Posts tagged literary lifestyle
Our Favorite Tote Bags to Carry Our Library Hauls
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We have four kids between us now, three of them are avid readers (and the littlest one will be in a couple years!) plus ourselves, so taking tote bags on library trips has become a necessity. We can easily fill a bag or two with everyone's picks each time we pop in to our local branch. Of course, if we're taking tote bags, we might as well choose cute ones, right? Check out some of our tried and true favorites as well as some pretty ones we have our eye on. 

 

Can't go wrong with a library card tote bag! On point, simple, and cute.

Representing our favorite local bookstore with this tote; go check out your local indies! 

My trusty favorite; I take this one on pretty much every library trip and it's held up magnificently.

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If you want something sleeker and more polished, try this one. That blush color is stunning.

Or go a little trendier with a modern straw tote or this beachy number.

From classics to recent bestsellers, these totes are gorgeous.

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Abstract and fun, we love this one! That accidentally rhymed, hah!

Are we obsessed with this tote after all this time? Always

Seriously in love the unique paneling on this tote.

Prefer to have a zipper? This one is my absolute favorite. Madewell can do no wrong. 

 

See anything you love? I think I'll be picking up this one for the summer to carry my library holds, take to the beach, and tote around my farmer's market finds. I kind of can't get enough totes lately, it's a problem!

Do you have a dedicated library tote? Where did you find yours??

 

 

 

On Selectivity
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In the past year of hanging out with everyone over on bookstagram, we've been inundated with so many good books on our feed, its overwhelming. Opening that app is basically like being hit with a flood of colorful covers and enticing synopses, of strong opinions, trends, and community. We love bookstagram so much, and find it such a fascinating corner of the internet filled with our wonderful fellow readers, but it is also such a crush of good books, we know we can never keep up.

Every week there are hot new releases, books everyone is reading, and a keen awareness of what's next. Everything always sounds so interesting and we just want to read it all, honestly....but we can't. We have busy lives, just like all of you, and that boils down to not enough time to ever get to all the books that are trending, or that everyone is currently obsessed with. We are all too aware that many of you feel the same struggle. 

We've been coming to accept that we can't keep up, and instead use bookstagram (and the internet at large) as a window into exploring books that might be perfect for us. 

Anne from Modern Mrs Darcy has a great point about focusing on choosing the best books for you and not necessarily paying attention to hype. This all hinges on the idea that you have to be real with yourself about your reading style, which can be a really hard thing to pinpoint, as a lot of us are often in flux.

I don't know about you guys, but I personally find myself fixated on a genre for a while then wandering off to something else, or noticing that my tastes are evolving, and I'm not sure what exactly is it I'm looking for any more. Knowing that, there are two things I'm focused on this year to do a better job of being selective with what I read.

Being honest with myself about whether or not a book is for me. This means taking stock of how I currently feel, monitoring my instinctive reactions to a synopsis or the opinion of someone I trust, and going more with what my gut is telling me I need more of. Lately that has looked like offbeat literary fiction and classics, but who knows what it will be next month. The important part is that i'm never trying to talk myself into a book and am able to let one go if it isn't immediately grabbing me. Basically if I don't want to drop everything else to read it RIGHT NOW, I should probably pass. 

Not getting too sucked into the hype. Having everyone around you clamoring that you just HAVE to read this book can feel like so much pressure, and it's easy to just want to keep up with what everyone else is loving and join in the larger conversations around these books. However, I'm learning that I actually really dislike a lot of what everyone else loves. I'm not exactly sure why that is, and it's certainly been making me feel a little out of step with the book world at large, but it's also forced me to go out of my comfort zone in search of books that I truly connect with, which has been eye opening and wonderful. It's led me to try new authors, test independent publishers, and say yes to things I wouldn't have considered before.

We'll see how this year plays out in terms of how well I can stick to these intentions and what impact it will have on my reading life, but I'm curious to know if anyone else has systems for themselves to stay selective about books??

 

How We Fared With Our 2017 Reading Resolutions
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Michaela

My 2017 resolutions were:

  1. Read 40 books and keep track on Goodreads
  2. Read at least 10 classic novels

I read 12 classic novels and 75 books this year, and all were dutifully tracked on Goodreads. I am shocked I read as many books as I did, honestly. I figured I'd maybe make the 50 book mark, not all the way to 75! I'm also really happy with Goodreads as a tracking method; it was the most convenient way for me to mark the books I read and keep up with what I was currently reading, so I will definitely continue that in 2018. 

This year ended up really being about rediscovering the book world and returning to being a more constant reader after  couple years of not reading as much as I had been previously accustomed to. Being on bookstagram meant I was immersed in what was new and getting great buzz every single day. Combine that with forging relationships with publishers and having early access to new releases meant I was generally more on top of what was coming out this year than I have been in my whole life. I definitely didn't read all the hot new releases, not even close (nobody could ever keep up with that, holy cow), but I read way more of them than I normally would have.

In addition to the new releases I read, I was also reading widely from backlist, non-fiction, indie presses, and of course buddy-reading classics with Rikki. This voracious, eclectic reading style really allowed me to explore and define who I am as a reader right now at age 28, versus what I used to like in my teens/early twenties.

I truthfully didn't read much between 2012-2015 because there was too much life happening. As you'd expect when life gets really intense, those years ended up being hugely transformative for me as a person, and I've found the changes they wrought profoundly affected my taste in books. I am standing here at the end of 2017 looking back at the past 5 years, realizing that I am a wholly different person and reader than I used to be. It's safe to say this past year of exploration in books has been so good for me, on so many levels.

Now that I have a much better handle on my current tastes as a reader, and am keeping one finger on the pulse of the publishing world, I'm planning for 2018 to be one of greater selectivity. I want to only be reading books I know will truly suit me, and to be able to turn away from some of the hyped new releases without FOMO.

Of course there will be some buzzy fresh releases I'm genuinely interested in reading, but I also have at least a few dozen books waiting for me on my own shelves I've been meaning to get to. There is nothing more irritating than finishing a book thinking "oh that was nice!" and then forgetting all about it a week later. I want to read more books that will stick to my insides, and I know there are rows and rows of them waiting patiently on my shelves.

RIKKI

My 2017 resolutions were:

  1. Read 40 books
  2. Read more classics
  3. Read widely

I've always been a book lover and reader, but I've never set a reading goal for myself before this year. I read maybe twelve books in 2016, before The Ardent Biblio was born, and I was totally cool with that. Once we got started and my kids were reading more, I wanted to make reading a much bigger part of my life and I set an end of year goal and finished with about 28 books. This year, I set it to 40, thinking that might be overly ambitious, and was surprised with how much reading I really was able to fit into my days when it became a priority to me. I've surpassed my goal, reading 68 books and am so pleased with my reading life this year. 

From buddy reads with Michaela to buddy reads with my oldest kid, I'm happy to say that I'll be setting the same goal for 2018. I'm not about the quantity I read per say, but the quality of books I read is what I find most important. I read very few books that I didn't enjoy. This past year, I started grad school, we had a baby, and moved for the first time as a family (first time in 9 years for me). I start school again at the beginning of the New Year, so we will see how that affects my reading life again.

Most importantly, I want to continue being selective about the books I purchase and the books I own. I will continue using my local library like crazy, I hope to participate in book clubs again (fell off since baby came along), and author events would be a great addition! Lastly, I want to read books that "I've been meaning to get to," because life is too short to not read things that you feel compelled to read. I read for me and I want to feel good about that all the time, and I want to fill my mind with things that are empowering, beautiful, and full of wisdom.

Happy reading in 2018!

What Books Represent You As A Reader?
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If you ask any reader what their favorite book is, chances are they'll look aghast and insist they couldn't possibly pick just one. And it's true! Most of us have several favorites that have clung to the insides of our brains, influencing us, coloring our world, and calling us back to them across the years. That group of books, the ones that truly make our hearts flutter, are the crux of how we can look at ourselves as readers.

Often we read whatever looks interesting, whatever book is getting buzz at the moment, or things we pick up on a whim. That's absolutely legitimate and can lead to some great discoveries, but we often find ourselves a little disappointed in books we pick up because of outside pressure (it won an award, everyone is talking about it, it's been on the bestseller list for weeks, etc). I feel like a lot of my reading life is chasing that rainbow to find the next book that will make my insides squirm in the best way for years to come. Knowing your favorite books can really help you hone in on what your ideal reading life really looks like, and help you choose those kinds of books for yourself a little better.

