Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2018

Happy New Year!! I know this was technically last week’s topic, but shhh! I’m going to do it anyways because I didn’t get a chance to do it yet. I ended up reading way more books than I expected to in 2018, so picking just ten was actually pretty difficult. In the order that I read them, they are:

1. Girl Up by Laura Bates

This is one of the first books I read in 2018 and I can’t think of a better way to start a reading year off right. Although I think this book is technically geared toward young women in their teens, I think it is an important and valuable read for women at any age. In addition to the witty, intelligent writing in this book, the graphics are also fantastic in and of themselves.

2. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

I distinctly remember listening to Hillary narrate the audio book version of What Happened and I’ve found myself thinking about it frequently since then, even all these months later. Politics aside, Hillary offers some fascinating food for thought regarding being a woman in  the professional work sphere as well as what it’s like to suddenly have your private life become a public spectacle.

3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Another great audio book listen of 2018! Although it took a while to get through, I really enjoyed reading story that sparked the amazing musical that I was lucky enough to see performed on the West End while in London. It’s always interesting to note the differences between page and performance; however, I think experiencing both in this case gave me a greater appreciation for each!

4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

After taking an entire term solely on Virginia Woolf while at Oxford, I think A Room of One’s Own is the one that has made me think the most. So many aspects of this book are still applicable today–or at least the sentiment behind her words is still relevant today–and I found solace in the fact that even one of the most brilliant minds I have ever read something by struggled with these sorts of issues.

5. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

This novel was everywhere in 2018, and for good reason: it is beautiful, lyrical, and captivatingly emotional. I remember visiting several bookshops in Amsterdam over my spring break and being overjoyed to see displays of this novel in many of them. Something about its story is so universally human.

6. Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera

Ahh, the novel that sparked my honors thesis! I feel such gratitude towards this novel for making me think about literature, feminism, and individual independence in ways that I never had before. If you want a challenging, eye-opening, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking read then I highly, highly recommend picking this one up!

7. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nervous Conditions is another vital novel in terms of my honors thesis and such a formative reading experience regarding thinking about the importance of multiplicity in stories and experiences. Learning that this novel is actually the first in a trilogy written over the course of decades was just icing on the cake!

8. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Jurassic Park has been one of my favorite movies and books for a long time, so you can imagine how surprised and ecstatic I was when I stumbled upon this novel in the Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. I had had no idea that the modern story was inspired by this early novel–and what a novel it is!

9. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I read this essay at a time when its message was exactly what I needed to hear. I love how bold, direct, assertive, and confident Adichie is in this text. I think I’d even go so far as to say that it’s one of the most empowering things I have ever read.

10. The Human Stain by Philip Roth

Surprising to see a Roth book on this list after how much I complained about my Philip Roth senior seminar this semester? Honestly, so am I. I came to appreciate Roth as a writer, and the way he writes about identity in this novel really made me think.

What are the top ten books you read in 2019? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best 10 of 2018 {So Far}

Happy Tuesday!! Can you believe that we’re already over half way through 2018 already?! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share the best 10 books we’ve read so far in 2018. I’ve already read far more than I expected to this year–mostly due to my sprawling required reading lists at Oxford–so I have plenty of books to choose from. Picking only ten won’t be easy!

Here’s to another six months of lovely reading days and great books! ❤

What are the best books you’ve read so far this year? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Character Names {For Plants}

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is supposed to be Best Character Names; however, as per usual I’ve decided to put my own spin on it. A few years ago I made a Top Ten Tuesday list of Characters I’d Name My Plants After, which was a blast. Today I’d like to do a similar list along those lines, so I’ll be sharing ten character names for plants. {Shout out to my plants back at home in the States– hope you’re still alive on my window sill!}

What are some of your favorite character names (for plants or otherwise)? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo | Review

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart. {Goodreads}

Until a few months ago, all I knew about Les Misérables was that it was a huge book, a long movie/musical, and involved someone going to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Suffice it to say that this lack of information has been remedied. After watching the 2012 film adaptation and repeatedly listening to the soundtrack for weeks on end, I finally decided to go the extra mile and read the 1463-page Victor Hugo novel on which the musical is based.

When I told my friends that I was reading this book they looked at me as though I had suddenly sprouted glittery fairy wings out of my shoulder blades. What on earth was I thinking? Why would I dedicate so much time to reading a novel when I already knew the basic plot from the musical? But that was precisely the point: surely the musical couldn’t be exactly like the novel itself. Curious to see the differences between these works, I plugged in my headphones and plunged into the audiobook.

This brings me to my next point: I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Les Mis if the idea of flipping through over a thousand pages of text makes you want to run and hide. Not only are there some great vocal performers reading the novel, but it also allows you to still read while doing other things (laundry, cooking, walking, etc.). What at first seems like a formidable tome that will never be finished suddenly becomes much more manageable as a 10+ hour audiobook.

The novel itself is brilliant. It possesses all of the qualities I love in literature: beautiful writing that makes you relish every word, characters that seem like people you’ve known for years, action that makes you want to keep reading even when you know you should’ve gone to sleep a long time ago, and perspectives on life that you had never fully considered before. This novel surprised me in countless ways, from its unexpected poignancy and wit to way it focused much more on the story of Jean Valjean than did the film or musical. We weren’t introduced to a wider cast of characters until about halfway through the novel, which I actually preferred. Rather than rush through the back story of arguably the most important character in the story, Hugo properly develops Valjean’s personality and past before building upon it in the rest of the novel as other characters come into play.

Is this book over-the-top at times? Yes. Is it sometimes cheesy, cliché, and unrealistic? Yes again. However, Hugo also makes important points about poverty, growing up, justice, truth, and rebellion. This novel may be set centuries in the past, but it nevertheless remains relevant in our society today.

Overall, I am so glad I decided to take the leap and read this massive novel. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the musical or simply interested in literature from the nineteenth century. Besides, what better way is there to fuel your love for the musical than by reading the novel on which it is based?

What are your thoughts on this novel or musical? Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY