Top Ten Tuesday: 2018 Bookish Resolutions

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (now brought to us by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our bookish resolutions for 2018. Now that the new year is well underway and I’ve done some reflecting on 2017, I think it’s time to set some new goals. I don’t like to put an exorbitant amount of pressure on myself to meet unrealistically high expectations, so these are ten relatively simple goals that I’d like to keep in mind throughout the next year.

1. Read 24 books. I’ve made this my Reading Challenge goal on Goodreads for the past few years now and it’s worked out really well. This is a number that I can meet without any added stress, which is precisely what I need from a yearly goal.

2. Balance reading for classes, reading for fun, and blogging. I absolutely LOVE studying abroad at Oxford, but when term is in session I miss blogging and reading for fun so much! I’m hoping I can figure out a way to balance all of these things better during my last two terms there.

The main library at Mansfield College, Oxford.

3. Be more engaged with the blogging community. This goal is one that I wish I had done better at in 2017… so I’m carrying it over into 2018! As with the previous resolution, I’m hoping that I can find a way to make this work while balancing everything else I have to do.

4. Read more nonfiction. I’ve read some really great nonfiction books recently, which makes me feel motivated to read even more of them in the new year. Any recommendations would definitely be appreciated!

5. Read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Now, what would a Holly resolution list be without this novel inevitably included? I vow that someday I will read this book!

6. Continue writing discussion posts regularly. This is a resolution I accomplished in 2017, but I would really love to keep it up this year as well. Creating interesting, thought-provoking content that sparks engaging discussions is something that I want to always strive towards with this blog.

7.  Keep better track of the books I want to read. More often than not I forget to write a book title down when someone recommends it to me, leaving me without a list of books I want to read whenever I go into a bookstore or decide to order books online. Putting them on a list in my phone or something similar would be so helpful!

8. Be more creative with my bookstagram posts. I love taking photos and updating my bookstagram, but in the midst of writing pages and pages of essays it’s easy to revert back to posting the same kinds of photos every single time. This year I’d like to be more creative with my books, props, scenery, etc.

9. Be more open to talking about this blog IRL. I rarely ever mention my blog to people unless they bring it up first, and even when they do I’m pretty hesitant to talk about it (as I’ve discussed in this post from a while back). In 2018, I’d like to be more open about talking about my blog if people bring it up.

10. HAVE FUN!! As always– what’s reading without a little (or a lot!!) of fun?

Happy New Year, everyone!!

What are your resolutions for 2018? What do you think of mine? Any advice on how to accomplish them? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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What does it mean to be a “relevant” reader? | Discussion

Today I’d like to talk about a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: What does it mean to be a “relevant” reader?

Recently I watched a video by Ariel Bissett in which she talks about the pressure in the online book community to read certain books as soon as possible to be “relevant.” She emphasizes this stress particularly in the YA genre with popular new releases at the time such as When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Ariel discusses how before joining Booktube she didn’t have this large awareness of what was recently released, current trends and topics in specific genres, book “hype, etc. While this can certainly be an advantage of being immersed in this bookish community, it also comes at a price: feeling like a bad person or that you can’t be a proper reader unless you read the books that “everyone” is currently talking about. 

Ariel emphasizes that this need to be relevant is ridiculous. As she points out, the books that are deemed “relevant” are not always the books we’re most interested in reading. Her solution is to try to not give into this competitive feeling of needing to be relevant– yet she acknowledges that this is a really difficult thing to do. How do you participate in a community that focuses on reading competitively when that isn’t what you initially signed up for? (Metaphorically speaking, of course– there aren’t any sign-up sheets to be found here…)

Shortly after watching this video I read a great blog post by Hannah @ Mortal Reader in which she discusses feeling lost in the book community when she tries to keep up with all the constant cycle of new releases being published. She explains that she often finds herself picking books to read based on what she thinks the people who read her blog will be interested in rather than simply picking up whatever book she herself would like to read in that moment. Here is yet another manifestation of the pressure many of us feel to be relevant readers when we blog, make videos, and create other bookish content online.

 I’m certainly guilty of feeding into this competitive edge of reading as well. For instance, I definitely felt pressure to read John Green’s most recent novel Turtles All the Way Down as soon as possible once it was released so I could write about it. I also really relate to something that Ariel discusses in her video: the problem of viewing rereading as not making progress towards our reading goals. I LOVE rereading books and feel no shame at all when I reread old favorites… but why is this attitude the exception rather than the rule? Why does stigma exist? Why does rereading often make people feel as though they’re not staying “relevant”?

My way to deal with this notion of “relevant” and “competitive” reading is to try my best to ignore it. You may have noticed that I love reading classics and old books, which are mainly what I talk about on this blog. Are people dying to hear my thoughts on William Faulkner or Willa Cather? Probably not. But those are the kinds of books that I love to read, so why would I read anything else? Personally, reading what I enjoy is more important to me than “staying relevant”– whatever that means.

What are your thoughts on “relevant” and “competitive” reading? Do you feel this pressure to read certain books in the online bookish community? What can we do about this? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: WOMAN AND LABOUR by Olive Schreiner

Fellow nerds, I am SO excited for today’s installment of Feminist Fridays because I have the pleasure of discussing Olive Schreiner’s fantastic work Woman and Labour. One of the many perks of being in a Writing Feminisms tutorial at Oxford is that I’m introduced to numerous writers that I had never heard of before.

Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) is a South African writer most well-known for her novel The Story of an African Farm, which she began writing when she was a teenager. In addition to being a novelist, Schreiner was also a notable suffragist, anti-war campaigner, and political activist during her time. Interestingly, her life goal was to become a medical doctor; however, she was never able to make this goal a reality due to her poor health. Schreiner eventually turned to writing as one of the few professions she could feasibly do considering her serious issues with asthma.

Woman and Labour was published in 1911, during the last decade of her life, and discusses her views on the Woman’s Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The text begins with a comprehensive history of woman’s labor since the hunter-gatherer days of humans living in the wilderness before she turns to more modern concerns. Schreiner uses this important historical context to assert that the so-called “New Woman” of the moment is not new at all; rather, she is rooted in the feminine past.

The banner which we unfurl today is not new: it is the standard of the old, free, monogamous, laboring woman, which, twenty hundred years ago, floated over the forests of Europe…

She further emphasizes that the Woman’s Movement to gain more opportunities for women in labour fields other than domestic work was for the benefit of all women, both present and future– not for the advantage of the individual. If society was to improve over time, it would only be through the simultaneous and harmonious improvement of men and women together. The alternative path– continuing on with a male-dominated labor force– would only exacerbate the problem of sex-parasitism in which women were left dependent on their husbands for wealth, property, etc. Only through the emergence of the so-called New Woman could the “New Man” develop and prosper, for “if anywhere on earth exists the perfect ideal of that which the modern woman desires to be–of a laboring and virile womanhood, free, strong, fearless and tender– it will probably be found in the heart of the New Man.”

What struck me most about Woman and Labour is how incredibly relevant it is to our modern society. Of course, women have significantly more opportunities in the workplace today than in 1911 when this book was first published; however, many of the concerns that Schreiner expressed are ones we still face now. The Center for American Progress recently released “The Women’s Leadership Gap” in which they explain that despite the fact that women make up not only the majority of the national population but also the majority of those graduating with undergraduate and master’s degrees, they still do not hold nearly as many leadership positions as do men. Their following conclusion is even more alarming:

Women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988.56 They have earned at least one-third of law degrees since 198057 and accounted for fully one-third of medical school students by 1990.58 Yet they have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that should have followed.

In a broad range of fields, their presence in top leadership positions—as equity law partners, medical school deans, and corporate executive officers—remains stuck at a mere 10 percent to 20 percent. As recently as 2012, their “share of voice”—the average proportion of their representation on op-ed pages and corporate boards; as TV pundits, Wikipedia contributors, Hollywood writers, producers, and directors; and as members of Congress—was just 18 percent.59

In fact, it has been estimated that, at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in key leadership roles in the United States.60

It is undeniable that we have come a long way since the publication of Woman and Labour; yet it is also undeniable that we still have a long way to go before achieving gender equality for all. Reading works such as those of Olive Schreiner is a valuable way of reminding ourselves where we stand and why we need to continue standing up for this important cause.

What are your thoughts on Schreiner’s ideas in Woman and Labor? Have any recommendations for other works I should read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens | Review

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is one of those classic stories that everyone thinks they know– that is, until they actually sit down to read the novel in its entirety. Prior to starting this book in the middle of a flight from England back to the States, I thought this would be the simple story of an orphan boy struggling to survive in Victorian England. This novel is exactly that– and so, so much more complicated. I should have known that nothing Dickensian could ever be simple!

The first thing that struck me is how violent, unsettling, and sad this novel is compared to what I thought it would be– though I suppose this should be expected from Dickens. A constant stream of Poor Oliver! ran through my head the entire time I was reading, especially in the beginning before I realized that this would be the tone of the whole novel. Unfortunately, the unrelenting dark tone of the novel ultimately made it seem as though the plot dragged on for far too long. There are only so many unpleasant plot twists one can endure before it all seems too much. The plot itself wasn’t slow– there were plenty of surprises along the way– but the unwavering misfortunes that occur made the books seem much longer than it needed to be.

The major redeeming quality of this book for me was Dickens’ clever, witty writing. While his characters may be over-the-top at times, the exaggerated characteristics they possess all say important things about society in the Victorian Era. For instance, the fact that Mr. Bumble is willing to give Oliver away reflects the harsh reality that orphans during this time period had to face as poverty reigned in urban areas. There’s no denying that Dickens was a masterful writer and storyteller, weaving bits of everyday life into his fiction.

“But, tears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble’s soul; his heart was waterproof.”

I don’t have a lot to say about Oliver Twist in general because I have rather lukewarm feelings toward the novel. I didn’t love it nearly as much as I adored Great Expectations, but I didn’t completely dislike it, either. Personally, I feel as though this might have been a timing misjudgment on my part– I tend to be a mood reader, and starting this novel on a long flight when I was tired and didn’t have the energy to focus on Dickens’ curving, swerving plots. I’d definitely be willing to give it another chance in the future!

I would recommend this to anyone who, like me before I read this novel, thinks they know the story of Oliver Twist– chances are that you’ll be at least a bit surprised!

What are your thoughts on Oliver Twist? Do you have a favorite Dickens novel? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

My Bookish Identity Tag

It’s time for another tag, and this one is particularly fun: let’s take a look at my bookish identity! I love identity/personality quizzes like these, so as soon as I realized I’d been tagged for this I was very excited. Thanks so much to Fran for tagging me!!

What dystopian/fantastical world would you live in?

This is so difficult! For me, it’s definitely a tie between Hogwarts and Middle-earth. They’re both so different from each other but still so lovely in their own ways!

Who would your partner be?

Another challenging question… I’d probably have to go with Legolas from Lord of the Rings. Think of how great we’d be at getting past any obstacles in our way!

Who would be your godly mother/father? [Percy Jackson]

Thankfully Fran included a link to a handy quiz that tells you just this bit of info! Apparently my godly parent would be Demeter (goddess of agriculture, grain, and bread). I do like bread a lot…

Would you be a downworlder or nephilim? [Shadowhunter world]

Nephilim! I want to have those fancy faux-tattoos. (Also, I think the politics within the Shadowhunter world would be incredibly interesting to witness firsthand!)

Which house would you be in? [Harry Potter]

SO CONFLICTED. Whenever I take House tests I always alternate between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. (I feel like outwardly I might be a Hufflepuff, but inwardly a Ravenclaw?) So maybe I’m a Huffleclaw? Ravenpuff? 

Which faction would you be in? [Divergent]

It’s quiz time again! Apparently I’m Divergent, even though I really though I would be placed in Erudite.

What would be your daemon [Northern Lights]

I’ve always wanted a daemon! According to this quiz, mine is a snow leopard!

Thanks again to Fran for this really fun tag!

What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2017 (But Didn’t)

Happy Tuesday!! As you have probably noticed by now, I’m pretty awful at sticking to TBR lists. Whenever I make one for a specific month, season, or read-a-thon I inevitably end up scrapping the entire thing and just reading whatever seems appealing in that moment. As a result, there are SO MANY books that I mean to read in 2017 but didn’t find the time to do so. Fortunately, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic focuses on just that! Here are just a few of the books I meant to read in 2017 but didn’t:

 

 

What books were you hoping to read in 2017? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

2017 Resolutions: How did I do?

Last January I made this list of my top ten bookish resolutions for 2017… and now the time has come to see how I did! I’ve completely forgotten what my resolutions were, so this should be an interesting trip down memory lane.

1. Read 24 books. Done! Somehow the stars aligned this year and I actually managed to read THIS MANY books… don’t ask me how! (Come to think of it, I know exactly how: SO MUCH required reading for college!) Although I don’t really care about the number of books I read, I can’t help but be pleased with this count!

2. Read more classics. Done! This goal can also be credited to the many books I was required to read for my courses this year, especially for my tutorials at Oxford. So much Victorian literature!

3. Read something by Zadie Smith. Done! Luckily enough, White Teeth was on the list of assigned reading for the Writing Feminisms tutorial I’m taking this upcoming term so I finally got around to reading something by Zadie Smith. (Also, it was AMAZING. Would definitely recommend!)

4. Read more by Charles Dickens. Done! I ended up reading two more novels by Dickens this year: Hard Times and Oliver Twist. I enjoyed both, though not as much as Great Expectations. (How I love that novel…)

5. Read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Nope! I feel as though I’m just destined to not read this book. Despite my incessant inclusion of this novel in countless TBR lists, for some reason I can’t seem to get around to reading it. Will 2018 finally be the year???

6. Continue posting to my bookstagram. Done! I’ve had such a blast updating my bookstagram, especially now that I have the privilege of being surrounded by so many beautiful buildings and scenes at Oxford.

7. Write more discussion posts. Done! I feel like I’ve definitely made an improvement by writing longer posts about my study abroad experiences and introducing weekly features like Feminist Fridays onto my blog. (Pssst! Any feedback on this point would be very appreciated!)

8. Be more engaged with the online book community. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to go with a no for this one. Although I’ve had an amazing time studying abroad, being at Oxford does mean that I have less time to blog. I’ve really missed reading and commenting on everyone’s posts!

9. Read slowly. Hmm…. probably not. Again, having so much work at Oxford means that I really can’t afford to spend my time slowly wading through novels like I’d love to do. So much to read, so little time!

10. Have fun!! DEFINITELY! One reason I love blogging is that it always reminds me to have fun with what I read. After all, what good is reading if you don’t enjoy it?

I unknowingly achieved over half of my bookish resolutions 2017– who would have thought?

What were your resolutions for 2017? Did you achieve them? Will you carry them over into 2018? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: GIRL UP by Laura Bates

Last week’s Feminist Friday featured five nonfiction feminist reads that I’d like to read in 2018. Fortunately, I’ve already been able to check one off the list: Girl Up by Laura Bates. I hadn’t intended for this to be the first nonfiction read of the new year, but I saw a copy of it in a bookstore a few weeks ago and couldn’t help being drawn in by the colorful, fun, creative design. Time to share my thoughts!

+ Covers countless topics. Social media. Body image. Self-esteem. Protesting. Harassment and abuse. Sex. Education. Careers. Confidence. Gender stereotypes. Sexism. History of feminism movement and inspirational women. Feminism today. The list goes on and on and on, yet somehow Girl Up never feels as though it is rushing through one topic to get to another; rather, every subject is given plenty of time in the spotlight. Bates also does an excellent job of connecting all of these concepts by referring to them in multiple chapters and in different contexts.

+ Educational, but not preachy. One of my biggest pet peeves is when books turn from fun and informational to preachy and almost condescending in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, Girl Up has a balanced blend of direct facts, Bates’ personal anecdotes, and experiences from other women that she includes as supportive evidence for her arguments. Reading this book feels like having a conversation with a friend who genuinely cares about your well-being– what more can you ask from a book?

+ Bates’ hilarious personality shines through. All I thought after finishing this book was: Where can I get my hands on more of Laura Bates’ writing? Her voice here comes across as authentic, genuine, honest, and incredibly passionate about everything she discusses in this book. I may have even started laughing out loud to myself as I read this in bed…

+ SO FUN. From colorful graphics and snarky comebacks to ideas of what to send someone when they text you an unwanted photo, Girl Up is definitely a book that will make you smile.

The only drawback of this book for me is its intended audience. Although it may advertise itself as a book geared towards teens and college students alike, much of the information and context of the book suggests a younger audience (maybe 15-16 years old?). Despite this disparity, I believe that readers of all ages can still take away something valuable and empowering from this book. 

I would absolutely recommend Laura Bates’ Girl Up to anyone and everyone, especially those who identify as women or who would like to know more about feminism in general. It’s important to have as many people as possible in our conversations about gender inequality, so the more the merrier!

What are your thoughts on Girl Up? Have any recommendations for other feminist reads? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

 

 

BLINK by Malcolm Gladwell | Review

“We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it…We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible an depending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

Such is the goal of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, a book which questions whether or not we’re better off with our modern society that is over-saturated with information at every turn. At a first glance, the thesis that we may not need to expel as much time, energy, and knowledge to make decisions as we once thought is argued quiet well. Not only does Gladwell provide a plethora of examples to support his argument, but the examples themselves are also from numerous different fields of expertise and involve a variety of different contexts and subjects. From speed-dating and museum curation to soda recipes and even predicting divorce, Gladwell’s examples broadly range from traditional to completely unexpected. I appreciate writers that go the extra step to conduct genuinely interesting and rather unorthodox research for their works, and Gladwell certainly fits that category.

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”

I enjoyed this book immensely while reading it; however, the more I thought about Blink after I had turned the last page, the more I realized how many gaps Gladwell left open. I was left with more questions than answers: Can we really trust our gut instincts after all? How accurate and reliable is “thin-slicing” in actuality? How do we go about improving our ability to “thin-slice” effectively? Gladwell is an incredibly skilled writer– so skilled, in fact, that he can persuade the reader of an idea that isn’t even clearly explained. I admire his talent for writing, but I would admire it even more if he used it to convey something solid and understandable yet still comprehensive.

A significant portion of book was dedicated to solely discussing the Amadou Diallo shooting in 1999, which was interesting yet also seemed like an abrupt change of topic. Here he touches on the role that biases and prejudices play in our snap decisions, but he doesn’t emphasize it nearly as much as I thought he would (or should have). In light of the heated discussions of police brutality happening across the United States recently, I thought Gladwell treated this topic a little too lightly for my taste (though I understand that this book was first published in 2005, over a decade ago). His decision to use a shooting as yet another example in this book is problematic in my eyes– considering Gladwell’s theory is mostly conjecture, the fact that he is confident enough to apply it to someone’s death strikes me as misleading.

Overall, Blink is a fascinating book that provides the reader with much to think about in regard to decision-making and our current information-driven culture. Although I’m not sure that Gladwell ultimately convinced me of his argument, I nevertheless think this is a valuable, interesting, and worthwhile read. 

What are your thoughts on Blink? Are there any other books by Malcolm Gladwell that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

DECEMBER 2017 | Wrap-Up

December is… done?! Where did this month (and YEAR) go?!?! Decembers always tend to be whirlwinds of celebrations, seeing friends and family, and frantically trying to wrap everything up before the new year comes around once again. In case you’re curious, here’s what I was up to in December:

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In December I read a total of 17 books (HOW?! I honestly have no idea):

  1. The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  3. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  4. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  5. The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
  6. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
  7. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
  8. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  9. The Hamlet by William Faulkner
  10. Woman and Labor by Olive Schreiner
  11. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros
  12. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  13. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison
  14. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  15. Memorial by Alice Oswald
  16. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
  17. Ann Veronica by H.G. Wells

I read a lot of fantastic books in December, which makes choosing a favorite quite difficult (as per usual). However, the book I’ve been thinking the most about this past month is definitely Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (which you can read my review of here). This novel exceeded all of my expectations and proved that not everything falls prey to the hype monster one hundred percent of the time!

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For some reason it simultaneously feels like so much and nothing at all happened in December. In actuality, I guess a lot did occur: I flew back home from Oxford, transitioned back to living in the States, visited Wheaton, spent time with my family and friends, saw Watsky (!!!), celebrated Christmas, and read, read, read. It’s been strange being back home after living in Oxford for a few months, but I’ve really enjoyed simply spending time at home. I have plenty of prep reading to get through before term starts again, but I’ve also made sure to carve out some time to read for fun. I missed reading for pleasure so much!!

This month I also finished the third season of Fargo (SO ANGRY) and watched the new Star Wars movie, which I really enjoyed. (PORGS, people!)

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

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month (there are so many!!):

How was your month of December? 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