To start thinking about this, first decide which titles have been leaping to mind the entire time you've been reading this. Although on the surface those titles may seem disparate, a little digging will likely reveal commonalities in what stands out to you in those books you loved and reveal what you are (maybe subconsciously) drawn to. Once you do start to think about different themes in books that you enjoy, you'll be able to connect the dots between the books you've read and find commonalities that you might not have noticed before.

For instance, let's start with me, why not? My little collection of favorites are:

  1. Tigana | Guy Gavriel Kay
  2. The Secret History | Donna Tartt
  3. The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Harry Potter | J. K. Rowling
  5. Brideshead Revisited | Evelyn Waugh

The links between all of my favorite novels is that they are all incredibly atmospheric, with complex, layered plots and characters that feel truly alive. My wheelhouse is generally literary fiction with a dash of fantasy and all of my favorites, though vastly different, create a really specific nostalgia-tinged mood through truly exceptional writing. Seriously, just let me go live in that feeling; I want to curl up in it and never leave. And ugh, you guys, I am truly such a sucker for gorgeous, magical writing!

Of course there are plenty of other books I truly, wholeheartedly enjoy that don't fit into this theme, like The Importance of Being Earnest, or The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet to name a couple, but these 5 are the ones that struck a harpoon in my heart and will never let me go. Knowing that they share these characteristics and getting a good read (hah!) on the moods I am drawn to in books allows me to narrow my search for new books that might really resonate with me.

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Rikki, however, is a completely different reader than I am. A look at her favorites reveals she is invested in really warm books with descriptive scenes, history, struggle and overcoming obstacles, populated with strong characters that are redemptive.

  1. Unbroken | Lauren Hillenbrand
  2. The Graveyard Book | Neil Gaiman
  3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society | Mary Ann Schaffer
  4. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe | Fannie Flagg
  5. The Giver | Lois Lowry

Knowing this about ourselves has been crucial in deciding which books we should be spending more time with, and helped us to clarify and seek out what appeals to us as readers. Our overlap in our books is that we both enjoy strong literary novels and well-layered prose, with extremely well done characters. There's almost always some link you can find between you and a fellow reader, even if you're reading styles are as different as ours are. You don't have to love - or hate - the same books to have good conversation, but we better understand one another based on the books we know the other person loves and why. It makes gift giving much easier, too! 

What are the common themes in your reading life? We'd love to hear about it! 

Tried and True Strategies For Breaking A Reading Slump

Michaela here, and I am coming to you fresh off the worst reading slump I've had all year. I'm sure most of you have been through slumps; that awful feeling of not being able to focus on any books and feeling generally uninspired to read. It's a sickness of the worst kind for avid readers. 

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We've talked before about embracing a reading slump, and while I was perfectly happy to lean in to it for a while, after several weeks I was starting to just feel really frustrating and miserable. I wanted to read all the books, but I just could not focus. Last month I ended up only reading 2 real books, plus a bunch of graphic novels, which were great because they were firmly outside of my normal wheelhouse while being quick and easy to consume. The visual element seemed to ease my focus issues, but mostly it was knowing I could finish one in 40 minutes flat. Longer books still felt impossible. 

Interestingly, when I asked for tips for breaking this streak over on Instagram, I got dozens of replies (thank you all!), and almost every one of them referenced the fact that slumps are a result of feeling generally emotionally off-kilter, which is so true. Personally, I really struggle with winters here in the PNW and I think my dread of the coming darkness just threw me all off. I did see a great post about planning to be excited about winter, and I think I need to really try my best to embrace that mentality this year.

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But. Winter blues aside, there was a general consensus about slump-breaking tactics in everyone's encouraging messages:

  1. Re-read a favorite novel, especially if it's one you find comforting or is "easy".
  2. Switch formats and fire up an audiobook.
  3. Get yourself an Agatha Christie novel.
  4. Throw out your TBR or reading plans or obligations completely and just pick up a book you are genuinely excited about. One person even said ignore the piles of unread books and buy something fresh you can't wait to read right this minute.
  5. Try to just sit down and plow through a few chapters to get going and get over the hump of starting a new book.
  6. Practice lots of self-care!

Initially I thought I was gonna head to a re-read of Harry Potter to try and clear my brain, but realized after talking it out with some of you, that what I really needed was to toss out my TBR and everything I felt I "should" be reading. I also needed to be honest with myself about what I needed to read right now; what I felt especially drawn to in this exact moment.

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I tend to do this silly thing where I put off finishing books or series that I really love, because I don't want them to be over. I stopped after the second book of Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels a couple months ago and they've been straight up haunting me ever since. I finally got myself the third one, made a hot mug of tea, put on a hydrating face mask, then sat down and read. I flew through 135 pages before I even looked up. My tea got cold. My mask was left on too long. Success! Slump broken.

This morning I feel the familiar pull to the pages, the characters clamoring in my head and demanding that I return to them as soon as possible. That block in my brain has cleared and the excitement has come flooding back for the other books waiting for me on my shelves, which brings such a delicious feeling of relief. Imagine angels singing; that's basically the inside of my brain right now.

Goodbye slump, and good riddance! 

 

What do you do to break yourself out of a reading slump? I'd love to hear!

 

 

Small Press: Innovation and Integrity

We've all seen the hype machine of the big publishing houses, and honestly those books are fun! They market for mass appeal and are good at doing it! We genuinely enjoy reading what's new because we can join in on the larger conversation along with everyone else who's reading it. We know, undoubtedly, that there's real value in that sense of community.

But, on the flip side, there's only so much of the hype we're interested in, and it can be a real turn off for Rikki especially. So when we're itching for something different, we turn to backlist and indie publishers to round out our reading lives.

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Indie publishing houses operate with a slightly different set of rules than the major publishers. They often offer a lot more diversity, and with that comes access to ideas and points of view that can be under represented in the big publishing houses. They're also more likely to publish books that are doing unique things with prose and style, more willing to publish experimental novels, and put out more poetry books that are "too risky" for the bigger houses.

Since smaller presses can take those creative risks, they often publish brilliant, daring, sometimes strange and beautiful things. Most of them also have a solid identity, and the things they send to print reflect that because they can be so careful in their curation. Many of them also do really kick ass things like print their novels in crazy environmentally responsible ways, make large donations to little free libraries, and are active force in enriching their communities. Sounds intriguing, right?!

On top of this, we've definitely found that talent isn't exclusive to the big name publishers. Most indie presses have some major players --- you'll often see names you know and love in addition to new or new-to-you authors who put out amazing work. If you look, you'll also start to notice that indie presses are just littered with literary awards and accolades. The rise in popularity and successes of indie publishing even has the big publishers looking to them for inspiration and trend spotting.

We're also of the opinion that indie presses are especially important in this political climate both because they're giving a voice and a platform to many of the points of view the current administration is trying to censor, and because they provide an alternate choice in a more and more heavily corporatized nation. 

If any of this interests you, here are some independent presses you should know about.

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Tin House - Based in Portland, OR and Brooklyn, NY Tin House is one of the better known indie presses, and for good reason. They have a reputation for tending toward the creatively playful, the real, the passionate, the lively. They are consistently refreshing and diverse in what they publish, and also put out a hugely popular literary magazine.

Book we'd pick up: Rabbit Cake, by Annie Hartnett

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Graywolf Press Another giant in the indie world, located in Minneapolis, Graywolf has become something of a  Pulitzer winning powerhouse. They tend to publish adventurous books and have an eye for extreme talent and cultural relevance. Much of the work they publish is exquisite, refined literature that often tackles difficult topics.

Book we'd pick up: Almost Everything Very Fast, by Christopher Kloeble

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Two Dollar Radio - "Our work is for the disillusioned and disaffected, the adventurous and independent spirits who thirst for more, who push boundaries and like to witness others test their limits." says the front page of their site, and for good reason. Based in Ohio, they put out gloriously off the wall and perfectly indescribable fiction. They are also extremely environmentally conscious, which I respect. For example the book above says it's "printed on Enviro 100% post-consumer EcoLogo certified paper, processed chlorine free and manufactured using biogas energy," I mean come on! Definitely a personal favorite.

Book we'd pick up: Found Audio, by N.J. Campbell (our review)

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Catapult- This press fosters a really great community of writers with their online magazine, writing classes, and books. A fairly new and ambitious press, it puts truly great storytelling and collaboration at the center of everything it does, and it shows. Their focus is on all the layered, meaningful, gritty stories that make up life as we know it, primarily in the form of literary fiction and memoir.

Book we'd pick up - Reservoir 13, by Jon McGregor

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Coffee House Press- Another more established indie press, also based in Minneapolis (can we move there now?!), CHP is invested in innovative literature. They aim to publish books that are diverse and exciting but also enduring in a world obsessed with the next bestseller. Here's a really great in-depth profile of the press and the non-profit organizations they run as well. Plus they won us over when we read that they donated 12k books to Little Free Libraries and do meaningful work to support indie bookstores!

Book we'd pick up- Empty Set, by Verónica Gerber Bicecci out in February, but I'm so excited for it

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Other Press- One of the noteworthy things about this New York based press, is that all their non-fiction blends cultural, historic, psychic, and literary shifts into the main topic, and explores how all those things interact. This means you get non-fiction thats significantly more dynamic and interesting than standard fare. They also publish really imaginative fiction, and we had a hard time picking a title to recommend, they all look amazing!

Books we'd pick up - At the Existentialist Cafe, by Sarah Bakewell or Three Floors Up, by Eshkol Nevo

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Red Hen Press- Celebrating wildness in their works that is both supremely appealing and sometimes a bit savage, this Los Angeles based press says, "We seek a community of readers and writers who are actively engaged in the essential human practice known as literature," and give strong support to literacy in their community. Their selection is absolutely wonderful and exciting.

Books we'd pick up- Blue Cathedral, by Katie Gale or The Dead Go to Seattle, by Vivian Faith Prescott

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Ferrar, Straus, and GirouxOwned by Macmillan, FSG is still an innovative and interesting small publisher. Karl Ove Knausgaard? Yeah, he's with them. They just generally have a curation and taste level that I trust, and have won accolades for that eye for quality. They avoid dull, pretentious literature, and instead publish truly literary works that captivate. They've maintained their stellar reputation for more than 50 years at this point, and that's pretty damn impressive. 

Book we'd pick up: Sourdough, by Robin Sloan (Mr. Penumbra, anyone?) our review

We'd love to start conducting our own tours and interviews with several presses in the coming year and really dive deep into what makes them work. We absolutely can't wait to find out more, because even on a surface level, many of these presses align so perfectly with our own values and tastes.  

We also really encourage you to do some investigating into small presses in your area, checking out your local bookstores selections, or hopping over and buying from some of these presses directly. They are all doing really interesting, amazing things for the literary community, not only through their published works but through other causes they run and support. It's easy to see that they strengthen literature and the literary community as a whole with the work they pursue, and that is so worth supporting.

If you do find one, let us know! We'd love to find more, too. We've had really great success with books from smaller publishers, and hope you do too. Happy exploring!

Do you already have a press that you love? Tell us about it, we are so intrigued by this side of publishing!

 

Armchair Travel

Both of us travelled pretty widely in our late teens and earlier 20's. Between us we've been all across the United States, over to Europe, the middle east, Africa, and Cuba for various reasons and adventures. But. We're both hovering around 30 now, and have 3 (soon to be 4) kids between us. With growing young families, mortgages, husbands, and real careers, travel has been more limited to staying a bit closer to home in recent years.

We both still have corners of our hearts that yearn to hop on a plane bound for far flung places again, so thankfully, we have books. Armchair travel has become a genre we feel especially endeared to lately, both to satisfy our curiosity about other cultures and places, to plan our adventures when bigger travel plans become part of our lives again in the (hopefully not too distant) future, and even to just get ideas about where explore near us. 

We recently read Under the Tuscan Sun and The Enchanted April as buddy-reads so we could travel together to warm, beautiful Italy and escape the dreary PNW spring in the sunlit pages of the book. But. You know what? Right here in our pacific northwestern backyard has some pretty awesome literature based in it, too. After getting to jet off to Italy and England, we needed to get grounded a bit.

Investing in our home lives and exploring the PNW in this season of our lives has definite benefits (and we do truly love it), and until we can pull a Tsh Oxenreider and haul the family with us, we have to be more realistic with our travel plans. Shortly after putting down our far off travel books, we found the book Delancey, which is set near us here in SeattleWe quickly realized we could go on a bit of an adventure in a local sense, too! As much as we'd love to visit the Tuscan countryside and lush English gardens, this was more reasonable for us right now. We can actually go to Delancey and eat pizza there!

Since we live near Seattle, it was easy to think of a few fun literary adventures right here where we live. From Delancey by Molly Wizenberg to Where'd You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple, to the movies 10 Things I Hate About You or Sleepless in Seattle, there are iconic places to easily fill up your day, and your stomach. Seeing your familiar city through the fresh lens of a book or a movie can really make for a great adventure.

You can't go everywhere or experience everything, but you can read about anywhere and anything you could possibly imagine. We love finding books set where we live to further explore our corner of the world just as much as we love reading books about far off places and adventures we could someday have.

What books are your favorites to satisfy your wanderlust? Or do you know of any great books set near where you live? We'd sincerely love to hear!

Literary Event | Browser's Cookbook Book Club

So if you've been hanging out here with us a while, you know how much we love our literary dinner parties. We sincerely believe that creating a beautiful atmosphere enhances the enjoyment of any gathering, and we can apply this to books. We've gotten a pretty good handle on using our own spaces and creating within our own homes, so when the opportunity came to do our thing at a bigger event, we were all over it.

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Our favorite local bookstore, Browsers, in Olympia, WA, hosts a quarterly cookbook book club, and we were excited for the opportunity to attend and style the event. The concept is simple: once a season they pick a cookbook, and members make a dish from it and bring it to share. A dinner party ensues as they sit down and enjoy a meal and conversation together in the upstairs space above the bookstore. It's such a great idea, and proves books don't have to be high literature to be a connecting force. This was their summer event, and members were to cook from any of Yotam Ottolenghi's published works.

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Andrea, the bookstore owner (dream job!), and Kelli, a local food blogger work together to put on this book club. Aren't they lovely? They are some of the absolute nicest people, and amazing hostesses. We love connecting with other members of our community who are doing great things!

Before all the guests arrived, we got to talk to Andrea and Kelli. Mostly, we chatted about our mutual love of books (surprise!) and the role they play in our lives currently. While we were chatting about how much we love and enjoy socializing our lives through reading, something Kelly said especially stuck out to us , "It doesn't have to be fine literature." That we could bring so many people together over a cookbook was phenomenal. Some people were avid readers, but others simply love cooking. It was that simple. There's something for everyone and it doesn't take much to get involved, to meet new friends, and to talk about any type of book.

Our vision for decor for this event was to stay true to the vibe of the store and with the feel of summer. We chose pale green candles, an eclectic mix of candles, and a few other objects that made sense and fit in with the color palette of rose gold, light green, white, and pops of brighter oranges and pinks. These were all simply mixed along the center line of the tables; nothing fussy.

We didn't want to overwhelm the tables, just create a relaxed, slightly boho magic in the ambiance that was befitting of a summer evening gathering, while blending with the vintage-modern aesthetic of the store. We also tied up napkins with twine and tucked in our custom bookmarks and fresh sprigs of rosemary from Rikki's garden before setting them on the absolutely stunning plates that Andrea commissioned from local potter Mariella Luz. Silverware, jam jar drinking vessels, and flowers arrangements set in vintage glass jars by Fleurae completed the look.

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Soon people began to arrive, setting gorgeous platters and bowls of food onto a separate table as they came in and began to mingle. Before long, the table was crowded with a variety of dishes, with everything from watermelon salads to fritters, and desserts. After a quick circle-up and brief announcements, everyone grabbed a plate and headed to go dish up a taste of everything while the tables glowed warmly behind us.

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The tables ended up being split into two to accommodate all the guests, and people quickly claimed their seats and began to pour wine, chat, and discuss what foods they brought. Andrea also cleverly placed discussion questions in little envelopes under some of the plates, giving some structure and provoking deeper conversation at the tables. The conversation flowed seamlessly.

