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!

Reading Challenge #30: A Book with Pictures

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Title: Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air

Author: Richard Holmes

How it fulfills the challenge: Besides the normal strategic inserts of color photographs, the text of the book is studded with black and white pictures of hot air balloons, portraits of the balloonists who flew them, and various documents and drawings.

Genre: Nonfiction

Quick Description: A detailed look at the rise of hot air ballooning, with less emphasis on its early history and more on the height of the ballooning craze and time of exploration and exhibition. (1700-1800s mostly). It also deals with the characters and histories of particular balloonists, trying to get at what made them take to the air in the first place.

Highlights: If you’ve ever wanted to get into the head of a historical balloonist, this book will take you there. It’s really great at explaining the time period and the lives of different balloonists. It’s set up for a fairly casual reader but still offers a lot of depth and covers a wide range of time periods and subtopics. The writing, for a book of this type, is fairly engaging–you can tell the author is very passionate about the subject. This could be a problem in a standard biography, but the range of subjects seems to help him keep his objectivity. He regards ballooning itself with something almost like reverence towards something greater or magical, and it’s really interesting to read what balloonists themselves thought about flying.

Low Points: Like many nonfiction books, there were sections that seemed to drag, but that could be because I was reading the book as research. Anything that resembles required reading is just automatically less fun for me.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars. The bottom line is it’s a well-researched book on a very specific, sort of obscure topic.

Reading Challenge #20: A Book with Career Advice

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Title: Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”

Author: Lena Dunham

How it fulfills the challenge: This book doesn’t actually give all that much advice in the traditional sense, but the essays are written in such a way that you discover the career lessons for yourself. Namely, listening to your heart and going after the things you want even when it’s uncomfortable.

Genre: Memoir/essays

Quick Description: A book of essays about growing up, discovering who you are, and not being (too) afraid of who you turn out to be.

But ambition is a funny thing: it creeps up on you when you least expect if and keeps you moving, even when you think you want to stay put. I missed making things, the meaning it gave this long march we call life.

Highlights: Dunham’s writing style is warm and chatty. I’m pretty familiar with it because I’m a Lenny newsletter subscriber, and so I already knew I would like her informal writing style. Her stories are interesting and easy to relate to, even though I haven’t experienced a lot of the same things.

Low Points: Non-fiction tends to be aimed at a very specific audience, given that it’s usually written on a pretty narrow topic. You probably won’t like Dunham’s book if you like a more cohesive narrative style, if you don’t identify as a feminist, or if you don’t have an interest in the arts or media.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though in parts I wish the writing had been a little closer. A quick, interesting read.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 2016 Releases I’m Really Excited About

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is all about what 2016 releases we really meant to get to, but weren’t able to read for whatever reason. My reading is almost always at least a year (if not a century) behind, so I actually like waiting for the best-of-the-year lists to come out, and a lot of times I build up my to-read list from these compiled lists by people who do actually read the books when they come out. In particular, I really like NPR’s list because it’s super fun and visual and easy to sort through (I am a huge nerd about good indexing and cross indexing), not to mention the blurbs are written by people like librarians and NPR staffers instead of publishing houses. I like the different perspectives. So here are ten books that I mostly haven’t mentioned yet, but that I can’t wait to read whether that’s this year or years down the road when they happen to find me.

  • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson–Starts on the brink of WWI in a small English town–a book about manners and how they’re affected by the chaos of war. Sounds like a great read. (in the Book Club Ideas Section)
  • Umami by Laia Jufresa–I love reading translated books (part of the enjoyment being thinking about how the book is different in the native language–pure speculation), and this debut novel about loss and connection in Mexico City seems like a great read. (in the Staff Picks Section).
  • Patience by Daniel Clowes–Graphic novels are so interesting and moving, and I like the change of pace from regular novels every now and again. This book is supposed to be a love story, but also involves time travel. Can you really ask for more than that? (in the For Art Lovers section)
  • Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung–A boarding school story set in Australia with a young woman who struggles to find a place for herself and her heritage, a YA with plenty of nuance–my favorite kind. (in the Tales From Around the World section)
  • The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession With A Lost Masterpiece by Laura Cumming–a nonfiction book about a man obsessed  with a work of art. (in the Seriously Great Writing section)
  • The Glass Universe: How The Ladies Of The Harvard Observatory Took The Measure Of The Stars by David Sobel–A group of female astrologists, long relegated to the sidelines are brought to the forefront. This books talks about the women themselves as well as their contributions to science. (in the It’s All Geek to Me section)
  • The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg–A spin on the 1,001 Nights, and that’s all I have to know to be interested in this graphic novel. (in the Ladies First section)
  • The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer–A nonfiction book about brave librarians who risk everything to save books…um yes please. (in the Identity & Culture section)
  • The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman–YA historical fiction that takes the historical part seriously but isn’t afraid to throw a few demons in. (in the Rather Long section)
  • The Book of Magic: From Antiquity to Enlightenment ed. by Brian Copenhaver–I love reading about magic and how the perception of it has changed over time. This book looks like something of an undertaking, but a good one. (in the Eye-Opening Reads section)

 

How do you find new books for your TBR lists? Was there a book you missed this year that you really were looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2016

 

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

I took the week off of blogging for the holidays, but I couldn’t resist commenting on my favorite books last year (especially since this week’s topic is all about 2017 new releases and we all know that I won’t be getting around to most of those books this year anyway…). It still hasn’t quite sunk in that the year is over and the new one has begun yet. Maybe it will start to when we unpack our bags and finish unloading our car. Or maybe it won’t be until I make my ridiculously long list of New Year’s Resolutions like I do every year. Possibly I won’t be rid of 2016 until February. But now I’m rambling. On to the books!

Actually I read a lot of not-so-great books this year, along with a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally read (like wedding books), so this year I’ve divided my list of 99 books read into categories, and talk about the best books (and runner ups) from each one.

Best Fiction (read: 26)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

runner up: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I can’t say enough good things about Doerr’s book. It’s a stunning and heartbreaking look at one of the most devastating events of the twentieth century. The characters are fully alive and unique, and the story is mesmerizing, inviting you to take your time in the created world without any part of it moving too slowly.

Capote’s most famous work is most correctly called (according to the man himself) a non-fiction novel. I was at a loss whether to put it in the fiction or nonfiction category, but since some of the information was proved to have been falsified, I decided it belonged here. Nevertheless, it is an extremely well written work–a provocative look into the minds and motivations of two killers.

Best YA (read: 4)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I didn’t read much Young Adult stuff this year aside from the Divergent Series, which I was not all that fond of to be honest. I enjoyed the first book, but lost interest as the series continued. So, even though I didn’t read Riggs’ book until the very end of the year (after seeing the film), it became far and away my favorite. I love that the story was inspired by and freely incorporated old photographs and that the protagonist actually sounds like a young man (complete with bodily humor, sarcasm, and angst).

Best Science Fiction (read: 1)

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Before this book, I’d never read anything by Asimov, which is weird considering how much I like science fiction. It just seemed intimidating I guess. But this book was great–I’ve never really seen a book set in the future jump time periods like this one does and I was blown away by it. I can’t wait to finish the trilogy.

Best Series (read: 17 books)

The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman

runner up: The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Can I just say how excited I am to watch The Magicians television series on Netflix? So pumped. These books were great–a mix of all my favorite children’s fantasy books but now decidedly grown up.

And Harkness’ books have become a favorite in my family circle. If the Twilight books had lived up to their best potential, it might have been this series which is full of magic, romance, and time travel.

Best Nonfiction (read: 10)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

runner up: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

I don’t think it would be overstating things to say that Coates’ small book was the most important thing I read all year. His words are difficult and challenging, but in this fraught time of police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement on the one hand and a denial that a race problem even exists in America on the other, his words are poignant and essential. Everyone should read this book.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has long been a source of inspiration to me (and women everywhere, I think), but I never knew all that much about her life until I read this book. The well written biography is juxtaposed not just with pictures but with artwork inspired by the Justice. It’s a great, quick read that’ll bring you insight into the court system and the life of this remarkable woman who never backs down.

Best Graphic Novel (read: 6)

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

runner up: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

What if Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace were able to follow through on their project and actually build the world’s first mechanical computer…in the 1800s? That’s the line of inquiry the author/artist follows. What seems to have begun as a little bit of research into an interesting subject became a deftly drawn alternate reality rife with information about Victorian life, mathematics, and the biographies of these two fascinating people. Unlike most graphic novels, it’s not exactly a quick read, but it’s totally captivating.

Bechdel’s tale is one of identity and family–coming to terms with your father’s death is never easy–especially when he was a difficult man with a dark secret. This memoir tries to capture her father’s identity as well as her own struggle with her sexuality. Be warned that the content is very adult (and not very happy), but it’s a great book about how your family influences who you ultimately become.

Best Cookbook (read: 4)

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl

I love reading cookbooks cover to cover, especially when they tell a story like this one does. Reichl is famous as a critic and magazine editor, and when her magazine folds, she feels adrift. She finds her way back with food, and these recipes are her journey. They’re a pleasure to read because they’re less blunt instructions and more of a conversation about food.

Best Children’s Book (read: 6)

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

runner up: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery

I’ve got one or two more books to go in Le Guin’s Earthsea books, and I’m enjoying them so much. I picked the second book as my favorite. I love how though it’s related, it’s so different from the first book and a nice departure from the usual quest narrative, bringing up entirely different themes and characters.

This was the first time I’d ever read this book, and man do I feel like I was missing out. It’s such a beautifully told story about imagination and beauty and death–big themes for such a little book that takes place on such a little planet (and I really enjoyed the Netflix film as well!)

Best Parenting (read: 2)

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron, PhD.

runner up: In Defense of the Princess by Jerramy Fine

I checked out Aron’s book as research for my character–a highly sensitive child–and to my surprise it was not only really helpful as research, but it gave me so much insight into my brother’s character and my own when we were children. If you’re struggling with parenting but it’s not the usual struggles, and your kid is not the “usual” kid, you might think about picking up this book.

This book I picked up because of the title–never conscious that it was, in fact, a parenting book–and it contains a really interesting argument in favor of princesses and all things pink as an expression of feminine power. It’s really a book geared towards feminists who worry that all things pink make their daughters more subject to the patriarchy. While I really enjoyed this book, I do have issues with some of the arguments and I think it could have taken a stronger and more complex stance on objectification–particularly where Disney princesses are concerned.

Best Wedding Book (read: 23)

A Practical Wedding by Meg Keene

runner up: Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley

I guess I should have known that my research tendencies would not go away just because I got engaged. I read a ridiculous amount of wedding books (if you need a book for a specific case or type of wedding I probably can give you a recommendation…) and came out with two clear favorites. One is Keene’s pragmatic and level-headed guide, the companion to her wonderful blog. If you’re interested in creating an authentic celebration with emotions rather than stuff at the forefront–read this book. Her website and book are very open to all kinds of unions and are wonderfully helpful–much more so than 99% of the things I read this year.

In contrast, Knisley’s book is actually a memoir describing what it looks like to have a feminist, modern wedding. It shows with humor and charming illustrations struggles over budget, family issues, and what happens when ideas run amok. I think it’s a great read for anyone planning their wedding, or anyone who just likes reading about weddings.

 

Did you read a lot of books outside the norm this year? Or did you stick to your favorite genres? Let me know one of the books you loved this year in the comments!

 

 

My Holiday Book Haul

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I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful family. Even though the holidays were really hard this year because of my Papa’s health, it was still wonderful to take the week with my fiance to see all my family and so many friends back in Portland. I miss them already.

For Christmas, my family does a holiday gift exchange–a “stocking” filled to the brim with goodies of various sizes. My Papa had my stocking this year, but since he wasn’t able to go shopping my Nana took it over. She and my mom and my aunt apparently all had way too much fun at Macy’s on Black Friday and I received a ton of Fiestaware (which is the china/dishware that I was going to ask people to get us for our wedding) in all different colors. And along with my many colored dishes, I was given a ton of used books. Basically the best Christmas ever.

Some of these I actually picked up for myself and then they were added into my stocking (that would be the top three). This is because when I volunteer at the Mini Monday book sale for my Friends of the Library I’m constantly around used books. I really enjoyed E. Annie Proulx when I read her last year, and I liked Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, and the other book just caught my eye.

My mom picked up the rest of the books for me–like me she has a thing for used books. She knows I love to collect older editions of Shakespeare, and a little birdy (aka me) let her know that I wanted a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary and hadn’t read anything by D.H. Lawrence (though I own a copy of Women in Love).

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She also got me some movie star biographies/autobiographies, since I love to read about Hollywood–including Cary Elwes’ book, which I was very, very excited about. I also received Wicked and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which I didn’t have copies of before, and a new (to me) Margaret Atwood book. So much fun!

I’m so excited to get reading! Did you receive a book you really wanted for the holidays? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 New-To-Me Authors I Can’t Wait to Read More From

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s topic is all about new-to-you authors. I’ve read quite a few books this year, but this post is all about new authors that stood out and that I look forward to reading more from. These are in no particular order (starred authors are those I read more than one book by this year).

Lucy Knisley*–I’ve read graphic novels before this year, but never so many. I really enjoyed my foray into this genre, and particularly enjoyed the graphic memoirs by Lucy Knisley. Her writing is honest and authentic and bittersweet (though never bitter). My favorite work of hers was her memoir about planning her wedding called Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride.

Elena Ferrante*–I have one more book before I finish the four Neapolitan Novels, but you don’t have to read much of her work to know that Ferrante is a very important writer. Her books about friendship are some of the most real (and most uncomfortable) I’ve ever read, dealing not only in connection and support but bitterness and jealousy and misunderstandings. I didn’t always find the books easy to get through, but I felt like I accomplished something each time I finished one and that I’d had to confront my own understanding of what friendship is and the many ways it can materialize.

Anthony Doerr–There’s so much I could say about All the Light We Cannot See–the writing is great, the story is spectacular, and there is plenty to talk about from the motifs to the setting. It’s a wonderful book. If you haven’t read it, it should really go on your list. It lives up to all its hype.

Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me won the National Book Award for nonfiction and the prize was well deserved. A father’s conversation with his son, Coates shares his perspective on blackness in America with devastating honesty. It may be a very short book, but it will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

Lev Grossman*–I’m a huge fan of fantasy in general, but The Magicians Series was one of my favorite things that I read this year. Grossman takes some of the most influential writing about magic for children (think C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling) and turns all of it into a book about what happens when you’re a magician and you grow up. Somewhere between a fantasy novel and a coming of age story, Grossman has a talent for making some of the most beloved fantasy books of all time come alive again for adults.

Rebecca Mead*–I read plenty of nonfiction this year, but most of it had to do with weddings. Mead’s take on the subject, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, was more serious than most, all about how our society has been influenced (as well as influences) by an industry that makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year. I also read Mead’s take on Middlemarch, which was part memoir and part literary criticism and enjoyed it immensely, having tackled Eliot’s opus last year.

Chinua Achebe*–We read this trilogy in my book club, and without a doubt the first book, Things Fall Apart, is the best of them. It’s an important story about colonialism and human dignity written by a Nigerian author.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery–I don’t know why I’ve never read The Little Prince before now, since it’s been on my list for a very long time. It’s not a book I was familiar with as a kid, but if I ever have children it’s one I’ll be sure to share with them. I love how it deals with imagination, beauty, goodness, and childhood. And I really enjoyed the Netflix movie (the soundtrack is gorgeous).

Kevin Wilson–Has anybody seen the movie adaptation of The Family Fang? I didn’t even know they’d made it into a film until I’d finished reading the book. It’s definitely a weird story about a family who does crazy performance art pieces in public spaces. It’s all about art and family dysfunction and screwing up your kids.

Isaac Asimov–Though I read a lot of science fiction I’ve actually been a little nervous about getting into Asimov. Either I like him and now I have a million books to read or I hate him and then I hate one of the most important science fiction writers of all time. I guess I shouldn’t have worried–it was definitely the former. I’m still catching up with this book club series (Foundation), but I can’t wait to read more.

 

Interested in last years post? You can find it here.

What author discoveries did you make this year? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books that Have Been on my TBR Since I First Set Up a Goodreads Account

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

In college I took a required class that I hated–a library studies class that taught you how to use the databases. Useful, but mind numbingly boring. The best thing to come out of that class was the discovery of Goodreads, which combined my love of making lists with my love of books. What could be better than that?

It’s a love affair that’s continued all the way to the present. Currently, I have 523 books on my TBR list because that’s just how I roll. It doesn’t even include all the books I want to read (I have other lists of books in notebooks), but it’s plenty. There are dozens of books that are still on the list from the first year that I made it. Here’s ten, in no particular order.

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

The first time I watched the film (with Reese Witherspoon) I understood exactly none of it. But I think I was twelve, so I’m giving myself a pass. After college, when it came on Netflix and with a wealth more reading about/from the time period, I enjoyed it so much. I just bought it recently, but I haven’t picked it up yet.

  • A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

This book must have been on a recommended list on Goodreads back then. Since I’ve seen the film (with Helena Bonham Carter), and I’m a little leery of the book and it’s almost certain lack of happy things.

  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not much to say about this one. Haven’t read it. Still want to read it.

  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

I love the Tudors. They are such a great, dysfunctional family. This book caught my eye at Costco and I didn’t pick it up. But one day it will be mine! Or I’ll check it out at the library.

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Oh the great book club read with the crazy title. My mom said she couldn’t really get into it, so I snatched it from the donation pile.

  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

I wasn’t ever really that into the movie, but I’m obsessed with fantasy and maybe I’d like the movie more now if I saw it again.

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My fiance has told me the book is better than the film but it’s still not that great. So it might actually come off this list. I’m not sure. Anyone have an opinion on this book?

  • The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee

There’s really no reason this novel hasn’t been read yet. I’ve even picked it up from the library several times.

  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

All for one and one for all! Love the movies (like the one with Tim Curry), need to read the book.

  • Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

I used to eye this book at Barnes & Noble as a kid–the cover was hypnotic but there was always some other more urgent book to buy.

 

Want to scroll through my never-ending TBR? Here’s the link.

 

So over to you now. Have you read any of these books? Avoided them on purpose? Had a book that you’ve encountered over and over during the years and never gotten to?

Or have you, like me, seen a bunch of adaptations without reading the source material? Do you always read the book first? Let me know in the comments!

10 Really Good Books with Fewer than 2000 ratings on Goodreads

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from the Broke and the Bookish.

I know I have been very absent from the blog in the past month or so, but I promise I will be better about that in the future. There are some changes coming to the blog, but I will talk about that in my next post. For now, my TTT.

I thought this topic was going to prove much harder to post about, but given that I have just shy of 140 books with less than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads, the only hard part was deciding which books to put on this list. So without further ado, here are 10 books that you should consider reading, even though they don’t have many ratings to back them up.

One Hundred & One Beautiful Small Towns in Italy by Paolo Lazzarin–38 ratings

This coffee table book has the most beautiful photos as well as in depth descriptions (for its genre) of 101 places to go in Italy that are not Venice, Rome, Florence, or Milan. Divided into geographic areas, this book will definitely make you wish you were in Italy right this second. You know, if you weren’t wishing that already…

Zebra Crossing by Meg Vandermerwe–63 ratings

I’ve used this book before to cook from (sugar beans and rice), and I am actually a little surprised this book doesn’t have more ratings because it’s quite good. It’s a fictional account of a young South African woman who is albino. It deals with ostracism, poverty, family, and hope. It’s fairly quick to read, but it stays with you.

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by Andrea di Robilant  –127 ratings

If you haven’t read Robilant’s nonfiction and you’re interested in Venice, you’re missing out. I love the way he mines his family history for interesting stories and then backs them up with tons of research and an engaging nonfiction style. This particular book is an account of Robilant’s search for the identity of a very specific rose that grows at his family’s former home. Not even experts in the field have been able to identify it. The book talks about the people Robilant encounters and the significance of this rose and roses in general. It sounds like the weirdest, most specific subject, but I finished it in a single sitting. The two other works of his I’ve read, Lucia and A Venetian Affair, (which I made this Italian hot chocolate from) discuss the lives of his ancestors with plenty of Napoleonic goodies in the first and a wonderful forbidden love story in the second. They also have fewer than 2,000 ratings and are well worth reading.

Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde by Thomas Wright–130 ratings

It doesn’t surprise me that it’s mostly nonfiction that has such low rating counts, as it’s usually on very niche topics. But if you’re a reader, chances are you’re interested in what other people read. I found this tour through Wilde’s library to be a fascinating way to conduct an autobiography. This brioche recipe was inspired by the book.

xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths edited by Kate Bernheimer–347 ratings

Short story collections also populate the less than 2,000 ratings category. They’re not read quite as often as more lengthy fiction, but they can be treasure troves of great writing, especially when they revolve around an interesting theme. This collection includes 50 writers who reimagine popular myths.

Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change The Way We Think About Our Lives by David Sloan Wilson–558 ratings

This book was assigned in my anthropology class, and I found it both engaging and accessible. A great way to learn about the ways evolution affects our everyday lives.

Lighthead by Terrance Hayes–1,073 ratings

There’s some great poetry out there being written by modern poets, and this National Book Award winner is just one book that’s definitely worth perusing. This collection revolves around themes of fire and time. Hayes writes in a prose-like style with incredible rhythm and energy. Here’s a stanza from his poem “For Brothers of the Dragon”:

“I am full of dirt sometimes. I am trying to tell you a story/ without talking. I promise nothing I write about you/ tomorrow will be a lie. Instead of fiction, brother,/ I will offer you an apology. And if that fails,/ I will drag myself into your arms crying, Speak to me.”

Poetry is something that people tend to shy away from reading because they think they don’t “get it” and that it’s therefore not for them. But no one “gets” a poem. It’s a puzzle with no key, and it’s worth reading it, or better, listening to it just to think about why you enjoy or don’t enjoy it. It’s not about deciphering so much as grappling, thinking. You don’t have to understand it, you just have to let it move you. Okay. Poetry rant over.

Run River by Joan Didion–1,170 ratings

Didion is hard to read when you’re not expecting her style. She is one of the least sentimental writers I’ve ever encountered, but she’s the master of the odd, but interesting fact or detail that lends so much to characterization and atmosphere. This novel is her first published book, and of all her books it’s my second favorite (after her essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem), about a dysfunctional Californian family.

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons–1,178 ratings

I really, really, really liked this book about a Jewish woman whose husband vanishes. It talks about identity, marriage, heritage, and longing. And it will make you so hungry.

Girl Reading by Katie Ward–1,909 ratings

This book just makes the list at 1900 ratings, but I couldn’t leave it out. Told in a series of long short stories, the book examines different women–all readers. There are some narrative connections, but for the most part they’re independent stories about women of various ages engaging in my favorite pastime. A really interesting book I can’t recommend enough.

 

Now over to you. Have you read anything on this list? What are your own favorite underrated books?

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Nonfiction Books to Sink Your Teeth Into

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

TTT

I think it’s fairly easy to find good fiction books. There are so many out there, covering every topic and genre, and there are more all the time. But sometimes you want a book based on facts, not just one that reveals truths (as I believe fiction does). Sometimes it’s difficult to find good nonfiction. Not because there aren’t plenty of books, but because many books are published because of the author’s credentials and less because of an engaging writing style. They can be some of the most rewarding or some of the most disappointing  books, and finding one you like cis made even more important because nonfiction usually takes longer to read.

I’ve written some posts on nonfiction books for my reading challenge, but I wanted to share some of the nonfiction books I enjoyed before I started blogging. Some, well most, of these books have very specific topics, and I find that the more specific and narrow the book’s focus is, the more interesting details you get. Maybe you’ll find something that sparks your interest.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet try Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl.

This book takes you through the origins of desserts by geographic area. It talks about the origins of specific dishes as well as the development of new techniques and increasing availability of ingredients. There are some recipes hidden in there as well. On the whole, an engaging and informative book if you think dessert should come before dinner (and lunch and breakfast).

If you’re in the mood for a book about the kitchen, but have less of a sweet tooth try Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson.

A treatise on all things kitchen, this book talks about the evolution and invention of kitchen mainstays. If you’ve ever been interested of the development of the fork or any kind of cookware, this is the book for you.

If you’re in the mood for learning about another culture, try Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi.

This memoir about growing up in a Moroccan harem is both challenging and rewarding. It has a lot of insightful, beautiful moments.

It you’re in the mood for a book about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of evil, read From the Ashes of Sobibor by Thoms Tovi Blatt.

A survivor memoir about one of the deadliest WWII concentration camps, this book is a difficult but amazing story that will make you feel so much. I came away from this book feeling awed, inspired, and saddened. It has a lot to say about what humanity is capable of, both good and evil.

If you’re in the mood to learn more about a particular decade try Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.

Didion’s masterful collection of essays on various aspects of life in the 1960s is my favorite of the 8 books I’ve read by her. She has a gift for nonfiction (if you like this, read The White Album), and she transports you into worlds you could never have entered otherwise.

If you’re in the mood for a forbidden romance try A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant.

This author and his father find a collection of letters from the 18th century and piece together a great family scandal. It’s a veritable Romeo & Juliet tale, but it really happened. Too bad all our attics can’t yield fruit this juicy. I’ve read three books by di Robilant and also highly recommend his book Chasing the Rose, which is all about trying to identify a particular unknown species of rose on his property and the people he meets and the meandering Italian sort of adventure it takes him on. It sounds really weirdly specific, but I know nothing about flowers at all, and I read the book in one sitting.

If you’re in the mood for a more fashionable book, try Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber.

You may think that clothes are of little importance, but this book shows that they can ultimately cost you your head. This book delves into the ways that Marie Antoinette shaped French fashion and how her morning’s choices influenced politics. I’ve never read anything like this fashion analysis, which brings a whole new layer to anyone’s study of the French Revolution and French culture of that time or Marie Antoinette specifically. You’ll never look at clothes the same way again.

If you’re in the mood for something to read after watching Downton Abbey, try Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnavron or To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace

These two books talk about the real women from America who took their money to Europe at the turn of the twentieth century and bought titles.

If you’re in the mood for reading about an author try Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde by Thomas Weight or The Real Wizard of Oz  by Rebecca Loncraine.

This first is a look at the books that Oscar Wilde read, which is a fascinating way to learn about an author. His personal library, reading habits, and relationship to the written word are all discussed. Another interesting author biography is one on L. Frank Baum. Rebecca Loncraine makes plenty of assumptions about details that *may* have influenced Baum’s ultimate creation, but her treatment of the man behind the curtain is still interesting and engaging, even if it has to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt. For a more scholarly treatment on Baum and the Oz books, try L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz by Katharine M. Rogers. Her book delves further into literary analysis, if that’s interesting to you.

I hope if nothing else this list encourages you to give a nonfiction book a chance. Memoirs, biography, and creative nonfiction are great ways to learn about things that interest us and they give us new perspectives.

Has there been a nonfiction book you’ve found particularly inspiring? Let me know in the comments.