Vote in the Inlander’s Challenge!

Here’s something fun, readers: to celebrate their water-themed releases, Dani Pettrey and Amanda Dykes asked their readers to submit pictures for an Inlander’s Challenge.

Photos showing readers plus any body or source of water qualified, and we have lots of fun entries in this photo album on Amanda’s Facebook page.

That’s where you come in. Dani and Amanda are asking readers to “like” their favorite photo (or photos) to vote for them. The winner will receive a copy of The Killing Tide and Whose Waves These Are. So what are you waiting for? Head on over and join in some summer fun.

What is your favorite water-related spot to visit during the summer?

7 Fun Book-Related Activities

Reading is a solitary activity…usually. But in honor of National Book Lovers Day, which is August 9, here are some ideas for games, events, and other outings that you can participate in with your reading friends or book club.

Dramatic Readings

If you have young kids, reading a book out loud might be a regular occurrence, but if you don’t, this can still be a fun way to share a book with others. Even if you’re not usually a dramatic person, you’ll be surprised at how fun it is to read aloud. You might even start slipping into different voices for the characters. This is great in a smaller group, so everyone can pass around the book and read a few pages.

I’d suggest something shorter—such as a middle grade novel, a memoir with episodic chapters, or a novella collection—so you don’t end up scheduling once-a-week readings for a decade to finish Storytime with Tolstoy.

Book Exchange

Gather some friends and ask them each to bring a book or two that they enjoyed but want to pass along to someone else. (Alternately, they can find a book they loved at a used bookstore.) Tell them to wrap up the book and write a few phrases that describe the book on the outside, such as the genre, setting, or the occupation of the main character. Let everyone choose a new-to-them book to take home with them based on those descriptions.

Book Photo Scavenger Hunt

For this, you can use your home library or journey out to a bookstore. Ahead of time, print a list of prompts for each participant (suggestions below, but feel free to add your own). Then set a time limit and gather again at the end to admire all of the bookish photos. For fun, consider giving a bookstore gift card to the person with the funniest or most original shots!

Sample Scavenger Hunt List: a selfie where you are imitating a cover, a book over 1000 page long, an author who shares your first name (or as close to it as you can find), two books displayed next to each other on vastly different topics, a poem made out of a stack of three or more bookspines, a kids’ book with over 20 animals on the cover, a how-to book you’d never personally buy, and the funniest title you can find.

Find a New Local Book Store

I’ve been in bookstores all over the United States on tours with authors, and I can tell you that no other place feels quite so much like home. You probably know if there’s bookstore in your area, but anytime you’re going on a vacation or even a day trip a few hours away, be sure to do a quick Internet search to see what bookish gems you might uncover.

Whenever I’m in Grand Rapids, I always end up buying something at Baker Book Store—their selection and recommendations are amazing. Here in Minneapolis, Wild Rumpus, a children’s bookstore with a variety of pets wandering around, is always fun for a visit.

Recreate a Cover

Pick some favorite books with people on the cover and do your best to recreate them. Bring along someone to serve as a photographer and prop master…or another model if there’s more than one character pictured. Becky Wade has done several of these with the help of her husband and/or kids, and the Bethany House staff even got into our own competition last year.

If you post the pictures on social media (which you should, because why keep all the fun to yourself?), tag the authors so they can enjoy what you’ve created…and maybe get a few laughs.

Book Balderdash

This one requires a little prep ahead of time. Search Amazon for some quirky book titles and covers (middle grade and YA books are often good for this, try not to pick anything too well-known). Read the plot description and write out a one-to-two sentence summary. Then gather some friends or your book club and show them, one at a time, just the title and cover of a book. Each person then has a few minutes to jot down their best—or most humorous—plot description of what that book could be about. Then mix the real description in with the fake ones and read them out loud, letting everyone vote on which they think is the actual plot.

Or, if you want to be able to participate too, don’t read the plot description ahead of time, just write your own description and then award points based on who came the closest to the actual plot (read it aloud after everyone submits their answers).

Book Recipes

Some books feature food prominently—you know the ones, with mouth-watering descriptions of flaky pie crust (hello, Beverly Lewis and Leslie Gould’s Amish fiction) or characters who work in the fine dining industry and know their stuff. Others might just mention a region’s traditional dish in passing. Either way, jot down these ideas for later, because nothing helps bring a book to life like eating what the characters ate. (Although I will admit to being disappointed that Edmund sold out his siblings for something as thoroughly un-tempting—to me, at least—as Turkish Delight.)

