Annotating books: yay or nay?

If you are of the opinion that nothing should mar the pages of your precious books (and that’s a totally understandable point of view), than I would quit reading right now because some of these photos might upset you.

I re entered college a couple years ago and things are a lot different this time around. I have a very full time job, a husband and two kids. It wasn’t as easy to breeze through as it was when I was 18. Majoring in history, I have to keep track of tons and tons of names, dates, and places. I love to keep concise notes but I wanted to get more out of my text books. Because of my profession, I sometimes get grants for free ebook versions of my textbooks (which is great and many people wish for) but I missed the ease of flipping back and forth through paper pages, so I started buying the paper copies and started writing and marking the hell out of my textbooks. I began to get so much more out of my textbooks this way. My Historiography textbook is a good example of this and I am able to flip back through it for advice when working on a history paper.

 

 

Back in August when I started my Classics Book Club Challenge, I challenged myself to read many books that had frightened me in the past. I wanted to immerse myself in them and get all I could from the texts. So I thought to myself that if marking my textbooks was working so well, why not begin to mark my books as well? So that’s what I did. It has been going wonderfully so far. Over the last few months I have been honing my system so it has changed considerably from just post it notes and marking with asterisks. I now loosely color code things with highlighter and pen and take notes in my reading journal. I also still use plenty of post its to tab the books. Usually I will highlight or underline key characters’ first appearance in blue while highlighting pretty passages in pink. A good example of my more recent refined system can be seen here in my copy of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien which I am currently re reading. I thought it would be fitting to include this book as tomorrow March 25 is Tolkien Read Day.

Annotating in this way has helped me remember so many more of the names and places in Tolkien’s universe and it has worked nicely helping me know what to look for in my companion books The Heroes of Tolkien and The Guide to Tolkien’s World: A Bestiary, both by David Day. (It has not escaped me that not only am I a real life history dork, but I am also a fictional history dork 😉)

But while I am all about annotating books, I haven’t yet started marking up my pretty collectible copies of certain books.

I know a lot of people think it an evil sin to mark their books but I also know there’s a lot of you out there who DO mark their books. So I’m curious to see how many of you out there mark your books and how do you go about doing so? I like where I am now compared to a few months ago but I would be glad of any new tips. So let me know if you’re a marker or not! 🙂

See you next time!

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My thoughts on The Name of The Wind… all 672 pages of it

I got this as a gift from my husband for my birthday last year.  He was so proud that he actually went to the bookstore and got a recommendation for me based on books he knows I like.  Problem was, I started reading it and my attention wandered so I put it down.  I came back to it a month later and read the first chapter and found it mildly interesting, but got distracted by another book and put it down again.  After listening to my husband tease me for 6 months about how I must hate it because he gave it to me, I finally picked it back up again last month and I am so freaking glad that I did.

A brief synopsis:

The book is an epic fantasy that follows Kvothe as he recounts the story of his early life and the tragic events that led up to (and including) his years at the prestigous magical school.

That synopsis is short as hell for a book as big as this one.

So I think what initially caused me to put the book down was the fact that in the very beginning we meet three very unexciting characters who don’t really pull you in.  But once you discover that none of them is the main character and they are merely sitting in the same room as him, the pages fly.

It is difficult to describe what I feel about Kvothe.  Over the course of 600+ pages we get to know him very well and he really is very kind and very loyal, but it can get a bit tedious reading how he is basically the best there is at anything.  Oh? You have a Masters Degree in underwater basket weaving?  Give Kvothe 5 minutes to read a chapter or two about the subject and he will be ready for his Doctorate in underwater basket weaving.

That being said, once I got into the actual narrative I constantly wanted to know what happened next. There are some nicely fleshed out characters and a nice balance between world building and plot. I think it’s hard to find the right balance in a book as large as this one and the fact that it was so well done in this book makes me think it would appeal to any fan of fantasy whether you prefer plot driven or character driven stories. As far as the world building is concerned, I don’t think I have been as enthralled by a fictional world since I read The Lord of the Rings. (And no I am in no way comparing this to the LOTR, I just really fell in love with Tolkien’s world)

My biggest gripe with this book is that after getting sucked in and purchasing the next one, I realized that it’s the first in a trilogy and the final book has yet to be published and there is no (to my knowledge) publish date as of yet. I despise starting series when there is no conclusion so this was rather annoying for me. All the same I loved this book and I’m holding off reading the next (or trying to at least) until I have an idea when to expect the last one.

So in short, I’d say that this is the most quality fantasy that I’ve read in years. And while LOTR will probably forever remain on top for me, I’d say this book earned a place on the same shelf.

Utopia: My thoughts

Hello again 🙂 Being a fan of cartography and travel memoirs, an amateur history buff, and an almost graduated history major who has a special fondness for Tudor history, I have long been fascinated by Sir Thomas More. So naturally Utopia is a work I have wanted to read for ages. I had been intimidated in the past and until recently only had an ebook version. When I finally discovered the benefits and pleasure of annotating books (my own copies of course) I finally realized I was capable of tackling books that had intimidated me in the past. Fortunately I found this very inexpensive copy on book depository for around 5$ last month and was very excited to dive in- which I did over the last four days. For such a famous work, I am surprised that I had no idea how short it was (my copy was only 85 pages long) but nevertheless I took my time with it and took about 4 days reading, annotating, reflecting, and taking notes.

A brief synopsis:

This book, written by Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century, describes a fictional Kingdom. A perfect society where everyone works and has useful occupation, and in which nobody goes without the basic necessities.

