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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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Appreciated, Not Enjoyed

Happy Tuesday!! As per usual, I’ve decided to switch up this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme a bit (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl). The theme is supposed to be Books I Disliked/Hated but Am Really Glad I Read; however, I often find it hard to list many books that I really dislike because I tend to like most of the books I read. I say this all the time, but it might be more accurate to say that I end up either enjoying or appreciating most of the books I read. For me, there’s a big difference between genuinely finding pleasure in reading a book and appreciating it for various historical/cultural/textual reasons. I might appreciate a book’s writing style or historical significance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I had a great time reading it. Today I’m going to share ten books that I appreciated but didn’t enjoy reading. 

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

This novel is always a go-to answer for me when it comes to this dichotomy. I’ve read this book twice (once on my own, once for a college course) and I just really can’t get past Hemingway’s choppy, dull writing style. However, I do appreciate this novel for being interesting to study (what would we do without all of that bull symbolism?!).

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I’ve never properly studied Moby Dick in a classroom setting, but reading it on my own one summer was enough for me. While I appreciate it as an important work of literature, there’s just far too much information about whaling in this novel for me to genuinely enjoy reading it.

Basically anything by William Shakespeare

I’ve talked about my love-hate relationship with Shakespeare many times before on this blog, so I feel like this one goes without explanation. (Although if you want more clarification, you can read this post that I published a while back).

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

While I appreciate the historical significance of this novel in light of the Civil War and race relations in the United States, I couldn’t get past the stereotypical caricatures of slaves that this text promulgates. It might have been a step in the right direction back in the nineteenth century, but it certainly is a step in the wrong direction now. This is a case when historical context is definitely a huge factor when thinking about the work as a whole.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

In general, I am a big fan of Charles Dickens. His novel Great Expectations is one of the books that initially made me fall in love with reading classics and I love his witty, dramatic, creative writing style. While I appreciate Oliver Twist as a work by Dickens, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by how dark and sad this novel is. I’ll be the first to admit that this is entirely a personal preference– I just don’t enjoy reading really sad books!

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

There’s no denying that On the Road is an iconic text with an important literary influence in terms of the Beat and counterculture movements of postwar America. However, it’s frustrating to read something that seems to go on and on and on forever with little structure or direction. I understand that’s the point of the novel… but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it!

Dracula by Bram Stoker

While I admit that this novel is really fun to study and write about, reading it always feels like such a chore. Once you get past the initial iconic scenes in the creepy castle, the rest of the novel moves much too slowly for my taste. I feel like a good portion of the middle could definitely be cut out.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

To be fair, I don’t actually remember anything about this novel from when I read it many years ago. All I know is that in 2012 I rated it one out of five stars on Goodreads and all I wrote in my review is: “This was probably one of the worst books I have ever read.” Holly of the past was HARSH.

Basically anything by Stephen King

While I appreciate Stephen King for being a prolific writer of numerous creative, unique, meticulously crafted books, I just can’t get past his choppy, terse writing style. (Similar to how I feel about Hemingway… can you tell this is a trend?)

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

I feel as though I would really enjoy this book if I studied it in the proper historical/political context; however, when I read it a few years ago I couldn’t help but feel as though much of the satire and historical significance went right over my head.

What books have you appreciated but not necessarily enjoyed reading? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

WHY READ MOBY-DICK? by Nathaniel Philbrick | Review

One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick’s enlightening and entertaining tour through Melville’s classic. As he did in his National Book Award–winning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailor’s eye and an adventurer’s passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters—finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. An ideal match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? will start conversations, inspire arguments, and make a powerful case that this classic tale waits to be discovered anew. {Goodreads}

After reading Herman Melville’s classic novel Herman Melville several years ago, I asked often asked myself the very same question that Nathaniel Philbrick poses in the title of his book, Why Read Moby-Dick?As you can clearly tell from my disappointed review way back in 2014, I was not at all impressed with what I had been told was a must-read classic novel. I as excited to read it after having read the young adult novel Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard, which references this whale tale a great deal. I couldn’t get past how incredibly dull Moby Dick seemed, which surprised me because I’m usually the kind of person who loves classics that people often think are boring. With that being said, I was ready to let Nathanial Philbrick convince me otherwise not that several years had passed since my initial encounter with Ishmael.

Of course, now I must answer the glaring question that awaits us: Has this book convinced me to read Moby Dick again? Perhaps. Whether or not I decide to read it again at some point in the not-so-near future, I will say that Philbrick has given me a much greater appreciation for this classic novel. Philbrick has a knack for uncovering meaning behind scenes, quotations, and even characters that I would otherwise have simply glossed over as rather insignificant. It’s also inspiring and motivating to see someone so enthusiastic about a work of literature, particularly one considered to be a renowned classic. As someone who generally adores reading and discussing classics, it’s refreshing to read something by someone who feels the same way. Philbrick dissects the novel in a manner that makes it so much more interesting than actually reading the book itself:

“To be in the presence of a great leader is to know a blighted soul who has managed to make the darkness work for him. Ishmael says it best: “For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but a disease.” In chapter 36, “The Quarter-Deck,” Melville show us how susceptible we ordinary people are to the seductive power of a great and demented man.”

However, I will say that I’m not sure how enjoyable Why Read Moby-Dick? would actually be if someone hadn’t read Moby Dick before. I think you have to be at least a little interested in the classic to begin with if you’re going to enjoy Nathaniel Philbrick’s book. What you see is what you get: there’s no getting around the fact that it’s literally a book about a book about whaling, so there shouldn’t be many surprises there.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to the audio book of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Why Read Moby-Dick? and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in Herman Melville’s classic novel.

