Top Ten Tuesday: Named Novels

Happy Tuesday!! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is Frequently Used Words in (Genre) Titles. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time then you’ve probably noticed that I adore classic literature. In typical Holly fashion, today I’ll be sharing ten classic novels with names as their titles. This might sound like a rather narrow, niche topic, but you’d be surprised how many of them there actually are!

What are your thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned? What other novels have names as their titles? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Best Cafes to Study at in Oxford | Holly Goes Abroad

Staying in Oxford over spring break made me discover a new favorite pastime: studying in cafes. During term time I tend to do work in Mansfield College’s cafe or in the library, simply because that is where the majority of my friends do their work as well. However, being here over spring break when most students were away gave me plenty of time to explore beyond the reaches of my usual studying sphere. Here are a few of the great study spots I stumbled upon this spring:

Waterstones Cafe

My favorite part about this cafe is the location. Not only is it in the heart of city center, but it is also on a top floor of a bookstore. It has amazing floor-to-ceiling windows that look out at the bustling intersection below, letting in plenty of natural sunlight (or grayness, depending on the day!). Bookshops, windows, and a great view… what more could you ask for?

Cafe Nero in Blackwell’s

How could I not mention the cafe in my favorite Oxford bookshop? Not only does this cafe have a friendly, welcoming vibe, but it also looks out at the Bodleian Library and has the most comfy chairs. I particularly enjoy spending afternoons reading here with a nice cup of tea. It’s also in a pretty convenient location, which makes it enticing to pop into whenever the weather is a bit damp.

George Street Social

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this may be my favorite cafe for studying in Oxford. I adore the relaxed, fun, quirky vibe it exudes as well as its bookishness. Used books line shelves all along its walls and nooks and crannies as part of a book swap, meaning that anyone can take or leave a book. The staircase is even painted to look like book spines with names of bookish cocktails! George Street Social also always has an awesome playlist playing, which is a bonus.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into my cafe adventures! Stay tuned for even more cafe fun…

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Do you like studying or doing work in cafes? Do you have a favorite cafe you always go to? What is it like? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: Pride and Prejudice (circa 1995 BBC)

Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, along with many of her other novels, often receives criticism for depicting women as utterly dependent on men. While I wholeheartedly disagree with this criticism (look at Austen’s satire! her wit! her humor! making fun of those who depend on men!), today I’d like to discuss this perspective regarding a modern adaptation of the novel: BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. After watching this in a matter of days at the beginning of my spring break (and becoming remarkably invested in the story absurdly quickly), I’ve returned to the age-old question: is this beloved, classic story feminist, particularly in mini-series form?

Of course, it has to be recognized that the Georgian Era in which Pride and Prejudice was written and is set is highly problematic by modern standards. Not only did women have no right to property and had to rely on advantageous marriages in order to move up in the ranks of society, but they also did not have great opportunities in terms of education, occupations, and paths forward in life. The incredibly class-conscious society depicted by Jane Austen in this 1813 novel and reflected in the 1995 mini-series left no room for the freedom of expression and opinion that women now have as a right today. It is to be expected that in depicting such a sexist society, the story itself would not be a call to action for the rise of women’s rights.

However, I would argue that there is something decidedly feminist about this story, particularly in the character of Lizzie Bennet. Not only is Lizzie independent, witty, and intelligent, but she is also much more active than women were expected to be during this time period. For instance, this subversion of the passive, obedient standard for women is apparent in mini-series scene where she trudges all the way to see her sister, Jane, at the Bingley’s house and arrives covered in mud. While the other women in the house scoff at Lizzie’s disorderly appearance, Mr. Darcy admires her for her subversion of gender norms. These feminist moments may seem subtle, but I believe that they’re vital to understanding this story as a counter to sexist expectations of women during the Georgian Era.

