Building a Modern Home Library

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A Random Assortment of Texts

Almost everybody has a bookshelf in their home.

Whether you have a huge house or a tiny apartment, you probably have a few texts sitting spine-out, or piled haphazardly on a coffee table.

But have you ever given a lot of thought to the books you own, or what they say about you?

As part of my overall move to be “more intentional” with my choices and object ownership, I sorted through a bunch of old books on my shelves (and in boxes) to sell or donate. It got me focused on my book collection, or personal library. It turns out the internet says those are different things! This article on AOM and this piece over at BookRiot are solid starting points on the history of, and differences between the two.

Suffice to say, I seem to fall into the “personal library” category since I’m not any sort of enthusiast collector looking to round out a focused, complete set. I prefer a varied flavor of interests, spanning fiction and non-fiction.

How To Choose Your Books

I’ve hung on to a number of books, mainly paperbacks, through school and book trades. Once I started filtering, I realized many of them would go into the donation pile. Being older and more settled means I’m not averse to adding hard covers into this more curated personal library. I used to move around a lot, and my fear of immovable boxes full of hard covers was intense.

This is the tough part. Defining what I really want to keep. What really deserves a spot on that limited shelf space? What “sparks joy”, to get all Marie Kondo about it.

My hardbound edition of Moby Dick and overly extravagant copy of Lovecraft’s Complete Cthulu Mythos were easy picks, and there were some hard fought paperbacks that ended up in the Goodwill stack. I have been selecting keepers using a system of “what would this library fundamentally say about me to a stranger?” So far it’s shaping up as a potpourri of horror, early 20th century American literature, and books on writing craft and photography.

An unintended goal of a personal library (or book collection) is accumulating value. Part of me feels like when I die, it would be embarrassing to have called myself a writer and not have at least a few books that are worth something on my shelves, even if my relatives just sell them on eBay or at an estate sale. Nobody wants a 9th edition paperback of Gibson’s Neuromancer scrawled with my insane margin notes…

Lists To Get Started

pexels-photo-1148399Back in 1998, a (now) controversial list of the Top 100 Novels was released by Modern Library. It has been criticized as not diverse enough, and also as a guerrilla marketing tool for Penguin Random House’s classics division.

I have to say, at least for me, there is some good stuff on it. I might have a hardbound copy of As I Lay Dying on its way from eBay. Might.

You might have already read a bunch of these books as required from school and formed an opinion of them. If they aren’t your speed and you want something a little more contemporary, I have been plumbing the list of Man Booker Prize award winners. This Goodreads list puts them in a nicely rated chronological order, and you can peruse details. Honestly, you could do a hell of a lot worse for a personal library OR a book collection than to get every Booker winner inside four walls.

Beyond big lists, I’ve found that social media groups, forums, and Reddit are great if you’re looking to shore up more specific genre tastes that are outside the mainstream.

Do You Collect or Curate?

I foresee my personal library as a long-term, ongoing effort. Being a frugal Yankee, most purchases now land on my Kindle, but that only makes the physical books “worthy” of a shelf slot all the more special.

Do you have a book collection or personal library? Do you have any tips or a specific system you use to grow it? Or is your home just filled with teetering towers of unread tomes? Feel free to share down in the comments!

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Blogs Are Still Relevant in 2019

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While putting in extra time to market the re-release of Detroit 2020, I have been giving a lot of thought to blogging. In particular, blogs versus social media.

While I forcibly had to upgrade to a smartphone from last year’s beloved flip phone, I still refuse to put any social media apps on it, because of all the creativity-stifling reasons outlined here.

I’ve reduced my usage to Twitter alone, via a desktop app. I feel it’s a better way to interact with the service.

But enough about that…

If you’re a writer, or anyone with a serious artistic hobby, I want to convince you that having a blog is still totally relevant in 2019. You might think blogs are falling by the wayside, but I believe they are still a powerful tool for relationship building.

Blogs Are Your Space

Blogs are a place for you to compose complex thoughts, and more nuanced posts on broad topics. They are also a place that you can display or discuss your creative work to an audience. That body of work comes together and creates a much stronger online identity and portfolio of work than the limited profile spaces that social media sites give you. Most of those social profiles give you a spot to place your URL. You should have a blog to put in there. This is especially true if you pay for your own blog hosting and can customize things extensively.

Blogs Promote Long-Form Content

Readers want long form content. Videos, memes, and 280-character posts are generally glorified fluff commentary. To really understand something and have an informed conversation that is more than just noise, you need “long reads”. Blogs are still the best place online for that. No imposed limitations and the ability to use different forms of media to create complex posts. That old saying “content is king” still applies.

Blogs Are Easy

People say things like “I don’t get Twitter.” or “I don’t get Instagram.” Social media platforms all have different little quirks and systems that they use to stand out. Those quirks create a learning curve, and sometimes rules of etiquette. Blogs are so much easier. You just click, read, and then comment if you are inclined. There’s no hashtags or icons or flags to figure out why (and if) you should be pushing them.

Blogs Build Real Audiences

Blogs build relationships. They create “real readership” and and an engaged audience. Most social media entails “liking” a post, and maybe a quick comment or two. It’s essentially saying “Hey, we both enjoy this same thing. Cool.” and not much happens after that. Bloggers can guest post, link to one-another, and re-use or share content in a number of ways with other like-minded people. Plus, similar to email lists, readers/followers are generally much more committed than on social media sites. I know personally that I see familiar faces on this blog commenting and interacting with posts. That’s a rare situation on Twitter, especially once you break the 100 Follower mark.

Blogs Are Future Proof

Social media sites are under increasing scrutiny, and the next new thing is always trying to usurp the current leaders. Blogs are a mature technology, like email, that can be moved to different hosting sites and create a body of work that is persistent and owned by its creator (usually). Plus, outside of occasional ads, blogs aren’t secretly harvesting your personal data just to use them. They are still a more “pure” form of internet communication. Sure, the author may want to sell you something, but they are more up front about it. And often, many bloggers post just for the sake of it with no ulterior motives.

These are just a few of the reasons I believe blogs are still relevant in 2019 and better than social media. If you’re an author or artist reading this and don’t have a blog or a personal website with the ability to make blog posts, I implore you to get one.

 

Flip Phone 4 Lyfe

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I switched back to a flip phone a few months ago.

After my 3rd smartphone in 4 years broke, I got frustrated with such expensive products being so fragile, and on a whim at the store I said “screw this, do you have flip phones?” The girl at the store laughed and said, “Yes. Those still exist”. I now have a phone that makes calls, texts, and can sync email and calendars, plus some other basic things like an alarm clock and FM radio. It costs $20 a month.

I wanted to save money on my mobile bill and have a sturdier device, but this is the stuff I didn’t expect:

  • That I’d spend a few days freaking out in some kind of weird “smartphone withdrawal”, habitually touching my pocket, while trying to remember how to use T9.

  • That my social media usage would basically dwindle to nothing (a few times a week) because that urge to scroll was no longer there.

  • That my attention span and focus would slowly improve over weeks, to the point I’m way more productive at work and at knocking out long overdue “to do” lists.

  • That I would notice friends, family, and like 50-80% of random strangers with their heads buried in a screen FAR more than I ever had before.

  • That I am becoming intolerant of people replying “huh?” or “wait, what did you say?” in conversations when their faces are buried in those screens.

  • That I would start consuming art & entertainment & news much more deeply. Reading text more slowly, and not half-watching movies while looking at IMDB to figure out “what else that guy was in”.

  • That I would pick up the nice digital camera I received a few years ago as a gift and rediscover a love of photography – capturing fewer photos with an intention of artistic expression, not just mindless snapshots of food.

  • That Garmin GPS have a McDonald’s button in 2018 (What a time to be alive!)

  • That a pencil and 50 cent notebook works nearly as well as Google Keep.

  • That I can be bored again, and boredom is a good (and sometimes scary) thing that can be filled with creativity and introspection.

  • That being the only person in a Starbucks not on a smartphone makes you look like a WEIRDO since people watching is apparently rare and frowned upon these days?

  • That only charging my phone about once a week, and not really caring if I forget it at home are quite freeing.

  • That smartphones are really cool, and super convenient, but convenience comes with costs that I don’t think society has fully recognized yet.

  • That it is really, REALLY satisfying to snap your phone shut when some annoying telemarketer calls you.

TL;DR – I went back to a flip phone and it had a bunch of unexpected benefits. You might want to try it out sometime.