One of my favorite past times is reading.  Just about anything I can get my hands on.  Books, magazine articles, blogs, cartoons, really anything is fair game.  However, between numerous moves, either in college between dorm rooms (we had to move every summer, even if we were going to move right back into the same room), or moving to or back from overseas, I’ve had to whittle my physical book collection down quite a bit.  I did keep my copy of the Once and Future King, because it’s my favorite book ever, but pretty much everything else was on the chopping block.

(Side Note – I could never stand Catcher in the Rye.)

I did get a kindle a few years ago (not the Fire, an older one) as a Christmas present, but then realized that new kindle books are nearly as expensive as buying hardback real books from the bookstore.  Previously, I got books from library sales, sidewalk sales, friends, or book exchanges with family.  There just are not that many books I’ve purchased for $15 or more.  So I despaired of ever being able to just sit and read a new book again.

Then, technology came to the rescue.  I’m sure I’m behind the curve on this one, but I discovered a few months ago that my local library has something called Overdrive, which allows someone with a library card to check out up to three (I believe they just raised it to five) books a month.  Because I tend to work the same hours the library is open, I don’t get a chance to go in very often, but now I can browse the selections and check books out anytime.  And, I don’t have to pay for them!

Like any library, there are drawbacks.  There’s a limit to the number of books that can be checked out or placed on hold, and for some reason, there is not an unlimited number of books available – as in sometimes other people will be reading the same book, so just like with a physical copy, you have to put a hold on the book so you’re next in line.  It must be a licensing thing, since there doesn’t seem to be any reason multiple people can’t read a digital book at the same time.  Also, some newer books aren’t always available, but I believe that is a common issue at physical libraries as well.

In the time I have discovered this (probably not) new phenomena, I’ve read 14 books (not many, I know.  I work…) which if bought new, assuming an average cost of $10 each, would have cost around $140 all told, plus taxes.  I love the freedom of being able to pick up a new book, and go into an entirely different world, or learn something new about my own, and not have to worry about the cost.  The spouse also discovered that he can take a Spanish Rosetta Stone course through the library, online, so he’s slowly working his way through it.  That’s another $140 we didn’t have to spend!

Just to give everyone a sneak look at what goes on in my head, I’ve linked the 14 books to Amazon, along with a small blurb about it.  Once and Future King is also linked because, as I noted, it’s my favorite book and I firmly believe everyone should read it at least once.

Money:

Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey – great how-to book on getting started with saving, paying off debt, and prioritizing spending.  You don’t have to follow everything, but it’s a good place to start.

Poor Economics:  A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, Abhijit V. Banerjee – looks at the decision-making of people in some of the worst poverty, and attempts to explain why certain “irrational” behaviors may be rational based on the circumstances.

History:

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, Howard Zinn – You don’t have to agree with everything Howard Zinn proposes to thoughtfully engage with the history of the US and wonder about our collective place in history.

Civilization: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson – I’m not sure I agree with the premise of the book that the rise of the West is the most important thing to happen in world history, but as a comprehensive overview of the march towards modernity of Western civilization, this is a good primer.

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer – Possibly biased, but thoroughly researched, and somewhat terrifying.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, Mary Beard – I’ve always loved classical history, and this is a particularly well-written, human-level account of the rise and fall of the Republic, and the fall of the Empire.

Other (Sci-Fi/Fantasy):

Neil Gaiman: Ocean at the End of the Lane and Stardust

Brandon Sanderson: Steelheart and Firefight

Kevin Hearne: Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered

Jim Butcher: The Aeronaut’s Windlass