You know that electrifying feeling you get when you find yourself in a room full of positive buzzing energy? That was this event; it felt like just hanging out with friends at a relaxed dinner party, despite most people having just met for the first time. Also, we discovered that so many people who attended were doing such interesting things! Podcasters, writers, photographers, foodies, anesthesiologists, and more were all engaged in friendly conversation and discussing the merits of not only the cookbook, but also how food affects our lives.

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By the end of the night, we were full and happy, and feeling like we just met a roomful of new friends. That's the best kind of event, right? The kind that leaves you full in more than ways than one by the end. We left feeling really encouraged that what we're doing has a place and future in the book world; that creating beautiful social gatherings based on a shared love of books, any type of books, is worthwhile. We are absolutely planning to continue to do more events, so keep an eye out!

Would you want to attend an event like this? Let us know what you think!

 

Vendors

Venue | Browsers 

Flowers | Fleurae

Pottery | Mariella Luz

 

People + Talents

Andrea Ballard | Preheated Podcast

Jennifer Crain and Kelli Samson | Oly Appetizer

Cortney Kelley | Cortney Kelley Photography

Kelli Samson | Fresh Scratch

A Classic Tome as an Adventure Buddy, or What I Learned Toting a Big Book Around the US for a Month

Even though I'm nearly 30 years old, summer still conjures that same gut feeling of the glorious promise of unlimited free time that I felt as a kid. When I was younger, summer especially meant more time to read! I loved having nothing to do all day except finish my book, take weekly library trips, complete summer reading programs, and go book shopping with my mom to stock up for our annual summer road trip. Books were always the highlight of my summer, and back then reading was 100% stress free.

As an adult, I hate to say, I feel pressure to use my time "wisely", and that generally means reading as many books as I can each month, often trying to keep up with what's trending, at a breakneck pace, so I can get through my never-ending-always-growing TBR mountain. How many of you have avoided reading a huge classic novel, simply because it was a big time commitment? Yeah, me too. It feels like you're giving up the 3 other books you could read in the same time frame...but you know what? I find that they're always worth it.

So this July, I decided to hit pause on my TBR and spend a few weeks solely in the company of a big classic novel I've been meaning to read for years: The Three Musketeers. I didn't want to rush through it, instead I wanted to savor it's company and try to recapture that endless feeling from the summers of my childhood. So the timeless adventure novel came along with me for the ride as my personal adventure buddy while I travelled through parts of the Western US this month.

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We began our adventures together with the long drive from Washington to Montana. My brother and I were off to visit our grandma, we and switched off between who drove and who read the book aloud. I'm sure most of you have listened to an audiobook...having someone sitting next to you and giggling over passages as they read a book aloud is about a thousand times more entertaining and I highly recommend it. It was extra entertaining in this case because the book is shockingly funny, and we weren't expecting how completely looney tunes it was!

Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan continued to hang out with me in Montana. They came to a small town 4th of July parade, saw fireworks, a rodeo, attended a dinner party, and were also dragged to restaurants, bars, scenic views and calm, park-like settings all throughout our stay. Some of the best reading I did was on my grandma's deck with a cup of coffee and her million dollar view of mountains off in the distance, framed against the endless sky. They don't call it "big sky country" for nothing.

Once again, we read aloud on the drive home, and back in Washington the musketeers were my cozy companion in my house, on beaches, and at my favorite cafe's. The book sincerely saw me through a memorable period of my summer, and became almost like a safety blanket; I began to panic a little if I was out and realized the book wasn't with me! I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with it, and laughing at the exploits of the musketeers and marveling at Dumas' genius. Most of all, my increasingly battered copy began to feel like a friend.

By the end of our journey together, it had collected dust from a rodeo, water marks and sand in it's spine from Washington beaches, bends and wrinkles in the cover from being shoved into purses, a bent spine from being left laying open around my house, and sun fading from being stuck on dashboards or left outside on the table while I played with my son. The crisp edges and smooth, inky black of the cover are long gone, and in it's place is a book marked with all the love and adventure of the past month. It was difficult to close it for the last time, and place it back in it's slot on my shelf; it felt like saying goodbye. But the best part of books like this, is that they'll be waiting for you when you're ready to pick them up once more and dash off on another adventure. 

What big novel have you been avoiding? Or what big novel have you recently read and enjoyed spending time with?

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?