Library Love

00 when in doubt

From the smallest neighbourhood library to the mega-libraries some cities have built, libraries are amazing places. They’re community hubs, bastions of knowledge (the librarians, as well as the books), respites from the chaos of everyday life, and as Doris Lessing said, “the most democratic of institutions.” There are people who argue that libraries are pointless in this digital age, a waste of resources for cash-strapped municipalities. Those people are wrong (I’m also willing to bet they haven’t been to a library in the last decade, and probably also brag they’re “too busy” to read).

For those of you who know the value of a library, I’m sharing a few of the standouts around the world (although there are many more out there)…

BIBLIOTHECA ALEXANDRINA

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If you cringe when you think about the destruction of the original Library of Alexandria, then you can take some comfort in knowing that Egypt has built a new library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, with help from around the globe. Besides a massive (about 5 million volumes) book collection (including rare manuscripts), the Bibliotheca also hosts an international book fair, holds art exhibitions, and has four museums. Tours are offered in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. Find out more.

AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY

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This library in Vienna is a work of art on its own, featuring marble statues, columns, and frescoes. It boasts an impressive collection of archives, including a map department with 295,000 sheet maps, 700 globes, 100 reliefs and models of castles, and more. It also has its own museums, including the Papyrus Museum and the Esperanto Museum. Not surprisingly, they offer guided tours. Find out more.

REAL GABINETE PORTUGUÊS DE LEITURA

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Another stunning library, the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura in Rio was recently renovated and restored. The collection features Portuguese and Brazilian literature, but this library is worth a visit just to admire the beauty of the surroundings. Find out more (in Portuguese) here.

Toronto Reference Library

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Local pride insists that I can’t make a list of extraordinary libraries without including the Toronto Reference Library. There’s good reason to include it, though. The Reference Library not only offers an impressive collection of books in multiple languages, it also features a Canadian Literature Collection, Arthur Conan Doyle collection, a book printing service (indie authors take note), an art gallery, and even two electric pianos for all your practicing needs. Find out more.

BIBLIOTECA VASCONCELOS

00 Vasconcelos

Described as a “city of books,” the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City was designed to help you get lost among the stacks. The library is actually five libraries in one, with collections based on five famous Mexican intellectuals. Although the Biblioteca misses the mark in a major way by including only men as its five inspirations, the library itself is a book-lover’s dream. It also features art throughout, a music collection, guided tours, and 26,000 sq metres (6.4 acres) of gardens. Learn more here.

LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT

The Library of Parliament

Canada’s Library of Parliament in Ottawa is a beautiful space with an amazing collection. Or so I’ve heard, since it’s open only to Parliamentarians. Not only is the library closed to the public, but they don’t even offer tours. I think it’s time that changed, don’t you? Read more here.

What do you love most about libraries? What’s your favourite library, or one you would love to visit? Share in the comments 🙂

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Asa Dugger on Pexels.com

Every so often it pays to stop and take stock of how your life is going. Some days (or years) aren’t going to be as good as others, and a lot of the time there won’t be anything you can do about it. Sickness happens, jobs are lost, the world is a mess– there will always be things out of your control that affect you in a negative way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your life a little better, no matter what else is going on. Some of these suggestions are small things you can do, some take more effort. Some might not work for you (although you won’t know until you try). Take a look and see what inspires you…

  1. Find a hobby: I read somewhere recently that people don’t have hobbies anymore, which is a shame because hobbies are fun (and sometimes you get a new sweater out of it). Taking time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s knitting, snowboarding, or even raising fancy pigeons, offsets many of life’s stresses, among other benefits.
45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

2. Try something new: There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a rut. Break out of it by trying something you’ve never done before. If you don’t like that, try something else. The point is to experience as much of life as you can.

3. Take a class: Is there something you’ve always wanted to study? A class will challenge you and keep you on track.

4. Read a book: A shocking number of adults don’t read– do yourself a favour and don’t be one of them. (By the way, I’ve written some books you might like, along with this article on the benefits of reading, according to science 🙂 )

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

5. Drink tea: It’s good for you (and relaxing). If you don’t like it, you might be making the same mistake I did when I first started drinking tea and steeping it too long (2 to 4 minutes should be plenty). Or it could be that you hate one kind but love another (I finally realized I really don’t like hibiscus). Some of the many types you can try include: black, green, white, red (aka rooibos), oolong, matcha, kombucha, herbal, barley tea (also known as bori-cha or mugi-cha), flavoured and dessert teas…

6. Get out of the house: Go down the street or halfway around the world, but go.

7. Give back: You can donate time or money to a charity, run errands for your mom, or offer to babysit for a friend– whatever you do, just do something nice for someone else.

8. Keep a journal: Whether you go with an old-fashioned diary, a bullet journal, a gratitude journal, an art journal, or even a blog, journalling will help you sort through your day and your life, and has even been found to have multiple health benefits.

45 Ways to Male Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

9, Pay attention: Also known as being in the moment. Look around, focus on details, notice the world.

10. Be immature: There’s always that person who will tell you that you have to grow up. Ignore them. Be silly, have fun. Finger paint, blow bubbles, laugh at stupid jokes. Wear something age inappropriate. Growing up is overrated.

11. Splurge once in a while: As long as there’s room in the budget, don’t be afraid to treat yourself.

12. Learn to make your favourite food: If you cook only one thing, make it a good one. (And if you have a family member who’s a great cook, take the time to get– and make– their recipes.)

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Vaibhav Jadhav on Pexels.com

13. Feed your backyard birds: Not only is it helping wildlife, but before long they’ll get to know you. Hearing birds chirp excitedly when you go outside is like starring in a real-life Disney movie. Just a couple of things to remember: seeds not bread; once you start, don’t stop feeding in winter (they rely on your help to survive); feed them away from any shrubs or places where cats and other predators can hide (and if you have a cat, keep them inside).

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

14. Grow something: It can be an entire garden or an avocado pit in a jar, but take care of something green.

15. Buy flowers: Speaking of something green, flowers or a plant will brighten up a room and your day.

16. Listen to music: Maybe dance a little too, while you’re at it. Repeat often.

17. Use the right toiletries: Even though soaps, shampoos, lotions, and perfumes are all made from the same basic ingredients, the quality can vary pretty significantly. You’ll look and feel better when you figure out your skin type and hair type and use the right products for them (preferably in a scent that makes you happy).

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

18. Be quiet: I don’t mean talk less (although sometimes that’s good too), but find a way to be quiet within yourself. Meditation is a good way to find your inner quiet, or you can do something as simple as sitting for five minutes with your eyes closed while focusing on your breathing. Meditation can help relax you, ease your pain, and even make you a kinder person.

19. Put down your devices: You’ve probably heard this one a lot. No one’s saying give up your phone or tablet, but do take some time every day to focus on the world around you instead of a screen.

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

20. Love your people: By which I mean show your partner, kids, friends, pets, family, favourite teachers– anyone who means anything to you– that you care. Ask them how they’re doing, get them a coffee, give them a cuddle. Everyone’s life could use a little more of that.

21. Watch or read something funny: Let’s face it, real life is feeling a little dystopian right now. Give yourself a break.

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

22. Laugh at yourself: Note to self, life is easier when you don’t take everything so seriously. Or as Maude (Harold and Maude) puts it: “Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.” (By the way, consider watching Harold and Maude as the bonus 46th thing you can do to make your life better. Also Amélie.)

23. Don’t read the comments: The internet has become a breeding ground for trolls and they congregate in comments sections. Unless you enjoy submersing yourself in anger, negativity, and outright abuse, don’t read the comments (also keep in mind that responding, disliking, or acknowledging these comments in any way marks them as “popular” and makes them more prominent on the page).

24: Stop dieting: Diets don’t work. Willpower is a myth. Food isn’t good or bad. Unless you’ve been prescribed a specific eating regimen by a doctor or dietitian, skip the diet. If you want to be healthier (note: health is not synonymous with weight loss), cut down on convenience foods, sugar, and salt, and exercise regularly. Stop feeling guilty about what you eat.

25. Go to the library: Not just a place to borrow books (although that alone is pretty awesome), libraries are community hubs where you can do everything from enjoying art exhibits, to attending author readings, to borrowing musical instruments, and so much more– for free.

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

26. Play outside: Spend some time in the fresh air. It doesn’t matter what you do, just enjoy yourself in nature.

27. Clean the house: Yes, it’s boring, tiring, and sometimes gross. But it feels so much better to be in a clean space. Do you live with other humans? Make sure they do their share.

28. Make little changes: It can be overwhelming when you’re thinking about starting something new or changing something old. Instead of trying to tackle it all at once, try breaking it down into small, easy-to-manage steps. What do you want to do/change right now, and what’s the first tiny step toward getting there?

29. Walk away: Sometimes there are things, people, and situations in your life that make it worse. They add to your stress, make you feel bad about yourself, or drain your energy. Leave them behind, if you can, and don’t look back.

30. Talk to someone: Whether it’s a friend, a therapist, or anyone else you can open up to, find someone you can confide in.

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Seven 7 on Pexels.com

31. Listen to someone: Let someone open up to you.

32. Take a break from the news: Although it’s good to know what’s going on in the world, watching the news with its 24/7 focus on the negative can be more stressful than informative. It’s okay to ignore it sometimes (same for social media).

33. Vote: Yes, your one vote does make a difference. No, not all politicians are equally bad. People literally fought and died for the chance to have a voice– don’t waste yours (even if you’re not thrilled with the choices, picking one is always better than picking none).

34. Plan a trip: Researchers have found that planning a trip is more satisfying than actually taking one. Even though travel is a worthwhile experience, sometimes it’s better to stay home.

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by slon_dot_pics on Pexels.com

35. Daydream: I’m not sure why anyone ever thought this was a bad thing. (By the way, science agrees.)

36. Don’t wait: If there’s something you’ve been wanting to do, don’t put it off.

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

37. Take care of your feet: They do so much for us and yet most people tend to ignore them. Show your feet some love by putting lotion on them after every shower, not wearing wet shoes or socks, and gently using a pumice on rough spots. It’s also best to avoid wearing high heels except on special occasions; while the appeal of heels is debatable, the damage they cause is not (oh, and make sure to throw something hard at the next person who tells you beauty is pain).

38. Don’t compare yourself to anyone: There’s no one way to be– you’re doing fine, no matter what anyone else is up to.

39. Take chances: Being cautious is important, but being too cautious can result in a life observed rather than lived. Try something, even if you don’t know it’s going to work.

40. Throw some shade (on yourself): Avoid the sun and tanning beds too. Unless you’re a fan of leathery skin and melanoma.

side view photography of a woman wearing fedora
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

41. Embrace change: Change happens whether we like it or not– learn to make the most of it.

42. Celebrate: It’s easy to let special occasions and accomplishments go by without fanfare. Don’t let every day feel the same– celebrate whenever you can.

43. Find your tribe: This one isn’t so easy, but it might be the most important. Find the people who get you, who let you be yourself, and who care. If you laugh at the same things, never let go.

44. Be self sufficient: I don’t mean live off the grid and produce everything you need (although if that’s your thing, go for it), but the more you can do for yourself, the better. There’s something extremely satisfying about fixing your own leaking faucet instead of having to pay a plumber (just one example). Bonus: if you’re trying to get away from giving “stuff” for gifts, you can give your skills instead– make or fix something for someone who can’t.

45 Ways to Make Your Life Better, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

45. Rest: Everyone I know is always busy and usually exhausted. It’s time to prioritize resting. Get a good night’s sleep (if you can’t sleep, don’t try to do anything other than relax), nap, take time off, put your feet up. If nothing else, your brain will thank you (your stressed out body probably won’t complain, either).

Are you already doing these? Do you have others to add to the list? Please share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Why You Need to Read Books

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I always find it strange that people need to be convinced to read. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. For me, books have always been magic, gateways to other worlds, other lives. They’re adventures and dreams, knowledge and potential, all packed into conveniently portable packages. Forget apps–no matter what you want or need at any given moment in life, there’s a book for it. How could anyone not instantly see the value in that?

 

00 books are worlds

 

And yet… According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of American adults have admitted to not reading even part of a book in the last year (and I’m sure the numbers are similar in Canada). Clearly a lot of people don’t realize they’re missing out.

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If magic, knowledge, and adventure aren’t enough to get you interested, maybe I should also mention that:

Yale researchers found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day live longer than those who read magazines or who don’t read at all.

(This reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode where someone was reading a book in parts to their elderly relative, always leaving the story on a cliffhanger to keep the person hanging on well beyond a normal lifespan. #goals)

 

Successful people read (and they share some of their favourite books here).

 

People who read short stories are more open-minded and creative, according to a University of Toronto study.

Need a short story to get you started? How about “Tooth & Claw,” available free here, and at other online booksellers…

Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

And “Blood Magic,” available free here and at other online booksellers!

Blood Magic, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

 

You can read more about the benefits of reading books here, or you can just pick up a book and find out for yourself.

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What’s your favourite thing about reading? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Cats and Books

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Klaudia Ekert on Pexels.com

Anyone who knows me knows I love cats (all animals, actually, but cats are the only ones who get to boss me around). Cats and writers are a natural combination (see my post about it here), but it turns out cats and books are also perfect together. Maybe they like the cave-like atmosphere of being tucked into a shelf or surrounded by piles of books; maybe it’s the intriguing way the pages move, or the convenient surface for lounging. Maybe cats like books because we like books (and we clearly have good taste since we also like cats). Or maybe their reasons will ever remain mysterious, which is how cats like it. Whatever the appeal, cats love books, and we love them (even more) for it.

These photos were all found online–if you see any that belong to you and would like me to remove them, please comment to let me know. Enjoy…

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Matthews Library Cat at Arizona State University, 1968. Found on Mostly Cats, Mostly.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Pinterest.

 

Love the jaunty little beret on this kitty…

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
From The Miao Chronicles.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Luxe Pauvre.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Flickr.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
From The Unread Librarian.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Pinterest.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Via The Bibliophile Files.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Attempting Project 365.

 

Every bookstore needs a cat…

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Juniper the bookstore cat, via Flickr.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Michel Porro on Unsplash.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Found on Date a Girl Who Reads.

 

Cats and Books, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Sabrena Ellison, via Mostly Cats, Mostly.

 

And some final words of wisdom from the man who literally wrote the book on cats.

Books and Cats, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Do you know a kitty who loves books? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading

Writers and Cats

Bookstore Cat Love

Writers and Dogs