Tagged Summer Reading

Reading-Photo Contest winners announced

How I loved all the entries! I planned on one prize but had to expand it to three. An independent judge chose the winners.

First-place winner: Girl on a train
First-place winner: Girl on a train

First place went to Carole J. of Calhoun, La., for a terrific photo of her friend reading on a train. The back story: “My friend Morgan T. and I were on our way to the village of Cruden Bay in northern Scotland. One of our favorite authors, Susanna Kearsley, set her novel ‘The Winter Sea’ at Slains Castle, which is just north of Cruden Bay. We took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the bus from there. It was a long day but worth the adventure. Slains Castle is a beautiful sprawling ruin full of history and character, bringing the novel alive before my very eyes.”
Carole chose a $50 gift certificate to Amazon as her prize.

2nd place: A friend, a book & a dog
2nd-place winner: A friend, a book & a dog

Second place went to Lorraine L. of Benbrook, Texas, for her photo of a friend at a lake house. Dog Annie added to the photo fun. These two friends were reading Jodi Thomas’ “Harmony” books on their e-readers.
Lorraine receives a $20 gift card to Starbuck’s.

3rd-place winner: Reading takes us away ...
3rd place: Reading takes us away …

Third place went to Kimberley M. of Hornbeck, La., for her fun photo of herself reading in the hammock in her back yard. “The book I was reading was called ‘Dancing on Shattered Glass.’ It’s a book set in south Louisiana and is about a girl that finds herself in an abusive relationship although she knows it’s not pleasing to God. Also her mother prays for her throughout the story.”

This was our first-ever Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Photo contest. Photos could be shot anytime, anywhere, and all are used with permission of the subjects. We read on trains, boats, in RVs, at the beach, in hammocks in our yards, on porches …and on the kitchen couch, of course!

Now, on to our autumn reading! Tell us what you’re reading. Leave a comment below and let’s talk books!

Meet the Pulpwood Queens: Serious book lovers who don’t take themselves too seriously

Picture a big room full of exuberant readers who talk about books with affection.

Yes, that's Pat Conroy and me waiting tables.
Yes, that’s Pat Conroy and me waiting tables.
The wonderful Kathy L. Murphy, head queen.
The wonderful Kathy L. Murphy, head queen.

Add a few feather boas and a hefty number of tiaras.

Put some of the nation’s best-known authors at the microphone.

Add a major costume party.

That’s what East Texan Kathy L. Murphy pulls together each January in what has become an epic book festival, held regionally and talked about nationally. And I’m delighted to be on the program again in 2015, this time discussing “Magnolia Market.”

Early-bird registration open

Early-bird registration for the 15th annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends’ Weekend, moving to Nacogdoches, Texas, for 2015, closes October 1, and I hope you have this on your book-loving radar. (Details below.)

I met Kathy a half-dozen years ago at a Shreveport book festival. She has since become a friend and the only person who can talk me into dressing up like a fried-green tomato or Reporter Barbie or a circus cotton-candy seller–for the love of books. After a divorce, Kathy relocated her Jefferson, Texas, Beauty and the Book Shop to a small salon in Hawkins, Texas, and is moving the annual book festival, too.

She chooses the book-club’s reading list and festival authors with care: “I look for a story that is well written, from a perspective I have not heard before, it has to be discussable… I love to help first-time, first-book authors get discovered.”

Fellow authors Marybeth Whalen, Lisa Wingate, Carla Stewart and yours truly.
Fried-Green-Tomato fun: Fellow authors Marybeth Whalen, Lisa Wingate, Carla Stewart and yours truly.
The festival sprang from her book club, which she founded in 2000 and fiercely shepherds, “where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule.” Girlfriends’ Weekend has drawn such authors as Fannie Flagg, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café;” Pat Conroy, “The Great Santini” and “The Prince of Tides”; and John Berendt, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

The interaction between readers and writers at Girlfriends’ Weekend takes on the feeling of a family reunion. It begins on a Thursday evening with an author dinner, where authors wait tables and attendees receive signed books. Friday and Saturday are filled with author panels, book-signings and readers chatting about favorite books. The event wraps up with a costume-party extravaganza, the “Hair Ball.”

Kathy and her members are on a mission to promote authors, books, literacy and reading—and have “some big time fun” while they are at it. “We are changing the world for the better, one author, one book, one book club member, one chapter at a time by reading and sharing our wonderful reads.”

Are you in a book club? I’d love to hear about your club and what you’re reading. Please leave a comment.

To register: Pulpwood Queen Girlfriends Weekend book festival
January 15-18, 2015
Nacogdoches, Texas
Who can attend: Anyone over age 21. The gathering is not for women only, but usually the only men who attend are authors. “We welcome all to join our book club, regardless of race, color, religion, gender or the fact they may have had cosmetic surgery or color enhanced hair,” Kathy says. “We come to this event for a time-out from all the stress and worry of normal life; it’s our escape to book-lovers’ paradise.”
Nearly 50 authors will speak, including Bill Dedman, author of “Empty Mansions.”
Early-Bird weekend-package: $350 for non-members of Pulpwood Queens Book club; $250 for members. Discount ends October 1. For a menu of registration options, see www.beautyandthebook.com.
Pulpwood Queen Book Club lifetime membership: $25

***

Magnolia Market final cover 10.24.13Don’t forget: “Magnolia Market,” my 8th novel, releases September 23. Join us to celebrate from 5-7 p.m., September 23, at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Shreveport, La. You can pre-order “Magnolia Market” at: http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie-ebook/dp/B00H6XM2NC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

More Dog Days of Summer: An author & her four-legged “helpers”

Ane dog 2Ane's dogsFriend Ane Mulligan, who writes Southern fried fiction, is a must for a Dog Days of Summer chat on the Kitchen Couch.
Ane has a new novel and two dogs of, as she says, biblical proportions.

About the dogs

“Shadrach was our first English mastiff. He was a cute puppy, but as he grew, we got concerned about his ancestry…Shadrach is half marshmallow. When the hubs bought him a new bed, he was afraid of it and wouldn’t sit on it. So Hubs laid down on it. Shadrach sat on Hubs.” Shadrach is 8 years old and weighs 220 pounds.
“Hubs and Son decided we needed another mastiff. I said, ‘Absolutely not!’ Absolutely not’s name is Oliver Twist… He’s either slobbering or he’s in the water. We’re pretty sure he’s half porpoise.”

“Chapel Springs Revival”

Ane’s novel, “Chapel Springs Revival,” will be out September 8, and it’s a small-town, big-hearted story that Anne Chapel Springs Revivalreflects Ane’s quirky humor and wonderful voice. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy and felt like I was visiting people I’d met before:

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It’s impossible not to, what with Claire’s antics and Patsy’s self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is personal.

If you are thinking of writing a book

I’ve turned to Ane for encouragement and feedback many times since setting off for Green, Louisiana, in my first novel several years ago. She’s a world-class encourager! If you’re considering writing a book: “Don’t think – do. If you’ve got the gift of storytelling, then go for it. The best tip I can give is look for each character’s problem. They all have one. Play journalist and interview them until you find it.” Ane is also president of the award-winning literary site, www.NovelRocket.com, which is full of excellent writing information.

More about Ane

Ane has worn many different hats: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama Ane mugdirector, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and, of course, her dogs. You can find her at www.anemulligan.com, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

How’s your summer reading going? Are you wrapping up and heading into fall? Leave a comment, and I’ll draw at noon CST on August 29 for an early copy of “Magnolia Market,” my next novel, also out in September. If you want to pre-order “Magnolia Market,” it’s available at your favorite booksellers, including:http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie/dp/0310330572

An Author Friend & Her Dog During Dog Days of Summer

The Dog Days of Summer have officially arrived (yes, they really are a thing), bringing a perfect time to read on the Kitchen Couch–and an opportunity to introduce you to one of my favorite writers, Lisa Wingate, and her adorable dog and literary sidekick, Huckleberry.IMG_6051
Lisa is a hero of mine and a great southern writer. Huck makes me smile.

A free book

Lisa is the author of more than 20 books, including “The Prayer Box,” FREE now on Kindle, Nook and iTunes (to be read on one of your iThings). She’s an all-around nice person who writes “Fiction That’s Good for the Soul.” With a deft touch, she blends feel-good, inspirational stories with real-world challenges–always with characters you’d like to chat with.

“The Prayer Box” is about what happens when Tandi Jo Reese, running from a messy, dangerous past, is charged with the task of cleaning out an old-timer’s house on Hatteras Island. Tandi’s life changes when she discovers 81 carefully decorated prayer boxes from the life of Iola Anne Poole.

To download “The Prayer Box” for free for a limited time:Prayer Box cover (2)
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Prayer-Box-Lisa-Wingate-ebook/dp/B00CH7KXY2/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405455210&sr=1-1&keywords=prayer+box
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-prayer-box-lisa-wingate/1114893894?ean=9781414386881
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-prayer-box/id640268312?mt=11

Read more about Lisa at www.LisaWingate.com or take a look at her blog post with background on “The Prayer Box”– http://www.southernbelleviewdaily.com/its-a-belle-book-club-week-for-the-prayer-box/ Her next book, “The Story Keeper,” will be out in September.

Meet Huckleberry

And then there’s Lisa’s dog, Huckleberry, the real star of this post. He’d make me want to read her books even if she wasn’t a terrific writer. Named for Huck Finn, of course, he’s her literary companion, dogging her steps (so to speak) as she writes and providing needed chuckles when she takes a break.Lisa and Huckleberry

He’s the perfect pooch to kick off a little Dog-Day Reading in our Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club, don’t you think?

An aside on writing about dogs

While I don’t own a dog, I write dogs into my novels and get attached to them: Sugar Marie. Holly Beth. Kramer. And, of course, Mannix (the beloved 3-legged dog with a starring role in “The Glory of Green”).http://www.amazon.com/The-Glory-Green-Gone-Series/dp/1426700563/ref=tmm_pap_title_0 In my next novel, “Magnolia Market,” you’ll meet Willie and Howie.http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie-ebook/dp/B00H6XM2NC/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid= To me, pets add another layer to how a character reacts–and they’re fun to name!

I also enjoy reading books with dogs in the plot. Romance Author Kristan Higgins comes to mind; each of her novels has a dog (or cat) with a starring role. For more on Kristan’s fun romances, see http://www.kristanhiggins.com/.

How about you? Do you like stories with pets in them? I’d love to hear from you–and to learn what you’re reading now that we’re in the middle of July. Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of one of Lisa’s books. I’ll draw at noon CST Friday, July 18. And stay tuned for more authors and their dogs (and maybe even a cat or two). IMG_5605

Why TFIOS is a star of a story

Jaden Fox and Gracie Shahan TFIOSWhen we took our 13-year-old granddaughter on vacation recently, she wore a T-shirt with author John Green’s picture and the word “Pizza” on it.Gracie Pizza John
You know…just in case there were any fellow nerdfighters around.
Hang around teen readers for a while. You’ll understand inside jokes like “Pizza John,” “French the Llama” and “DFTBA.” And you’ll see the sizzle that “The Fault In Our Stars,” courtesy of its energetic, enthusiastic and even encouraging author, creates. http://johngreenbooks.com/
“TFIOS,” as its fans call it, is about teens Hazel and Gus who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love.
This book ignites an exuberance among young readers that is contagious. It continues to dominate bestseller lists, two years after it was published. The film became the summer movie that entertainment reporters like to point out beat Tom Cruise at the box office.

Why I like it

This novel shows that stories can still grab hold of readers—no matter how much moaning about violent video games and TV-watching we do, how much we fret about the demise of books, no matter the gender of the author or the genre or what publisher is at war with what distributor.
A good story captures the imagination, evokes emotion, even builds community.
For those who say TFIOS is too mauldlin or contrived, I beg to differ, having watched granddaughter Gracie’s best friend, Jaden, fight lymphoma just as the book came out. One minute, it seemed, Jaden and Gracie were hamming it up in costume at a New Year’s Eve party. The next photo I got was Gracie visiting Jaden in a hospital room.

A teen cancer patient’s perspective

TFIOS helped both Jaden and Gracie navigate this treacherous terrain, as patient and friend. Here’s what Jaden told me:

“At the beginning of the book, Hazel is going through a dark time and that’s exactly how I felt while I was reading the book. I felt like John Green had taken all the emotions that I was feeling and wrote them as a novel … I loved how he showed that it’s not all wonderful after treatment and you are depressed. And it is a big struggle to get over that and go to a support group to get help. TFIOS raised huge awareness toward teens with cancer.”

In a startling (and thrilling) turn of events, Gracie and Jaden met Green and the film stars in Nashville, which showed another layer of this author, what seems to be a kind heart.
“It was insane,” says Gracie. “There were so many screaming girls.”
“Did you scream?” I had to ask.
“Yes, I screamed a lot.” Although she confesses that when she met the author and stars, “I sort of froze up. We were paralyzed with shock.”
The movie features Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, and Nat Wolff–and it mattered to Gracie that they care about the story. “I think they’re genuinely nice, and that makes me happy,” she said.
If you’re looking for a good Kitchen Couch Summer Read, don’t write this one off as too young or over-hyped. And sure it’s sad. It’s about two kids–who you really like–who have cancer. But it also has a lot of quirky humor and good twists.

Remember “Love Story”?

The novel took me back to high school, when I latched onto “Love Story,” a romance by Erich Segal that was also funny and tragic. If you’re of an age, you likely remember it, the bestselling work of fiction in the United States in 1970. It was made into what is considered one of the most romantic movies of all time (starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw) and gave us the oft-quoted (and oft-mocked) line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

It’s been fun to watch Jaden and Gracie and other young reader friends grab every John Green book they can find – and talk about them with the intensity of an MFA honors lecture. I imagine that when they’re my age, they’ll still feel a twinge when they remember the summer of John Green.

I see this as another leg on their journey to being lifelong readers.

That makes this Kitchen Couch Reader smile.

Have you read “The Fault In Our Stars” or seen the movie? Do you read YA novels regularly? What are you reading during these warm summer days?Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of “Wreath,” my YA novel about a girl who lives alone in a junkyard after her mother dies. http://www.amazon.com/Wreath-Judy-Christie/dp/1616264527

Authors at Work: How they do it

Consider a job where you sit around and make things up. You stare into space. You hit the delete key a few thousand times. You stare into space some more. You cry when someone who exists only in your mind is hurt. You take notes in church, at lunch, before you drift off to sleep at night…Typewriter photo for blog

One of my favorite topics to discuss with book clubs and other authors is the writing process. Friend and super author Suzanne Woods Fisher, www.suzannewoodsfisher.com, invited me to take part in a blog tour about this subject, and I invited author friends Carla Stewart, www.carlastewart.com, and Lisa Wingate, www.southernbelleview.com, to chat too. Eager to hear your thoughts and suggestions about how authors work!

My Writing Life

What am I working on?

I am preparing to send “Magnolia Market,” my 8th novel, into the world—an exciting and scary time. The official launch is on September 23, and you can pre-order it now. http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie/dp/0310330572 Advance Reader Copies are going out from HarperCollins Christian Publishing for reviews (gulp!) and giveaways (fun!), my book “tour” dates are being lined up (including a party at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Shreveport, an appearance at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge and a spot at Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend) and I’m working on a new novel.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Louisiana is full of characters—and I don’t just mean the kind you find in books. I love living in Louisiana—and writing fiction with a Louisiana flavor. My home state makes an enticing backdrop for almost any story. I hope my southern voice, as a native of the Mississippi Delta and longtime Louisiana resident, shines through in compelling ways.

Why do I write what I do?

As a reader, I’m a fan of southern fiction, so it feels natural to pull together strands of life around me in my novels. My first seven published books were nonfiction, but I switched to fiction when I turned 50. When I read, I enjoy what I call life-affirming novels, and that’s what I want to write—books where, despite tension along the way, things work out in the end.

How does my writing process work?

I’m a binge writer who dreams of becoming a slow-and-steady writer. In addition to writing fiction, I have a lively consulting business, so I usually block off days to write and pound the keyboard like my friend Virginia plays the piano! Once I choose a novel project, I make a timeline and give myself a deadline, step by step. This is not unlike cooking a big meal when various things go into the oven at different times. I am somewhat addicted to books about writing and always pull them out to inspire me as I write.

How Other Authors Work

One of my favorite people and an outstanding writer is Oklahoman Carla Stewart. See her post on her process at www.carlastewart.com. Carla is the award-winning author of five novels and her affection for times gone by shines in her books. She takes readers back to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.” I love Carla’s voice and settings. Her brand-new book is “The Hatmaker’s Heart.”

Suzanne Woods Fisher, writer of awesome Amish fiction and nonfiction, chats about her process at http://suzannewoodsfisher.com/blog/page/2/l Yes, she writes in her laundry room. Her new book is “The Revealing,” due out in July, and she’s adjusting to a newly-retired husband as she writes her next book. Suzanne is truly a sterling wordsmith.

And watch for next Monday’s post by best-selling Lisa Wingate, one of my writing heroes, at http://www.southernbelleviewdaily.com/ Congrats to Lisa, whose book “The Prayer Box” has gone into its 4th printing. And she has a darned cute dog called Huckleberry, who will be featured here one day soon, I promise! Working out the details with his agent.:)

How about you? Any questions or comments about the writing process? Would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, and, while you’re at it, update us please on your summer reading. Please check out books by each of these great writers for your summer list!

P.S. Congrats to Lindy A. of Ohio, who won one of the early copies of “Magnolia Market” as part of of our Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club fun!

3rd Annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club: Book talk & prizes

Magnolia Market final cover 10.24.13Memorial Day has come and gone, and you know what that means: You can wear white shoes again. And it’s time for the 3rd Annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club.

(Truly, I think you can wear white shoes any time nowadays—you’d do better to trust me on book advice than fashion advice.)

Why is it that summer feels like the best time to pile up a fresh stack of books, head for the porch swing, the hammock, the kitchen couch or any favorite spot and read? Do we give ourselves permission to read more in summer? What do you think?

I visited not long ago with a book club in South Louisiana to talk about my novel “Sweet Olive.” A member told me she hadn’t been a reader until a friend invited her to join the club. “It was the best decision ever.” I hope you, too, will love reading even more after our summer club.

So if you’re a Kitchen Couch regular or a newcomer who loves books, join our low-key, friendly bunch and read with us this summer; bring your own book club along if you like. Read whatever you like and chat about it.

As always, there will be FUN prizes – including—I’m excited—EARLY proof copies of “Magnolia Market,” my next novel that releases in September. (It’s available for pre-order: http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie/dp/0310330572)

Let’s get started, summer readers!

** What are you reading right now? Do you recommend it?

I just finished a Louisiana classic—“The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy, a challenging book that captures the feel of New Orleans in a haunting style. The book won the National Book Award in 1962, beating out “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller and “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger. This time I lingered over this novel, although I had started it years ago and put it down, unfinished.
Moviegoer cover for column and blog June 2014Definitely not a book to read when you’re sleepy, it’s a complicated, deliberate read. I marked many notes in the margins and plan for this one to stay on my shelves a long time. Percy does a wonderful job with metaphors and draws comparisons in ways that help you see what he is writing about. Have you read it? What do you think? (A couple of friends told me they did NOT like it!)

My next summer book will be lighter: “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a 2011 release that has been on my to-read stack for months. I’ll keep you posted.

What are you reading? Leave a comment, and I’ll draw for a signed advance copy of “Magnolia Market” at noon CST this Friday, June 6.

Happy summer reading!

P.S. Print your free “I Love Books” membership certificate from my newly redesigned website – and, showing how laidback we are, everyone gets to be a charter member: http://judychristie.com/Certificate_Judy-Christie-Kitchen-Couch-Summer-Reading-Club.jpg

P.P.S. I’d be thrilled if you’d consider “Sweet Olive” for your summer reading list. http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Olive-Trumpet-Vine-Christie/dp/0310330548.

A summer’s worth of reading

Blog photo September 2013The calendar says the official start of Autumn is just ahead and the unofficial end of summer is just behind. No more white shoes or seersucker and time to put the Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club away for another year.

WAAAAA!

It feels like I’m just getting started on my summer to-read list!  How about you?

I loved chatting with you about what you read during the summer, and the conversation gave me extra energy as I worked on my newest novel (more on that later). I had fun drawing names for prizes–signed books and and miscellaneous book-loving goodies.

But, darn, it went too fast.

As I think about what I read during these hot Louisiana months, it reminds me  that what I’m reading says a lot about what’s going on in my life. With part of the summer of 2013 spent writing a book, I found myself reading more nonfiction than fiction.

Why did I do that?

1)  To focus on my own story: Like most of you, a good novel draws me to another world and can put me in a different mood. I feel like I know the characters, and I begin to think about them. Thus, when writing a novel, I need to think about my own characters (confession I like them!) and don’t want to be influenced at that moment by the tales of others.

2)   To learn to write better: I pick up numerous books on writing when I’m in the midst of a manuscript. These help with craft and technical issues and inspire me to keep improving as a novelist. This summer I read lots of books on writing.

3)  Creative inspiration. I read nonfiction books to give my creative juices a boost–such as a book on Southern decorating or on nature journaling. This summer I indulged in multiple trips to the library here in North Louisiana and wandered up and down the rows, pulling out random books that caught my eye (see photo for examples).

4) Travel on my mind. I enjoy books on places I want to travel or am planning to travel. ( I surprised my husband with a trip to Glacier National Park for our 21st wedding anniversary, so read a book on Montana. A great trip!)

5) A hunger for something totally different. I checked out “Lean In,” for example, because it is a topic that interests me (women as business leaders), and it was completely different from the book I was writing. The Sandra Brown novel was a book-on-CD that I got for a road trip and didn’t finish … so I checked the book out and read the ending (exciting but not for the faint-of-heart).

How about you? What did you read this summer? What book was your favorite?

Leave a comment for an opportunity to win one of the very first copies of my new novel Sweet Olive, releasing September 24 (Zondervan/HarperCollins Christian Publishing). I’ll draw at noon CST on September 20.  http://tinyurl.com/Sweet-Olive

Keep reading, and we’ll visit on the kitchen couch–summer or no summer!
P.S. If you’re near North Louisiana, join us for the launch of Sweet Olive, 5-8 p.m., September 24 at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Shreveport. We’ll have refreshments,  door prizes and a book fair to provide books for the library at  Common Ground Community, a great program in the Cedar Grove neighborhood in Shreveport.

10 Reasons To Visit A Library This Summer

imageThe first place I drove when I got my license as a teen was to the public library. The cool, quiet rows of books still enchant me — especially in summer when I think of the fun I had in the children’s reading club at my neighborhood Shreve Memorial branch in North Louisiana.

With the Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club under way, how about a field trip to a public library for a dose of pure book joy?  Stepping into a library is magical, not knowing exactly what you’ll find but knowing it will be something good.

(I ran into a friend at the library recently, and she said she’d rather go to the library than on a clothes shopping spree!)

I’ve explored a variety of libraries this summer and have a stack of books checked out, including: “Kitchen Privileges” by Mary Higgins Clark (enjoy reading about writers); a book on National Parks for vacation planning; “Nature Journaling” by Clare Leslie & Charles Roth (journaling tips); “Writing for Your Life” by Deena Metzger and “Writing Life Stories” by Bill Roorbach ( I want to write a memoir some day about growing up in Louisiana); and “Let’s Get Comfortable” by Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams and “American Farmhouses: Country Style and Design” by Leah Rosch (decorating books are my guilty pleasure).

While I am a huge fan of books stores (new and used) and own hundreds of books, I make regular trips to a medley of libraries for the sheer pleasure of the books and the hum of bookness that you just can’t beat — all free.

Ten reasons to visit a library this summer:

1. To discover new titles. Even though I keep up with book releases and bestseller lists, I always find other books I want to read. Browse any shelf, and enjoy what catches your eye.

2. To borrow books to see if you like an author’s style or themes.

3. Inspiration. You’ll see people reading everything from reference volumes to magazines, and I can’t help but be inspired by the power of the written word to speak to unique individuals.

4. To indulge special interests. For example, I love to read home decorating books and appreciate the variety at area libraries. If I find a book I particularly enjoy and want to own, I add it to my “to buy” list.

5. For the host of activities, ranging from children’s story times to teen projects to adult book-club discussions and movies.

6. If you’re a creative sort, a visit to a library makes a wonderful “artist date,” to quote author Julia Cameron. You’ll often see art exhibits or innovative displays featuring a theme, such as the one of fairy houses I saw recently in Caddo Parish. Or you’ll learn about a new subject.

7. When you’re traveling, a library offers a glimpse into the culture of a different community — what books are up front, what the library looks like, who’s on hand soaking up stories.

8. To pick up audio books for car trips (I do this every time I have to drive somewhere alone) and DVDs for hot evenings and weekends.

9. Libraries are wonderful places to catch your breath, the perfect hurry less and worry less environment.

10.  Air-conditioning! For those of us who live in hot spots, the cool feel of the library is a refreshing contrast to the heat outside.

No matter what your reading tastes, consider a trip to a library — and be sure to say thanks to your librarian for putting the world of books at your fingertips.

Thanks to the many of you taking part in our Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club. Leave a comment to participate: How’s your summer reading? What was the last book you checked out?  Do you have a favorite library?

Comment for a chance to win a collection of  “I Love Reading” goodies (that I look forward to rounding up)! I’ll draw July 26 at noon CST. Congratulations to Carol H. of Florida, who won our first Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club prize of the year, a signed copy of “Sweet Dreams” by the terrific Carla Stewart and a $25 gift card to Starbucks.