7 Great Summer Reads


There’s a reason reading is number 1 on our list of most popular hobbies. As our reading hobbyists know, reading allows you to temporarily escape from your ordinary life and enter in to an entirely new world. And summer is the perfect time for relaxation and escape! The weather is nice, so you can sit outside and sip lemonade. Plus, if you’re a student, you aren’t bogged down by endless piles of homework. While some students may be heading back to school soon, summer isn’t over just yet. There’s still time to squeeze in a few last minute books.

And so, without further ado, here are Not So Boring Life’s 7 Great Summer Reads:

1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This Shakespeare play is a summer reading classic. And no, not just because the word “summer” is in the title. Shakespeare’s hypnotic language equals a pleasurable summer reading experience, true, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a particularly magical read.

2. I Capture the Castle

Both funny and quirky, this Dodie Smith novel is narrated by seventeen year old Cassandra, a would-be writer who lives with her family in an old English castle. Unfortunately Cassandra’s father, also a writer, has a tragic case of writer’s block and hardly anyone else in the family is fit to work, forcing the family to sell their furniture and live in poverty. Cassandra tells their story in a light-hearted funny style–all in all an engaging summer read.

3. Harry Potter

Unless you’ve been living in a hole for the last couple of few years, you’ve probably read at least one of the Harry Potter books. If not, summer is the time to catch up. The hype surrounding the books is not without merit–they’re engaging, plot-driven, and of course, magical. Thumbs up for Harry Potter.

4. Prodigal Summer: A Novel

Yes, another novel with “summer” in the title. Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible, returns her readers to the Congo in The Prodigal Summer, a book which features three different interwoven stories. Kingsolver’s descriptions of the natural world and her poetic prose make A Prodigal Summer another great summer read.

5. Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a classic so if you haven’t read it already–well, you need to. You can buy the one volume edition on Amazon for a little over $13!

6. A Walk in the Woods

Or any other book by Bill Bryson.

A Walk in the Woods is all about Bryson’s 2,100 mile walk across the Appalachian Trail. It features a bevy of bizarre characters, poetic descriptions of nature, but the best thing about Bryson’s writing is his characteristic use of humor. A Walk in the Woods is a great summer read, yes, but for funny and vivid writing, any Bryson book will do.

7. Me Talk Pretty One Day

David Sedaris is another laugh out loud author, and Me Talk Pretty One Day is arguably his most popular book. It features stories about his odd North Carolina upbringing, his quirky mom, and his career path. Like Bryson, Sedaris is a regularly funny and engaging writer so check out his other books while you’re at it.

There are dozens of other great summer reads, but hopefully this list is enough to keep you occupied for the rest of the summer!

How Robots Are Helping People With Disabilities

robotSince “robotics” is one of our 200 + hobbies, I decided to research a bit more about the mysterious (to me, at least) world of robots. What I found was some exciting research about robotics and people with disabilities.

I have to admit that I was fairly ignorant about the world of robotics. After researching, however, I’m definitely considering adding robotics to my growing list of hobbies.

I may not be creating robots any time soon–but robotics definitely has my attention.

1. Robotics Research: Enhancing the Lives of People with Disabilities

This is an excellent article from Science Daily on people who are trying to regain use of their limbs. A research team at the Rochester Institute of Technology is conducting a study on orthoses, or external devises, and how they can be used to aid people who have physical disabilities, like strokes or spinal chord injuries.

As the article mentions, for some people, picking up a spoon is a difficult task, so this research is extremely exciting.

2. Robot Playmates Help Autistic Kids with Social Skills

This is personally very exciting to me as I’ve worked with children and families affected by autism. The article talks about Socially Assisted Robots, something I’ve never heard of before, and how children with autism interact well with mechanical devices. The study is being conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, and is an exciting step in the field of autism research.

3. Robots Help Kids With Disabilities

This an older article, but still relevant. The University of Hertfordshire conducted a study on robotic toys enabling children with developmental disabilities to develop social skills. Very interesting.

4. Robotics Helps Reveal Mechanics of Speech

This is an even older article (2003) but it’s still interesting. Researchers in Montreal believe that robotics may play “an important role in maintaining speech or restoring it for the deaf.” I haven’t found any recent information on this, but it’s definitely promising.

If you know of any other studies on robotics and developmental disabilities leave them in the comments and we’ll add them to the list. This is some exciting information!

5 Steps to Overcoming Shyness–Using the Internet

It’s no surprise “socializing with friends and neighbors” is one of our most popular hobbies. Humans desire interaction–we rely on one another for everything from comfort to letting each other know when we’ve got a piece of lettuce stuck in our teeth. Socialization is necessary and, as any shy person knows, we suffer without it.

For many shy people, the internet has been both a savior and a terrible burden. It allows us to make friends without ever making any real connections. It gives us a sense of purpose without ever pushing us out of our comfort zones.

But everyone talks about the internet as a detriment to shyness. Everyone knows this. Today, we’re going to explore the alternative. Today, we’re talking about:

Using the Internet to Overcome Shyness

Honestly, it isn’t easy (but what is?). But it is possible, so listen closely:

*As a note, depending on how shy you are, you may be anywhere from 1-5 in the process. This might be obvious, but skip the steps you don’t need.

Step 1) Finding the Floor

This is another way of saying “find common ground.” This means discovering your interests, but it can also mean finding what grounds you. If you’re lonely, depressed, or have low-self esteem (or all of the above) then you may feel like you can’t find the floor beneath your feet.

If you aren’t already, start pursuing your interests. Let’s say you enjoy writing. At this point in the process, you begin writing. You begin researching writing on the internet. You don’t have to tell anyone yet. This is just to get comfortable with it yourself. Join online communities that share interests similar to your own.

Also keep in mind that many shy people have low-self esteem or feelings of inadequacy. Explore these feelings and try to work through them. In all honesty, this is the hardest part of the entire process.

To summarize: find your interests; join online communities; work through your feelings of inadequacy

Step 2) Boarding and Blogging

In all likelihood, you’re already on a message board. You have several blogs you read religiously. But do you comment? If you don’t already, now is the time. You can begin with small comments that have nothing to do with yourself, but the goal is to build up to comments that express opinions, ideas, and feelings you don’t typically feel comfortable sharing. For example, if you disagree about something on a political blog, you will say why. Be respectful. Don’t purposefully offend, but do put yourself out there.

At this point, your other goal is to begin smiling and saying hello to strangers that you meet in real life. While expressing opinions on blogs is helpful, you don’t want to limit yourself to this alone.

To summarize: Leave comments on blogs. Smile and say hello to strangers in real life.

Step 3) Letting it Slide

The next step to overcoming shyness is to learn to let things slide. This means whatever you do DO NOT pay attention to rude or harassing comments. The fact is no matter what you do, there are some people who won’t like it–on the internet and in real life. As cheesy as it might sound, just be yourself!

To summarize: Let the negative comments go; just be yourself

Step 4) Buying a Webcam

This is where letting negative comments go will be really helpful. If you haven’t already, set up a YouTube account and begin posting videos. Comment on other people’s videos and begin to interact. This is a difficult step for many shy people because it means putting yourself out there–but trust me, it’s worth it in the long run!

To summarize: Post videos on YouTube; interact with a virtual community; let them get to know the real you

Step 5) Getting Off

Offline, that is. Now is the time to begin using the skills you learned online in the real world. While taking steps like leaving comments on blogs and posting YouTube videos can bolster your self-esteem and begin to help you beat your shyness, getting offline eventually is a necessary step in overcoming shyness.

To summarize: Get Offline!!!!

Overcoming shyness is a slow process, but it is possible. The key is to take small steps every day. Leaving comments on blogs leads to YouTube videos which leads to real life interaction. Good luck!

Tutoring Children: Volunteer or Paid?

Are you passionate about children’s education? Are you training to become a teacher? If you’ve checked out our article on 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Volunteering you may have already decided that tutoring children is the perfect volunteer match for you. If not, there are still several reasons to consider it.

When you were a kid, you may have struggled in school. If you did, then you know the pain and difficulty that can accompany school problems. The truth it some children just need that extra boost in order to succeed. The good news is there are some GREAT programs out there for students and for people looking to tutor.

When deciding to tutor children, you have two options. 1) volunteer and 2) get paid for it. There are positives and negatives to both options.

1) Volunteer Tutoring

Volunteer tutoring is ideal for people with a limited amount of time or educational experience. The downside is that it may get stressful or interfere with your personal life if it takes up too much of your time. However, the benefits FAR outweigh the negatives.

If you’re looking to tutor children strictly as a hobby, I highly recommend doing it for free. There are some great organizations out there that need people who are devoted to children’s education.

One of my personal favorites is 826 National, an organization started by writer and philanthropist Dave Eggers.

2) Paid Tutoring

Paid tutoring is ideal for people who have experience in education (such as a degree in Education, or other relevant experience), though there are paid tutoring gigs for people without a background in it as well. If you have specialized skills, like fluency in a foreign language, for example, then you’ll be that much more qualified for paid tutoring.

Paid tutoring is great for people who want to earn a little extra income on the side, such as college students. Do keep in mind that it may become stressful, particularly if parents expects unrealistic results or have unrealistic expectations of you. Though again, the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Craigslist occasionally has paid volunteering positions listed under their Education section. In addition, there are programs like AmeriCorps that offer tutoring positions with a living allowance and education award. Whatever you decide, know that you’ll be making an undeniable difference in the life of a child.

The Mysterious World of Metal Detecting

If you’ve ever seen someone wandering around town with a strange contraption in hand and wondered what the heck they were doing, it’s likely they were either metal detecting or engaging in some sort of criminal activity….

But for the sake of argument, let’s say they were metal detecting. You might have thought it looked strange, something you certainly wouldn’t try. Well, I’m here to tell you that if that’s the case…you’re really missing out!

Metal detecting is one of those hobbies that most people know about–but not everyone has tried it.

If you’re someone who’s never tried metal detecting before, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before embarking on your metal detecting adventure.

Buying the Metal Detector

Metal detectors range in price from around $50 to over $1000. Before purchasing a metal detector, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself.

What’s Your Purpose?

Different kinds of metal detectors are made for different kinds of detecting. Are you most interested in coin collecting? If so, a multi-purpose detector will do.

Are you planning on detecting on a beach? Then make sure you purchase a detector made–you guessed it–for the beach. It’s really as simple as that.

How Much of a Detector are You?

Is metal detecting your new full-time job? Or are you going to try it just a few times a year? If you’re serious about metal detecting, a more expensive detector might be ideal. However, there are plenty of quality affordable options out there as well.

As a last point of advice, choose a well-established brand. Search online for customer reviews and consider several options before purchasing a detector.

Other Tips for Beginners

Know your area

Part of the fun in metal detecting is the opportunity to explore new areas. Map out places around town that you think might be ripe with “treasure” before embarking on your metal detecting adventure.

Enjoy the junk hunt

Let’s face it: you may find some gems, but you’re also going to find a lot of junk along the way. Metal detecting can be extremely rewarding, but it may be frustrating if you go home empty handed. The best way to overcome the frustration is to enjoy the junk hunt. It’s all part of the experience!

When and Where to Go

While you can go virtually any time, consider your personal preferences. If you hate bad weather, don’t force yourself to go just because you bought the metal detector the day before. On the other hand, if you hate crowds, a rainy day might be the perfect time to go. Metal detecting is a hobby which tends to get noticed. If the attention bothers you, go in the early morning or even nighttime when there wont be crowds.

For beginners, the best place to practice might your own backyard! That way you can get the hang of it before going out into the “real world.” After you’ve mastered the yard, venture out into town. If there’s a beach nearby, you’re in luck! Beaches are favorites for metal detector hobbyists.

Good luck!