Books

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion | Reflection

In my Postmodern American Fiction class this past semester, we were assigned to write a page reflection each week on the book that we read. I actually really enjoyed writing these reflections because they were a chance to choose a specific aspect of the book and discuss it in depth without needed to come to any precise conclusions or arguments. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve decided to continue on the process this summer! Along with reviews I’ll be sharing these reflections, brief discussions on novels that I’ve read without any value judgment or rating on my part. Let me know what you think! 

I cried two times while reading The Year of Magical Thinking: first at the point when Joan Didion says “I needed to be alone so that he could come back. This was the beginning of my year of magical thinking” and then at the very end of the novel when she says “You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. He told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that” (Didion 33; 227). As someone who has never actually cried while reading a book before, the fact that I was suddenly crying actual tears while sitting a table in Emerson with my friends worriedly asking me what was wrong was quite a surprise. Why did this book have such an intense effect on me? An obvious answer would be the terribly sad subject matter; however, I have read plenty of sad books before without a similar result. What was it about this sad book in particular made that made it hit me so hard?

The difference here seems to be the way the memoir is structured, particularly how the narration expands and contracts like an accordion. She describes this expansive nature of her own thinking as the “vortex,” a sort of spiral she plummets down whenever something triggers a memory from the past. A clear example of how this vortex works is when her thinking about one of the books she had written sparks a spiral about her daughter, Quintana:

I had been writing that book when Quintana was three.

When Quintana was three.

There it was, the vortex.

Quintana at three. The night she had put a seed pod from the garden up her nose and I had driven her to Children’s Hospital. The pediatrician who specialized in seed pods had arrived in his dinner jeacket. The next night she had put another seed pod up her nose, wanting to the repeat the interesting adventure (Didion 110).

Here we see how one small detail triggers a connection with a memory, resulting in an opening up of the narrative to include this digressive departure from the main story she was telling. Yet at the same time, these memories also make up the main story. Through these winding paths of memory, Didion asserts the inevitable importance of the past and the seeming impossibility of entirely escaping or avoiding the mind’s reliance on the past in the midst of grief.

Perhaps the reason this memoir made me cry is not solely the narrative structure itself, but the way the narrative structure so closely reflects Didion’s thought processes and the inner workings of her mind in the midst of her grief. While reading those last few lines of the book and the last repeated words (“he did tell me that”) I could just feel the desperation, the yearning for a resolution or an answer that she could not find even in the process of writing this book. I have been fortunate enough to never have experienced such a loss or intense grief thus far in my life, but Didion’s writing made me fear that feeling immensely. Through this memoir’s accordion-like structure, Didion was able to convey as close to the feeling of grief as possible, considering the limitations of language that prevent it from ever being exactly expressed with absolute accuracy.

Thoughts on The Year of Magical ThinkingHave you ever read a memoir that has resonated deeply with you this way? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated 2019 Releases

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our top ten most anticipated releases for the second half of 2019. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am pretty awful at staying in touch with the world of new book releases. I always hear about new series and books coming out long after they have been announced, even when it’s an author that I really like. Because of this lack of awareness of new releases, I knew that making a list of ten of them this week would be really difficult (and would require a lot of research). Instead, I’m going to talk about just one new release that I almost thought was too good to be true when I first heard about it: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, to be released September 10, 2019. 

42973319And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead.

With The Testamentsthe wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’

{Goodreads.com}

A SEQUEL TO THE HANDMAID’S TALE IS FINALLY COMING OUT. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. This completely makes sense given the popularity of the TV series and the rise in popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale novel itself, but I had my doubts as to whether or not Margaret Atwood would actually want to open that can of worms again. But it also makes sense that she would want to dive back into this world and fill in some blanks: Gilead reflects a reality that we never want to reach, yet in some ways it seems as though that is the road we’re going down. This story is so relevant and important, and I honestly think it should be taught in high schools as required reading. There are so many lessons to be learned from it!

You can bet that I’ll absolutely be counting down to September 10th! What anticipated 2019 release are you most looking forward to? Are you good at staying up with new releases? If so, please share the secrets of the trade with me in the comments section below!!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

Say hello to my typewriter!

Ever since I was younger I wanted a typewriter. For some reason I have a thing for machines that produce direct, tangible results. If you know my in person, then you’re probably well aware of my love of polaroids–my infatuation with typewriters falls along those same lines. I adore the idea of creating something beautiful–a classically elegant typed document–as you write it. As the daughter of a woman with a passion for all things old and antique, I also grew up with an appreciation for aged objects instilled in me. It is with this eagerness and hopefulness that I searched high and low for my golden opportunity in each and every antique store my mother and I visited over the years, but to no avail. Most typewriters I came across didn’t work, and the ones that actually did function usually cost a pretty penny. Alas! I seemed destined to never type upon a typewriter of my very own.

That is, until a few years ago when I finally found exactly what I had been searching for all that time: a functioning, affordable typewriter. A new Savers had opened up a few towns over from where I lived, and my mom and I went one day just to see the sorts of things they had in stock. As we meandered to the back of the store, my mom pointed out this beauty to me on a shelf in the corner. It wasn’t the most cool-looking antique typewriter, and we would have to buy ink for it online, but the tag said it worked so I took a gamble and purchased it.

What a good decision that was! The typewriter works seamlessly, and the ink is pretty easy to get online. It even has a nifty spell check feature, giving a little beep! whenever you spell a word wrong. The only downside to this typewriter is that it’s fairly large, so I can’t bring it with me when I move out each semester. As a result, I haven’t used it nearly as much as I would like.

However, I’ve been determined to change that streak this summer. Some of you may know that I regularly keep a journal, a sort of blend between traditional pen on paper writing and scrapbooking. This summer I’ve decided to write the majority of my journal entries using my typewriter. Not only is this fun (I love the loud clack clack clack it makes whenever I press on the keys) but it’s also a great way to get a lot of use out of it before I move out for law school in August and have to leave my beloved typewriter behind in my bedroom at home. Plus, I think it adds a really lovely touch to my journal pages!

Do you have a typewriter? Have you ever used one? Do you have a gadget like this that you’ve adored for ages? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Awards

Versatile Blogger Award {Oxford themed!] | 5

Look familiar? I’m back with another Versatile Blogger Award! Thanks so much to Dani for nominating me! Last time I gave this award a summer theme, but this time the theme is extra special: Oxford! As you read this, I will be flying across the pond to Oxford, England to visit some friends at Mansfield College, where I spent my junior year studying abroad. I’m beyond excited to go over again and see so many familiar people and places—and I’m excited to share my adventures when I get back! But for now, here are seven Oxford themed fun facts about me.

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Leave a link to their blog.
  3. Tell us 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 bloggers/bloggers you’ve discovered recently or follow regularly.

1. In a shocking un-Holly-like move that bewildered all of my friends and family back home, I was the goalkeeper for the Mansfield-Merton football team. I wasn’t very good and really was only able to play because they desperately needed a body in goal, but I still played. I loved the feeling of being on a team—and the lemonade we shared after games! I’ll always be grateful that I randomly decided to go to a football taster session with my friend one afternoon early on in the first term.

2. Although I love so many cafes in Oxford, the one that really stole my heart was George Street Social. (Which I wrote about in a post here.) Not only is it a lovely place to read and write during the day, but it also doubles as a fun pub-like setting in the evenings. One of my friends and I went there a few times to have a drink and play one of the old board games they had piled on a shelf upstairs. There’s this one table on your right when you first walk in that was my absolute favorite—the chairs were comfortable and it was next to a wide window with a perfect view of the bustling street. Would definitely recommend stopping by if you’re ever in the area!

3. Almost every day my friends and I would take a 3pm essay break and walk through Uni Parks to a little farm with the most beautiful group of horses. It was definitely someone’s field—their house was right beside it—but if they ever had any qualms about a bunch of American girls standing by their fence gazing out at their horses, they never said anything. We named the horses based on their colorings and even got to pet them a few times. It was such a serene scene, one that I looked forward to every afternoon. Even though Oxford is a city (albeit a small one), I was delighted to discover that there were still plenty of green spots to be enjoyed.

4. As a Visiting Student, I wasn’t required to attend any lectures or other meetings apart from my weekly tutorials; however, I found myself attending a handful of them each week anyways, at least throughout the first two terms. I initially started going to them because I genuinely enjoy listening to lectures—ones about literature, at least. Yet I kept going to them for very different reasons: I quickly realized that they were a great way to gain a bit of context about what I was reading and writing about this week without having to do all the research on my own. Lectures provided me with a great starting point from which I then branched off into what I was specifically interested in. Academics aside, lectures also provided me a way to interact with English lit students from different colleges. Often I would end up sitting next to the same person a few lectures in a row, and eventually we would strike up a conversation. I even met some other American Visiting Students that way, which made me feel more at home.

5. It seemed as though everyone at Oxford was obsessed with ABBA—specifically the songs from Mamma Mia.Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some ABBA. But this seemed like a deeply entrenched knowledge of ABBA. At every Mansfield bop there would be a half hour DJ set of solely ABBA, and no matter what direction you looked everyone was singing. And I mean everyone—even that guy on the men’s football team that I never pictured singing anything was belting out the lyrics and dancing like his life depended on it. While I fully supported everyone’s obsession with ABBA, it did initially take me by surprise.

6. I was the Visiting Student Representative in the Mansfield JCR during my year at Oxford, which was as fascinating as it was fun. Having spent two years as a Class Senator in student government at Wheaton, I was really interested to see what student government at Oxford would be like. The answer: much, much more supportive and engaged (at least at Mansfield) and much, much more efficient than at Wheaton. It was such a breath of fresh air to see agenda items actually being ticked off and funding be allocated to things that the student body was actually passionate about.

7. Oxford taught me how to balance work and play. Although my experience was obviously different from a matriculated Oxford student, I nevertheless found myself simultaneously working harder and having more fun than ever before. Part of this is due to the nature of the tutorial system that Oxford uses—since I had to write about 1.5 essays a week for three terms, I could budget my time so that I only had to work from about 9am to 5pm every day and the rest of the time I was free to explore the city and spend time with friends. It’s more difficult for me to strike that balance here, but even so I felt like I did a much better job after Oxford than before.

YOU! Because I just did this award last week as well, I’m not going to go through and nominate anyone specifically. But if you had a hankering to share seven fun facts about yourself, please do!

My year at Oxford shaped me in so many ways, some of which I’ve only realized after being back for months. Do you have a place that’s shaped you in a similarly profound way? What do you think of my fun Oxford facts? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

BLEEDING EDGE by Thomas Pynchon | Reflection

In my Postmodern American Fiction class this past semester, we were assigned to write a page reflection each week on the book that we read. I actually really enjoyed writing these reflections because they were a chance to choose a specific aspect of the book and discuss it in depth without needed to come to any precise conclusions or arguments. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve decided to continue on the process this summer! Along with reviews I’ll be sharing these reflections, brief discussions on novels that I’ve read without any value judgment or rating on my part. Let me know what you think! 

Often when talking about quantum theory in the context of literature we take note of language or structure that feels granular or quantized. Resembling the feel of particles, these quantized aspects of literature feel isolated from the rest of its context; however, the reader is still aware that these tiny elements are nevertheless part of the larger whole. I struggle to find a better way to articulate the experience of reading Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge. Each interaction between characters felt weighed down in detail: Pynchon would set up the scene with specific descriptions of venues, clothing, personalities, and atmospheres before launching into pages of sharp, fast-moving dialogue. Because the cast of characters in this novel is so large I often found myself confused, forgetting who exactly was married to who or who worked for which boss. This sense of constantly being one step behind also contributed to the quantized nature of the novel as the reader tries to determine how all of these seemingly independent scenes connect.

One example of a passage that feels particularly quantized is when Maxine is at a party and remembers partying when she was a teenager:

Not everybody benefits from a misspent youth. Teen contemporaries of Maxine’s got lost in the club toilets of the eighties, went in, never came out, some with luck grew too hip or not hip enough to appreciate the scene at all, others, like Maxine, went on only ot flash back to it now and then, epileptigogic lighting, Quaaludes for sale on the floor, outerborough hair statements… the Aqua Net fogs! The girl-hours lost sitting in front of mirrors! The strange disconnects between dance music and lyrics, “Copacabana,” “What a Fool Believes,” heartbreaking stories, even tragic, set to these strangely bouncy tunes… (Pynchon 308).

Not only does this passage show the density of the novel in terms of details, but it also reflects the specificity and obscurity of those details. The use of references that many readers may not understand creates a certain distance between the reader and the novel, since such a reader will not be able to fully understand the perspective of or point that a character is trying to make. This disconnect between reader and text reflects the levels of reality that the characters experience with their journeying through the Deep Web. I felt like I could never really go below the surface of this novel because there were so many details to wade through first. However, I would venture to say that this sense of layering was Pynchon’s goal in structuring the novel this way. From learning the inner workings of the Deep Web to grappling with life in New York City after 9/11, there are numerous instances of reality and illusion being blurred, many of which have to do with different levels of understanding one’s surroundings. By including a plethora of obscure references and creating a sense of disconnected quantization in the novel, Pynchon forces the reader to confront the feeling of not fully understanding reality–in this case, reality as we understand it in Maxine’s world.

Thoughts on Bleeding EdgeHave you ever read a book that feels granular or “quantized” in this way? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I’ve (Shamelessly & Proudly) Written In

Happy Tuesday! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our unpopular bookish opinions. However, I thought I would hone in on one unpopular bookish opinion and share ten examples of it instead. Perhaps one of my most controversial book habits is that I often annotate and highlight my books. *Gasp!* I know this is an atrocious act to some bookworms, but I view it as the actual purpose of books. To me, books are meant to be experienced, meaning that they are not meant for just sitting prettily on a shelf (with the exception of some expensive editions). I want to get the most out of a book as I possibly can, and if that means underlining or highlighting quotes that resonate with me or writing little notes in the margins, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Plus, I think it’s fun to reread a book that I’ve annotated and see what I was thinking about the last time I read it. For me, it’s a way by which I think more deeply about what I’m reading. I don’t do it all the time, but when I do I really enjoy the process.

Now that I’ve explained a bit about this unpopular bookish opinion of mine, here are ten examples of books from my shelves that I’ve annotated or highlighted:

 

What are your thoughts on highlighting or writing in books? What’s your most controversial bookish habit or opinion? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

An Experiment in Multitasking and Reading

Recently I watched a little documentary on Youtube called “BOOKSTORES: How to Read More Books in the Golden Age of Content” in which Max Joseph explores bookstores across Latin America while also investigating how to read more in his everyday life. I enjoyed this documentary for many reasons, so there may be several posts pertaining to it in the near future. For now, I would like to discuss the idea of quantity vs. quality when it comes to reading.

In the documentary, Max Joseph calculates how many more books he could read per year if he managed to carve out just half an hour of reading per day. A key component of this is to make it a habit, to try to pick up a book around the same time every day (such as reading before bed or on your lunch break). By making reading a routine part of your day, it will gradually feel less like a chore and more like just part of your daily routine, like putting on clothes or brushing your teeth. Then Max Joseph went to Howard Berg, the world’s faster reader, and asked him how to read faster. But by the end of the documentary, Max Joseph had reached a different conclusion: it wasn’t about how much you read, but the experience of reading and what you got out of it. 

After watching this documentary I thought about the summer of reading I have in front of me. There are roughly twelve weeks of summer until I start law school. I work an hour away from my house, which means I drive at least ten hours a week. If I listen to an audiobook while driving as well as for 30 minutes every morning while getting ready, that means I would have 12.5 hours of audiobook time each week. Multiply that by twelve weeks, and that’s 150 hours of listening to audiobooks. If the average audiobook is ten hours long, that means I could get through fifteen books this summer on my commute alone. 

Listening to audiobooks is clearly the most efficient way for me to read in terms of getting things done with a busy schedule. What better way to get reading done than while doing other things you would ordinarily do? From cleaning and doing dishes to getting ready in the morning and driving to work, listening to audiobooks allows for so much extra reading time.

So I decided to do a little experiment. To free up my nights after work, I decided to only read by listening to audiobooks as I did other things for a week. In quantity, this experiment was successful: I was able to make it through more than one book just by commuting. Yet even though I was flying through the pages as I drove, I still missed the simple act of physically reading a book. Like Max Joseph, I came to the conclusion that my love of reading cannot be separated from the experience of reading. I missed just focusing on the book I was reading rather than multitasking. I missed the relaxation it brought me, knowing that all I had to do in that moment was read. And I missed having time set aside each night after work just for that special activity that I love so much.

What’s the verdict? Personally–and this is definitely a personal preference–I’m not the kind of reader who can rely on multi-tasking alone to fully enjoy reading. I need that time to fully engage with a text, especially if it’s one that’s more difficult or longer. But this doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop listening to audiobooks; rather, I’m going to try to make more time for reading physical books, even if that is only for twenty minutes each night before bed.

Have you ever seen this documentary? What do you think of my experiment? Are you more of a multi-tasking reader or a single-focus reader? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Awards

Versatile Blogger Award | 4

Today I’m here with the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks so much to Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts for nominating me!! I’ve done this award a few times, and for the most recent one I did an autumn theme. Since I love a good tradition, I thought I would give this one a summer theme.

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Leave a link to their blog.
  3. Tell us 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 bloggers/bloggers you’ve discovered recently or follow regularly.

1. I’ve worked at the same nonprofit for four summers now (!!!). It’s called a child advocacy center and they conduct forensic interviews of child abuse victims in our county so the kiddos don’t have to be interviewed my multiple people in different settings. I do a lot of writing for them, applying to grants for funding and creating anything they need for fundraising events. It’s such a great job because it blends together my love of writing and my interest in the legal field. It’s wild to think that this is my fourth summer working there!

2. Up until a few years ago, my family camped at the same site in the same campground over the same week every summer–for twelve consecutive years. We’ve stopped doing it because of busy work schedules and the fact that it takes a lot of work to prepare for and actually execute, but it’s one of my most beloved family traditions. So many wonderful memories came out of those nights curled up in sleeping bags in the tent, sitting around the campfire, and lounging by the lake.

3. Every summer I try to tackle a tome, preferably one that I’ve been meaning to read for a while or that I wouldn’t otherwise have the time to read. I’ve read Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy this way. This summer I’m buddy reading The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien with Mary Drover, which I’m really excited about. It’ll be so great to finally check this one off my list after literal decades of it sitting on my shelf.

4. Summer is my blog scheduling time. As soon as a new semester starts, I find that I barely have time to pick up a book, let alone have the headspace to write blog posts in the midst of writing paper after paper. I’ve gotten into the routine of scheduling a bunch of posts ahead of time so that I don’t have to worry about writing new posts for at least the first few weeks of the fall semester. Blogging nonstop like this also keep me reading and writing regularly, which helps make the transition back to taking classes a lot easier when the new semester begins.

5. I love going picking. Every summer my mom and I pick strawberries and blueberries and then bake with our goodies. We always make a strawberry rhubarb pie, and then experiment a bit with the blueberries–sometimes we’ll bake a classic blueberry pie, and other times we’ll make breads or muffins. We’ve stayed loyal to the same farm for years, returning each summer to pick and then peruse their farm stand for pea pods and raspberries. It’s one of my favorite summer traditions!

6. When I was younger, I was an avid summer reader. I have distinct memories of being 11 or 12 years old and going to my local public library each week. I would check out four or five books at a time and always return with my stack the following week to return them and get more. I remember thinking that I would love to work at that library someday–and then I did! Such a nice little full circle!

7. This summer I’m doing #100daysofsummer on my bookstagram. I love taking bookish photos, especially in the summertime when I can take them outside in the garden or by the edge of the woods surrounding my house. I’ve decided to post a photo every day this summer as a fun little project to get me taking more photos and talking about books more beyond just this blog. I’m really excited about it! Follow my bookstagram here to follow along!

Emma @ Emma Reads || Rebecca @ Bookishly Rebecca || Georgiana @ Readers’ High Tea || Amanda @ Amanda’s Book Review || Dini @ Dini Panda Reads || Mia @ Pen and Parchment

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

BOOK OF ILLUSIONS by Paul Auster | Reflection

In my Postmodern American Fiction class this past semester, we were assigned to write a page reflection each week on the book that we read. I actually really enjoyed writing these reflections because they were a chance to choose a specific aspect of the book and discuss it in depth without needed to come to any precise conclusions or arguments. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve decided to continue on the process this summer! Along with reviews I’ll be sharing these reflections, brief discussions on novels that I’ve read without any value judgment or rating on my part. Let me know what you think! 

While watching what is deemed to be Hector Mann’s last film known to the public, David remarks that “we are looking at him as he looks at himself, and in this eerie doubling of perspectives, we watch him confront the fact of his own annihilation. Double or nothing” (Auster 53). This latter phrase struck me as both interesting and important: interesting because it is strange to think of a human identity as being something that can be doubled or reduced to nothing, and important because of the implications of this very contradiction. One could read this statement as it appears to be most obviously written–something is either double or nothing–or, I would argue, one could read this as something being simultaneously double and nothing. Here is where we can see a connection with the basic tenets of quantum theory: conceptually we understand that light is both a particle and a wave, but it could also be observed as either/or depending on how it is measured.

Paul Auster’s novel The Book of Illusions is riddled with instances of “double or nothing,” from names and puns to women, fathers, and actions. For instance, Frieda Spelling also writes her name as Mrs. Hector Mann in her letters to David. Is she both of these identities? One of them? Neither? Furthermore, when David describes the multiple ways Hector portrayed himself to the media he remarks: “Put these contradictions together, and you wind up with nothing, the portrait of a man with so many personalities and family histories that he is reduced to a pile of fragments, a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces no longer connect” (Auster 83). This statement offers another way to look at the phrase “double or nothing,” for David seems to suggest that too much multiplicity can lead to a blurring or even loss of meaning. In other words, more than two options may lead to nothingness, to an ambiguous mess of possibilities too numerous to keep track of.

Perhaps this is Auster’s way of commenting on the seemingly arbitrariness of language: puns are intelligible when a word has two meanings, but what if it has more than two? What if a metaphor can be interpreted in multiple ways? Does it have multiple meanings? Or does it have no meaning at all, since it is left up to so much interpretation? These are the sort of questions and ideas that haunted my reading of The Book of Illusions, a novel that once again plays with themes and problems that quantum theory also endeavors to address.

Thoughts on The Book of IllusionsHave you ever read a book that plays with the multiplicity of language in a similar way? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Empowering Reads

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic asks us to share ten favorite books from our favorite genre. Usually I would say that my favorite genre is classic literature, but lately I’ve been going through a bit of a tough patch with some personal things and have been trying to immerse myself in books that are empowering and inspiring to read. There’s nothing like a good book to get you amped and excited!

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde

This collection of essays was gifted to me by one of my friends that I met at Oxford and I am so grateful that it was. I remember reading this book in a parking lot waiting for an appointment and actually tearing up because Lorde’s words are just so moving and powerful.

“We have the power those who came before us have given us, to move beyond the place where they were standing. We have the trees, and water, and sun, and our children. Malcolm X does not live in the dry texts of his words as we read them; he lives in the energy we generate and use to move along the visions we share with him. We are making the future as well as bonding to survive the enormous pressures of the present, and that is what it means to be a part of history.”

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This little book is like a breath of fresh air. There are so many little nuggets of truth here, ones that deeply resonate with me as things that should come as a given in life but are often hidden and distorted by society. Such as: “Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not “if only.” Not “as long as.” I matter equally. Full stop.”

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

As someone soon entering law school, I found this book to be a really interesting insight into the challenges women face in male dominated spheres like law, government, and politics. This memoir is also just inspiring in and of itself: Hillary has gone through so much in her life, much of it under the harsh, unforgiving, scrutinizing gaze of the American public. While she has certainly made mistakes along the way, she has also experienced a lot of turmoil in her life that was out of her control. Some may say that this book is sad because she ultimately did not achieve her goal of becoming president of the United States, and that is true; however, I think it’s also really empowering because she is still here fighting for what she believes in and telling her story in this memoir, despite the public failure that she recently endured.

“For a candidate, a leader, or anyone, really, the question is not “Are you flawed?” It’s “What do you do about your flaws?” Do you learn from your mistakes so you can do and be better in the future? Or do you reject the hard work of self-improvement and instead tear others down so you can assert they’re as bad or worse than you are?”

Girl Up by Laura Bates

Although this book may have been written with a younger audience in mind (around high school age, it seems) I still think it’s so worth a read at any age! Like Adichie’s book, Girl Up emphasizes some ideas that should be common sense but that are often obscured by gender inequality in politics and society today. Plus, this book has such fun and colorful graphics!

The Truth About Style by Stacy London

Stacy London has been an icon in my life since I was a kid and would watch What Not to Wear every day at lunchtime when I was home for the summer. This memoir is both personal and universal in a way, with London offering wisdom that can be taken and applied to so many different situations. Not only is it empowering from a fashion standpoint, but it is also empowering from a lifestyle standpoint. London discusses everything from relationships to body image to aging, so there really is something for everyone here.

“A whole life can go by being too busy and waiting for “when.” Living in the future means barely existing in the present. If you can’t enjoy things now, when will you magically develop the tools to enjoy things in the future?”

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

As someone who adores hiking, I was really excited to read about someone’s adventures on a trail that I know very little about. But this memoir is so much more than simply an account of one woman’s trek along the Pacific Crest Trail; rather, it’s an emotional story of Strayed’s journey through loss, grief, and a sense of purposelessness.

“I made it the mantra of those days; when I paused before yet another series of switchbacks or skidded down knee-jarring slopes, when patches of flesh peeled off my feet along with my socks, when I lay alone and lonely in my tent at night I asked, often out loud: Who is tougher than me?

The answer was always the same, and even when I knew absolutely there was no way on this earth that it was true, I said it anyway: No one.”

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Sometimes it’s empowering to remember that even those people we admire don’t have it all figured out one hundred percent of the time. Kaling is open and honest in this essay collection, discussing her childhood and the tumultuous road she took to get where she is today. Besides, it’s downright hilarious!

Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature by Shelley DeWees

What’s better than a book about books? I love this book because it makes you look at British literature and writers in a different light. Sometimes when learning about the Western canon in classes it can be easy to forget that literary fame has a lot to do with circumstances and privilege. In some ways, it’s arbitrary chance that we read the books we read today. However, there is a sense of empowerment that comes from reading about these remarkable women who wrote despite their unfortunate circumstances and the traumatic hardships that they endured. It’s also a great source of reading inspiration: so many new texts to explore!

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Although some people criticize this book for not being as feminist as people make it out to be, I think it’s nevertheless an important starting point and a lovely little source of empowerment. Women can do anything we put our minds to, and we deserve the opportunity to have a room of our own to do it in!

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Ahh, such a classic! I adore Matilda, even though I just read it for the first time a few years ago and don’t have the childhood nostalgia towards it that many bookworms have. Even just thinking about Matilda’s strength, perseverance, optimism, and kindness makes me feel empowered to go seize the day!

What books empower you? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? What’s your favorite genre? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

 

Yours,

HOLLY