6 ways to read print books affordably

There’s no shortage of books to read, which may then lead to the question of how to stick to your budget? Naturally, there’s nothing wrong with paying more / full price for books, and there are different cases where you’d want to do so. But in the event that bargains (or even hard-to-find titles) are on your mind, these 6 tips came to mind.

I note that while this list is about print books (my preferred reading method), I trust that many of these also have free and/or affordable ebook options.

How right you are, Mr. Darcy 🙂

In order of most affordable (no cost to low cost):

1. Public libraries
Unsurprisingly, an automatic fulfilling way to access print books for free are libraries. Naturally, what’s required is a visit to the location and a membership card, and you’re good to go. With technology increasingly impacting our lives, we may not think of libraries as much as we did in the past, but they remain an amazing resource that should not be forgotten and/or underestimated.

As with any situation, there are factors to consider if this is the right option, such as location, inventory, and borrowing protocols. While borrowing time limits can be intimidating, they can also motivate you to meet your goals (and as I recently heard inspirational figure Brendon Burchard say, studies show that few things push people as much as deadlines!). In any case, libraries seem the surest way of accessing desired titles for free, at least at some point.

^Haha! The man is just amazing 🙂

2. Your network
Another option might be to borrow from friends, coworkers, relatives, etc. especially in the case where they’re recommending a title they happen to own. How feasible that is also all depends on how often you see them, how quickly they need it back, etc.

3. Goodreads giveaways
If you’re a book lover, it goes without saying that you should be on Goodreads. It’s a great lit-oriented platform that has a range of activities that allow you to: create your virtual bookshelves, track what you’ve read and want to read, rate books, write book reviews, discover new books, socialize through joining groups and discussions, create an author page and host book giveaways (if you’re a writer/publisher), and enter free book giveaways.

You’re allowed to enter as many giveaways as you want, and while there’s never any guarantee you’ll win, it’s definitely a possibility. As reference, adding a book to your ‘to-read’ bookshelf will alert you when a giveaway for that book goes live. Even if this option doesn’t yield many (any?) free books, all the other perks are well worth joining the platform.

4. ARCs
Another option, which may or may not be connected to Goodreads, is to acquire an Advanced Reader’s Copy of a certain book, aka “ARC”. These are basically pre-publication copies that are sent out to readers who are active on social media, and who intend to read the book and share that experience with their platform(s). The idea is to bring attention to the title in question in a timely manner, and probably close to its publication date for maximum marketing impact.

Publishing houses may have different protocols for requesting ARCs, so you’d want to look these up individually. With that said, a good place to start might be reviewing these tips by All Things Urban Fantasy:
Part 1 – ARC Resources
Part 2 – Requesting ARCs
Part 3 – ARC Protocol

5. Local bookstores, low cost bookstores & used books
One of the top 2 ways that I love getting books is from local bookstores. In addition to supporting independent business, it can contribute to more sustainable practices through buying used books at such locations.

An amazing store I’d highly recommend checking out is Half Price Books! They have both new and used books at reduced prices, as well as Clearance sections which feature books (often brand new!) ranging from $1-$4! I cannot count the many, many hauls I’ve acquired in that way, and though it can feel mind-blowing, it’s greatly contributed to my library, and motivates me to read more. (One great reminder is that books are never a waste either; especially not when you think of all the lovely tomes you’d want to pass on to your kids 😉 )

For other discounted rates, used books via Amazon is another great option. The selection is just unbeatable and also comes in quite handy when you’re looking for hard-to-find titles (which is often a factor for me).

?! bahahahaha 😀

6. College libraries
College libraries are another great resource to consider. While their selection may primarily lean on scholarly and curriculum-appropriate titles, they very often have general fiction and other books–and in several different languages too. (You may also be able to check out their inventory online to assess availability.)

This process would likely entail getting some kind of fee-based ‘Alumni membership’ that would grant borrowing privileges. This option is a great way to access many titles (and possibly hard-to-find and/or very expensive titles, as is often the case with scholarly work!), while supporting educational institutions. Based on your needs and goals, you can consider your own college and/or check out others near you.

Speaking of which: this list shows some gorgeous European-like US libraries, many of which are part of universities; yet another reason to consider checking them out!

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Source

As with anything in life, a range of factors will determine where we want to splurge and where we want to cut back. But with several book access options available, reading shouldn’t have to be expensive–especially not if reading, as opposed to book collecting, is one of your primary goals.

One of the side effects of book reading will be determining what to do with the book(s) next. As I’ve gotten older and reflected more about the kind of space I want to be in,  I’ve increasingly taken to discarding titles (and other objects) that don’t resonate. In that case, several of the aforementioned options can double as ways to pass them on to other readers.

Cheers to happy reading! 😀

Remembering the first novel I read — Konsalik’s Natalia

I was recently thinking about how I love to find out about, and dig up little-known books. I get a rush from it, sorta like I’m discovering a treasure; which they are; treasures of forgotten and/or little-known stories!

I then found myself thinking about the first novel I recall reading, which in some ways may be part of that category of little-known books, at least depending on where you live. This book in question is by German author Heinz G. Konsalik, titled Natalia (French edition).

I was quite young, not even ten yet, growing up in Brussels and found this book among my mom’s collection. I don’t know how she came about it, but given her German background, she was likely already familiar with the author’s long list of literary achievements. (My parents also did briefly have a spiritual bookstore in 80’s Brussels, which I wrote about in my short story collection, but this novel wouldn’t have been sold there.)

Aside from the title—reminiscent of my own name—I remember being struck by the cover and the attractive, femme-fatale like woman featured on it. Reading the synopsis quickly lured me, and which, translated to English, reads something like:

“Even in the era of the sputnik, the infinite Siberian taiga forest remains largely unknown. Dangerous. Just about inaccessible to “outsiders.” It’s another world, filled with sometimes horrible legends…

Here we are in the taiga, in the village of Sadovka where strange characters live, such as the priest Tigran or the widow Anastasia Alexeievna… In the heart of the village, a house remains shut, uninhabited. And when the engineer Tassbug, arriving from the city, wants to rent it, Anastasia tells him that it’s impossible, because for nearly two centuries frightening, supernatural things have been happening there…

Throwing caution to the wind, Tassburg enters the premises. He’ll be greatly surprised to find there a proud and wild young woman: Natalia. She’s run across the taiga, tracked down by the brutal Kassougai, who passes her off as a murderer. And now she’s hiding… But is it really Natalia whom Tassburg has in front of him? Or is it not the ghost of the one who was killed there long ago, the countess Albina Igorevna?

Konsalik’s new novel brings us to one of the famous writer’s favorite locations: the dark and mysterious taiga. In this setting, a fabulous adventure, perils, enigmas, intersect to the reader’s great delight. And the moving face of Natalia, the beautiful heroine who attempts to escape all fate’s evil designs, remains unforgettable.”

I guess it was meant to be because it felt right up my alley, and I gladly dived in!

^French book synopsis

Of course, I can’t say that this was the actual *first* book I read. After all, by then I’d already read quite some popular Belgian comics, not to mention all the animal books and baby books that had come my way… But this is definitely the first novel I read, and I do recall a sense of a ‘rite of passage,’ and feeling grown up at the thought of graduating to this kind of ‘adult’ genre. It was several hundred pages after all, and no images, haha! 😀 What might’ve looked intimidating quickly proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, encompassing adventure, paranormal themes, and romance topped with a strong—if wounded—heroine.

It’s interesting that up to that point I didn’t have anything to compare it to, so there was something about this type of story that interested me. I’m not against the view that I may have been energetically picking up on its themes, long before I knew anything about these things (after all, children are naturally sensitive if often unaware of that ability to ‘sense’ things; a trait which we may unfortunately suppress and/or ignore as we get older).

In retrospect, it’s easy for me to see that reading this book may have—at least in some ways— influenced my subsequent tastes in books. I’ve realized a while ago that some of the stories I tended to be drawn to involved a combination of strong women… and rather dramatic / sad narratives. Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and Flaubert’s Salammbo are a few that come to mind. This was a bit of a revelation to me, since the drawing point for me wasn’t the sadness per se; perhaps I was looking for something bigger to come out of that, and which I suppose perhaps I found, if subconsciously, while reading the stories. It’s not that I ‘liked’ sad endings—I rather love happy ones!—but I suppose part of me did feel that the sadness made the stories a bit more ‘real,’ for who can go through life without hardships? Or maybe it was seeing characters go through these things and still come out fine (at least at times?) that fascinated me… Like most things, there are likely multiple, complex reasons for my early interest in such narratives.

Interestingly enough, Natalia differs from these stated examples as it doesn’t really have a ‘sad’ ending, but definitely has its fair share of drama and intensity. All the same, I’ve never forgotten it and only wished the story was more well-known and accessible…

Which eventually led me to wondering if the book had been translated to English. For a long time, it appeared that it was only available in German and French. I contacted the publisher, who eventually replied with a link to the English version, titled “The Damned of the Taiga.” This struck me as odd, for it doesn’t really seem to fit with the story (it could in some ways, but still, why not just preserve the original name?). By now I have reasons to doubt this is accurate info, in part due to the original German titles. Natalia‘s original German title is Natalia, ein mädchen aus der taiga (which would read more like Natalia, a girl from the taiga, and which in French at least preserves the same Natalia name). So cue in my surprise to see there’s an actual German Konsalik novel titled, Die Verdammten der Taiga, literally translated to The Condemned / Damned of the Taiga… ?! This seems to point to the fact that they’re distinct novels, albeit set in a similar location; therefore making it possible that Natalia still hasn’t been translated to English… And I definitely think it should be! (Shall I volunteer for the role?! 😀 )

Also, as is the case with many great stories, I never stopped thinking what a great movie it would make. Of course filmmaking is a different medium, and while it wouldn’t be exactly like the book, it’d be another way of enjoying the story 🙂 (An NY Times article states that “The Damned of the Taiga” was made into one, but even then I’ve yet to find anymore information on that.)

Nancy Goldstone’s The Maid And The Queen book review

*Originally written & posted on March 19th, 2013*

Nancy Goldstone’s The Maid And The Queen recounts in historical detail the role of Medieval queen Yolande of Aragon during the tumultuous Hundred Years War between the French and English. It chronicles events both prior and subsequent to Joan of Arc’s appearance, so that Joan makes a relatively brief appearance in the larger scope of the narrative. Goldstone also posits that a popular story of the time known as The Romance of Melusine culturally, and therefore psychologically, played a role in the French population’s mind which likely—and at least temporarily—helped Joan of Arc’s cause find support.

Firstly, this book is not so much a historical account of Joan of Arc’s story as it is of Yolande of Aragon, itself intertwined in the confusing mess of French and English monarchs and political tensions of the time. As such, the book is doubtless unprecedented in its analysis of Joan of Arc as told in correlation to Yolande of Aragon. Moreover, it should also be noted that while it’s a mere 248 pages, it does not figure as a ‘quick read,’ as it is densely historical, and mostly entails descriptions of successive wars and feuding. The fact that people tended to have similar names may also contribute to occasional character confusion.

As a reader who has known about, and practically grown up surrounded by the story of Joan of Arc, her story is by no means unknown to me. As such, I read the book having more than basic knowledge on the details surrounding Joan of Arc. While it is very possible that Yolande did indeed play a role in Joan of Arc’s life, I did also get the impression that Goldstone may have ‘played-up’ things to support her thesis.

One such instance surrounds Yolande’s presumed role in getting Joan to have an audience with the rightful heir to the French throne, the Dauphin Charles VII. This was an event in which Joan and Yolande never interacted with one another, and which was instead carried out through a number of people who were somehow tied to Yolande. Given the difficulties involved in reaching the Dauphin’s attention, the author is adamant about Yolande’s role in getting ‘the right people’ to bring Joan to the Dauphin, for without this initial meeting, it’s assumed Joan would’ve never gotten her mission off the ground. But whether or not this event actually happened as stated by the author, it’s obviously largely debatable that Joan would’ve still found a way to reach the Dauphin, regardless of Yolande’s ‘assistance’ (especially if one believes in the spiritual angle of Joan’s mission).

Another example involves a rather biased approach to an earlier event involving a dream that Joan’s dad had when Joan was younger. The dream in question involved Joan being taken away by soldiers, and while there are many possible interpretations and triggers for such a dream, the author chooses the explanation which best fits her argument. The author basically dismisses this dream as strictly indicative of a parent’s worried concern (p. 96), as opposed to acknowledging its precognitive possibilities. This highlights a potentially limited understanding of the way dreams can work, and conveniently ignores the fact that a large number of research-backed books on dreams and/or quantum energy will touch upon this issue with surprisingly revealing information. While it’s clear that dream causes, interpretations, etc. is not the author’s focus, it does highlight a certain simplistic approach which conveniently serves to further the author’s agenda.

These are just a couple of examples which give the impression that information is presented in a biased way. Yet, aside from that, just as semi-ambiguous is the author’s stance on Joan of Arc. Goldstone sometimes seems ambivalent—if not inconsistent—regarding her statements on Joan; at times describing her as a pious girl following her voices, other times painting her mission as rather ‘secular’ (pg. 152). While Goldstone’s view of Joan seems to veer towards the positive, the inconsistency still stands out. And while the author’s view of Joan may not matter much in terms of providing facts, in this case it may well underline her penchant for playing-up Yolande’s cause.

There is one final thing which confuses me as well. I can’t figure out why the last image shown at the end of the book is captioned ‘Joan of Arc in her time,’ without specifying that it’s an approximation thereof (since the only image made during Joan’s lifetime is a little ‘cartoon’ drawing made from someone’s imagination at that). As such, that caption is misleading for no one truly knows what she looked like, and could therefore give anyone the idea that it’s an actual portrait made of Joan while she was alive (which is not the case).

Therefore, it is this repetitive mix of biased information combined with what I consider to be a lack of attention to detail—especially crucial in a historical book—that sadly work against the author’s presentation and may, at least on some level, affect her reception with audiences.

Regardless of the extent of Yolande’s role in Joan of Arc’s life, what’s fascinating is that it doesn’t make Joan’s story and mission any less true and/or factual. Perhaps it’s just a question of the angle one chooses to approach it from, and Goldstone has provided the previously unexplored case from Yolande’s vantage point. A recommended read for Medieval history and Joan of Arc buffs; even if just to explore another view of said events. However, those seeking books more focused on Joan of Arc herself are recommended works by renown Medievalist Régine Pernoud.