Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘personal

I saw this prompt idea at Angel’s Guilty Pleasures here, and I figured  I would give it a try.  It is a chance for me to think a bit about how I keep track of things in terms of books and reading. I need to add that my TBR list is just something I find interesting to track. When I started tracking consistently, I had the intention to read it eventually. Over time, and as it grew, I made peace with the idea the list would keep growing, and I would never get it all done. I think I just enjoy the idea that I will never run out of things to read. In addition, part of the reason I do not always draw new books to read from the TBR lists is I keep finding new things on NetGalley (or Edelweiss) and at my local public library. Still, keeping track for me feels like a good exercise, plus the notes I make on the blog here are helpful to me for reader’s advisory. The tag questions are in bold.

How do you keep track of your TBR Pile?

I have more than one way to keep track of things, and they vary in effectiveness. One way is my series of blog posts here on “Items about books I want to read.” As part of my current awareness as both reader and librarian, I follow a lot of sources, and I keep track of them in my RSS reader. Every so often I compile those articles and notes about books I would like to read into blog posts here. It gives me a way to keep track of things I would like to read, and it reminds me where I learned about a particular book. I will add that at times in reviewing stories I had clipped as I get ready to blog, I will find a book that I decide not to include in the list. In other words, a book that seemed cool at a given time may become a “what the hell was I thinking, why did I want to read this?” item. I just discard those. If you are interested, you can go to click on the “books and reading” tag on the sidebar of the blog (or direct link here) to find these posts. This is probably the main way I keep track of my TBR book lists.

I also keep a “to read” shelf on GoodReads. However, I do have a love-hate relationship with GoodReads, so I do not keep up that shelf consistently. To be honest, I probably could go in, review it, and delete a few things. I used to be pretty good about using GoodReads, until they got bought out by Amazon, and I left them (in part due to that, and a couple other reasons). I used BookLikes for a while until they  had a massive crash that basically disabled their site for about almost two months. Since the company did not bother to reply right away, like a few others I left it because it was just not fucking working (pardon the language), and I reluctantly  went back to GR to keep tracks of books I have read. All I do in GR now is just track a book and rate it; I do not post any reviewing there; that’s what my book review blog, The Itinerant Librarian, is for.

A third way I keep track of books I would like to read is my personal written journal. I just jot down titles I recall or that may get mentioned  in something I am reading. Once in a blue moon, I may look through my journals to find something to read from those lists.

 

Is your TBR mostly print or ebook?

I’d say print since print tends to be my preference. However, I do read e-books just fine. In fact, I use NetGalley (and Edelweiss to a lesser extent), so I get a lot of e-books that way.

 

A book that’s been on your TBR the longest.

I have to think about that a moment.

If I go by the GR shelf, Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows (Book One of his Night Angel series) would be the oldest. It was added in December 2010. There are a couple older ones, but one of them I did read, and another one I am removing due to lack of interest.

If I go by my posts on this blog, here is the first post I ever made on “Items about books I want to read.” Back then in 2009, I had no idea it would become a regular series. From that list, I will pick Alex Beam’s A Great Idea at the Time, about the Great Books program.

 

A book you’ve recently added to your TBR.

Nicole Cushing’s The Sadist’s Bible. I am doing a horror reading challenge this year, so I am always on the lookout for horror titles to read.

 

A book on your TBR you never plan on reading.

Hmm, this is tricky since I tend to remove such books when I review my TBR lists and see the book no longer holds my interest. I may have to get back to you on that.

 

An unpublished book on your TBR you’re excited for.

I cannot think of one right at this moment. However, I do have a few e-book galleys sitting in my e-reader that are not published just yet.

 

A book on your TBR everyone’s read but you.

Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom. It seems everyone who is anyone in the Tarot community has read it.

 

A book on your TBR everyone recommends to you.

This is another question I have to ponder a bit. A few librarians I know were recommending The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu.

 

A book on your TBR you’re dying to read.

E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka (Star Wars) comes to mind. I just finished watching The Clone Wars on DVD, and I want to know more of her fate after that series.

 

How many books on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

461 as of June 28, 2017, but as I said, I have not always kept this list consistently. Now that I am back to using GoodReads, I may be adding to it more.

 

 

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A while back I came across a writing prompt I wanted to try out. The prompt was: if someone gave me a fully loaded gift card, which 10 books would I get right away. I thought this prompt would be easier, but after a bit of thought, I only came up with  three books. Those books are:

  • Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium. This is the second omnibus of novels in the Ciaphas Cain series. I have already read and own the first volume (link to my review).
  • Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom. I hear this  is a great resource for Tarot study, and I would like to own a personal copy.
  • War Against All Puerto Ricans (link to my review). I have read this, I would like to own a copy for my personal collection.

It is not that I do not read. Far from it. I read a lot. There are just not that many  books I feel I have to buy and own. I borrow a lot of my reading from the academic library I work at as well as my local public library. Plus, I also do a lot of reading through NetGalley. Many books I read I know are not keepers anyhow.

Now, give me that loaded gift card and ask me what 10 Tarot and/or oracle card decks I would buy, and I can make you a list pretty quickly. That is  a list I may write on my Tarot journal, and I may share it here later.

I saw this bookish writing prompt at Kaizen Journaling a bit of a while back. I had to think about this one for a little bit. I have read so many books over time, and tastes have changed somewhat over time. A challenge for me is that I did not track what I read when I was a kid, so I had to rely on memory to try to remember what I was reading  way back when that I enjoyed enough to remember. Another challenge for more recent years is that I like a lot of different books, so picking favorites is not easy for me. This post will not have a photo since I wrote out my reply here on the spot rather than doing it in my personal journal. As you will when you compare to the original prompt, I adjusted the categories slightly to adjust for my age. So, for the sake of the prompt, here are some choices as of this post. If you ask me next week, or next month, the choices could be very different:

  • Childhood: The Encyclopedia Brown series. If we go a bit further back, I also enjoyed the tales of Frog and Toad.
  • Teens. I think this was the time I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude (in Spanish by the way). This book is my number one all time favorite,  and it will likely remain so for the rest of my life. It is one I reread every few years.
  • Early 20s: I would have been in college as an undergrad. The Robotech series was one I enjoyed to escape the doldrums of college required reading. I still have the set of novels, and I am hoping to reread them soon.
  • Early 30s: Batman: the Long Halloween is one that emerged from those days. I have a tradition now that I reread it every October, near or on Halloween.
  • Today (as of this post): I would say a few volumes in the Warhammer 40,000 series that feature characters I have come to like and admire: Blood Ravens: the Dawn of War omnibus featuring Space Marines Captain Gabriel Angelos, the Ciaphas Cain series, and the Ultramarines novels featuring Space Marines Captain Uriel Ventris. These days, life is pretty much shit. Not my life per se as I am surviving OK, but current events, the world, society, the stupidest election  ever in the United States, shitty media, all that and more make you want just want to get away from it all and as far away as possible. The 41st Millennium seems quite a good distance to leave it all behind.

I saw this spread for the Full Moon in Pisces that took place this week at Ethony’s Tumblr blog here. I decided to go ahead and give it a try as part of my learning to read cards. Initially, I was going to do it with my Gilded Tarot deck, but I decided I needed something different. I went in a different direction, and I used my new Halloween Oracle deck, the one created by Stacey DeMarco. I wanted to get more of a fall season vibe. This oracle deck does have a lot less cards than a traditional Tarot deck. The traditional Tarot deck, like the Gilded Tarot I use, has 78 cards. This oracle deck has 36 cards. The reading experience was quite interesting, and in a way I felt the deck had to get to the point. After all, there are less cards to choose from, so being concise was part of the experience.

For the reading, I did my best to use my intuition, and it actually went a lot better than I initially thought it would go. Since this is a new deck to me, and it is an oracle deck, I did feel an initial need to rely on the guidebook. However, as I said, my intuition worked out a lot better than I initially expected. The images certainly helped me reflect on the questions of the reading, and I feel that I got some good insights and advice on things to work on during this season. On a side note, I did read the companion book previously, so down the road I will write a review of the Halloween Oracle over at The Itinerant Librarian and then crosspost it here.

For this post, I will simply share what cards I drew for what question. I am putting the card name, and in parenthesis after the name I am including the keywords the card provides. I am not sharing my reading reflections, as those can stay in my Tarot/oracle journal. Down below I am including photos of how I laid the spread before and after revealing the cards. If you wish to see the cards in more detail, you can click on the card photos.

  1. What energies are coming up from my subconscious?
    • Card: Forgiveness (Reducing burden)
  2. What is in need of healing?
    • Card: Joy (Rejoicing in the present)
  3. What message does my intuition want to deliver?
    • Card: Skull of Darkness (Blind spots)
  4. What am I being asked to dream (sleep on it, meditate, or lucid dream) about?
    • Card: Apple (Risk and reward)
  5. How best can I ride the waves of this emotional full moon?
    • Card: The Veil (The future)

 

Five card spread in slight circular pattern

This is the spread laid out before I revealed the cards for the reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five card spread, cards turned upside and revealed.

This is the spread, using the Halloween Oracle, now revealed in full.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My few readers may be aware that I recently started learning to use and read Tarot cards. These days, my learning deck is the Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti. I have been doing a little studying, reading, and working on my Tarot journal. One of the exercises I have found helpful in my learning is doing a daily card draw. After I do my morning writing on my personal journal, I shuffle the cards, and I draw a single card to get a theme and/or lesson for the day. It has helped me to gradually learn to read the cards and their meanings. So far, I had not done any spreads until I saw a couple of spreads on how to interview a Tarot deck as a way to bond better with it, so I went ahead and did this one. This is my first ever Tarot spread reading, and I think it turned out very well. I think I will keep doing this exercise, or ones similar to this one (there are variants), when I get a new deck added to my collection.

I did this spread on July 30, 2016.  The photos below show the spread as I laid it initially, and then revealed in full. If you click on the photos, you can see the details better.

Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?

Card XVII (17- Major Arcana): The Star. There is much hope and inspiration to be found in the cards. For me, this is a beautiful card, and it is one of my favorites in this deck. Maybe the deck is starting out making a good impression. The deck starts by telling me that I can find hope and inspiration in these cards. I can also find beauty and get in touch with emotions, imagination, and dreams. The water suggests emotions as well as fluidity. When things get dark, there is some hope and inspiration to guide me onward. This deck will also help me explore my intuition a bit more, something I could use some work on. This is also reinforced by the number 17, which is a number of intuition. For me, this definitely rings true. It is why I switched from the Marseilles deck to this one. The visual style helps my intuition and memory better. I may be more of a textual learner, but I can still gain benefit from learning visually and from exploring my intuition. The Star for me also speaks of beacons, guidance. Much as I learned about the North Star as a guide, this deck can provide a beacon of hope and guidance when needed. Overall this is a positive deck that can offer hope, enlightenment, intuition, and guidance.

What are your strengths as a deck?

Card XVI (16-Major Arcana): The Tower. I have to admit that my initial reaction to this card was “oh dear deity!” This is a strong card, and it startled me. But that is the message of this deck: this deck can and will at times startle you. It can shake your foundations. It can help destroy old misconceptions. It may shake you so you see things in a new light. A strength of this deck is that it can be blunt. It can help shake me out of routine and complacency. It make make fall, but it is also so I can learn once more to pick myself back up and rebuild. This deck says, “I’ll give it to you straight, and I will shake you hard if needed to get you to listen.” The deck also says, “don’t get too arrogant, or I’ll bring you back down to size and humility.” I found interesting that The Tower is the card that numerically precedes The Star, which is also the first card I drew now. It’s as if the message there may be need for disruption, even violent change, but this is necessary so that new hope and enlightenment can happen. Sometimes you have to shake things, and at times shake them hard, for change, learning, and understanding to take place. A strength of this deck is that it can startle you, but it is so you can see, learn, and grow towards enlightenment and wisdom.

What are your limits as a deck?

Card III (3- Major Arcana): The Empress. I admit that initially I am not sure what to make of this. Are there some limits in terms of feminine aspects? Are there limits in terms of reflecting on topics like sensuality, and not just sex and erotica but sensual elements? I am getting more questions than answers here. Maybe this deck at times may bring up those questions and other questions, but I may have to seek answers elsewhere.

The Empress is also associated with fertility and creativity. Perhaps there are limits to what the deck can offer in terms of creativity. It could be saying, “I’ll give the first steps, ideas, hints, etc., but you then need to expand.” You get the seeds, maybe the fertilizer too, but it’s  up to you to plant and nurture. This deck can inspire but you do the work of nurturing and tending the garden. Your mama will teach you, but she’s not doing it for you. For me, by the way, this is another favorite card in the deck: a strong woman who is seductive yet wise and motherly, also orderly.

What are you here to teach me?

Page of Pentacles (Suit of Pentacles- Minor Arcana).  Here to teach me to stay grounded, feet firmly on the ground, and to keep it real. But the deck is also here to bring good news and lessons. Sure, you can look up to the stars but remember to keep those feet on the ground, in reality. The page is a young man, a reminder that I still have much to learn both in Tarot as in life. The peacock indicates prosperity; I am not expecting literal wealth (but hey, if it comes I am grabbing it) but more prosperity in daily life through learning and growth. Deck may bring good news, but it will teach me to be realistic, remind me of staying grounded and humble.

How can I best learn and collaborate with you (the deck)?

Two of Pentacles (Suit of Pentacles- Minor Arcana). Well, this is interesting. Presence of pentacles continues. Being earthy as I am, a Capricorn, I see this as encouraging. It continues the idea of staying grounded and keeping it real. The man here also has his feet firmly on the ground. But there is also water, the moon, a ship, and even a dolphin behind him. Emotions, imagination, and intuition come into play as well. I can best learn if I work to juggle and balance all those elements. As the man juggles and balances the pentacles, a rainbow forms. Learn to keep intuition and emotions in a healthy balance with the ground and reality. Doing that may well be the best way to learn and collaborate with this deck. For me, the appearance of this card is additionally encouraging because for me it can symbolize instruction librarians and teachers who as performers often have to balance multiple things in our classrooms. So, keeping a sense of balance is the best way to learn and collaborate with this deck.

What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

Four of Cups (Suit of Cups- Minor Arcana). Well, this is interesting too. This goes back a bit to the prosperity theme in the Page of Pentacles. There are gifts I already have, symbolized by the three cups, but in studying and working with this deck I may gain new gift, new ideas, new inspiration (spiritual, divine, higher, what have you), symbolized in the fourth cup. In addition, some peace and calm may be an outcome as well. The setting in this image is a green, lush, peaceful field, forest animals and birds in the sky. It’s as if the deck is saying to drink from this gift and be inspired and at peace.

This is a card of re-evaluation. Look up, assess new opportunities. Sure, things may e good, but look up also, assess, and grow. An outcome may well be that at times I reevaluate, see things anew or in a different light, and hopefully learn some new lessons and gain new insights.

 

Tarot Deck Interview Spread. Cards facing down.

This is the spread as I initially laid it out after shuffling the cards.

Tarot deck interview spread. Cards revealed.

This is the spread with the cards all turned up and revealed.

I saw this prompt a good while back over at Booking Through Thursday, and it has been sitting  in my feed reader’s list for a while. I am finally getting around to it. The prompt is as follows:

“How often do you visit a library? Do you go to borrow books? Do research? Check out the multi-media center? Hang out with the friendly and knowledgeable staff? Are you there out of love or out of need?”

This is an interesting question for a librarian. I can say that I visit a library every day of the week since I work at a library. But let’s look at the question in a different way. I am an academic librarian, which means I am a librarian  that works at a college or university library. In my case, it’s a college library. From my library, I do borrow books to read, though not as often as I do from the public library. Much of this is because I read pretty broadly, and I also tend to read a variety  of popular topics that an academic library just does  not pick up. A public library and an academic  library have different missions and serve different populations, so their collection development tends to be different. Thus for some things, I can find them at my library. Other things I rely on the Berea branch of my local public library.

So, what do I get  from my own library? I often get the following from my own library:

  • Some more academic history books.
  • Books about higher education.
  • Some books on social justice issues, especially as related to race, gender, and related issues.
  • Some graphic novels (our library has a graphic novels collection for students to use, mainly recreational. We have some decent holdings, but it is still a work in progress).
  • Items via Interlibrary Loan (ILL). When neither my library nor my local public library have a book I want to read, I can use this service to have my library bring it in from another library. It is one of the big perks of working in an academic institution. Public libraries do offer ILL, but it is rarely as robust as the one  in an academic institution. I have used ILL to get all kinds of books from academic topics to popular books.

What do I get from my public library:

  • Graphic novels. These are often titles my library does not have. They often get things quicker too than we do.
  • History books. In this case, I get more popular history works, the kind that a good informed lay reader would read. A particular subset of this would be microhistories. Those are books that do history on a single topic really well. One example is Mark Kurlansky’s Salt.
  • An art book now and then. This also includes photography books.
  • Humor books.
  • Some popular fiction. I read science fiction, plus some fantasy and horror, so I get books in those categories. This year, I am doing a horror reading challenge, so I get those books through my public library. Brian Keene’s work was a recent discovery from doing the challenge last year.  I do look forward to reading more by him, by the way.
  • In fact, when I do reading challenges, I often get the books for them at my public library.
  • Books on fairly random topics. I am pretty inquisitive, and once in while I will pick up something because it sounds interesting. I have read books about rodeos and fried twinkies, about the history of delis, about the Glock handgun, so on. Recently, I even read the book that  is now basis of the movie War Dogs (by the way, from the looks of recent reviews, skip the movie, read the book).  I am very eclectic as a reader, and I usually find what I need at the public library.
  • Media. I get DVDs for some movies. I like movies, but I would not call myself a movie buff. I also get DVDs for old television shows. Plus, since I am doing an audiobook reading challenge this year, I have been trying out some of their selections. However, in audiobooks, my local public library does leave a lot to be desired.

In the end, I go to my  local public library out of my need as a reader. I usually visit my public library once a week, usually on Sundays. I do get things from my own academic library, but  I read a bit too broadly and eclectically for my academic library. So my public library combined with Interlibrary Loan pretty much get me what I need. In the end, I do love libraries. I am glad I work in one, and  I am happy to use and support my local public library branch.

How about readers out there? Feel free to comment about your own library experiences, what you go to the library for, so on. Or if you do not use your local library, tell me why as well.

Wise Bread had one of those articles, listicle really, you have to take with a shaker full of salt. This time it’s “5 Easiest Ways to Score Free eBooks.” Yes, I know the economy is bad, and people need to save money, but I think folks who see this need to keep their expectations seriously low. The bottom line is that, unless somebody somewhere paid for it, you are not going to be reading authors like Grisham, Rowling, and Clancy in free ebooks. Here are some of the things to keep in mind the article does not really tell you or just conveniently forgets:

  • A red flag for me: “Throughout elementary school and college, I controlled the costs of books primarily by utilizing my public library. I haven’t stepped foot in a library in three years.  .  .” . Maybe she may want to consider stepping back into her local public library. Many public libraries today feature ebooks, often via Overdrive. Your library card entitles to access to your local library’s ebook collections, and those collections do feature various current and older but interesting books.
  • The whole Kindle family library and borrowing ebooks from family and friends. This may be free for you, but you are basically mooching off someone else who is paying for their ebooks. Now, I am not against borrowing per se, but let’s not fool ourselves and say this is free. You may not have paid for it, but someone else did, and I honestly have to wonder if telling people to mooch off someone else’s ebook subscription is really the best advice. You are basically telling people to let some other sucker pay for the ebooks you want to read. When it comes to the ethics, well, your mileage may vary.
  • I loved the euphemism of “non-professional stories online.” This is basically amateur writing you find in places ranging from Amazon to other websites where writers of various levels of skill self-publish. Now before you get your hopes up, for everyone one self-published author who might get plucked out of obscurity and become famous, like the guy who wrote The Martian, you are going to find tons and tons of seriously bad dreck that is self-published. This includes fan fiction by the way. So if you feel like taking your chances, and you really, really need to feed your reading addiction, go right ahead. Just don’t go expecting to find the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King in those places. The author of the article does admit that “you can expect to find some sub-par writing due in part, to the fact that individuals of various skill levels publish on these types of sites.” That is a polite way of putting it. Believe me, as part of my reading I do for reviews, I have come across my share of these “non-professional stories” where I honestly hope those writers did keep their day jobs.
  • Public domain books. There are various places to find these, but keep in mind, these are mostly what people call classics. If you want to save on reading old books, the kind you may have had to read forcibly in school, then the various depositories featuring public domain books are for you. The other thing you find in the public domain sites are forgotten books. A few may be gems waiting to be rediscovered. A lot are forgotten for a reason, and they likely should stay forgotten. Having said that, you can find some curious items if you have the patience to look (or you have some good sources on your RSS reader to alert you of such things) such as my recent find of Pagan Passions.  (I will have a brief comment on that book in a future post). Looking through sources of Public Domain books is a lot like panning for gold, except you may often find more duds than nuggets, but well worth it when you do find that one gold nugget. If you are interested, the author of the article does provide a nice link to a list of Public Domain sources for books.

At the end of the day,articles like this come and go every so often, and there are quite a few out there such as here and here, and heck, even some public libraries are getting in on informing patrons about these options, like this one here. As a librarian, I tend to be happy to promote free books but skeptical when they make it sound like you can read anything you want that you might find in your local bookstore. That is not even close, and I wish that reality was made more apparent.

The bottom line is that tips like these are good for you if the following is true for you:

  • You are a very avid reader who is not too fussy about what you read.
  • You are a reader willing to take a lot of chances on what you may find to read.
  • You understand that you are not going to get the latest bestsellers or other very popular books for free unless someone else has paid for them. So if you do as the article states, you will (politely I hope) be mooching someone else’s accounts where they did pay for their ebooks.
  • You have to be willing to put in some work. Whether it be finding someone to give you access to their collections that they paid for or search through Public Domain sites to find something, you have to put in some effort finding and then selecting what you want to read.
  • You have to be willing to lower your standards a bit. Sure, as I said, you may find a gem here or there, but you may end up reading a lot of dreck too. How much dreck are you willing to go through in the interest of finding the one gem? That is a question you are thrifty reader have to answer, or as they say, your mileage may vary.

By the way, don’t be like the author. Go visit your public library once in a while. I may have a small bias given I am a librarian. However, I work for an academic library, and even I visit my local public library once in a while to get my fix of more pop-type of books. Plus my public library also has DVDs, so you do get some pretty good free (as in your tax dollars help pay for it) entertainment options. In addition, if you want e-books, as I mentioned, your local public library likely has its own e-book collection, and the selection will likely be better and better curated than a lot of the stuff you will find out there on the internet. This is especially true when it comes to those “non professional stories.” In the end, I am not saying to avoid reading free ebooks online if you can find them. I am saying to adjust your expectations of what you may find accordingly. Oh, and visit your public library once in a while. Your local friendly librarians will be glad to see you.


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