8 Things Guaranteed To Make Readers Angry

There are certain topics and actions that will almost universally set all booklovers off. Oh, some will have different levels of anger—see my handy scale below—but if you’re a dedicated reader, you probably share some of the same pet peeves and irritations with your fellow bookworms.

I’m Amy Green, fiction publicist here at Bethany House, and I’ve noticed a few trends in reader posts on social media about what readers really hate. Let’s all rant together now, shall we? (It’ll make us feel better.)

One: Spoilers

This happens most often in online reviews, but pity the real-life friends who start with an innocent discussion of the main premise of a book and then, wham! Out of nowhere, a major spoiler from the last half of the book or beyond. “It’s very touching, just don’t get too attached to So-and-So…” “My favorite part is when you find out that What’s-His-Name is the father.” “It’s so clever how the Thingamajig you see in the first chapter ends up being the missing artifact all along.” You get the idea.

How, HOW, does this happen, people? Fellow readers should be aware of the fun of discovery and not want to ruin that for others. Maybe it’s just over-excitement? Whatever the reason, when in doubt, apply the Green Family Rule (originally applied to boring monologues recounting dreams at the breakfast table, also good for descriptions of books and movies): you get two sentences to describe the plot. That’s it. Use ‘em wisely.

My Angry Reader Level: 2 if I wasn’t going to read the book anyway, 6 if I was.

Two: Covers that Don’t Match the Character

Occasionally this is objective—the main character’s hair or eye color is wrong, the dress is from 100 years too late to be accurate, there is no mention of a dog in the book despite its prominent place on the cover, and so on.

Other times, it’s subjective: “There is no way the hero looks like that!” “That just isn’t how I pictured the town in my mind.” “Um…what’s with that color?” We all have our likes and dislikes, and not every cover is going to check all of our boxes, especially if we have a vivid imagination and a careful attention to detail. The ones that really get it wrong, though, are likely to be a constant annoyance to readers.

My Angry Reader Level: 3. That’s decreased a lot since I started working in publishing. Now, I know: A. often the book isn’t fully written before the cover is complete, B. there may be a marketing reason behind something I wouldn’t have chosen, and C. designers are very busy people and may occasionally make a mistake or not have access to the exact right model or image. These things make me less mad, but I still completely understand when readers grumble.

Three: Movies that Don’t Match the Book

The level of outrage for a bad adaptation will vary from person to person. Most will find themselves somewhere within the following categories:

The Purist: “Where was the carriage scene from page 193? Why does the duke have only two sons instead of five? Two of my favorite lines were not quoted verbatim, and don’t even get me started on how the Incident of the Plum Pudding was handled! Here is a detailed list, chapter by chapter, of what was wrong with this movie. I DEMAND ACCURACY.”

The Peacemaker: “A screenplay just can’t be as detailed as a novel, but it was lovely to see my favorite characters brought to life. There are a few things I’m sad were left out, but overall I think it kept true to the spirit of the original. And it will probably get a lot more people to read the book, too!”

The Permissive: “Meh, so only a few plot points were the same and the moral of the story is the opposite of the author’s original intent and there were five new major characters. No big deal. It was fun! You’ve got to judge the book and the movie totally separately.”

The Illiterate: “This was based on a book? Do people even read books these days?”

My Angry Reader Level: 3-11 depending on how much I loved the original story. (Like, Netflix, I’m telling you right now, if you mess up your upcoming Narnia series, Aslan and I are coming for you. And let me remind you, in case you haven’t read the source material enough WHICH YOU SHOULD: he’s not a tame lion.)

Four: Phony or Irrelevant Reviews

Whether they’re bots or trolls or people who are just confused, some one-star reviews on Goodreads or retail sites skew the system. I’m talking things like: “Package was ripped open” or “not the large print version” or an all-caps rant about a totally different book with a similar title. All the real reviewers out there have to cringe—and there isn’t usually a good way to pull those reviews out of the running.

My Angry Reader Level: 4. I’m always bothered, especially on behalf of my authors, but I try to keep in mind that no one actually looking at the reviews will take them seriously and that the overall star-rating impact isn’t going to be huge.

