host to a long culture and tradition of ritualistic cult and magic worship that has been passed down through the state’s history.  This makes it the perfect backdrop for the twists and turns of the plot which seem to get more detailed every episode.  Recently I finished the first book in the series: Dead Until Dark.  It is sharply written, with no lags in the plot and follows the classic tale of a series of unsolved murders that mount until a climactic end.  I’m quite excited to try the rest (although not in 5 days), and can’t wait to see what Charlene Harris comes up with next.  Incidentally, have you ever seen a picture of her?  She looks like the nicest lady ever.  Anyway, if you’re into the undead sort of thing go give it a try.

Finally, I thought I’d pass along another good author that I’ve just told Kim about and just heard of myself via some friends at work: HP Lovecraft.  He’s a horror author from the early 20th century, who wrote about science fiction, the existence of human life, and the cosmos.   Check it out!

Until next week, you stay classy, internet.

Living With A Book Addict – Week 2

Today on my way home from work I received a text that stated “You might want to meet me at BN before I spend our rent.”  Obviously, you can deduce who sent it to me.  As Kim has begun to read more and more, I’ve come to appreciate the sights and smells of our new favorite slice of North Haven: Barnes and Noble.  I thought my takes on this place would be appropriate considering Jess’s recent post on the 21st century bookstore.

First off, I’m often surprised at how quiet it is in this place.  Obviously, it is a bookstore, and most people are taking their time reading the backs (or doing the best they can to finish) books instead of yapping.  Maybe it’s the acoustic treatment of multiple rows of bookshelves, carpeting, and the distracting whine of the Starbucks coffee grinder, but I think it has more to do with the sudden change from the loudness and bustle of outside to the quiet of BN that makes it all the more calming to me.  Yes, there still is the occasional shopper that must read the entire contents of the self-help book section to their friend at home in order to make an informed decision, but he/she is few and far between.  In fact, the muted voices that seem to grow quieter as you move farther back into the store are rather calming.  Probably because I find total silence sometimes oppressive and it reminds me of the days where I had to study an entire semester’s worth of chemistry in 48 hours in the library at Quinnipiac, but that could just be me.

Secondly, I am not a coffee person.  I have no aversion to the coffee bean, I think it serves it’s purpose in the sleepy lives of Americans shuffling to work, but I’m not a huge fan.  I appreciate the variety and dedication some people take in making and drinking it (those of you that know me know that I am becoming a self-appointed beer snob and brewer), but I’ve never felt the urge to drink it every day, unless I am in Barnes and Noble.  Perhaps they are secretly sending out pheromones in the ventilation system, perhaps it is the combination of the book smell (you know what I’m talking about) and coffee that turns my brain into coffee demand mode.  Regardless, a good 60% of the time I walk through the doors, I walk out with some type of coffee concoction.  (No offense Starbucks, your stuff is delicious).

Thirdly, a trip to our beloved Barnes and Noble is often a good physical workout for me.  I am a relatively small human, standing at 5 feet 6 inches and weighing a respectable 145-ish pounds (note: this may increase due to the beer hobby, see above).  However, I am by no means muscular or “built”.  Therefore, I can afford to keep my weight where it is by following Kim as she moves around the store, choosing book after book to put in our “possible pile”.  Let me explain.  Kim will initially select 4-5 books of which she is thinking of purchasing, which will all make their way into my open arms.  As more books pile onto our “possible pile”, the workout increases.  I usually top out at a solid 10-12 books, which depending on their relative weight will tax my arms after walking around with them for a good half hour.  Then, we get around to sorting through said pile and pick our survivors.  After the weight is lifted (literally), we go to checkout and the credit/debit card is put to good use.  Pretty soon I will be able to work up to 15-20 books, and perhaps a few encyclopedias (do they even still print copies of those?)  Regardless, Kim’s approach is pretty different from mine.  Usually I pick a book or two to add to our pile.  However, I do so with a lot of trepidation.  Why?  Because I am a libra.  Yes, I normally don’t follow astrological signs or symbols and usually have no idea what they mean.  However, I do know that libras tend to be indecisive.  And holy _____ I am indecisive.  Any decision with 3 of more variables takes me out.  Today I was choosing between 4 different magazines about beer, and it was as if I was choosing them to live with for the rest of my life.  I took each one out, read a few pages of each, weighed the pros and cons, determined the best value based on price, etc, all while Kim had moved to the checkout 2 years before I finished.  Extreme?  Well, I may have used some hyperbole here, but I do admire Kim’s ability to make quick and informed decisions.  She is much better in that department.

So, there you have it!  A typical trip to good ol B and N for yours truly and my lovely wife.  If you’d like to tag along on our next adventure, feel free to let us know!  Until next time, happy reading!

Living With A Book Addict – Week 1

How do I characterize living with a book addict?  Well, for one thing, life is never boring, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Yes, when someone uses the term “addict”, it tends to have a negative connotation, yet I think that for Kim it’s definitely been a positive aspect of her life.  Ever since the piles of books began growing around our apartment and she began excitedly waking me up at 2am to tell me that she just finished another book, I’ve noticed a big change.  Her vocabulary and writing style has improved dramatically, and she’s become better at expressing how she feels both in print and in words.  Yes, I do sometimes get really weird dreams that are somehow intermingled with Kim telling me about her latest book, but I think it’s for the better (i.e. the other night I dreamt that I was a stuffed turkey somehow…).  Living with Kim’s passion for reading has helped me to rekindle the reading spirit in myself.  In high school I used to love reading Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler books, and although I was pretty singular in the types of books I read, I loved reading them just the same.  To be honest going to high school and college really took away the passion I had for reading as my reading switched from things I wanted to read to reading for school.  Now that I’m out of school and have some free time, I find myself drawn back into the world of reading thanks to Kim.

I always tell Kim that she reminds me of my neighbor, Uncle Ralph.  Although not technically my uncle, Uncle Ralph was a reviewer who read and critiqued books.  Although he was paid for this job, I sincerely think he would have done it for free.  The man loved books.  His house was a library, packed with towers of books that covered the gamut of subjects and tastes.  He was a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge, and if he didn’t know something off of the top of his head he would go to a filing cabinet where he literally filed pieces of information from books, magazines, and newspapers that he found interesting.  His love of books and reading extended into a love of life that I will always remember.  So, although I am now wielding my way around stacks of books in our apartment and Kim comes home sheepishly from a trip to Barnes and Noble (her second home), I look past the pages and see that her passion flourishing is in fact a reflection of a greater joy for life that she is experiencing.  So, I encourage anyone who reads this blog to take more time out of your life to read and share what you’re reading with those around you.  Because we live in a world fraught with increasing worry and conflict, a few more Uncle Ralphs and Kims out there wouldn’t hurt one bit.

Be sure and check back each week for “Living With A Book Addict”!  See you next week!