Another admirable aspect of this novel and screen adaptation is the emphasis it places on bonds between women. While the romantic plot of this story is often highlighted as the most important element of the story, I think it can be argued that the relationships between women are equally as prevalent. The Bennet sisters rely on each other for comfort, support, and guidance in a society that stifles young women and fails to see their potential as independent citizens. The bond between Lizzie and Jane is particularly strong in the mini-series and demonstrates the importance of women lifting each other up in times of struggle, be that emotionally or physically. When it seems as though Mr. Bingley is no longer interested in Jane, Lizzie admires her emotional strength and encourages her to move on and not dwell on the past. Again, these moments may be subtle, but they nevertheless highlight the ways by which women in this society helped each other and found their own kinds of power in their lives.

Is Pride and Prejudice a flawless feminist text or television series? Of course not. However, I think it would be amiss to entirely discount this story as one that portrays women poorly without any meaningful underlying purpose. For all of its faults, I’m happy to admire this story for its feminist moments (and the binge-watching splendor of the mini-series!). If you haven’t yet watched this mini-series, I would highly recommend it!

Click here to see other Feminist Friday posts!

What are your thoughts on the novel Pride and Prejudice and any of its television or movie adaptations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo | Review

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart. {Goodreads}

Until a few months ago, all I knew about Les Misérables was that it was a huge book, a long movie/musical, and involved someone going to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Suffice it to say that this lack of information has been remedied. After watching the 2012 film adaptation and repeatedly listening to the soundtrack for weeks on end, I finally decided to go the extra mile and read the 1463-page Victor Hugo novel on which the musical is based.

When I told my friends that I was reading this book they looked at me as though I had suddenly sprouted glittery fairy wings out of my shoulder blades. What on earth was I thinking? Why would I dedicate so much time to reading a novel when I already knew the basic plot from the musical? But that was precisely the point: surely the musical couldn’t be exactly like the novel itself. Curious to see the differences between these works, I plugged in my headphones and plunged into the audiobook.

This brings me to my next point: I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Les Mis if the idea of flipping through over a thousand pages of text makes you want to run and hide. Not only are there some great vocal performers reading the novel, but it also allows you to still read while doing other things (laundry, cooking, walking, etc.). What at first seems like a formidable tome that will never be finished suddenly becomes much more manageable as a 10+ hour audiobook.

The novel itself is brilliant. It possesses all of the qualities I love in literature: beautiful writing that makes you relish every word, characters that seem like people you’ve known for years, action that makes you want to keep reading even when you know you should’ve gone to sleep a long time ago, and perspectives on life that you had never fully considered before. This novel surprised me in countless ways, from its unexpected poignancy and wit to way it focused much more on the story of Jean Valjean than did the film or musical. We weren’t introduced to a wider cast of characters until about halfway through the novel, which I actually preferred. Rather than rush through the back story of arguably the most important character in the story, Hugo properly develops Valjean’s personality and past before building upon it in the rest of the novel as other characters come into play.

Is this book over-the-top at times? Yes. Is it sometimes cheesy, cliché, and unrealistic? Yes again. However, Hugo also makes important points about poverty, growing up, justice, truth, and rebellion. This novel may be set centuries in the past, but it nevertheless remains relevant in our society today.

Overall, I am so glad I decided to take the leap and read this massive novel. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the musical or simply interested in literature from the nineteenth century. Besides, what better way is there to fuel your love for the musical than by reading the novel on which it is based?

What are your thoughts on this novel or musical? Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Between the Acts and Station Eleven

I never thought I would be pairing a Virginia Woolf novel with a post-apocalyptic book, but here we are! This week’s Classic Couple features Virginia Woolf’s 1941 novel Between the Acts and Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel Station Eleven. Although these texts are strikingly different in many ways, a closer look reveals some interesting similarities that are worth mentioning here.

Theatre || Perhaps the most obvious similarity between these two novels is the significant role that theatre plays in their plots. In Between the Acts, an audience watches on the lawn as a play is performed before them by their family and friends. The play is a sort of collage of English history, ultimately ending in a display of mirrors that reflects the audience members’ own images back at them to contemplate. In Station Eleven, a traveling theatre troupe and orchestra performs Shakespeare plays for people them come across in the post-apocalyptic future. While not everyone they meet is friendly, the majority of viewers are grateful for the small semblance of normalcy that the performances offer.

Stressful settings || Station Eleven clearly has a very stressful setting: a world that has been destroyed by sickness and seized by corruption, danger, and uncertainty in the aftermath. Although Between the Acts may appear to be quite peaceful in comparison, its context–set in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II- is actually incredibly desperate. Here Woolf challenges the reader to see past the facade of the rather whimsical play and look at what is really going on underneath; in other words, what is literally happening between the acts. (Can I just say that I love the title of this novel?)

Focus on characters || Last but not least, both of these novels place an important emphasis on characters rather than plot. Each cast of characters is wide and varied, representing different generations, socioeconomic classes, and beliefs. Both of these books end in vague and ambiguous ways, leaving it up to the reader to decide what happens beyond the last page. These open-ended conclusions underscore the irrelevancy of the plot in light of character development and growth. While we only get snapshots of characters throughout Between the Acts and Station Eleven, they are enough to make us feel invested in their lives and stories.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into two distinct yet surprisingly similar novels. I would highly recommend both of these books!

Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.

What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Between the Acts or Station Eleven? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love My Polaroid Camera

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is a freebie which means we can share a list about any topic. I thought it might be nice to take a break from books for a bit and talk about something else that I love: my polaroid camera. If you’re ever around me on a day-to-day basis (especially while abroad) you’ll quickly learn that I carry my polaroid camera with me almost everywhere I go, except to lectures and tutorials. I’ve had my polaroid camera (a Fujifilm instax mini) for quite some time now, and at this point it’s basically become an additional limb. Here are ten reasons why I love my polaroid camera:

1. Convenient. I’ve always been a fan of having physical, printed out photos. Before getting a polaroid camera I would sift through all of the photos on my phone or computer and get them printed out at the store. Having photos print out instantly from this camera is so much more convenient!  

2. Easily transportable. Having a camera that is easily transportable is important, especially when you’re traveling abroad and want to pack as minimally as possible. I love how small and surprisingly durable this camera is– mine has definitely seen better days, but it’s still going strong!

3. Easy to use. This camera is quite easy to use because it tells you exactly what setting to take each photo at according to how much light there is. An easy-to-use camera comes in handy if you tend to ask other people to take photos for you.

4. CUTE. Okay, let’s be honest: isn’t this camera adorable? And aren’t the tiny photos it prints out so cute? (I’m also a sucker for anything in this pastel yellow color, so that might have something to do with it…)

5. Exciting. When you take a photo with a polaroid camera you never really know how well it will come out. Some of my photos are definitely better than others, but the excitement of waiting to see how it develops is worth it. The results can be hilarious!

6. Artsy photos. Polaroid photos are simply begging to be photographed. I love taking pictures of polaroids against a beautiful background. They come out so much better than against my desk or wall!

7. Decorating. A main reason I love taking photos with this camera is that they make the best decorations, especially in a dull dorm room. I love looking at my bulletin board and being reminded of all of my friends and family back home. It instantly makes my room feel more cozy and welcoming.

8. Creating your own souvenirs. This point is particularly relevant when you’re studying abroad or traveling in general. Polaroid cameras are certainly not the cheapest way of taking photos, but it can balance out if you use them to create your own souvenirs from places your visit instead of buying random touristy keychains, postcards, etc.

9. They make great gifts. I first fell in love with polaroid cameras when one of my friends gave me a photo of us for my birthday one year. Giving people photos is always so fun!

10. Tangible memories. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always loved printing out photos because it’s an easy way to keep physical records of fun, exciting, and beautiful moments. Polaroid cameras are so ideal for this!

Do you have a polaroid camera? What’s your favorite kind of way to take photos? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

MARCH 2018 | Wrap-Up

{When you realize half way through April that you forgot to schedule your March wrap-up before you left to travel for two weeks… oops! Better late than never, right?!}

It’s official, folks: we’re one-fourth of the way through 2018! I’m pretty sure I say this literally every month, but it’s so hard to believe that the months are flying by this quickly. Not only was March a transitional month in terms of weather, but it also marked my transition from Hilary term to a sprawling five-week spring break. (SO. MUCH. TIME.) Here’s what I’ve been up to for the past month:

In March I read a total of 14 books:

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  2. Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up by Hermione Lee
  3. Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis
  4. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
  5. Happily by Chauncey Rogers
  6. The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket
  7. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf
  8. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  9. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  10. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
  11. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  12. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  13. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket
  14. The End by Lemony Snicket

Much to my surprise, my favorite book I read in March was Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf. This novel is part of my assigned reading for my upcoming Virginia Woolf tutorial in Trinity term, so I figured I would get a head start over my spring break and try to get some reading done early. As the last book Woolf ever wrote, Between the Acts is not often considered her best work by literary critics. However, my low expectations (relatively low, since Woolf is a brilliant writer) were absolutely shattered. I adore this novel. You know a book is great when your first instinct upon finishing it is to turn back to the beginning and start reading again (which I would have done had I not had so much other required reading to get to…). If you’ve never read Between the Acts before, I highly recommend it!

+ MOVIE: This month I had a favorite show rather than a favorite movie: the 1995 BBC mini-series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I decided to watch it on a whim one night and before I knew it I had finished it a few days later, completely invested in seeing how the story played out on screen despite the fact that I’ve already read the novel several times. So much cheesy dialogue! Awkward interactions! Romantic suspense! If you’re ever looking for something fun and heartwarming to watch on Netflix, definitely check out this mini-series if you haven’t already!

+ MUSIC: I’ve always enjoyed the songs by Lorde that I’ve heard on the radio over the years, but I never actually listened to her most recent album Melodrama in full until this month. I am not exaggerating when I say I have lost count of how many times I’ve listened to this album on repeat in the last few weeks. It’s dramatic and moody and angsty but so, so catchy. A few of my favorite songs are “Homemade Dynamite,” “The Louvre,” and “Supercut.”

+ FOOD: This month I had the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever had in my entire life. I don’t often get to enjoy ice cream that I don’t make myself due to my nut allergy, but my mom found a shop in London called Yorica that is free from every major allergen except soy. I was living. Waffles?! Brownie pieces?! Flavors besides vanilla?! If you’re ever in London and want some delicious allergen-free treats, I HIGHLY recommend stopping by Yorica!

+ PLACE: LONDON. I’ve spent so much time in London this month that I was actually able to navigate parts of it without using a map when my mom came to visit. Normally I’m not a huge fan of cities in general, but there’s something about London that makes it feel different from other cities I’ve visited. Maybe it’s the lack of looming skyscrapers like in New York City or the relative quiet compared to bustling Boston. I can’t wait to keep exploring this remarkable city!

March went from a snow-covered Oxford at the end of Hilary term to a relatively sunnier spring break in no time at all. So much happened in March that I can hardly write about it all– visits from many family and friends, trips to London, strolls through museums, afternoons in cafes, and even a day at a nearby palace. As the end of my year abroad approaches (eek!!!) I’ve been gradually diving back into the world of Wheaton through picking classes, sorting out housing for next year, and thinking about what I’ll be doing over the summer. So much seems to be happening at once lately!

At George Street Social, one of my favorite cafes in Oxford.
Me standing in front of the gorgeous Blenheim Palace.
The Baker Street tube station… Sherlock, anyone?
Fueling my Les Mis obsession one street at a time.
A photo of a photo of my mom in front of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford.

Stay tuned for many, many posts about all of my traveling adventures in the near future!!

 Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month:

How was your month of March? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

I visited Platform 9 3/4!! | Holly Goes Abroad

It’s happened, folks. I’ve become a wizard, which means I’ve officially peaked.

While my mom was visiting me in Oxford for a week during my spring break we decided to spend two days scurrying around London, trying to fit in as much as possible. When she asked me what I wanted to do during those two days, I immediately had one request: go to the Platform 9 3/4 sign at King’s Cross Station. I’ve wanted to visit this iconic location ever since learning years ago that such a sign actually exists making it the perfect first stop on our London adventure.

Interestingly enough, J.K. Rowling was apparently thinking of Euston Station instead of King’s Cross when she wrote her famous series. The platform sign is actually located between platforms eight and nine due to the fact that platform ten is in a different building and there would be no convenient brick wall on which to build this magical scene. There are attendants organizing the photo-taking process and even a photographer taking photos of each wannabe-wizard, although it is absolutely free to take your own photos. A cute Harry Potter gift shop is next to the sign with everything from small souvenirs to an impressive selection of fancy wands. We waited a little over half an hour to take a photo, so keep waiting times in mind if you’re planning a visit.

When it’s your turn to take a photo, the attendant asks you which Hogwarts House you’re in to determine which scarf you’ll where. You can imagine my dilemma as a self-declared Ravenpuff/Huffleclaw when I realized this was how it worked. I had to pick just one House?! The injustice! The indecision! As you can see from my photo, I ultimately went with Gryffindor on a whim. (I’m studying abroad for a year–that counts as courage and determination, right?) Who knows? Maybe this is the beginning of my Gryffindor identity?!?!

Waiting in line to take a photo in front of a random sign marking a platform that doesn’t even exist may sound ridiculous, and perhaps it is. But it is worth it. Everyone in that line was ecstatic to be there, grinning from ear to ear as the attendant wrapped a scarf around their necks and handed them a wand to take a photo. I couldn’t help but marvel at all of the people who traveled great distances just to celebrate a fictional world that they love. If this doesn’t speak to the power and importance of books–especially ones that so many of us associate with our childhoods–then I don’t know what does!

All in all, I’m so glad I was able to visit the Platform 9 3/4 sign like my eleven-year-old self always dreamt of doing. If you’re ever near King’s Cross Station and have some time to spare, I highly recommend checking out this incredible place!

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever been to the Platform 9 3/4 sign? Which Hogwarts House do you most identify with? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

13 Reasons to Read A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket

Since today is Friday the 13th, I’d thought I would interrupt our usual Feminist Fridays feature to talk about something a little more…. unlucky. Over the past few months I’ve been reading (via audio book) the entirety of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket for the very first time. When a friend learned that for some reason I never read this series when I was a kid, she immediately told me that I must read it ASAP. Fortunately, there’s nothing unfortunate about this series! In case you’re turned off by the rather strange title, here are 13 reasons why you should read A Series of Unfortunate Events: 

1. The writing is witty, clever, and funny. I’m a sucker for puns and cleverness in general, so Lemony Snicket’s hilarious yet smart writing style immediately made me adore this series.

2. There are SO MANY BOOKS. There’s nothing better than being captivated by a series that seems to go on forever. With thirteen books, it’s easy to feel as though this series will never end, yet it’s so fast-paced that it never felt like the plot was dragging or carrying on too long.

3. Each book is pretty short. I think the fact that each book is fairly short (usually between four to six hours of audio book, or 200-300 pages) helps keep the series from feeling slow, allowing it to be so long overall. You always feel like you’re making fast progress as you read, which is always a good feeling.

4. You never know what will happen next. The plots of these books are wild. Even when you think you’ve figured out how each book will end, Lemony Snicket throws a wrench in all of your carefully crafted predictions.

5. The audio books are fantastic. I’ve listened to every single one of these books on audio book and I loved every single second of it. Not only is the narrator (Tim Curry) incredible, but the extra sounds and music also make it feel as though you are right there alongside the Baudelaire children, desperately trying to outrun Count Olaf. This was the perfect way for me to read this series while abroad because I could listen while walking around Oxford to college and lecture, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, etc. I would highly, highly recommend the audio books if you’re looking to read (or reread) this series!

6. It’s as entertaining for adults as for children. Lemony Snicket has managed to write a series that is aptly suited for both kids and adults without it feeling too simple or too mature for any age. While he does clearly state “messages” or “lessons” that he wishes children to take away, he does so in a way that is clever and also a great reminder for adults (sometimes adults need the reminder more than kids!).

7. So many funny repeated phrases. Quite a few phrases and ideas are repeated time and time again throughout this series, simultaneously forming a common thread between the books and creating what feel like little inside jokes between the reader and writer. I couldn’t help but smile to myself when any of these phrases reappeared.