Or, if you and some friends all enjoy a book set in a particular locale, consider doing a carry-in and bringing dishes that fit the setting. The Mark of the King Cajun Night, or a Julie Klassen Regency tea, anyone? The possibilities are endless.

How about you, readers? Any fun bookish games or trips you’d like to suggest?

Seaside Books Giveaway

We stole this idea from Amanda Dykes, who was a guest on a podcast episode of Read-Aloud Revival, talking about various writerly things, but also recommending some favorite seaside-set books.

We figured, why not do a blog post featuring beach reads—meaning books with actual beach-like words on the cover. We expanded it to include recent titles with a water-related word in the title. Here are a few of them:

The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis
Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes
To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden
The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright
The Lady of Tarpon Springs by Judith Miller
The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey
Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green
Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin
Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

(For a bonus, we found a few more that had a watery scene depicted on the front cover, just not in the title: Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano, Keturah by Lisa Bergren, Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette, Flight of the Raven by Morgan Busse, Sweet on You by Becky Wade, and Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson. We’re probably forgetting some!)

And just for fun, a giveaway! We’ll pick three winners on August 1 to win their choice of one of these seaside books. To enter, just comment on this post with a favorite watery vacation spot you’ve been to. (River, ocean, hot springs, indoor pool…anything goes!)

Summer Activities That Are Better With a Book

Libraries all over the country are beginning their summer reading programs, and we here at Bethany House always love encouraging people to dive into their next great book. But let’s face it: summer is a busy season, packed with events and gatherings. Where’s the time for a good summer read?

Right in the middle of all the fun, of course! Here’s how we think a few of your favorite summer fun activities go well with books.

 

Camping

I love swimming, hiking, making pudgie pies while telling stories around the campfire, and all the other staples of a good camping trip. But when it (inevitably) rains one of the days, you can either sit sullenly on your sleeping bag swatting mosquitos and muttering threats at whoever came up with this whole camping idea…or you can pull out the novel you brought just for this occasion. I think you know which options comes recommended by our team.

Oh, and make sure that either your tent is thoroughly waterproof or that you store your books in a plastic gallon bag for safekeeping. Maybe both…you can never be too careful. Let my soggy fourth-grade copy of Stuart Little be a cautionary tale for you.

Road Trips

I like the license plate game as much as the next person, but that’s not going to make for hours-long entertainment the way books will. If you’re not an ebook fan and have family members who complain about the space you’re taking up hauling around your personal library, remind them that each ten-inch block contains an entire world, so you’ve actually economized. Or just ask if they want to get tied to the roof of the car for the rest of the journey to make space, your choice.

To all of you who get car sick when focusing on lines of text: first of all, I’m very sorry. Second of all, audiobooks were invented for just this purpose! I’ve found that, for me, first-person or epistolary novels are especially fun to listen to, since it feels like the characters are talking directly to you.

Bonfires

Just kidding. Don’t put your precious books anywhere near fire! Ash and smoke aren’t good for them either. Sticky s’mores hands are also a no-no. So basically…no bonfire reading.

Sports Events

Sure, I understand that you’re probably going to this event to watch what actually happens, but is anyone really going to notice if you glance down at a book a few times during a baseball game? Probably not. Or you can at least get a little reading in during intermission—I mean halftime—I mean…[Googles baseball terms] seventh inning stretch? The point is, having a book handy is never a bad idea. You never know when you’ll be able to sneak in a chapter or two…or twenty.

(This seems like an appropriate time to apologize to my cousin, whose baseball games I completely do not remember because I was reading the whole time. Sorry, Jeff!)

Yardwork

This one is more for audiobooks, but nothing makes pulling weeds more fun than immersing yourself in a fictional world. Plus, you can take out your anger at the fictional villains on those stubborn weeds. “Oh, so you’re going to thwart the couple’s declaration of love again, are you? Take that.” [Yank dandelion out by the roots] Highly satisfying.

Lounging by the Pool/Beach

Sure, it’s nice to get a little sun, with the sound of the waves in the background (or, let’s be realistic, kids hollering and splashing). But that can get boring after the first five minutes, so it’s important to tuck a good summer read in the beach bag on your next trip. As a bonus, if you hold it right, it can serve as a sunblock and a shield from sand getting kicked in your face. Bonus points if you pick a book set by the seaside or during summer (not that you can’t read about pioneers surviving a blizzard while you’re sunning on your beach towel, but it would be a little weird).

One caution: the swimmers and splashers around you will need to be made aware of the serious consequences they will face if they intentionally get your precious pages wet. This is the right time to employ the Death Glare, and if you really want to communicate effectively, That Tone. (You know the one I’m talking about.)

These are just a few ideas—I’m sure you can come up with more. Readers, do you have any tips for getting in some summer reading?

Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2019

Time for your guide for planning a summer road trip. First stop: a bookstore or library! If you’ve ever wanted to travel but didn’t quite have the budget to get to all the locations you’d like, you can explore new places through the pages of some of our books. To make it easy for you, we’ve listed all the settings for Bethany House novels published from July 2018 to June 2019 below.

Need more suggestions, or want to find a specific state not listed here? Check out our archives from 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. Enjoy, readers!

Alaska: Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

California: In Dreams Forgotten and In Times Gone By by Tracie Peterson

Florida: A Simple Singing by Leslie Gould (also set in Pennsylvania), The Lady of Tarpon Springs by Judith Miller

Georgia: Breach of Trust by Rachel Dylan

Illinois: Caught by Surprise by Jen Turano (also set in New York), Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin, Searching for You by Jody Hedlund

Maine: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

Maryland: Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey

Minnesota: A Season of Grace by Lauraine Snelling

Missouri: Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

Montana: When You Are Near and Wherever You Go by Tracie Peterson

Nevada: The Reluctant Warrior and The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy

New York: A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden

Oklahoma: The Lieutenant’s Bargain by Regina Jennings

Pennsylvania: The First Love and The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis, Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano, A Faithful Gathering by Leslie Gould

Texas: More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer

Washington: Sweet on You by Becky Wade

Wisconsin: The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond and The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Bonus! Novella Collections (aka Multi-Stop Trips)

Since these were all set in different locations, we thought we’d break down all of them for you.

England, Texas, West Virginia, Washington: The Christmas Heirloom by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

Illinois, Maryland, and South Carolina: The Cost of Betrayal by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason

Outside the United States

Canada: The Best of Intentions and The Highest of Hopes by Susan Anne Mason, Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green, A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

England: An Hour Unspent and The Number of Love by Roseanna White, The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen, A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter, The Artful Match by Jennifer Delamere

France: Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin (also set in Spain)

Gambia: Outbreak by Davis Bunn (also set in other countries in West Africa)

Israel: Jerusalem’s Queen by Angela Hunt

Nevis: Verity by Lisa Bergren

Russia: Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig (also set in Ukraine, France, Republic of the Congo, and more)

Sicily: Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette (also set in ancient Canaan)

Other Realms

Because the only way you can get to these fantastic settings is through the pages of a book.

Mark of the Raven and Flight of the Raven by Morgan Busse

What’s one place you’ve only “visited” through the pages of a book but feel you know well?

Six Organization Systems for Bookshelves

It’s time for spring cleaning again, and in addition to monotonous tasks like dusting the ceiling fan or exploring for moldy lumps in the back of the fridge, many households like to take these next few weeks to get organized…and for readers, that includes their bookshelves, stuffed with old favorites and to-be-read volumes alike.

Want to join in, but need some options for what your shelves could look like? We’ve got you covered. Here are the top ways we’ve seen shelves put in order.

The Color Spectrum

Description: In a display worthy of an art museum, these shelves are laid out in rainbow order, with books within one color usually subdivided by shade.

Bonus points if: you call those colors names like “blushing rose” or “pale aquamarine” instead of “pink” and “blue.”

Preferred by: Instagrammers, the artsy crowd, people who think normal bookshelves don’t look pretty enough to take up a full wall.

Downsides: Better memorize the spine color of your entire personal library so you can find titles when needed. Also, what do you do with brown, white, and black books? Put them at the end? Put prettier book cozies/jackets over them so they don’t mess with the color scheme? Burn them?

The Dewey Decimal

Description: A topical organization where books on a similar subject are grouped together. Classic novels here, biographies there, books with an angsty YA protagonist who just can’t choose between two drop-dead-gorgeous guys who are madly in love with her on the middle shelf, etc.

Bonus points if: You actually use the ordering numbers of the Dewey Decimal system to order your categories.

Preferred by: Lovers of nonfiction or those who have niche interests, organized people who can’t quite commit to alphabetical order because it seems like too much work.

Downsides: There’s the issue of what to do with the lonely books that don’t fit into any category…and how to describe a book’s location to anyone but yourself.

The Alphabetical Association

Description: Ordered by author’s last name (or, more uniquely, by title). No exceptions.

Bonus points if: you can order everything without once humming the “ABC Song” under your breath.

Preferred by: The ultra-organized crowd, people who want everything in its proper place.

Downsides: If you follow this too strictly, you’ll put series out of order, and you actually have to remember who wrote each book to find it. Much like a spice drawer, though, the more use a bookshelf gets, the harder it is to maintain this system.

The Staged Array

Description: This is a carefully curated collection of tomes, fiction and nonfiction, designed to be impressive to guests in your home. Have you read all (or any) of the books? Not necessarily. It’s all about appearances. Overachievers can switch out certain books based on the interests or political/theological makeup of the crowd coming over.

Bonus points if: you have a multi-volume leather-bound set of something that actually looks like you’ve read it.

Preferred by: Front-room bookshelf owners, people who never did the assigned reading in high school but still wrote solid essays anyway.

Downsides: Someone who loves one of your display books might try to engage you in a detailed conversation, blowing your cover. Beware! At least have some profound quotes underlined so you can refer to them in a pinch.

The Kid-Proof Structure

Description: If it can be chewed, it goes on the bottom shelves. Chapter books round out the middle, and if it needs to be preserved for any length of time, put it at least three feet about the head of the tallest child. Any valuable/rare/sentimental books go in a fire-and-drool-proof safe until the kids are off to college.

Bonus points if: the board books are arranged in order of raggedness.

Preferred by: Parents who want their kids to love books, but not love to destroy books. (It’s a fine line.)

Downsides: Easy access to books you’ve had to read aloud hundreds of times, possibly forgetting about beloved favorite books stored way up on the highest shelf.

The Haphazard Free Spirit

Description: Order? Who needs it? Books are arranged however they best fit, with most recently-read books usually occupying the outside layers or most accessible shelves. Sometimes series are together, sometimes the series might be in three places, including behind the TV console. On a good day, all the spines are facing out, but we can’t make any promises.

Bonus points if: you regularly tell people to “just explore” when they can’t find the title they’re looking for.

Preferred by: Me, and also people who, like me, find the restrictions of organization too confining to our creativity (or who are too lazy to keep a set order maintained).

Downsides: Why, none at all, of course! Things like disorganized books jammed in every nook and cranny and giant stacks that could crush you at any moment just add to the adventure of reading. Right?

So, readers, tell us: how do you organize your books? One of these methods, or another one entirely?

The Golden Pages Awards

Thinking about the Oscars recently, I wondered what it would look like if there was a bookish award ceremony. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a red-carpet event to recognize all the individual components of our favorite books?

Welcome to…the Golden Pages Awards, a completely made-up, just-for-fun chance for you to recommend some of your favorite fiction books to readers. I created a number of specific categories in a Facebook album (ones that probably wouldn’t make their way into any serious award ceremony), and you can head over and recommend books by commenting on each certificate, or by “liking” others’ suggestions. No need to choose Bethany House books. Any books you’ve enjoyed are welcome!

There won’t be an official winner ceremony, but if you want a list of books to check out, be sure to stop by and see what your fellow readers are buzzing about!

Most of the “nominations” will be happening in the Facebook album, but if you don’t have Facebook, feel free to comment below with a title that you’d give a five-star review.

Looking forward to see what you come up with, readers!

5 Justifications For Having More than 30 Books in Your House

Are you ready to spark some joy? Then come along as I give you the perfect response to anyone in your life who has been watching that Marie Kondo Netflix show “Tidying Up and Losing Your Soul By Giving Away All Your Books.”

I’m pretty sure that’s the title, based on the Internet. My social media feed has exploded with memes mocking this preposterous notion:

While what Kondo actually said is that she keeps her personal book limit to around 30 volumes, if you’re a booklover seeking justifications for keeping a significantly larger dragon horde of literary treasures personal library, you’ve come to the right place.

Full disclosure: my name is Amy Green, and I work for a book publisher. I love authors and books and being gracefully disorganized. (That is totally a thing. It means the chaos around you is reflective of a life so full and rich that it defies structure…and dusting.)

To be fair to Marie Kondo, I can imagine a scenario where 30 volumes might possibly be a good standard. Like if you have a fully-loaded Kindle. And live in a tiny house. Next door to a library.

Otherwise, if you’re feeling guilty for double-stacking your shelves, I have a response for you. Since Kondo created a whole method of cleaning based on a rearrangement of her name, the KonMari method, allow me to present the GreAm method. (Slightly less catchy, but whatever.)

It is rigorous—you must be willing to defend your right to a full bookshelf with logic and determination. It is holistic—in that I’m basically telling you to keep your whole library. And it is aimed at inner peace—because there’s nothing as peaceful as being surrounded by books. So let’s begin.

One: Books spark joy.

Am I using the organizational maven’s own mantra against her? Why yes, I am.

Do you know what brings me joy? BOOKS! Adventures to times and places I’ll never visit in the “real” world, deep journeys into hope and heartbreak, thrilling escapades where someone won’t get out alive but I probably will, somewhat-confusing classics I had to read for school that made me a better person even if I didn’t appreciate them at the time…I love them all.

I mean, it’s great to have a few travel mementos that bring a smile every time you look at them, don’t get me wrong, but books contain whole worlds—the lives and journeys of beloved friends we’ve admired and empathized and learned from. The joy quotient is just through the roof. Libraries and bookstores spark so much joy that they might as well be actual infernos of happiness. (Is that a little Fahrenheit 451? Maybe. But you get the idea.) And if your house just happens to resemble a library or bookstore…all the better!

Two: Books are super tidy.

A book is the tidiest object I can possibly imagine. Think of those crisp white margins, the uniform edges, the perfectly straight lines of text.

Also, the KonMari method is apparently really big on folding things. There is a precise method for how to fold tea towels and fitted sheets and the jingle-bell-bedecked Christmas socks you only wear once a year (hey, it’s all about the joy, don’t judge). Thankfully, your personal library is all about folding. Book terminology time: a “signature” is a group of pages (in multiples of four) folded together and glued to the spine of an average paperback book. Books are essentially collections of tiny, neat little folds. See? Tidy in the extreme.

Three: Books are not clutter.

Dictionary.com informs us that clutter is “a disorderly heap or assemblage.” I have a very simple solution. We can create a piece of furniture, similar to a display case, that allows you to line up your books in an orderly fashion.

We’ll call it a “bookshelf.” No clutter? No problem.

(And those escapees that end up stacked and piled around your house? Those are educational and aesthetic home décor accessories. Clearly.)

Four: Kids’ books would have to be included in that total.

Imagine you have the American household average of 2 children. This, out of 30 books, would give them approximately an allotment of 15 books from the total, so 7.5 books each. (Sorry, but this is the math, people…be glad I didn’t use the real average of 2.3 children. We can pretend the .5 book is the bafflingly popular Goodnight Moon and leave it at that.) Please imagine reading the same 7.5 books to your toddler over and over and over until the words are ingrained in your head like an ancient liturgy and you have visited the triumphs and travails of the pirate/princess/anthropomorphic cuddly animal so often that they feel like a member of the family…

Wait. Actually, this is pretty much what happens to parents anyway, even if you have a mountain of books available for your little one, so I guess we can throw out this reason and move on to…

Four, Second Try: Marie Kondo has written multiple books.

Does this directly relate to why you can feel perfectly fine owning more than 30 books? No. But I’m throwing it in here for the sheer irony of it. I can’t determine the exact number of unique titles by Kondo because of translations and digests and journals, but there are at least 3 (10% of her household quota), with probably more to come. Is it unreasonable for an author who has made a living from the book industry to tell people to get rid of their books? Well…not technically, but it is a little amusing.

Five: Books can talk back.

One part of the KonMari method that some people find either freeing or really eccentric is the practice of thanking your belongings as you release them to a better place (like the Goodwill donation bin).

Hey, I talk to inanimate objects, mostly malfunctioning technology, all the time, I can get behind that. But books are made of words and therefore the only things that can respond to me. Like, when I yell at the character, “What do you think you’re doing?” it might take him a few chapters, but he usually tells me. And when I flip through the pages of a book to thank it for its service, inevitably I’ll notice that one hilarious or meaningful scene that always got to me…and start skimming…and then reading…and then I move the book out of the donation pile for good and it’s never going back, sorry, I just can’t do it.

If minimalism requires book-lite living, well…who really needs to be tidy, anyway?

What books you own would make your”Top Thirty” list? Just as an exercise, of course…

What Kind of Reading Challenge Would You Like to See?

Now that Christmas is over, I’m starting to look ahead to January, which for me means:

  • several weeks of crossing out 2018 before remembering the actual year.
  • bringing a massive stash of tea into the office to survive the winter.
  • getting excited about new releases from Jaime Jo Wright, Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse, and Jen Turano.
  • …and, finally, creating our annual Bethany House Reading Challenge.

But before I do, what are your thoughts, readers? Is there a particular kind of challenge you’d like to see? Here are some example:

  • A list of categories (“a book with an animal in the title,” “a book whose cover is mostly blue,” etc.) that you can check off.
  • One challenge per month instead of everything all at once, with a corresponding Instagram challenge for anyone following us there.
  • A setting challenge to motivate you to read books set in other states, countries, and eras.
  • Some other creative idea.

Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear what you’d prefer. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!