Bookish, College

Books I Wished I Had Been Assigned to Read as an English Major

In less than a week I graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English, and it’s a very bittersweet moment for me. Although I am very excited to move onto another chapter of my life, I’m also sad to leave my amazing friends and the lovely Wheaton community behind. However, the end of undergrad also marks the end of studying English for me, which is bittersweet in itself. Today I’m going to share some of the books I wish I had been assigned to read as an English major. Imagine the class discussions we could have had! Imagine how much better I would have understood these books! Maybe someday…

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Have I already read Moby Dick? Yes. However, I read it on a family road trip a few summers back and remember skimming through most of it. Let me tell you, it’s a good thing I was in a car for hours with nothing else to do because otherwise I probably would have stopped reading altogether. Yet I’ve never been able to shake this feeling that I’ve missed something fundamentally fascinating about this novel, like I just haven’t been able to crack its code. Something tells me that I would have appreciated this novel much more if I had read it in a classroom setting and really dove into some of its nuances and complexities. But alas! it remains a dull, dragging enigma.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Do I just want someone to explain big books to me? Maybe. While studying abroad at Oxford I actually attended nearly an entire James Joyce lecture series in which I learned all about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, neither of which I have read. But I was so fascinated by the charts and webs the professor drew regarding all the mythological allusions in these texts, especially in Ulysses, that I couldn’t help but return to that lecture hall week after week to listen to someone talk about novels that I had never read. I know that some colleges offer classes solely on Ulysses, and I think it would have been fascinating to take one of these at some point in my college career.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This is another novel that I read a few summers ago but wish I had gotten the opportunity to read it alongside a class. Brave New World is often lumped together with unsettling novels like 1984 by George Orwell. While Huxley’s novel is certainly unsettling at times, I was pleasantly surprised by its humor and wit. There’s a lighter tone here, a parodying of sorts perhaps, that makes me want to know more about what exactly this book is trying to say. Does the novel take itself seriously? Are we meant to take the novel seriously? These are the kinds of questions I would have loved to explore in a classroom setting.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I read this novel this past summer thinking that it might be helpful for writing my honors thesis. While I didn’t end up using it in my thesis, I’m still glad I read it because it offers a fascinating perspective that challenges one of my favorite novels, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Many of the parallels and oppositions are fairly easy and quick to spot, but I would have loved to learn more about the historical context in which this novel is set in order to better understand the significance of many of power dynamics, hierarchies, and systems that it draws on. Perhaps this would also make me think a bit more critically about Jane Eyre, despite my love for it.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Continuing on with this Brontë theme, I wish I had been assigned this seldom discussed novel. Anne is the only Brontë sister I have never read anything by, as I feel is the case for most people who dabble in Victorian literature. It would have been interesting to read this novel alongside other people who are also missing a text by this third sister. If her writing is anything like that of Emily or Charlotte, it would also be helpful to have some guidance through its density of details and language.

Have you read any of these books or been assigned to read them for a class? What are your thoughts on them? Do you think reading them with a class made a difference? What are some books you wish you had been assigned to read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Bookish

5 Books that Influenced Me as a College Senior

Seeing as I graduate from undergrad a week from tomorrow (eek!) I thought I would share 5 books that influenced me as a college senior. These are books that I’ve read throughout this academic year–assigned or otherwise–that have made me think about myself and world a bit differently. In no particular order:

Without a Name by Yvonne Vera

Yvonne Vera is one of two Zimbabwean women novelists I wrote about in my honors thesis. Going into this honors thesis I was not prepared for how intense, unsettling, and moving Vera’s novels would be. I remember reading the pivotal moment in Without a Name when the full force of the act of violence is revealed: I was sitting in South Station in Boston waiting for the last train of the night after attending a comedy show. (Yes, a rather odd setting to be reading this in!) I audibly gasped and then had to explain to my friends the shocking scene I had just taken in. Physically reacting to a novel like that and feeling the need to immediately talk to someone about it reminded me of the sheer power of literature and the significant influence they can have on whatever you’re going through at the time.

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

This brief essay collection was a gift from a friend that I finally got around to reading this past winter break. I remember reading it in a parking lot while waiting to go into an appointment and actually tearing up a bit. These essays are powerfully striking, so much so that I can see myself going back to them in the future for encouragement, motivation, and inspiration. Even the simplest statements–such as “there are no new pains”–are striking in their trueness, in the way they deeply resonate with the reader. I’m so grateful that my friend gifted me this book!

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

My friends and I decided to reread this old favorite of ours this past winter break. I hadn’t read it since I was fourteen or fifteen years old, so my memory of it was pretty foggy: I vaguely remembered a catering company and a car breaking down and a mom that was a real estate agent (aren’t they all?), but other than that I was basically going in as a clean slate. Reading this book after seven or eight years made me simultaneously realized how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in my reading tastes. Although I’m now more removed from the age of this book’s protagonist, I nevertheless found myself relating to her dilemmas, albeit in a different way from when I related to them years ago. Now I saw them from a nostalgic perspective, of looking back on that time in my life when I didn’t know what graduating high school or being 20 years old would look like. All in all, rereading The Truth About Forever was a lovely trip down memory lane.

The Latino Threat by Leo R. Chavez

I was assigned to read this book for my Latinos in the U.S. history class early on this semester, and it really changed the way I look at representations of Latinos in the media, on the big screen, and in what I read. The Latino Threat Narrative (the discriminatory idea that Latinos are dangerous, lazy, criminal, and are only in the US to “take advantage” of the system) is shockingly pervasive in our society today, and it seems almost impossible to not run into it in some capacity on a daily basis. Reading this book was also a fantastic way to start this class, as it really summed up a lot of the points that my professor wanted to make throughout the semester. I wish this book–or at least this concept–was mandatory material for high school students. I think having a specific name for this phenomenon really helps you pinpoint it, therefore allowing you to better challenge it in the world around you. Chavez also really forces you to think about how the Latino Threat Narrative plays into where our country is headed in the near future.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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The Year of Magical Thinking is by far my favorite book that I’ve read this semester. I had never read anything by Joan Didion before, but I will absolutely be turning to more of her witty, honest words in the future. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have experienced such intense loss before, but this book made me feel the closest I have ever felt to experiencing it. I rarely cry while reading, yet this text was bookended by my tears. The last line left me gutted, wanting to reach out and embrace Didion as I sat in bed mulling over her experiences, conflicting emotions, and narration. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. • • • • • • #books #book #bookish #booklover #bibliophile #reading #amreading #reader #read #bookstagram #bookblogger #bookblog #blogger #blog #nutfreenerd #bookpics #instabooks #college #englishmajor #literature

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I was assigned to read this book for my Postmodern American Fiction class about a month ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. This memoir recounts the year after the death of writer John Gregory Dunne, Didion’s beloved husband. We see her grapple with loss, identity, and the strong pull of the “vortex” of memories as she writes this narrative. Although I often cry while watching movies, it’s actually rare that I cry while reading books; however, I cried twice while reading this book, both times in front of other people. (If that’s not a testament to how stirring this book is, than I don’t know what is…) What strikes me the most about this book is how there is no resolution at the end–grief is not a linear process recovered from after a single year, which The Year of Magical Thinking really reflects.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them? What’s a book that greatly influenced you recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

Bookish Goals of 2019

As always, I’d like to set some bookish goals for the new year. Usually I try to set ten, but this time I’ve decided that less is going to be more.

1. Read 52 books.

For the past few years I’ve set myself a goal do reading 24 books; however, this goal hasn’t been very challenging to meet, especially since I have to read so much for classes. This year I’ve decided to set myself a goal of 52 books, the equivalent of one book a week. Hopefully this will be enough of a challenge to keep my actively reading but not too much of a challenge that it becomes unrealistic to achieve.

2. Read more nonfiction.

I know this is a rather general, vague goal, but I still think it’s worth keeping in mind this year. I have to read so much fiction for my English literature classes that I tend to miss picking up a good biography or memoir. If I could make a third or even half of what I read this year nonfiction, I would be very pleased. This goal will also hopefully help me catch up with my ever-growing nonfiction TBR pile.

3. Listen to more audio books.

Again, another general goal that I nevertheless feel is good to keep in mind in 2019. I loved listening to audio books while I was abroad whenever I had to walk to classes, go to the store, cook, do laundry, etc. I would really like to find a way to work it into my schedule this year and hopefully listen to around an audio book each month.

4. Read all of the books I already own.

Although I’ve gotten better at this over the years and my physical TBR pile has dwindled down considerably, I still own a significant number of books that I haven’t read. I’d love to get to a point where I only have five books or less at a time that I haven’t read, and I think that’s a pretty manageable goal for this year. If I read at least one book that I already own each month then I’ll be on the right track. This goal is partly motivated by my desire to not own any books that I know for a fact I’m not never going to read. Why have extra clutter on hand when I don’t need to?

5. Get back into blogging/bookstagram.

Throughout this past semester I basically stopped posting to both my blog and my bookstagram altogether. I was just so busy with classes, writing an honors thesis, applying to law schools, and life in general that my favorite bookish activities got pushed to the wayside a bit. I’m going to really try to make an effort to fit it into my schedule this semester, even if it’s not as frequently as I would ideally like. Something is better than nothing!

6. Read for fun!

It goes without saying that I read with a lot of different goals in mind: to better educate myself, to open my eyes to different ideas and ways of life, to be more empathetic and understanding of other people. However, each year I make sure to add this goal to my New Year’s list because it’s something I tend to forget in the hustle and bustle of busy schedules and busy reading time. While reading with all of those things in mind is incredibly important, it’s also really important to me that reading remains something I wholeheartedly enjoy and not something that feels like work all the time. Reading has always been something I’ve done because I genuinely love it, and I don’t want that to change!

Those are my six bookish goals for 2019, ones that I hope are challenging yet still manageable and fun to work towards. Wish me luck!

Have you set yourself any bookish goals for the New Year? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish, Discussion

Avoiding Book Burnout as an English Major

Recently someone asked me in a comment how I avoid burning out as an English major–in other words, how do I keep from getting sick of reading? It might sound implausible that a bookworm could get tired of reading, but it definitely happens. When the line between work and play is blurred, it can suddenly feel like what was once a hobby is now homework–because it is. 

For each term at Oxford I had to read about sixteen novels, plus secondary reading during term itself. For my senior seminar at Wheaton right now I have to read about a dozen novels by Philip Roth–and that’s in addition to all the reading for my other English class, history class, and Honors Thesis. Needless to say, studying English literature involves a lot of reading. When you consider the sheer amount of pages being turned, it’s easy to imagine how someone could want to do something else in their sparse free time besides open even more books. 

So how do I avoid burning out? Here’s my advice:

Switch things up.

One of the problems I’ve encountered studying English literature is that the genre I would usually read for fun (classics) is precisely when I have to read for class. Instead, I try reading different genres, particularly children’s or young adult books. Because they’re different enough from what I read for class, my mind isn’t so quick to associate it with doing work.

Listen to audio books.

Listening to audio books is my favorite way to get extra reading in during the semester without feeling like I’m doing more work. I love not having to feel like I’m spending even more time with my eyes glued to a page, as well as the fact that I can get other things done (like laundry, cleaning, etc.) at the same time).

Make it social.

Join a book club. Read the same book as a friend. Be more active in the book blogging community. Sometimes adding a more social aspect to reading helps it feel less like homework and more like something you’re doing in your precious free time.

Take a break.

Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that bookish burnout is unavoidable without taking a bit of a break from reading for fun. Whenever I feel this tiredness coming on, I usually switch to listening to podcasts, knitting, or some other activity instead. Taking a break from reading doesn’t make you a “bad” bookworm in any way–partially because such a category doesn’t exist. There’s no denying that the reading you do for class is still reading, even if it’s not what you would choose to read on your own.

I hope these quick pieces of advice are helpful! Studying English literature can be surprisingly tricky for self-proclaimed bookworms, and it’s nice to know that it’s not just you falling out of love with reading–sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. 

How do you avoid burning out as an English major or college student in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

Happy Hobbit Day!

Happy Hobbit Day! What is this day, you ask? September 22nd is the fictional birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the hobbit protagonists of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, respectively. The holiday was first established in 1978 by the American Tolkien Society.

If you’ve followed this blog for a fair amount of time, you’re likely well aware that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are arguably my favorite books ever. (I know. A bold statement to make.) I started reading them when I was in fifth grade and have reread them all countless times since then. I adore their charming wit, their captivating sense of adventure, and the familiar nostalgia they fill me with whenever I flip through their pages again.

In honor of Hobbit Day, I’d like to share some Tolkien-y book photos!

Hope you have a great Hobbit Day! What’s your favorite Tolkien character, book, setting, etc.? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

On Writing: Interview with Nadette Rae Rodgers

Today I bring you a very special interview with Nadette Rae Rodgers, author of the Illusion Trilogy. With the release of the final book in this trilogy just around the corner, Nadette has been kind enough to answer some of my questions about her writing process and experience writing these novels.

Do you remember where you were/what you were doing when you first thought of the idea for this trilogy?

Yes! It was a rainy summer day, so I had just been reading all afternoon. I had put down the book I was reading and was just looking at the rain outside. There was something that day that had happened that I swear I had dreamt before. It was that deja vu feeling. Then I just started writing down what was in my head.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

My writing routine really depends on the type of scene I’m writing. But typically, I turn on the twinkly lights in my room, pick a playlist that fits what I’ll be writing about then, listen to a song or two while I jot down quick notes and ideas I have, and then I just start writing. I also love to have hot chocolate or coffee in my Eiffel Tower mug too!

Who is your biggest writing inspiration?

My biggest inspiration for writing is one hundred percent the aspiring writers I meet! The BEST moments are when I’m talking to a local literature class and an eighth grader tells me that they want to be a writer or they have been working on a book but were too scared to share it with anyone. I love getting the opportunity to talk to these young writers because the summer after eighth grade is when I wrote Illusion. I love being able to talk with them and encourage them to follow their dreams now. It’s funny, sometimes I’ll be in a bit of a writing slump and then I’ll get an email from a student whose class I talked to weeks before telling me they decided to finish their writing project or let their friends read it. Those moments are what inspire me to keep writing!

What is the most difficult part of the writing process?

Honestly, I do all the formatting myself and that takes a lot of time! It is definitely a more technical process than a creative one like writing the actually book is. It’s more of a challenge for me and I would say, is the most difficult part of the process.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

I really enjoyed Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing” and it is always the first thing I recommend to anyone who tells me they want to write a book. The book is full of amazing advice for writers! One thing he says is, “Read a lot. Write a lot.”

Sometimes when I’m in the middle of writing a book, I think I have to devote all my time to writing and I forget to just read a book. My love of reading is why I started writing in the first place! So after reading that, I began setting aside time while writing my novels to read a book I love or try a new author. I do agree with King that you get a lot of the tools you need from writing by reading! So, while a lot of peoples’ advice is “write write write,” I love the tip to schedule some reading time for yourself amidst all the writing.

Thanks so much to Nadette for answering these questions! Click here to pre-order her new book, Sweet Dreams. Be sure to keep up to date with Nadette via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope you’ve enjoyed this interview!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

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

Bookish, challenges

Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge | Update 1

Nearly a year ago I posted my introduction to the Rory Gilmore reading challenge, which I had completely forgot about until recently when I stumbled across another list online somewhere. Curious to see where I’m at with the list now, I’ve decided to share my first update!

In alphabetical order, the 339 texts are:

1984 by George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
Christine by Stephen King
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Cujo by Stephen King
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daisy Miller by Henry James
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci -Code by Dan Brown
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Don Quijote by Cervantes
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Love Story by Erich Segal
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
The Merry Wives of Windsro by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Old School by Tobias Wolff
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs by McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Fever by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Shane by Jack Shaefer
The Shining by Stephen King
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
A Streetcar Named Desiree by Tennessee Williams
Stuart Little by E. B. White
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

When I last updated this list I had read 54 books. At this point, I have read a total of 63 books from the list. This increase isn’t significant, though I’m still pleased considering that I completely forgot this list even existed until I stumbled upon my initial post recently and decided I should update it. Fingers crossed that I can read even more books from this list in the upcoming year!

Are you a Gilmore Girls fan? How many of these books have you read? Any that you highly recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish, Discussion

On Reading Classics | Discussion

I love classics. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that classics are my preferred genre. Some people can’t seem to fathom that I genuinely enjoy reading books like Faulkner’s Sartoris and Dickens’ Great Expectations and choose to read them in my free time. Perhaps this bewilderment is due to the bad reputation classics have gained from people’s negative experiences of being forced to read them in school. Or maybe classics have become too closely associated with the stereotypical pretentious air that some people put on when talking about this genre of literature. Whatever the reason may be, I’m here to break the barrier once and for all.

Classics don’t have to be scary, dull, or irrelevant; rather, they can be accessible, exciting, and relatable to our personal and societal experiences today. There are always going to be those books you just don’t click with (I’m sorry Bram Stoker, but I just reread Dracula and practically had to force myself to read the last hundred pages) but that doesn’t mean that the entire genre isn’t worth reading.

In an effort to spread my love of classics, here are some of my tips for reading them:

1 || Know the context. Before reading, take a few moments to research the time period and place in which the work was written as well as some information about the author. Knowing the context of a text is helpful for two reasons: a) you can better understand and relate to the characters when you know when, where, and how they are living and b) it helps explain any behaviors or beliefs that might seem odd or problematic to us today. Learning information about the author can also give us insight into why and how the text was written. For instance, while researching Faulkner I learned that he often listened to his elders tell stories about the Civil War, slavery, and his great-grandfather William Clark Falkner. The latter figure must have strongly influenced Faulkner because a similar legendary relative plays an important role in his novel Sartoris. Understanding the context of a work can make it easier to relate to the story overall.

2 || Make character maps. Wuthering Heights? The Sound and the Fury? Forget it: I would be completely lost and confused if I didn’t sketch out a character map. You can make one as you read, though I prefer to research the story ahead of time and map out the characters that way. There are countless helpful resources online that make creating character map easy and incredibly helpful. Even just writing a list of characters and some short descriptions of them can make following the story feel ten times easier.

3 || Take your time. Unless deadlines are imposed on you by others (teachers, professors, book clubs, etc.) there’s no specific point in time by which you have to read a classic. Go as slow as you need to in order to get the most out of the story, even if it takes you twice as long to finish as a different book normally would. Put it down and come back to it after a few days if you feel like you need a break or are feeling in the mood to read something else. There’s no pressure to read anything in one sitting or in a certain number of days, so don’t worry about how long it takes you to reach the final page. The more time you spend with a classic—or any book, for that matter—the more you’re likely to take away from the novel.

4 || Keep an open mind. As with anything you read, it’s important to keep an open mind that’s free from any preconceived judgments or expectations. There’s no use reading something when you already assume you’ll hate it before you even read the first page. Before starting Leo Tolstoy’s tome War and Peace I expected that it would bore me to tears; however, I was surprised to find that I actually looked forward to reading it more and more as I progressed through the novel. I know this tip probably sounds like basic common sense, but sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded of what would otherwise seem obvious. At times it can seem like classics are a genre of literature with their own rules and expectations; in actuality, they’re just like all other books!

It’s perfectly okay to not enjoy classics. I don’t go out of my way to pick up horror or paranormal novels and I don’t judge those who do. However, I do think that classics deserve a second chance.

Do you enjoy reading classics? Do you have a favorite? Did reading classics in school impact your feelings toward this genre? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish, Haul

An Accidental Book Haul

You know when you drive by a used bookstore and say to yourself: “Well, maybe I’ll just pop in for a few minutes…” That happened to me recently, though a few minutes quickly turned into a few books making their way to the check-out counter with me. Sometimes you just can’t help it…

These are the secondhand books I ended up purchasing:

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

I read a few of the stories in this collection for my Modern Latin American class this past semester and really enjoyed them, so I was thrilled when I saw this book on the shelf. Cisneros writes stories about life and culture on the border between Mexico and the United States, which is an incredibly fascinating and important focus. Though this collection is in English, there are plenty of Spanish words and phrases incorporated in her beautiful writing. From what I’ve read of this collection in the past, I know that her writing really makes you think about how we define culture, identity, and borders.

¡Yo! by Julia Alvarez

I’ve always wanted to read something by the prolific writer Julia Alvarez, but I never knew where to start with her novels. When I saw this sitting on the shelf I just decided to go for it and make this my starting point with her work. I was mostly intrigued by the fact that Yo is the name of the protagonist of the novel, yet it also refers to the pronoun “I” in Spanish… I love double meanings like this! I’m really looking forward to finally reading some of Alvarez’s writing.

Solibo Magnificent by Patrick Chamoiseau

I’ve never heard of this book or author before, but after reading the blurb on the back cover I couldn’t put Solibo Magnificent back on the shelf. It sounds like a strangely charming yet morbid story, one unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I’m really interested in learning about oral tradition in general, so I feel like this will be a really interesting book to read from that perspective as well. Fingers crossed this turns out to be a great impulse buy!

J.B.: A Play in Verse by Archibald MacLeish

Okay, I’m going to be completely honest here: I basically bought this book solely because of the gorgeous cover design. (I know, I’m the worst. But just look at that cover! How can you blame me??) After researching it a bit, I learned that it actually won both a Pulitzer Prize AND a Tony Award!!! Needless to say, I’m very excited and intrigued to read this play. I can’t believe I never heard about it until recently!

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

Joseph J. Ellis is one of my favorite historians. I love his book Founding Brothers, so when I saw this in the used bookstore I knew I had to grab it. I haven’t read many biographies, but this one on George Washington promises to be meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and incredibly interesting. I haven’t read much non-fiction lately, so this will be a great change of pace whenever I actually get around to reading it.

Hopefully I’ll find time to read at least a few of these books before I leave for England! What are your thoughts on these books? What books have you purchased or received recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY