How I Manage My Book Buying Budget

How I Manage My Book Budget -- The Riverside Library

Every time I go to an Airbnb and there’s a bookshelf, I spend an exorbitant amount of time perusing them. This is in part, because the only bookshelf I ever really get to see is my own. When I stand there looking over the creased spines, reading the titles I’m always reminded of that John Waters quote. You know the one, “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t *ahem* them.”

After a little perusing the internet, I found a full version, which I do prefer: “We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*** them. Don’t let them explore you until they’ve explored the secret universes of books. Don’t let them connect with you until they’ve walked between the lines on the pages. Books are cool, if you have to withhold yourself from someone for a bit in order for them to realize this then do so.” But, I digress.

I don’t necessarily agree with this, I mean, if you go home with someone and they have walls and walls of bookshelves filled with crime novels, true crime books, and books on how to commit crime, maybe run the other way as fast as you can?

The books we own can say a lot about us as people - people with shelves lining their walls evidently enjoy collecting books, those with few are perhaps more selective, a person with a heap of nonfiction may love learning, and someone with a bunch of fantasy probably enjoys escapism.

I like to think my shelves have meaning. For me, that meaning is also a means to keep my book spending to a minimum. I use my library a lot, (like, a lot, a lot) and that’s a massive way that I can read widely without busting the budget. I buy very few books. Yes, sometimes it’s very difficult to resist temptation. Yes, I enjoy perusing bookstores. Yes, sometimes I cave, sometimes I break the rules. But I do have rules, they are what help me maintain my book buying budget.

Firstly though, you should know, I’m a naturally frugal person. I don’t like having stuff. It panics me. Too many books and I feel like they’re going to crush me. This could be, in part, due to living between two countries and having to fit everything I own into a medium sized suitcase. It could also be due to growing up in an earthquake prone area that succumbed to disaster in 2011, where you really couldn’t have bookshelves, because they would crush you if the books all fell out. I refuse to own any piece of furniture that is taller than me. But this isn’t a counselling session, so let’s move on. Now you know a thing or two about me, these rules might make a little more sense.

The Rules of the Shelf

The rules of my bookshelf revolve around the goal of my bookshelf, they are determined by what kind of collector I am, and what I want my bookshelf to say about me. I’m a story person, and I want my bookshelf to tell a story. The books upon my shelf are all books that I have found a piece of myself in. I’m not saying that reading helped me on a path of self-discovery, instead, it was much more that while reading these books I had that, ‘omg! Me too’ sensation, where something the author said or had characters do really clicked with me. Connected with me. Those are the books that fit into the first of three golden rules:

1. If You’ve Read it Twice, and Want to Read it for a Third time, Get It

Truth is, I generally really only reread books I absolutely love. I definitely only reread them more than twice if I really connect with them. If I read a book from the library and spend the next few months after returning it, wishing I had a copy to delve back into, then I’ll buy one. Usually, I’ll splurge to get a really nice copy. Sometimes I’ll wait for it to be discounted, which I don’t mind, because I’m not an impatient person.

I could list every book I own if you really wanted me to, because they all mean something to me, granted, I own about 50 books, so it’s really not a feat. I guess the poetic side of me likes to think that anyone could go to my shelf and read the titles, trying to find the bits I related to, trying to piece the puzzle of me together by the books on my shelf.

If you want to save money on books, I recommend borrowing the ones you want to read and buying the ones you love. Or, if you want to buy all the books, sell them if you don’t want to keep them, and come up with a poetic puzzle to your own bookshelf, something to tell people about, or something to keep close to your heart, like an inside joke between you and your bookshelf.

2. If You Want it and it’s Under $5, Get it

This rule was designed with two facts about me in mind: I like good deals, and I am human. Sometimes I cannot resist the temptation to purchase books. It’s not often that I go to a bookstore and have to have something. I’m good at leaving when I want something really bad but I a) know I don’t need it and b) can imagine it falling off my shelf and crushing me. Having said that, I often buy a handful of Wordsworth classics when they’re on special for under $5, because I like to annotate my classics, and I don’t like writing on expensive books. Sometimes I even push the $5 to $10 if it’s a book I’ve wanted to read for an age but the Library copy is really grotty, and I can’t get into it as an eBook. Honestly, I only own two books that I purchased on a whim for under $5, one that I purchased for over $5, and three that are Wordsworth Classics, which means I've used this rule a grand total of five times.

3. If You No Longer Love it, Get Rid of It

I love getting rid of things. I purge my wardrobe every few months and always manage to get rid of something (having said that, I’m really getting low on clothes), and I purge my bookshelf at least once a year, usually selling and sometimes donating. I un-hauled my entire set of Throne of Glass last year, not because I didn’t like it, but because I knew I didn’t want to reread it anymore. The year before I un-hauled my entire collection of Twilight. Selling books frees up money to buy new books. It’s a very good cycle. Besides, getting rid of things is very liberating, especially if you don’t like stuff like me.  

The Exceptions: There have to be exceptions to every rule, right? Otherwise, they’re not rules at all. On my bookshelf, I make exceptions for gifts. They’re allowed to live upon the shelf even if I haven’t read them, in part, to throw a curveball at a prospective peruses, and also because I adore being gifted books. It’s not something my family or close friends do, they say they can never pick out books for me and know I generally only want books I love, and I already have them, so what’s the point? I do have a handful of good friends in the book world that do know what books to get me, and the others I’ve been gifted were from publishers.

So there it is, the simple way that I manage my book buying budget. Do you guys have a book buying budget? How do you manage them? Or, do you have a poetic mysterious secret that explains your entire collection while perfectly representing your personality? Sound of in the comments, I'm excited to hear!

As always, thanks for reading!

Mikaela | The Riverside Library


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10 Epic Features of Public Libraries

10 Epic Features of Public Libraries -- The Riverside Library

I don’t know about you, but I love my local library. I don’t have a massive book budget to fill my shelves with every book that I’ve ever wanted to read, but lucky for me, my library seemingly does (I’ll admit, I don’t know the extent of their budget, but they buy me five books a month, so it’s larger than mine). Though there are a lot of people who use the library, I feel like there aren’t enough. Maybe it’s my divine purpose on this planet to make people realise what a good thing we’ve got, so here you have my top ten epic features of public libraries.


