Fantasy Tropes Book Tag

Although I mostly read classics now (largely due to all of my course work) the genre that first got me hooked on reading was definitely fantasy. You can imagine how excited I was to see that I was recently tagged to do the Fantasy Tropes Book Tag. Thanks so much to Kelly @ Just Another Book in the Wall for tagging me!!

The Lost Princess: A book/series you lost interest in halfway through

I remember reading I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore several years ago when it was pretty popular, but after reading up to the third book in the series I lost interest in it. I think there are around seven books in total now, but I don’t plan on returning to finish the series at anytime soon.

The Knight in Shining Armor: A hyped book/series you were swept up by

The more I read the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, the more I became invested in the characters, plot, and series as a whole. This fantastical world steeped in reality is just too engrossing to let go.

The Wise Old Wizard: An author who amazes you with his/her writing

Is anyone surprised that my answer to this question is William Faulkner?

The Maiden in Distress: An undervalued character you wished had a bigger story line

So many characters in Harry Potter! I would definitely be up for a spin-off series about all of the side characters we don’t learn enough about (especially the Marauders!).

The Magical Sword: A magical item/ability you wish authors used less

Probably mind control, specifically the ability to move things telepathically (kind of like Eleven from Stranger Things). I think it’s overused at this point and not very creative.

The Mindless Villain: A phrase you cannot help but roll your eyes at

“She wasn’t like the other girls. She was different.” Someone please gauge my eyes out so I don’t have to read this anymore (figuratively speaking, of course. I like my eyes).

The Untamed Dragon: A magical creature you wish you had as a pet

I wouldn’t want a house elf as a pet (I definitely stand with Hermione and S.P.E.W.) but I would love to befriend one!

The Chosen One: A book/series you will always root for

Perhaps my favorite series ever: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ll never get tired of returning to these books time and time again!

Thanks again to Kelly for tagging me!

What are your answers to these prompts? What do you think of mine? Do you have a favorite fantasy book or series? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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CHILDREN OF THE MIND by Orson Scott Card | Review

Children of the Mind is the fourth and final novel in Orson Scott Card’s Ender Quartet. This series begins with the well-known Ender’s Game, which tells the story of a young boy recruited and trained to be part of the International Fleet seeking to destroy the alien “buggers” that are a threat to Earth. The series was originally supposed to be a trilogy, with this novel initially being the second half of the third book, Xenocide. This final installment attempts to wrap up all loose ends in that have been woven and tangled throughout the series as the repercussions of Ender’s involvement in the universe finally take their course.

In my opinion, this series could have ended after three books and I would have been completely fine with it. While I enjoyed the first three books in this quartet immensely, Children of the Mind was an unexpected disappointment. Instead of an exciting, suspenseful, thought-provoking conclusion, this novel is actually slow, tedious, and rather dull to read. Other reasons why I dislike this novel include:

– Everyone is arguing. Ender and Novinha. Jane and Miro. Miro and Val. Miro and his entire family. (Miro is very angry, clearly.) Peter and Si Wang-Mu. The list goes on and on. After a while all of these arguments start to sound petty and unimportant when everyone is actually supposed to be saving the universe.

– It feels like nothing really happens. I usually love character-driven novels– but only when the characters are actually interesting and worth rooting for. When a plot moves slower than a sloth and there are few characters worth being invested in, what actually happens in the book? (Answer: not much.)

– I’m still not entirely sure what happened at the end. Rather than going out with a bang, this series ends with a confusing firework of random events. I was hoping for some clarity and closure, but no such luck.

It’s not fun to write negative reviews of books you expected to enjoy, but sometimes it has to be done. I highly recommend the first three books in the Ender Quartet (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide) but Children of the Mind is an optional read as far as I’m concerned.

What are your thoughts on Children of the Mind or any of the books in the Ender Quartet? Would you recommend continuing on with books in the Ender series? How do you deal with disappointing books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

UNCLE TOM’S CABIN by Harriet Beecher Stowe | Review

“The narrative drive of Stowe’s classic novel is often overlooked in the heat of the controversies surrounding its anti-slavery sentiments. In fact, it is a compelling adventure story with richly drawn characters and has earned a place in both literary and American history. Stowe’s puritanical religious beliefs show up in the novel’s final, overarching theme—the exploration of the nature of Christianity and how Christian theology is fundamentally incompatible with slavery.” {Goodreads}

First published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin has often been described as the book that launched the Civil War. Despite not having read it until recently, this book had been mentioned often enough in past history classes that I figured I had a pretty good idea of what reading it would be like.

Well, I stand corrected.

There’s no denying that the historical significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is remarkable. The story goes that upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, President Abraham Lincoln exclaimed, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” This novel was a powerful tool for those fighting to end slavery before and during the Civil War; however, it’s easy to forget the story’s antislavery intentions when a modern reading of it reinforces disturbing racial stereotypes. Slaves are often portrayed as ignorant, unconditionally loyal to their masters, and eager to please as many people as possible. I was also taken aback by the glaring religious overtones in this novel; as someone who isn’t religious, it felt as thought I was being pelted with Christian beliefs over and over and over again. Then there’s the fact that this novel was written by a white woman who wrote a novel based on secondhand accounts of slavery from fugitive slaves. Where is the accuracy there? The authenticity? (Hint: there is none.)

This tension between the novel’s historical importance and the actual content and story within the book itself makes writing a review of it much more challenging than I initially expected. The story itself was captivating and entertaining, and I genuinely wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen to the characters. I quickly became invested in Uncle Tom and his family while simultaneously feeling uncomfortable with how they are portrayed as one dimensional caricatures of human beings. Andrew Delbanco  has more clearly and eloquently put my conflicted feelings into words in his New York Times review of David S. Reynold’s “Mightier Than the Sword.” Delbanco writes:

In my experience, students can be embarrassed by it. They recognize it as a valuable document for understanding the history of what we now call the “conversation” about race in America. In response to the prevailing view of black people as inferior beings (a view long held in the North as well as the South), it lifted its black characters to the status of impossibly virtuous victims — just the elevation that James Baldwin felt was a kind of contempt. When Baldwin called Stowe less a novelist than an “impassioned pamphleteer,” he meant, in part, that her characters don’t seem capable of selfishness as well as self-sacrifice, or of pettiness and jealousy along with piety and wisdom. In short, they don’t seem human. Reynolds calls Baldwin’s a “blinkered critique,” though he concedes that Stowe trafficked in the clichés of “romantic racialism” while reminding us, fairly enough, that what now seems “like racial stereotyping” was “progressive” in her day.

So where does this leave me? I’m still conflicted. Let’s just say that while I appreciate the immensely important historical significance of this novel, I’m so glad that our society has come a long way from the language and portrayals of characters in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

What are your thoughts on Uncle Tom’s Cabin? How do you deal with books that give you mixed feelings like this? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith | Review

“Zadie Smith’s dazzling first novel plays out its bounding, vibrant course in a Jamaican hair salon in North London, an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square, an Irish poolroom turned immigrant café, a liberal public school, a sleek science institute. A winning debut in every respect, White Teeth marks the arrival of a wondrously talented writer who takes on the big themes —faith, race, gender, history, and culture— and triumphs.” {Goodreads}

Zadie Smith is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read for ages but just never got around to doing so…. until White Teeth popped up on this term’s required reading list. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. How often is it that a personal and academic TBR line up?! (I mean, mine tend to line up pretty frequently, but this was a special scenario.) I purposely decided to put this novel towards the end of my reading list as motivation to get through the rest as quickly as possible. (Do I motivate myself to read certain books by rewarding myself with the chance to read other books? Indeed.)

I was honestly shocked when I read Smith’s short bio in the back of the book and learned that White Teeth was her debut novel. I once read a review that described this novel as “Dickensian” in scope and grandeur, and to be honest that is probably the most accurate description I could offer. There is a sprawling cast of characters from a diverse array of countries, backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, religions, and generations. Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on all of the characters, Smith introduces entirely new families and groups of people into the mix. These characters are not introduced simply as a way to further the plot; rather, they bring out different sides of pre-existing characters as well as more depth in the story itself.

White Teeth explores countless fascinating topics that are relevant in our society today as well as in their earlier context of the novel. Fate or free will, the end of the world, experiments on animals, the role of women in society, dualities, how we view the past in the present, the concept of multiple truths– the list goes on and on and on. It’s incredible how much Smith was able to pack into these 448 pages and still have it be a coherent, cohesive novel in which all the pieces come together at the very end. It helps that Smith’s writing and storytelling abilities are remarkable, as shown in her ability to reveal that seemingly simple and obvious ideas are actually fascinatingly multifaceted:

“If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made.”

Unfortunately, the ending was the weakest point of the novel in my eyes. I was expecting an epic convergence of all of the characters culminating in some sort of jaw-dropping reveal; instead, there was a confusing jumble of events that I still don’t really understand fully. Part of me wonders if that is precisely the point: life is messy and doesn’t really make sense or live up to one’s expectations all of the time. But does that really make a lackluster conclusion to an otherwise fantastic novel worth it? Not really.

Overall, White Teeth has made me an avid Zadie Smith fan who is incredibly eager to read more of her work. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel (despite its rather disappointing ending) and I look forward to reading much more of her writing in the future. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who hasn’t read Zadie Smith before!

What are your thoughts on White Teeth? Which Zadie Smith novel should I read next? Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: WHAT HAPPENED by Hilary Clinton

This week’s Feminist Fridays feature edges into a topic that has the potential to be very controversial and divisive: politics. As I mentioned in my nonfiction TBR list for 2018, it was a goal of mine to read Hillary Clinton’s recent memoir What Happened, published on September 12, 2017. Well, consider this goal officially accomplished! Today I’d like to explore some of the ideas Hillary discusses in her book as well as the role of women in politics and leadership positions in general. However, before going further I’d like to say that this post does not revolve around where you fall on the political spectrum. I’m tackling these tough questions from the perspective of a woman rather than the view of a Democrat, Republic, etc. Personally, I feel as though gender inequality is an issue we should all be talking about regardless of our political views.

For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet. {Goodreads}

For the purpose of this post, I’d like to focus on Hillary’s discussion of experiences she’s had as a woman in politics and leadership positions in general. She wasn’t taken series as a woman attorney in the courtroom. She’s treated differently from male politicians, interrogated with different questions and scrutinized much more harshly for her appearances and tone of voice. She’s been criticized for her age when male counterparts are viewed as wise, mature, and experienced at the same age or older. The list goes on and on and on.

The specific example that surprised me the most was how people blamed her for not taking her husband’s last name. Apparently when her husband and former president Bill Clinton failed to be reelected as governor of Arkansas, some people said that it was because Hillary went as “Hillary Rodham” instead of “Hillary Clinton,” suggesting that she was not dedicated to her husband nor his career. This fascinating Washington Post article titled “The complicated history behind Hillary Clinton’s evolving name” explains that even though there was likely no connection whatsoever between her name and the outcome of the election, it certainly impacted how people perceived her in relation to her husband.

This was a partial bow to tradition — but also, in this sense, it was a political play. It was an attempt to disrupt the idea that she was an excessively ambitious woman or disinterested in the traditional role of the state’s first lady. Bill Clinton became governor again.

There’s almost no way to say what role Hillary Rodham Clinton’s name change played in that outcome. She never left her law firm (note: The Rose Law firm wasn’t able to tell us by deadline if and when Rodham became Rodham Clinton in that office). But, at the very least, maybe a few more culturally conservative Arkansas voters viewed her as caring and emotionally connected to her husband.

Personally, I think this is absurd. Why does it matter what her last name is? What possible relation could her last name have to her love, loyalty, or devotion to her husband? (After what Bill Clinton put his wife through *cough* adultery *cough* I think he should have been the one to change his last name.) Women should have the freedom to keep their last name if they choose. This should not just be a legal freedom as it is now but a cultural freedom as well. We need to rid our society of the negative stigma attached to women who keep their last names, and this is a perfect example of why.

What do we do with all of this information about gender inequality in politics? I don’t have an exact answer, but it was comforting to learn that Hillary doesn’t know for sure, either:

“I’m not sure how to solve all this. My gender is my gender. My voice is my voice. To quote Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet, under FDR, “The accusation that I’m a woman is incontrovertible.” Other women will run for President, and they will be women, and they will have women’s voices. Maybe that will be less unusual by then.”

I immensely enjoyed listening to the audio book of What Happened, which is narrated by Hillary herself. Not only does this book feel honest, authentic, genuine, and real, but it also humanizes Hillary in a way that the media has refused to do in recent years. What Happened is well written, carefully crafted, meticulously researched, and has clearly been created from a heartfelt place of insightfulness and reflection. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in current political events in the United States, women in politics, feminism in general, or who simply what’s another perspective on what in the world happened in the 2016 presidential election.

What are your thoughts on What Happened? How do you think feminist does or should fit into politics? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

WOMAN HOLLERING CREEK by Sandra Cisneros | Review

Woman Hollering Creek: And Other Stories explores life of women on both sides of the Mexico-USA border. Although mostly written in English, this short story collection does include bits and pieces of Spanish sprinkled throughout, which I really enjoyed as someone studying Spanish in college. It’s always fun to see how quickly your mind can go between multiple languages without you even realizing it in the moment (especially when you’ve been studying abroad for a while and haven’t had a chance to brush up on your Spanish in far too long…). However, I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely necessary to know Spanish in order to take away a decent amount from this collection. (Although you might be a little confused at times!)

One of my favorite things about this collection is that it mainly focuses on the lives of women from numerous generations. From kids and teenagers to middle-age mothers and beyond, there is something here that everyone will be able to relate to in some form. Here we see women struggling to balance traditional, stereotypical, restrictive expectations of girls and wives with their own desires, ambitions, and happiness. While many of these experiences may be specific to those living in the middle of Mexican and American cultures, Cisneros also taps into seemingly universal themes of love, childhood, motherhood, nostalgia, etc. I finished this book feeling both frustrated at the gender inequality still present in our society and empowered by the prospect of women rising up to where we know we can be.

Woman Hollering Creek also provides a fascinating and important exploration of the culture surrounding the border between Mexico and the USA. For instance, this frontera cultural is reflected in the use of language in the story “Mericans,” the title of which demonstrates the mix of both cultures that form the chicano/a identity. The kids in the story seem like Mexicans from the perspective of the American woman, yet they also speak English. When the American woman is surprised that the kids speak English, one of the boys says: “we’re Mericans.” The name of the identity that with which the kids identify is not exactly American or Mexican; rather, this name represents the border between these two cultures. It’s also an example of a misunderstanding or miscommunication between these two cultures between the kids in the story might believe that they should pronounce “Americans” without the first letter. In this way, the use of language in this story demonstrates the cultural border because the work “Mericans” is a combination of two languages that mix between the physical border as well as the different cultures in these two countries in general.

Overall, Woman Hollering Creek is an incredibly important book in a society that often incorrectly views cultures as contained, distinct, and unchangeable identities. Perhaps if more people read even one of these stories they would have a greater understanding and appreciation for what can happen when people from all nations and backgrounds come together. I would highly recommend this short story collection, regardless of whether or not your Spanish-speaking skills are up to par.

What are your thoughts on Woman Hollering Creek? Any recommendations for other writing by Sandra Cisneros or similar short story collections? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE HAMLET by William Faulkner | Review

The Hamlet (1940), the first novel in William Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy, tells the story of Flem Snopes’ rise to relative power and influence in Frenchman’s Bend. Yoknapatawpha County is the iconic backdrop to this slow burn of a novel, one that sets the stage for future books and stories to be written about the Snopes clan. The novel is narrated by V.K. Ratliff, creating a center to which the reader can always come back to when Faulkner’s rambling excursions stray too far from the path.

As you’ve probably noticed from my incessant discussion of Faulkner’s works on this blog, I am an avid Faulkner-file. There isn’t a specific order that I’ve read his works in, so over winter break I decided to read The Hamlet because it was one of the only books I hadn’t read yet in the Faulkner section of my local library. This novel has everything that I love about Faulkner– rambling prose, layered stories, a sprawling cast of characters, and rather haphazard plot points that somehow all make sense when put together. The Hamlet is divided into four sections, each one focusing on different characters but somehow still connecting back to Flem Snopes.

Faulkner certainly doesn’t shy away from unsettling and rather disturbing topics, particularly in this novel. One section focuses primarily on the sexual objectification of Eula Varner, a young teenage girl (around eleven to fourteen years old for much of this section) whose teacher tries to assault her. There is also domestic violence, murder, and even bestiality when Ike Snopes pursues a cow. These sections are not enjoyable to read, but they do say a lot about how Faulkner viewed the South at the time. It’s certainly not a place that I would have wanted to live in.

One of my favorite things about reading Faulkner novels is noticing how they all intertwine. For instance, one section of this novel was originally published as the short story “Spotted Horses” in 1931, which I had read over the summer as part of The Portable Faulkner, edited by Malcolm Cowley. Those horses are also mentioned as belonging to the Snopes family in Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying when Anne Bundren tries to trade for mules. While reading through Faulkner’s works one quickly realizes that they are an interconnected web of characters, places, and events.

Overall, The Hamlet is certainly not my favorite Faulkner novel but it was still enjoyable nonetheless. This novel isn’t something I’d necessarily recommend to someone who has never read Faulkner before, but it’s well worth reading if you’re looking for something besides his usual popular works (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, etc.). I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this trilogy!

What are your thoughts on The Hamlet? Do you have a favorite Faulkner novel? Let me know in the comments section below?

Yours,

HOLLY

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

Top Ten Tuesday: 2018 Bookish Resolutions

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

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

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

The main library at Mansfield College, Oxford.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year, everyone!!

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

Yours,

HOLLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours,

HOLLY