Improving Your Reading Life | Find a Great Spot to Read

Welcome back to our 2017 series about improving your reading life! We've talked about getting inspired to read and some tips to find great new books, embracing reading slumps, and what a difference audiobooks can make in your reading life. Now that you have a book in your hands (or ears) you can't wait to start, it's time to settle in somewhere comfy to dive in!

Most of you, I'm sure have a go-to reading spot in your home, probably on your couch or in your bed; somewhere you can get cozy and snuggle down for a solid reading session. We know exactly where we like to be in our own homes! I think that's going to be most people's default mode, but warmer months especially provide ample opportunity to break out of your routine and find a new reading spot that you enjoy.

First, think of places you naturally find relaxing and low key, somewhere you could settle into and where the background is suited to lull you into that magical place where you stop noticing the actual words on the page and are just fully immersed and flying through the story.

Do you have a local beach or lake that you can take some snacks and a drink out to and just lay out on a beach towel or under an umbrella? I find beaches particularly easy to read on, because the crashing waves provide ambient white noise, and I can mush the sand around to support my arms or back or prop up my book even. I love the fresh air and the warm, relaxing comfort of beach reading so much.

Or how about the bustling hum of a local coffee shop? I'm sure you've noticed how many people use them to study, and sometimes having so many people around you intently focused on something makes you want to focus on what's in front of you too. I find the buzz of people around me really comforting and I sincerely enjoy reading in this type of setting. Plus, great caffeine and baked goods, what's not to love?

Parks are another great resource if you'd like to be near other humans, but want some fresh air. Take an iced coffee to go and spread a blanket out under a tree, or find a tucked away bench with a view. Settle into a novel, take some breaks to people watch, and you've got yourself a highly pleasant afternoon.

Maybe you have a great outdoor space at home? Rikki has a wonderfully lush, gorgeous garden space in her backyard that she's created, complete with a swing and a two table sets she can choose from. How fun to take morning coffee out and pass some time in the company of a great novel and some quality sunshine. Bonus points for her chickens softly clucking, bees buzzing around nearby wildflowers, and a puppy dog or two at her feet.

I've got a more simple outdoor set up, but I love taking a pitcher of iced tea out with me to sit and read with the umbrella up at my table and my toddler playing a few feet away. I've also seen people with crazy beautiful back porches and amazing balconies I'd just love to read on!

Often we don't have the luxury of uninterrupted time to ourselves, so we make the best of it, and find ourselves reading at the park with our kids, or sitting out on the waterfront while they throw rocks into the Puget Sound. We are definitely the type of people who feel naked if we don't have a book or a Kindle in our bags at all times to pull out whenever we have a spare few minutes to read. 

Whichever spaces make sense for you, take advantage of them and enjoy the diversity of reading out and about, as well as settling into that perfect spot at home.

Tell us about your favorite place to read, or show us by tagging #TheArdentBiblioReads!

Happy reading friends!

Literary Lifestyle Photo Prompts | July

We are halfway through the year already! It's been so great having these prompts to help us continue defining our style and connecting with so many great bookstagrammers. We've even seen fellow book lovers adapt to our literary lifestyle style through blogs and photos, and we're just loving it. July is going to be a month of big change for us around here, and most of it is pretty darn exciting. The most notable takeaway from June is that we've really stretched ourselves in reading a more diverse selection of books and plan to tackle some bigger classics to pace us along in July.

Have you been following along with our prompts? Have you enjoyed them? If we haven't already, we'd love to connect with you and get more friends on board, so don't forget to share the prompts.

Be sure to use the hashtag #TheArdentBiblioReads and tag us at @theardentbiblio on Instagram! We cannot wait to see what you come up with!

Cheers to the Weekend 6.23.17

Exciting articles, inspiring Instagrammers, and other fun stuff worth sharing!

AROUND THE WEB

A great personal article about reading in bed with your spouse. Too cute!

A really solid list of books to pick up after you see Wonder Woman.

We've been thinking about this very thing a lot lately!

Whoah guys, it turns out Margaret Atwood is no fan of Mr. Darcy, and her reason actually makes some sense.

 

INSTAGRAM

A fellow PNW gal, new to the gram, and has lovely flat lays! Welcome friend!

The loveliest old town sights combine with a great literary lifestyle, we love her new stuff!

It's no surprise we're fans of fellow book duos on here 

With great views, books, and a cozy kitty, Thea has us dreaming of sunshine-y days in the UK 

 

POSTS WE LOVE

Check out Rikki's tips and what she finds meaningful about styling bookshelves!

