The Books I've Read

A Life of Reading

My mostly signed book beauties in my RV home’s wardrobe closet

"For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort & quiet or excite you." 
 
~ 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott

As a child, nearly every book I read was about horses: The Black Stallion series, My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, and the books by Marguerite Henry come to mind. I lived very dreamily in those books until I got my own horses. I rarely read anything but Arabian horse and animal husbandry books from my teens through my thirties. All that changed when a friend recommended this novel to me in 1992. I enjoyed reading it so much my predilection for fiction was born. I bought, read, and then donated hundreds of print novels before discovering the perfect format for me—eBooks, which I read on my Kindle Paperwhite.
 
My 2nd Kindle Paperwhite, VAREAD PLEASURES II

While no one read to me as a child (although my dad was an avid fiction reader himself), I began reading to my daughter before she was born. I continued reading to her until she was old enough to read to me! And while I was 38 years old when I got my first library card she was a child when she acquired her first. She and I visited our local libraries frequently to borrow books and to attend special events. She even volunteered at our small town library as a high school student. Our frequent mama and daughter trips to our neighborhood Borders Books are still precious memories for me these 20+ years later! We would spend time finding just the right book(s) in the children's section and then take our "haul" to the cafe where we would order fruit smoothies and chat. She was an animated preschooler just finding her voice and I remember many amused customers smiling over her excitement. Oh, and another joyous shopping experience we shared regularly was scrutinizing the Scholastic Books flyers. And I can’t even adequately describe the thrill of the Scholastic Book Fairs! Such excitement! More for me than her, at times. 😊 

My darling preschooler during her Shrek phase

I purchased books as her main reward for academic excellence; and although I can't be sure, I hope they helped incentivize her to maintain her honor roll status all the way from primary through secondary school.

My daughter's books when she was an adolescent and young teen

For many years now I've been all about books: researching, price watching, wish-listing, collecting, cataloging, and reading them—to the tune of over 200 books per year! People ask me how I read so many books. Well, I'm a senior, single, and retired. I live tiny and simply. My adult daughter is on the other coast and all my beloved companion animals are gone. Books offer me more joy than I can ever adequately express and give me endless opportunities to fulfill my love of organizing, as well. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to read to my heart's content and hope I can, in some way, inspire others to read more! Much like I was inspired by a group of ladies (The Loop Ladies) I first met online in 1996. We corresponded for many years about our love of reading (and are still in touch today). Can you imagine thousands of group emails discussing books over the course of several years? Knowing these ladies has been a highlight of my life. 

I am happily (and almost exclusively) ensconced in the romance genre, although I do enjoy others. While I can't seem to help getting all dreamy over happily-ever-after endings I'm too much of a pragmatist to believe they exist anywhere other than in books. And even though I read novels featuring alpha males, erotica, and BDSM, I will always favor the respectful guys. As evidenced in my best book boyfriend list below. 

My favorite categories in fiction are romantic suspense, contemporary romance, erotic romance, mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and historical. I also delve a little out of my fiction comfort zone to read select fantasy/paranormal books. When it comes to non-fiction I am most interested in history, maritime history, and memoirs. Those must-read classics and some literature, that I somehow avoided earlier in life, are finally getting my attention. Better late than never, right?
 
I've done two buddy reads in my entire adult life (both with my daughter) and have never participated in a book club. My two best reading friends both passed away late in 2022; I miss them and our animated and emotional discussions very much. It seems impossible for me to find a like-minded book buddy at this stage, but sharing here helps fill some of the void left by their absence. 

Buying books for people, alerting friends to book sales, sharing my enthusiasm about books, showing my appreciation to authors, and helping people with anything book related is my LOVE language. πŸ’ž
 
My Book Preferences
  • Life's too short to read books I don't like. Those one-star reads always end up as DNF (did-not-finish).
  • A five-star rating doesn't mean I think the book is perfect. It means I think it's amazing despite any "imperfections."
  • The books that end up as my favorites are the ones I get lost in; the ones that while reading, I lose all track of time; the ones that evoke the strongest emotions; the ones that make me laugh, cry, blush, gasp, and sigh.
  • I enjoy dual timeline stories but have a strong aversion to extensive flashbacks.
  • I will stop reading a book if there are too many characters introduced right away. 
  • I prefer snappy dialogue and little rambling inner monologues.
  • As in real life, I absolutely deplore excessive SMS shorthand!
  • While I can accept a certain amount of the "eye dialect" style of writing, I get irritated when it goes to the extreme.
  • I always favor the "good guys" and don't want to spend much time in the point of view of the "bad guys." If the book ends in favor of the evildoers...I will be extremely displeased!
  • Although I’m noticing more and more books with content warnings, I have yet to notice a warning for graphic descriptions of animal abuse & neglect, fishing, hunting, butchering, etc. I don’t know if I would consider myself “triggered” by these accounts, but I most certainly consider them to be unforgivably upsetting. 
  • While I find great writing inspiring, I genuinely enjoy a good read purely for entertaining escapism.
  • I've found that when I'm in a reading slump (don't those freak you out?) picking up one of my very favorite re-readable paperbacks is all it takes to make things right in my reader world. 
  • Real life is tough. Give me those happy endings!  
And they lived…

 My Reading Process
  1. I always read the Kindle versions first because all notes and highlighting are archived online. (Sources: Overdrive, Kindle Unlimited, and Amazon purchases.)
  2. For the Kindle books that are 4 or 5-star reads, I'll acquire the audiobook version if the narration is favorable to me. (Source: Audible)
  3. For those re-readable favorites, it's my goal to have signed copies to do all future rereads with. (Sources: the indie bookstores listed below and authors' websites.)
  4. When I love a book enough to own the Kindle, Audible, and signed paperback versions those are treasures and I call them my "trinity books."
My paperback reading experience πŸ“–
 (Book sleeve & bookmark via Etsy. Signed book by Nora! Book light from Amazon)
 
 
Mysteries, Suspense, and Thrillers, Oh My!
 
Romance may be my preferred genre but that doesn't mean I don't read others. Mysteries, suspense, & thrillers are my next favorite genres. I've read these series in their entirety, and if they are continuing series, I read them as they are released.

For these series, I've read many/most of the books but haven't continued for whatever reasons. My curiosity just might lead me to the next in the series, though.
 
Cataloging My Library
 
My first "database" was index cards, which evolved into a custom File Maker Pro database, and finally into using BookCollector on my PC, which I have since 2005. I can also access my database using the accompanying CLZBooks app on my iPhone and iPad. 
 
I think I may have been a librarian in another life because next to reading keeping my book database updated is my favorite "hobby." 

And those notes and highlighting I do with Kindle books, well, those help me assign tags to all of the books I read. I need those tags to help me remember the details about the books because my memory is so poor. Even with the books I absolutely love.

My current database contains more than 4,500 books. The following is an example of a book's BookCollector entry with all of the data I rely on. I can't express how much I love having all of that information available at my fingertips! 

(NOTE: I needed to get a new laptop computer in 2023 and after restoring my BookCollector database from the CLZ Cloud I found my entire list of thousands of book characters did not sync! I was told that that field is not synced to the cloud after I noticed mine missing. I still love this company's products but am extremely disappointed not to have known this. Please consider yourself warned. If you use BookCollector and have it sync to the CLZ Cloud, several fields do not sync. These are the fields that do sync. My database automatically backs up to my Dropbox and I manually back it up to my external SSD after every major update!)
 
