24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Month: March 2019

Abby Reads: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Ecco Press, 2014, 272 pages
Horror/Thriller

In Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, the people of America have been plagued with unseen creatures that, when viewed, cause the victim to go insane and inflict violence on others before killing themselves. When these creatures first arrive, Malorie soon discovers she is pregnant. It’s not long before she is convinced of the reality of these creatures, their existence and impact brought home by her sister’s grisly death. Malorie becomes a housemate at a small group of survivors and witnesses — and participates in — the various conflicts that come with dealing with this new world. In the present, Malorie endeavors to escape the house and make a perilous twenty-mile journey down the river where she’s been promised safety. But how do you navigate to a Image result for bird box book coverplace you’ve never been without opening your eyes?

If you’d asked me before I read Bird Box if I liked horror novels, the answer would have been no. I tried Stephen King when I was in middle school (Pet Sematary, if you’re curious) and was bored to tears over it, so I figured horror just wasn’t my thing. While I’d read a few other things marketed as horror since (Asylum by Madeleine Roux, for example), nothing in literature really scared me. Plenty of people said they’d read books they couldn’t read at night they were so terrified by them — often listing Pet Sematary as their own example — and so I figured there was something wrong with me.

Bird Box did not keep me up for fear — but it did keep me up for wanting to read more. Though I don’t have a lot to compare it to (see the previous paragraph), Bird Box feels painfully original and Malerman does an astounding job at creating tension and a weird sense of slow urgency in the context of his highly inventive plot. As the reader moves between Malorie’s present and past, the question remains until the end as to whether or not she and the two children she brings with her will survive and thrive.

Though Malorie begins as one of the more blase characters when it comes to the existence of the creatures at the beginning of the novel, she is easily one of the most neurotic about surviving them by the end. It’s this character development that pushes Malerman’s novel to the top. Originally somewhat self-absorbed and, aside from her pregnancy, fairly lighthearted, Malorie ends up a nervous wreck who is specific, demanding, harsh, and tense. She names the children Boy and Girl, fully aware of how futile it seems to give “real” names to children who don’t live in a “real” world and may not survive the day. Meanwhile, deceit and alliances create fascinating relationships throughout the novel with a manageable size of a cast. Seemingly small choices, like the lack of names for the children, indicate in very powerful ways the mental states of the characters and Malerman manages each character fantastically this way.

Malerman doesn’t push the gore too much in the novel. This means when he does describe scenes of carnage, it’s especially effective. Malerman is sometimes restricted by perspective of his characters who are often forced to keep their eyes closed, but he uses this again to his advantage, creating suspense much like the lack of visual on the famed Jaws creates dread in Jaws.

Even if you’re not a fan of horrors or thrillers, Bird Box may be well worth a shot. On top of being fantastically exciting in the most dreadful way, the novel poses fascinating questions and is an impressive exercise of the senses. Fun and smart, the novel doesn’t take too long to read — no matter how I tried to pace myself, I just couldn’t. And once you’ve finished Bird Box, you can look forward to Malerman’s spring publication, Unbury Carol.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Pro Talk: How to Read More Books

At the end of 2018, I knew I wasn’t going to make my reading goal. I’d aimed for 110 and “only” managed 100. I didn’t count picture books, which I read at least four of a week during the course of story time at my day job, and I typically don’t listen to audiobooks just because of personal preference. If you’re not ultra-concerned about quality but want 2019 to be the year of quantity when it comes to books, check out the twelve tips below to maximize the number of books you read.

Read what you love, not what’s popular or prescribed.

There’s a lot of pressure to read the latest and hottest, especially if you work in the book world. And there is something to be said for staying aware of trends in publishing and popular works. But just because Oprah says you should read it, doesn’t mean you have to. Read what appeals to you, not just what’s popular or prescribed, and reading will keep from feeling like a chore. The more enjoyable it is, the more you’ll want to do it — the more you do it, the more books you’ll read. Simple!

Three letters: D. N. F.

I really need to take my own advice on this one. If a book just isn’t “doing it” for you, there’s no shame in putting it down and marking it as “did not finish.” A book, if it had expectations at all, cannot expect you to put in more than a good faith effort. That might mean the first chapter, the first thirty pages, or a solid 25% — whatever makes sense to you. Ultimately, there’s little sense in pushing through a book you’re not enjoying. If DNFing makes you anxious, consider instead giving yourself permission to put a book aside for a period of time — whether that’s days, weeks, months, or even years — and come back to it. Sometimes, our situation in life can make all the difference as to whether or not a book can hit its mark in you.

Read multiple books at once.

This strategy may be counterintuitive and, indeed, not work for some — for others, it might be a game-changer. The benefit of having multiple books going at once is that, the second you get bored of one, you can easily switch to another and keep the momentum going before you get too frustrated and give up entirely. When you’re in the right frame of mind, you may find you can easily return to a book with which you were easily frustrated. I find it’s useful to have a bedtime/house book and a going out book (and sometimes a gym book and a work book). The bedtime/house book is primarily read in bed or otherwise at home, going out typically stays in my bag and goes out with me (my Kindle is great for this because it’s small, lightweight, and fits into all my bags), the gym book keeps my brain entertained at the gym (also often via my Kindle as it’s easier to hold one-handed), and the work book is sometimes something I’m reading for work or have checked out from work (a library, if you didn’t know) so it’s naturally easy to have it available for slow periods or lunch breaks. I used to also keep a book going on OverDrive’s desktop reader, which allowed me to read bits and pieces during downtime at an office job.

Always have a book with you.

You’d be surprised at how much reading can accumulate when you sneak in a few minutes here and there. With my ereader on me all the time, it was easy to grab a few minutes of reading while waiting for the train, in line at the grocery store, or waiting on food at a restaurant. With my ereader, I had a small library on me at all times — and sometimes connection to my actual library’s digital database if I also had a wifi connection — and I could take it with me everywhere because of its small size and low weight. Soon enough, reading a few pages here and there added up to a whole book that I might not have otherwise been able to add to my have-read list.

Go for series with cliffhangers.

What’s better than a book you can’t put down? A series you can’t put down! Fly through a handful of books in a short period of time when you just have to know what happens next. You can’t know, of course, whether a book will land on a cliffhanger or not, but you can Google around — there are a few lists out there. Even if a book ends in a cliffhanger and doesn’t have a sequel, you might just plow right into the next book to avoid a book hangover.

Pick books with simpler prose.

The easier is something to read, the faster you’ll read it. Meant for younger readers, juvenile chapter books are often overlooked by adults but are actually the perfect place to start here. As a children’s librarian, I’m always encouraging adults to read juvenile literature. You might be surprised by how complex and poignant many of the stories are. If you aren’t sure where to start, try some award winners or revisit old favorites from your childhood to see how they hold up for you. These books also tend to be shorter, so many of them are easy to breeze through and push you to add another tally to your count of books read!

Listen to audiobooks.

I should preface this with the fact that I don’t consider myself an audiobook person and I very rarely listen to them — my attention span just can’t handle it. But I know a few folks who really bolster their have-read list with audiobooks, whether they listen at the gym, while cooking, on their commute, or some other time. Like ebooks, eaudiobooks can often be accessed through your library’s digital catalog and via your cell phone, so they’re easy to get when you’re out and about so long as you can get a quick wifi connection. Multitasking while reading (listening to audiobooks) naturally increases the time you spend reading and therefore the number of books you read in a year.

Read more graphic novels.

Like juvenile fiction, graphic novels are another easy way to pump up your have-read numbers. Generally, with fewer words to read and process, graphic novels (or memoirs, etc.) are typically faster reads than novels or nonfiction. It took me a long time to come around to graphic novels, but I finally discovered it was the kind of graphic novels I was reading that was holding me back. Highly stylized art and action stories don’t work for me, but bold, simple styles with more social or emotional plot lines are perfect. I found a lot to read in juvenile graphic novels and of the 25 books I’ve read so far this year, 10 have been graphic novels.

Select shorter books.

When racing against the clock for my annual Goodreads challenge the last couple of years, I’ve definitely resorted to selecting shorter books to read. For obvious reasons, this helped to ensure I’d finish on time. (Poetry is often a great candidate for this strategy!)

Ask friends/the internet/your librarian for fast-paced suggestions.

Shameless plug! Librarians handle books all day long, even if they haven’t read everything in their collection (spoiler: it’s impossible; I’ve tried). Therefore, they often have a good idea of which books are fast-paced and quick reads. Visit your library, fill out a reader’s advisory form on their website, or give them a call to get some suggestions of books that will keep you glued to your seat as you flip through them. Don’t underestimate your friends, either — crowdsource on social media or ask one-on-one, there are bound to be a few fast-paced books you haven’t heard of or read yet that they can suggest. And if all else fails, Google it. As for why this works — well, it’s pretty obvious: if a plot is exciting and compelling, you’ll be more interested in reading it.

Say yes to reading, not no to distractions.

One of the best pieces of advice I got last year during my own reading slump was from a coworker. She had taken the approach the previous year of saying yes to reading, rather than saying no to distractions — and it worked for her! I tried the same thing this year and even this simple reframing made a big difference for me. Don’t say no to your phone, social media, television, music, or whatever else might distract you: say yes to reading. Don’t say, “I’m not going to look at Facebook,” instead, say, “I’m going to read my book.” Simple mental reinforcement here may change things significantly for you, so don’t give up on it if it doesn’t work pronto.

Use a tracker/timer.

There’s nothing like good old shame to get your eyes on the page. Use the stopwatch feature on your phone or computer (or a real stopwatch) to track how much time you actually spend reading. Every time you pick up your phone to check the latest on Twitter, pause the watch, and only restart it when you begin reading again. Snack break? Pause it. Checking the mail? Pause it. You might be surprised by how little you’re actually reading. Take note of it and see if you can compete with yourself to read more going forward. You’ll be proud to see how you progress, and you may even notice a difference in your ability to focus for longer periods of time in your life outside reading.

Schedule reading time.

Ah, guilt, the great motivator. Studies show writing down your goals increases the likelihood of completing those goals. So, whether you track your to-dos with a bullet journal, keep a traditional planner, or you love Google Calendar, start putting reading time into your schedule. You might task yourself with a certain amount of time spent reading or opt to challenge yourself to read twenty pages a day. Whatever you go with, you’ll probably find checking that item off your to-do list super satisfying. And if you read more than what you’ve assigned yourself, there’s no shame in rewarding yourself — add a fun sticker to your to-do list proclaiming your success, get a special treat from your favorite bakery, or invest in a new book to keep the momentum up.

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