Hi, my name is Jess and I have a problem.

I look at reading different than most people. To me, it’s the same as breathing; I don’t even consciously think about it. It’s a part of my routine. I have never thought of it as optional or consider it a hobby. I read to live…and live to read.

For as long as I can remember, I have been this way. If you ask me what I like to read, I will say, “All of it.” I read news articles, magazines, devotions, blogs, reviews, brochures; heck, I will even read a thesaurus sometimes! My TBR list should just say, “All the books!” I can find a reason to read just about any genre. (My last read taught me how to find the Loch Ness Monster -it is surprisingly easy, according to Sara Gruen.) Now, I do have certain genres that I prefer, so when I get a hankerin’ for a dark, twisty crime novel, or crave a trip to another era, I have a (long) categorized list waiting.

I use an app called Goodreads to catalog what I’ve read. There are lots of different apps and websites out there, but I started with this one years ago and it has served me well, not only for tracking books I’ve read but also to find my next read. It works like this. Once you have logged several books, and rated them, it makes recommendations based on your tastes. It is a huge database, filled with every book you can imagine (even children’s books!) so the more you use it, the better your results will be. I have discovered tons of really great books this way. Now, keep in mind, it is a computer algorithm so don’t expect it to be perfect. When I first started, I obviously put in my all time favorite books from childhood (because they are great literature!) and it kept recommending things like Nancy Drew and Charlotte’s Web. Let’s just say you don’t have to catalog all of the books you read – just the one’s you would like to read more of. After 7 years, I have over 500 books logged and I use this almost exclusively to pick my next reads.

Now, here’s a fun fact for ya…as much as I read, and as much as I love the feel of a book in my hands, I do not buy the books I read. I am a library girl! The library is my happiest place on earth (and I got the t-shirt to prove it!) Call me a cheap skate if you want but as much as I read I would be living on the streets if I paid for books! I have this deal with my library – I request books I want to read from their website and they call me when a book is in. They have a network of sources they can pull from if they don’t have a particular book. I can get hard-to-find titles this way, as well as new releases that aren’t even on the shelves! If they don’t own a copy of the book I want, and it isn’t available from one of their network libraries, they will buy it and let me read it first! It’s amazing. I’m kind of a big deal in the library circuits. (Kidding. They don’t even act like they know me and I am in there every week.) Sometimes I just pop in and walk around. I can’t go long without visiting; I have to be among the books periodically. It’s kind of like a drug.

Now, I do own some books. I collect my favorites – F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wilke Collins, and Henry James are displayed proudly on my spiffy new bookshelves. I am always on the lookout for bargains on the Classics. The library book sale is a great place to find deals on books. I always leave with a bag full and generally spend less than $5 per trip. I am a big fan of used bookstores, as well. If I am traveling, I love to search out the local book shops. These are becoming more and more scarce so it has become my mission to support them all that I can. In Cape Girardeau, I frequently visit The Book Rack. They are so friendly and even let me use their private bathroom once. Shhh…don’t tell.

When I’m not reading, I’m listening to podcasts about reading. (I know how it sounds and I don’t even care.) My favorites are What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel and All the Books with Liberty Hardy. There are oodles (yes, that’s a word) of them out there but these two gals have the least annoying voices. I know, I am petty and judgmental but you try listening to someone drone on and on about their favorite Australian non-fiction writer who just released a new cookbook and tell me you wouldn’t agree. I rest my case. Anyway, these podcasts are very similar in that they just sit and discuss books and then recommend others you might like. It’s pretty much like the Goodreads algorithm except they’ve read the recommendations and can give you tips like, “this one is great on audio” or “ignore the jacket cover and just start reading it.” (Honestly, I will usually jot down their recommendations and then pull them up on Goodreads later to read the summary. It’s a process.)

As if that isn’t enough, I also follow publishers on twitter, Facebook and Instagram to hear about upcoming releases by my favorite authors  (who I also follow on all the social media outlets.) I keep tabs on “Best of” lists on sites like Book Riot and Literary Hub. I grab a copy of the monthly Book Page newspaper at the library to see what is trending at libraries across the US. I guess you could say I’m obsessed.

You would think I would be an expert because, “Geez, you eat, drink, and breathe books!” but I don’t consider myself one. I will read just about anything – but I wouldn’t recommend some of it to certain people – because let’s be honest, I’m an anomaly. However, if you want to talk books, I’m your girl. After all, I’ve done my research; I would love to compare notes. See you at the library!




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