One of these books is going to the subject of our next dinner party, can you guess which one?

Summer is a great time to check out your local book clubs, or to start one yourself! Would you try this?

Also, do you guys have a blog? We'd love to see! We're constantly looking to connect with other bloggers and find great inspiration, so let us know!

 

Cheers!

The Art of Styling Bookshelves

Styling is not something I think about artfully or pre-plan to achieve some magically styled room. In fact, when I think about styling, I get kind of anxious, nervous, and feel completely inadequate. But in spite of that, I've learned a few things through the process of creating the shelves so often loved on Instagram.

My husband and I spent a weekend building the shelves from wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and I love them nearly as much as I love my children. No exaggeration. It was a true labor of love; built with the pleasure of loving books and enhancing a cozy den space in mind, and letting the true love of a literary lifestyle  transform it into the eye-catching book shelf that it is.

When it comes to styling or decorating of any sort, the less I think about it, the better. Arranging my books in a way that I can find them is what works best for me, and is a top priority. I attempted to organize them alphabetically once, but the aesthetic when I stepped back was appalling. I was so upset I immediately took it all down! Also, for you rainbow stack lovers, I just cannot (no offense). It's just too much for a room I want to feel cozy, not bold and orderly. Cozy is essentially my style, and I'm perfectly ok with that.

To give you a breakdown of how books are grouped together on my shelves, it's something like this:

  • favorite authors
  • beloved vintage books
  • gardening + outdoorsy books
  • children's books
  • memoirs + biographies
  • series
  • miscellaneous
  • my husband's books

Within these categories, I set up the books I love to see the most, putting them front and center, and then arrange the others around those. I rarely fill an entire shelf with just books. Though a few shelves are full, most other shelves are 1/2 - 3/4 full, with a photo or something else filling up the extra space. I like them set up primarily by size on the shelf, and have also got a few horizontal stacks mixed in to give some balance. We're definitely going for maximum visual appeal here, as this is a prominent display in our home. All of the knick knacks my husband and I have collectively gathered throughout our lives, from our travels, etc are mixed into the stacks, filling extra space and allowing us to display bits of our lives in the heart of our home. 

There are a few sets of bookends I absolutely love and specifically purchased, but I don't go out of my way to find things in stores. Clutter can happen quickly (so quickly!) that way. I often find myself rearranging things as books or trinkets are added or taken away, but it's not an all day affair, just a momentary pleasure, a quiet break in my day. The shelves are constantly evolving, and that's half the fun and the beauty of them. 

At the end of the day, you simply want to do what is pleasing to you, what makes you happiest. After putting these shelves in, I realized that this is a lifestyle choice, it's a lifestyle I love, and one that won't ever grow old, so I know I'll always be happy with it. Not only that, it's a great conversation piece, especially if you already love to talk about books! 

Do you have any helpful tips to style your shelves? Is there a certain organizational method you prefer? 

Cheers to the Weekend 6.16.17

Exciting articles, inspiring Instagrammers, and other fun stuff worth sharing!

AROUND THE WEB

A list of beach reads for people who don't like beach reads (that's us!)

Booze and botany? Count us in! We are all about plants in drinks for that fresh summer taste!

I am OBSESSED with this concept! A book that will give you a book hangover paired with a book that will get you over it

Looking for a fun new fantasy book? Jamie has got you covered!

 

INSTAGRAM

Like us, Beth is never without a book and captures her literary lifestyle in London beautifully

The vintage love never gets old, plus, loving good books means we're instant BFF's

Another pair of bookstagrammers! Their feed is rife with bold colors, great book picks, and perfect snippets of their literary lives! 

Speaking of Jamie and her fantastic fantasy list, we love her Insta too!

 

POSTS WE LOVE

A good case for thoroughly researching the books you read!

Do you like to re-read books? One of us does!

If you're at a loss for what to get your dad or loved one this Father's Day, check out our bookish gift guide!

 

Cheers!

 

 

Books For the Dad Who...

Book are always a good idea and a great gift, but there is never a "one size fits all" book for any group of people, and we didn't want to take that approach with this Father's Day gift guide. Instead, we asked around and gathered up some favorites into a few different categories so you can decide what best fits the dad or loved one you're celebrating this Father's Day!

So here are our picks for the dad who...

Is a History Buff

  1. A Team of Rivals | Doris Kearns Goodwin- One of the most beloved books about Abraham, Lincoln and his administration; everyone I know who has read this has absolutely raved about it.

