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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Halloween Creatures Book Tag

BOOO! Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you’re having a lovely day of spooky celebrations and plenty of candy corn to go around. Today I’d like to celebrate with this Halloween Creatures Book Tag. Thanks so much to Theresa @ The Calico Books for tagging me!

Witch: A magical character or book.

How could I not mention one of my favorite books? The Hobbit is magical in so many senses of the word, from setting and characters to the warm, fuzzy feeling it gives me whenever I return to its faded pages.

Werewolf: The perfect book to read at night.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte has always struck me as the ideal book to read under the covers on a dark, stormy night. Is it the eerie setting? Cruel Heathcliff? Bronte’s lyrical writing? Or a combination of them all?

Frankenstein: A book that truly shocked you.

The existence of this book shocked me. I had no idea that my favorite movie and Michael Crichton’s brilliant book Jurassic Park was inspired by The Lost World, a 1912 novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, until I found it in a bookstore one day in Oxford.

The Devil: A dark, evil character.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is filled with complicated, ambiguous, surprising characters who may be considered a hero one minute and evil the next. I love a great character twist!

Grim Reaper: A character that should never have died.

I think Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling goes without explanation for this prompt. So sad!

Zombie: A book that made you hungry for more.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was the book that made me eager to read more classic literature. What would I be reading nowadays if not for my favorite genre?

Gargoyle: A character that you would protect at all costs.

I’m going to say Jim Burden from My Ántonia by Willa Cather, one of my favorite novels. Ántonia could definitely hold her own, but I’m not so sure about poor Jim…

Vampire: A book that sucked the life out of you.

I really enjoyed reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, but it took a long, long time. A few summers ago I read about a section a week for two months or so–splitting it up over the course of a summer definitely helped!

Ghost: A book that still haunts you.

Beloved by Toni Morrison is one of the most striking, unsettling, powerful, haunting books I have ever read. It’s a novel that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

Demon: A book that really scared you.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is hilarious and witty while simultaneously terrifying. What if society goes in this direction? What does our future look like? Huxley offers a frightening example.

Skeleton: A character you have a bone to pick with.

Emma by Jane Austen was such a tedious book to read because I found so many of the characters annoying. I think it might be worth rereading someday, but for now I’m fine just watching Clueless. 

Mummy: A book you would preserve through time.

I have a strange attachment to Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis. I read it for an essay in my AP United States History class during my junior year of high school and I adored it.

Creepy Doll: A cover too scary to look at.

Even the spine of The Shining by Stephen King is creepy. I remember finishing this book while staying overnight in a lodge on a mountain in January… definitely fit the mood of the book!

YOU! Since Halloween is today, I’m not quite sure if anyone will want to do this tag. But if you’d like to, definitely go for it! Happy Halloween!!

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

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Quotes

Happy Tuesday!! I am so excited for today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic because it focuses on one of my favorite things: QUOTES. So many of my books are covered in highlighter and pen lines because I’m an avid annotator and marker of writing that really resonates with me. Here are just a few of the many quotes I’ve fallen in love with over the years:

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”

{Originally from poet Francois Rabelais, read in Looking for Alaska by John Green}

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

{Brave New World by Aldous Huxley}

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

{Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt}

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable…”

{Matilda by Roald Dahl}

“In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.”

{Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton}

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” 

{Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass}

“My mother is a fish.”

{As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner}

“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

{The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien}

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

{Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling}

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

{Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë}

What are your favorite book quotes? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2017

Happy Tuesday!! The end of 2017 is just around the corner (!!!), meaning it’s time to reflect on what I’ve read thus far this year. Today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme highlights the best books we’ve read in 2017, and fortunately I have plenty of fantastic texts to choose from. I’ve decided to limit my list to the books I read for the first time this year because there were many, many rereads thrown into the mix. Here are my favorite books of 2017 in the order that I read them:

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

From my review: I bought a copy of Milk and Honey on a whim because I had heard a lot of great things about it. What I didn’t realize was that Rupi’s words would resonate so deeply with me and linger on in my mind long after I had read them. These poems are for anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not you’ve read or enjoyed poetry in the past. Rupi Kaur has written poetry for human nature.

How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky

From my review: Reading this book felt like having the a random, hilarious, and well-spoken conversation with Watsky. How to Ruin Everything is definitely something I’ll be returning to in the future– for a laugh, for inspiration, and to be reminded that there’s nothing quite like the power of a good story.

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

From my review: I was enthralled by this novel. Everything about it captivated me from the very first sentence to the very last word. In fact, I was enjoying it so much that I marked all of my favorite passages with sticky notes, only to realize halfway through that I would have to take them all out when I was finished (it was a library book).

Sartoris by William Faulkner

From my review: When I first started reading Sartoris I was so confused by the many Johns and Bayards that I actually created a character web or family tree of sorts in an attempt to keep them all straight in my mind. However, I thought this would be a much larger hindrance than it ended up being in the long run because the characters became more defined as I became more invested in the story. In fact, the links between the characters– both linguistically with names and in terms of their relationships and personalities– soon became my favorite aspect of this novel. Faulkner uses the Sartoris family to ask a fascinating question: Are these events caused by the fate of the family or a logical cause-and-effect reaction? In other words, are these people responsible for their actions or have they already been destined (or doomed)?

Matilda by Roald Dahl

From my review: I really wish I had read this book when I was younger because I think Matilda’s character would have really resonated with me. Younger Holly would have been thrilled to read about a bookworm like myself who triumphed over obstacles against all odds. Matilda is such an important character for children to read about, both as a bookish hero as well as a strong, clever, independent female character.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

From my review: I enjoyed The Woman in White far more than I had initially expected to when I turned to the very first page. Collins’ meticulous attention to details and carefully developed characters make for an impressive, memorable, suspenseful, and thrilling story. I’m so thankful that this novel was on my required reading list for this term– sometimes they contain unexpected gems!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

From my review: As the facade fades away, the reader realizes that what appears to be a utopian world is actually a dystopian society masked in false promises and illusions. I love Brave New World for the way it makes you think about our own society and what we value in our lives today. It’s interesting to think about how this novel was first published in 1932 yet it’s still relevant almost a century later. To me, this endurance is the definition of a classic.

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

From my review: For me, the most challenging aspect of this novel was deciphering exactly what happened in the Sutpen family. Who married who? Who killed who? Who had children and who didn’t? Who is still alive? In what order did this all take place? These questions and many others remained at the forefront of my mind the entire time I was reading. There are so many characters, voices, and events– not to mention the fact that it’s not told in chronological order. It was fascinating and exciting to constantly learn new information; however, it also makes it much more confusing to read. I think this is a novel that would absolutely benefit from being reread in the future now that I have the basic plot in my mind.

Quiet by Susan Cain

Sneak peak of my upcoming review: Cain has done incredible work providing both introverts and extroverts with a guide as to the importance of being “quiet.” As an introvert, I constantly found myself nodding along with her ideas and examples, seeing myself accurately reflected in her words. If more teachers, employers, friends, and family members read Quiet, the world would be a brighter, more productive, less stress-inducing place for introverts everywhere.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

I haven’t yet posted my review of John Green’s most recent novel, but rest assured that I enjoyed it immensely. The representation of mental health issues is incredible and I became invested in the characters almost immediately. You know a novel is great when you find yourself still thinking about it days later!

What are your favorite books of 2017? What do you think of the books that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley | Review

Sometimes it seems as though certain books will never leave your TBR… until you finally force yourself to check them out of the library and read them in one sitting!

This was my situation with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, a classic novel set in London during the year 2540. I’ve been intrigued by the synopsis ever since reading George Orwell’s 1984 a few years ago, yet for some reason I never got around to reading it until recently. (Was it Watsky’s song “Brave New World” that finally pushed me to action? Perhaps.)

Brave New World surprised me with its witty humor and snark. Of course, it’s incredibly dark humor– children are treated as mere numbers and essentially brainwashed into conforming to societal norms– but there are certainly ridiculous parts that made me laugh out loud. It’s precisely these moments of laughter when I realized the brilliance of this novel: it makes you realize that some elements of Huxley’s fictional society are also present in our modern reality. Many of us would rather be entertained and distracted rather than face actual problems that must be solved. Sometimes we treat relationships as a means to our own pleasure rather than a mutual connection between two people. We crave comfort, familiarity, and ease while simultaneously yearning for something more. Above all, we avoid things that are uncomfortable, painful, and unpleasant.

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

Throughout the novel Huxley emphasizes the importance and value of hard work, perseverance, and taking chances. The argument is that when everything comes quickly and easy to everyone, the value of things, people, and ideas are soon lost.

“The Savage nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy.”

…”What you need,” the Savage went on, “is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.”

As the facade fades away, the reader realizes that what appears to be a utopian world is actually a dystopian society masked in false promises and illusions. I love Brave New World for the way it makes you think about our own society and what we value in our lives today. It’s interesting to think about how this novel was first published in 1932 yet it’s still relevant almost a century later. To me, this endurance is the definition of a classic.

My only regret is not having read this book sooner. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!

What are your thoughts on Brave New World? Have any recommendations of similar books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

SEPTEMBER 2017 | Wrap-Up

September was a blur. I nearly had to do a double take when I looked at a calendar the other day and realized that it was nearly October. Between preparing for Oxford, moving to Oxford, and living at Oxford, it feels as though this entire month has been one transition right after another. It’s a relief to finally be settled in and feel more comfortable in this amazing place. Here’s what I was up to in September:

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In September I read a total of 5 books:

  1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  2. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  3. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  4. Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner
  5. Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

As I Lay Dying is my favorite book that I read in September. This was my second time reading it and even though I first read it last summer I was still taken aback by the striking ending. What a brilliantly crafted novel!

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It’s official: I’M AT OXFORD. September was a whirlwind of transitions: not only to a new country and culture, but also to new friends, assignments, and routines. Though living in England has certainly taken some getting used to, I’m happily settled in now and can’t wait for my tutorials to finally begin. I’ve experienced so many new things in the past few weeks that I hardly have time to discuss them all.

A major goal that I’ve recently crossed off of my bucket list is going to LONDON. What a city! It felt like a blend of Boston and New York City, with some areas being more open and calm and other being more crowded and bustling. I was lucky enough to be able to many sites in one day: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tate Modern art gallery, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Though I had a blast visiting, I think it’s safe to say that I definitely prefer living in Oxford!

St. Paul’s Cathedral… almost too big to fit in one photo!

It’s absolutely incredible being able to live and study in a city that is as rich in history as Oxford. It still feels surreal when I walk into the Radcliffe Camera to casually study while everyone takes photos of it from behind the gate. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that extraordinary feeling!

I’ve been really fortunate to have made some great friends here already and I can’t wait for all the other students to get here so I can meet even more people. It’s strange to think that the term hasn’t even officially started even though I’ve already done so much!

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Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to blog since moving to Oxford. Though I’ve scheduled plenty of posts in advance for the next few months, less free time means less time to spend reading other posts, commenting on other blogs, and being active in the blogging community in general. Hopefully I’ll be able to work it into my schedule once I settle into a more regular routine.

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

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

How was your month of September? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Awards

Sunshine Blogger Award

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Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’re all having a wonderful day! I’m a little late with posting this (I was nominated in July) but better late than never, right? Thanks so much to the lovely Megan @ Tables of Content for nominating me! Definitely go check out her blog if you haven’t already. She’s so kind and her nomination made my day! ❤

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  • Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the eleven questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate eleven blogs to receive the award and write them eleven new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.

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William Shakespeare
Good ol’ Shakespeare.

1. What city/country would you like to travel to next? 

Fun fact: I’ve never traveled outside of the United States. I don’t even have a passport! However, I’m hoping to study abroad during my junior year of college in either England or Spain.

208940842. What book(s) are currently on your nightstand? 

Right now the only book on my nightstand is the one I’m currently reading: A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland. So far I’m absolutely loving it. It’s every literature lover’s dream!

3. What do you find most rewarding about blogging? 

For me, the most rewarding part of blogging is definitely talking with and getting to know others in this lovely bookish community. Whether it’s through blog comments, Twitter, or even email, I truly enjoy chatting with all of you!

4. Any advice to new bloggers? 

I’m certainly not a blogging expert by any stretch of the imagination, so I would love to know your answers to this question as well. At any rate, my blogging advice is simple: do it because you love it. Otherwise, it’s easy for blogging to feel like a chore at times. If you love it, though, then blogging becomes that much better!

5. What is the craziest/wildest/most adventurous trip or journey you’ve taken? 

I’m not the most adventurous person in the world, so I don’t have many wild stories to share. The most adventurous trips I’ve taken are probably the many hiking trips I’ve been on over the years. One time I camped in Baxter State Park in Maine and hiked a few mountains around there, and to this day it is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

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This train is accurately called the Knife’s Edge.

6. Three songs you always have on your travel playlist? 

Whenever I go on long road trips with my family, I inevitably end up listening to these three songs at some point: Ribs by Lorde, Anna Sun by Walk the Moon, and Hopeless Wanderer by Mumford & Sons.

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The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater7. What is one book you are secretly embarrassed you haven’t read yet? 

I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily embarrassed to not have read certain books, but there are definitely many that I need to read as soon as possible. A few that come to mind are The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. (But seriously, there are SO MANY MORE that I could list!)

8. Do you have or want any pets? 

DO I. Currently I have three days, which is the most my family has ever had at one time> Melody is a mutt who we adopted when I was in kindergarten, Abby is a miniature dachshund who is very nervous, and Eddie is a friendly chug (a chihuahua pug mix!) who we adopted this past April. Needless to say, my house is pretty crowded with furry friends!

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Eddie and I!

9. What are your favorite types of blog posts to write?

Even though I never manage to keep up with creating them, I think my favorite posts to write are book reviews. They take a while to finish but I feel so accomplished when I do. Also, I love seeing the response they get and learning about whether or not others had similar thoughts on that particular work. Book reviews are very rewarding posts (both personally and in terms of community engagement), which is why I love to write them.

10. Are you a planner or a spontaneous traveler?

I’m a planner when it comes to nearly everything, including traveling. I love to make schedules so I know well in advanced where we’re going and at what time. I also tend to do a lot of research about the place before I travel there, particularly regarding restaurants due to my nut allergy. It just makes the entire trip so much easier when you know where you’re going ahead of time.

11. Is the glass half full or half empty?

Sometimes I can be a bit of a pessimist (can’t we all?) but I’m going to say half full for this one because it’s what I try to remind myself every day. There are so many reasons to smile, even when you feel blue!

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I’ve decided to include the two themes of this award in my questions: blogging and sunshine!

  1. What’s your biggest source of motivation when it comes to blogging?
  2. What inspires you?
  3. Out of all of your posts, which one is your favorite?
  4. Do you stick to a blogging schedule or do you prefer to post spontaneously?
  5. How did you come up with your blog’s name?
  6. What’s one of your biggest blogging pet peeves?
  7. Any blogging advice?
  8. Do you prefer sunny or rainy days?
  9. Favorite pair of sunglasses?
  10. What’s your ideal way to spend a sunny summer day?
  11. Favorite song with “sun” in the title?

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I’m nominating 11 blogs that I recently followed. Definitely check these great blogs out!

  1. Olivia @ Heir of Glitter
  2. Ashleigh @ A Frolic Through Fiction
  3. Sarah @ Reviews & Read-a-Thons
  4. Ola @ Ola Reads Books
  5. Nagina @ Oh Bookish
  6. Alisha @ Alisha’s Words of Wonder
  7. Laura @ Life is a Book Blog
  8. Eliza @ Bookaholic
  9. Olivia @ Olivia Chanel
  10. Emmy @ Fictionaire
  11. Georgia @ Books & Other Miracles

Thanks again to Megan for nominating me!! ❤

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

Yours,

HOLLY