8. Very, very bookish. Lemony Snicket clearly knows his intended audience (bookworms) well because there are so many aspects of this series that appeal to bibliophiles: Klaus’ love of reading, constant references to literature like T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” countless trips to libraries… the list goes on and on!

9. Each book is unique. Sometimes books in series tend to blur together because they seem so similar. Luckily, that’s not the case here! Each book is very distinct from the others thanks to creative plots, unusual settings, and a constant flood of new characters.

10. Character development. As engrossing as the plot of this series is, I think the star of the show is really the remarkable character development that occurs as the Violet, Klaus, and Sunny make their way through obstacle after obstacle.

11. Count Olaf. That’s right: I’m actually listing a villain here. I think Count Olaf is one of the most hilarious, creative, clever, sinister villains I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. He’s definitely a bad guy that you can’t help but love to hate!

12. Nostalgia. If you read this series as a kid, then you get the added benefit of lovely nostalgia. Nevertheless, I still loved the way this series reminded me of how I used to get lost in endless series of books as a kid, wandering the aisles of spacious libraries just like Violent, Klaus, and Sunny. Get ready for a (rather odd) trip down memory lane!

13. It gives you an binge-watch the fantastic Netflix series. I can’t recommend this Netflix series enough! The acting is incredible, the music is excellent, and the dreary world of the Baudelaire children is captured perfectly. Definitely check it out!

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to read this series if you haven’t already! Happy Friday the 13th!

What are your thoughts on A Series of Unfortunate Events? Do you have a specific favorite book out of the entire series? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

WHY READ MOBY-DICK? by Nathaniel Philbrick | Review

One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick’s enlightening and entertaining tour through Melville’s classic. As he did in his National Book Award–winning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailor’s eye and an adventurer’s passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters—finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. An ideal match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? will start conversations, inspire arguments, and make a powerful case that this classic tale waits to be discovered anew. {Goodreads}

After reading Herman Melville’s classic novel Herman Melville several years ago, I asked often asked myself the very same question that Nathaniel Philbrick poses in the title of his book, Why Read Moby-Dick?As you can clearly tell from my disappointed review way back in 2014, I was not at all impressed with what I had been told was a must-read classic novel. I as excited to read it after having read the young adult novel Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard, which references this whale tale a great deal. I couldn’t get past how incredibly dull Moby Dick seemed, which surprised me because I’m usually the kind of person who loves classics that people often think are boring. With that being said, I was ready to let Nathanial Philbrick convince me otherwise not that several years had passed since my initial encounter with Ishmael.

Of course, now I must answer the glaring question that awaits us: Has this book convinced me to read Moby Dick again? Perhaps. Whether or not I decide to read it again at some point in the not-so-near future, I will say that Philbrick has given me a much greater appreciation for this classic novel. Philbrick has a knack for uncovering meaning behind scenes, quotations, and even characters that I would otherwise have simply glossed over as rather insignificant. It’s also inspiring and motivating to see someone so enthusiastic about a work of literature, particularly one considered to be a renowned classic. As someone who generally adores reading and discussing classics, it’s refreshing to read something by someone who feels the same way. Philbrick dissects the novel in a manner that makes it so much more interesting than actually reading the book itself:

“To be in the presence of a great leader is to know a blighted soul who has managed to make the darkness work for him. Ishmael says it best: “For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but a disease.” In chapter 36, “The Quarter-Deck,” Melville show us how susceptible we ordinary people are to the seductive power of a great and demented man.”

However, I will say that I’m not sure how enjoyable Why Read Moby-Dick? would actually be if someone hadn’t read Moby Dick before. I think you have to be at least a little interested in the classic to begin with if you’re going to enjoy Nathaniel Philbrick’s book. What you see is what you get: there’s no getting around the fact that it’s literally a book about a book about whaling, so there shouldn’t be many surprises there.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to the audio book of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Why Read Moby-Dick? and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in Herman Melville’s classic novel.

What are your thoughts on Nathaniel Philbrick’s book or Moby Dick in general? Would you ever read this rather polarizing classic? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY