Your Reading Life

Good for Book Clubs

We RIFers are voracious readers and we love to tell a good story. Your Reading Life features personal essays, reader reviews — anything that embraces our literary lifestyle. Pull up a mug of your favorite cozy beverage and join in on the conversation.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Why Readers Are More Empathetic

Charlotte’s Web was the first book I can remember that really moved me. From the moment Fern saved that little runt, Wilbur, I loved him. My tiny eight-year-old heart swelled over his friendship with the spider Charlotte and it was broken by her death—and Wilbur’s loss of his best friend.

Then there was Ponyboy in The Outsiders, Piggy in Lord of the Flies, Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, whose stories broke my heart. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester drove me crazy with their chaste love; I both admired and loathed Scarlett O’Hara, and Holly Golightly felt like that friend who always gets you into trouble but she’s just so exciting you can’t resist.

Whether it be compassion, love, pity, admiration, infatuation, or fear; and no matter how different their lives may be from mine, all those characters and so many others have allowed me to look at the world from the inside out through their eyes.

So intuitively, it didn’t really surprise me back in 2013 when a study came out with the finding that reading literary fiction improves a person’s ability to understand other people’s emotions. In other words, those who read literary fiction are more empathetic.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Charming Bookstores in Unexpected Places

While the vast selection of books in a famous independent bookstore like the Tattered Cover in Denver, CO is always something to celebrate, sometimes the best bookstores are the hidden gems, those out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall shops that we find by accident and return to on purpose. It’s something about the little-known, hard-to-reach quality that makes these places so magical. Here are seven of the most hidden and noteworthy bookstores worth going off the beaten path to explore.

Stone Soup Books (35 Main Street, 
Camden, Maine): In a narrow, shingled building between a restaurant and a home goods shop, there is a staircase leading to a tiny store that is filled floor-to-ceiling with secondhand books. This is Stone Soup, founded in 1982 by Paul and Agnes Joy in the small coastal town of Camden, Maine. Though at first glance the stacked shelves may seem overwhelming, Mr. Joy has an amazing memory for his inventory and will help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Get lost in the large selection of contemporary and classic paperbacks, or their sections of nautical volumes, books on exploration, and Maine books.

The Montague Bookmill (north of Amherst and Northampton Massachusetts): The Montague Bookmill is so out of the way that their humorously self-effacing mantra is “Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.” This used bookstore is housed in an 1842 gristmill on the banks of the Sawmill River. Your best bet is to follow the directions on their website, since they advise visitors not to use GPS. The destination is well worth the journey, as they have thousands of books, most of which are half-price. Their lovely store features cozy reading nooks, too.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Read, Reread, Recycle

There comes a point in some books lives when it is no longer readable, useful, or helpful as it was when it was first published. After a while, a well loved novel will fall apart. A non-fiction book will be out of date and not helpful in today’s world (think of a science book from the 1960’s!). A children’s book won’t be relatable because the pictures and language no longer represent how kids look and speak. What happens to these books?

If you are like us, throwing out a book causes pain! You don’t have to toss it – there are plenty of cool ways to up-cycle and recycle so your favorite titles can live on.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

The Muse of Music

Bestselling author Taylor Stevens on the music she listens to while writing.

There have been times that music didn’t feature heavily in my creative process, but those have been rare and far between. For the most part, music has been both a muse and a signal to my brain that playtime is over. Flip that music switch and the psyche knows it’s time to go to work.

Unfortunately, music has also been a double-edged sword because, while it has been integral to getting the writing done, it can also be very distracting. When I first started writing, I learned quickly that almost anything I loved to listen to throughout the day was disastrous when putting words on the page. For example, with a few exceptions, songs with lyrics had to get cut from the playlists. Movie soundtracks and classical music—which both seem like plausible alternatives—got the ax, too.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Reading in Transit

Why a Plane Journey Is the Perfect Time to Read

While there’s nothing cozier than curling up in an armchair with a novel and a mug of tea, sometimes a great book can be made even greater with the addition of a stunning view, a cool breeze, or a glass of wine. Books take you on incredible journeys, so why not complement that by literally taking a trip?

On a recent journey, I slipped Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler into my carry-on luggage and set off to the airport.

Novels aren’t really designed for multi-tasking, so it was a bit of a struggle to dive into the world of the characters while keeping one eye firmly on the departures board and trying to navigate through security. I crashed head first into several of my fellow travelers in the process, so I’m not sure I was the most popular person at the airport.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Donating Your Bookshelf: What to Keep and What to Give Away

How to Apply Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to Your Bookshelf

True confessions of a book-lover: one of my favorite genres is self-help. If there is a book out there on becoming more successful, happier, or healthier, I’ve probably read it. So when Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up hit the shelves, I was her ideal audience member. I had accumulated too much stuff, and I wanted to eliminate clutter. I followed all of her advice. I kept items of clothing that I loved and donated what I didn’t. I disposed of old hair products and unused makeup samples and successfully kondoed my jewelry. Easy. But the books were another story…

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

When Your Partner Doesn’t Love Reading

When it comes to love, are books a part of the equation?

I’m married to a wonderful man. He’s clever, he’s funny, he’s pretty much perfect… but he doesn’t love books. I’ve been a bookaholic since I taught myself to read aged 3, and I ended up marrying a man who can’t see the point of fiction.

I’ve lent him dozens of my favorite books; he’s only ever managed to finish one. I read him paragraphs out loud; he remains unmoved. I read the book; he watches the movie. Reading has always been the greatest love of my life, and we just don’t share it.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Best Literary Mugs

Nothing is more comforting for a bibliophile than curling up with a fun read and a mug of hot tea or coffee. Unless, of course, that mug is particularly bookish as well.

Then, dear reader, you have the ultimate trifecta: a great book, a smart mug, and a contented you. Whether you want to toast your favorite classic or celebrate books of all kinds, the internet has a mug to suit your taste. Check out our round-up of literate liquid vessels to find your perfect coffee cup. You might even find just the right gift for a book-loving friend!