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!

What I’ve Been Reading This Week

I subscribe to lots of things–probably too many–and as such whenever I go on vacation (or don’t feel like reading things), I develop a huge backlog of reading. While I was cleaning this week, I’d take I-can’t-stand-it-one-more-minute breaks that I told myself were productive because I was clearing out the back log of feminist newsletters, book/literary news, and daily poetry.

Here are a few pieces from Lit Hub that I really enjoyed reading this week:

Poetry is one of those things that I never seem to be motivated enough to buy and read collections of, which is a shame because there’s so much good poetry out there–even if you don’t think you like poetry. This list is broken down by types of readers and includes some great poets–ancient, modern, and contemporary. A lot of them are famous enough that your library might have them, which is great because I don’t often return to a book over and over again.

I may be borderline obsessed with Jane Austen, but it’s only because I think she is such a great observer of humanity. Korducki shares her opinion in this essay that marriage is still mired in the bizarre mix of practical considerations and affection that was just starting to make itself known in Austen’s time. She also shares her own experience of coming to Austen’s work, which is less of my fan-girl type experience and more of a this-is-an-18th-slash-19th-century-English-class-and-you’re-an-English-major-so-reading-Austen-is-compulsory type of experience.

I love 90s movies. And adaptations. And Shakespeare. Some of my favorites like Much Ado About Nothing and 10 Things I Hate About You are on this list as well as some others I haven’t seen and now have to add to my watch list, which is always growing.

And, saving the best for last:

My obsession with Shakespeare, Austen, and film is only rivaled by my love of fairy tales. Fine’s essay about the nature of desire in fairy tales (and the consequences of getting what you want or wanting too much) was riveting for me. A totally different way of looking at what a fairy tale is meant to do.


Have you read anything that sparked your interest this week? Let me know in the comments.

10 Really Good Books with Fewer than 2000 ratings on Goodreads


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?




Baking for Bookworms: Apple Cake from Sylvia Plath’s The Collected Poems


I was a little surprised to find anything I could cook from in Plath’s poems. She’s not exactly a poet you associate with down home cooking. But luckily there was one food that immediately jumped out, and that was apple cake.

The mention of apple cake is from her 1959 poem “Point Shirley”, which is actually one of my many favorites in the collection. It’s about a woman who lives a very hard life, and there’s a lot of sea and water imagery along with descriptions of thriftiness and stubbornness.

It’s in one of the middle stanzas that the  apple cake appears:

“Nobody wintering now behind/ The planked-up windows where she set/ Her wheat loaves/ And apple cakes to cool. What is it/ Survives, grieves/ So, over this battered, obstinate spit/ Of gravel? The waves’/ Spewed relics clicker masses in the wind,”

Point Shirley is the place where Plath’s grandparents lived and the poem appears to be about her own childhood memories of her grandmother. There’s also some thought that it might be more generally about her feelings on motherhood. The apple cake is just one detail plucked from many possible ones I’m sure, but it’s an interesting choice because apple desserts have particular connotations in America of home and comfort and nostalgia. It probably reminded her of her grandmother, just like challah and kugel remind me of mine.

Besides any symbolic significance of apples, they also just make fantastic desserts–they have great flavor and lend themselves well to most pairings.

This apple cake recipe is adapted from Karen DeMasco’s book The Craft of Baking.

caramelized-apple cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, very soft
  • 2 tart apples (like granny smith)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350F.

For this recipe you can use either a cast-iron skillet, or you can use an 8 or 9 inch cake pan, or a pie pan. I used a cake pan, so the instructions will reflect that, but it’s very easy to make in an oven safe skillet. Simply make your caramel in the skillet and lay everything on top before baking–couldn’t be simpler.

In a pot, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with three tablespoons of water. Mix together so that all the sugar is wet and then cook over high heat until the sugar is a deep golden caramel color. This takes about 2 minutes. It’s very important to stand and watch the pot the whole time. Sugar will burn very quickly.

Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add 2 tablespoons of the butter, whisking to incorporate (the butter being very soft helps a lot with getting it all mixed in before the caramel cools too much). Spread the caramel on the bottom of your desired pan.

Peel the two apples and then cut into very thin slices. Arrange on top of the caramel, starting from the outside and working your way in and being sure to overlap the fruit.

In a large bowl, beat the remaining 3/4 cups sugar, 6 tablespoons of butter, and the vanilla together until fluffy. This takes about 3-4 minutes with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add egg yolks, one at a time, on low speed until combined.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal) and whisk together. Add the dry ingredients in alternating stages with the milk (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour), until everything is mixed.

In a very clean bowl (if you suspect there might be any greasiness whatsoever, you can take a little white vinegar on a paper towel and wipe your bowl and beaters) beat your egg whites until soft peaks form (about 4 minutes on medium speed). Gently fold the whites into the rest of the batter in three stages.

Spread the batter over the apples and bake for about 40-50 minutes until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before running a knife around the edge and flipping onto a plate.

It’s best the day it’s served, but you can wrap it with plastic and it keeps at room temperature for about three days.

Are there any desserts that remind you of your grandparents? Let me know in the comments. And if there’s ever a book you’d like me to cook from, leave that in the comments as well!





A Year Reading Women Authors


Above: The first book of my year reading only women authors.

As I said at the beginning of my challenge, I tend to read women writers in equal measure to male writers. Using Goodreads to measure, I found that I tended to be split down the middle with my reading the three years previous to my challenge (almost exactly 50/50, if not a little more towards women writers).

I undertook this challenge not to push myself totally outside my comfort zone, but to be more conscious about my reading. I wanted to see if I could meet a challenge that limited the books that were available to me and see if I could help dispel some of the myths about female writers.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to change the way people view women who write, but I have a new appreciation for the women who have come before me and for the struggles facing underrepresented authors like women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.

We’ve come a long way from a view of women writers that prompted Gilbert and Sullivan to denounce lady novelists as some of society’s worst scourges (but the issues with sensitivity in The Mikado certainly do not end or even begin there). However, the idea of women writing for women is still regarded as not serious–and called chick lit.

But this post is less about the state of publishing and more of a discussion of what I learned in 2015 from reading women writers. So let’s jump in.

The most difficult part about this challenge was thinking ahead. No longer could I pick up any old book in the library. I had to put things on hold much more (though this is true of the Boise libraries anyway. Their collection is spread out throughout their branches). I had to check on an author’s bio, especially for authors with names that didn’t immediately proclaim their gender.

I made a lot of new discoveries.  I found Kelly Link, Iris Murdoch, A.S. Byatt, Isabel Allende, Ursula K. LeGuin and many more. It may be safe to say that I would have found these writers at some point, but I’m glad I didn’t have to wait. I branched out more into YA than I have in years. I read less poetry than I wanted, but discovered new poets and delved into Sylvia Plath’s work fully for the first time. I read more short stories than I have since being forced to read many in my writing classes in college. I read across genres, discovered all kinds of interesting protagonists, and fell in love with books all over again.

Some fun stats (I read 75 books, so that’s what percentages are based on, unless noted):

  • 25.33% nonfiction, 72%fiction, 1.33% graphic novels, 1.33% poetry
  • of nonfiction: 42% memoir, 37% biography, 21% other nonfiction
  • of fiction: 22% male protagonist, 59% female protagonist, 19% mult. protagonists, both genders
  • of fiction: 4% mystery, 6% classic (much lower than usual), 9% short stories (higher than usual), 11% YA, 13% Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 20% historical fiction, 37% literary fiction

In short, it wasn’t that different from any other year reading. Except that being more conscious about the writer let me think about the relationship between the writer and the text. Does gender color a person’s work? Personally, I’m not sure. A writer’s experiences and interests certainly have the potential to color their work, but writers can also write about things they’ve never experienced with skill and insight. Gender might color things, but so does economics, education, hobbies, age, ethnicity, ancestry, and religion.  Women write deep, provocative portrayals of both male and female characters. They write about war and human nature, death and tragedy, work and play–in short they are writers. They write about what interests them and what upsets them, what holds them back and sets them free.

When there were differences, I mainly found them in nonfiction. Obviously if I was reading memoir or autobiography the focus was on women or a woman. And many scholarly nonfiction writers I read were focused on the biographies of women or subjects that were associated with feminism or women’s rights. This might have been more a result of my own biases in choosing reading material than anything. But it also makes sense that women might focus more closely on female subjects given that many of them have been ignored or downplayed in the past.

There were also far fewer classics available to me, especially those that I had not already read. Normally I read at least a good-sized handful of classics a year, so 3 is way lower than normal, prompting me to think about how it’s only fairly recently that so many women writers are published with their male contemporaries.