  2. Devil in the White City | Erik Larson- The true story of a charming but brutal serial killer alongside the drama of building a World's Fair, plus it's littered with famous names.
  3. Ordinary Heroes | Scott Turow- An historical mystery that has a man on a hunt to learn about his father who served in WW2 and left behind mysterious wartime letters.

Dreams of the Open Ocean

  1. Treasure Island | Robert Louis Stevenson- A swashbuckling, rum-fueled adventure to an island in search of buried treasure. A total classic!
  2. Master and Commander | Patrick O'Brien- A high seas adventure pitting Napoleon against the British Navy and Spanish Armada with memorable characters and plenty of historical detail.
  3. Maiden Voyage | Tania Aebi- an adrift 18 year old, Tania's father gave her a choice: college or a boat to sail around the world by herself. Guess which one she chose?

Loves Classics

  1. Crime and Punishment | Fyodor Dostoyevsky- This is one of my dad's favorites, actually, and he said it forever changed how he thought about capital punishment. 
  2. The Three Musketeers | Alexandre Dumas- A super fun adventure thriller rife with violence, romance, plot twists, an excellent female villain, dastardly politicians, camaraderie and general mayhem, all with some good old fashioned sword fighting. 
  3. The Once and Future King | T. H. White- A defining version of the Arthurian Legend, dive in to hang out in Camelot with Merlyn, Arthur, Lancelot, Guenever and the rest in this most timeless, beloved classic.   

Appreciates a Good Mystery

  1. The Dry | Jane Harper- A great pick if your dad wants something light and contemporary with a riveting format and dual mystery of a long dead girl and a recently murdered family.
  2. In Cold Blood | Truman Capote- A classic of true crime, Capote is seriously just an amazing writer as he explores a murder in a small town and the ensuing investigation and execution of the killers.
  3. John Corey Series | Nelson DeMille- A great suspense and crime series!
  4. The Godfather | Mario Puzo- A tried and true classic of thrilling American crime fiction.

Can't Wait for His Next Adventure

  1. A Walk In the Woods | Bill Byson- A humorous and truly interesting account of Bryson's hike of the Appalachian Trail with his high school best friend. 
  2. The Call of the Wild | Jack London- Set in the Yukon in the late 1800's, the story follows the life of a dog who was kidnapped and forced to become a sled dog and his descent into a more primitive version of himself as he gets further and further from civilization.
  3. Indiana Jones series | James Rollins- A globe-trotting, fantasy action thriller that he can watch on the big screen after reading through the series.

Gets into sci-fi and fantasy

  1. The Lord of the Rings | J. R. R. Tolkien- Find some beautiful editions of this classic trilogy, like these that I genuinely drool over.
  2. The Martian | Andy Weir- Relentless effort to survive in space, enough said.
  3. American Gods | Neil Gaiman- Fantasy with a great mythological twist and some fun mystery.

Tell us, what does your dad or loved one like to read?

 

 

 

 

Researching Books

If there's one thing you should know, is that it's widely accepted that you shouldn't read too much about a book before you begin. Often starting it without expectation, opinions, and reviews sets your mind in a better place for the story ahead. In other words, no outside influence. Many books that I've enjoyed the most have been only minimally described before I read them. 

However, when I find myself not understanding a book very well, needing to better understand the main point, or just absolutely loving it, I will take to the world wide web to learn more about the story and the author. Books such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schafer has a story behind it, the inspiration behind The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is really fascinating, and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand has an incredible author story. It's this foundation of information, I've learned, that gives me a fuller understanding of what I'm reading and makes me love it so much more. For instance, the end of Guernsey seemed to fall a little short compared to the rest of the book, but the back story is that she passed away before finishing this, her first novel, which was a dream she always had. Her niece actually finished it for her. Neil Gaiman is equally interesting as a man as his stories. Laura Hillenbrand is a mastermind with descriptive writing and researching her stories flawlessly. Laura is riddled with a chronic illness that keeps her pretty firmly homebound. She goes to great lengths to have things sent to her and people visiting her so she can understand and research a story to create the incredible works she's published. 

All of this is to say, often times a story is more than just the words on the page, but as much about the person who wrote them, or the experiences behind them. Having that broader context to fill in between the lines of the pages is incredibly valuable. This is what hits home, what favorite means to me, a term I do not use loosely when talking about books.

Are there any novels or author back stories that you've learned about, that made you love the book even more?

