TTT: An Ode to Jessica Hische’s Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

The prompt for today was to talk about book covers that either were solely composed of type or used mainly typographic elements. I cannot think of many designers that design more beautiful covers than Jessica Hische.

Jessica Hische, Penguin Drop Cap Series

Hische is a letterer, author, and a Brooklyn transplant to the Bay area. I think I probably discovered her work in/around 2010 when she was working on her popular Daily Drop Cap series as a way to keep motivated and keep designing between freelance gigs. Everyday (or at least regularly), she’d publish a different letter in a different style. I think all told there were 12 complete alphabets between 2009-2011, as well as a guest illustrated series.

Buttermilk font: https://jessicahische.is/makingherfirstfont

Within months, it was being talked about all across the far reaches of the internet. I encountered her while I was just starting to dip my toe in the calligraphy waters and looking for alphabet inspiration. I found, and still find, her forms to be so beautiful. Somehow even the ones that are supposed to be kind of creepy and gothic are still approachable, full of gorgeous curves. The fonts on her site that you can buy have names like Buttermilk and Brioche, words calculated to show off her ascenders, show off the forms of the letters, but also words which covey mood and tone. Everything looked different, but still had undeniable style. And the fact that the style was fun, often bubbly, and vintage inspired makes everything she does feel like a glass of champagne–worth toasting.

“If you feel like you know Jessica Hische a bit from her output, you might not be all that off-base, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone. It’s been written that her work has “personality,” but it might be more accurate to say that her work has presence—her presence. In my experience, what you see is really what you get.”

Zachary Petit, Design Matters Media Editor-in-Chief
“After working with Dave Eggers on Hologram for the King I was pumped to be brought on board to design his new book, The Circle. It was especially fun to design this cover, as I’ve spent the last two years living in San Francisco surrounded by the tech industry (my husband works for Facebook) and the story is set in an influential social media company. I also had to design a logo for the fictitious company, The Circle, and was inspired by the interweaving connectivity of social media sites and also knots that once tight are difficult to untie.” – Hische, for Knopf https://jessicahische.is/joiningthecircle

Even though I was primarily doing calligraphy, I found a lot more of my inspiration looking to lettering artists than calligraphers in particular. Calligraphers often had absolutely spellbinding mastery of the technique and medium, but they were largely working in older, established styles, and I wanted to work in more of the tone and mood that other letterers use.

See more of her work here: https://jessicahische.is/working

Now she’s gotten much, much more recognition, such as being named in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in design, she’s become a children’s book author in her own right, and she’s worked with some of the biggest names you can work with across a huge spectrum of industries.

Hische for Barnes & Noble

Besides doing the design work for her own books, she’s also designed the drop cap series of Penguin classics, worked on the probably familiar range of classics for Barnes & Noble, and has designed work for numerous other books.

Book covers are somewhat unique in design industries, I think, because the artist’s name actually goes on the book. While most design products don’t give their designers credit, book covers do. I’m sure that must be an attractive aspect of doing lettering work–because if someone likes the cover of a book they know exactly who to commission. And it adds an element of pressure because if you don’t capture the book, well…. your name lives on it forever. But I don’t think Hische really needs to worry about that.

Hische designed the cover and did the original embroidery for this guidebook from The Little Bookroom. https://jessicahische.is/embroideringabookcover

“reading the book I’m doing the cover for gives me more conceptual and visual inspiration than spending a day in a rare books library”

Jessica Hische, in an interview with The Everygirl
Hische for Barnes & Noble, my photograph

Taking just her cover for Oscar Wilde into consideration, we can see some of the direct inspiration for the text. Everything is beautiful, but it still has hard, even sharp edges (the little triangles on the capitals as well the serifs) while still staying true to the Victorian aesthetic the book cultivates and critiques. The paisley flourishes call to mind peacock tails (and their associations with beauty and vanity). Also, while all the covers feature some kind of border, this cover is one of the only in the series that can be said to have a frame.

Even though I haven’t touched a calligraphy pen for a while now, I still find lettering and typography to be intensely interesting. It’s just another way to make you feel something when you look at a word or a phrase and I’m fascinated by how forms and art influence our perception of words and things more generally. And seeing how lettering can bring books to life is so inspiring to me. I encourage you to seek out Jessica Hische’s work–there’s so much more than I could possibly show here and I love how they all take direct inspiration from the books themselves.

Do you have a favorite typographic cover? Let me know in the comments.

TTT: My Fall To Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Anyone else absurdly motivated by arbitrary reading challenges other people have set?

I started subscribing to Book of the Month when I bought a 6 month subscription for my friend for Christmas. It’s now her annual gift. We don’t coordinate our choices–sometimes we choose the same book sometimes we choose different ones and share our thoughts. It’s a lot of fun, but I have to admit that this year I have fallen quite behind on my reading.

In order to finish this year’s badges (and unlock the super hidden secret one that I really, really want to unlock for reasons that remain mysterious), I need to finish 9 more books, but since there are 10 on my bookshelf (stashed around our new condo), I thought I could talk about them today and possibly conjecture as to why it’s taken me so long to read through them! Some of these I had to fish out of their boxes. Although we’re mostly unpacked, my new bookshelves won’t arrive for a while, so the book boxes are the last boxes.

I wish that Book of the Month chose poetry books too–that would make it way easier to read through my list.

Here they are, in order of how long I’ve had them:

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

I’m actually listening to this one as an audiobook, having given away my copy of the hardcover to another friend. I think she’ll really enjoy it. I’m about 1/3 of the way into the book so far and while I’m not a huge fan of books told in first person from multiple perspectives–it’s way easier to switch between perspectives while listening because the voice acting is well done. It bounces between an apothecary in the 1790s who helps women….dispense of the men in their lives and the woman in the modern era who is beginning to research the apothecary based on a bottle she found while mudlarking. The story is interesting enough for me to look past the sort of blah writing style.

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

I think this memoir is going to be one of those ones that takes your heart and rips it out. But whether it’ll be the kind that gives it back for you to hold onto or the kind that throws it to the ground is anyone’s guess. It seems sad so I’ve been avoiding it. I haven’t really been in the mood for a really emotional book for a while. But I’m sure the mood will strike at some point. Fall is kind of the season for that.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

So I have a feeling this book is going to be good, but pretty dang dark. It’s a fairy tale type book, but the darker, twisted, creepier side of fairy tales (which I freely admit to loving). This is probably a book I’ll read while it’s light out. And probably it won’t be as creepy as I think. Hopefully.

Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

The only excuse I have for not reading this one is that it’s been buried in a box for months. My friend told me that it’s really interesting and that she really enjoyed it so I need to get cracking on it.

True Biz by Sara Novic

I think I talked a little about this book in a previous TTT post because of the hand on the cover (entirely appropriate to a book about sign language). One of the reasons I love reading is because it allows me a way of understanding and empathizing with someone else’s perspective and experience even, and perhaps especially, when it’s so far from my own.

Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

Retellings and adaptations of fairy tales are some of my favorite things, so I cannot wait to read this adaption of Peter Pan. Holly is Wendy’s granddaughter who has to save her daughter from Pan’s clutches.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

I’m a sucker for a fantasy novel not set in western Europe, but I have to admit, I’m going to have to push myself a little to get through this book, despite the presence of jinn and ancient magics. I’ve only read a chapter or two, but the writing is a little disappointing.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I loved Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fiskry so I was eagerly looking forward to her new book, and when it was one of the choices for Book of the Month, I chose it with no hesitation. It’s about video game designers and the story of two friends and the way their lives converge and diverge over time. I’m about 30 pages in and already it’s very good. Other books–namely poetry and library books–have just taken precedent.

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

I’m very excited to read this book–a multi-generational family saga and the protagonist is a poet?! Sign me up!

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

This one just arrived last week! So I don’t feel as bad for not getting to it yet, except for the fact that it’s just adding to this pile of books…. this is a romance of the enemies to lovers variety (one of my favorite tropes).

Have you read any of these books? Do any interest you? How do you feel about your reading challenges this year? Let me know in the comments.

TTT: 10 Fantasy Books with Titles that Map the World(s)

This week’s prompt was books with geographical terms in the title, and while I was looking through my read books (thank you, Story Graph), I noticed a trend. All of the geographic terms I was encountering were through fantasy books. So I leaned into that trend. Some of these may be a stretch…but so are fictional maps.

The Mermaid the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

I just finished this lovely queer fantasy with plenty of romance. There are pirates, the aforementioned witches and mermaids, spies, political intrigue, well-developed characters, and the sea itself features as a character in her own right. Need I say more?

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This one is on my to-read list. But I’m a sucker for anything written by Gaiman. Especially something dark and surrealist. Anyone read this one? I’d love to know your thoughts.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

I love when concepts become anthropomorphized. One of my favorite fantasy series of all time is Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality where Death, Time, Earth, and Fate (among others) are personified. So when I came to this book about the city of New York made corporal, I was hooked. The writing is fantastic. Urban fantasy at its finest.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

So you need a detective/urban fantasy book to read now? Like right now? Not to worry–read Aaronvitch’s book about holding the magical and nonmagical elements of London in balance. More personified elements!

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

Loosely inspired by Celtic mythology, I really enjoyed Ross’s book about magic and the effects it can take on its users. Our protagonist is a bard, straight from his teaching post, going back home to the magical land of his birth, his clan, and the clan rivalry.

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

So I included this one because of map legends (although that’s not the use of the word Chang was presumably going for)…it’s a stretch, but I was running out of map ideas. I wish this book had moved a little faster and that there were more fantasy elements in it (what there was was great, but I wanted more), but the worldbuilding is really interesting.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read this book, and I never finished the series, but I’m excited to go back to this world. I also wanted to watch the HBO series after I finished the books. So I should get on that.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

To be fair, this one is science fiction, but the name was just too perfect not to include. And who doesn’t love some time travel? This one is on my to-read list. Actually, I’ve never read anything by Mitchell. But I’m looking forward to The Bone Clocks as well.

Locke and Key series written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

So the show kind of creeped me out and it didn’t feel like there was a lot of character development, but I’m a little intrigued to read the comics and see if I’d like to come back to the show. This follows some siblings in a creepy house and then there are keys that unlock all kinds of doors.

The Black Coast by Mike Brooks

War dragons. I’m not sure if a book needs anything besides dragons to intrigue me enough to read further. I hadn’t heard of this book before looking through fantasy release lists for geographic titles, but I may have to add it to my list. Because dragons and Vikings–or Viking-like raiders.

Have you read any of the books on this list? What is the fantasy land you’d most like to visit? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with Hands on the Cover

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I actually have two TBRs. I have the one that I keep on my phone through Story Graph and the stack of books I own. When I buy a book off of my digital TBR, I take it off the list. This is the easiest way I’ve found of making my TBR available for my family to browse for gifts–they don’t have to worry about buying me a book I already own. And it means that at the library or when shopping I don’t have to sort through it either.

That does mean however, that there is always wayyyyyy too much to read. So for this cover prompt I decided to see what commonalities I could find between the covers I own. The answer was not that much, but after some sorting I realized that there are a lot of covers with hands. Some are disembodied, some are suggestions (gloves for example), but these are covers that have hands featured in some way.

I wanted to write a short discussion/analysis of what’s on the covers and what they’re achieving because although you maybe shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you can still learn a lot from it!

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende – The cover photo by Marcia Lieberman features a young woman holding a garment of some kind in one hand and the control for a camera in the other. As if this is the moment before a photograph rather than a moment captured in one. She’s the subject of the reader’s gaze but clearly the reader is the subject of hers as well. It’s a creative and arresting image.

Cleopatra Dismounts by Carmen Boullosa – The stylized art deco version of an Egyptian painting really draws attention to the hands with the stiff, geometric angles. This photo was taken by E. O. Hoppé, who was a German-born British photographer starting in the early 1900s. Egyptian revival and costume were becoming more popular in the 1920s, which makes total sense if you think about how Art Deco and Egyptian painting both value a stylized geometric and decorative style. On the cover this is echoed by the golden suns. The archival photo lets the reader know that the story is likely to take place in the past, but that the subject is a living, breathing person in three dimensions.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter – Angela Carter’s novel features what we can only assume to be an aerialist, but with no visible means of support, an almost fluid grace (that reminds me of Elastigirl from The Incredibles), and her position within a decorated frame, we seem to be looking at a circus poster rather than the performer herself. I think this cover adds to what I’m sure will be the magic of the book, and the sharp edges of the performer’s nose, feet, wings, and fingers let us know that the story will not be as light in tone as the effortless pose and fluffy cotton candy pink might suggest.

¡Caramba! by Nina Marie Martinez – In what looks like an old travel poster or postcard, a woman hold a red bird in the palm of her hand. It even matches her fingernails. Because of the way the blue splash is positioned, her hand almost looks like it’s been severed from her body. It adds a little bit of surrealism to the cover and mystery. Especially when coupled with the blue bar that’s been put across someone’s eyes in the bottom corner. From this picture I definitely get a sense that nothing is exactly as it seems.

The Medieval Kitchen: A Social History with Recipes by Hannele Klemettilä – Interestingly, although the title mentions the kitchen, the cover painting chooses to focus on an important feast, showing that medieval kitchens probably would rarely have been the focus of art or commemoration. This is a reproduction of a page from a medieval Book of Hours, produced in about 1380 for the Duc Jean de Berry. This page illustrates Jesus’s first miracle, turning water to wine at the wedding at Cana. Hands had special status in medieval art (you can learn more from this pdf from a Getty exhibit) and the hands here can be read symbolically, but I won’t go into it or we’ll be here all week. I especially like the hands that mirror each other on the left hand side of the portrait. This picture illustrates the centrality of religion and feast in a lord’s medieval kitchen.

Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge – The photo on the cover was taken by Lincoln Clarkes in 1988, and it manages to feel much older than that as if a Victorian or Edwardian woman has simply decided to take flight. It’s a not entirely carefree pose, as with one hand she reaches up to grasp her hat. Her look is less joyful and more enigmatic, but her limbs are powerfully stretched. This is a woman who has made a leap–perfect for a book on writing where you are taking a leap into your imagination and then taking another leap onto the page.

Now for the disembodied hands!

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey – This cover has a lot going on. The image of the hand echoes the title in a really beautiful way. You’ve got the disembodied hand with this interesting multicolored aura and an all seeing eye. It’s not on the palm like we might expect from a hamsa, this makes it feel more unexpected and fresh, and of course it allows the hand to be partially closed to cross the fingers in a lie. In this book we might expect an unreliable narrator, some play with genre, and a little irreverence. And we learn all that from a fairly simple but striking graphic.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – You might be wondering, if this hand is attached to a body, why did I put this hand here? It’s because of the way the photograph has been disassembled and surreally reassembled. There are actually three hands on the cover and they don’t appear where you’d expect them to be. The left gloved hand is almost in the center, and the high contrast means your eye is drawn to it right away. It shows a hint of this person’s identity but also shows that something is fractured or fracturing. It’s super intriguing to me, especially the way part of the image is flipped.

True Biz by Sara Nović – The attention to the hand on this cover makes total sense when you know that it’s about sign language in the deaf community. I really like the patterns and different colors on the fingers echoing the different colors of the letters, as the hand is really representing those different letters in the alphabet. It draws attention to the meaning of each hand position and each gesture. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from the fact that it’s the right hand on the left side of the cover. I didn’t expect that and only discovered it when I made the same shape with my hands.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – A dark vignette reveals an empty pair of white kid gloves, photographed by Jeff Cottenden. The emptiness really suggests a kind of absence or loss, even as the gloves seem to be embracing each other. The gloves also hint that this is a historical novel as gloves haven’t been in vogue for some time. It’s a fairly simple image but it’s very evocative.

Do any of these covers catch your eye? Do you have a favorite cover that features a hand? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Bookish Items to Add to My Collection

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

So many delightful bookish things are out there…it’s really a pity I live in a studio apartment at the moment. There’s not much room for collecting things (even when they are adorable). But these are 10 items I think would be worth the space!

I have some bookish socks already because they are an excellent stocking stuffer and friends and family tend to get me them as gifts, which I love. I would definitely add these library card socks from Out of Print to my collection.

Typically I have a hard time with perfume. I tend to be allergic to a lot of things and have to be really careful with what scents I pick to not end up with an instant headache (like I just did recently after I thought the Lush perfume I bought was fine.. whoops). But I’ve never had a problem with the perfume from Black Phoenix Alchemy. I bought one perfume and two samples from them and I can wear everything without headaches!

While not all their perfumes are bookish, many are directly inspired by books or poems like their Alice in Wonderland collection. Others are inspired by dark, gothic, or magickal themes or films (be aware that some are more risque than others and may not be appropriate for under 18). There are so many fun scents and they’re reasonably priced, but they make limited batches so be aware that the scent you want may be out of stock. My favorite perfume I’ve tried so far is Bess, which is:

“Inspired by the tragic, ill-fated love of Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester. This is our modernization of a 17th-century perfume blend favored by British aristocracy: rosemary, orange flower, grape spirit, five rose variants, lemon peel, and mint.”

The biggest problem I have with this company is that their website is extremely difficult to navigate! They organize by collection rather than scent or scent profile. I would start under the “beloved favorites” section or just browse and see what rabbit holes you fall into…

Obvious State designs beautiful minimalist prints, postcards, notebooks, and more out of Portland Oregon. As someone who is…ahem…obsessed with notebooks, I’m always looking for more. These recycled beauties are small enough to fit in a purse or a pocket.

This is the Women Writers collection.

50 postcards based on commissioned book plate designs? Yes, please! I use postcards for their obvious purpose, but I also use them as cards, hang them on my walls, and generally love looking at them.

Okay so this is not a particularly minimalist selection, but when you love Jane Austen–why not dress up like Lizzie or Emma?

A lovely cotton regency dress made to order from Recollections Dresses on Etsy (note that it does have a zipper, so not historically accurate but it’s so pretty and I don’t have to sew it!)

When in doubt I don’t think you can go wrong with a From the Page literary candle. I particularly like their definition candles. How to choose between abibliophobia and bibliophagist?

The fact that I have nowhere to put this diorama when I’ve finished doesn’t make me want to complete this kit any less….

I also am a sucker for a good literary pin, like this simple bookstack from Etsy. And I’m always on the lookout for more stickers to add to my water bottle or more literary tshirts.

What are your favorite bookish items in your collection? Any of these items catch your eye? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Ways to Start Reading Poetry

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I’ve recently been devoting more (read most) of my time to reading and writing poetry. While I’ve been reading for years, I consider myself a novice in the poetry world. There’s. Just. So. Much. Out. There.

I know a lot of readers don’t really know where to start with poetry. Let’s face it, poetry no longer tops most bestseller lists. Before I devoted a lot of time to poetry I might read a handful of collections a year, but there are some ways to get into the wide ocean of material a little more quickly that I’ve found helpful and you might too!

Start with Poem a Day – If you’re not sure how much time you can devote to this huge field of work, poem a day is a great place to start. You get one poem emailed to you a day, week day poems are generally chosen by a guest editor and feature a huge variety of poets from all different backgrounds in different styles. They have an audio clip for you to hear the poem spoken, a little background, and a link to the author’s book. This is a nice little daily dose. Weekends feature classic poets.

Try a poetry podcast – in the same vein, I really like the poetry podcast called The Slowdown. It’s about 5-10 minutes and is a similar daily dose of poetry.

Decide when/where to start – Poetry has been going strong for….millennia. In pretty much every country. You might think about finding poets who correspond with times and places you’re interested in or ones that you inhabit. You can learn more about a particular place and time or discover new ways of seeing your own. If you’re interested in American poetry, I think it’s helpful to start out with Dickinson and Whitman so you get the sort of baseline, but this isn’t a class and there’s no right or wrong way to get started. Start with a poet from where you live or where you want to live. Personally I like to jump around quite a bit.

Start with what you know and like – Everyone has genres that are most appealing to them and that can be comforting. There’s poetry on every subject in so many different styles. If you like an author and they also write poetry, that might be a good fit. Or maybe you love music and want to see how that’s explored in poetry. There are horror poems and western poems and romance poems. Knowing your favorite authors in prose can make it easier to find new poets.

Find an anthology – There are a lot of them out there. Some are published yearly, others cover different periods or styles. Your library is sure to have a few. Find what you like by reading a lot of different things. I find that these make great in between reading for a waiting room, a bathroom, or anytime you have a few minutes. If you buy your own copy you can underline lines you like and make notes.

Use your library – Find contemporary poets in the New Books section or take a walk through the poetry section and see what catches your eye. You can sample from different books without having to commit to anything.

Don’t worry too much about what it “means” – When you’re in school poetry is supposed to have meanings and answers. Don’t worry about not knowing what something means. Let it wash over you, and by that I mean listen to the way the words sound, the feelings they provoke. A good poem is a lot like looking at a painting, there’s a lot you can know, but you can also just experience it. Poems are often ambiguous and you bring meaning to them.

Find a journal – A lot of journals publish poetry and prose and art–all kinds of things. I’ll go through journal suggestions in a different post, but these are great publications to support and you get to read lots of different things, often very affordably. There’s a journal out there for everyone.

Go back to the last poem you loved – Maybe you haven’t read poetry since you were a child or a teenager. What was the last poem that moved you? Go back to it and think about what it was that you liked about it. It’ll probably lead you in fun directions.

Don’t be afraid to sample and not finish – You don’t have to read poetry collections from start to finish. Read something here or there and let it buzz around in your head for a while. It’s not like DNFing a novel (which you should also not feel bad about in my opinion), the stakes are low.

BONUS – I’m happy to make custom recommendations as well! Let me know what kinds of things you like reading in the comments and I’ll give poetry suggestions!

Do you enjoy poetry? Do you have a favorite poet? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Books I Didn’t Really Like, But I’m Still Glad I Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by That Artsy Reader Girl.

It has been a long time since I’ve written. Since that time I’ve spent 3 weeks in Taiwan and 10 days in Paris. I’ve got travel posts coming, but I thought today I’d start with a book post.

This week’s prompt is about books that you didn’t really like but you’re still glad you read. I feel like this can be applied to lots of things I read in college, but I included only one college book to make it feel a little less like a required reading list.

So here are five books I’m glad I read even though I didn’t really like them, in no particular order:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 

My friend and I read this at about the same time, in an effort to get through some of the classics that had been on our shelves and our lists for years. I actually ended up enjoying this book (sort of), but the beginning was touch and go for me. I’m glad I stuck it out because I think it’s an interesting and influential piece of fiction that shows that being an abolitionist did not mean that a person was not prejudiced. Stowe paints a sympathetic portrait of her characters but still indulges in comments that I consider to be racist. I do, however, think that the character of Uncle Tom has been twisted throughout the ages. I don’t think he’s nearly as obsequious as he’s made out to be in references. His resistance is quiet, but it’s clearly there. Anyway, this book is worth reading just for a better understanding of that time period and parts of our cultural heritage.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

This is another book my friend and I read together. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it (and I didn’t), but I stuck it out so that I could check it off my list. It’s not that it’s a bad book. It’s actually a really interesting look at mental illness and how sometimes the systems that are supposed to make people feel better just end up contributing to the problem. But I don’t love Kesey’s writing style, and I thought the book was not nearly as good as another book that I’d been avoiding from about the same time period, Catch-22, which was far more enjoyable and interesting.

Ulysses by James Joyce

This is the college one. I picked this one over some of the other books I read in college because it’s just over the top unlikable. And over the top in many regards. But reading it (and finding ways to interact with it) felt like a huge accomplishment. It’s one of those books that I have a really early memory of–I found my grandfather’s copy of the book and thought it was like The Odyssey. Two paragraphs told me I was wrong (though not totally because this book follows The Odyssey in many ways), and I didn’t think of the book again until I took a James Joyce class in college. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. But it didn’t seem right to graduate with an English degree without this modernist on my transcript. It would have been like not taking a Shakespeare class.

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

I’m not going to say that this book wasn’t good because it was. It’s a well-written story about Native Americans and colonization.  The characters are engaging and well-drawn. My real problem with this book is that I don’t like survival/wilderness stories. If you liked the film The Revenant or other works in that line, you’ll really like this book. Even though I wasn’t a major fan, I’m glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone. I try to read every book club book (unless I’ve already read it), whether or not it’s something I would pick out on my own.

Turn of the Screw by Henry James

I picked this book out for one of the wedding favors (post on that later), and I read it to make sure it was good before giving it away. Well….I didn’t really love it. The story itself is creepy and interesting, as James’s only ghost story, but the wordiness of it (sentences that never, ever end, kind of like this one here) was just too much and it destroyed all the suspense for me. Probably no one would have felt that way when the book came out, but Poe is much better at the creepy story. So I’m glad I read this book because I wouldn’t have wanted to give it to someone as a gift when I didn’t enjoy it. Especially as the potential recipient isn’t used to reading Victorian era novels.

 

Over to you–have you read a book that you’re glad you read even though your enjoyment of it was minimal? Have you read any of these books? Is your opinion of them different? Let me know in the comments.

 

Top Ten Tuesday

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Today’s topic is all about “books you could re-read forever.” There are a lot of books I read, but there aren’t many I re-read, and even fewer that I would read multiple times. The books that make this list tend to have one thing in common, they’re witty. Except maybe for the Harry Potter books. Those are just part of who I am.

Without further ado, here are the books that I would reread over and over again:

  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Harry Potter Books by JK Rowling

That’s actually a pretty short list, though when I was younger it would definitely have included a few different things on it.

Is there a book that you never get sick of returning to? Let me know what it is in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Books I Need to Read By the End of Year

IMG_2962Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

The period between Thanksgiving and the end of the year is typically a good time to wind down, but if you’ve got a big reading challenge to finish up it doesn’t alway feel that way.

My grandma and I are going on a cruise next week, and, not unusually, my suitcase is packed with more books than bathing suits.

For most of the challenge, I just sort of picked books up and looked to see if they fit any category on the list, but as the year draws to a close, I decided to pick out all the books so that I knew what I was going to get myself into.

This is the list of books I’m trying to finish by the end of the year to complete the advanced Popsugar reading challenge:

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

For the category of “book with a season in the title.” I haven’t read this late Shakespeare play, and it’s one of the few digital books I’m bringing on my trip.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I’ve been saving this book for the “book about food” category all year, and now it’s finally time to read it.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Everyone in my book club loved this book that they read the year before I joined. Since it was made into a movie this year, it seemed like the perfect choice for that particular category.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe 

The category of “books mentioned in other books” was a really interesting category, but it was kind of difficult to pick a book for it. Shakespeare would have been a no-brainer, but I really wanted to choose a novel. Jane Austen’s heroine in Northanger Abbey is a self-proclaimed connoisseur of gothic literature and mentions this book.

Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman

I don’t have a lot of books with cats on the cover, so I chose to interpret this cat as any animal in the cat family. My edition of this book has a lion on the cover.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood 

It’s probably no secret that I love Margaret Atwood and really admire her ability to write well in a number of different ways—across genres. This book will be fulfilling the category of “a book written by someone you admire.”

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

This classic is “a book recommended by an author I love.” I wanted to finish this book I started reading aloud with Paul, and pretty much every fantasy writer was influenced by Tolkien. I picked George RR Martin as the particular author I love, in case anyone is interested.

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

I try to fit in the books in this Naomi Novik series wherever I can, but “a book involving a mythical creature” seemed too perfect to pass up.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

I buy books on pretty much all of my trips, so that category was a no brainer, but I wanted to save it for a book purchased on the ultimate trip—our honeymoon. This is one of the (probably too many) books I bought. I couldn’t help it—I didn’t find anything much in the used bookstores, but the new ones were filled with beautiful covers. Books are probably the cheapest souvenir you can bring back from London.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, and reading the back made me think it might work for a book about an immigrant/refugee, which was one of the categories I hadn’t filled yet.

Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie

For a book that follows a character’s life span, I decided to pick a biography instead of a novel. I haven’t read a lot of nonfiction this year, so I wanted to read at least one more before December comes to a close.

 

Over to you—is there a book you’re dying to read by the end of the year? Do you pick out your reading list in advance or do you prefer to play it by ear? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Fictional Characters who Would Make Great Leaders

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic was characters that would make excellent leaders. This proved to be very interesting, and in picking characters I also thought about 10 traits that are important for leaders.

I tried to pick characters that weren’t filling traditional leadership roles (i.e. no monarchs, and that were fictional and not real-life people).

Here are 10 attributes of great leadership, and 10 characters who fit them:

 

Intelligence—Professor Higgins from Pygmalion

It’s great to be able to command a room, but strategy and thoughtful leadership requires intelligence. Professor Higgins might be a little obtuse at times, but he’s nevertheless a successful teacher who is quite accomplished at research.

Practicality –Ruby from Cold Mountain

In desperate times,  you need someone who is sure and level-headed, who has vision for day to day necessities and can get things done. I can’t think of anyone who does this better than Ruby. She works hard and doesn’t get bogged down in niceties.

Inventiveness—Hugo from The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Inventiveness or resourcefulness are essential to leadership–how else can you make a bad situation better? Hugo may be young, but his ability to fix intricate clock workings and to find ways to better his solution would make him a great leader under the right circumstances.

Sacrifice—Cyrano from Cyrano de Bergerac

A great leader must make sacrifices, and Cyrano knows this all too well. As his friend dies on the battlefield, Cyrano knows he can’t tell Roxanne the truth and he sacrifices his own happiness to help her stay true to a great man’s memory.

Charisma—Emma from Emma

It definitely helps get your point of view across if you’re likable, engaging, and charismatic. Emma is a great example of this, and she sways many people to her causes with less logic than affability and persuasion.

Risk Taker—Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

A true leader does not sit idly by; she takes risks. Alice is a natural risk taker. There are few others who would follow a rabbit down to a magical kingdom–most people would convince themselves they hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary and wouldn’t give the rabbit a second glance.

Bravery—Wesley from The Princess Bride

Being a leader means standing up for your cause, often in the face of others who would like nothing better than to pull you down. So being brave in the face of skilled swordsmen, giants, and Sicilians when death is on the line, like Wesley, is imperative.

Eloquence—Temeraire from His Majesty’s Dragon

Temeraire is a dragon, and he actually fulfills many of these qualities, but when push comes to shove, it’s his ability to speak well that persuades other dragons to take up his cause.

Idealistic—Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries

If you have no vision for the future, how can you lead anyone into it? Princess Mia sort of breaks my rule about rulers, but since she’s not really a ruler in any of the YA novels, and since she doesn’t even know she’s royal until she’s in high school, I put her on the list. Really, there’s no one who fits this virtue better. Though she may not always go about things the right way, she’s always interested in a better version of her country–one that’s more environmentally and economically sound.

Persistence—Bee from Where’d You Go, Bernadette

You’re not likely to realize all your goals on day one, so leadership is all about trying and trying and trying again. Bee will stop at nothing to find her mother, traveling to the very ends of the earth to bring her home again.

 

Now over to you. What quality do you think is most important in a leader?