Changing Habits

For years I was the kind of reader that only read physical books and mostly ones I owned. I delighted in hours spent browsing in bookstores, bringing stacks up to purchase.

But then I had a toddler and beautiful afternoons spent in bookstores are really a thing of the past. Plus, this whole pandemic thing. This is not a post to talk about how I’m not an e-reader. We’re still holding the line on that one.

I have for sure become a library super-user though. Currently, 74% of my 2021 books have been from the library. In 2020, 51% of my reading came from the library – and I didn’t have access to the library from March to June!

I’ve been working from home so no more trips to the library on my lunch break, and no more browsing. I’ve been periodically going online and placing holds and then collecting a stack once a week or so. I was never that into putting books on hold, preferring the serendipity of finding books as I browsed. Sometimes those books were on my radar, often they weren’t. Every once in a while I stop and think about how much money the library has saved me. But mostly I think about how grateful I am that libraries exist and that they found a way to make their collections remain accessible in all of this. Because wow, I have so much more time on my hands and I don’t like to think about what I would have done without the library.

The other significant change, and this will surprise you, is that I have finally given in to the siren song of the audiobook.

I have fairly strict parameters for what I will listen to because I still don’t like being read to. No fiction audiobooks for me at this point. But after hearing about how amazing Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Meaning of Mariah by Mariah Carey, Open Book by Jessica Simpson and books by comedians are on audiobook, I decided that I would give non-fiction audio a spin.

And wow. They are so fun to listen to! I go for long walks with our dog most afternoons (he needs a good hour or he’s a nightmare all evening) and that’s become my audiobook time. I can’t tell you how much that time has been transformed for me. The first audiobook I listened to was Andre Leon Talley’s In the Chiffon Trenches. I had to speed him up to 1.25% but I loved wandering around the neighbourhood with his voice in my ears. I’ve since listened to Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo (I think I would have preferred to read this one on paper, just the way I prefer to process this type of information), and Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness (I loved this one and I think you HAVE to listen to it vs read it). I’m now listening to Ali Wong’s Dear Girls.

I’m on the waitlist for Colin Jost’s A Very Punchable Face and Atomic Habits by James Clear (that one will take a while – 52nd on 10 copies!).

I’m still super new to the audiobook game so if you have nonfiction suggestions, please send them my way!

The steady supply of fresh and free reading materials plus audiobooks mean that a little more than halfway through February, I’ve finished 25 books which is probably the best I’ve done reading-wise in a number of years.

What are your reading hacks these days?


That Time Three Kids Totally Schooled Me

Last week was a rough one. Yes, there was the promise of a long weekend looming and Canada Reads was on, a passionate, intelligent and wonderful debate about books, but there was also Brussels and the outcome of the Jian Ghomeshi trial and the mourning of a public figure who by all accounts was not actually a decent man but in death he was anointed a man of the people.

I hope you will forgive then, my state of mind climbing on the bus after a busy day at work and seeing a group of young people and rolling my eyes at them. There were three of them, siblings clearly, the youngest no more than 11, the eldest probably 14. Two sisters and a brother in the middle, the younger two still in the throes of orthodontic work, the eldest had green streaks in her hair. They got onto the bus with me and I shuddered a little when I realized how close we’d be sitting. I hoped that their ride would be a short one (I ride the line end to end).

They settled in and I assumed they’d either spend the ride harassing each other, not caring about their decibel levels, or heads down on their phones. Obviously the phones would be the preference here, as much as I was ready to lament the state of youth that can’t see past their phones.

When did I become such a jaded a-hole adult?

These kids rode the bus home the whole way with me. And they managed to shrug off my nasty mood and make me smile.


These three kids spend the entire bus ride, an hour, passionately discussing, debating and questioning Harry Potter. It was amazing. They were so smart, had such thoughtful questions, and debated with each other respectfully, listening before responding. They were so good, I wanted to join them.

They mostly spent their time discussing the various houses and what it meant to be sorted into them. Things really took off when one of them said that if you were sent to Slytherin, it meant you were going to be bad. The eldest took exception to this (obviously considers herself a Slytherin), saying that it didn’t mean that you were evil, it meant that you were ambitious which isn’t a bad thing. It’s what you do with that. That everyone has choices and you can choose to be good just as you can choose to be bad.

They were talking about Harry Potter but they made me hopeful about the world again. It can’t all be bad, despite what’s on the news. And even if we’ve totally made a mess of things, at least there are people like these kids coming up who should obviously already be in charge.

So if you are feeling like I was, like the world is a garbage hole and we’re all screwed, don’t despair. There’s hope and Harry Potter and the good will always win.

And to those kids, thanks. I needed that. I hope you guys get to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter soon.

Read on.


Goodreads: Friend or Foe?

When I first stumbled on Goodreads in November 2010, I thought I’d found the online book mecca. Bookish status updates, virtual TBR lists, reading challenges, literary quizzes, author chats! I signed up immediately and have since updated my currently reading status faithfully.


But recently I’ve started thinking that maybe Goodreads isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

For one thing, constantly updating the currently reading status makes one acutely aware of how long it’s taking to read something and how many books deep one is towards one’s reading goal. Sometimes this adds unnecessary stresses to a thing I do for fun. I noticed that I started choosing books based on what would aid me in my reading goal, a series of short books to pad the stats became a reading norm. I started to shy away from tackling mammoth books like War and Peace, Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo.

My re-reading levels started going down as well (something I have definitely remedied this year with The Great Harry Potter Re-read). Oh, I still make sure I re-read at least one Austen a year but while I used to think about re-reading old favourites the way one looks forward to getting into comfy clothes, now I think about what a pain in the butt it is to add books to my reading goal that Goodreads has decided I’ve already read. Apparently re-reads don’t count on Goodreads. You can choose a different version but I’m kind of OCD when it comes to these things and I like to choose the cover that matches the one that I’m actually reading.

But the biggest issue I think I’ve started to have with Goodreads are the reviews. Have you ever scrolled through some of the reviews on Goodreads? People can be nasty! I mean, I don’t love all the books I read either and sometimes, I post about that here but I try never to be a complete a-hole about it.

The other thing is that sometimes these reviews colour my selection process. I casually look up a book on Goodreads to add to my TBR list and glance at the reviews. Suddenly I’m rethinking if I want to read some of the books I thought I wanted to read, which is when I have to remind myself that I don’t actually know any of the people posting those reviews. Maybe those people think the classics are boring; perhaps they hate any books with magic; possibly they hate crime fiction.  I find that I scroll through the reviews of a new book by a beloved author and start to take the reviews personally: How can you not think that The Casual Vacancy is fantastic?!

I’m probably still going to hang out on Goodreads because I like to see what other people in my life are reading but it’s definitely a different experience to what it was when I first started.