Books: Stacked.

The other day a friend asked me how I “prioritise my stack” of books, and I thought it might make an interesting blog post, if only so I can navel-gaze at the books, magazines and articles piling up on my bedside table and bookshelf as opposed to offering any valuable insight into how I get through them.

’Cause the answer is, there is no system to getting through them. If anything, more books, magazines and articles are added to the piles than what is taken away from them and filed neatly in the bookshelf or recycling bin.

My friends often tease me ’cause it usually takes me several months to get through a book. The book I’m currently on, My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike by Joyce Carol Oates, I started over two months ago! I try to put away a few chapters each night, but this is in addition to the probably 500 other pages of content I read per week. Blogs, magazines, articles. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good effort. I wonder how many of the haters get through a 500 page book per week :P.

My love of taking in anything and everything in the feminist blogosphere is both a blessing and a curse. I love that there’s always new content and I’m always being informed, but at the same time, it would be so easy to just curl up in bed with a good book and turn my brain off for a few hours. Then again, if I really wanted to turn my brain off, I’d carve out a nook in the couch and flick through channels all night. And who has time for that?

Currently in my book stack, I have three books that were gifts from my birthday last year, and winning a worst dressed contest (Fables comic book, The Big Book of Small Business and Self-Publishing for Dummies); three that are borrowed (Walt Disney’s biography by Neal Gabler, Russell Brand’s second memoir and Kristin Chenoweth’s autobiography); two I bought from Amazon in January (Marilyn Monroe’s Fragments and Sloane Crosley’s second book of essays, How Did You Get This Number?); and the rest (The Night Listener and Maybe the Moon by Armistead Maupin, Brock Lesnar’s Death Clutch, Less Than Zero and Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile) I’ve bought in recent months, mostly secondhand.

And the magazines and article stack, which is a complete eyesore on my bedside table, consists of several Vanity Fair’s, some Monthly’s and… to be honest, I don’t actually know what’s in there! When I go on holidays next week, I aim to get through that stack, and it will be a veritable treasure trove! Like Christmas morning!

Seeing as I can offer absolutely no substance to “how do I prioritise my stack”, I’m handing it over to you. Does anyone have any tried and true methods? Here’s one, at the suggestion of my friend Clare: stop buying books til I’ve finished the ones I already have. But they’re too good!

 

Event: Evolution of the Bookshop at the Wheeler Centre.

I never thought a seemingly boring panel conversation about e-books versus hard copy print media would trump a discussion about masculinity in Australia, but it seems “The Evolution of the Bookshop” has come out on top when it comes to talks I’ve seen at the Wheeler Centre lately.

I’m a bit late reporting on this one, but a couple of weeks ago I attended “The Evolution of the Bookshop”, which entailed the panel of Michael Webster, Corrie Perkin, Jo Case and Chris Flynn, with Sally Heath as the facilitator.

The main item of contention on the agenda was the receivership of the REDgroup, which includes Borders and Angus & Robertson (for those of you living under a rock in recent months) and how online shopping from overseas stores, like Amazon and the Book Depository, may have contributed.

2010 was a good year for books in Australia, actually, as Webster, of RMIT and Nielson BookScan, pointed out in a riveting (no, I’m not kidding!) spreadsheet. There was no denying the large amount of Australian dollars that were spent online on books, what with parity and all that jazz, and the panel urged the audience to buy local throughout the night.

But when Flynn, fiction editor of The Australian Review of Books, compared the prices of all the books he bought over the course of a year at Borders (the devil’s bookstore, according to the panel!), Readings (of which Case is a staff member) and the Book Depository (there was over $1000 difference between online and at a bricks and mortar bookstore), it doesn’t bode well for physical bookstores.

Personally, I’m not in the financial bracket to be supporting local bookstores when I can get the books I want online for half the price at a click of a button.

Earlier this year, I went into Borders at Melbourne Central wanting to purchase Marilyn Monroe’s Fragments, The Great Gatsby and Sloane Crosley’s two books of essays (which you may remember me writing about here). They had none of them in store. An hour later I was at home on Amazon, $70 poorer but immeasurably happier that four brand new books were on their way to me.

Case made the case (haha!) for the experience of shopping at a bookstore, but Flynn countered with the presumption that people who shop online probably already belong to an online community, and thus their experience at an online bookstore is just as valid and important as at a physical one.

As the owner of her own bookshop, Perkin asserted that she just can’t compete with free shipping and the iPhone app Shazam, which allows users to record a piece of music, to which the app generates the full details of and where you can buy it online.

But independent bookstores compete on service, not price. Perkin relayed the example of running out of Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals recipe book and being told that the next shipment wouldn’t be for awhile as it was, and is, a very popular title. She was forced to buy copies of the book on the Book Depository at her own expense, and provide them to her customers who had already committed to the title via pre-sale. Now that is service!

Flynn countered that whether we like it or not, e-readers have hijacked traditional forms of reading, but based on a show of hands, not one person at the Wheeler Centre that night owned or read books on an e-reader.

On a side note, I will be visiting the best second-hand bookstore I’ve ever been to over the weekend, and there’ll be more to come on that next week.

Related: “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

The Ten Books I Wanted to Read This Year But Didn’t.

All Eyes on Marilyn.

Images via Crunch Gear, TS Bookshop, Lance Wiggs.

Emerging Writers Festival: Stuck in a Lift With… Rachel Hills & Gala Darling

Being a recent expat to Melbourne, I am now relishing in the fact that I can go to an after work event, weekend market or party and not have to worry about getting the last train out of Sydney Melbourne back to the country.

However, with the advent of Twitter, anyone wearing pyjama pants can gain access to this week’s Emerging Writers Festival from the comfort of their lounge room/bed, with events all over the city as well as today’s “Stuck in a Lift With… Gala Darling” by Rachel Hills.

Hills is using the “magical bookstore” format, and each floor corresponds to Gala’s favourite book.

However, it’s not always smooth sailing, with followers interjecting their questions and comments. For a first time Twitter user, it was a bit overwhelming!

So here, in a nutshell that I have so lovingly crunched the questions into, are Hills’ 10 questions and Gala Darling’s 10 answers.

  • “What’s the first book you ever read?”

– “HAD to have been the Spot series… I also remember loving The Very Hungry Caterpillar… I really loved all that very British stuff too, like Enid Blyton & Peter Rabbit…”

  • “Are there any other kids books that you remember or are fond of?”

– “I was mad keen on the Faraway Tree series… But I was really a voracious reader, would come home from the library every Saturday with an enormous stack of books & devour them throughout the week before going back for more. Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, horror stories, anything spooky or supernatural or American! I was obsessed with America & their slumber parties & junk food & always felt like I was missing out being stuck in boring old New Zealand…”

  • “What were your other fave teen/coming of age books?

– “I loved Judy Blume for talking about sex… It’s weird actually, I feel like I moved from Judy Blume to Poppy Z. Brite but SURELY that’s not right. I think Anne Rice might have been the stepping stone. & Stephen King?

  • “You do a lot of travellingwhat books do you like to take with you when you’re away from home?”

– “Depends on how long I’m away from home. The types of holidays I have don’t usually leave much time for reading! But I have moved house many times and I always take Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas & Lolita with me!… But usually when I travel I take the mags I haven’t yet caught up on (ughh I know), or what I’m reading at the time… No guilty faves really. I haven’t read a tabloid in years because they make me angry, haha! I love pretty much every fashion magazine though… You know what? I buy 99% of my books secondhand on Amazon. IT’S SO CHEAP. I can’t stand to pay full retail. Bad Gala!”

  • “Is there a book you turn to when things get emotional?”

– “I guess it depends on what the ‘emotion’ is. I love to comfort read, aka read stuff I know off by heart… Actually when I’m feeling emotional or moody I prefer to watch television. Entourage or SATC work every time… Lolita, Fear & Loathing, anything Bukowski, American Psycho, umm Lost Souls (shhhh)…”

  • “You’re a hugely successful writer. Is there a book that helped you learn your craft?”

– “I love Anne Lamott. There is something so brilliant, clear & deep in her writingit is impeccably crafted. The first time I read Bird by Bird I thought my head was going to explode, & I have read it over & over. I’m also really interested in Zen Buddhism so that helps! I also like Natalie Goldberg, but don’t read lots of books on writing.”

  • “What book has taught you the most from a NON-writing perspective?”

– “Oh, big question! I feel like every book teaches you something, whether it’s how to live wilding (Fear/Loathing!) or bet on horses (Buk.!), but I guess if I could only recommend one book for life lessons, it would be The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. It is a frigging marvel. Every time I pick it up I learn something new… It is as thick as a bible, all about manifesting & integrity & keeping your word & stuff, I can’t describe!”

  • “What books have kept you late into the night?”

– “Haha, pretty much every book I’ve ever loved. I was a secretly-reading-under-the-covers child. I remember reading the Neverending Story one day (yes, one DAY!) when I had the flu & was about 10, fantastic. So it may not have kept me through the night but it certainly compelled me.”

  • “What book do you wish you had written?”

– “Ugh, Lolita. It’s like a braingasm. Every time I read it I am shocked at just HOW fucking good it is.”

  • “What book do you return to again and again?”

– “All the books I have just mentioned, plus anything by SARK, Russell Simmons’ Do You!, Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block, Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, House of Leaves…

I wish someone would ask me these questions should I ever have the fearful pleasure of being stuck in an elevator. I so have the answers!