Screenshots of a book's entry in BookCollector

My Best Book Boyfriend List
 
 

 
When it comes to book boyfriends I don't go for the bad boys. My top twelve favorite fictional boyfriends are all respectful, honorable, loyal, intelligent, empathetic, and loving men! And other than Jamie Fraser and Nick Cappuano they are all fairly low drama dudes. Ah, but if we're talking the brave, heroic, and protective types, I can't think of another romance author who writes those heroes like Pamela Clare does. Not only is she an exceptional writer but her editing skills are now available to other authors. (Check out my Pamela Clare Collection)
  1. Jamie Fraser (Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon)
  2. Christopher Lallek (Family Blessings by LaVyrle Spencer)
  3. Landon Lucas Maxfield (Easy & Breakable by Tammara Webber)
  4. Matt McKinney (Worth the Fall by Claudia Conner)
  5. Nick Cappuano (The Fatal Series & The First Family Series by Marie Force)
  6. Brooks Gleason (The Witness by Nora Roberts)
  7. Ronan Thatcher (The Brawl by Willa Nash {Devney Perry}) 
  8. Cole Goodman (The Birthday List by Devney Perry) 
  9. Dax Moody (Moody by Penelope Ward)
  10. Brooks McClain (Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis Graves)
  11. Silas Wright (Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score) 
  12. Baxter Pang (Runaway Fate by Elizabeth Hunter)
Featured Book Reviews
Featured Entries
My Years in Review
Related Items
 Indie Book Stores I've Ordered From
Resources for Readers
 This is my reading journey, what's yours?
 
 
 (rev. 03/24/2024)


Comments

Amy L said…
Love this! I need to catalog mine.

I can’t remember ever not loving to read! I had my nose in a book at all possible times when I was a kid!
Virginia Hill said…
Amy, you’re someone I figured has loved to read since childhood. Thank you so much for sharing!
Megan Pomeroy said…
I have been reading since I was a little girl. I learned to read with the "Little Bear " series of books. I can remember sitting in a chair with my mother and brother as she read to us. I also went to both libraries on Capitol Hill (since I grew up in D.C.) and getting stacks and stacks of books, which I read voraciously. I still have a rolling backpack I take to the library, plus a stack of additional library books, plus three more books I bought at Barnes and Noble. The best part of my day is when I climb in bed with my book and read until I am sleepy (or sometimes until I fall asleep!). My favorite genre is mysteries; right now I am into British police procedurals. I mostly read modern-day books but I do like British Golden Age mysteries too. My ex-husband told me I "go through books like potato chips"!

I love hearing about your reading story, Virginia! Thanks for sharing!

P.S. Please forgive any typos or misspellings - I am typing this on my phone!
Virginia Hill said…
Megan, thank you SO much for sharing your wonderful reading life! I can almost picture you and your brother being read to by your mom. I’m not familiar with the “Little Bear” series, but if it fueled your childhood reading it’s a winner. I’m curious how you are introduced to the books you read.

I enjoy a good mystery but think I end up reading more suspense. My favorite continuing mystery series is historical: Molly Murphy Mysteries by Rhys Bowen.

Thanks again for sharing!
Anonymous said…
Awwww, I love reading about our reading history together when I was growing up. You talk about so many special people and moments in your life around books, and I love how you've really included a summary page of everything to know about you as a reader! As for book pet-peeves, truly, there not often being an "animal harm/death" trigger listed for book drives me up a wall! I just finished reading a book series with animal death, where the author actually included a "TW" right in the beginning introduction to the book, which she offered for every book in her series! This is "The Duskwalker Brides" series by Opal Rayne that you've heard me talk about lately (heehee~). Contrast this to a book I just read yesterday, where I was very surprised and disgusted by hunters in the woods being incredibly horrible (I will not include further details, the book is "His Darkest Craving" by Tiffany Roberts (a married couple who writes books together). The hunters get there immediate comeuppance, which is the only reason why I continued reading.

I absolutely think the dreamy romantic leads with whom the protagonist has a wonderful happily-ever-after are the key to healing my soul~ Also when the characters have palpable chemistry enough to where my *heart* hurts in my chest!

I want to keep diving through this page, I think I'll be able to find some recommendations and things to talk about~

Sqwudges,
D.D.
Paula Celeste said…
A Love Letter to Books and Libraries

Dear Vee,

Your blog post was a delight to read. It was like opening a treasure chest full of goodies, each one more interesting and useful than the last. You have a wonderful way with words!

I think I was born with a book in my hand. As a four-year-old, I would devour anything with words on it, from phone books to my dad's medical school textbooks to encyclopedias. Back then, people thought it was just a quirky habit. Now, as an autistic person, I understand it better. Books were my window to the world, my source of comfort and joy.

I had many favorite books as a child, but some of the ones that stand out are: the Dr Seuss series, the Little House on the Prairie box set, the Lang's Fairy Tales (each book was a different color), the Enid Blyton books, the Nancy Drew series, every Little Golden Book ever made, the Well-Loved Tales series, the Rand McNally Junior Elf series, the All Of A Kind Family series, the Encyclopedia Brown series, Heidi, Black Beauty, Pippi Longstocking, the Sesame Street books, Eight Cousins, Anne of Green Gables, Trixie Belden, and the Mt. Hawley Miniature Fairy Tale Books. Wow, that's a long list!

I loved sharing my passion for books with others. I would read to my little brother (who is four and a half years younger than me) or make up song stories for him every night until he could read his own books in bed. Years later, I did the same for my own kids. One of my fondest memories is reading the Magic Schoolbus series to my youngest child.

I don't remember when I got my first library card, but it must have been pretty early. I adored the summer reading programs that libraries would organize. The summer I was nine (in 1978), I won first place for reading 100 books at the Roseburg Public Library in Roseburg, Oregon. I received a ribbon, a certificate, a letter signed by the governor, and a gift certificate for the local t-shirt shop. I still remember going with my dad and picking out a baby blue t-shirt with a glittery, rainbow emblem that said "Daddy's Girl".

Libraries are my happy place. I can lose myself for hours browsing the shelves. My brain wants to see every single book cover and title. I love data and organization, and I actually miss the old card catalog system. I can still hear the sound of the wooden drawers opening and closing, and the paper sounds of the index cards. Wasn't that heavenly? I feel sorry for kids today who don't get to experience that.

Unfortunately, I haven't read as much as I would like in the last 10 years. There were several reasons for that, too complicated to explain here. After my disability and poor health forced me to retire early, I started reconnecting with books again. I still have about a dozen boxes full of books from my childhood and beyond, but because of chronic pain, I now prefer reading on my iPad with the Kindle app. It's easier on my arms and neck.

As for what I like to read, I tend to favor non-fiction works like memoirs, biographies, travelogues, art and poetry books, and the occasional reference book or cookbook. When I was a teen, I got into true crime and historical romances. I have recently rediscovered these cozy, sweet romances and I'm thrilled to see that there are so many authors for me to explore. Thanks to my love for Hallmark Christmas movies, I'm also going to give the Christmas romance genre a try.

My reading thank you list would mainly consist of all the librarians I ever met in my 54 years of life. They are the unsung heroes of the literary world. I would also thank my parents for letting me read all the strange things I read as a young child, and most recently, I would thank my friend Vee, whose blog post inspired this love letter. She has inspired me, educated me, made organizing more fun, and introduced me to this whole "clean romance" genre that I never knew existed. Thank you, Vee, for being such a great friend and a fellow book lover!
Virginia Hill said…
My darling girl, I love you so much and hope you always find unending pleasure, knowledge, adventures, escapism, and LOVE in the books you read!

MWAHS & SQUDGES,

Mama
Virginia Hill said…
Dear Paula, how happy I was to read your beautiful reading 'herstory'! It's written so vividly and with such affection!

I'm unfamiliar with some of the books you mentioned but we have the Little House on the Prairie and Magic Schoolbus series in common. I read both to my darling daughter.

Did I know or had I forgotten about your living in Roseburg in your younger years? My uncle lived there for many years before passing away in 2019.

You have quite an eclectic mix of favored genres. Go you!

Here's to you always enjoying your time reading. We definitely live many lives within their pages!