A New Challenger Appears

January 14th, 2014

Hello! I’m one of the new interns at Beaufort Books, Dmitriy, or Beauchamp Bagenal as I will hereafter forever insist on being known in and outside the office. I chose this name because the historical Beauchamp Bagenal was a rake and a rapscallion who was known as the handsomest man in Ireland during the 18th century. He was a consummate evildoer known for his prowess in politics, dueling, and womanizing (your choice on the greatest of the three vices, innocent reader), and tales of his exploits put even Lord Byron’s excesses to shame. It was a natural choice, given that a publishing intern’s duties really span the gamut from blogging and editing to unbridled lechery and sanctioned murder.

In my first post, I’d like to address an old adage: don’t judge a book by its cover. I believe it is no longer accurate in today’s world of book publishing, and that it should now be reserved primarily for metaphors about meatheads who contain multitudes.

Today’s book covers should instead be celebrated for the guidance they offer. They are specially designed to appeal to their primary target audience. Publishers invest a lot of time and effort into making this happen (as I’ve already witnessed during my first few days at Beaufort), so it would be downright rude to ignore their suggestions! If taken literally, the advice to not judge books by their covers was much more relevant to 19th century school children, who primarily dealt with nondescript leather bindings of assorted varieties. “Don’t discount this tome just because the binding has torn, Billy, and bring this draught of laudanum up to Sister Wetherby before that consumptive cough of hers wakes everyone again.”

Today’s covers are designed to be judged. And that’s a good thing. You can pretty much immediately tell that the giant book in the glossy red cover is a spy thriller your Uncle Larry will bring on the airplane, or that your spinster Aunt Sheila or 13-year-old Cousin Sherry will both secretly adore the book with the shirtless male model with flowing hair and smoldering eyes. A cover will tell you if you’re picking up a book of contemporary poetry to read ostentatiously in a pretentious coffee shop, or if you’re finding a life-advice manual to make you a better businessman/chef/public speaker/thief. Of course, there will be exceptions, and surprise! You’ll never be able to form a full opinion of a book until you actually read it (womp womp), but a cover is absolutely an excellent place to pass a first judgment.

ludlumlolz

taolinyuck

 

 

 

vs.

 

 

 

 

 

(Source 1: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/eric-van-lustbader/robert-ludlums-tm-the-bourne-deception/9781455519439/ Source 2: http://www.amazon.com/you-are-little-happier-than/dp/097656923X)

Both readers and publishers seem to have tacitly acknowledged this fact. In recent years, editions of Pride and Prejudice saw a sales boom because they were redesigned with a cover resembling a Twilight novel. Moreso than seeing this as a ploy to inveigle tween girls into reading the classics, one should instead realize it was a brilliant deduction that readers are actively expecting covers to catch their interest. Why shouldn’t Elizabeth Bennet’s love life be considered at least as enthralling as Bella Swan’s? If anything, it’s a disservice to the book to publish it with a dry English landscape on the cover: how many tweens want to read something that so blatantly screams REQUIRED FOR SCHOOL?
pridetwilight

Source: (http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/young-adult-novels-2013-10/index4.html)

And while we’re happily affirming that it’s okay to be judgmental, why not also add that a cover is a decent place to assess publishers themselves? There’s something sexy about a book with pleasing aesthetics and tactility (sorry, e-readers, but you just can’t compete here). A cover that doesn’t get smudged or greasy after I handle it? Be still my beating heart. And if a book completely defies one’s expectations about its content based on the cover, maybe that’s a reason to become wary of that publisher in the future. Covers shouldn’t cover anything up.

- Beauchamp Bagenal

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A fond farewell!

December 20th, 2013

 

Friends, Romans, countrymen, it’s time for me to leave Beaufort.

 

Today is the last day of my internship! It’s very bittersweet. I’ve had a lot of fun here, but I’m hoping that this will lead to something great in the future. I can certainly say now that I know a lot more about publishing than I did when I started my internship in August. I had no idea how a book was made before, and now I know the basic planning process pretty well. I learned about CIP tagging, how to edit a book’s content in Adobe Indesign, what problems to look for in the design of a book’s cover and interior, and what kind of things work well in jacket copy. And I have to say, I am a master of mailings. I also feel like I made a mark on the office, albeit a small one. I introduced a few fun traditions, like breaks to play Jeopardy and to puzzle out riddles.

