My laptop died on Saturday, so I created a book jar.
The laptop dying was rather a nasty surprise as it isn’t that old and it’s treated with care but when I turned it on that morning it refused to acknowledge it had a hard drive. Cue screwdrivers, a check of the hard drive, attempts to fix it and a final admission that actually I needed a new hard drive. Ouch.
I use Dropbox for cloud storage and various other online services so I haven’t actually lost much data but most of Saturday was spent trying to diagnose exactly what was wrong, poking about inside the laptop and navigating blue screens and weird, unhelpful Windows messages. While doing all of this I was searching about for crafty, distracting things I could do (in between clicking Yes to things and re-installing Windows) to improve my mood and I remembered the book jar I used to have. Bingo, a book jar was the perfect way to de-stress.
I can’t remember where I first heard of book jars, I suspect it was from my Canadian pen-friend when I was about 12 or 13, but it’s basically a jar of some description filled with rolled up bits of paper each with the name of a book you want to (or think you should) read written on it. You close your eyes and draw out a piece of paper every month or every third book or whatever and commit to reading whatever is on the piece of paper. It’s a good way to randomise choices from various goals and book lists.
My first book jar, made when I was about 14, was actually a book jug made using a pretty red glass jug someone had brought back for me from their holiday in Italy. I think it had about fifty pieces of paper in there and I used it every week through the summer holidays to suggest books to borrow from the library before I got bored and wandered off to another project.
Now that I’m a better disciplined grown up(!) though I figured I could create something a little more diverse, challenging and perhaps use it a bit longer before letting the habit lapse. So I got out my scissors, dug out an empty Kilner jar from the kitchen cupboards and hunted out some card.
It turned out that we already had some pretty coloured card in the house because we were preparing for someone’s 60th birthday so I grabbed a couple of sheets, cut them into little slips and started scribbling titles. Darker, honey coloured bits of card have the names of pre-1700 texts on them, sunshine yellow is 1700-1900 works, green is 1900-2013, purple is foreign/translated work and pink is for wildcards – the authors I’ve tried and got stuck with, the genres I don’t normally read, the titles that intimidate me. Some are re-reads or re-attempts (Dangerous Liaisons is a re-read for example, Catch-22 is my nemesis that has defeated me numerous times) but most are new to me.
The laptop whirred away, I occasionally clicked options, and in between I went and retrieved my books about books, borrowed the amor’s ipad to check my own online lists and happily added more and more ideas to the pile. It was a wonderful way to calm down and distract myself!
The book jar now lives in the bedside bookcase and has 387 slips of card in there, all the pretty colours mingling like candy wrappers or bookish confetti. It seems a far more enjoyable way to approach ‘should read’ books than any of the spreadsheets, huge doorstop books and lengthy webpages I sometimes dip into so I’m going to aim to draw out two or three books a month from the jar to tackle. It’d take me a decade to read everything in the jar that way but I suspect some books will be read or re-read anyway and some months I’ll probably have to draw a couple of times to get a new book to read. I’m looking forward to it though – however long it takes. :)
EDIT: You can see all the books chosen from the book jar and my reviews of them by clicking here.