Bucket List Item #19: Live in a Bookish Home

When I was six years old, a young woman with a briefcase came into my home and spoke to my parents over a cup of coffee. And from her briefcase, she laid out on our small kitchen table, glossy brochures. As she spoke, my parents nodded, enthusiastic, calling whatever they were about to do, an “investment.” My father wrote out a cheque and a week later the woman came back with boxes. These boxes changed my life.

My father opened up the packages and in sequential order, placed the beautifully binded encyclopedias on our bookcase. There was a set from A to Z, two separate dictionaries, and an index. My father read each volume from cover to cover until he completed the set.

The other set, the Childcraft Encyclopedia, was dedicated to me and I was encouraged to read as my father did, each volume to my liking.

So I did.

It was with awe that I sat in my room discovering the secrets within the pages of the book I had opened. It was with each word that I grew powerful. I could finally translate what the letters meant. I could pronounce with a little hesitation, new words that were heavy, but playful in my mouth. Slowly, the sentences became verses. The verses soon became paragraphs. And the paragraphs into chapters. And at the end of each story, I was filled with a knowledge of something fantastic—so imaginative, yet real, it comforted me more than the world I lived in. Books had become my playground, my solace, my secret friends.

While other children complained when prompted to read in school, I secretly looked forward to it. I did my homework because I had to. I read my books because I loved to.

My school librarian was my heroine. And when the annual Scholastic Book Fair came around, I was ready and eager in the front of the line with my pencil in hand. My family couldn’t really afford books, so I knew my choices were limited. I would have to be frugal, but wise. As I searched the tables, I found a book with a picture of a girl, a spider, and a pig.

At home my mother asked me how the Book Fair went and if I found anything that I liked. I was shy about my choice, eager to own it, unsure if my mother or father would agree to buy it, guilty that it might cost them more than they could really afford.

I pulled my Scholastic order form out of my hand-sewn knapsack and thrust it out to my mother in hope my urgency would be expressed in that one act.

“‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.B. White…that looks like a good one. Let’s go and see what your father thinks.”

My encyclopedia-reading father who routinely and adamantly sat me down at the dining table to write out my ABC’s everyday would surely be my ally. (Until this day, I am frequently complimented on my “graceful” and “elegant” penmanship—so much so, I have been asked if I could turn it into a font!)

My father looked at my one-item list, pulled cash from his wallet and said, “Remember to always spend this wisely. There will be things you will want to buy, but a book will always be something you need. Remember, a book will always be better than a toy.”

I had no complaints. I had toys and I played with them. But, what my father didn’t know at the time of his advice was that books were already my secret treasure. I didn’t read books because I had to, I read them because there were stories in them that needed telling, that needed reading. So, as a child, I read voraciously. My appetite grew with each finished novel, each new, explored genre.

My second home would be the local library. I was eight when my father helped me apply for my very first library card. It was the most valuable thing in my wallet. It grew creases with age as my book lists grew and my tote bags lugged with weight.

Years later, my library has grown, but I still own the Childcraft Encyclopedia set that my parents bought for me, I still have the original copy of the “Charlotte’s Web” book that I bought from the school Book Fair.

If anything, I am proud to say I’m an avid reader. It isn’t a go-to line as much as it is a short biography. I am an avid reader and have been so since I was a child.

I’m an avid reader. I’m a book borrower. I’m a bibliotaphe.

I’m one of those people who puts books on hold at the library two months in advance so that I can be one of the privileged few to get my hands on new releases before they come off press.

I’m one of those people who will sit in an aisle at a book store and forget I am there because I’m enthralled with what I’m reading. (I finished reading the poems in “The Blizzard of One” by Mark Strand in one sitting.)

I’m one of those people who will ignore my telephone so that I can finish reading the end of a line or the end of a chapter.

I’m one of those people who organizes my books by author, genre, or emotional attachment.

I’m one of those people who miss literary characters once a book has ended.

I’m one of those people who has piles of books in each and every room of my house.

I am also one of those people who will shrug off a date in order to go to a book signing, a poetry reading, a wine and cheese party, or literary gala.

And I am also one of those people whose awe in meeting an author in person is equivalent to the hysteria found in others for famous rock stars and starlets found in Hollywood.

I’m one of those people who knows the different names, literary genres, and styles of publishers who print and distribute the books that I love.

I’m one of those people who collects bookmarks and isn’t ashamed about it.

I’m one of those people who loves the feel and smell of a new book.

I’m one of those people who will stay up late into the wee hours of the night in order to finish reading a book, finish writing a review, and post it onto my book blog.

My love of books has not only inspired me to write this blog entry, but to imagine what it would it be like if I could transform my actual living space into bookish delight.


I’d like to live in a book house.

On Paper Avenue.

With pens as my picket fence.


My book house would have book stairs:


A book nook closet:

(From: “Turn a Closet into a Book Nook.”)


A book bed:

(From: “Design for Mankind.”)


And a book desk.

(From: “5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Repurpose Vintage Books.”)


I’d read under a book chandalier:

(From: “5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Repurpose Vintage Books.”)


Take a shower behind a written page:

(From: “What a $65 Dave Eggers Shower Curtain Looks Like.”)


And watch my paper flowers bloom.

(From: “DIY Storybook Paper Roses.”)


I’d “unscramble” my pillows:

(From: http://www.etsy.com)


Keep myself “literally” warm with this scarf:

(From: http://www.etsy.com)


I’d jot my thoughts about books into these:

(From: http://www.etsy.com)


And when I’m done, carry them all in this typewriter tote bag.