 

As far as my quest to read the lost and lonely books languishing on my bookshelf? Well, I made a good start. I read quite a few things that have sat for an undeterminable amount of time. Today I am reading Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card, which I can’t even remember buying. However, my habits still need some work. The thought of starting the various Dickens novels on my shelf is still daunting. I also got distracted by a donation of books from a friend, and have lately been itching to make a Barnes and Noble run. (But hey, that’s not my fault, I have a gift card!)

So goodbye, my friends. It’s been fun.

-A Little Beau Told Me

 

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As an aside

December 19th, 2013

This blog is really more of a personal rant or digression. I have encountered this literary problem before, but I have never had an outlet on which to complain about this stigmatized issue. And there can be no solution. So I figured that while I am writing a blog about books, I can share my irreparable discontent with the world!

Recently I’ve found that the film industry has been grasping for ideas for new and exciting movies, and a lot of popular films have been inspired by popular books. Some of these movies are great (The Hunger Games movies haven’t disappointed me or my mother yet), while others have kind of missed the mark (yes, I’m talking about you, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Julie Taymor’s version of The Tempest). I’m not going to complain about these book-to-film movies though. What has been annoying me lately is the fact that I seem to be getting into books right before they are made into films and my interest in the books makes it seem as if I am jumping on the movie bandwagon. Clearly this is a personal, neurotic issue, but I wanted to write about it for anyone that might be encountering this same problem. So I’m not writing this to expunge my records of reading books right before the movie adaptation show up in theaters, this is for you readers to feel better about yourselves and know that you are not alone.

Last week, as I was browsing Amazon, I came across The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, a book that Amazon recommended for me. My friends told me to read it years ago, and I always said I would get around to it. I had no idea what it was about, but it was only $4 dollars for my Kindle and it had amazing reviews on Amazon, so I figured “why not?”. I finished the Song of Ice and Fire book I was reading (after only two months!!) and decided that this would be an easy read to fall asleep to. I have written about the emotional torture that George R. R. Martin has put me through over the past few years, and I assumed that this Young Adult novel couldn’t possibly create the same amount of emotional destruction to which I have become accustomed. Imagine my surprise when I started reading and the first page paints the picture of young Hazel Grace, a sixteen-year-old girl with terminal cancer. That was definitely not what I was expecting. I was also not expecting her sarcastic, witty personality that permeates through the novel. This book, which took me two days to read, put me on an emotional rollercoaster, and had me both laughing out loud and hysterically crying.

I woke up this morning and was checking my Twitter feed, which is an integral part of my morning routine. As I scrolled through the retweets and complaints from people about having to go to work or school, I was startled to see a news story about a controversial movie poster for the upcoming film, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. I couldn’t believe it. I like to think of myself as a movie buff and I am usually pretty aware of the films that are coming out in the next year (especially literary-inspired books), but this movie flew completely under my radar. I told people at work that I had read this book last week, and now they are going to think that I was just reading this book because it was being made into a movie. The embarrassment! To be honest, sometimes I do read books when I hear they are going to be made into movies (either to refresh my memory so I can compare the film adaptation to the original book or to read what all the hype is about), but this was not one of those instances. Therefore, I believe that henceforth all film producers who are going to make a film based on a book must inform me personally so that I can avoid this issue. Sound good? Great, thanks.

-There’s Always Money in the Beaunana Stand

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I Shouldn’t Blog When I’m Hungry

November 19th, 2013

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’ve found myself getting hungrier and hungrier. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it is an excuse to hang out with your family all day and just eat without any expectations or pressures of gifts. There are always great conversations to be had around my family’s Thanksgiving table and I always leave my aunt’s house happy and full. In preparation for the feast to come, I have been thinking more and more about food, which led me to think about the descriptions and accounts of food in some of my favorite books. Even in fantasy lands, where the characters are eating something that does not exist in the real world, I always find my mouth watering when reading the description of a feast. I have decided to compile a small list of authors that, in my opinion, make the meals into focus points of their books rather than just an activity.

George R. R. Martin: In the Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin shows the true decadence of food through various (and numerous) feasts and weddings that the characters attend. The first couple of books were filled with detailed descriptions of food and the delicious confections that were given to the high-class families. From the feasts at King’s Landing to the bread baked by Hot Pie as a gift for Arya, Martin truly has a gift for making his readers hungry. In the later books, however, there is a definite turn from the lavish luxury of the well-to-do to the harsh realities of war and Martin creates eerie scenes of starvation and famine throughout Westeros. The amount of food (whether high or low) sets the tone of Martin’s novels and shows the circumstances of the world that Martin has created.

J. K. Rowling: When Harry Potter is first introduced in Rowling’s series, he is shown as a malnourished child who has never had enough to eat at his aunt and uncle’s house. His cousin, on the other hand, is described as a portly boy who is double the size of young Harry. When Harry finally gets to Hogwarts and sees the amount of food available to him, it is such a beautiful scene. Everything that Harry knew about his life has completely changed, including the amount of food that is presented to him. I’m surprised there weren’t more morbidly obese characters in the Harry Potter series, considering the food in the Hogwarts great hall was never-ending and would simply appear on the plates. I guess Rowling was trying to instill values of self-control in her young readers (or she didn’t think that part through all the way). But you know a food is well-written when it is recreated in the real world. In college, before the creation of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios, one of the girls I knew blew my mind by telling me about how she was brewing her own butterbeer. I thought that was the best thing I’d ever heard. AND THEN I heard that the new Universal Studios attraction would feature a bunch of different foods from the series. I need to go there.

(And now for a bit of nostalgia from my childhood) C. S. Lewis: When I was in the fourth grade, my class read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. One of the big activities that we did when we were reading this book was we had one day where, instead of doing any reading, our teacher was going to bring in Turkish Delight, the candy confection that the White Witch uses to tempt Edmund into joining her evil team. I thought that the candy sounded kind of gross, but I was about 10 years old and thought that it would be a cool thing to do instead of doing work. I remember all of the build up to that special day and how excited I was to be getting a snack during class (I was a chubby kid and loved a good snack). Looking back, I remember I didn’t really like the candy that much (it was too sweet for me), but that iconic food will always remind me of C. S. Lewis’ series, as it was such an integral part of the plot.

Also, I have just realized that, in order to be an important author in my mind, your pen name MUST contain at least one of your initials.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

-There’s Always Money in the Beaunana Stand

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Thanksgiving Recipes? Fitzgerald Is Here To Help!

November 11th, 2013

ThanksgivingFeastHappy Thanksgiving, readers! Well, happy early Thanksgiving, anyway. We hope that you will be spending Thanksgiving with the friends, family, and food of your choice. I will be spending the day dreading a shift at the mall on Black Friday.

You’re probably inundated with articles and tweets about Thanksgiving recipe suggestions for the day of, but how about suggestions for what to do with your turkey afterwards? Fortunately, F. Scott Fitzgerald has some tips for you! Of his suggestions, which can be viewed in their entirety here, here are a few of my favorites.

Turkey and Water
Take one turkey and one pan of water. Heat the latter to the boiling point and then put in the refrigerator. When it has jelled drown the turkey in it. Eat. In preparing this recipe it is best to have a few ham sandwiches around in case things go wrong.

Great advice! It’s always good to have a backup plan when you are trying out a new, unfamiliar recipe.

Turkey Mongole
Take three butts of salami and a large turkey skeleton from which the feathers and natural stuffing have been removed. Lay them out on the table and call up some Mongole in the neighborhood to tell you how to proceed from there.

It’s always best to take advice from your neighbors when you’re stuck!

Turkey Mousee
Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc. Blow up with a bicycle pump. Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall.

A helpful tip for some festive Thanksgiving day decorations.

And finally, if you’re still trying to get rid of those pesky turkey leftovers, Fitzgerald has got you covered.

For Weddings or Funerals. Obtain a gross of small white boxes such as are used for bride’s cake. Cut the turkey into small squares, roast, stuff, kill, boil, bake and allow to skewer. Now we are ready to begin. Fill each box with a quantity of soup stock and pile in a handy place. As the liquid elapses, the prepared turkey is added until the guests arrive. The boxes delicately tied with white ribbons are then placed in the handbags of the ladies, or in the men’s side pockets.

We wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving from all of us at Beaufort! Alternately, if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we wish you a happy Thursday.

-A Little Beau Told Me

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“We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” – Norman Bates

October 31st, 2013

So, unless you are in some parts of the Midwest (where apparently Halloween has been postponed until tomorrow), it’s Halloween! And you know what that means: hilarious costumes, great parties, adorable children demanding candy, and, most importantly, it is time to put your cats in their witch hats for approximately 14 seconds to capture the perfectly appropriate picture to post on social media. I’m not dressing up this year, but I am living vicariously through my mom and brother and their awesome costumes (Skyler White and Fix-it Felix Jr., respectively). My own form of celebration usually comes from listening to Halloween-themed music (which we are doing in the office today), watching my favorite horror movies all night (John Carpenter’s Halloween is by far the best, followed closely by Gus Van Sant’s revamp of Psycho), and eating as much candy as I possibly can.

In Cold BloodI love horror movies, even the bad ones (especially the bad ones). But I’ve found that I always find the “based on a true story” movies (and books) to be the scariest. Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers is definitely one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. As far as books go, there have been a few books that I have read that have kept me up at night. A couple of years ago, I was getting ready to go on vacation in New Hampshire with my family. As usual, picking out the books I would bring with me (this was pre-Kindle) was an important step in my packing process. I grabbed a couple of books that I had recently bought and hadn’t read before. When I finally got to New Hampshire, my reading binge began. Sitting on the sand at Onway Lake, I breezed through Atonement, which one of my best friends told me I would love (I didn’t, but my mom did). After finishing that, I decided to start reading In Cold Blood. I knew that it was a true-crime, hard-to-categorize “novel” about the murder of a family in Kansas…and that’s about all I knew. I started reading the book and was immediately drawn into the first section, which details the lives of the Clutter family in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas. Quickly, however, I began to regret the decision to read this book on my vacation.

During the day, I leisurely read the book on the beach while I took breaks from swimming and hanging out with my family. In broad daylight, there was nothing so terrifying about the book. However, in New Hampshire, we stayed in cottages on the lake that were very isolated and had (at times) faulty locks. We were on the edge of a large wooded area and, as I remember, I had bad cell phone reception. The setting itself sounds like a horror story. Even though it was lovely during the day, after reading about the family’s murder and the trial, I wasn’t able to sleep for the rest of the week. I was convinced that Dick Hickcock and Perry Smith were going to break into the cottage while I was asleep (even though they had been dead for about 50 years). The isolation of the Clutter’s farm where the family was murdered was eerily similar to the isolation I felt in New Hampshire. Even after I finished the book, I still found it hard to sleep in the cottage. Although the vacation was great, I was so happy to go home to a completely overpopulated and crowded New Jersey so that I could finally get some sleep.

-There’s Always Money in the Beaunana Stand

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Gone Girl, Lost Jacket

October 11th, 2013

The saga of reading the dusty books on my shelf continues! This time I picked up Gone Girl Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

gone-girl-book-cover (1)

I came across this book in sort of a strange way (ok, maybe not that strange). I hadn’t heard about it at all, despite the rush of posts about the upcoming movie, until my father gave me a copy. He had happened across it somehow and had no use for it, so he gave it to me, the Daughter Who Reads A Lot. It’s a hardcover copy which is missing a dust jacket, so I couldn’t check out the synopsis. Instead of looking up the book on Amazon I decided to start reading without any information.

This brings me to the topic of today’s blog post: the novelty of reading a book with no prior knowledge, and no assumptions. I can’t remember the last time I started reading a book without knowing the author’s work, or reading the synopsis, or finding some reviews online, or going off the recommendation of a friend. I don’t buy books without at least looking at the back cover to check out the synopsis, and I don’t think I’m alone in this habit. Even if I ignored the synopsis, it’s difficult to avoid the multitude of media entries that cover new books. It’s a wonder I managed to avoid the articles gushing about the casting for the Gone Girl movie, expected to come out in 2014.

Happily, your local library might be able to help you out. You might have heard of the blind date with a book, the trend that’s sweeping the nation!

Microsoft Word - Blind Date with a Book pic.docx

The idea is, if you haven’t yet heard of it, to give brief details about the subject matter (e.g. thriller, non-fiction, history) and maybe a few quick facts. This won’t help you out with recognizing the book once you’ve ripped the packaging, but it might help you in your ambling search through the aisles.

As far as my opinion of Gone Girl, I read it in about three days. I started out hating the two main characters- which I believe is intentional, having now finished the book and looked up reviews- and certainly had no idea that the wife would suddenly disappear, something I would have known if I’d read the synopsis. There’s a huge plot twist which I won’t spoil, so if I were you I would check this book out! I’m also excited to see the movie when it comes out. The casting seems great so far. I’m especially excited about Niel Patrick Harris- of course, he’s always the right choice (well documented fact based on my highly esteemed opinion), and this role seems especially perfect.

I am now reading a crime thriller, as I seem to be on a thriller kick. This one is by Marcia Muller, who shares my last name. Did I buy it because we have the same last name? Yes. Yes I did. After I finish this, however, I think I will have to start digging into the top shelf on my bookcase. I affectionately call it the I Have a BA In English, I Should Be Reading These shelf. It’s not my favorite shelf.

-A Little Beau Told Me

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The Importance of Being Tyrion

October 10th, 2013

I’ll admit it: I relapsed. I wanted to read comedies to change up what I was reading…and I really tried. I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which was great. And hilarious. But then, I found myself looking up the fifth Song of Ice and Fire book, A Dance With Dragons. So obviously I had to buy it. Begrudgingly, I started reading what I knew would be a depressing, dreary, and soul-shattering tale about the demise of many of my favorite characters. I’m only about 25% of the way into the book and yes, it is very depressing. It is dreary, gloomy, and many other rejected Disney dwarf names. George R.R. Martin has a unique way of crushing the hopes and dreams of all of his readers with just a few words. But, for me, there is a saving grace in these books: Tyrion.

Tyrion Lannister has made me realize the true importance of a character that offers comic relief in an otherwise very serious story. I’m not trying to trivialize Tyrion’s place in the story or make it seem as if his own, super complicated story line isn’t pivotal to the plot; I think that Tyrion’s character is probably the most important one in all of the series, simply because he does offer a bit of relief for the reader in between Martin tearing out your soul and putting it through an obstacle course of emotions.

Throughout the series, Tyrion has always been a sympathetic, extremely intelligent, and humorous character. He is the character that you can always root for as a reader, whereas other characters throughout the series have made some questionable decisions that make you consider your loyalty to them. Even when Tyrion is killing someone, he is usually 100% justified and you support his decision. In the days of the bromance of Bronn and Tyrion, I found myself actually laughing out loud while I was reading. Of course that laughter quickly turned to horrified sobs, but at least I had laughed. There are some characters that come in and out of the books to provide some additional comic relief, but most of that burden lies on Tyrion’s slightly smaller, capable shoulders.

In any story, I think it is important for there to be a buffer between the drama and the reader. Whether that is a humorous narrator or a snarky character, without these voices most of the books that I read would throw me into dark, dismal places that I would never be able to climb out of. Tyrion in ASoIaF, Stephano and Trinculo in The Tempest, and even Stiva from Anna Karenina, Anna’s fun-loving, rambunctious brother, make these books much more tolerable and slightly less depressing. I know that George R.R. Martin has claimed that the final scene of the series should be snow drifting across a graveyard of all of hischaracters, but I really hope he can let Tyrion live. At least until the end of this book. Please???

 -There’s Always Money in the Beaunana Stand

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Banned Books Week

September 24th, 2013

This week is Banned Books Week, so I am going to write about my (terribly important) opinions about a couple of banned and challenged books of this year. Let me start off by saying that many of the books that are banned in schools and libraries tend to veer towards the ridiculous side of the spectrum, e.g. the Captain Underpants series (REALLY?!). While it may not be the most thought-provoking children’s book of its time, this series has a wide audience and is not meant to be an educational, informational book. Unless you need an education on boogers and wedgies. Then they’ve got your whole curriculum covered. Banning and challenging other, more intellectual and educational books, in my opinion, can be limiting to the education of the students in school. An excellent example of a great book that was largely challenged this year is Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.


This autobiographical account of Satrapi’s personal struggles during the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 was written as a graphic novel, taking a more lighthearted approach to a lot of serious and troubling subjects. Satrapi writes as a young version of herself, living in Iran, watching the changes around her in Iran’s culture and government, and also noticing changes within herself as a young woman. As a graphic novel, the book is able to give visuals to readers and create a more complete picture of what was going on in Satrapi’s life and in Iran. The fact that this autobiography is written as a graphic novel also makes the difficult subject matter more accessible to a younger audience, and makes the book a perfect addition to a middle school or high school’s library. While some of the content of the book might go over the heads of some younger readers (the political discussions, Satrapi’s satire and sarcasm, etc.), there are a lot of things covered in the book that I was surprised I didn’t already know about, and I read it as a college freshman.

As I was researching why this book was challenged and on the Banned Books list of 2013, I learned that community leaders and school officials in Chicago attempted to pull this book off of the shelves earlier this year, but there was a major uprising from the students and parents to keep the book as part of the school system’s curriculum. In the novel, Satrapi writes about her struggles with the oppressive government of Iran during her childhood and young adult life, and particularly focuses on her lack of freedom of speech, which was stifling for her as an adolescent who was trying to find her voice amidst the revolution. The students in Chicago used Satrapi’s message to fuel their fight against the censorship that their school was enforcing. From that situation alone, the ideals and importance of Satrapi’s story are clearly evident. Her words created the motivation for these students and parents to question their authority figures, to have their voices heard, and to uphold the principles of the freedom of speech. This story from Chicago showcases what Banned Books Week is all about for me, really.

Read more about other banned and challenged books here: http://www.ila.org/BannedBooks/BBW_2012-2013_Shortlist.pdf

-There’s Always Money in the Beaunana Stand

 

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Free to a good home: book, gently used

September 23rd, 2013

In my quest to read the poor abandoned books on my shelf I was bound to pick up a dud at some point, and I did. I then continued to read it for about five days or so before finally abandoning it. When passersby asked me how the book was going (family members, coworkers, confused strangers), I responded with my complaints about the book thus far. Most accepted my frustrations. One finally asked, “So why are you putting up with it?” It’s a good question. If I hated it so much, why didn’t I just stop reading it? The answer is that I felt, in some ways, that I owed something to the author. As if abandoning the book a quarter of the way through would insult the author (who happens to be deceased), or insult the book itself. So that got me thinking- are there rules about when you can abandon a book? What is the threshold one must pass before deeming a book unworthy? Does it depend on the book, on the general esteem of the author, or something else?

This brings me to this article by goodreads.com:

goodreads

According to goodreads, most readers will finish the book regardless of their frustrations. It surprised me to find that so many people will finish a book despite disliking it, but I suppose there could be contributing factors- bragging rights for something like Ulysses, staying current in pop culture for something like Twilight. Coming in second is ditching the book after 50-100 pages. This is the method I seem to hold with most often, as I think I finished around 60 pages or so. It’s enough time to allow the book to pick up the pace if it has been slow thus far, and enough time to establish whether or not I think it will be worth my while in the near future.

But am I being unfair to the book, or to the author? I think this article makes my case for me. Says the author, “Stop reading a book if [you] don’t enjoy it…I’ve put down several books over the last few weeks–and it is such a relief. More time for reading good books! Less time reading books out of a sense of obligation.” Personally, I agree. I read books while traveling, more often than not- on the train, on a break at work, while walking down the street. I don’t want to be unhappy and frustrated while doing those things. I’d rather read a book that makes me happy…like the 30 pound Game of Thrones book in my bag which I tote around everywhere.

-A Little Beau Told Me

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