So while I may not have had a reading epiphany last year, narrowing my reading focus helped me think about the way I read and the way I want to write. It showed me that as a writer, one that will hopefully be published one day, I’m in very good company.


Did you make any reading discoveries last year? Let me know in the comments!

Women Writers Reading Challenge: #68-75 The End



At first I was going to post the rest of the reading challenge one book at a time, like I did for all the rest of the books, but then I decided that would take weeks to get them all out there, and meanwhile I wouldn’t be able to start posting this year’s books. So I decided to do one great big post with all of the last 8 books.

Next week, I’ll do a retrospective post on my year reading women.

#68: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

This book of short stories was really great: clever, tongue-in-cheek, and a bit dark. Her writing is immensely controlled and each word feels deliberate. The title story was one of my favorites, where Margaret Thatcher’s would-be assassin breaks into a house so he can take aim from a good vantage point and has a very telling conversation with the house’s owner. Her stories are really well done and I recommend them for anyone who:

  • likes to read writers who are
  • likes English authors and English settings
  • is intrigued by the title (that’s why I picked up the book in the first place)


#69: From Whitechapel by Melanie Clegg

This particular book was on my currently-reading list for ages, not because the book was terribly long, but because it was an e-book, and I’m awful at finishing those. I just don’t like to read on screens all that much. Unless it’s a blog or an article. Anyway, Melanie Clegg is a terrific blogger and her blog Madame Guillotine has me constantly drooling over potential trips to the UK. The story here is about Jack the Ripper, and in particular the effect that his serial killing has on some of the women who know the victims. The story (despite its subject matter) is very sweet and fun, and the women are interesting and feisty. I wish that Clegg had a better copy-editor–the book could use a closer look–but it’s pretty good for being self-published historical fiction, and is a great way to while away some time.

For people who:

  • like historical fiction of the seedy side of London variety
  • want to support indie authors
  • need a book to put on their e-reader for their next vacation


#70: We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill

Victoria and the Victorian era are endlessly fascinating to me. I love strong women, and Victoria is caught up in a rare and crazy time–she is one of the most powerful women in the world and yet she’s constantly being told that her place is behind a man’s. She reinforced these traditional values in her own life, and so by its very nature her life is full of dualities and strange connections to power. Her relationship with Albert is the stuff of legend, and yet it was not a simple relationship by any means. Gill takes a deep look into the backgrounds of the young girl who was never supposed to be queen and the young man who shouldn’t have been important enough to be an English monarch’s consort. She talks through their courtship and subsequent marriage in a way that is engaging, highly interesting, and obviously well-researched. This was one of the most engaging biographies I’ve read in a long time, and I love the tension that having two subjects produces and the ultimate balance that Gill achieves.

For anyone who:

  • Loves those crazy Victorians despite all their flaws
  • Needs a good biography to read, stat
  • Is interested in the European monarchy, politics before the first World War, women’s rights, or great love affairs

#71: The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath

I don’t think there’s that much that needs to be said about Sylvia Plath’s poems–she’s one of those poets that’s famous enough to be known by the general public, even those that don’t read poetry. Some of her poems are magnificent, many of them are very powerful, and the majority of them are very dark. Her early poems in particular seem to be in love with words (to the point of being sometimes a little difficult to read aloud), and I find that most of the time I’m not in the correct frame of mind to totally appreciate them (too happy). However, I respect her talent a lot, and I’m sad that died so young. I think her work could have only improved with time.

For anyone who:

  • Likes their poems like they like their coffee/tea–very dark with no sweetener
  • Anyone who’s intrigued by Plath’s legend and wants to know more
  • Is in a dark place and needs someone to understand how they feel (Public Service Announcement: we all get in those moods sometimes, but–please reach out to loved ones if you need help… Plath had so much to offer the world, and so do you)


#72: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Even though this book is decently long, I thought it went by pretty quickly. It’s not exactly a book I’d call action-packed, but its characters are interesting and complex and the writing is good. It has to do with a man who attacks a painting at a National Gallery, only to be caught and taken to a psychiatric facility. The psychiatrist tries to help his patient, who has decided to remain mute for almost a year, so he reaches out to the patient’s loved ones to start reconstructing his life. Along the way, he discovers a dark secret in fine art’s history.

For people who:

  • like books that say a lot about human nature, even if the plot moves slowly
  • are interested in (fictional) art history, contemporary art, Impressionists, and painting
  • are interested in psychology


#73: Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Can I just say I want to be Kelly Link when I grow up? I think this woman is single-handedly responsible for making me fall in love with short stories. Well, Link and Angela Carter. I’m in love with her particular brand of magical realism, and I can’t get enough of her writing.

For people who:

  • like all the trappings of magical realism, including witches, zombies, and things that are hard to describe, that you’ve never seen, and that you really, really want to be real (or are afraid just might be)
  • want to see a great writer at work
  • who want to give short stories a try (she’s one to start with, especially if you like magic)


#74: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

I’ve long since run out of Austen books, but I like reading novels from a roughly contemporary time period. This is Gaskell’s last book, and it’s actually unfinished (though she only stopped about a chapter from the end, so it’s easy to tell what happens). Not all of the characters are very likable, especially from a modern perspective, but Gaskell really draws on this, embraces it, and her characters end up being very well drawn and never shirk from displaying their foibles. Her drawing room scenes are done with such delicateness; they are exquisite. She is a master of the nineteenth century polite burn. This book is long, but is well worth the time investment.

For people who:

  • like classics and have run out of Austen or Bronte novels
  • need to retreat back in time
  • like Masterpiece and/or BBC mini-series


#75: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

This book won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, which is quite unusual, but it definitely deserves the acclaim. It’s written in a style that I could describe as newspaper or headline-esque. The sentences are short and clipped (though not lacking in detail or description), with an emphasis on verbs and a reduction of some of the more traditional sentence structures. It’s a very interesting style, though it can take a while to get into. The story follows Quoyle, a third-rate newspaperman as he loses his cheating wife in a car accident and decides to move back to his ancestral (though never before seen by him) home in Newfoundland.

For people who:

  • are looking for something different with great writing
  • are interested in journalism, ships, Canada, or the way we rebuild ourselves after loss
  • who like stories that take place in unforgiving landscapes


And there you have it. My last 8 read of 2015. I hope some of these books make it onto your 2016 reading list. Have you read any of these books or writers? Which would you be most interested in? Let me know in the comments.



Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Wouldn’t Mind Finding Under My Tree


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

I think my mom was heartbroken when I asked her if Santa was real in the second grade. She loved the magic of it. She told me that while Santa and fairies might not be real, the magic of Christmas and giving was. My mom told me that it was my job not to spoil the magic for anyone else, and I solemnly vowed not to reveal Santa’s mythical origins to anyone who believed.

Whether or not you still believe in Santa, there’s no denying that a book is a perfect Christmas present. For more on how books started modern Christmas gift giving, read this.

I try to be really choosy with the books I ask for. I’ve either read the book before, or I’m pretty certain that it will meet the criteria to stay on my bookshelves after I’ve read it (it’s good enough to reread or I would recommend it to someone else).

So here are ten books I asked for this holiday season:

  • The Last Love Song Tracy  Daugherty– This biography of Joan Didion (who is amazing by the way–read her books, especially her first collection of essays) was written by a college professor of mine. I took his Joan Didion class and found it interesting and illuminating. No doubt the book will be the same.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Alan Moore–Another professor talked to me about this book when she was trying to convince me to think about graduate school. She said I could find an illustrator for some awesome idea I’d yet to come up with.
  • The next books in Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series that I don’t have.  I consider these books to be a guilty pleasure–historical fiction replete with spies, dashing escapades, and the right amount of romance.
  • A collection of Oscar Wilde’s plays–The Importance of Being Earnest is probably my favorite play of all time. Wilde’s wit just spews forth like a fountain. I wish real life were as clever as this play.
  • Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman–I enjoy Whitman’s poems whenever I read them, but I don’t have this book. I love broadening my poetry collection, and I almost always keep poetry books, even if they’re not my absolute favorites.
  • The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov–This book is fantastic. I want to read it again, and I want to recommend it to everyone.
  • The Princess Bride William Goldman–ditto
  • As You Wish Cary Elwes–I’m really eager to read this, even if it doesn’t make the bookshelf.
  • Royal Wedding Meg Cabot–I got rid of all my YA books when I went to college, so now I’m borrowing the Princess Diaries series from the library so that I’m ready for this book, you know, mentally.
  • The complete Lord of the Rings series–I haven’t read these, only The Hobbit, and I really want to do so next year.

How do you choose books for people? Do you ask what they want? Have the perfect formula? Give the same perfect book? Let me know in the comments (and also link you own TTT’s if you made one).