My thoughts:

This book was pretty darn fascinating.  One of the things that drew me in from the first was the fact that most of the main characters were real historical figures.  Thomas More himself is in the book and narrates the entire thing. And from the very first sentence, in which More mentions Henry VIII in very flowery and flattering terms I was fascinated.  It could also be owing to the fact that I know that More would be executed by Henry VIII years later, while he doesn’t.  And while I do not know if it was his intention, I think that by using real people as characters, he turned it from something that was purely fictional into something that could be related to. The book is essentially just a long discussion between these men.  Given the topic and the book’s criticism of contemporary societies, I think this was an incredibly daring thing to do.  But by his choice of companions (all reputed to be good, learned men) and by setting himself up to criticize and be skeptical of all that is told to him by his friend Ralph, he manages to bring these ideas to his intended audience without seeming like the bad guy who’s got a grudge against society.  It also did not escape me that Ralph, who is the one describing all of these radical ideas, is a fictional character while More and the others are not.

Another thing that struck me early in the book was something that is actually very trivial, though to me as lover of history and cartography it was very interesting. This was a mention of visiting countries below the equator. Now I know that many of the ancients were aware that the earth was round and that in the Tudor period they were aware of this as well, but the idea of the equator just seemed like such a new concept to me that I got on a tangent looking into some medieval maps and reading up on the equator itself. I found some very interesting things. For one, I had no idea that in the early medieval period, the belief that people could live beyond the equator was considered a heretical belief by the Catholic Church. In fact many maps of the time depict the equator as a ring of fire. This idea was still prevalent when Columbus set sail. And that was not so long before this book was published. And while this may not have any bearing on the book itself, I found it fascinating and decided to share it here because nobody in my house was excited to hear my ramblings 🙂

To say that this book is important would be a gross understatement. It has influenced many writers and thinkers for the past 500 years. The ideas presented in this book were radical to say the least and this book had my rapt attention throughout (if you don’t count the times I got sidetracked looking things up)

I’d gladly give it 5/5 stars and I highly recommend picking up this interesting piece of history.

Thanks for joining me while I rambled on about this.

A Dr Seuss birthday

It’s been two weeks since my last post and there has been a lot going on but we managed to include some bookish activities and lots of reading in that time frame. We started off with Read Across America Day, my birthday, Bella’s birthday, a milestone in 1000 Books Before Kindergarten and culminating today with my wedding anniversary.

It is no secret that Dr Seuss is well loved in our home so for Read Across America Day we went to a Dr Seuss celebration at our local bookstore and got some prizes and books for Bella. (My birthday was also spent at the bookstore where I purchased some books I will haul soon) It was also Isabella’s 2nd birthday and as her favorite story of all time is the Cat in the Hat, we celebrated Dr Seuss style.

I had some blue poster board and thought it would be fun to try and recreate her favorite book’s cover as a prop for her birthday.

I was also able to make a centerpiece with some pictures I printed off the internet and some pages out of her first copy of the book which she destroyed as a baby.

She absolutely refused to get into her party dress but loved the little Cat in the Hat hair clip I made so at least there’s that.

The party was a success and as we asked for books in lieu of cards, she received a nice new stack of books to add to her collection and all signed by people who love her.

Now that most of the festivities are over I will be back with some review posts and discussion posts. Thank you for joining us for our fun Dr Seuss parties. Happy reading!

February wrap up

I’m probably the only one who will comment on how February seemed to drag but I felt like it did. I did some reading this month and it felt like this month was much more about quality than quantity. Some months I fly through 10 or more books but this month I read 5. Though I may have read a smaller number of titles, it was still a great reading month for me, as I read a couple that I have been meaning to get to for years and I enjoyed everything I read. Even the book I liked the least was still a book I’d recommend.

So without further ado, here are the 5 books I read in February:

Since I have already reviewed or will soon review all of these, I will not include mini reviews. Instead I will briefly mention a couple.

Longest book: The Luminaries. All 600+ pages

Shortest book: Utopia. All 85 pages.

Favorite book: Tied between The Little Prince and The Luminaries.

Least favorite book: Eternal Life

Book I’d be least likely to recommend: A Study in Scarlett

So that’s it. A quick wrap up of the books I read in February. I would recommend all of them. If you have read or plan on reading any of these I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Til next time!

Eternal Life by Dara Horn: my thoughts

Hello again 🙂 I am back with some thoughts on another book I just finished. I heard about this book while listening to one of my favorite podcasts not long ago. The premise sounded fascinating so I went and bought it immediately.

A brief synopsis:

Rachel is a young 2000 year old woman (seriously) who cannot die. As a young mother living in Jerusalem, she had made a pact with God to spare the life of her son. The book follows Rachel mainly throughout her modern life with several flashbacks into former years of her life. Having raised many different families over 2000 years (because yea she can still have kids) she struggles in the modern era with a granddaughter who is a renowned scientist specializing in genetics. Will she find out Rachel’s secret and expose her? And what would be the consequences if she does?

My thoughts:

I really loved the idea of this book. I always love books that take place over multiple generations or that tie together events from different millennia. There was some beautiful writing in the book during particular scenes and the flashbacks to earlier times in her life were particularly well written. Dara Horn seems to be familiar with and done a decent amount of research into daily life in ancient Jerusalem. But despite all this, I found there to be something lacking- especially in regards to the ending. I disliked most of the characters and I really didn’t care for any of the relationships between characters, whether between parents and children or between lovers. The one character I was rather fond of was the one that Rachel kept at arms length for the whole book and it frustrated me quite a bit. So the bottom line is, yes I enjoyed the book but no I did not love it. I give it 3.5/5 stars. This is a book I would recommend when it comes out in paperback and not a shiny new hardback.