Re-Reading as Comfort Reading

Do you ever stop and think about all the decisions you've made to get to this moment, and about how the future is just a vast, mercurial blend of opportunities to make more choices, all scattering in a thousand directions? It can be a little paralyzing.

I think thats why nostalgia is such a comforting feeling; you know exactly what you're getting. I can look back into any time in my past and know so viscerally what that particular moment feels like. Nostalgia offers a way to live in those known, familiar feelings that are set in stone and enshrined in memory, rather than facing the shifting, uncertain future. There's no guesswork in the immutable past. 

Re-reading old favorite books provides that same security that nostalgia does, I think. You know the answer to the ending, you know the feelings you're getting yourself into, and you know how deeply you enjoy the novel. I tend to re-read when I'm seeking out specific feelings. I'm not picking up something unknown, I'm picking up the intimately known because it's safe, it's specific, and I can live in a familiar place, with familiar characters, in a familiar attitude for a while. It's frankly just comforting. 

There's such a delicious sense of anticipation when you begin a re-read, you know you're about to be reunited with characters who feel like friends and follow a beloved story. I just can't resist going back and living in a world I fully adore for a bit.

Harry Potter is a perfect example of this. I was the same age as Harry was as each book was released. I remember midnight launch parties, and pre-ordering books, and binge reading the new book the day it came out because I didn't want it spoiled. I grew up with Harry, I spent 7 years waiting for new books to come out so I could go back to Hogwarts and hang out with everyone. I'm nearing 30 and I still re-read the series pretty much yearly. Opening them up feels like a sigh of relief and a settling of my soul as I re-enter the story I've loved so much for so many years. 

Another favorite is The Great Gatsby. A completely different tone than Harry, obviously, but I still get to open that book and plunge myself back into the magic and beauty of Fitzgerald's writing and spend a day or two wrapped in the wonderful, heart-achingly gorgeous nostalgia of the novel. It feels like dipping myself in that feeling; just saturating myself with that tingly perfection. It's so hard to describe, but I'm betting most of you who wholeheartedly enjoy re-reading books will understand. 

I have an entire shelf devoted to books I love enough to re-read with some regularity, do you guys re-read books? What are some of your favorites? I'd love to hear!

Cheers to the Weekend 6.9.17

Exciting articles, inspiring Instagrammers, and other fun stuff worth sharing!

AROUND THE WEB

A summer reading list with interesting recommendations for bookish creatives

We've put a lot of thought into being book bloggers. Here are some tips on how to create a successful book blog. Hint: it isn't all about the book reviews.

A fun Father's Day bookish gift idea from the little ones that's sure to be memorable

 

INSTAGRAM

Presley has a refreshingly simple lifestyle approach and great book choices

How can you not love endless classics and yummy cupcakes?!

All the coffee and books. Enough said.

A pair of bookish sisters. So fun! And they live in our two favorite places.

 

POSTS WE LOVE

A virtual, bookish trip to Italy. See how we immersed ourselves in sunny Tuscany for the weekend!

 

Cheers!

 

"Under the Tuscan Sun" Literary Dinner Party

Under the Tuscan Sun was such a lovely change of pace from our previously read classics and dinner parties. As we have very slowly emerged into summer, it was quite blissful to be whisked away to sunny Italy, then recreate a simple, yet lovely pasta dish from the book itself, after treating ourselves to appetizers and drinks outside. We kept this literary dinner party quite true to the format of dinners in the book, with wildflowers, a no-fuss meal, and warm sunny outdoor elements. We followed this wonderful dinner with the movie and a homemade mascarpone peach custard mentioned in the book. 

Using a fresh, local baguette, topped with bruschetta and basil alongside bite-sized caprese salads, we took our appetizers to the wildflower garden to talk all things Under the Tuscan Sun. The kiddos ran around us, occasionally grabbing a bite to eat, all while we discussed our likes, dislikes, and hopes to someday jet off to Italy to enjoy some of the many food elements she mentions in Italy. Seriously, every thing about the book and dinner was purely delightful.

And then we found ourselves back inside to whip up some spaghetti (seriously one of the quickest spaghetti dishes I've ever made- recipe found in book) that was packed with flavor. We also tried the ever popular tuscan beans with sage, and some more caprese.

Frances Mayes did a brilliant job writing about her experience of renovating a house in Italy, cooking Italian food, meeting locals, touring the backroads, and familiarizing herself with a wonderfully new culture set so far apart from her life at home in San Francisco. I started off taking endless notes on all the food she mentioned making, until I found there were pages of recipes conveniently placed within the chapters. We also had her Italian cookbook providing endless options for dinner parties to come.

Afterwards, I couldn't help but look up real life photos of Bramasole, simply because I wasn't ready to leave Italy. It is as beautiful as she described. I can't even imagine walking through her gardens or stepping foot into the enormous house. I could, however, imagine all the renovations from the completed photos - the stone wall that was painstakingly restored, the brick laid in the kitchen. What a life! What a place to live! It was such a lovely book to read.

Have you read it? Tell us what you thought!

Cheers to the Weekend 6.2.17

Exciting articles, inspiring Instagrammers, and other fun stuff worth sharing!

AROUND THE WEB

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is getting made into an HBO series!

We recently buddy read Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. We'll be posting our dinner soon, but until then, here's a peak at the real villa she renovated. Trip to Italy anyone?

What a great look at star-crossed lovers in literature by Jardine Libaire, the author of White Fur.

Books so far this year that have been overhyped! Do you agree?

 

INSTAGRAM

We really, REALLY love Megan's take on literary lifestyle. Gorgeous!

A great showcase of books, fun simple styling; we should definitely be friends!!

Alison's account is just beautifully styled, and popular for good reason.

 

POSTS WE LOVE

Cannot believe we're into June already. That means a new set of lifestyle photo prompts to document your reading life. It is time to join us if you haven't yet! 

Since we're welcoming June, take a look back at all the books we read in May.

Summer means, cold refreshing drinks, and we've got a great list of cocktail + book pairings!

Summer also means summer reading programs! If you've been looking for a great one (either for you or your kids!) that has fun rewards, check this out!

 

 

Cheers!

Kick A** Summer Reading Programs

Between us we have three (soon to be four!) kiddos ranging in age from 3 to 12 and we love reading with them. Rikki's oldest buddy-reads YA sci-fi and fantasy with her, and her younger one shares read-aloud novels like Little House on the Prairie and Charlotte's Web, while my toddler demands to be read every book about trucks, bugs, sea creatures, and space we can get our hands on. 

Needless to say, our households are full of busy readers. With summer upon us, we are starting to plan out all of the summer reading programs we can participate in around us! I used to love doing the summer reading program at my local library as a kid, and was a volunteer to run the program there as a teen, so this is such an exciting season of reading for me. We know some of you have kids, too, so we rounded up all the worthwhile programs we could find that had actually cool perks for kids and adults!

1. Check Your Local Library- It looks like a lot of libraries are participating in a common summer reading program, and the theme this year is "Build a Better World". It has a reading program for all ages, ranging from babies to adults, and our local branch is offering things like zoo passes, library totes, free books, and free bowling just for completing a reading "Bingo" card. Plus each card earns entries into a raffle for bigger prizes like restaurant gift cards, movie tickets, a new bicycle, passes to local attractions, and more! 

2. Barnes and Noble- Kids in grades 1-6 can earn a free book by reading any 8 books this summer, recording them in a reading journal, and explaining which part of the book was their favorite and why. Once they've completed their journal, they can choose any free book from the list on the back. This is a great way to add to their libraries for sure!

3. Half Price Books- This summer, Half Price Books is offering $5 worth of their bookworm bucks (in gift card form) to kids under 14 who complete 300 minutes of reading in a month. Download and fill out a reading log (we tend to just log our day's reading right before bed!) and bring it to the store to redeem when you've finished. Easy! They even have lists of great book recommendations for a range of ages, if you need some inspiration. For older teens, they're offering bookworm bucks for posting book reviews of selected titles, in partnership with Penguin Teen, so you know there are some great titles to choose from.

4. Pottery Barn Kids- This summer, Pottery Barn Kids is hosting a book club! If you take your child to 5 meetings and mark it in the provided Book Passport (sounds like they take place every Tuesday at 11am!), they'll get a special gift. Each week has a new theme, and this could be a really fun social activity for your kids' reading lives. Check in with your local store for more specific details.

5. Check Your Local Bookstore- Local bookstores are always a great space to check out for book clubs, summer reading programs, author events, and more fun stuff you and your child can get excited about! I'm planning to take my toddler on a date to pick out some new books at our local favorite, and we plan to attend a couple events there this summer, too. Bookstore trips were always a favorite summer activity for me as a kid, and I hope I can build my son the same kinds of fond memories.

Have you guys found any great summer reading programs for kids or adults? Please share, we'd love to hear about them!