Five: Insulting Comments from Non-Readers

Whether it’s picking on your favorite genre, bringing up the fact that characters are not “real people,” or delivering the classic, “You have too many books” line (as if those five words make sense in that order under any circumstances), sometimes readers can get pushed over the edge. Maybe it was just a joke, but beware, especially if the comment was interrupting said reader in the middle of a book.

And it goes the other way too, readers, so no making fun of non-bookworms. (Open-mouthed incomprehension and confusion is probably inevitable, though.) Anything that implies “I am superior to you because we don’t share the exact same preferences” should be avoided.

My Angry Reader Level: 1-6 depending on the person’s intention. And mostly I’ll calm down and recommend a book I think they’d like instead of wasting time being mad.

Six: Long Hold Lines

You’ve just gotten a glowing recommendation from your friend about the newest book you have to try. Hurrying to the library website, you click “Place a Hold”…only to face the cheery pop-up, “Congratulations! You are 63rd in line for this title.”

Turns out, saying, “I don’t want your congratulations, I want my book!” does nothing to move the line along faster. Nor does refreshing the page every other day (or hour…or minute…). You secretly suspect there are people out there who keep the book unread the full two weeks just to look impressive on their coffee table, and others who are doling out quarters in overdue fines to hold theirs even longer out of pure spite, but without proof, you’re stuck waiting just like everyone else. (And hoping the book doesn’t arrive for checkout the day after you’ve left on a week-long trip and can’t pick it up.)

My Angry Reader Level: 5, but mixed with sadness. I try to tell myself it’s no one’s fault, that I should be happy others are discovering a good book…but waiting is hard, guys.

Seven: “Wrong” Ending Choices

Whether it’s the unexpected death in the last few pages (you and your tissue box were just not prepared) or the love triangle that resolves in the exact opposite way it should have (don’t they realize they were meant for each other?), sometimes we don’t think authors made the right call with their endings.

This can include all kinds of categories, from agree-to-disagree preferences to “where on earth did that come from and was the editor asleep on the job?” moments. Sometimes, readers are pretty sure they could have written a more satisfying last chapter, if only the author had asked them.

My Angry Reader Level: Usually 2, occasionally 4. For the most part, I remember that authors have put a lot of thought into these endings and usually have Very Good Reasons for their choice even if it’s not the conclusion I was hoping for. Every now and then, though, I come across something that is not just unexpected, but blatantly out-of-character or contrived or factually impossible. That will move me up a few notches on the irritation meter, but I also recognize that deadlines and writers’ block exist and not every book is going to be a consistent winner.

Eight: Book Vandalism

They’re out there, breaking the spine of an unpurchased book at Barnes & Noble, inking up half of a school-assigned novel in highlighter and then donating it to a thrift store, folding down corners of library books to mark their spot. They are the ones who will (gasp!) hold a book over their head to protect themselves from the rain instead of stuffing the book inside their coat. They walk among us, lurking in the shadows of bookloving spaces everywhere.

I call them…the Book Vandals.

Now, all of us have accidentally damaged a book at least once in our life. (Picture seven-year-old Amy crying as she peels a soggy Stuart Little off the playground slide where she left it. It was a traumatic day.) That’s not what I’m talking about here.

No. This is serial, unrepentant destruction of books, especially those that don’t belong to you. That, true readers know, is unacceptable.

My Angry Reader Level: 8. Unless you’re two years old and left unsupervised with a crayon box, there are no excuses here, people. (And if you’re two years old and reading this blog, you’re enough of a prodigy to know better.)

If you liked this list, follow the blog so you won’t miss next month’s post about “8 Things Guaranteed Make a Reader Happy.” (That way you can tag a friend or spouse to give them ideas….)

Which of these are high up on your Angry Reader List? Are there any I missed?

Which Dresses Match These Book Covers?

I can’t tell you how many times readers have commented on some of our authors’ covers to say, “Wow! I wish a dress like this was around today, because I’d totally wear it.”

Well, just for fun, I thought I’d search some fashion websites for dresses that look like they could have been inspired by book covers. So if you want to imitate the “look” of your favorite novel, you know where to go.

Would you want to wear this one in the swamps of Louisiana? Probably not. But this empire dress has an updated version of the pattern-overlay in gold, plus that bow mimicking the lace-up back of the original design. Add a little lace, and you might feel a little like Julianne Chevalier from The Mark of the King.

