Top Ten Tuesday: Summer 2017 TBR

Happy Tuesday!! June is almost here, meaning that summer is right around the corner! (In my mind it’s been summer for a few weeks now because my semester ended a while ago, but I guess if we’re talking seasons then we still have a bit to go…) Anyways, today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme from The Broke and the Bookish is anything having to do with summertime, so I’ve decided to share the top ten books on my summer TBR list. My next term of classes doesn’t start until late September, so I have nearly four months to read whatever I please. (Can you feel how excited I am?!?!) In no particular order, here is my summer TBR:

The Heroic Slave by Frederick Douglass

Recently for one of my final papers I did a study of the critical reception of Douglass’ works. I knew that he had written three different autobiographies, but I had no idea that he also published a novel. I’m really intrigued to see what Douglass’ only piece of fiction is like, especially since I now know all about the historical, social, and critical context of his writing.

More plays by Shakespeare

Every summer I try to read a few plays by Shakespeare to knock them off my TBR list. They are referenced so often in literature that I feel as though it’s beneficial for me to spend some time on them (even though I’m not a super huge fan of the Bard as of now….). So far I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. If you have any recommendations for which plays I should read next, let me know!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This novel has been recommended to me countless times, both online and in real life. I can’t wait to see how she tackles fascinating and interesting topics such as race, cultural identity, nationhood, and love for people and places alike. I feel as though summer will be the perfect time to dive into what promises to be an incredibly eye-opening read.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read since high school but just haven’t gotten around to doing so. (To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t had to read it for a class…) Considering the enormous reputation it has in American history, I’m really looking forward to finally understanding the controversy surrounding this novel.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

I’ve been in the middle of reading this book for MONTHS. It was a great book to keep on my nightstand in college because I could quickly read a story or two before bed if I couldn’t fall asleep. Of course, the downside to this method is that it’s taking me forever to get through. Hopefully I can read the rest of these hilarious, witty stories this summer!

An Unreliable Guide to London by too many authors to list

Rumor has it that a certain bookworm will be traveling to a certain European county in the near future, meaning that this quirky collection of short stories would be the perfect book to read alongside many travel guides this summer.

More by William Faulkner

Next term I’ll hopefully be taking an entire course about William Faulkner (fingers crossed!) so I’m planning on reading a lot of his work this summer. Besides rereading The Sound and the Fury again, I’d also like to read Absalom, Absalom!, The Hamlet, Go Down, Moses, and several of his short stories. If you have any recommendations for more of Faulkner’s writing, please let me know!

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

I’m sure you’re sick and tired of hearing me praise Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road in every single post, so I think it’s high time that I branch out and read more of her work. I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I read Jellicoe Road for the first time!

The Quartet : Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789

I absolutely love learning about these formative years in the history of the United States. After reading and adoring Ellis’ book Founding Brothers several years ago I’ve been eagerly anticipating this next read. (It’s also been glaring at me from my bookshelf for quite some time.)

Matilda by Roald Dahl

I thought I would end this TBR list on a really fun read that I’ve been meaning to get to for AGES. I feel like I’m the only twenty-year-old bookworm who has yet to read this charming little book! Every time I go to my local library it has already been checked out, but fingers crossed that I can finally snag it this summer.

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



My Personal Canon | 2017

Recently Jillian @ To Begin with I Read Jane Eyre created a post about her own personal literary canon and requested that I do the same. The goal is to compose a list of books that have greatly influenced your life, that you consider to be your favorite books, etc. I think this is a really interesting idea because there are so many different variables involved. On what criteria do you decide which books to include? Do you focus solely on books that have had a positive influence on your life? How long should your list be? Canon formation in general is really fascinating, but that’s a topic for another day.

For now, here is what I consider to be my personal canon. Some of these books I’ve read more times than I can count, while others I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing once. Some have shaped who I’ve grown to be since childhood, while others have influenced my much more recently. Nevertheless, all of these books are ones that I love wholeheartedly, that I would read again and highly recommend to others. You’ll likely recognize these as ones I talk a lot about on this blog! In no particular order, they are:

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I don’t think this one needs much of an explanation. I first started this series when I was in second grade and in a way I don’t think I’ll ever be truly done with it completely. Even though I’ve certainly “finished” the series in the sense that I’ve read all seven books, I know that I’ll keep rereading it well into the future.

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Again, this one doesn’t require much of an explanation. I’ve reread these books more times than I can possibly count and they played a huge role in shaping my reading tastes and interests in middle school. They’re books I return to again and again for comfort, reassurance, and entertainment alike.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

I vividly remember buying my first and only copy of this book at a Scholastic book fair when I was in third grade. (Did anyone else LOVE those things?!?!) Since then I’ve reread it nearly every summer and each time I discover something new. What was at first a simple summer camp story in my ten-year-old eyes has transformed into a story of family, history, creativity, and resilience. (And THIS is why rereading is both important and awesome!)

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I’m sure it is absolutely no surprise to anyone in the slightest that this book has a spot in my personal canon. Words cannot express how much I LOVE this book. It’s the one book I always bring with me to college each semester and that I talk about incessantly on this blog. For the millionth time, PLEASE read this fantastic novel. ❤

Gone by Michael Grant

Interestingly, this book’s influence comes from the context in which I first read it: a lunchtime book club in seventh grade. Through avidly reading and following this series’ six books I met one of my best friends, actually met Michael Grant in person at a book-signing, and realized how social reading could be.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

In reality, this is more of a placeholder for all of John Green’s books, though Looking for Alaska is probably my favorite. As with Gone, the context surrounding these books has been just as influential in my life (if not more so) than the content of the books themselves. John and Hank Green have shaped my life in countless ways at a time when I needed it most (I’m looking at you, tumultuous middle school years).

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reading this classic novel in my high school American literature class opened my eyes to the depth and breadth that symbolism could add to books. Though this symbolism is pretty obvious (colors, the green light, East and West Egg, the eyes, etc.) it nevertheless made me realize how interesting and fun analyzing literature with a critical eye could be.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Ah, Jane Eyre. I adore this novel not for the romance, writing, or plot (though all aspects of this book are fantastic) but primarily for the character of Jane herself. She is strong, independent, witty, kind, determined, and resilient– everything that I aspire to be. I’ve only read this novel once; however, it has lingered in my mind with more clarity than most other books I’ve read since then. I can’t wait to read it again soon!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I ADORED this book when I was assigned to read it for my AP English class senior year of high school (much to the annoyance of the majority of my peers, who didn’t share my enthusiasm). I love watching Pip grow over time and overcome all of the obstacles he has to face. Dickens’ writing is witty and captivating, and the plot twist at the end had me gasping in surprise. This is another one that I definitely have to reread in the near future!

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass

Since reading this autobiography in my Intro to Literature class during my first semester of college I have written at least three papers about it and researched the critical reception of Douglass’ works in general. Something about Douglass’ life and use of language to transform himself in American society fascinates me like nothing else.

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

I read this for my Cultural Diversity in American Literature class during my second semester of college and have not been able to stop thinking about it since (I’m only slightly exaggerating here). The narrative is constructed brilliantly and I think it’s fascinating how we only ever see Ántonia through the lens of Jim’s narration. Since then I’ve read two of Cather’s other novels and am eagerly looking forward to reading more!

There are so many books that I could have included, but I think this is a solid look into the books that have had the greatest influence on me thus far. Thanks so much to Jillian for asking me to make a personal canon! I had such a great time forming this list and thinking about all of the amazing books I’ve had the pleasure of reading over the years.

What books would be in your personal canon? What are you thoughts on any of the books that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!



I Dare You | Book Tag

Happy Friday!! I hope you’ve all had a great week and are looking forward to an even better weekend. Today I’m here with an exciting tag I’ve never come across before: the I Dare You Book Tag. Thanks so much to Emily @ Mixed Margins for tagging me!

Which book has been on your shelf the longest?

In general, probably Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I first read it in second grade and I’ve kept the same beloved, tattered copy ever since– I can’t bear to part with it!

What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

  • Current: Sartoris by William Faulkner
  • Last: The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
  • Next: VERY UNDECIDED (help?!?!?!)

What book did everyone like but you hated?

I’m going to use my go-to answer for this one: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. I feel like I talk about this a lot, but it was just SO disappointing because everyone else seems to really love it.

What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read but you probably won’t?

Unfortunately, I’ve been telling myself that I’ll read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion for YEARS but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I tried to start it once when I was younger but immediately set it aside because it was incredibly confusing at the time. I would really love to check it off my TBR list someday, but today is not that day. (See what I did there?!)

What books are you saving for retirement?

To be realistic, probably something huge like War and Peace. 

Last page: Read it first or wait until the end?

Story time: I’m someone who likes to know how many pages are in a book before I start reading it so I can keep track of my progress. Consequently, I always look at the very last page just to see the number. However, when I was reading Looking for Alaska by John Green years ago I accidentally read a HUGE SPOILER when I flipped to the back of the book. (Thanks reading circle questions.) Ever since then I’m always overly cautious when I flip to the back of a book.

In short: DEFINITELY wait until the end.

Acknowledgments: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?

I used to always skim the acknowledgments, but now I skip right over them unless I’m particularly interested in what a specific author has to say for some reason. I think they’re important and valuable for the author to include, but from a reader’s perspective I don’t usually give them much thought.

Which book character would you switch places with?

My immediate response is HERMIONE (obviously), but a more creative response would be Blue from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to go on all of those adventures?!

Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life? (Place, time, person)

SO MANY. Some books I associate with specific songs I listened to a lot when reading them. For instance, The Fellowship of the Ring reminds me of the song “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam because I read most of it in the back of my dad’s truck the summer before sixth grade and apparently he played that song quite often.

Name an interesting book that you acquired in an interesting way.

I’m not sure if this necessarily counts as super interesting, but the first book that comes to mind is my copy of A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland that I bought at the Met gift shop last year when I went to New York City with my friends. The weird part is that we didn’t actually end up looking at art at the Met that day; rather, we had some time to kill before our bus picked us up so we decided to peruse the gift shop.

Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?

I’ve given a lot of people books for gifts over the years, but besides that I don’t think I’ve given books away for any other special reasons.

Which book has been with you most places?

Ooooh, what an interesting question! I take a lot of books camping with me every year when my family goes tenting for a week in the summer, but the books I bring change each year. I would probably say any of the Lord of the Rings books simply because I’ve read them so many times that they’ve probably been toted around to countless different places.

When you convince your brother to take pictures of your books with his fancy camera 📷 (welcome to my spring break)

A post shared by HOLLY 📓 20 (@nutfreenerd) on

Any required reading in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?

Absolutely!! To name a few: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Used or brand new?

Ideally: new. Realistically: used, because they’re usually a lot cheaper.

Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?

Nope! I’m hoping to read The Da Vinci Code at some point, though.

Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?

YES. I really loved the movie version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. The book was great as well, but something about the movie has always stuck with me. (Also, it has a fantastic soundtrack!)

Have you ever read a book that made you hungry (cook books included)?

The first book that comes to mind is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (especially the Italy section!).

Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

I always take my friends’ advice about books– luckily they have excellent taste in books!!

Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g., outside your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?

Last semester I took a history class about Modern Spanish America that focused primarily on Argentina and Mexico from 1800 to the present. We read several monographs for that class that I expected to have to trudge through, but I ended up actually really enjoying the majority of them. The two that were the most interesting to me were Becoming Campesinos by Christopher Boyer and Lexicon of Terror by Marguerite Feitlowitz. They weren’t necessarily uplifting or enjoyable reads, but they were incredibly eye-opening, thought-provoking, and valuable ones.

What are your answers to these questions? What are you currently reading? Let me know in the comments section below!



THE IDIOT by Fyodor Dostoevsky | Review

I first picked up Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot in my local Barnes & Noble for the simple, superficial reason that I loved the cover design. Yet what drew me to read the a few pages and then ultimately purchase it that day was the intriguing premise promised by the back cover blurb: an innocent prince caught in a tangled web of corruption, secrets, and even murder. I was pulled in by the compelling juxtapositions between good and evil, moral and immoral, innocent and sinful, intelligent and idiotic. What are the distinguishing factors between the components of each opposing pair? And how oppositional are these pairs in actuality? Are they mutually exclusive or is there a blurry bridge that straddles both sides?

Prince Myshkin quickly became the most fascinating aspect of the novel in my eyes, precisely due to his position on this blurry bridge. As written in The Guardian by A.S. Byatt in 2004: 

“The central idea of The Idiot as we have it was, as Dostoevsky wrote in a letter, “to depict a completely beautiful human being”. Prince Myshkin is a Russian Holy Fool, a descendant of Don Quixote, and a type of Christ in an un-Christian world. Author and character face the problem all good characters face in all novels – good in fiction is just not as interesting as wickedness, and runs the risk of repelling readers…”

The Prince is often ridiculed by his peers for being an “idiot,” yet in many ways he is the most intelligent one of them all. He is surrounded by a society that cares for nothing but money and social status, a society that tugs on all corners of his life in an attempt to mold him into something different. My heart ached for the Prince even as he made questionable decisions that could have easily been avoided with careful thought. In this way he is as frustrating as he is admirable. Many of the characters in The Idiot follow a similar pattern in terms of contradictory personalities. I was constantly being torn between pitying and opposing several characters, especially towards the end of the story.

There are countless different levels and interpretations of meaning to this novel that I hardly know where to begin. One can view the story through a religious lens, asserting that the Prince is a Christ figure countered by the Satan-like figure of the murderer. Or one can talk about the role that Fate seems to play in the story. Does the Prince really deserve any of the misfortune that befalls him? There is also the complicated discussion of death in general, a topic that fuels many philosophical tangents and conversations in the novel. I would love to read this book in a class to be able to dissect some of these philosophical asides.

One of my favorite passages in The Idiot is an excellent demonstration of Dostoevsky’s brilliant wisdom and talent with language. At one point in the novel he states:

“It wasn’t the New World that mattered…Columbus died almost without seeing it; and not really knowing what he had discovered. It’s life that matters, nothing but life — the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all.”

I must have reread those few sentences a handful of times when I first came across them while reading. Using Columbus as an example of “failed” discovery is such a smart move because it’s something that a lot of people are familiar with and can easily relate to.

However, the main issue I have with this novel is that I still feel as though I don’t fully understand everything that happened. Prior to reading The Idiot I had never read a novel translated from Russian before. I must admit that I think this had something to do with my increasing confusion as the narrative progressed. I’m sure that Russian names are a common source of frustration for English-speaking readers– at least, they certainly were for me as I attempted to keep all of their names straight in my mind. Of course, it didn’t help that I read this book over the course of several months. An extremely busy semester meant that I went weeks at a time without picking The Idiot back up again. To be honest, I’m surprised I was able to remember the basic events of the plot never mind the names of all of the characters. While it’s not necessarily fair to blame the novel for my confusion, it’s still important to acknowledge the issue because it nevertheless impacted my thoughts on The Idiot as a whole.

Overall, I’m glad I stumbled upon this striking edition of The Idiot while perusing the shelves of Barnes & Noble months ago because it has opened my eyes to the work of Dostoevsky. Though I’m left with mixed feelings about this particular novel, I feel like it’s something I might come back to in the future and try again.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, along with a word of advice to read it without long periods of interruption.

What are your thoughts on The Idiot? Would you recommend any of Dostoevsky’s other works? Let me know in the comments section below!



Top Ten Tuesday: My Mom’s Favorite Books

Happy Tuesday!! In the spirit of the Mother’s Day season, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is all about MOMS. Mothers are the real MVPs– I, for one, don’t know how I would have made it to this point in my life without mine. In honor of Mother’s Day I decided to have a little fun with this list by asking my mom to the best books she’s ever read. Without further ado, here are My Mom’s Top Ten Favorite Books!!!

What do you think of the books on this list? What are some of your mom’s favorite books? Do you celebrate Mother’s Day? Have any fun traditions? Let me know in the comments section below!



P.S. Shout out to my mom for actually doing this. You’re the best ❤

5 Reasons Why Molly Weasley is the Ultimate Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!! When I thought about making a Mother’s Day post about fictional moms, one woman immediately popped into my head: Molly Weasley. Every year this red-headed witch tops countless lists of fictional mothers… but why? In an attempt to answer this age-old question, here are 5 reasons why Mrs. Weasley is the ultimate fictional mom:

1. She does it all.

My jaw basically drops any time there’s a scene with Mrs. Weasley doing housework. She’s the master of multi-tasking, even if she does have the help of magic on her side.

2. She doesn’t take any $h!t.

Exhibit A: the Howler. Don’t mess with Molly Weasley, folks!

3. She gives the best Christmas presents.

My goal in life is to receive one of Mrs. Weasley’s knitted jumpers for Christmas. A girl can dream, right?

4. She’s incredibly strong and independent.

I think my favorite scenes of Molly Weasley are in the epic battle at Hogwarts in the final book. Not only does she shout her famously bad@$$ line, but she also demonstrates that mothers (and people in general!) cannot be categorized in a single box. Mothers can be both sweet and strong, feminine and fighting experts.

5. You won’t find a more caring and loving witch.

Above all else, Mrs. Weasley is the ultimate fictional mom because she is endlessly caring, kind, thoughtful, and giving. She loves Harry as though he were her own son and always welcomes people into her home on holidays and when danger arises. She stands up for what she believes in and will stop at nothing to protect those she loves. ❤

Do you think Molly Weasley is the ultimate fictional mom? What are your favorite mothers in fiction? Let me know in the comments section below!

Happy Mother Day!!



THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder | Review

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a novel I had never heard of prior to picking up a copy of it in the Met gift store. It wasn’t even until I got back to my dorm room and put this book on my shelf that I realized it was written by Thornton Wilder, the brilliant writer behind the play Our Town. Winner of the Pulitzer Price in 1928, The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a collection of interwoven stories of five people who died while crossing an incredibly tall Peruvian bridge. Plagued with the seemingly unanswerable question of whether or not these individuals were destined to die, Brother Juniper makes it his mission to learn everything he possibly can about their lives. Rooted in the themes of love, life, death, fate, and art, this novel is more than simply an attempt to answer Brother Juniper’s inquiry; rather, it ponders the very existence of the question in the first place.

The setting was the first remarkable aspect of this book that captured my attention. The story takes place in 18th century South America (mostly Peru), which I’ve learned quite a bit about in various Spanish classes that I’ve taken. Specifically, it was interesting to read a novel written in English yet set in a Spanish-speaking country and revolving around characters who are Spanish. There are numerous instances where Spanish phrases and names are used, but they are usually contextualized enough that someone who doesn’t understand Spanish can roughly figure out the general meaning. It makes me wonder whether Wilder knew a lot of Spanish; at the very least, I do know that he didn’t visit Peru for the first time until 1941, well after he had written this novel. In a Washington Post review by Jonathan Yardley, it was noted that he made several incorrect assumptions about Peruvian culture and life:

“Pheasant may be a priestly dish in England, but it is virtually unknown in Peru. Peruvians love their chicken and cook it as well as anyone in the world, but wild game is not on the menu. Wilder seems to have thought that it rains often in Lima, a city where to all intents and purposes it never rains at all.”

Though it obviously would have been better if Thornton had more accurately represented the culture of the time period, I ultimately don’t think these inconsistencies had a significant negative impact on the novel. As Yardley goes on to say in his review:

“So it probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea if Wilder had visited Peru in 1925 rather than in 1941, when he did for the first time, but in truth that is neither here nor there. In his broader strokes Wilder has created a Peru that I recognize and Peruvians who remind me in some way of Peruvians whom I know. In any event ‘The Bridge of San Luis Rey’ deals in universals and just happens to be set in Peru.”

I love Yardley’s point that this novel “deals in universals” because it perfectly describes the almost philosophical stance from which Thornton tells this story. The time period and setting and characters are so specifically and carefully crafted with tiny details, yet the story itself could really have taken place anywhere. This is a testament to the universality of this novel’s major themes and questions about life and death, a reflection of the fact that we all must face these issues at some point in our lives. The stories of these five individuals present a sort of microcosm of life in general, presenting the reader with different challenges and experiences that must be confronted eventually.

Despite the seemingly random assortment of people who die while crossing the bridge, the conclusion of this novel miraculously connects them all thematically and through the plot itself. Yet the ending is arguably not even the most important part– really, is one single part of this book more important than any other? I would assert no; rather, each section of this novel is equally significant, sharing a piece of the puzzle that’s necessary in order to have a complete whole. The unexpected cohesiveness of the story is part of what makes The Bridge of San Luis Rey such a brilliant novel.

Of course, I can’t finish this review without mentioning the beauty of Wilder’s writing. Not only is he an excellent writer in the sense of word choice, sentence structure, etc., but I also couldn’t help but marvel at the seemingly effortless way he conveys such profound meaning in simple statements. This novel is short, but it certainly packs a punch. Wilder’s writing style allows him to say exactly what he needs to in a little over one hundred pages.

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Overall, I’m so glad that I randomly picked this book up in the gift shop that day. Thornton Wilder is a brilliant writer and I cannot wait to read more of his work. I know that I’ll be returning to The Bridge of San Luis Rey time and time again in the years to come!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! Especially one who is a fan of Our Town or is interested in Latin American literature.

What do you think of this book? Have any recommendations for other works by Thornton Wilder? Let me know in the comments section below!



Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Really Wish Existed

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme involves talking about bookish wish lists– things we want to see more of in books, from tropes and characters to settings and themes. The more I thought about this kind of list, the more I honed in on a different idea that’s been on my mind a lot recently. Back in December I made a TTT list of the Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me; however, the list contained only made-up titles of books that I really wished existed in real life. In the same vain, today I’ll be sharing the Top Ten Books I Really Wish Existed because I could desperately use some great advice at this point.

What books do you really wish existed? What do you think of the titles I’ve included on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!



How to Read Sexist Texts When You’re a Feminist English Major | Discussion

Recently I had the displeasure of taking a course dedicated to Renaissance poetry, and MY OH MY were those old white men a bunch of misogynistic poets. While there were a few glimmers of hope amidst the nearly translucent pages of my weathered Norton Anthology of Poetry (as shown by my previous discussion of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2), the vast majority of the poems I read for this class made me wonder why they were even regarded as important and “great” pieces of writing in the first place, never mind why we continue to include them in poetry collections like this one. It’s safe to say that after reading dozens of these poems over the course of the semester, my patience was worn down to a precariously thin layer of frustration.

It was necessary for me to think of concrete ways of addressing this problem while still being able to do well in the class. Refusing to read the poems was obviously not an option for me, meaning that I had to get a bit creative with my reading strategy.

I must say up front that the following advice is purely based on my own personal experiences reading these works. These steps may not work for everyone and that is perfectly okay. We all have our own tips and tricks to help us confront, interpret, and challenge views that challenge our own– the following pieces of advice happen to be my own personal strategy. At any rate, I hope you find this discussion at least a bit helpful or thought-provoking in some way.

1. Actually read it.

Yes, actually read the incredibly sexist poem or story or novel that you’d desperately like to avoid at all costs (unless, of course, it contains something personally triggering– then do whatever you need to in order to practice self-care). The reason I urge you to read it is that it’s difficult (nigh impossible) to make an educated argument against something if you do not have relevant textual evidence with which to back up your claim.

2. Maintain your distance.

I’m sure there’s a better, clearer, more accurate and succinct way of saying this, but I’ll try my best.  I think it’s important to recognize that someone can acknowledge and understand another person’s opinions without believing in or agreeing with them. For instance, in my poetry class I was required to read, understand, and explicate these poems in order to receive a good grade. However, this did not stop me from challenging the ideas that these poems presented. It was vital that I read these poems with from a certain intellectual and ideological distance that allowed me to understand them without having to agree with their meaning.

3. Allow feminism to fuel your analysis.

While it’s important to understand and think about the poems according to the context in which they were written, it’s also valuable to read them through a feminist lens. Feminist literary theory exists for a reason: to be utilized. Moreover, this class forced me to become comfortable with directly pointing out the sexism in writing that is considered to be canonically “great.” I was not going to sit there and tell my professor that I support the inclusion of Robert Herrick’s “Upon Julia’s Breasts” in the Norton Anthology of Poetry over providing ample space for one of Lady Mary Wroth’s entire crown of sonnets. (Honestly, are those four lines of pure female objectification really a necessary component of this collection?) Just because something has been deemed a “classic” work of literature does not mean that it is without flaws.

4. Think about your own beliefs and values.

At the end of the day, I used this class as an opportunity to assess and spend time thinking about my own core beliefs. What about these poems did I find offensive and uncomfortable to read? Why did I feel this way about what I was reading in the first place? By using this as an opportunity for individual reflection I was able to better understand my own personal values.

Again, I hope this discussion is thought-provoking or beneficial in some way, whether that be in an academic setting or simply while reading in your daily life.

Have you ever read something that challenged your beliefs? How did you handle the situation? What do you think about the advice that I’ve offered? Do you have any advice for confronting issues like this? I would absolutely love to discuss these topics in greater detail, so please let me know what you think in the comments section down below!



ON THE OTHER SIDE by Carrie Hope Fletcher | Review

I’ve been a fan of Carrie Hope Fletcher’s Youtube channel since middle school, back in the days of wearing crocs and starting stories I would never finish writing and pretending that I could run fast enough to be on the cross-country team (fun fact: I could not). Not only have we both grown older since then, but she has become an accomplished performer on the West End as well as a published author of both memoir and fiction books. Sometimes I think about the Carrie I used to watch back in my early teens and wonder how someone can be so incredibly talented and kindhearted and genuinely down to earth. Needless to say, Carrie is nothing short of inspirational.

I give this context of my history as an admirer of Carrie’s work to help explain how very excited I was when I learned that she would be writing a novel called On the Other Side. Becoming a published author has been a dream of mine since my age was in the single digits, and seeing Carrie accomplish this feat reignited this goal in me for the umpteenth time. My excitement rose even further after finding out that it would be a whimsical, magical, adorable love story– something I could completely imagine Carrie sitting down at her computer to craft. By the time a copy came into my hands via the lending hand of a friend (shoutout to my good friend Christina) it’s safe to say that I was so ready to read this book.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything about simply screamed Carrie to me: the descriptions of Evie’s flat, her affection for sweets, the creativity of the story, the relationship between Evie and Vincent, the charming character of Vincent himself, the focus on highlighting the value of the arts and creative endeavors in general. I felt as though I could recognize the Carrie I’ve admired for years in every page turn, every new line, every adorable moment that made my lips widen into a smile. The story was cleverly layered with bursts of the present and the past, trips between Evie’s life on Earth and the intriguing middle ground of her life after death.

It’s difficult to write a book about love, life, and death like this without coming off as over-the-top and preachy, yet Carrie has managed to do so (albeit with a charmingly generous dose of cheesiness). I feel as though readers can relate to the story no matter what stage of their life they are currently living. Even though a major portion of the novel is written from the perspective of an older Evie, I could really relate to the confused and conflicting emotions she experienced as a twenty-something trying to figure her life out. The idea of being able to go back and mend rather than change certain aspects of your life is a really interesting twist on the usual approach to this topic. Though this novel is brimming with magical realism, the important themes it emphasizes are incredibly real and relevant to our actual lives.

On the Other Side ended up being exactly what I imagined it would be: that whimsical, magical, adorable love story that I had hoped for.

But here’s the problem: it wasn’t anything more. 

The writing was okay, but not fantastic. At times the magical elements seemed over-the-top and out-of-place, oddly standing out against an otherwise ordinary background. A handful of scenes had to be reread because I couldn’t tell if they were meant to be figurative or literal (as in, did those pieces of paper really just turn into shards of glass?). Certain plot points felt forced, others illogical, still others as though they could have been expanded or emphasized as more important to the story.

I believe in sharing honest opinions, so that’s what I’m going to do. On the Other Side was okay– good, even– but not great. I turned the last page with a warm and fuzzy feeling in my chest that was tinged with a hint of disappointment. It almost feels as though I should give this work two different ratings: from the perspective of a fan of Carrie in general it was AMAZING, but I simply enjoyed it from a reader’s perspective. I’m proud of Carrie for accomplishing the daunting task of writing and publishing a novel– it just wasn’t the perfect novel for me.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, especially if they a) are a fan of Carrie Hope Fletcher and/or b) love a good romance story.

I hope this review makes at least an inkling of sense. On the Other Side is a fun, adorable, charming novel that is well worth reading… I was just a teensy bit let down because of all the hype.

What did you think of this novel? Do you watch Carrie’s videos? Let me know in the comments section below!