Of course, books are my first reason. The amount of books you can loan will depend on your library, and the length will too. My local library allows thirty books for thirty days. Yes, I often max that out and hit the renew button like it’s a lifesaver, but if you’ve got better time management than me and you can read a book a day, the library will hook you up with 360 books a year. My Goodreads history will tell you that’s more than I’ve ever read, so you’ll be set if you want to really challenge yourself.
If you’re one of those folks who only like to read new releases, you’d be surprised at how quickly the library gets them in. The key to it, is to know of the release well in advance so you can place a reservation before all of the other bookworms in your area.
As for one of the main deterrents that stop people from borrowing from their libraries, sure, some of the copies are a little beat up and dirty, but if the book has been protected with clear contact, you can easily just wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe. It may still look a little yuck, but you won’t catch any nasties.


My town is all over free wifi. We have it down Main Street, we have it on the beach, in most cafes, and in all our malls, but my favourite place to sit and use the free wifi is in the library (see number 3 and 6 for my reasons why) Sure, it mightn’t be the fastest internet on the planet, but if you’re from Australia and you’ve been suffering through private NBN recently, you probably won’t notice much difference.
Sure, there are limitations to what you can do on public wifi (no illegal business, sorry folks, but you know you shouldn’t be doing that anyway), and if you didn’t bring your own device, the public computers often have time limits and a lot of websites blocked, and on top of that, there are things you probably shouldn’t do on public computers and wifi, for your own safety and security (leave the online banking for home), but for scrolling Instagram, jotting down blog posts, updating your Pinterest, finishing assignments, and even gaming, YouTube or streaming services, the local library’s wifi is definitely a massive perk, and something I’ll be eternally grateful for.

Air-con/ heating

I live in the subtropics, south of the equator, where summer spans December to February and Winter is just some strange concept or an old memory from living in another place. It’s March as I write this, and the temperature hit about 35 degrees yesterday (about 95 for you Fahrenheit folks) so air con is a must, especially in the humidity. Thankfully my library cranks that air con right down to a lovely cold temperature and places a good amount of seats in the sun, so you can bask in that beautiful light (protected from the UV, and the ozone hole by the glass) while staying at a comfortable temperature. Of course, the free wifi and cold air con do make the library very crowded during summer holidays, and it’s not always the quietest space, but from a reprieve from the heat, I’ll take it.

Requesting titles

One of my favourite hobbies is to spend my local library’s money. It’s their fault for offering this service and putting it on the homepage of their website. Granted, it’s in tiny letters, but I’m fairly good at finding things on the internet. So, you can bet that I fill out that purchase request form a great many times, and thankfully my library always obliges me, and orders in the books I’d like to read. It’s a service to them too, though, because the books always end up with a thousand reservations on them (credit to the internet book world for hooking me up with the hottest new reads, you make me feel popular *insert Glenda, WICKED gif*), also I’d just like to quickly apologise to anyone living in my region who reserves a book that I’ve requested because I always forget to return them quickly, I know, I know - I’m working on it.

Inter-library loans

Sometimes, if I’ve drained my library’s bank account for the month and they don’t have any spare money to let me buy stuff with, they’ll bring in books from other libraries (likely ones with fewer book bloggers spending all their money, but that’s just speculation). The best part about this, is that you have the option of paying for an inter-library loan, or requesting one for free. We all like free things, no? So, don’t worry if your library doesn’t show a particular book in their catalogue, scour their website for small little options to request a book for purchase or interlibrary loan, and if you can’t find that option (likely written in very small letters) pop in and have a chat with one of the friendly, bookworm librarians and they might be able to find it for you.

Reading nooks

It's about 10am as I write this and it’s just hit 31 degrees, but I’m pretty sure the air con is on 20, and this sun is the only thing that’s keeping me from grabbing my cardigan. I love the seats I'm sitting in right now, they’re perfect for curling up in and reading whatever book I can grab. I have sat in these chairs for hours and hours some weekends and read multiple books from cover to cover. I’ve also spent hours annoying everyone within hearing range with my very loud keyboard as I write posts. They’re one of my favourite things, and I’m always a little upset when they’re not available. I know not every library has spots like these, and I’m always grateful my library does. Scour your local library for somewhere warm or cool to sit and read or work. Bring some headphones (or earplugs) if you don’t want to listen to the usual noise of the place. Some Ibrahim’s are quiet, but mine, unfortunately, is not.


My library has a lot of ways that you can listen to all the hip new music, sure, with streaming services like Spotify, I definitely don’t use these services as much as I used to, but I’m grateful they exist. My library allows free loaning of CDs, and you can also download five free music titles a week from their website. We love a cheap Queen.


My library also has a giant range of DVDs available for loan, both movies and TV shows. Online, you can also watch a lot of indie and local film and TV for free with their unusual streaming services.


So the grotty old library books really got you down? Never fear! The ebook collection is here! My library has two book catalogues, Overdrive (compatible with Kindle eReaders in the United States only), and Wheelers. Both are compatible with Kobo eReaders, like the Kobo H2O I own. Overdrive and wheelers also have apps in the App Store and Google play for mobile devices. The ebook catalogues are way bigger than I thought they were, and requesting a title for purchase is super easy too!


I don’t use audiobooks half as much as I should. My local library offers audiobook downloads across three apps, Overdrive, Bolinda Borrow Box and RB digital, each site/app have different books on their catalogue, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. I'm not a big audiobook listener, but one thing I really like about having access to free audiobooks is that I can slowly ease myself into listening to them, without feeling as though I'm wasting money by having a subscription to an audiobook service and not using it.

Bonus: Educational resources.

Along with a massive non-fiction catalogue, my library also offers free subscriptions to sites like Mango languages, perfect if you want to learn a new language or brush up your skills. My library also offers free seminars and talks about interesting topics, everything I know about photography I learned from one of these free talks. I'd definitely recommend checking out their events calendar to see if its something they offer.

What are some of your favourite features of your local library?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

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100+ Bookstagram Hashtags

100+ Bookstagram Hashtags -- The Riverside Library

UPDATED VERSION: 100+ More Bookstagram Hashtags

If you've been playing the Instagram game for a while, you'll know all about the importance of hashtags - hell, even if you're new to Instagram, you'll probably know that hashtags are one of the best ways to get exposure for your account. Instagram is well known for being a little bit sensitive with hashtags though, and there are always rumours flooding the internet that if you use the same hashtag so many times, Instagram will reduce the exposure of your content because they think you're spam, or something like that. I guess that's good? But Instagram, we don't all have a spare couple of hours to trawl the hashtag section to find new ones!

Enter me.

Bedridden this afternoon and bored as an insomniac bat in the middle of the day, I decided to put myself to use, and find a whole long list of Instagram hashtag for bookstagrammers to use.

I've heard that its best to use a mixture of popular and less popular hashtags on your posts, so, not only have I compiled a list of hashtags, I've also found the number of posts each hashtag has. The gigantic table below is organised by popularity, with the most popular at the top and least popular at the bottom. It is in two columns, because a single column was too long for a single page here on my blog, so the second column is a run-on from the first.

Not every one of these hashtags is explicitly bookish related, some were just semi-common ones I had saved in my phone for some particularly odd reason, but I've included them here in case you want to be wild, and mix your hashtag game up a little. Some are also quite specific to particular photos, but I've included them anyway out of interest. Also, this is by no means an exhaustive list, I can now think of about ten that I fogot to add when I was compiling this list (but 130-ish hashtags is enough, right?)

All stats are (mostly) correct as of 27th Jan, 2019. Unless, of course, I've transposed them wrong, which isn't impossible. I'd also like to ask you, kind souls, not to judge me too harshly if I've made any spelling mistakes. My eyes began to gloss over words around the 30th hashtag, and I'm fairly certain there are 130 on this list. So, have a giggle on me.

I put them into random, handy little groups of 27 first, so you can cut and paste them and save them in your phone, with room to add three super specific hashtags when you post. They're mixed in size, with some very popular hashtags and also some smaller ones (remember, apparently the max hashtags you can use in a single post is 30).

P.S. If you wanna buy a book from Book Depository, Booktopia or Amazon, you should totally use my affiliate link, that way, through no extra cost to you, I get a little cha-ching on the side for my hours of insta research 😉

Group 1


Group 3

#books📚 (emoji is important)

Group 5


Group 2

#books📚 (emoji is important)

Group 4

#aussiebibliophile (you can change this to your country)

Group 6


The Entire Giant List By Popularity


Number of posts


Number of posts

#photooftheday 625,000,000 #readingislife 171,000
#Bookstagram 27,500,000 #librarylove 161,000
#Bookworm 13,300,000 #Bookmail 150,000
#booklover 9,700,000 #culturetripbooks 149,000
#instabooks 7,100,000 #readingtime📖 140,000
#Bibliophile 6,500,000 #bookstoread 138,000
#library 6,200,000 #bookrecommendations 135,000
#Bookish 5,800,000 #bookalicious 133,000
#Booknerd 5,800,000 #readeveryday 118,000
#literature 5,000,000 #mybookfeatures 112,000
#Bookaholic 3,900,000 #bookflatlay 110,000
#reader 3,500,000 #bookishgirl 107,000
#sweaterweather 3,400,000 #bookishlife 105,000
#igreads 3,200,000 #readingrainbow 97,500
#Bookphotography 3,100,000 #readingiscool 95,700
#bookstagrammer 3,000,000 #libraryofbookstagram 94,700
#instabook 3,000,000 #fortheloveofbooks 93,500
#bookshelf 2,900,000 #prettybooks 92,500
#booksofinstagram 2,500,000 #bookstafeatures 92,300
#bookporn 2,100,000 #weneeddiversebooks 90,400
#Bookblogger 2,000,000 #avidreader 90,200
#Currentlyreading 1,900,000 #Booknookstagram 89,900
#ilovebooks 1,600,000 #bookreading 89,700
#bookstagramfeature 1,500,000 #bookaholics 83,500
#bookclub 1,400,000 #bookster 82,200
#booknerdigans 1,400,000 #readstagram 80,900
#littlestoriesofmylife 1,400,000 #allthebooks 79,000
#shelfie 1,400,000 #booksonbooks 72,100
#amreading 1,300,000 #diversebooks 69,400
#verilymoment 1,200,000 #fortheloveofreading 68,100
#photosinbetween 1,100,000 #Prelovedbooks 67,500
#readersofinstagram 1,100,000 #bibliophilia 66,700
#readingtime 1,000,000 #readersgonnaread 63,500
#bookishfeatures 990,000 #readallthebooks 62,600
#thatauthenticfeeling 914,000 #bookaccount 62,400
#ilovereading 852,000 #booknook 57,200
#lovereading 760,000 #readingrocks 55,900
#bookblog 717,000 #shelfiesunday 55,200
#bookworms 608,000 #bookaddicts 52,600
#Epicreads 606,000 #readinggoals 52,200
#Bookhaul 546,000 #readreadread 51,700
#lovetoread 496,000 #Bookaddict 49,000
#booksbooksbooks 483,000 #bookadict (this isn't a spelling mistake of mine, there's literally a hashtag spelled like this with 49K posts, and I'm sure adict isn't a word?) 49,000
#bookcommunity 482,000 #bookstagramit 47,800
#readmore 460,000 #Bookmerch 44,800
#IreadYA 459,000 #idratherbereading 36,900
#bookobsessed 454,000 #readerforlife 29,500
#Booktube 421,000 #readaholic 27,500
#yalovin 332,000 #bookreadhappyhour 26,600
#books📚 326,000 #favouritebooks 25,800
#booksarelife 317,000 #Bookreaders 25,000
#totalbooknerd 313,000 #featuremybooks 20,000
#bookhoarder 297,000 #diversereads 17,500
#readingisfundamental 279,000 #lovetoreadbooks 15,000
#bookstack 270,000 #aussiebibliophile 14,900
#bookaddiction 267,000 #libraryporn 14,400
#bookfeaturepage 263,000 #readerproblems 12,900
#readmorebooks 248,000 #librarylover 12,800
#Booktuber 235,000 #bibliophage 5,685
#ilovetoread 228,000 #2019books 2455
#readersofig 218,000 #booktography 1300
#bookreader 210,000 #booksforclothes 691
#bookrecommendation 210,000 #diversereading 539
#bookaddicted 188,000
#readingcahllenge 183,000


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100+ Bookstagram Hashtags -- The Riversidelibrary

100+ Bookstagram Hashtags -- The Riverside Library

You Are the Owner of Your Content – So Own It

You Are the Owner of Your Content -- The Riverside Library

A short while ago I posted an article titled Dear Bookish Social Media, We Need to Break Up, in which I explained my falling out of love with bookish social media. I mentioned that I wasn’t deleting this blog or my bookstagram, but I was reducing my time and effort on Goodreads. I received a lot of messages about that post – it seems that many of you are feeling the same way about bookish social media.
And I get it. It makes sense.
Since I posted that article, a few things have changed in my life – the key one being that I moved back to Australia. Since then, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to produce content to share online.  Every time I move I’m faced with this same challenge – learning how to work with a new space is never easy for me, and I find myself uneasy every time I pick up my camera to take photos. 
While in New Zealand I was staying with my sister, so the space I had was hardly mine, but it was set up in such a way that it was easy to take photos. Now, I’m staying with other family while I get ready to move to my own place, and lacking my familiar setting is difficult when it comes to taking photos for bookstagram. If you’re a follower of mine over on Instagram, you’ll likely know that I’m not a master of the flat lay, I prefer more bookish lifestyle photos. This means, more of my life and living situation get included into the photo, even when my surroundings aren’t exactly photogenic. Sometimes it takes a great lot of work to style a photo that will match my Instagram feed. Usually, that’s not a problem. Usually, I have creativity abounds, I can look at a space and figure out how to work with it, but that’s not the case right now. I’m exhausted, and that’s blocking my creativity.  
My instagram has come to a screeching halt. It’s caused me to take a long look at my account and ask myself what I want from it, what I want to share, who I want to be online, and my answer has been the same for months now, but I’ve done nothing about it – I want to be more. 
I feel limited by the hashtag bookstagram. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not leaving bookstagram. I love it too much. 
But I was sitting at the beach yesterday evening with my camera sitting on my lap, just watching the world go by, and I got to thinking about bookstagram. I didn’t have any photos to post later that day, but still, I wondered, what would I talk about if I did? I’d probably mention that I’m stubbornly refusing to let anything other than War and Peace be my first read of 2019, so I’m slowly getting through that classic tome. Then maybe I’d ask what the longest book on your TBR for 2019 is. Or maybe I’d ask if there are any classics that you want to read in 2019, but they scare the socks off your feet. That’s a semi decent caption, no problem – but then, what would I talk about the next day? Still reading War and Peace, it’s quite long, a bit dense. And the next day? War and Peace again today, how about you? And the next? 
Sure, I could talk about another bookish topic, we don’t always have to discuss our current reads, but all too often I sit there with the cursor blinking in the caption box as I wonder what to write, and end up writing nothing, not posting at all that day because I want to say something, but I don’t have any words dribbling out of my brain. Then, I think of other things, not quite so bookish things that I could say if I just had a different photo. I could talk about my favourite literary travel spots I’ve come across over the years – like the Moria Gate Arch just north of Karamea that makes me feel like I’m really in Middle Earth, or how the hills south of Auckland all look like they could house Hobbits. Or I could talk about the magical experience that is sitting down in the flax bushes by Lake Wakatipu, looking out over The Remarkables and reading whatever fantasy novel I had on me. Or I could talk about that time I pretended I was Robinson Crusoe on some island in New Caledonia when there was no one else around. Or I could recommend a list of books to take with you on a roadtrip up the Queensland coast incase you break down between Rockhampton and McKay and end up having to stay the night in a town where there’s nothing but a servo and a diner.  
I love books, but I also love more. 
In her poem, This Summer’s Day, Mary Oliver wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Well, Mary, I’m glad you asked, because I plant to go everywhere. I plan to read everything I can. I’m going to finish War and Peace, and you can bet that it will be my first read of 2019, even though it’s the sixth of January and I’m still only 20% of the way through. I plan to visit as many of the Pacific Islands as I possibly can and not be so cagey about the fact that I was born in Polynesia and I’m head over heels in love with coconuts. One day, I’m going to rent a cabin out by Castle Hill and write a book during the nights, and forage for nonexistent fruits during the day. Another day, I’m going to roadtrip the coast of this beautiful country I’m so lucky enough to call home, in a old van that will probably need to be serviced every single time I putt into a new town. At some point, I’ll venture over to England, Ireland and Scotland to see where my ancestors came from and maybe visit a few castles pretending that I’m not quite as far removed from the royal bloodline as I actually am, and I might even find some magical standing stones? You never know. 
And I’m going to share it on the internet, even if 1% of my followers say that they prefer to see only bookish content.
And I hope you do the same, because you are the owner of your content, and I think it’s about damn time you own it. 
Thanks for reading! Wishing you the happiest New Year!

Ka kite anō!
(colloquial shorting of ka kite anō au i a koe, meaning I’ll see you again).

Mikaela | The Riverside Library


Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined NetGalley

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined NetGalley -- The Riverside Library

When I first joined bookish social media, I was introduced to the concept of ARCs – advanced readers copies. Publishers give readers early copies of books to review and recommend before the release date. It’s not easy to attain physical arcs from publishers s a new instagrammer/blogger, so the easiest way to get ARCs is through a little website called NetGalley (there’s also Edelweiss/Above the Treeline, but I have no experience with that website, so I’ll be focussing on NetGalley). It’s easy to go on NetGalley and request everything that sounds remotely interesting, which I may or may not have done when I first joined, but there are a few things I wish I knew before I joined NetGalley.

Unless you use Kindle, the books don’t last forever

This was perhaps the main thing I didn’t realise when I requested my first galley: the books don’t last forever. I’m told that Kindle format is the exception, but I only started downloading my galleys as kindle as well as ePubs recently, so I can’t confirm or deny this. I know that I probably shouldn’t have left these books so long before I read them, but we all have to learn some things the hard way. Most galleys expire after 55 days, but you can redownload them for another 55 day period unless the publisher has archived the title. Fifty-five days is more than enough time to read a book if you actually set your mind to it, but on many occasions, I didn’t set my mind to it, and the book never got read. This put me in quite the predicament when the book was archived and I hadn’t finished it, because I don’t like giving reviews to books I didn’t finish, which brings me to the next thing I wish I knew.

Deciding not to give a review negatively impacts your score

On your NetGalley profile, a feedback ratio will be displayed in a big green box. NetGalley suggests that you maintain a feedback ratio of 80% (mine is currently 71% whoops). When you go to give feedback on a title, you can check ‘did not finish,’ and I (stupidly) thought that would count as a review, and my feedback ratio would go up accordingly. This isn’t so. Your feedback ratio remains at the level it was before you checked ‘did not finish,’ as if you hadn’t given any feedback at all (which, I guess, you didn’t). In theory, this would make you less likely to be approved for galleys in the future, which is what we want to avoid. If you want to maintain your feedback ratio, but you didn’t finish the book, you’ll have to give a review on the book without reading it in its entirety, which, as I mentioned before, is not something I personally like to do. It’s up to you how you go about this.

Publishers are sometimes restricted by region

If you’re based in the United States, dear reader, you likely won’t need to worry about this. Same goes (I think) for the United Kingdom. For the rest of us? No new news here, like many (most) things in life, publishers are often restricted by region, meaning they mightn’t be able to approve you for a book based on your location. As I said before, this isn’t anything unusual for us international folk, but it’s unfortunate. You can usually see the publisher’s region approvals in the ‘more information’ tab on their profile, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably request it anyway. Like all things, don’t take the rejection personally.
All in all, I think NetGalley is a great way to get your hands on books that you want to read and review before the release date, but if I could give you one piece of advice, I’d suggest you focus on requesting books that you’re actually genuinely planning on reading. Or suffer the ehem… not so great feedback ratio like me.

Are you a reviewer on NetGalley? What are some things you wish you knew before you joined?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Dear Bookish Social Media, We Need to Break Up

Dear Bookish Social Media, We Need to Break Up -- The Riverside Library

It’s not you, bookish social media, it’s me. Actually, no, it’s mostly you. 

When I first discovered bookish social media I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I’d known about Goodreads before, but I naively thought Facebook integration was mandatory and I could only be friends with people I actually knew (at that point only one of my friends had a Goodreads, and I had a strong book snob vibe from them). My Goodreads usage was very limited in those dark days, I would only use it to shelve classic books to be read, and read reviews of my favourite books.

Then, one day, I read an online article about local instagrammers I should follow, and featured on that list was an account that took photos solely of books. I went sleuthing, and then, I was hooked. From that moment on, I was addicted to bookstagram, book twitter and Goodreads. Flash forward to now, and I’m disheartened. With all of it. I’ve noticed a lack of enthusiasm taking photos for bookstagram, stress when considering my Goodreads goal, and absolute hatred for that little blue bird app.

I’m Not Leaving All Bookish Social Media Behind

I’m not leaving bookstagram. No way. And this blog is staying.

I’ve deleted twitter from my phone. That’s over and done with, thank the Tim Tams. Now, if I want to use Twitter, which happens occasionally, I have to log on to my computer to tweet, which is a lot more effort that tweeting from my phone, so it often dissuades me.

And I’m not deleting Goodreads. I’m just breaking up with it. We’re going to be friends from now on, nothing more, nothing closer, just friends.

And that’s what this post is about.

Why I’m Breaking Up With Goodreads

I Hardly Ever Give Star Ratings

I’ve gotten much better at this lately, but giving star ratings makes me feel awkward. There’s too much in a book to consider and reduce down into a little series of stars. I understand that star ratings are meant to accompany reviews, so you express how you feel in the review and sum it all up in a star rating, but still, it’s a challenge I’d rather not face. Of course, if I can pick a star rating, I’m still going to do it, but I’m not going to pressure myself into doing it just for the sake of it.

I Find it Really Hard to Write Reviews

“What? But you blog about books?! I’ve read your reviews!” You may be thinking. Yes, this is very true. Let’s be honest though, it’s a rare day I publish a review on this blog. I wish I could write more reviews, but the truth is, I have so few critical opinions on books that there really isn’t much of a point, also, I find that there’s little point in me writing a review of a popular book I’m reading months/years after it’s release when so many others who share the same opinions as me have written beautiful posts before (side note: maybe I should just do a review shout-out for bloggers who share the same opinion on books as me).

I’d rather stick to reviewing books that are either new releases or not well known, and I’d rather do that here on my blog.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure

Some days I love that little Goodreads Challenge progress bar on the side of my home page, other days I hate it. I began the year with a goal of reading 80 books, I’ve since reduced it to reading 20 books. If you’re friends with me on Goodreads, you’ll probably wonder why this is, because as of today in December 2018, I’ve read 77 books. I surpassed that 20 book goal at the beginning of the year, and I’m three books away from the 80 book goal. Changing it doesn’t make sense, right?

Sure it does, I read for fun, setting a high goal just isn’t my idea of fun. Reading 20 books a year is an amazing accomplishment, one that most people (outside the bookish world, perhaps) would be incredibly proud of. So, I’ll be proud of that too. I’ve long since decided that twenty books a year will be my goodreads goal for every year to come.

The Feeling of Competition

Every year, usually in the middle, right when the mid-year book freak out tags are cropping up, I see a lot of people voicing their dissatisfaction with their yearly reading progress. A little message of feeling inferior, not good enough to be a bookish influencer and not well-read all too often crops up in a bookstagrammer’s Instagram story. And I hate that. It’s not something that I personally struggle with, as I consider myself a middle-of-the-range reader, my average 50 books a year is definitely not something to be ashamed of – then again, reading one book a year isn’t either.

In the bookish world, we have this strangely peculiar way of measuring our worth as a reader by the number of books we read. I know I interact with people online who constantly read upwards of 150 books a year, I know others who tend to read less than ten. Do those numbers really tell us that person one is more of a reader than person two? Before I joined the bookish world, I was under the impression that there were only ‘readers’ and ‘non-readers.’ The truth of the matter is, some people read a lot of books. Some people don’t read as much.

Your worth is not measured in the Goodreads progress bar.

Why I’m Not Kicking Goodreads Out of My Life Completely

I have two reasons why I’m not logging off Goodreads and saying ‘Bye-bye’ for good. You know, if you hadn’t read this blog post, you probably wouldn’t even notice I’m reducing my time online. 

I Use it to Find Books!

My favourite thing about Goodreads is that we’re talking about books. I love seeing what others are reading, and using that as a way to fill out my TBR. In fact, Goodreads is my favourite way to find new books to read (sorry, Bookstagram), I’m not entirely sure what I’d do if I didn’t have it. 

I Need to Keep a Track of My TBR

I haven’t the slightest clue how any of you guys keep a track of your TBR, but I use Goodreads, and nothing else. I don’t buy a lot of books that I want to read, I generally only buy books that I have already read, and absolutely loved. Because of this, I can’t use my bookshelf as a means to record my TBR, I have to use something a little less physical. Goodreads is, and has always been, the perfect solution. If I didn’t have Goodreads, I’d have to put in way more effort and record my TBR myself. I’m cringing at the thought.

How do you feel about bookish social media? Do you love it? Hate it? Hate to love it? Love to hate it? Do you use too much? Or do you somehow have fewer existential crises than me?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

5 Fantasies You Should Read this Winter

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Long winter nights provide ample reading time, so I think it’s time to pick up that thick fantasy you’ve always been wanting to read and get stuck into it. If nothing else, it’s a perfect escape from those icy winter nights. Here are my top five winter recommendations!

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone


This is a recent read for me, but perfect for winter with it’s Prague setting and chilly goodness. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a high-stakes love story between angels and demons. Now, I’m not one for love stories, but I adored this fantasy, with its rich setting and kick-ass protagonist.


Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

4. Game of Thrones


I finally read Game of Thrones back in the first half of the year, but unlike many who’ve read it, I didn’t speed through it. It took me forever to get through this book. I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped to, but I can definitely see the appeal, and let’s be honest, it’ll be a classic when our children (or grandchildren) are older. So it’s kind of cementing itself on a ‘must read’ shelf. What better time to read this fantasy with winters that stretch on for years than in the winter months! Bite the bullet and pick up a copy to see what all the hype is about!


Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

3. Outlander


I can’t think the word ‘Outlander’ without mentally singing the TV show’s theme song. It’s so good. The theme song, I mean. The book is fantastic too. Although slightly slow to begin with, this incredibly researched story about a time travelling WWII nurse and the man she falls in love with is addictive. Set in the wild Scottish Highlands, Outlander is a heart-pumping, steamy, and edge-of-your-seat they-have-the-worst-luck-in-the-world historical novel with romance and science-fiction that lends itself to fantasy, and adventure, and it will play with your heart and probably break it. So, you should read it. Because it’s healthy to have a book break your heart every once in a while.


The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


Lord of the Rings is another recent read for me, but it’s one I’ve been meaning to read for such a long time. I got it out from my library for the billionth time, but this time I made sure to knuckle down and read it! I’ve always found it pretty slow to start with, but I was pleasantly surprised that it truly picks up pace after the spot that I always seem to put it down. The Fellowship of the Ring‘s popularity always baffled me somewhat, but now, after reading it, I can definitely see what the fuss was about, and I still can’t shake the absolute dread that fills me every time I imagine being tracked by a black rider.


One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

1. Harry Potter


I don’t know about you, but all I want in winter is a big warm mug of some hot drink, candles, a blanket, and Harry Potter. It’s a winter staple. I can never put my finger on what makes Harry Potter so magical to me, but I think it’s probably the comfort that it brings. I was lucky enough to be part of the Harry Potter generation, and to grow up with the boy wizard. I was eleven years old when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, and I remember lining up for that giant book, and shutting myself in my room over the course of the next two days to read it.

Returning to Hogwarts every year is something I always make a point to do. After all, it’s my literary equivalent of a home. In my humble opinion, there’s no better way to spend winter than with Harry, Hermione and Ron.


Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason … HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

Let me know your top five winter fantasies in the comments below!

How to Write a Book Review

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I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to write a review, but up until recently, I’ve found them very difficult to write. Reviews are something I used to spend hours on, to only delete it because I didn’t like what I’d written. My structure never felt right, they always felt too brief or too waffly, I could never seem to get the balance right. Until, one day I sat down to write one, and it just worked. Of course, I had to sit down and write out the formula I’d used so I could replicate it in the future, and now, thanks to this layout, I have a whole pile of reviews completed on my computer.

Don’t worry, I won’t keep it all to myself, that’s not why I have a blog!

This blog review formula is super easy to follow, and it only takes me about ten to twenty minutes to write out! So, lets get straight to it!

How did you come to read it?

Although not particularly important, telling your readers how you came to read the book is a great introduction. Sometimes, if you were supplied the book for review, you’ll need to tell your readers this, and let them know that it in no way impacts your thoughts on the work, so I think starting reviews off this way is good practice to get into.

Telling your readers where you found out about the book also gives a great indication as to how popular the book is, say you picked it up because you saw it on bookstagram all the time, the reader will know that it’s well known in the reading community, and that will appeal to a lot of readers. Conversely, if a reader doesn’t like reading what everyone else is reading, or doesn’t trust the online book community, then a book you picked up at your local library because you liked the sound of the blurb, might be more appealing to them.

What is it about?

If there is one thing that my higher education in science taught me, it’s to be succinct. The point of a review is not to tell the reader what happened in the book (that’s what the blurb, and the book itself is for), but rather to express your opinions on the book so to let the reader know if it’s something they’ll like to pick up or not. Where a lot of people go wrong with reviews is that they spend most of their time talking about the book’s plot. This section of the review should not be the longest section. It should be one of the shorter ones. Try to explain the book in one or two sentences. For example I would describe Fangirl as follows “Cath is a freshman is university, and also the writer of a fairly famous fan fiction. Fangirl follows her as she navigates her first year, her first love, and a bunch of old fears.” My two sentence summary is by no means world-class literature, (in fact, it gives a new definition to the word ‘basic’) but it doesn’t have to be worthy of the Man Booker. Instead, it needs to get your point across. The two-sentence summary above tells you that the story is about a girl named Cath, it’s set at university, it focuses on writing/a writer. The second sentence hints at conflicts to do with her studies, her love life, and her past life without going into depth mentioning people like Levi, or that guy Nick or even her estranged mother.

As reviewers, it’s not our job to make people want to read the book by telling them what the book is about – that’s the publisher and authors jobs. As reviewers, it’s our job to influence people to read, or not read the book with our opinions and reactions and out of control emotions.

What was your reading experience like?

This is often more telling than anything else. Did you read the book in one sitting? Did you stay up until 2am just to finish to because you couldn’t put it down? Or did you read it on and off for a few months because it couldn’t quite hold your attention as much as others have before?

I read Obsidio in one sitting, I finished it at 1:30am and I gave it five stars, whereas I read Around the World in Eighty Days over a few months, and gave it two stars. I find that I tend to devour the books I love, whereas the books I’m not excessively keen on take me longer to complete. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, I savour some books I love, and so they can take me half a year to complete (predominantly non-fiction), and even books I love take me a long time to read when I have a hectic schedule. Use this section to tell everyone what your reading experience was like (and why), and chat about how that reflects on the book.

What did you like about the characters/plot/themes/writing style/world building etc.

If you’re just writing a quick review, it’s fine to pick and discuss one of these, or if you’re going for a more in-depth review, feel free to discuss them all. Characters, plot, themes, writing style, world building and other elements of the novel are a great thing to discuss. Tell us what made you connect to the character, what about the plot kept you turning the pages, what themes resonated with you, how the writing style read to you, if the world building made you want to pack your bags and move there.

What are the book’s flaws?

I like putting this part of my review in the middle, because I generally try to stay positive with my reviews. You may notice I’m not one to frequently give books the 1 or 2 star ratings (there are a few exceptions), and that’s purely a personal preference. A lot of reviewers find a sense of relief in giving negative reviews, but because I like talking about the books I love I’d rather not review books I didn’t love. That being said, every book has it’s flaws, because nothing is perfect, and we should always discuss them. By putting this in the middle, I like that the review doesn’t end on a low note as it would if I put it at the end, and doesn’t begin on a low note either, as it would if I put it in the very beginning. To me, chatting about these things in the middle is a way of acknowledging the parts of the book I didn’t like so much, while not letting it define the book as a whole, or take away from it’s great qualities.

What was your favourite thing?

This is super important, because we all love loving things, right? Talk about the thing you loved most of all. Like for my Obsidio review I talked about AIDAN, for my Fangirl review I talked about the story’s pacing. This is the part where you can write in sentences that are so impassioned they don’t really make much sense, but the lack of coherency is a better indication of your love than any proper sentences could be. Throw grammar out the window. Don’t even bother about properly capitalising things. Write in all caps IF YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE GETTING A POINT ACROSS.

What is your star rating?

Everyone calculates their star rating a different way. I go between rating books on how it feels and finding an average of stars from characters, plot, writing style, world building, and overall enjoyment. This is one of the many reasons that reviews are more important than star ratings – at least with a review an opinion is explained and in a way, justified, but a star rating is just a star rating, it doesn’t really tell you anything at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing to include to wrap up your review, and to summarize everything, but star ratings aren’t the most fabulous thing on their own. You may be thinking, “But Mikaela! Star ratings are all you’ve got on your instagram and goodreads!” Yep, that’s true, and it’s because star ratings are easy and I like to spend the majority of my time walking along the path of life that requires the least amount of effort.

And Finally

Now that I’ve given you the technical details of how I write my book reviews, it’s time to give you the one piece of advice that I think is the most important, and it’s one I only came to the realisation of a while back. It’s you. Make sure you include your unique writing voice in the piece. Remember, if you’re blogging, your writing is supposed to be informal, you don’t need to write like you’re submitting an application for the most prestigious university in the world – write like you’re chatting to a friend about this book that they absolutely hands down must read like right this second. Or the opposite. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Hey! Thanks for reading, I’d love it if you dropped me a comment to tell me what you thought of this article, or even just say Hi!

Like it? Pin it!

How to Write a Book Review -- The Riverside Library

5 Books Recommended by the Internet that I Actually Want to Read

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I like to think my hours spent scrolling through Pinterest can be counted as research. I mean, it is research, right? It’s not time wasting, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I find book recommendations everywhere. Books that will make you a better person, books that will make you smarter, books that will somehow make you fit that super cute, beautiful messy bun wearing, well-cultured indie movie protagonist that lives in the cutest studio apartment above a dusty bookshop who can quote any (and every) classic book on demand, and can actually keep a plant alive.

You also get some pretty strange book recommendations too, let’s be honest. But, I’ve taken one for the team and trawled Pinterest to find some fairly interesting books to read. Now, as the faithful public servant that I am, I’m here to share them with you. You’re welcome. Let’s go!

Oh, P.S. most of these are non-fiction, because this is my blog and I am me *beams*.

How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are

How to Be Parisian -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside Library

Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Sophie Mas

I’m not in love with the idea of France because of Julie and Julia and The One Hundred Foot Journey. I am obsessed with the idea of France because of Julie and Julia and The One Hundred Foot Journey. I understand that movies are movies and my fictional idea of France is probably quite far from reality, but a girl can dream, non? I’m kind of fascinated by this book, in part because I’m not exactly sure what it means to be Parisian, but I’m pretty sure it’s not my Kiwi-Australian outdoor loving, hiking obsessed, beach bum self. I have a feeling this book is going to be quasi-pretentious and absolutely hilarious.


In short, frisky sections, these Parisian women give you their very original views on style, beauty, culture, attitude and men. The authors–Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas–unmarried but attached, with children–have been friends for years. Talented bohemian iconoclasts with careers in the worlds of music, film, fashion and publishing, they are untypically frank and outspoken as they debunk the myths about what it means to be a French woman today. Letting you in on their secrets and flaws, they also make fun of their complicated, often contradictory feelings and behavior. They admit to being snobs, a bit self-centered, unpredictable but not unreliable. Bossy and opinionated, they are also tender and romantic.

You will be taken on a first date, to a party, to some favorite haunts in Paris, to the countryside, and to one of their dinners at home with recipes even you could do — but to be out with them is to be in for some mischief and surprises. They will tell you how to be mysterious and sensual, look natural, make your boyfriend jealous, and how they feel about children, weddings and going to the gym. And they will share their address book in Paris for where to go: At the End of the Night, for A Birthday, for a Smart Date, for a A Hangover, for Vintage Finds and much more.

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are will make you laugh as you slip into their shoes to become bold and free and tap into your inner cool

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibraryAtul Gawande 

I’ve actually tried to read this one before, and by ‘tried to read’ I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve loaned it from the library before and then proceeded to forget I loaned it and never read it. It sounds like a book that’s right up my alley, and no doubt it’s going to make me weep, as medical books usually do. But I am ready. I am ready to weep over the pages of this book that promises to deal with life and death and dying (light and happy subject matters are totally up my alley, haven’t you noticed?) I feel like this book is going to take me back to my senior university student self, obsessed with being House M.D. but nicer. I should put that on a t-shirt.


Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibraryAnthony Doerr

This is another one of those books I’ve had out from the library multiple times and never got around to reading. I have no idea why though, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it. The reviews all seem pretty decent, and I’ve mentally shelved it with books like The Night Circus and The Book Theif (that being the slightly unconventionally beautiful ones). I don’t usually buy into the hype of Pulitzer Prize winners, but I really want to hop on this train and see what it’s all about. I feel like this is the kind of book you’d bring up over coffee with your super bookish friend while you’re munching on the ends of fresh croissants and oozing literary sophistication (again, not in love with the idea of France, obsessed with it). Anyway, HYPE TRAIN I AM COMING FOR YOU.



From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

On Photography

On Photography -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibrarySusan Sontag

I love books. I also love taking photos (predominantly of books, I mean, #bookstagram). I’ve also been meaning to read Susan Sontag forever. I have a little Penguin Modern book of hers On Camp, but it’s glaring at me from my bedside table because I haven’t read it yet. I mean, I’m far more interested in photography than I am in camp, whatever that may be, so I think it’s probably a better idea to start with photography and move on to camp (and finally figure out if it has anything to do with camping). I’ve been putting off reading this for a while because it’s stuck in my library’s storage and they charge $3 if you want to get something transferred to your local library, which I begrudge paying because if I wanted to pay for something I’d pay for the book, not the transfer. Maybe I’m just a little bitter because at my old library everything was free and this new one charges for everything (okay so maybe you don’t have to pay to breathe air, but it feels like it sometimes), and also they call audiobooks talking books and it makes me uneasy. Aside from that, I am so excited to read this one.


First published in 1973, this is a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag develops further the concept of ‘transparency’. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. This collection of six lucid and invigorating essays, the most famous being “In Plato’s Cave”, make up a deep exploration of how the image has affected society.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

The Happiness Project -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibraryGretchen Rubin

I like happiness. There are some things I don’t like about it, namely that it can be quite elusive on occasion. But for the most part, I like happiness, and I’d like to have more of it. In fact, I would like to have a whole life filled with it, so much so that it will spill over and hit everyone I meet (totally not violently though). When I saw this book on someone’s ‘Top Ten Books that Changed my Life’ list on Pinterest, I had to add it to my TBR straight away. I’m into singing in the morning and the occasional cleaning of my wardrobe, though I’m not really into fighting, I do love Aristotle and having fun. This book sounds like it’s right up my alley! I hope I can read it wearing my optimistic tinted glasses and not my super-cynical ones though. I am my own worst enemy sometimes.


Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

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Have you read any of these books? Or are some going on to your TBR? Let me know it the comments below! I’d love to chat with you!

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5 Non-Fiction Books that Will Get You Right in the Feels

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I love non-fiction. That’s no surprise to anyone. I often get asked what my favourite kind of non-fiction books are, and it’s a surprisingly easy question to answer: as with fiction, I like my non-fiction to make me feel something. Be that sadness and injustice, or beauty and inspiration, my favourite books are those that grab my heartstrings and tug until the very last page.

I’ve compiled a list of five non-fiction books that read like fiction and are sure to get you right in the feels. Before we start, please keep in mind that some of the links on this page may be affiliate links, that means when you use the link to purchase the book I make a small commission – with no extra cost to you – so just by buying books, you support my blog and help me to keep creating! It’s a win-win situation!

Now here we go, in no particular order:

5. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books to get you in the feels - The Riverside LibraryYeonmi Park
We all know about North Korea, I mean, you’d have to pointedly ignore all forms and sources of news to be unaware of it. But it’s hard to imagine exactly what life in North Korea is like, especially what life leaving it is like. In Order to Live is a heartbreaking story of young Yeonmi and her family’s life in North Korea and ultimate defection. It follows as they struggle across the border into China, and face hardship after hardship fighting for their freedom. Throughout it all, Yeonmi’s grace and character shine through and make this an un-putdownable read.

Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be “completely free,” she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others. Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister.

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4. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor

by Adam Kay
Jam-packed with that blunt medical humour so familiar to me after studying science, This Is Going to Hurt takes a brittle, sometimes cynical, and always real approach to telling the trails that face a Junior Doctor in the UK. It’s an eye-opener and a half, but be warned, the medical sense of humour is definitely not for everyone. I giggled, and cringed my way through the first half, and cried my way through the ending. A definite favourite of mine, for the hard-hitting, lively way it’s told. I’ll definitely be revisiting this one again.

Adam Kay was a junior doctor from 2004 until 2010, before a devastating experience on a ward caused him to reconsider his future. He kept a diary throughout his training, and This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS with reflections on the current crisis. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.

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3. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

by Carlo Rovelli
I talk about this book all the time because it is one of my absolute favourite non-fiction books I’ve ever read. You might be wondering why, because it’s a physics book, but trust me, reader, it is written like poetry. Covering basic principles in physics and the history of their discovery, Seven Brief Lessons takes you on a journey through time, marvelling both at the incredible human minds that came to understand fragments of our baffling universe, but also marvelling at the beauty of the universe itself. If Seven Brief Lessons doesn’t make you fall in love with this paradoxical, unfathomable vast expanse of sheer cosmic awesomeness that we’ve found ourselves in, then I don’t know what will. Read it, please.

In seven brief lessons, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli guides readers with admirable clarity through the most transformative physics breakthroughs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This playful, entertaining and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, already a major bestseller in Italy, explains general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role of humans in the strange world Rovelli describes. This is a book about the joy of discovery. It takes readers to the frontiers of our knowledge: to the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, back to the origins of the cosmos, and into the workings of our minds. “Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world,” Rovelli writes. “And it’s breathtaking.”

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2. When Breath Becomes Air

5 Non-Fiction Books to Get you in the Feels- The Riverside LibraryPaul Kalanithi

The second book written by a doctor that features on my list, When Breath Becomes Air takes a more philosophical and less humorous take on the lives and times of doctors. Dr Kalanithi deals with human mortality every day, but he’s forced to come to terms with his far before his time. When Breath Becomes Air is a heartbreaking, and humbling look into what makes us human, and what makes our lives worth living. My heart hurt with this one from the very beginning, and I loved every minute of it, though I was reduced to a sobbing mess. Despite the sadness of the events, When Breath Becomes Air has an incredible tone of hope to it, for even when death comes knocking prematurely at one’s door, life must go on.


At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.'” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

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1. Tuesdays With Morrie

Tuesdays With MorrieMitch Albom
I have read this book a total of two times. Both at incredibly important times of my life. The first was in my final term of high school, as I was preparing to enter university as a pre-med major with a particular interest in Motor Neuron Disease. It was required reading for our class, and I’m sure I was the only person who liked it, but I couldn’t fathom why. Morrie spoke to my heart. In particular, I’m rather fond of the story about the little wave, happily bobbing along one day until he sees the waves ahead of him crashing into shore. He grows upset thinking that soon he will end until another wave comes along to tell him not to worry, for he is not a wave – he is part of the ocean. My heart always swells at that.
The second time I read Tuesdays with Morrie was not long after I’d graduated university. It was just as heartwarming the second time around. Morrie dies with such grace, such joy, and such hope, I couldn’t help but find it infectious. I do find, however, that I read this book for Morrie, and I often skim over the Mitch parts. But that’s just me, reader. I hope you love it too.

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.
Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you?
Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying of ALS – or motor neurone disease – Mitch visited Morrie in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live.

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Drop me a comment with your favourite non-fiction reads!

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