(From: http://www.etsy.com)


Sure, I want books under the tree at Christmas time. But, I love books so much, I’d want to make my Christmas tree out of books as well.

(From: “Make a Book Christmas Tree.”)


And instead of giving my daughter a Barbie, I’d buy her, her very own Margaret Atwood doll:

(From: http://www.etsy.com)


And when I travel, I much prefer to pack these in my luggage instead of clothes:

Photo: (c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez


Forget the old lady who lived in a Shoe. I’m the dame who wants to live in a Book!


If you find any “bookish” treats to add to my bookish dream home, please don’t hesitate to post a comment with a link and I can post it here on my blog.


Until then, happy reading.



(c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez


Bucket List Item #18: Keeping my 50-Book Pledge for 2012

The savvy readers at The Savvy Reader have motivated hundreds of book lovers again this year by calling out a 50-Book Pledge in 2012.

This is my first time pledging to anything other than my marriage vows ten years ago, so as you can see, I mean business.

50-books kinda business.

Here are my 50 hopefuls for this year:

1. Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan


2. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht


3. The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay


4. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward


5. The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar


6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


7. Tell It to the Trees by Anita Rau Badami


8. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami


9. The Antagonist by Lynn Coady


10. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt


11. 11/22/63 by Stephen King


12. The Free World by David Bezmozgis


13. In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood


14. Mordecai: The Life & Times by Charles Foran


15. Killdeer by Phil Hall


16. The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock


17. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq


18.  An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy


19. Why Men Lie by Linden MacIntyre


20. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett


21. American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar


22. Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers


23. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan


24. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai


25. Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki


26. Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner


27. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver


28. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman


29. Some Ether by Nick Flynn


30. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion


31. The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories by Don Delillo


32. The Best American Poetry 2011 ed. David Lehman


33. Printmaker’s Daughter by Katherine Govier


34. An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer


35. Carry the One by Carol Anshaw


36. The Flowers of War by Geling Yan


37.  The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey


38. Floating Like the Dead: Stories by Yasuko Thanh


39. History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason


40.  The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen


41. Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson


42. The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol


43. The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy


44. The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood


45.  Swamplandia! By Karen Russell


46. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak


47.  All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson


48.  The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam


49. Folk by Jacob MacArthur Mooney


50. Ossuaries by Dionne Brand


It’s a list. It’s a start. Why don’t you join me and countless others in our quest toward 50 books by the end of 2012?

Time to make a hot cup of tea or coffee, wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket, put on those ugly, fuzzy slippers Aunt Suzy gave you last year, make sure your reading lamp is on, the children are in bed, and the phone is disconnected. Time to bend that binded beauty.


Let’s go!

(c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez

Bucket List Item #6: Publish a novel

So far I’ve only been able to write stories. Short ones. For those of us who are familiar with this genre, it doesn’t receive as much hoopla-hype as the full-bodied-many-chaptered-big-fat-book. Yes, you know what I mean: the novel.

The “work-in-progress” that looms in the recesses of the writer’s cluttered and imaginative (and sometimes talkative) mind.

That ambiguous thing filled with characters, plot, narrative, and style. Bound with what you hope is a great cover design. And stamped with approval by the publishing house with its detail-oriented word and grammar slashers, the editors.

That thing that a writer will work on for days, for months, maybe even a year, in solitude, in “hermitude,” and in very strange, mismatched clothing.

The thing that becomes a volatile child when the writer hasn’t enough discipline or courage to pound at his or her docile keyboard each and every day until, yes, that last chapter is finally near its end.

That  thing.

The novel.


I want to finish writing one:

One that’s good enough to publish.

One that’s great enough to read.

One that’s brilliant enough to love.

That  novel. That  thing.


(c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez

Bucket List Item #5: Publish a book of poems

I read these lines of this verse when I was a child:

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands)

nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

of the poem, “somewhere i have never travelled” by (Edward Estlin) e.e. cummings—and I fell in love with language.

I knew then, that the stuff of poems were inside me and I would be forever compelled to ink them onto a page.

It is not merely a hope, nor ambition to compile them into a book, but a compulsion to get them out.

Out of me, into a collection.

A published one.


To poets and the words they love: the tangible, the delectable—

the poems.


(c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez

Bucket List Item #4: Create a book review blog

Reading is more than a hobby. For me, it’s a lifestyle. I’m pretty book-crazy.

I spend a lot of time on my laptop.

I like social networking.

I like praise and positive attention.

I’m also opinionated. I agree with my opinions. They are mine. They belong to me.

Put this all together and you’ve got a lethal combination—for a blogger!

Bloggity, bloggity, boo!

I think I’d like to create my own book review blog.

I will call it:


Because books matter.

And what we think about them matters, too.


(c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez

Bucket Item List #3: Create an updated database of my book library

I’m an avid reader and bibliotaphe, which in plain language means I’m a book hoarder and am drawn to all things bookish.

As a former English Literature and Creative Writing student, I have in my years collected a number of books.

And then I got married—and my husband’s book collection slinked its way into mine. Now, we’re not only “one,” but so is our book collection.

I’d very much like to keep track of what we own and what we’ve read.

So that the bibliotaphe in me can thrive on.

(One of my 10 bookshelves.)

(c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez

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