5 Ways to Find Living Books

5 Ways to Find Living Books

Living books are a big part of a Charlotte
Mason education. But where do you find them? Well, get ready, because I’m going to share
lots of websites in this episode. Welcome to the Simply Charlotte Mason podcast. I’m Sonya Shafer. Today we’re talking about living books, and
I cannot state this better than Charlotte Mason already did—
“Children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less
than the best is not good enough” (Parents and Children, p. 279). Living books are a hallmark of a Charlotte
Mason education. They are not used in every subject, but they
are definitely a “leading star in the show.” The trick is finding the best ones for your
family. Or maybe just finding them at all. Today I want to share five ways that you can
find living books. And get ready, because I’m going to be giving
you a lot of websites to check out. First, let’s review what a living book is. Keep in mind that a living book makes the
subject come alive, because it has these four characteristics. First, it is usually written by one author
who has a passion for the subject. It is usually written in narrative form, it
reads like the author is telling you a story, or it may be conversational in tone, like
the author is sitting across the table from you and having a chat. Second, it is well-written; it presents stories
well told, not short, choppy, twaddly sentences. Third, it touches your emotions and fires
your imagination; you can picture what the author is saying in your mind’s eye. And fourth, a living book contains ideas,
not just dry facts. There are ideas in it that will feed your
mind and heart, shape who you are as a person, and often spark other ideas of your own. When you find those four components in a book,
it’s a living book. So where do you find them? 1. Check out SCM favorites. I’m going to list this one first, because
I know what books are recommended. They are some of my favorites—ones that
I have used with my children or that I wish I had used with my children. In the Simply Charlotte Mason bookstore you
will find some that we have published, but if you follow the links on our SCM Curriculum
overview, you will find hundreds of living books that we recommend divided by age groups
and school subjects, along with links of where to find them. But those are only some of our favorites. Many, many more living books exist and can
be used in a Charlotte Mason education. So let me tell you where to find more. 2. Search the CM Organizer. You can use a feature of our CM Organizer,
called the Bookfinder. The Bookfinder is a huge database that contains
more than 1,500 living books that we personally like (and probably own), plus thousands of
other living book suggestions that have been submitted by other Charlotte Mason moms. Now, because this is a community sourced database,
we can’t vouch for all of the titles that other people have added. You will want to preview any book that you’re
not familiar with, of course. Don’t just take someone else’s word for it. That book might have been a good fit for her
family, but you’ll want to make sure it’s a good fit for yours and that it is truly
a living book. And if you want to see only the titles that
the SCM team has personally entered into the Bookfinder, just look for the little green
SCM beside the title. You can also sort by “SCM recommended” to
arrange the search results with our titles at the top. As far as I know, there is no easier way than
the CM Organizer’s Bookfinder to search for living books by criteria, such as geographical
location, historical dates, key words, school subjects, and grade levels. You can’t do that sort of thing at Amazon
or on your local library website. The Bookfinder is free. Use it as often as you like. In fact, you might want to bookmark it. We made sure that most of the book listings
contain a link to Amazon so you can take a look at the sample. If you’re not sure whether it’s truly a living
book, give it a one-page test. Read one page of the sample and see if you
are drawn in, if you want to keep reading. If you come to the end of the page, or of
the whole sample, and feel disappointed that it’s over because you want to know what happens
next, it’s probably a living book. If you can picture in your mind’s eye what
the author is saying or describing, it’s probably a living book. If, on the other hand, you read some of the
sample and think, meh. okay, whatever . . . , you might want to pass on that one and find a
different book. Samples can be very helpful for that one-page
test! And here’s the best part, the CM Organizer’s
Bookfinder has a place where you can put in your zip code and it will tell you whether
a library near you has a copy. Libraries are great places to find living
books, once you know what you’re looking for. Which brings us to the third way to find living
books . . . 3. Check local libraries. Most public libraries contain some living
books. If you know what titles you want, check and
see if your local library has them. Keep in mind that even if your library does
not have the title you’re looking for, you might be able to request it as an Inter-Library
Loan. With an Inter-Library Loan, your library will
locate and borrow the book from another library for you. Some libraries charge a fee for this service,
but it shouldn’t be very expensive. Now, some of you are fortunate enough to live
near a private library filled with living books. My friends Liz Cottrill and Emily Kiser have
been running the Living Books Library for many years, and the families who live near
Liz’s home in Virginia are blessed to have access to such a wonderful collection: more
than 18,000 titles, and all of them living. The good news is that Living Libraries, as
we call them, are popping up all over the country. Many homeschool moms, who used the Charlotte
Mason Method with their children and collected all kinds of wonderful books, are making their
collections available to other homeschool families. Often those collections include books that
are no longer in print and not readily available anywhere else. These libraries are treasures! And so are the people who run them. A Living Library will give you the huge advantage
of knowledgeable librarians who are very familiar with living books and love them as much as
(or possibly even more than) you do. They can usually recommend titles and help
you find living books that will be a good fit for your students. I recently sat down with Liz and Emily to
find out how their library works and how you can get connected to one near you. Watch that video to hear what they had to
say about Living Libraries and check out the list of Living Libraries that they know about. I’ll link to the video and their list in
the notes. 4. Buy books used. You can find used books all over. If you know what titles you’re looking for,
used book sales an be a great place to grab some. Many local libraries have used book sales. Sadly, many public libraries are clearing
the older literary-style books off their shelves; but the good news is that those titles might
then show up in their used book sales and you can grab them. So ask your local library if and when they
sell used books, and also check out Book Sale Finder.com. It can notify you of used book sales in your
area. If there is a particular publisher or line
of books you’re looking for, check on FaceBook. You can find many FaceBook groups available
for used book sales. thriftbooks.com was recently recommended to
me by a mom who found many of our SCM curriculum titles there. Half Price Books has an impressive collection
of hardcover and paperback used books. If you know what you’re looking for, you can
find great deals on living books at half price. Don’t worry, I’ll put links to all of these
websites in the notes. bookfinder.com and addall.com are Internet
search engines that will compile the used (and new) book listings from all over the
web. Each of them includes different store options;
for example, bookfinder.com will include results from places like Book Depository and Ebay,
while addall.com will include results from Bibliophile and Antiqbook. Both show results from Biblio, Amazon, AbeBooks,
Alibris, and other more well-known sources. So keep both in mind, and if you don’t see
what you’re looking for at one, try the other. When you’re looking for used book sources,
don’t overlook private sellers. I’ll tell you about two whom I have gotten
to know over the years and can recommend wholeheartedly. Dan Glaeser is a wonderful used-book dealer
based in California. He has a great knowledge of children’s literature
and living books. If you’re looking for a vintage or hard-to-find
title, Dan probably has it. He has his inventory listed on his website,
danglaeserbooks.com. Jan Bloom is another fabulous resource when
it comes to children’s literature. She has written two great guides, called “Who
Should We Then Read?” Her massive inventory is not listed online,
but if you are looking for a particular book, you can e-mail her through her website booksbloom.com
and ask if she has a copy. Check the show notes for these links. And here’s the fifth way to find living books. 5. Search for free e-texts. Many older books that are no longer under
copyright are available as free e-texts online. If you know what you’re looking for, here
are some websites that could be very helpful. You can search by book title or author on
these sites: gutenberg.org/ has more than 57,000 free books
available in a variety of formats, and Google Books provides scans of books that are out
of print. The Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project,
at mainlesson.com/, is the online component of Yesterday’s Classics publishers. Their online project contains a large selection
of classic children’s literature. Heritage History features more than 500 illustrated
classical histories, which you can view online or download for free at heritage-history.com. The site from The University of Adelaide,
called E-Books at Adelaide, is no longer being expanded or maintained, but it still has a
large collection of public domain books that you can browse or search for titles. The University of Pennsylvania has an Internet
search service. Enter the author or title you are looking
for, and it will give you links to all the places it found that book available for free. The Internet Archive library contains millions
of free books and other media at http://archive.org. There are also the Baldwin Library of Historical
Children’s Literature and The Rosetta Project: Complete Library of Children’s Books Online. I’ll leave all of those links in the notes. Now, be picky. Remember the characteristics of a good living
book. Especially in the children’s historical books
you will find a lot of twaddle. (It gives you a new appreciation for why Charlotte
took a stand against such dumbed-down books! There were a lot of them in her day, just
as there are in ours.) So just keep in mind that not all listings
on a children’s literature site will be living books, but if you know what you’re looking
for, you can find some gems! OK, I’ve been debating whether to give one
more bonus way to find living books. Sometimes I hesitate to even mention this
one, because many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers feel strongly about their personal book collections
(as I do!). But here goes: IF you have a great relationship
with a friend, and IF you can be trusted to return the book in good shape, and IF you
have the money for the security deposit (just kidding), you might be able to borrow some
great living books from friends. But make sure you return them! Do you know how many books I have lost over
the years because someone didn’t return a book I let her borrow? I’m not bitter, but if you have a friend who
trusts you with her book, be sure you maintain that trust by returning it. (And maybe take her out to lunch to say thanks. Just an idea.) So those are the places where I like to look
for living books. Do you have a favorite place that you like
to go? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m always eager for a good living book hunt! If you enjoyed this video, subscribe through
iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or your favorite podcast app so you don’t
miss an episode. You can also subscribe to the audio version
of this podcast or read the blog post on our website at simplycharlottemason.com. All of those links will be in the notes along
with links to all of the websites I mentioned. Thanks for joining me. See you next time!

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  1. I have checked out several of the sites mentioned here. A bit of advice- Thrift Books on Ebay a lot of times will have free shipping, whereas they charge shipping through their regular site.

  2. Living books :
    1) usually written by one author who has a passion for the subject
    2) narrative or conversational in tone
    3) well written
    4) touches emotions, engages imagination
    5) contains ideas that feed the mind and heart , and shape you

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