Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Ode to Books By Mail

Well, maybe not an ode. I'm far too stressed to write poetry.

(From Feed Your Soul, the free art project )
We are moving in less than two weeks. Right next to my computer table we've already stacked 12 boxes of books. On top of one of those boxes is a heap of loose books. Somewhere on the other side of this wall of boxes, there is another bookshelf that is still nearly full. I keep hoping we've nearly found and corralled all the books, but a quick glance around the room tells me this is not so.

Right next to my keyboard there's a book. Another book, with a headband being used as a bookmark, is lying on the couch. There are, ahem, six books on the piano. Two of those books have escaped from the Goodwill box, one is the amazing library book I finished last night (see below), and three are books I just rescued from my daughter's shirt drawer. There's another book lying on the kitchen chair that is sitting in the middle of my family room for some reason. Oh! And I just noticed yet another book sitting on the floor next to me.

I'll stop now, not because I'm finished, but because I think I've made my point. When we move into our new house, we'll probably be bringing more than 15 boxes of books with us, and that's after a genuine attempt to weed out the ones we no longer want.

I love books! But I don't feel like we buy that many. (It makes you wonder where all these boxes of books came from, doesn't it?) We are big library fans at our house. I just resigned from the board of trustees for the tiny library near my home, and we also pay money to belong to a larger library a couple of towns over (the town we're moving to, coincidentally). But when we move, we'll be leaving behind our largest source of books:

Books By Mail

Books By Mail is a program here in Maine for residents who live in communities where there is no full-service library, and to people who are homebound for medical reasons. I'm not homebound for medical reasons, but that tiny library I mentioned? It's only open for about 8 hours a week, which blessedly does not qualify as a full service library. That opens a database of nearly every library in the state of Maine to our greedy eyes. If a book we want is in the database, all we have to do is click the "REQUEST" button and they mail it to our home in these cute brown canvas bags. We're moving 14 miles closer to civilization, which has its perks, but losing Books By Mail is a huge downside.

I imagine there are other programs like this throughout the country, but I've never lived in a rural area before, so I don't know. The library I used before we lived in Maine was a branch of a larger system, and the different branches traded books in a similar way. I had to go and pick the books up once they arrived though. Much more complicated.

When we're ready to return the books, my husband drops them off at the Maine State Library on his way to work, but we could mail them if we wanted. Right now our library basket is overflowing with canvas bags and books. Ever since we put our house on the market (nearly a year ago, now) we've been ordering books with reckless abandon. We had the closing ceremony on our account a couple of days ago. I told the kids it was the last day to order books, and that any books that weren't marked "In Transit" by January 6 would have to be cancelled.

Here, in all its random and breathtaking glory, is our final list of books from the Maine State Library Books By Mail program:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson I finished this book last night, and I LOVED it! You should go out and get it right now! A quick side note: Do any of you other authors find that as soon as you write a story you read a book just like it but better?

Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry Great book! I read it a couple of years ago, and someone must have wanted to read it again. I would love to, but probably won't have time.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson I've finished this one, and it was OK. Not really my style, though

Indian Captive by J.B. Jemison
Three Against the Tide by D Anne Love

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Brandsford My third grade daughter is reading this on the couch behind me even as we speak. A perfect example of the way a great blog can expand your reader base!

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl This was so funny! I would have liked it even better if I wasn't sick to death of fairy tales turned into novels.

Call It Courage (Audio Book) by Armstrong Sperry
Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
Tyger, Tyger: A Goblin Wars Book by Kersten Hamilton
Ashfall by Mike Mullin

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness This is the sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones This is probably the next book I'll read on this list

Demonglass: A Hex Hall Novel by Rachel Hawkins I didn't enjoy the first Hex Hall book, but my daughter liked them enough to order this sequel

And we're still waiting on:

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodgkins 
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Barbie in a Christmas Carol (movie) J
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Barbie Princess Charm School J

No ode, but perhaps a haiku...:

Farewell, Books by Mail
We'll miss you every day--
Thanks for the good times.


  1. Wow, Melanie, that sounds like an awesome program. I live surrounded by more civilization than I can take sometimes, and I'm always trying to do more stuff by mail because I don't want to spend my whole life doing errands :)

    In my current WIP, pretty much every major plot twist or world-building idea I had was always followed within the week by me discovering it done better somewhere else, always by complete accident. Synchronicity...

    My family used to visit Kezar Lake in the summers; I haven't been in 20 years but I still miss it! My mental happy place will probably always be in a canoe on the lake.

  2. My happy place is on the North Twin lake in a kayak. You have good taste in happy places.

  3. Our city's library system has numerous small satelite branches, which is nice for location, but annoying to browse (why do they always only have the 2nd or 3rd book in the series on the shelf?). I order almost everything from their online catalog and have it delivered to the local branch.

  4. I love how libraries work so hard to get books to readers. Books by mail sounds awesome.

    When I was little we had a book mobile that was a moble library that took books to kids who didn't live near a library.

    I hope you enjoy Pawn of Prophesy. Don't let the prologue scare you off. In fact, just skip the prologue. :)

  5. I've had Enchanted Glass in my bedside table for a while now. Since I know it's Diana Wynne Jones's last book ever, I'm saving it for sometime special.

    Books by mail sounds fabulous. I've never lived anywhere quite that remote, except for that summer I spent in Idaho doing thesis research. I lived in a tent for two and a half months, two hours from the local library. Alas, there wasn't even any postal service to bring me books. :(

  6. Books by Mail is probably the best idea I've ever heard of. I grew up in a city with a library I loved (and it was close enough that my mom let me ride my bike to it when I was little!), and I would never trade that for a Books by Mail system, but now that I'm living in a less book-endowed location something like that would be sweet. I applaud whoever came up with that.


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