The color here is nearly spot-on and the Victorian-inspired details in both are fun, but what really makes this teal lace dress the twin for The Heart’s Appeal is that it’s called “London Exquisite Elegance,” the same setting as the book!

If you love the art-deco look of the early 1900s, this cranberry maxi dress is the one for you. The beadwork on both shares the same intricate style, though you might want to invest in some jewelry for the modern outfit…just make sure it’s not going to involve you in a plot of intrigue like the jewels in The Reluctant Duchess!

This mint formal gown has the fun layers and elegance of the one on With Every Breath. And, let’s be real, the heroine on the cover is breathless because she’s literally finding the cure for tuberculosis, whereas the modern model probably just can’t breathe in a dress that fits like that.

This midi dress has the same causal feel of its counterpart a century before, with a similar V-neckline…and while the modern dress might have a higher hemline, it’s also advertised as a yachting dress, so she and the heroine of Out of the Ordinary have a lot in common.

You’d need a lot of daring to pull off this bright red flare dress…just like the scheming protagonist of A Match Made in Texas. Here, the bow on the bustle becomes a bow-tied neckline, but it’s got all the bold style of the original.

The plaid on the trim of With You Always translates to a larger print in the 21st century skater dress, but the collar and silhouette are similar, and both seem like they’d be comfortable and stylish for travel (probably not by train, though).

Okay, readers, which of these dresses is your favorite? (Authors, this might be a fun game to play on Facebook with your fans to find photos of “lookalike” fashion!)

10 Things Not to Say to a Reader

This post isn’t for my fellow readers. We share the same struggles, like having way too many books that need to be read and yet still longing for our favorite authors to write a little bit faster.

No, I’m writing this for the people who wouldn’t classify themselves as dedicated readers, but who know and love at least one. If you’ve ever made a casual comment to a book lover and received an angry comeback, glare, or snarl accompanied by the reader clutching a book tighter and you don’t know why…read on. (If someone posted this on Facebook and tagged you…definitely read on.) Here are a few things you should never say to a true lover of books.

One: “You spend too much money on books.”

Listen, I get it. You’re advocating for a sensible book budget. But let’s start with the fact that the standard for “sensible” is probably set by those average people in statistics who read 1.5 books a year. (Who are these people, I ask? How do they survive?) Which is to say…it’s significantly too low. Come on, we’ll spend $4 on a Valentine’s Day card. That’s about 6 cents per word, compared to $0.0002 cents per word for your average full-price paperback, and you get hours of entertainment and re-reading pleasure. What a deal! Also, chances are good the reader in question makes regular trips to the library for a while before blowing all their savings splurging on the occasional bookstore trip. So they’re trying. Probably. Maybe.

Two: “Oh, you’re reading [TITLE]? I loved how [major ending plot twist].”

NO. Don’t even consider it. What sort of a monster are you? Even if you’re just joking and saying something implausible, like their latest Western romance ends in a nuclear apocalypse where everyone dies, this is still a bad idea. That might still be too much of a shock for a true reader’s heart to take. Better not to risk it.

Three: “I see you have a [genre] novel there. I only read real books.”

Um…okay, so we all have different tastes in books, and if you prefer literary biographies on Italian Renaissance stonemasons, whatever. That’s cool. But try not to imply that other readers are shallow or uninformed or otherwise less-than because their Goodreads list is very different from yours. General rule: mocking/belittling something that another person enjoys is not very endearing.

Four: “Don’t you have enough books already?”

This may be well-intentioned, especially if the reader in question lives among large mountains of unread books that could fall at any moment and crush the cat in an avalanche of TBR tomes. But a better alternative would be, “Don’t you need another bookshelf already?” (The answer is probably yes. Start that Christmas list early.)

Five: “The problem with fiction is that it’s just a bunch of made-up lies.”

I could insert lots of quotes from great writers like C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle about how fiction is capable of revealing truth, often better than any nonfiction. But if you genuinely believe that fiction is a paperback falsehood collection, I probably won’t be able to change your mind. Maybe you just haven’t read a novel that connects with you, one where the dialogue is almost a transcript of things you’ve said—or wished you’d said—and you turn the last page thinking that now you can understand others more deeply. I hope you find that book soon…and in the meantime, pass me another bundle of made-up lies.

Six: “Shouldn’t you be [insert household task or project here] instead of reading?”

Some people have the strange idea that dust, which accumulates seconds after being cleared off, should be regularly removed from all horizontal surfaces in a home. And that there are only so many times you can re-wear clothes before laundry becomes a code-red need. Or that meals should occasionally come from the oven rather than a delivery vehicle or microwave. To which I say: priorities, people. Unless your to-do list contains something about smuggling nuclear codes, the stakes are probably higher in whatever book your loved one is reading. Just leave them alone. The dust will still be there after they’re done with the last chapter.

Seven: “What’s your favorite book?”

Maybe a few rare readers out there have a ready answer, but this can be a paralyzing difficult decision for most. The key to this is editing the question to make it more specific. Try “What have you read this month that you’ve enjoyed?” or “Do you have a genre that you gravitate toward?” or “What is your favorite historical novel set in Nebraska between 1860 and 1873 that features a seamstress, a mysterious illness, and a loveable horse?” Those are all questions readers can answer without feeling disloyal to dozens of other beloved titles that will stare at them accusingly as soon as they look back at their shelves and remember all the ones they didn’t have time to list.

Eight: “So, one of your hobbies is reading? Cool. I haven’t read a book since I got out of high school/college and they stopped requiring them.”

Wow. Okay. We know that not everyone is a reader. No judgment here. But an announcement like this might shock your reader friends so deeply that they will be unable to do anything but stare in bewilderment, leading to a long, awkward pause while they try to decide whether or not you’re joking and think about how to respond. Kind of a conversation-killer.

Nine: “That movie was great on its own. I don’t need to read the book.”

Since there are exceptions to everything, I’m sure I can think of a movie adaptation that was better than the original book. [Thinks. Thinks more. *crickets*] Anyway, regardless, the book will always be different than the movie, just because of what it’s able to do in exploring the inner lives of the characters that a screenplay just can’t give you. If you enjoyed a movie, it’s worth at least trying the book. And if you didn’t enjoy the movie, don’t necessarily blame the book—they might be totally different. (And sure, readers can sometimes be snobbish about this, but for good reason. We’ve had our dreams crushed too many times by high expectations and sub-par adaptations. Underneath that bookish superiority is a broken heart. Tread lightly.)

Ten: “Those people aren’t actually real, you know.”

Yeah, we know. Most of the time we can sort our real friends from our fictional ones. (There are exceptions, especially for long ongoing series.) But it is still perfectly and completely justified to expend emotions—tears, rants, joyful exclamations—on the ups and downs of people who don’t actually exist. Like, at a certain point if things go too far, you might need to intervene, but mostly it’s better to ask, “Oh, what happened to your characters today?” Especially if there are tissues balled up on the carpet, giving you two options: either be sympathetic or run.

Okay, readers who shared this with the non-readers in your lives: which of these would you least like to hear? Can you think of anything that I left out?

5 Signs That You’re a Booklover

Today on our blog, we have a special guest: Serena Hanson, a life-long reader and our Bethany House summer intern. She’s got some great ways to diagnose your addiction to books. See how many apply to you!

You know you’re a Booklover if you show these common symptoms:

1. You suffer from distraction.

When you’re in the middle of a good novel, it can be very difficult to focus on ordinary tasks. It can be a small, nagging sensation in the back of your mind that you’re missing something. Or it can be full-blown obsession over getting home to find out how in the world the main character is going to get out of the mess he’s in. Either way, it is very distracting.

2. You are unable to stop reading.

If you find yourself constantly thinking, “just one more chapter,” you’re a Booklover. Once you start a novel, it’s almost impossible to stop. You may find yourself looking at the clock, only to think: “Sure, it’s one in the morning, but I need to know if his message was in time to save his love from her kidnapper!” Or you might walk around the house unable to tear yourself away from the book in your hands, bumping into doorframes and answering in monosyllables whenever anyone speaks to you. Many Booklovers have also been known to burn their dinners by attempting to read and cook at the same time.

3. You get book hangovers.

Have you ever finished a good novel and felt like you can’t quite adjust back to reality? You walk around for the next few hours or days in a slight haze, irritable, slightly depressed, and just not yourself. The fact is, you’re not yourself. Part of you is still stuck between the pages of that novel. You haven’t fully returned to this world yet.

4. Friends and family members notice that you talk to yourself.

Okay, you’re not actually talking to yourself. You’re talking to book characters. The novel gets exciting, and you just can’t contain yourself. I know that I’m definitely guilty of this one.

If you have said any of the following to a printed page, you are a prime candidate for a Booklover diagnosis:

  • “Nooooooo!”
  • “Can’t you see that it’s a trap?”
  • “He’s lying to you! She doesn’t love Randall. She never did!”
  • “Wow buddy, even I saw that coming.” Or, vice versa: “Oh my goodness! I never even guessed!”
  • “Get in there and tell her how you feel!”
  • “Shoulda listened to me five chapters ago and you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
  • “So beautiful.” *sniff sniff* “I knew this day would come.”

5. You experience random outbursts of crying.

Other people might look at you in surprise, but you know that your tears are completely justified. The protagonist’s brother has just died, or two lovers have parted never to see each other again, or the faithful golden retriever fell off a cliff trying to save a baby, or any number of horrible things! Seriously, they should have a warning label on books: “May cause tears and/or the desire to drown your sorrows in chocolate.”

If you have two or more of these symptoms, you should seek advice at your local bookstore immediately. There is no known cure for this condition, but don’t panic. It is very common and is not life threatening. In fact, some even say that it enhances your life (and if they do, they’re probably Booklovers themselves).

Okay, readers, time to share: which Booklover symptom do you relate to most?

I’m Serena Hanson, the summer fiction intern at Bethany House Publishers and a confirmed Booklover. I’ve loved stories since before I can remember, from my mom reading me board books about raisins and strollers to devouring full-length novels as I grew up. As a girl, my favorite pastime was sitting in a hammock I made out of a bed sheet, reading whatever new book I’d found at the library.

Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2018

Welcome to another round of travel through the pages of books! This is a yearly feature where we show you where our latest releases are set so you can take a novel vacation even during your staycation. The books below are published by Bethany House between July 2017 and June 2018. Enjoy!

US Settings

Alaska: Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

California: In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

Colorado: The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin

Georgia: Deadly Proof and Lone Witness by Rachel Dylan, Possibilities by Debra White Smith

Kansas: A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

Maryland: Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey

Michigan: The Road Home by Beverly Lewis (also set in Pennsylvania)

Minnesota: Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson, The Promise of Dawn and A Breath of Hope by Lauraine Snelling

Missouri: Blind Betrayal by Nancy Mehl

Nevada: The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy

New Mexico: Too Far Down by Mary Connealy

New York: A Dangerous Legacy and A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden, Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano, Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

North Carolina: Probing by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky (along with other states)

Pennsylvania: The Proving by Beverly Lewis, A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould, A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

Oklahoma: Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

Oregon: Beloved Hope and Cherished Mercy by Tracie Peterson

Texas: Hearts Entwined by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jagears (along with other states), More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer, First Impressions by Debra White Smith

Washington: Falling for You by Becky Wade

West Virginia: The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Wisconsin: The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Other Countries

Australia: Amanda by Debra White Smith (Tasmania specifically)

Egypt: Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt, Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

England: A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White, An Inconvenient Beauty and A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen, A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason, The Heart’s Appeal by Jennifer Delamere

Iraq: Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig (along with Egypt, Afghanistan, Germany, and other countries)

Israel: Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt, A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Italy: The Assault by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky (along with other countries)

Nevis: Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

Scotland: The Legacy by Michael Phillips, Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering

Other Realms

For when it’s not enough to visit places on Earth…

King’s War by Jill Williamson

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr

SettingMaps

And since I’ve been putting these together for the past five years, here’s a map that shows the US states covered by Bethany House books in that time (links below the map). If your home state isn’t covered, well…time to message an author?

Enjoy the other road trips by checking out past years’ lists:

2017

2016

2015

2014

Readers, what was a recent vivid setting that you traveled to in the pages of a book?

Five Novels with Librarian Characters

National Library Week ended last Saturday, so I know this post is several days late. In my defense, I celebrated by traveling on a book tour with Beverly Lewis, who spoke and signed and met readers at a number of fantastic libraries in the Midwest. (You can view pictures of those signings here to get a glimpse.)

That got me started thinking about some delightful novels with librarian heroines. To celebrate libraries and librarians everywhere, give these books a try.

