Tag Archives: reader

Digging Deeper or Branching Out: What Are You Reading?

So I used to be unable to say who my favorite author was. To be honest, I still don’t know that I’d have a straight answer. But my main issue was this: I rarely read more than one book by the same issue.

What? How could that be?

I guess my problem is I’m always so eager for new and different content that I tend to just run to another author instead of checking the library catalogue to see what else that single author has written.

But in the last two years I’ve finished all the novels by two different women. And it made me start to think more about this reading dilemma. Is it better to branch out to new things, or to dig deeper into an author’s works to get a better understanding?

My college required us to take two “advanced studies” literature classes. These involved honing in on an author of my professor’s choosing. For my British literature professor it was C.S. Lewis. For my American one it was a slightly less well known historical fiction author named Denise Giardina.

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The thing was, I’d not only never had the chance to really dig deep into an author’s works on my own time, but I had never done it in a class either. Most of my professors had us read a dozen texts over a semester, spending a maximum of a week with each author. So to have the time to really sink into someone’s works and study them was incredible.

It gave a better feeling of the author as a whole. We noticed Lewis’s incredible metaphors, his regular and saddening misogyny, his clear influence from George MacDonald, Tolkien, and others. With Giardina we noted her themes of universal salvation, the regular brokenness between fathers and children, the continual concern for the earth and the animals.

Recently I finished reading all of Rainbow Rowell’s novels (though not her short stories yet). I’m not trying to put her on the same level as my literature classes. But I do really enjoy her works. And it was very wonderful to think by the end how much more I noticed repetition and variation between the books. Even with a teen fiction writer like Rowell, I think reading more than one book of hers has made me better away of her writing. Her simple yet humorous style. Her concern for body positivity. Her regular theme of choices and how those affect us.

The reality is I think we need to do a little of both. There are some people who just sit and read one author’s works, or maybe a couple they  rotate through. And then there are others who never touch the same author twice.

I think it’s good to have a mix. Have authors you can delve a little deeper into and understand more about their writing individually. And have other books that are a little more out of the blue. I think nothing is more important for a reader, and especially for a writer, than to absorb a variety, but maybe not at the cost of losing any sense of roots.

Do you stick with one author? Do you branch out? Do you have any authors you’ve read multiple works by? Have you ever taken a class devoted to just one writer? Any other thoughts are great too, but there are a few to get you started!

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Book Challenge 17: A Book That Will Make You Smarter

So for this challenge I took it as a nonfiction book. Obviously, I believe reading in general makes you smarter, but for this challenge that seemed the most likely way to fulfill it.

So as you can see I read the National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herb: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants by Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Theraona Low Dog, and David Kiefer.

So what made me want to sit down and read a book on plants for fun? Is it because my friends like to joke that I’m Neville Longbottom? Is it because I wanted something to put myself to sleep? Is it because I’m missing school so much I have to read boring books to compensate?

Some of all of those are true, but mostly it’s the fact that my family has an herb garden, and that I know nothing about those herbs beyond how they might season dishes. I was well aware before beginning this book that herbs do often have medicinal effects, and also aware it is a controversial matter medicinally, so I thought I’d get a good scientific book on these amazing plants so I could learn more about the science behind them.

My family herb garden!

My family herb garden!

And I definitely learned a lot and feel smarter after reading that. I now know that the ancient Greeks thought Parsley was sacred to the dead and that picking it would bring disaster. I know that the first licorice candy was made in 1760. I learned that Calendula was used by Civil War soldiers to staunch bleeding and does in fact help with wounds. I now know that in 1945 there were Ginkgo trees in Hiroshima that survived the blast.

Anyhow, my mind is full of random trivia now, and I know a lot more about what those little plants growing in the back of my house actually do. So I really did appreciate this challenge in teaching me more about different things in the word.

As to my thoughts on the actual book, I’d have to say even though it’s nonfiction it’s a pretty incredible resource. The book was divided into very logical sections, putting plants into the areas of health they are most effective for, and then it gave each plant four pages.

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One page has a beautiful typical National Geographic photo. The next has a section about the history of the usage of the plant including a handy timeline with some interesting facts. The third page has some information on the different species and variety of that typical plant, it’s growing habits, how to grow it yourself (if possible in your region) and harvest. The fourth page includes its therapeutic uses, a home recipe, some medical studies done on the plant, the various ways it can be consumed, and some precautions (which I thought was great).

Overall, I thought the book did a good job of breaking down information in a logical and visually pleasing way. I found it easy to read, in spite of its content, and loved the gorgeous pictures. I also appreciated the fact that it did include some scientific studies rather than just folklore on the plant in general, and I loved the thorough warnings for each herb, especially some that highly recommended consulting a physician before consuming.

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So, many of you are probably wondering…what are you taking away from this book? Well, knowledge of course. Being smarter. But I will probably be doing a few tests with a few of the less dangerous herbs. So far the only I’ve actually made an effort with is using some lemon balm and mint leaves to try to promote sleep and relaxation. I’ve started adding them to some premixed chamomile packets and so far I’ve found it pretty good for my sleep.

I think the only other remedies I’m really eager to try are some of the recipes for more normal fruit like grapes or pomegranate. The main thing is that I’m being cautious and recognizing that while knowledge of these plants is good, I may still not be well versed enough in them to know if consuming them regularly is actually going to be beneficial. So for now I’m being quite cautious with my new knowledge, as I think most people should be.

Have you done any nonfiction reading lately? Anyone have some good book recommendations for this challenge? What do you find most important in a nonfiction read? Any other thoughts on this challenge?

Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Other challenges I’ve completed:

1 A book I own but haven’t read

2 A book that was made into a movie

5 A book published this year

9 A book with a color in the title

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Twenty-Five Favorite Books

The final installment of my favorites series! You can find my children’s recommendations, my teen recommendations, and finally my “adult” books here on my blog!

I will admit my “adult” selection is lacking, as I have spent most of my older years balancing my time between classes and other more important pursuits. However, here are some books I’d include on that list, many of which were reads for my courses, but nonetheless enjoyable. They are in no particular order. Enjoy!

Room  Room by Emma Donoghue- One of the newest additions to my favorites list! A fantastic story from the point of view of a five year old who’s been confined to one room for most of his life. His story is heart warming, suspenseful, funny, and compelling.

The Marriage Plot  The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides- A random paperback find in France (that was in English) at the thrift store. Nonetheless I found the “plot” interesting and appreciated the themes as an English major myself. A bit depressing, if you think this is romance be prepared it’s nothing so fluffy as the title might suggest.

The Handmaid's Tale   The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- A fantastic work of distopian fiction with a very unique storyline. Fascinating and dark and awful in its own way. I would recommend reading a description before jumping in. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book.

A Lesson Before Dying  A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines- A great book that poses many interesting questions. I recommended it to my host mom in France when she said she didn’t know of any books that taught you about getting ready to die and how important she thought that is. Well, guess what, here’s one! A great story that definitely caused me to shed a tear or two.

To Kill a Mockingbird  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee– Oh goodness, where to even begin. A beautiful story with fantastic characters. Just read it if you haven’t.

A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion, #1)  A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers- I used to read a lot of Christian fiction, and most of it is pretty bad (in terms of writing anyways), but I liked these pretty well back in the day. I felt compelled to include at least one book of this genre that I liked, since it was so meaningful to me a few years ago. This one is historical fiction as well, set in the days of the Roman empire following a Jewish slave girl, a Germanic gladiator, and a Roman family (and others I think too). Interesting read.

Complete Works of William Shakespeare  Merchant of Venice, King LearRichard III, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare- Sorry, I couldn’t choose just one favorite Shakespeare play (and yes I know these aren’t technically “books” in the sense of novels, but they are good literary works). Anyhow, I love Shakespeare too much to choose one. So here are a few of different genres.

Till We Have Faces  Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis– Alright, I grew up being taught to love C.S. Lewis. And yes, I have some problems with his work now as an adult, between racism and misogyny and lovely things of that nature. However, this remains one of my favorite books of his, and I really enjoyed it at the time. To fellow students at my university: YES I liked Gary’s C.S. Lewis class ok! Sorry if that’s an unpopular opinion, but I did.

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)  The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien- Long. Ridiculously long. Some people just cannot work past Tolkien’s long prose, but I loved every bit of these books and devoured them as a twelve year old. Part of that had to do with love of the movies, but even as long as the films are, they don’t capture all of Tolkien’s genius. Great books for anyone who loves epic adventure stories of course!

Thérèse Desqueyroux  Thérèse Desqueyroux by François Mauriac- I have to include some French books here as well. My teacher told me it was too hard for me, and I read it anyways. And I will admit I didn’t understand as much as I wanted to. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting story. There are English translations if you want to look for one. It’s a story about a woman who tries to murder her husband and her difficult life. I really enjoyed the parts I understood and will maybe pursue reading it in my own language sometime soon.
The Silver Linings Playbook  The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick- Ok, no lies, I only read this because of the movie. However, I found that the book was very different, and I enjoyed certain elements of it more than the film. If you haven’t watched the movie, read the book first because otherwise some of the cool plot twists will be ruined. Nonetheless, a thought-provoking and interesting story. Read the book for deeper more depressing thoughts, and watch the film for some great laughs. Definitely two different tones at least in my opinion. 
The Joy Luck Club  The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan-  This novel is so fantastic! You’ll need to find a way to keep track of the eight main characters, but the stories are so incredible and moving! One of my favorite books of all time.Frankenstein  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley- So, if you’re picturing a green creepy monster chasing people around with his arms outstretched grunting, go watch the disgusting Hollywood films. If you instead want a fascinating story about a scientist who creates human life from the dead and then faces horrible depressing consequences as a result, read on! The book is nothing like all of the movies out there (usually).
The Hiding Place  The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom-  I read this the same year I visited a concentration camp, and it completely changed my life. Though this is a true story of the Holocaust, it was nowhere near as depressing as many of the accounts I read. Many of those were unbearable for me, I couldn’t process the horror of what I was reading. And though this story is still tragic, it contains a sense of hope that is so important to maintain even in the darkest days.Oliver Twist  Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens- I also love A Tale of Two Cities and Hard Times, but this remains my favorite Dickens’s novel. His works contain such fantastic characters, such wonderful and intriguing stories. Read this and follow poor little Oliver through his various misadventures and enjoy the mystery Dickens creates.

Jane Eyre  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë- This novel is one of my most beloved reads. The story is so enchanting, and Jane is a fabulous and unique character! I like the Gothic tradition surrounding this novel and the twists that gives the story. I will never fail to coo over Jane and Rochester, even though I have been dubbed a bad feminist for doing so.

Cyrano de Bergerac   Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand- Maybe I should have made a section for plays too! This is another favorite of mine, a tragic yet beautiful love story of a man who is ugly yet intelligent, incapable of wooing the love of his life because of his ridiculously long nose. The beautiful language and witty prose are all wonderful, and I always feel like crying whenever I watch the film adaption.

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale   Moby Dick by Herman Melville- I did say I mostly chose books I’d read in class right? Sorry for the influx of canon novels onto the list, but this book is too good to pass up on including. It’s an amazing story and Captain Ahab is one of the most fascinating literary characters ever invented. The story is hilarious in certain elements, and dark in others. It’s again, very long, but well worth the read.

Their Eyes Were Watching God  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston– This book is very sad, but I nonetheless loved the writing and found the story interesting. I also wrote a feminist paper on this book and can’t help but admire the messages I think Hurston is portraying. Salima, if you’re reading this… I’m sorry.

The Help  The Help by Katheryn Stockett-

This is a wonderful book, again my inspiration to read it was from the equally amazing movie. This one follows pretty closely but still offers some unique perspective on pages it can’t in film. I find Skeeter somewhat relatable and wish I had her courage.

The Princess Bride The Princess Bride by William Goldman- A book version of the hilarious movie? Inconceivable! Yes, indeed, there is a book version of this classic film, filled with the same hilarity and overly dramatic shenanigans though it remains remarkably different. And yet it still contains the classic true love story, pirates, the Fire Swamp, fantastic sword fights, the Pit of Despair, magic, all your favorite characters, and of course…there’s kissing in this book. So go ahead and read, because really true love is the greatest thing in the world–except maybe for a really good MLT (Mutton Lettuce and Tomato). Also, no worries if the book says “abridged” on it, that worried me the first time too but trust me you won’t find a “full” edition anywhere. Just read it and you’ll understand.

That’s that. Any good books you’d like to tell me about? (to those who’ve commented on the others, don’t worry I won’t be offended if you skip this one)

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Reading Challenges: To Do or Not?

I ran across this fantastic reading challenge on Pinterest:

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And it made me instantly want to start working on the challenge. These last few months I’ve been using a writing challenge to help me stay motivated on writing. Thanks to the help from that, I’ve written more than 20,000 words on my novel, kept up on weekly blog posts, written a few short stories (or attempts really), and done much more. Challenges are great motivation, and if I wasn’t an insanely busy student maybe I would start trying to do this.

I think what I mostly liked was the uniqueness of this challenge. It’s not a classics list or a list of teen fiction or anything of that sort. It can include books you enjoy, genres you like best. I think the adaptability of this challenge is great, because it keeps with the main point of trying to keep reading regularly to be a better writer, to be a better person. A writer can always use further inspiration, better examples of fiction. And a person can always use life inspiration and a little bit of fiction or nonfiction to brighten his or her day.

My goal this year is 40 books with 13 done so far! So considering I’ll need at least 26 more books maybe I’m going to try this one if I won’t go too crazy doing so. Anyone else have a goal this year? Anyone else want to join me on trying this challenge?

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Top 10 Favorite Literary Characters

I was tagged on twitter to blog on this, so here I go, trying to narrow down my favorite literary characters out of all the books in existence.

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling– yes, she comes as one of my first because I loved her so much as a young girl. I remember as the class nerd I felt comfort in smart Hermione. I cried with her at Ron’s rudeness, I laughed with her at the boys’ illogical behavior, I rooted for her to win all throughout. Such an inspiring female character.

Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis– Well, following along those lines I can never forget my Narnia heroine. Although I liked Peter better as I read them later (older sibling problems), I still couldn’t help but admire Lucy’s faith and bravery, her belief in Aslan even in the hardest times.

Nancy Sykes from The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens- Oliver Twist is one of my favorite novels of all time, and there are so many fantastic characters in Dickens. He creates such masterpieces, so funny and random and inspiring. But I always liked Nancy and her tragic story, her amazing heroic role in spite of her immoral living situation. Had to include a Dicken’s character, that’s the main thing.

Richard III from Richard III by William Shakespeare– this seems funny after my other very noble heroes to start with, but between him and Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare really does a fantastic job creating some remarkable villains. Sure, he’s pretty much a flat character in some rights, completely evil almost just for the sake of being evil, but he is a puzzling and remarkable character and Shakespeare portrays him so stunningly. Even as a Ricardian, I like this play simply for the genius of the Bard’s storytelling.

Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-  Jane speaks to me so wonderfully. She is plain and small, poor and defenseless, and yet she remains strong and smart, passionate and talented, even in the face of all her trials. I admire her so much and never tire of reading her story.

Cyrano de Bergerac from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand- He’s so brave, intelligent, poetic in spite of his obvious insecurities about his outward appearance. I love this story so much, but mostly I love listening to Cyrano woo his lady, or even better, insult a challenger who dares to mock his hideous nose. Such a wonderful story with a fantastic main character.

The Monster from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley– This character is so utterly complex, amazingly tragic in his own story (not the horrible creations of Hollywood that have destroyed him). The monster is a character to whom I’m oddly sympathetic. He is rejected by the one who made him, turned away by all who meet him. I love the complexity Shelley managed to give him, and cry over the fact that he’s somehow been reduced to a grunting green thing that has no personality.

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee– Such a brave and inspiring man, and yet also just a loveable father figure. I know one of my earliest essays I was very proud of proclaimed Atticus as a true hero to his story.

Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien– I think I mostly picked him since he bridges Tolkien’s The Hobbit with this series. Nonetheless, I’ve always loved Gandalf. I think I love him most dragging Bilbo out his door, but his little bits and pieces of wisdom are also very inspiring.

Jack from Room by Emma Donoghue– Mostly I’m running out of characters I know I love, but I read this story over Christmas break and liked Jack’s unique take on the world. He’s funny and clever for his young age, somehow possesses wisdom alongside his lack of understanding. His story made me cry, cringe, laugh, and wonder.

So there, 10 characters I’ve liked or loved or at least been able to put onto a list. Voila, there you have it!

What characters do you love and why? What do you think are the main qualities you like in a character? Do you have any villains you particularly enjoyed in spite of all his or her badness?

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Ok Really- In Defense of Reading

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I jokingly posted a funny video about how reading is important earlier this week. However, I figured I might as well share a little bit about reading more seriously, just because it is something I am passionate about.

I’m an English major. So I’m constantly reading. But even in those parameters I try to branch out and read for pleasure too, not just to try to absorb information as quickly as possible.

This week, for example, I managed to continue reading one of my new favorite book series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the third book in The Raven Cycle. But how did I manage that? Well, I’ll get down to that with a few easy tips on managing to get some reading time in.

1. Read what you like- if I was trying to make myself read a classic book, or something of a higher caliber, it never would have happened this week. I probably would have read a page or two and given up to go back to my Criminal Minds marathon. So reading an easy teen fiction fantasy book was a good choice.

2. Find a time that works and stick with it!– one of the best ways to keep reading is to get in the habit. For me it’s become a good pre-bedtime activity, helps me calm down and relax before I go to sleep better than television does. If I’m really interested in the book though, I like reading at the breakfast table while having my cereal and coffee.

3. Audiobooks– audiobooks are fantastic inventions I highly recommend. I love using them at the gym, or when cooking, or when driving. I survived my Shakespeare class last semester by listening to the plays usually while playing games on computer or phone, or even while drawing or coloring. It makes for a nice change of pace and gets that same literary joy in.

4. Every bit counts– Even a few minutes a day is a great start, especially if you’re a busy person like me. Take stock of small bits of reading too.

5. Libraries are magical places– use libraries to your advantage. Ask for recommendations from librarians, or do online searches. Seriously, go to the library. Maybe make it a weekly occurrence if you can, or biweekly, or monthly depending on your reading speed.

6. Reward yourself– Maybe a good way to do it is say you have to read twenty pages before you open your computer for the day. Maybe you want to use reading as a check on the to do list before you allow yourself to get distracted. Find methods that work for you.

7. Reward in itself– If you are starting to really enjoy reading for fun (which hopefully if you’re finding the right types of books and spending time regularly pursuing that you should!), then I recommend using books as a bit of a reward in themselves. I personally motivate myself to get homework done by saying after it’s finished I can watch an episode of TV, but lately it’s started being a reward of reading either added or instead of the screen time. And I’m finding I’m enjoying it and looking forward to getting alone time with a book. My roommate even had to hide my book yesterday because I was worried I might be tempted to ditch homework instead.

My roommate hid my book from me so I’d do homework instead!

So voila, a few easy tips to get you going on improving your language skills, and writing skills, and all the other wonderful things that books can do for you.

How do you get yourself to read? What are some challenges to you personally in picking up a book? Share whatever thoughts you have! I always love to hear from readers.

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A Great Book

Feeling in the mood to add some images to the recent writing spur. Here’s a pinterest find.

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What are some great books you’ve lived in? What makes a great book?

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October 4, 2014 · 9:12 AM