I have just found out about another independent bookstore closing. A number of years ago I read a story about a longstanding bookstore in Halifax closing. The owner indicated that he knew the writing was on the wall when a package from Amazon.com arrived on their premises. The package was addressed to someone renting an apartment upstairs, but it was inadvertently opened by bookstore staff. The book was one they had on their shelves.
I love the convenience of being able to order books online – with their endless inventory. But I will miss the rich experience of being able to go into a local bookstore and browse the shelves. I think this is an especially rewarding thing to do in smaller communities where the bookstore is also often a social hub. Already there are too few opportunities for bumping into acquaintances and interacting with real people in the marketplace. I probably sound like a grumpy retiree – but I know many young people who also lament the disappearance of independent bookstores.
On the plus side, I am kind of glad most of those video stores have disappeared. Things like Netflix and video-on-demand are WAY more convenient once you figure them out.
I am thinking about books a lot recently. One of my favorite year-end pastimes is to check out those ubiquitous booklists that appear in newspapers and magazines. I especially like the online lists which invite comments from readers. It is great fun to have readers name their own favorites, and it is one way to discover little known gems. I have just ordered a copy of The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread – a book from the fifties that seems to have a cult following among those who first encountered it in their school days as it was read aloud by a parent or teacher. I also just placed an order for Eureka Street, a well reviewed book about working class neighborhoods of Belfast. Both of these books are sufficiently out of date that I would never have encountered them were it not for those end-of-the-year postings of favourite books.
Part of my process involves finding out about good things to read and adding to a list of books I will attempt to tackle in 2013. To be realistic, I will not get through even half of the things I would like to read. Even as a retiree, there is never enough time for reading.
Which brings me to another angst-producing activity. Our community has an annual used book sale in February I always go and pick up interesting books (bags and boxes full). This year I am constraining myself and will only allow myself to acquire 1/2 the number I am donating. (How else to whittle down shelves full of books? So far I have packed four boxes of discards.) I am currently in the process of weeding books – some quite wonderful books that I just know I will never get around to reading, so little point in continuing to hang on to them. My reading interests have shifted from popular fiction to non-fiction, historical fiction, and memoirs, but I am nevertheless reluctant to part with copies of works by Joyce Carol Oates, Jane Urquhart or Michael Cunningham, all of whom are wonderful writers. Sigh!
What are your reading preferences, and how do you set reading priorities? I am thinking that a good strategy might be to pick a single genre (e.g. Memoirs) and stick with that for the year. The reading would undoubtedly be interesting and I would not feel quite so overwhelmed.
I’ve accumulated a lot of 3 ring binders with my journalling over the years. I notice that I tend to write a lot during difficult times and transitions, but less during the good times. As a result, I fear that anyone reading them in the future would get a very distorted impression of my life.
What do I do with all this material? I hate to throw it all out. I’m not likely to reread it. As mentioned above, I’m not at all sure I want to leave them for others to read.
I sometimes feel like I’m in costume as a conservative, no-nonsense older woman. The real me is rather quirky, if not outrageously unconventional (sometimes). Surely by now we can dare to express our individuality in small ways, such as how we dress.
Here’s an example from http://www.granpaparazzi.com/2011/08/corduroy-and-a-chain-wallet
Note the wallet chain
Insurance of all kinds (auto, travel, medical, dental, life, household, and almost anything else that you can imagine) is a way of spreading risk. Where a loss might be disastrous to an individual, it is easily absorbed when shared by a large number of participants. Insurance companies earn income by facilitating and policing this sharing.
Insurance doesn’t prevent anything from happening. It does not protect you from getting sick or from lightning striking your house. It does help to soften the financial impact. Insurance is gambling. You are betting that something bad will happen; the insurance company is betting that it will not.
With rampant math phobia, how many of us really understand the trade-offs when signing up for an insurance policy?
Life insurance tends to have a strong emotional pull and the conditions can be confusing. Aviva provides a handy table at http://www.aviva.co.uk/life/over-50-life-insurance/ that I interpret as follows:
|Natural death after insuring
|Less than a year
|Within 1 to 13 years
|After 13 years
|In case of accidental death
(Note that the table applies to a specific case and does not consider special conditions or opportunity costs of what the money spent in premiums could have earned if invested.)
Here are two examples of flight cancellation and interruption insurance.
A healthy 65-year-old man is soon flying to another city for a two-week visit. The cost of the flight is $1000. Insurance is usually around 10%; that is, $100 in this case. He is betting that he has more than one chance out of ten of not being able to take the flight (always excluding pre-existing medical problems). The actual probability of something going wrong is much lower and a loss of $900 would probably not be catastrophic, so this insurance policy is not a very good bet.
Introducing some additional conditions could change the odds. Suppose the traveller must make this trip and couldn’t afford another ticket and he has a parent in palliative care. Now he is more likely to need to cancel and also experience serious consequences if that should happen. In this case, buying insurance makes sense.
In my younger days I was a newspaper junkie. My addiction to newspapers was occasionally satisfied by reading magazines instead, but one way or the other I needed — and still need – to get my information “fix”. O.K., maybe things aren’t that dire. I do occasionally go for walks in the sunlight, but for me, knowing about what’s going on in the world is engaging. It keeps my brain sharp. I suspect there are many other retirees out there just like me who have a voracious appetite for new ideas and current events. These days, though, I barely scan the newspapers, and I have pretty much given up magazines. That’s because I have discovered blogging.
Here are some personal favorites:
Apartment Therapy This is great for anyone who has moved into smaller digs.
Frugal Traveler One of many interesting blogs at the New York Times.
Sultan Knish Thought provoking analysis of current news by columnist Daniel Greenfield.
Slate.com Technically this is more of an online magazine than a blog. Still, lots of interesting stuff.
A Year of Slow Clooking My slow cooker is a real time saver for me and there are some great recipes here.
Clean Out the Pantry Minestrone Soup
Tell us about your own favorite blogs.
I belong to several book clubs – too many probably, but all are enjoyable. Fortunately, it is not necessary to read a book each month for all of them. One of the clubs selects a monthly theme and participants simply talk about a book based on whatever the theme is for that month. This month we shared books under the broad category of “inspirational books.” Just talking about inspirational books was inspiring.
I spoke about The Pleasure Book by Julian Fast which was an inspiration to me as I began working on the chapter about pleasure in our own book. We all know what pleasure is – sort of – but how to write about it?? I was delighted to discover Fast’s book which is a collection of stories about people and the simple things they enjoy. I still like going back to the book and reading the narratives about people’s personal passions: needlework, plants or picnics. Even if some are things you would never likely try, they are fun to read about.
Some of the other great titles our book group talked about were Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (something I have been meaning to read for a long time); Gift from the Sea (a classic by Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Handbook for the Soul; Loving What Is by Byron Katie, and End Procrastination Now. I am definitely going to check out that one!
Margaret Wente’s article on Andy Rooney assumed that retirees are idle and unproductive and boring. For every full time golfer, curler and bridge player, I know ten individuals who start a business, continue to work part time, dedicate themselves to artistic pursuits, care for grandchildren, volunteer for charities and political organizations and schools and galleries, take on social causes, and the list goes on.
Humans do need to be useful and productive. The wonderful part of retirement is that we get to choose how we are productive. And, we can choose without a pay cheque being the main priority.
We boomers are very fortunate to have good health, discretionary time, skills, resources and especially freedom. We are very different from earlier generations who were worn out by the time they could retire. We just may make good on some of the unfulfilled promises of the sixties.
“Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and dow what you need to do — now.”
Great thought, but oh so hard to put into practice.
All my life I’ve waited to have the time and freedom to live richly and make big contributions. If not now that I’m retired and still healthy, then when?
In recognition of the growing popularity of ebook readers, our paperback is now available in the ePub format through iTunes. We are working on also making it available for Kindle readers, but that may take a while longer.
I’ve been ordering and viewing books on my iPhone. The screen is a bit too small to be really comfortable, but I have great resistance to purchasing and carrying around yet another electronic device. What have been your experiences? (Click the Comments link on the upper left corner of this post.)