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Librarian Character: Shy-but-fierce Anna O’Brien, one of the few female librarians in the early days of the Library of Congress.

Additional Fun Fact: The author, Elizabeth Camden, is a real-life research librarian at a university.

Bookish Quote: “Ever since becoming a librarian, she’d been feeling the vibrant golden chain that reached back centuries to other librarians, archivists, and historians, all of whom had chosen the same quest: the collection and preservation of the world’s knowledge. Was there any more noble pursuit in all of human history?”

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

Librarian Character: Imaginative and somewhat-flighty Alice Grace Ripley, who supplies books to rural Appalachia when she loses her librarian job during the Great Depression.

Additional Fun Fact: The story includes historical details about “packhorse librarians” who rode up the mountains with books in the 1930s.

Bookish Quote: “Librarians are serious people, seldom given to idle jocularity. The reason for this, I believe, is because we are overwhelmed by the enormous number of good books waiting to be read, leaving little time for frivolity. My personal list of must-read books presents a daunting challenge; I can’t even imagine the pressure that our head librarian must be under.”

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

Librarian Character: The mysterious Rosemary Gresham, posing as a librarian to spy on a potential threat to Britain during WWI.

Additional Fun Fact: All of our ideas for the book cover revolved around a library scene, but a few of the alternate covers showed Rosemary’s (fake) wire-rimmed spectacles.

Bookish Quote: “How bad could a library really be? She had her answer when Holstein swung the double doors open, inward. Perhaps, once, the room had been majestic. The ceiling soared high overhead, a magnificent mural painted on it. The chamber stretched the whole width of the house. Shelves lined the walls, floor to towering ceiling. Lined with books, all of them. Then with books stacked in front of them. Books stacked on the floor. Books stacked on the chairs, the tables, lining the windowsills. Boxes of them. Random cases of them at odd places.”

True to You by Becky Wade

Librarian Character: Sweet and spunky Nora Bradford, genealogist and library director in a historical village.

Additional Fun Fact: Nora is a true bookworm who is particularly fond of period dramas—several real ones and one Becky invented for the story.

Bookish Quote: “I found this place five years ago,” she told him. “I love it except that I’ve run out of bookshelf space again, so I’m going to have to declare eminent domain on yet another wall. I don’t have many walls left. Soon I’ll have books as a kitchen backsplash.”

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

Librarian Character: Gentlewoman Rachel Ashford, the somewhat-reluctant owner of a lending library she created with books inherited from her father.

Additional Fun Fact: The quotes introducing Chapter One are excerpts from primary sources about the circulating libraries of the Regency period.

Bookish Quote: He grinned. “Did I not promise you would learn to enjoy reading? And far more quickly than I imagined.”
She nodded. “And I’ve told several people how much I am enjoying the book, so I already have a waiting list to read it when I am finished.”
His dark eyes glimmered with approval and something more. Admiration? Fondness? Pleasure and fear twisted through her in a single chord. Careful, Rachel warned herself. Don’t confuse a love of books with something more.

Just for fun, we’ll pick two commenters to win their choice of one of the books above. (Winners will be chosen on 4/26/18.) To enter, answer this question in the comments: What is something you love about your local library?

Ten Book Lover Conversation Hearts (That Really Should Exist)

You know those candy hearts that show up around this time of year? The ones with sweet mottos like “Crazy 4 U” or “Kiss Me” written on them? I’ve always thought they needed to be more specific. And by that I mean…bookish. Here are ten new conversation hearts that don’t exist but totally should.

(For the purpose of this post, we’re pretending that these candies actually have flavors, when we all know they really taste like chalk with slight tints of artificial coloring.)

The Basics

Do I know why “love” is abbreviated “luv” when it saves only one letter and looks ridiculous? No, I do not. Just go with it. This is your standard “declare where your heart is” candy.

Ideal flavor: Classic cherry.

 

Use this as an excuse to keep reading…not that you need an excuse. (And not that you actually need to keep to the limit described here.)

Ideal flavor: Potato chip. Because you can’t eat just one! (Hey, JellyBelly’s most popular flavor is Buttered Popcorn. This could work.)

 

Wouldn’t we all? I’d suggest keeping a candy dish of these on your desk at work or near whatever appliance is responsible for your least-favorite household task.

Ideal flavor: Cinnamon and sadness.

Could this apply to situations other than being completely engrossed in the last few chapters of a page-turning book? I mean…I guess. If people have other hobbies besides reading that would lead them to threaten people, but that’s not something I can personally relate to.

Ideal flavor: Arsenic. (Kidding.) (Mostly kidding.) What about licorice? To me at least, that’s basically the same thing.


For when “call me” or “date me” is too subtle. Let that special someone know what gift would be really attractive. Seriously, why people exchange chocolate and cards on Valentine’s Day instead of books is beyond me.

Ideal flavor: Flirty fruit punch.

Specialized – For True Readers Only

Whether you’re mourning the fact that your to-be-read pile will grow until the day you die or pledging your loyalty to adding to said pile no matter the cost, this one’s for you.

Ideal flavor: Everlasting gobstopper. (Not entirely sure that’s a flavor; Willy Wonka didn’t return my calls.)

Book boyfriends: breaking hearts everywhere by technically not existing.

Ideal flavor: Tropical fruit, like the island where you and the (fictional) man of your dreams could travel together….


When you want to #humblebrag about the advance reader copy you got of a book that won’t come out for several months and taunt all of your book-loving friends who have to wait for the release date like mere mortals. (Oh wait…is that just me? My bad.)

Ideal flavor: Green apple and power trip.


For those of you who know what the Oxford comma is…and have opinions about it. Comes in gif form for you to include in passive-aggressive comments on badly-written social media posts.

Ideal flavor: Lemon. Or maybe red pen ink.


Stock up on these anytime a new movie adaptation comes around. Bonus points if you bring them into the theater and hand them out.

Ideal flavor: Grape with a hint of crushed expectations

If you wish you had a whole bag of these candy hearts, then you should be sure to stop by our Valentine’s Day Facebook Party on Friday, February 16. There will be book (and bookish gift) giveaways, plus games and contests, storytime excerpt readings, and more! The event is in the morning/early afternoon, but the giveaways will be open for 24 hours afterward, so RSVP to get a reminder whether you can come during the timeframe or not. Hope to see you there!

Can you think of any bookish conversation hearts that need to be made?

Bethany House’s 2018 Reading Challenge

We’re now two weeks into the new year, but if you haven’t yet nailed down all of your resolutions (or if you’ve given up on one already and need a replacement), here’s our annual challenge for all of you ambitious readers out there.

Obviously, this is just for fun, and a chance for you to pick up a book that might not have been on your radar before, but the “rules” we usually play by is that one book can only fulfill one category. Take a look and see if you can already think of some titles that would check off these boxes:

 

I’d love for you to recommend titles that fit these categories to your fellow readers. A few that come to mind for me right away: Leslie Gould’s Courtships of Lancaster County series are each inspired by Shakespeare’s plays, Lisa Wingate’s Never Say Never has a car on the cover, Becky Wade’s True to You include snippets of letters and other fun exchanges between characters, and Victoria Bylin’s Someone Like You is also a song.

Help us fill a reading suggestions list—which titles can you think of to add?

Seven Ways to Hint that You Want Books for Christmas

Christmas is coming up, and if you’re like me, you want to make sure as many smooth, rectangular packages are underneath the tree as possible. I’m referring to the best presents of all: books. (If you thought I meant gift cards, this probably isn’t the post for you.)

Here are some tips to make sure others get the hint that you’d rather have a new novel or biography than another vial of body wash or pair of socks.

Oh, sure, you could just add a book to your wish list or even outright ask for a particular title as a gift. But come on, readers. We can be more clever than that. Let’s help others in our life realize what we really want for Christmas.

One: Choose a Prominent Place: Tape a picture of a book to a milk carton with the caption: “Have You Seen This Book Under the Christmas Tree?” Add “please” if you’re feeling polite. Other options include: taping a note to a mirror, creating a computer screensaver or lockscreen with a particular book cover, or using up a whole pad of sticky notes with the title’s name and leaving them in frequently-used locations.

Two: Stage an Overheard Conversation. Have a fake phone chat with a friend (for the purposes of this example, we’ll call her Minerva, because why not?). After a bit of small talk with appropriate pauses, wait until you know a friend or family member is nearby, but don’t let that person know you’re aware of their presence. Then say something like, “Can you believe [author’s name] book is coming out just in time for Christmas? Oh, Minverva, I’d be delighted if someone was kind enough to buy me [title] this year!” This has the advantage of being so subtle that the gift-giver will think the present is a total surprise!

Three: Leave a Note for Santa Lying Around. I suggest something like this: “Dear Santa, Whether I’ve been good or not this year is totally irrelevant to the present I’m requesting. Surprised? Well, let me explain. Studies have shown that reading increases empathy and abstract reasoning skills. Also, buying books supports authors, and the following books are written by people who are on the “nice” list (I checked). [Insert title list here] In conclusion: send me books, Santa, not because I deserve it, but because you want to help me become a better person. Sincerely, [your name]” (This is guaranteed to get the attention of someone used to reading saccharine-sweet accounts of exaggerated good behavior.)

Four: Mark the Target Locations: If you’re shopping with a friend or driving through town with your spouse, be sure to sigh longingly whenever you pass a bookstore. Possibly add an indirect, helpful comment like, “If I had a million dollars, I would spend all of them there. On these specific titles. In time for Christmas so I have something to read this January. Hypothetically, of course.”

Five: The Accidental Text. Tell a friend or family member that you’re going to send them a picture of something cute—a puppy with a red sweater you saw on the way to work or your daughter in her angel costume. Instead, text the cover of the book you want. Then say, “Oops! My mistake. I must have that picture on here because I’m hoping someone will buy it for me for Christmas.” Then send the real picture so the person will be in a sentimental mood and buy you the book right away. This works particularly well to influence givers who aren’t in your immediate area.

Six: Enlist the Nativity. Copy some covers of favorite books from the Internet and print them out in miniature. Cut out and fold into a book shape, then insert into the arms of the wise men. (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh can be used to prop them up for the best effect.) Then, dangling from the stable roof, hang up a sign that says, “What Jesus wished the wise men would have brought.” Someone will get the hint.

Seven: Sing. Every time “All I Want for Christmas is You” comes on the radio, change “you” to “books.” If someone corrects you, deny that these are not the original and most logical lyrics. Because clearly this is a very deep and coherent song, so if it’s really “I just want you for my own,” referring to a person, instead of “I just want them for my own” referring to the latest paperbacks, isn’t that a little possessive and selfish? And why would Mariah not need to hang her stocking by the fireplace except because paper is flammable and her precious books could go up in flames? I have questions, my friends. Questions that can only be answered with literature.

Do you have any favorite techniques on this list, readers? Or any additional ideas?

10 Book Small Talk Questions

Most of us here at Bethany House are admitted book nerds. (There was a lunch conversation where we discussed our favorite punctuation marks.) I actually own a game called Jenga for Book Lovers, which is your typical pull-out-a-block-from-the-tower game, but with reading-related questions on each of the pieces that you then read aloud and discuss. Most of the questions are fairly general, asking you to name a favorite genre or character or asking if you prefer ebooks or print.

It did get me thinking, though: what are some interesting conversation starters among readers? If you’re having a social event with your book club, need inspiration for a book blog post, or just want to quiz your fellow reading friends, here are some that I came up with.

One: What sort of stats would you have to track if you formed a version of Fantasy Football, but with authors instead of sports figures? (Character deaths? Vocabulary choices? Bestseller status or just number of tissues needed for the ending?)

Two: Name a classic you feel is overrated and should never be required in schools.

Three: What genre, character type, or trope that most people go crazy for do you secretly (or not-so-secretly) hate?

Four: Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you have never read? How about one that you’re embarrassed you have read.

Five: What would make you enjoy a book that didn’t have a traditional happy ending? (Or do you actually prefer those?)

Six: Pick an author, living or dead, who you would want to meet. What questions might you ask that person?

Seven: What is a book published in the last few years that you think will be considered an enduring classic in one hundred years? Why would you say that?

Eight: Have you ever actually thrown a book across the room? Why? (Or why did you consider it?)

Nine: You can live in any book’s world for a day, but only as an observer. Which book do you choose, and what day?

Ten: Can you remember a particular childhood book, series, or author that made you love reading?

Pick your favorite question above and answer it in the comments. I’d love to get to know some of the frequent readers of our blog by hearing your answers!