6 Ways to Afford More Books

find books on the cheap

This is an essay by Sharon Rigney.

You can’t put a price tag on the value of reading, yet buying new books can sometimes get cost-prohibitive. Here’s how to pursue reading on a budget.

I don’t know about you, but I like to own a book I’m reading. I like knowing there’s no deadline to when I need to return it to the library or to a friend.

I like the knowledge that if I really love it I can add it to my bookshelf and display it proudly. If I find it would be especially beneficial or relevant to a friend, I can pass it along confidently.

If I didn’t like it, I can surreptitiously leave it behind at the hair salon or doctor’s office. I can donate it to an area shelter or charity no matter what I thought of it. While I am reading it, it’s completely mine. When I am finished, its destination is solely up to me.

Here are some great places to pick up a book or two when other, more costly options are not possibilities:

Shop at thrift stores.

Make it an adventure. Read book jackets. Take chances. You never know what you’ll find. And they’re usually under a dollar a book, even for hardcovers.

Stop and browse at yard sales or flea markets.

Bargains abound here and (especially at yard sales) there’s usually the bonus of a person on site who’s read the book, and can recommend it or offer insight. Bargain prices and personal endorsements make yard sales a terrific option.

Have a book exchange with friends, neighbors, coworkers.

Bring in books you’ve finished reading and exchange for books you’d like to try out. This is a wonderful way to keep your reading options fresh and encourage reading and book-related discussions.

Knowing you and a neighbor, friend or coworker have read the same book offers you both the option to meet over coffee or lunch to discuss what you both thought. You get books, but you may also start great reading-related conversations as well!

Go to community used book sales.

In my community, the local newspaper has one every year. Your library, fire company, church group or parenting group may run one. This is a wonderful way to support your community and also continue your reading habit. If you’re set on keeping your book inventory to a minimum, when you’re finished with your selections, donate them back the following year, or pass them along to another worthy cause.

Look online.

There are many used and half-price book sites out there. For those of us who like a little wear to our books, this is a nice, budget-friendly option that also allows us to find books quickly and efficiently and have them shipped right to our doorsteps. Convenience and lower prices make online used book sites the perfect choice for many busy readers.

Try reading classics that are part of the public domain.

Completely free books are available at several sites and provide an option to fill the gap until when you’re ready to purchase again.

Buying any book, new or used, is exciting! When you can’t buy a new book, however, there are many advantages to purchasing used ones. You can experience a new author. It’s green.

It’s a great way to support the author by passing along your endorsement and recommending it to others. It’s better than not reading at all, of course.

Have you found any great ways to pursue reading that involved buying used books instead of new?


Sharon Rigney is a Bucks County, Pennsylvania-based writer and reviewer. She is a current contributor to several websites and even a blog or two. She loves to travel, really enjoys her morning coffee, and tries not to offend anyone with her snarky sense of humor. Read about her travels here and here or follow her on Twitter or Google+.

Photo: Some rights reserved by 401(K) 2012

Resources for Writers

writing resources read learn write

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

Being a writer is tough. For most of us, it’s a solitary profession or calling, and while we need time alone to write, we also sometimes need guidance. Starting a writer’s group or even exchanging writing for comments and critiques with fellow writer friends can be helpful, but some of the best resources out there are published in paper and digital formats.

Of course, not all references are created equal, and not all resources are equally useful for all types of writers. While some general references about grammar, composition and publishing can be beneficial to pretty much every kind of writer, others focus on a specific type of writing. For example, Carolyn See’s “Making a Literary Life” focuses on novels and nonfiction books, whereas Linda Formichelli’s “The Renegade Writer” focuses on writing for companies and magazines.

Here are some of my favorite books for writers, organized by type of writing, plus a couple of books about getting what you write published and out into the world.

For Long Format Prose Writers

  • Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Carolyn See

Ms. See gives common sense advice about writing daily (1,000 words) and improving your karma in the literary world by sending out charming notes, short missives to authors and writers you admire. She’s also pretty funny, which makes for a better read.

  • Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg

This book is full to overflowing with writing exercises and sound advice about the creative process—keep your hand moving, lose control, be specific, and don’t think. That said, it’s also packed with the author’s ramblings on religion, philosophy and life, and if you’re not interested in zen, can become tedious at times.

  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Many writers consider this book therapy and it does a good job of encouraging insecure writers with anecdotes and writing tips. Anne Lamott is pretty hilarious but some readers may not appreciate her particular sense of humor, or use of swear words.

  • The Writer’s Adventure Guide by Beth Barany

Beth Barany takes would-be writers in a step-by-step journey through a long-format writing project, from brainstorming to final edits. This is an ideal reference for someone just starting a book.

  • Bullet-Proof Book Proposals by Pam Brodowsky and Eric Neuhaus

Over 200 pages of user-friendly advice and examples of proposals that have gone on to be published. This book will help would-be-authors write a non-fiction book proposal with a real chance at publication.

For Magazine and Copywriters

  • You Are a Writer: So Start Acting Like One by Jeff Goins

This is a quick, no-nonsense read about why (and how) you should suck it up, internalize your identity as a writer, and get to work not only on the business of getting words on the page, but also on building a platform and growing an audience.

  • The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell

Linda and Diana focus on the business of writing more than writing itself, but give useful tips on how to get better-paid gigs writing for companies and magazines as well as helpful advice on query letters, time management and deadlines.

  • 102 Ways to Earn Money Writing 1,500 Words or Less by I.J. Schecter

The short-form writer’s guide to making money in 1,500 words or less, this book highlights traditional and nontraditional streams of income for writers. Among the more surprising suggestions are writing copy for fast-food tray liners and restaurant menus.

For Poetry Writers

  • The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Frances Mayes

Who knew the author of Under the Tuscan Sun is also a published poet? Mayes explains the nuts and bolts of how poetry “works” and includes a selection of poems and writing exercises that help readers to write and comprehend their own poetry.

  • The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux

Two poetry teachers communicate the elements of poetry, technique and subjects for poetry as well as writing exercises, descriptions of the ups and downs of the writer’s life, publishing and marketing tips, and share a good selection of contemporary poetry in a series of well-written essays.

  • Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry by Kenneth Koch

Although Koch includes writing exercises, this is more a manual on types of poetry, and how to read them than how to write and publish poetry. Of course, the argument can be made that reading and understanding poetry is absolutely essential to writing your own.

  • In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit

Kowit uses excerpts from over 100 poems to illustrate what can seem like abstract or hard-to-understand concepts in poetry writing. If you complete the activities as suggested by the author, at the end of the book you’ll have drafts of 69 poems, more than enough for a chapbook.

  • The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser

This former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner shares his insights on the unique relationship between readers and poets, as well as writing and revising poetry, gained from decades of experience.

For Children’s Writers

  • The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating for Children: From Creating Characters to Developing Stories, A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Magical Picture Books by Desdemona McCannon, Sue Thornton and Yadzia Williams

For all intents and purposes, this is a practical guide to creating loveable characters and telling a story in pictures that young readers will enjoy using examples from renowned children’s literature to inspire would-be writers and illustrators. Advice on tailoring to specific age groups and about a wide variety of genres, as well as promotional tips.

  • Writing Children’s Books for Dummies by Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy

Two children’s publishing veterans share their expert advice on writing for children, and understanding the ins and outs of the publishing industry and promoting your book.

Getting Published

  • Writer’s Market

This phonebook-sized resource is published annually. While it usually includes some articles with advice on pitching agents, finding funding, and promoting and protecting your work, the main purpose of this book is found in the seemingly endless listings of book publishers, literary agents, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards with submission and contact information. The deluxe edition usually includes a year-long membership to Writer’s Digest online where you can search for markets for writing projects and book ideas.

  • Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2013: Who They Are! What They Want! How to Win Them Over!

The title pretty much says it all. This is a very complete guide to navigating the publishing industry for all kinds of writers, but is directed at people who want to write books, as opposed to shorter pieces for anthologies or magazines.


Chris Ciolli is a Barcelona-based writer and a translator. She’s an unashamed book and coffee addict that travels every chance she gets. She also spends a lot of time playing with kitchen tools and art supplies. Read about her travels at MidwesternerAbroad.com, and check out her art at TriflesandQuirks.com.

Photo: Some rights reserved by mpclemens.

Love as a Forest: Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso

This is an essay by Amarie Fox.

Looking back, much of what I have written for this site seems to follow a similar theme – what one could possibly consider rather grim or serious discussions about death, the grieving process, war time, revenge. As much as I hope to persuade everyone to explore the classics, in order to find some kind of comfort and consolation, I can’t help but feel that sometimes I am accomplishing the opposite of what I intend to do, that I am in fact pushing everyone away. After all, life is hard enough. I understand not wanting to read a book that is dark or depressing. Everyone needs balance and even in art we require a balance.

So, to break from convention, I have decided to write about a classical poem that is actually humorous or aims to sort of poke fun at love, or how one behaves when they are in love. In Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso (Mad Orlando), unrequited love does not bring about a desire for revenge – like in other famous texts – so much as it drives the thwarted to forgo all sense of civilization or decency and resort to primal, infantile behavior. Love, basically, becomes a form of true insanity.

‘Well, that was your first mistake…’

Ariosto models his poem as a continuation of Boiardo’s unfinished romance Orlando Innamorato (Orlando in Love). Orlando Furioso is anything, but a medieval romance, though. Typical ideas of chivalry are blotted out, often mocked or described in an ironic tone. Ariosto was not writing in the Middle Ages, he was writing in the 16th century, the age of Humanism. All of the typical conventions – of knights and ladies, duels and great journeys – are present, but are warped and turned on their head.

Orlando is one of Charlemagne’s warriors, during the time that the Saracens were invading much of Europe. While he is supposed to be protecting the emperor, he ends up falling in love with the pagan princess Angelica, which is perhaps Orlando’s first mistake. Again, Ariosto is highlighting how silly medieval romances can get at times. There is always a man falling in love with a woman who is unachievable somehow, either through marriage or social rank. Usually, they are never equals and the lover has to quietly keep his desire and feelings to himself and view his beloved in a sort of god/man relationship. For, she is as untouchable and out of reach as a god. Ariosto works within this structure, adding the problem of religion – a Christian falling in love with a pagan.

The whole structure is certainly doomed to disaster and when Angelica saves a pagan, Saracen knight – her equal – falls in love and eventually elopes, there is really no surprise. For anyone but, Orlando, that is.

Now in a typical romance, Orlando would have rode away and swallowed his disappointment, perhaps even still secretly pinned for his beloved. Instead, Orlando loses all human normality. In a frenzy of madness, he strips off his armor and chain-mail, leaving it scattered about in the woods. Then he tears off all of his clothing, exposing his hairy belly, chest, and back.

This disregard for his human accessory, which is symbolic of both his status and identity, essentially brings him down to being an equal with the forest creatures. The choice is going without clothing and manmade items, proves to be Orlando’s first choice in abandoning all human society and turning into a beast.

Love as madness

Once Orlando has dived into animalistic tendencies, his behavior changes, as well. He doesn’t even give a thought to drawing his sword, but instead uses his brute strength to destroy pine trees – ripping them straight out of the ground – and even to kill men.

He begins roaming the countryside, purposely preying on men and wild beats. With the bears and boars, he wrestles and then feeds, devouring them whole, carcass and all. At one point, Orlando even grabs a man and plucks off his head “with the ease of a person plucking an apple from a tree.” If it wasn’t evident before, when he stripped his clothing off, Orlando is no longer a man, but an animal.

As a beast, Orlando does not utter a single word. Language becomes futile to him. Action becomes his way of communicating to the outside world. Even when he sees Angelica, instead of shouting out to her, attempting to speak to her at all, transforming back into the man he once was, he simply begins to chase after her, “the way a hound pursues game.” No longer does he even see her the way he once did, as his beloved. Those types of romantic, human constructs are gone from him. All human reason is gone, drained right out of him. He is only driven by his desire and instinct.

Love as a forest

The narrator points out that Orlando is an example of anyone that gets caught up in love’s snares, going so far as to claim that love turns us all into bumbling, simplistic versions of our true selves. He describes it as a great forest into which those who enter, must first lose their way.

Interestingly enough, the only thing that saves Orlando is when another knight flies to the moon and returns with Orlando’s wits in a bottle. When he smells them, he immediately falls out of love with Angelica and is returned to sanity. Perhaps it seems to be a ridiculous ending, but it isn’t really any more ridiculous than Orlando’s entire circumstance.

A while back, Chris Ciolli wrote a piece about literary couples and what they have taught us about love. I’d like to think Ariosto would have appreciated her take on the topic. Surely, he would have laughed and nodded his head, because love is a funny business. We need people who can see the strange humor in it and who aren’t afraid to show us how we’re acting in an elaborated, drastic way.

Just because Ariosto is funny at times, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a point or that his work is lacking some type of merit or message. If he taught me anything about writing and good writing, it is that sometimes it is the most outrageous or humorous stories that carry the most weight and give you the most to actually think about.


Amarie Fox is a writer and artist. Her recent fiction work has been published by Little Fiction, NIB, and Literary Orphans. More information at amariefoxart.wordpress.com.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Moyan_Brenn.

Literature Reminds Us Who We Are

This is an essay by Brandon Monk.
We’re gradually spiraling in the direction of understanding. We’re trying, daily, to understand our selves and our surroundings. Literature is one way we remember, as a society, what understanding came before our experience here on earth began.

The best literature, though, helps us remember we likely won’t make it to a complete understanding. Why is that important? Because part of the frustration of existence comes from not appreciating our limitations.

If a hawk dives into a field and misses a rabbit it does not feel frustration at its existence, but we do. We take a small failure and use it as an excuse to question everything we thought we knew.

Literature reminds us that we’re not expected to advance the human race in one fell swoop because even the brightest authors have been unable to do that. It also reminds us, though, that we are expected to participate in the incremental advancement of the species in each day we’ve been given.

The human story has not been without setbacks, but our history—as whole—has been one of gradual daily advancement. Literature reminds us that this kind of gradual daily advancement is the mark of our species.

Literature is the collection of stories that reminds us how far we’ve come, but also how impossible perfection is. The greatest blessing it can bestow is the blessing of understanding our place in the world.

This post originally appeared on Medium where I’ve been playing around with that new format.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Murtaza Mahmud.

Plausibility in Fiction: Is it a Sacred Requirement or an Oppressive Sacrilege?

This is an essay by T. Lloyd Reilly.

Pursuing a career at writing fiction has many obstacles and impediments.  There is the exhaustive grind of formatting for submission, the obligatory query where the writer must, for all intents and purposes, sell the idea to some secretary or intern at a publishing office.  The editor or whoever makes the decision to accept a story rarely reads anything that hasn’t been vetted by whoever is charged with the duty of culling the proverbial herd into chattel, maybes, and definitely pass on categories.

Having experienced the joy of acceptance and the misery of defeat as a writer, I have discovered that much of it is ruled not by reason, but by structure.  Most of what is shared (if shared at all) about a rejection concerns the mechanics of the piece as opposed to the actual story and what it might convey.

One reoccurring theme on the structure side of any attempt at a publishing endeavor is that the story is not plausible.  It does not translate into real life and the facts are not believable.  Certainly there are stories that should or could use a level of believability, but fiction is, in my opinion, must not to be restrained by structure.  Fiction, as the dictionary states is “something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story, the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, especially in prose form, the act of feigning, inventing, or imagining.”

Given the parameters of this delineation, the question that begs to be asked is – what is wrong with just making it up?  Granted, there is a larger amount of people in the world that count themselves as writers today than in years past.  It is a noble profession and one of seeming prestige.  But what if the need to publish overshadows the wonder of an active imagination?  Does the story mean anything, or is it just an avenue to remuneration?

For me the magic is, and always has, been in the story.  My college educated mind rejects the idea of a human being raised as an ape, but that rejection never got in the way of my obsessive belief in the possibility of Edgar Rice Burroughs uncivilized hero.

The ideal of Might for Right certainly has little place in the modern world given the reality that mankind has never seen a time when there were no wars, or where violence wasn’t just business as usual.  Regardless, Camelot was a world I became an active participant in when I read of it.  It never stopped being another world for me as I discovered and read a different telling by T.H. White’s and his tome on the legend of Arthur.  It did not leave when, in college, it was presented to me that there most probably was never a knight named Lancelot.  Little did it matter when, at the same university that tried to dispel a belief in the might/right ideal, I rediscovered it in an English Lit Class where we read Sir Thomas Mallory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.”

The list goes on from there.  Much of the great fiction in the world was, as I am wont to champion, just made up.  Is that a plausible modus in which to discern the meaning behind such wonders as Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” and its blatant message that mankind is the most adaptable species ever invented while being, at the same time, helpless prisoners to ignorance and bigotry?

Where is the value of Les Misérables? Is it in the forgiveness given Jean Valjean by the Bishop Myriel?  Could it be Javert’s fanatical and obsessive quest to bring Valjean to justice?  Or might it be the depiction of life in the form of a made up story?

Hugo did not have to go outside himself to make the story up having lived through the time period as a child growing into manhood.  All he had to do was make it up.  The fact that it paralleled actual events might be considered serendipitous, and proof that plausibility was vital does not negate the imagination of the writer telling the story.  He wrote the book to tell a story, certainly, but he also believed in the message that brought him to make up that story.  In his own words from the Preface:

“So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.”

Lofty words which ring true to this day.  For me, the story blatantly speaks of forgiveness, redemption, compassion, duty, honor, and unconditional love.  That he wrote it and made it seem so real is emphatically evident.  Fiction, in many cases, brings us values and principles that are not found in the New York Times or any college textbook which attempts to research the implications that near burst off the page if just read with a desire for the story without regard for the structure.

This is not to say that structure does not have its place.  Irritations such as typos and misused or dangling participles, split infinitives, or my most misspelled words recieve (!?!?!?!?.) can and do occur frequently. Most of those can be avoided and most word processors will automatically correct it (receive) and ignore whatever is artistic license used in dialogue or storyline.

Plausibility, while definitely important in many areas such as non-fiction commentary, historical fiction, and term papers for college, it should not get in the way of the story.  At least, that is, in my opinion….


T. Lloyd Reilly is a writer with over twenty five years of writing experience. He has lived what some would consider more than one lifetime and has acquired a wide range of knowledge and life experience which he wishes to share through generous application of the written word. For more information about him go to: http://about.me/tlloydreilly.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Jan Tik.