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March 2018

Cabbages and kings, and whether pigs have wings...

...and what to do with Citizen Reader? Those are the questions.


If you were here on Monday, you got to witness the slow burn of my continuing midlife crisis, which mainly involves me not knowing how to best spend my time. Mostly I don't know how best to develop my professional self, which is a problem for a whole other blog (or therapist, or something). But recently I have faltered even in my one hobby: my reading self.* And, by extension, my blogging self. So, what to do?**

I want to make CR something different, something fun, something useful. So here were some things I was thinking about doing.

  1. A very slow, very intense nonfiction book club meeting. Like there's this great little book by Garret Keizer (he of the teaching memoir Getting Schooled) titled Privacy that I would love to read and discuss. Mainly because I find the subject interesting, but also because it's not the kind of book you can just pound through for fun. I've read parts of it before and put it down because I wanted to return to it when I had more time to savor it. So maybe a weekly book club meeting where we discuss one or two chapters of a specific book a week?
  2. Just pulling out favorite quotes from books I'm reading and posting those, letting you make your own decision based on the writing, if it's a book you want to read.
  3. Something like "An Education in Nonfiction." I'd love to mine this blog for some of my favorite and, I hate this descriptor, but here goes, "life-changing" nonfiction I've enjoyed. Nonfiction books that really shifted my thinking or shed a lot of light or just really taught me a lot about the world in one simple reading. Not a list of best books. Not a list of "should read" books. More like a compilation of my Nonfiction Greatest Hits, and what they meant to me. And asking if any of you have read them, and what they meant to you.
  4. Oooh, I almost forgot, how about Year of the Essay? Where we read and discuss just one essay by various authors throughout the year? I know essays are popular, but I don't think they get their due, either on review blogs or in the library worlds of collection development and readers' advisory.
  5. Some combination thereof.

What do you think? What would you like to see us read and talk about? I do think I'd like to return to the major emphasis being on nonfiction. I read a lot of fiction too, but man, I read a lot of crap fiction that I don't make it all the way through, and a lot of the stuff I do make it all the way through, I just do because I'm hate-reading it. Besides, everyone else talks about fiction. After many years of chasing reading and book headlines, I know this: I CANNOT PRETEND I CARE ABOUT THRILLERS OR THE LATEST NEW THRILLER JUST COMING OUT anymore.

Do let me know what you think we should do. I'd love to increase commenting and readership because that's really the most fun part of this entire endeavor anyway. We all need a bit of connection, and I'm no exception, even if I am introverted and grouchy and misanthropic and I don't really like Neil Gaiman. It has been an honor all these years to share reading connections with all of you. (Thank you again for that.)

*Once I filled out a questionnaire on which I was supposed to list hobbies or things I enjoyed doing. So I listed "reading," and then I had to stop and pause. I thought about writing "cooking" or "baking," but then remembered what I really like to do is read books about cooking. Ditto gardening, and ditto music, ditto everything, really, including travel, although I do like to actually travel, it's just that my time and budget constraints don't really lend themselves to travel right now. So I just left it at "reading." Yup. I made myself sound REALLY exciting on that questionnaire.

**This post is about how I want to change Citizen Reader. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I also want to change how I blog at The Great British TV site. Namely, I'd like to spend more time writing there. Because if there's anything that comes close to matching my love of reading, it's my love of watching British TV.

Time for something new at Citizen Reader.

'The time has come," the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings.”*

I actually only know that poem (or part of it), because it was in one of my favorite bits of the kids' classic Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. When Harriet's nanny Ole Golly quits her job as nanny, she and Harriet trade the lines above, in a lovely, moving on, "the time has come" kinda way.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that the time has come for a change here at Citizen Reader.

Ever since the Reader's Advisor Online blog shut down (in May 2016--can you believe it's been that long?) I have been providing, in my typical half-assed way, a weekly list of reading and book news links on Mondays (titled the "Citizen Reading" posts). Let's get one thing straight: I had a lot of fun making those lists, complete with sometimes inappropriate commentary. I had a lot of fun, but I also spent a lot of time doing that. It becomes ever clearer to me that time is really not something I have a lot of to spare, right now, so I won't be providing those links lists anymore. (Not to worry--Neal Wyatt is still providing book headlines over at Library Journal. She's doing it more regularly than I was, and she's getting paid to do it, so we're going to let her do it. Also, Becky at RA for All is still blogging and providing a lot of librarian and readers' advisory professional development links--which I also tried to provide--so kudos to her also for doing that work.)

This is not only a time management issue. There are at least two other factors at play here. For the first, let me tell you a little story:

Lately I have been standing around a lot, looking into space and thinking about a variety of things: How many more years can I squeeze out of my aging car? How am I going to grow my freelance business so I can do it full-time when my littlest CRjr goes to school during the day? How did I get so old? How am I going to find the inner strength and patience to have the CRjrs cook at least one meal a week with me, so they learn not to be helpless in the kitchen? My "thinking face" must be a weird combination of thoughtful and accusing, because on several occasions in the past month both my eldest CRjr and Mr. CR have caught me looking at them while I think and have demanded, suspiciously, "What? Why are you looking at me like that?!?!?" And then I have to explain I'm actually not looking at or thinking about them at all.

So I wondered, why is this coming up so often lately? Why do I have so much time to be standing around making the people around me nervous? And then it hit me...since I have been trying to read less to give my eyes and eye muscles** a break, I am not standing around with a book in my hands AT ALL TIMES. Really. I have gotten in the habit of reading while I watch the boys***, as well as reading at pretty much every other time I can.

This indicates to me that I am reading too much. Of course I enjoy it, and I've sort of always been able to pass it off as work, but increasingly reading has become a crutch, an addiction, almost, to keep my mind occupied and not thinking about other things I should perhaps be thinking about. I also read a lot while I work and watch the boys because it's easy to do in ten-minute increments, which is about how long anything lasts in this house. I can pound through a lot of nonfiction in ten-minute windows, whereas it is not as easy to concentrate on other things like house improvement work or essay writing when I am interrupted that frequently.

So, firstly, I need to put down my "book as crutch" and re-calibrate my reading habits.

Also: I am tired of the emphasis current culture puts on the new, the exciting, the constantly updated. I don't think I really care anymore, other than finding books I want to read myself, what the fiction and nonfiction trends are. What the book and publishing stories are. (To be truthful I think I stopped caring about bookish current events when the Milo Yiannopoulos story hit.) I'm sick of churning through Internet links. I'm sick of the Internet, full stop.

So, secondly, I think I want to discuss books a different way.

What's it all mean? I don't really know. I do know that it DOESN'T mean I'm quitting Citizen Reader altogether. I can't give up Citizen Reader. I love it and if there's any readers of it still out there, I love you. But it's time, as the Walrus says, to talk of other things. You up for it? Pop round on Wednesday and I'll talk about kings and cabbages and maybe new directions for the blog. Please do join me.

*The Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll, at

**No worries. My eyes and eyesight actually seem fine. It's the actual muscles below my eyes that bother me; they're just very tired. I think I just overdid it reading online, scrolling Feedly for links, reading books, and not getting enough sleep.

***Okay, you probably think, good Lord, how closely watched are those two little boys, but honestly, I don't think it's just me being crazy, they seem to require a lot of watching and interaction. Even my sister, who has three kids, thinks my two are a bit of a handful. Let's just say that the one day a while back when I decided I was going to stop watching them as closely and let them work things out on their own, was the day I ended up driving one of them to the emergency room.