What are your thoughts on Nathaniel Philbrick’s book or Moby Dick in general? Would you ever read this rather polarizing classic? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had A Faster Pace

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Happy Tuesday!! Have you ever wished that a story would pick up the speed just a little bit? (Or maybe a lot?) If so, you’re not alone! In this week’s installment of Top Ten Tuesday I’m sharing ten books that I wish had a faster pace. While I do love slow-burning novels driven by character development, it can never hurt to have an exciting plot to keep readers on their toes!

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Do you ever wish that certain books were more fast-paced? What do you think of the books on my list? Any recommendations for fast-paced books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Quotes

QUOTE: Moby Dick

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”  ~ Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Even though I thought Moby Dick was an incredibly dull novel, it nevertheless had several great quotable lines.

What quotes have you discovered recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: MOBY DICK

moby dick coverAuthor: Herman Melville

Number of Pages: 625

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Release Date: 1851

“No American masterpiece casts quite as awesome a shadow as Melville’s monumental Moby Dick.  Mad Captain Ahab’s quest for the White Whale is a timeless epic–a stirring tragedy of vengeance and obsession, a searing parable about humanity lost in a universe of moral ambiguity.  It is the greatest sea story ever told.  Far ahead of its own time, Moby Dick was largely misunderstood and unappreciated by Melville’s contemporaries.  Today, however, it is indisputably a classic.”

– Goodreads.com

Boy, was this book a struggle.

I first started reading it towards the end of last summer, but I only got around seventy pages into it before putting it down. School was starting and I just couldn’t see myself finishing it among all the work I had to do. Now, after nearly ten months, I finally decided to give it a go once more. Unfortunately, as soon as I began reading it again it quickly became apparent why I put it down in the first place.

This book is just so incredibly dull.

I knew that it would be a bit challenging to read due to the old language and the use of the vernacular of the setting. However, I was not anticipating the immense lack of plot. It seemed like after the first hundred pages or so, nothing hugely significant happened until the very end. Once Ishmael and Queequeg were aboard the Pequod and Captain Ahab was introduced the action slowed down to a snail’s pace. They met other ships as they sailed around searching for Moby Dick, and that was about it. I did enjoy the few fast-paced parts, but otherwise this novel was not very engaging or entertaining.

As I was reading I realized that Moby Dick felt more like a book about the history of whaling rather than an actual narrative. The crew would do something aboard the Pequod, and then the next chapter would dissect the history and significance of that activity, technique, tool, etc. Some of these chapters were vaguely interesting, but most of them were overwhelmingly detailed and felt irrelevant to the story itself. Herman Melville includes every minute detail in his writing, and after a while it can get quite tiresome to read.

To be honest, I thought this book was very boring and dull. I appreciate its historical importance, use of symbolism, and the fact that it’s a classic, but the story just was not enjoyable to me. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to reading books that are more action-packed and fast-paced. Or maybe the abundance of specifics was too much. Whatever the reason, it’s safe to say that Moby Dick has not made it onto my list of favorite classics.

My Rating: :0) :0) 2 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: No, not unless they were trying to read all of the classics or something like that. I definitely would not recommend this as a fun, leisurely read.

Have you ever read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

 

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays: June 18th

WWW WednesdaysWWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading that asks three questions:

What are you currently reading???

Right now I am reading The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. I’m about half way through it and so far I am really enjoying it! I know it’s technically on my Summer TBR list, but I just couldn’t resist reading it a bit early.

What did you recently finish reading???

This past week I FINALLY finished reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I’m going to be honest: I wasn’t so thrilled with this one. More on that in an upcoming review!

What do you think you’ll read next???

The next book I’m definitely going to read is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This book was assigned to me as summer reading homework for the AP English class I’m starting in the fall.

What are your answers to these questions? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

top ten tuesday: books on my summer TBR list

Top Ten Tuesday

It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday, everyone! This weekly meme is hosted by the lovely blog the Broke and the Bookish. The topic for this week is Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List.

For this list I chose books that have been on my bookshelf at home for quite some time. I have so many books that I haven’t read yet, and they just keep accumulating and piling up everywhere. In an effort to try to decrease the amount of unread books I own, I’ve challenged myself to read all ten of these this summer:

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  1. The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi.
  2. Play Dead by Harlan Coben.
  3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. 
  4. The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going.
  5. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour.
  6. Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card. 
  7. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. 
  8. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 
  9. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. 
  10. 1776 by David McCullough.

Along with these books I will be reading anything else that comes along that looks interesting, as well as any assigned reading I have for school.

What books are on your summer TBR list? Have you read any of the ones on my list? What did you think of them?

Yours,

HOLLY

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays: June 11th

WWW WednesdaysWWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading that asks three questions:

What are you currently reading???

Right now I am reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Technically this is on my summer TBR list, but I figured that it would be a big help to get a bit of a head start on it since it’s a pretty dense book.

What did you recently finish reading???

This week I finished reading Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (which I had a lot of mixed feelings about) and The Book Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler (which I really enjoyed). Reviews of both will be coming soon!

What do you think you’ll read next???

Next I’ll probably dive into my summer TBR pile, which will be featured in next week’s Top Ten Tuesday post!

What are your answers to these questions? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

More books!

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Recently I went to my local used bookstore and I came home with this stack of goodies!

The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti

1776 by David McCullough

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The middle two are for my AP US History class, and I was really excited about finding them. Ever since reading Paper Covers Rock  (see my review of it by clicking here) I’ve wanted to read Moby Dick, so I decided to get it.

Have you read any of these books? If so, did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

Yours,

HOLLY