DIY Bookshelf

If you’re like me and you have a habit of occasionally reading and getting angry, as most people do, you’ll know that “bookcases” sold in stores exist only for storing a small pot of flowers and a couple CDs. Trying to store actual books on them is an absurd idea, as you will no doubt see here.

Sonofabitch!!

Sonofabitch!!

It is almost always true that the older something is, the more it was built to last. So vintage or antique bookcases are always superior, and often more beautiful,  but not always affordable. It may also happen that the place in which you’d like to store your books is not ideal for a bookcase. So this, Strangers, is why I built my own, and why you should consider doing so too.

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First of all, this shelf is built right into the wall, instead of being a standalone book case. So to give it a more “complete” look as opposed to something just floating (which is still not at all a bad choice) I covered the wall where the shelves would be with an accenting wallpaper, which came in a little roll at Walmart. Our living room is a beautiful grey-blue, so for the wallpaper I chose a distressed silver damask. I would also love to make a second accent with this above the mantle, but that will be for another day. The exact height of the paper doesn’t really matter. I matched mine up with the light switch and thus is looks somewhat like a back splash. You may want to get some help with this, because putting it up is very awkward. Consider it a team-building exercise.

A shelf I built 8 years ago with bird feeder hangers, and a great place to display my sword.

A shelf I built 8 years ago with bird feeder hangers, and a great place to display my sword.

Next up, the brackets. To know how far up the shelves need to be from each other, measure with your largest book. That way you’ll know that all of your books will fit and won’t have to be placed front end down, because that’s annoying and you can’t easily see what the book is that way. As far as horizontal distance, we placed each bracket more towards the center than on the absolute edges of the space to prevent bowing of the shelves. The longer your shelves are of course, the more brackets you’ll need. You can get these at different price points from Home Depot, but years ago I used beautiful wrought iron bird feeder hangers that cost just $2 each, so keep in mind that improvising is totally ok here. Remember also to use a level.

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For our own shelves we salvaged what was left of the old bookcase, but barring any available scrap you can get some small sturdy shelf boards from Home Depot or even better just cut some solid wood to size and stain it the shade of rich mahogany, or whatever color you prefer. You don’t absolutely need to secure the boards to the brackets. We didn’t. You’ll see here that although we used a level, the boards appear to be slanted. This is because the actual house is slanted, so what can you do.

Because our baseboards are quite high and we didn’t want to ruin them with holes, we used the baseboards themselves as a support system for the bottom shelf. To prop up the remaining corner we piled beautiful yet totally useless old dictionaries to the correct height. If your house is similar to ours in this way you can do the same thing, and use anything you like here, like a pretty dowel or a skull.

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Speaking of skulls, no spooky library is complete without one, so among some of the decorative features I placed on the shelves is a beautiful skull candle. The wax inside is red so it looks like it’s bleeding when you light it, but we thought it was just too pretty to burn. Don’t overdo the decorations though, this is a place for books after all. If your decorative items are heavy and unbreakable enough you can use them as book ends. Just to be sure though I used some cheap standard ones I got from Staples. You’re going to need book ends if your shelf doesn’t have sides!

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Ta-Da!

Creating shelf space in this way doesn’t have to be just for books, and is ideal for small spaces. We did this for night stands, and you can also put a very long shelf on the wall behind your couch to act as a console table or end table. You can even create a lovely little surface by lining an old drawer with beautiful wall paper and hanging it vertically on the wall as you can see in this lovely example. Of course once I do this I’ll probably still fill it with books.

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Kobo

Yeah it’s a post about reading. What-eva! I do what I want!

The first thing anyone knows about me is that I am a book FREAK. I read like it’s going out of style, I love to buy books, organize books, look at books, plan my next home library upgrade, scavenge through used book stores, the smell of them, everything. So it was only natural that my dad, who as a rule only buys technological gadgets as gifts, got me a Kobo Touch for Christmas. At first, I really did not want one. I love them, I love the idea of them being compact and portable and environmentally friendly, all of that. But how could I give up REAL books? Well obviously I didn’t have to. I made a weird little compromise with myself, and as long as I’m still buying the real thing, I really do enjoy reading them on my Kobo. Now I’ve read 3.

Good stuff:

-You can adjust the font and font size. A lot of books have very tiny print, now it’s not an issue.

-I’ll never run out of anything to read. Even if for whatever reason I had to stop buying real books, I’ve downloaded about 150 or so, so I won’t run out for many years, making this one thing I would definitely want with me on a desert island. In the past this has been an issue about once or twice a year, making me resort to whatever odds and ends I could find on my shelf. This is the reason I can say I’ve read A Practical Guide to Racism, and Why Do Men Have Nipples?.

-I’m not a bath person, but if I was, I could put this in a ziploc and read in the tub. Last time I tried this with a paper book, it got all soggy. Some obsessive readers have taken it into the shower. At least I can say I’m not THAT bad.

-Ebooks are pirate-able.

-If I’m leaving the house and know I will finish a book before I get home, it no longer means I have to cram two into my bag.

-Customizing with decals and cases is fun.

-Reading life, the Kobo page that gives you your reading stats, is also moderately fun.

The Bad:

Finishing a book on the Kobo and then starting another one is really anti-climactic. It doesn’t feel like you really DID anything. You just turn the page, touch the screen, and there’s another book. I love being able to close a paper book, go add it to the shelf, and pick up another one. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to me it kind of is. Kobo books just don’t feel that “real” to me. The compact-ness also has that downside. It’s just not that satisfying to stare at your screen of downloads like it is to gaze lovingly at your big beautiful library shelves. There’s something lame, artificial, and wimpy about it in comparison. And you can’t play with categorizing the books on the Kobo either. They’re just alphabetical. You can’t lend books on a Kobo out, and it’s pretty stupid to will your kobo to a needy school when you die. Ok now you think I’m crazy. But I have big plans for my library. Important ones.

So now I’m doing both. I’m downloading to the Kobo and reading whatever I find available for free on there. Whatever I read on it, I go ahead and buy a used copy of the real thing to flip through and all that good stuff. When I finish it, I still get to put the real thing on the real shelf. Whatever I can’t download, I just stick with the real thing. I’m not about to pay for the same book twice. I’m enjoying this system.

So whether you love ereaders or hate them, I can see your point. If you like both, go ahead and have both 🙂

Being Bad With Thrift

When is it good to buy bad?

While I believe in absolute luxury, we all have to come to terms with the obstacles of cost, time, and effort, and now environmental and ethical issues as well. Buying used is one of the best ways to overcome that.

I started buying used books purely for economic reasons. I loved to read, and dreamed of a library like the one in Beauty and the Beast. At 12-30$ each though, that could add up really quick. Used books could easily be bought for about 6$, and sometimes even as little as a few pennies. And the thrill of the hunt, when not simply scouring Amazon, was a lot of fun. I spent many sunny summer afternoons as a teenager locked away in one particular used bookstore downtown that had a whole wall of books on the paranormal. I treasure the books I bought there to this day, and they hold a lot of those memories for me. Old books can often fall into the category of affordable antiques, each one a little piece of history. I recently bought a bible from 1912 with all the names and addresses of the previous owners. One day I hope to read a book so old that the Ss look like Fs. That would be a real treat. It also helps that used books don’t signify that I haven’t read them yet, a testament to my terrible ADD. Plus new books are just so… crisp and modern. Blech.
It was only years later, when the Kindle came on the scene that I started paying more attention to the fact that all this paper consumption was a pretty destructive thing. Yet as much as I adore the Kindle, there’s just something to be said for shelves full of old books, a beautiful display of your little literary hopes and accomplishments (though after Mike gets one, I think I may just become a convert. The thing looks AWESOME). So what did I do? I kept buying used, of course. And now that I’m thinking more about the environmental consequences, AND saving for a house, I now make even more of a point of it. Even the newest publications can often be found used in as little as a few weeks. I’m having my cake and eating it too.

A few years after that I started reading a vintage lifestyle forum. One of the more interesting threads was about women who, while they would NEVER buy real, new fur, had no qualms about buying and wearing vintage fur. While I can still see there being a moral dilemma here, it’s worth at least considering. You’re not supporting an industry that harms and promotes the harm of animals, you’re recycling, and you’re at least giving the poor thing a good home as opposed to unceremoniously tossing it in the trash. These are not people who disrespect animals. In fact they’re wearing the vintage fur because it’s already out there, so it may as well go to use for someone who really appreciates it. This is an ongoing debate, but it makes perfect sense to me, even while I find most fur to be somewhat hard to pull off without looking like a tacky Cruella Deville. I do consider that a fur hat and wrap in the winter could be extremely nice. Leather comes into play here as well.

So go ahead and indulge in the things you want. Just remember to be creative while doing it, and give a good home to those “bad” things that others may now be avoiding more than ever. Reducing, reusing, and recycling means more wonderful things for all of us to enjoy.

Book Review: The Narcissism Epidemic

I’ll say it right now – This book will hit a lot of nerves. If you don’t approach it with an open mind it could easily come across as a bunch of bitching about everything that’s wrong with the world, and even you. But it serves a huge purpose. A lot of us just don’t see symptoms of narcissism for what they are anymore, and that’s why it’s such an epidemic indeed. It’s become totally normal in our culture to live above our means, worship our kids like gods, and obsessively focus on our appearance. These things almost always spring from good intentions, but taken to extremes are signs of real trouble: that you could be putting yourself before others, directly or even very indirectly, but no less significant. This is the difference between confidence and narcissism, and this book does an excellent job of detailing this difference in every aspect of our lives, as well as explaining how certain individual behaviors can be terribly dangerous to you and your family. A person who tans obsessively is at higher risk of developing cancer, the parent who wants the biggest house for their kids is more likely to end up bankrupt. It will make you look at the world – and yourself in a whole new light. You just have to be willing to shut up and listen, because these are not messages any of us are used to hearing, and haven’t been for the last 20 years (“You mean we *shouldn’t* be telling kids they’re special??”). I think it would be a good idea for anyone interested in modern society and especially those wanting to actually contribute something to the world besides a “I heart me and everyone else can suck it” attitude to read this. It will really open your makeup and surgery enhanced eyes.

For more on this book check out:

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2009/04/21/narcissism-epidemic-why-there-are-so-many-narcissists-now.html

http://veritas-point-counterpoint.blogspot.com/2009/04/are-we-in-narcissism-epidemic.html

http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/sdsuniverse/news.aspx?s=71137

Book Review: Goddess, The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe

I don’t normally read books this long, not because I can’t handle them but it’s hard for something to keep my attention for that long. Indeed this book lost my attention towards the end and I put it off for the following FIVE months before I finished it. I hadn’t even realized it had been that long, but it certainly explains why I so rarely venture into a book over 400 pages.
In the end, I did it because I was fascinated by the subject matter, Marilyn Monroe. She’s a one-dimensional icon, and she was a very 3-dimensional enigmatic human being. This book does a lot to scratch under the surface of her life and her psyche.
The most interesting part was one I had to wait for, in which new information and theories are given regarding her mysterious death. It goes beyond what we’ve all been hearing our whole lives and reveals some truly shocking statements from those involved, all extremely well supported with extensive research. But I won’t spoil it for you.
Above all what we learn in this book is that Marilyn Monroe was human. She had problems just as normal as the worst of us, and lead a life that was in reality far from glamorous.
It’s one of the many secrets in this book, that no matter who you are or your station in life, you’re still just human. We all have our dark and troubled sides, and we all put on a face for the camera. So maybe this is why we feel we can maybe be just as beautiful as glamorous as she was, because in many ways we already are.