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

Tags

20 Questions Book Tag | 2

Who doesn’t love a good game of Twenty Questions? Fortunately, the 20 Questions Book Tag is a lot more interesting than just “yes” or “no” answers. Thanks so much to Ash and Lo @ Windowsill Books for tagging me!

1. HOW MANY BOOKS IS TOO MANY BOOKS IN A BOOK SERIES?

It definitely depends on the series itself, but I think around four books is generally a good rule of thumb. For instance, I think the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater works really well as four books, but more than that would make the series feel like it was dragging on forever. When I was younger I used to love reading really long series, but lately I’ve been appreciating the closure of a good standalone.

2. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CLIFFHANGERS?

I love cliffhangers in the middle of series or at the end of chapters when you know that your questions will soon be answered; however, I dislike them at the end of series or books when there are countless important questions left unsolved.

3. HARDBACK OR PAPERBACK?

100 percent paperback! I hate how expensive, heavy, and awkward to read hardcover books can be. When given the choice, I will always choose paperback.

4. FAVORITE BOOK?

Ah yes, the most impossible question. Usually my answer to this horrid inquiry is The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien because it holds such a nostalgic place in my heart. It’s one that I never get tired of rereading!

5. LEAST FAVORITE BOOK?

Another really difficult question! It takes a lot for me to really hate a book, but I think I’m going to have to go with Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. I started reading it several years ago and disliked it so much that I couldn’t even finish it!

6. LOVE TRIANGLES, YES OR NO?

NO. NO. NO.

7. THE MOST RECENT BOOK YOU JUST COULDN’T FINISH?

Last term I tried listening to the audio book of Bloodlines by Richelle Mead because one of my friends read this series when she was younger and said she was obsessed with it back then. The protagonist was so annoying that I literally could not bring myself to listen to the last few hours of it.

8. A BOOK YOU’RE CURRENTLY READING?

Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman. I started reading this while traveling during my spring break and haven’t found the time to finish it now that term has started up again in Oxford. Maybe I’ll finally finish it on my eight-hour flight home? So far I’m really enjoying it!

9. LAST BOOK YOU RECOMMENDED TO SOMEONE?

Lately I’ve been telling so many people to read anything and everything by Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I feel like these two writers are on a lot of TBR lists out there, but are not often prioritized. They’re such brilliant writers!

10. OLDEST BOOK YOU’VE READ? *PUBLICATION DATE*

According to Goodreads, the oldest book I’ve read is the Epic of Gilgamesh.

11. NEWEST BOOK YOU’VE READ? *PUBLICATION DATE*

It’s hard to tell on Goodreads what the most recently published book I’ve read is, so I’m just going to throw Turtles All the Way Down by John Green out there since it was just published on October 10, 2017.

12. FAVORITE AUTHOR?

Since I have many favorite authors and I tend to be quite indecisive in general, here are a bunch of authors that I love: John Green, J.R.R. Tolkien, Roald Dahl, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, E.L. Konigsburg, Frederick Douglass….the list goes on and on!

13. BUYING BOOKS OR BORROWING BOOKS?

I try to borrow books from libraries and fellow bookworms as much as possible because it’s less wasteful and definitely cheaper; however, there’s nothing quite like a great bookshop haul!

14. A BOOK YOU DISLIKE THAT EVERYONE ELSE SEEMS TO LOVE?

I was so excited to read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir because so many people highly recommended it; however, I think the hype monster made my expectations a bit too high and I ended up being rather disappointed with it.

15. BOOKMARKS OR DOG-EARS?

Definitely bookmarks! Not only are they fun to collect, but they’re so much more easy to use than constantly having to fold down pages.

16. A BOOK YOU CAN ALWAYS REREAD?

Any Lord of the Rings book, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg… I just LOVE rereading books in general!!

17. CAN YOU READ WHILE HEARING MUSIC?

Yes! The only thing that really distracts me from reading is when I can distinctly hear a single conversation nearby.

18. ONE POV OR MULTIPLE POV’S?

It really depends on the novel, but generally I think books with multiple perspectives or story lines are really interesting.

19. DO YOU READ A BOOK IN ONE SITTING OR OVER MULTIPLE DAYS?

Once again, it depends on the book. Usually I end up reading books for fun over the course of multiple days and books for school in one sitting (so much required reading, so little time!).

20. A BOOK YOU’VE READ BECAUSE OF THE COVER?

SO. MANY. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but some recent cover-buys for me were a few of the Penguin Modern editions that recently came out. They’re just so pretty!

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

Yours,

HOLLY

Awards

Sunshine Blogger Award | 5

Today I’m here with the Sunshine Blogger Award. Thanks so much to Kayla @ Kayla’s Book Nook for nominating me!!

1. Where was the last place you travelled, and when was it?

To Oxford, England where I’m currently studying abroad.

2. How many physical books do you own?

Now that you mention it, I’ve never actually counted how many books I own… but I would venture to say at least fifty. I’m currently whittling my way through my physical TBR, and my goal is to read all of the unread books that I own by this summer so I can donate the ones I don’t want.

3. Under what circumstances would you DNF a book?

It’s rare for me to give up on a book, but it’s definitely happened before! Usually when I DNF a book it’s because I can’t see myself taking anything meaningful away from the reading experience. The problem could also be an annoying protagonist, which is one of my biggest bookish pet peeves.

4. What was the last movie you saw in theatres? Did you enjoy it?

The last movie I saw in theatres was Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I really enjoyed it! It’s certainly not my favorite of the bunch, but it was great nonetheless.

5. Share your favorite meme or GIF!

I love any and all GIFs of this dancing pumpkin guy– no matter what season we’re currently in! I’ve always wanted to dress up as him for Halloween (maybe next year!).

6. Tell me a teaser sentence from the book you’re currently reading!

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”  ~ On Writing by Stephen King

7. What device do you use to write your blog posts (computer, phone, etc.)?

I always use my laptop because it’s the most easy and convenient to use. I’ve never actually used the WordPress app before– what are your thoughts on it if you use it?

8. Tell me a little known fact about you that no other bloggers know.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on this blog before, but I love tap dancing. I started tapping when I was in elementary school and I’ve been a member of the tap dancing group at Wheaton for the past few years. I miss it now that I’m abroad!

9. Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? If so, what is it?

Yes! I’m an ISFJ, which according to 16Personalities means:

The ISFJ personality type is quite unique, as many of their qualities defy the definition of their individual traits. Though possessing the Feeling (F) trait, ISFJs have excellent analytical abilities; though Introverted (I), they have well-developed people skills and robust social relationships; and though they are a Judging (J) type, ISFJs are often receptive to change and new ideas. As with so many things, people with the ISFJ personality type are more than the sum of their parts, and it is the way they use these strengths that defines who they are.

10. What song is stuck in your head right now? (if any)

“Son of Man” from the Tarzan soundtrack. As always.

11. Give a shoutout to 5 awesome bloggers, and spread the love like confetti!

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

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

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!

Yours,

HOLLY

Discussion, Video

How Do You Prevent Blogging Burnout? | Discussion

wilberry-15A few months ago Rosianna Halse Rojas created a video called Knowing When To Stop in which she discusses the feeling of not knowing when to stop working and striving to be as productive as possible. As someone who has been thought of as an “overachiever” throughout her entire life, she explains how challenging it can be to hold yourself back from constantly being in overdrive. This inner source of motivation is certainly valuable in terms of work ethic and accomplishing goals; however, there is danger in not knowing when to stop and give yourself a break.

I relate to this video on a personal level in my everyday life so much that it almost feels as though Rosianna has peered through a tiny window into my mind. As a perfectionist, I’m constantly in competition with myself to do more and be better, but eventually this becomes too big a burden to bear. The pressure I place on myself to be as productive as possible and meet my impossibly high standards can be overwhelming at times. There’s this feeling of needing to always live up to incredibly high expectations lest someone expose one’s true identity: that of a normal, average, flawed human being. It’s a vicious cycle that can never be won, for no matter how hard we try it’s obvious that we can never escape the reality that no one is flawless. Still, that truth clearly doesn’t keep us from trying.

It’s no surprise that this mindset has trickled into my blogging life as well. For a while I endeavored to post every single day, which ultimately made blogging feel more like a chore than simply a fun hobby. However, like Rosianna I had a hard time admitting and acknowledging to myself that it was time to scale back and reassess my goals to make them more realistic.

Finding a schedule that works for me (around three posts a week) has been incredibly helpful in reeling in my do-it-all tendencies. Not only does limiting my posts each week ensure that what I’m posting is actually quality content (or at least better than it would be if I was rushing to create seven posts each week), but it also prevents me from developing the dreaded blogger burnout. In high school when I had more time to blog I would frequently feel as though I needed to take breaks or a hiatus and return when blogging no longer felt like a chore. Fortunately, the way my life is now structured in college forces me to step away from blogging each semester due to a lack of free time. As a result, I enter each vacation period feeling refreshed and ready to blog because I haven’t been able to dedicate any significant time to it in months.

Rosianna’s video really resonated with me as it likely does with many other people as well. It’s an important discussion to have, not only with others but also with ourselves. Recognizing and accepting when we need to step back and take some time to relax is a valuable step towards feeling less stressed, more creative, and happier overall.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you also struggle with knowing when to take a break? What are your tips for setting goals that are both challenging and realistic? Have any recommendations of other videos or books about this topic? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

On Separating Women from their Work | Discussion

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Today I’m here to talk about a thought-provoking topic that I’ve been pondering a lot in recent weeks: the correlation between women and their literary work. Should the success of a women’s work be tied to her personal reputation in society? From an even broader angle, should the personal reputations of authors in general impact how successful their work sells or is perceived by readers?

Shelley DeWees hits on this topic a lot from a gendered perspective in her book Not Just Jane, an in-depth look at seven women writers who have not received nearly enough credit for their important influence on British literature. In her chapter on writer Mary Robinson, DeWees writes:

“Here is our line of demarcation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ women, and thus ‘good’ and ‘bad’ books– in much the same way that, in the previous century, when chaste royalist women writers like Katherine Philips were held above more daring ones such as Aphra Behn, critics were unrelenting in their inability (or refusal) to separate an author’s literary merit from her sex.”

In other words, the details of a women’s personal relationships and sex life was imperative in determining the sales of her work. Centuries ago, a “sexually deviant” women could hardly have hoped to sell much of anything in terms of poetry, stories, or novels. But what about their personal lives changed the actual text of their work? (Answer: NOTHING). Despite the fact that absolutely no tangible changes occurred in the text of their novels or poetry, sales plummeted as the general public began to perceive certain women as immoral, improper, or uncivilized. In this context, I believe that there is no reason to connect the personal lives of women with their work. What importance does a women’s marriage, family, or alleged affair have on their work? More importantly, I believe that texts should not be denounced strictly due to the fact that the author is a women. 

However, the argument can also be made that supporting the work of an author is showing indirect support for his or her actions. In other words, money talks. Personally, I think it largely depends on what the specific “scandal” or situation regarding the author in question is. For example, I wouldn’t think twice about purchasing a book by an author who recently went through a terrible divorce. On the other hand, I would certainly hesitate before buying a book written by an openly homophobic, racist, sexist, or offensive writer.

But can we pick and choose scenarios like this? Who has the right to decide the circumstances under which an author’s personal life can and should influence the success of his or her work? Should we separate authors from their work?

I would love to hear what you have to say about this topic. Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 Bookish Resolutions

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Happy Tuesday!! I know that today’s official Top Ten Tuesday theme is about our most anticipated 2017 debuts, but here’s my dilemma: I really don’t know any upcoming debuts being published in 2017. Due to an incredibly busy college semester I’ve been out of the bookish loop for so long that I haven’t been able to stay up to date with new releases. Rather than ramble on about books I know nothing about, I’ve decided to share my Top Ten 2017 Resolutions instead. (Look at me, starting off the New Year as a blogging rebel!)

1.Read 24 books. Though I easily surpassed this Goodreads Challenge goal in 2016, I’m nevertheless going to set the same overall reading goal for 2017. I like to have something to work towards, but I never want to feel pressured to read an impossibly and impractically high number of books. Two books a month feels just right!

2. Read more classics. Yet another resolution that I’m borrowing from last year’s list (I assure you, there’s a purposeful trend here). Over the past few years I’ve been really enjoying reading classics and I’d love to continue expanding the network of authors and genres within classical literature that I’ve read.

42003. Read something by Zadie Smith. 

Ever since reading her interview on the New York Times’ By the Book column I’ve had the itch to read something by Zadie Smith. Her most recent novel Swing Time has received fantastic reviews, but I think I might start with her debut novel White Teeth and then work my way forward from there. As long as get around to reading one book by this fascinating, highly-praised author this year, I’ll be happy!

Charles Dickens4. Read more by Charles Dickens. If this goal looks familiar, it’s because I sadly failed to accomplish it last year. I absolutely adored Great Expectations when I read it two (three???) years ago, but since then I have read nothing else by Dickens. I desperately need to remedy this in 2017! Any suggestions on where to start would be greatly appreciated! The only other book I’ve read by Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, so everything else is fair game for a recommendation.

a game of thrones cover5. Read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. That’s right: another goal that I failed to accomplish in 2016. I’ve honestly been meaning to read this book for years but for some reason my inner bibliophile is really intimidated by it, both in terms of size and content. A little pep talk, anyone?

6. Continue posting to my bookstagramCreating a bookstagram was one of the best bookish decisions I made in 2016. I randomly decided to make one over the summer and I’ve had a blast doing it every since! In 2016, I want to continue posting photos and exploring different themes and angles.

7. Write more discussion posts. Lately I feel as though I’ve been getting into a blogging rut. My blog has been mostly tags and Top Ten Tuesday posts lately with the occasional review mixed in, so I want to make an effort to write more discussion posts in 2016. I was surprised and overjoyed by the positive and thoughtful comments left on my recent discussion post (Why It’s Okay to NOT Make Time for Reading). Discussions in the comments section always remind me how amazing the online book community is!

8. Be more engaged with the online book community. With my discussion post goal in mind, I would also like to be more engaged in the online book community in other ways. Recently I’ve been using Twitter (@peanutfreeisme) more, but I would also like to be more active on Goodreads and other platforms. Feel free to reach out and follow/friend me on any of these platforms!

9. Read slowly. As I recently mentioned when taking a look at my 2016 resolutions, reading slowly and taking the time to appreciate and absorb each book I read is always something that I can improve upon. It’s easy to feel as though we have to rush through books to achieve reading goals or read as much as possible, but where’s the fun in that?

10. Have fun!! As always, I include this final resolution as a reminder to myself that reading is for ENJOYMENT. I want to read to have fun, to learn, and to be inspired– not merely to check off books on a list or achieve a Goodreads challenge.

What are your 2017 resolutions, bookish or otherwise? What do you think of the goals I’ve set for myself? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY