a fiction lover’s guide to nonfiction

Hello, gang.

It’s me—back at it again with the posts. Doing the thing. The usual.

During this blog’s short and rather sporadic career, I have only discussed works of fiction. And that’s because I LOVE FICTION, and also it makes up at least 89% of the literature that I consume. Fiction made me love reading, and I will always love reading it.

BUT in the past couple of years, I’ve also felt my lack of knowledge of and appreciation for other genres. Do you ever think of how many books there are in the world? There are poetry books! Nature books! Humor books! Book books! How had I not noticed this before? How had I not noticed the infinite number of lovely books in existence, just waiting for me to find them? Definitely not because I was too busy rereading Harry Potter ANYWAY. My perspective on nonfiction really began to change when I took a couple nonfiction writing classes in college. I loved those classes, loved reading essays and works of nonfiction that made me feel just as alive as I did while reading my favorite novel. Words are magic, always.

BUT I also realize that a lot of people struggle stepping into the murky waters of nonfiction. It can be daunting facing the walls of self-help books, the mountains of histories, the fortresses of memoirs. Where do you begin? How do you know which are good?? Or which will bore you to death???

Well, you, dear reader, are in luck, because I have some slammin’ recommendations of books I have read in the past months.

(and fyi, I’m not going to get into the specifics of nonfiction sub-genres and whatnot. These books are simply not fiction, and thus fall into the required category.)

1. notes from a small island by bill bryson

bill

If you’ve ever thought I want to read a travel book, but I also want to laugh, and also I’m pretty into Britain, then this is the book for you. Bill Bryson, American, describes his misadventures as he travels around the whole of Britain as a last goodbye after living on the island for several years. As an uprooted American, he offers a very interesting perspective of the nation, at once removed and within it. But the most important thing about Bill Bryson is his voice. Bryson writes like no one else: equal parts hilarious and precise and surprisingly touching. This book captures the heart and the dirty underwear of Britain, displaying them in flagrant but very affectionate manner.

I first read a chapter of this book—the one where he’s hiking in the Lake District—while on a study abroad two years ago. We read it because we were doing the same exact thing—hiking in the Lake District, as it happens. It instantly became one of the best things I’d ever read. Not only did it have me rolling over laughing, but it captured so well the same emotions I was feeling at the time. I knew the exact sensation Bryson described after having summiting the mountain. I didn’t know that a writer could do that, capture life and emotion, so exactly.

I meant to read the rest of the book after I returned, but somehow forgot to do so amidst life responsibilities and other things. But then, while I was staying in England a couple months ago, I saw it again in a bookstore and decided to have it for my own. Of course, I adored it. The whole book is a delight, partly because it reflects my own love and bemusement for that odd, lovely little island. I highly recommend it, especially for fellow Anglophiles.

And then, just as I was about to lie down and call for a stretcher, we crested a final rise and found ourselves abruptly, magically on top of the earth, on a platform in the sky, amid an ocean of swelling summits. I had never seen anything half so beautiful before. “F*** me,” I said in a moment of special eloquence and realized I was hooked.

2. h is for hawk by helen macdonald

mable

First, let’s have a moment of appreciate for this gorgeous cover. Hot dang.

Okay.

I’d had this book on my to-read list for ever, but somehow had never been in the mood to read it. I don’t really know why. Perhaps our souls know when they need to read a book, and my soul was eventually ready for this one.

H is for Hawk is an amalgamation of many things: nature writing, memoir, biography. Helen MacDonald blends them all so beautifully, so seamlessly that it seems perfectly natural for them to coexist in a genre all their own. The basic premise is this: after the death of her father, Helen, falconer, sinks into a depressive state and out of crazed desperation buys a goshawk, one of the most notorious of all birds of prey.

But it’s also much more than that. It’s a heartbreaking portrayal of grief, how it breaks us and leaves us to piece ourselves back together again. It’s a beautiful examination of goshawks (an animal about which I knew NOTHING about beforehand), their place in nature and in falconry. It’s an insightful glimpse into the life of author T. H. White and his own experiences with love and loss and goshawks. MacDonald ties these narrative threads into a gorgeous tapestry, leaving us with an image of a woman, driven by heartache, to find her place amongst life and memory.

Aside from the lovely sad prose, I super enjoyed learning more about falconry. As I said before, I know embarrassingly little about birds of prey, but Helen’s book opened my eyes to the wonderfully haunting creatures. I was a bit surprised by the inclusion of the T. H. White narrative at first, but I adored the biographical sections. Again, I knew little about the man, but soon began to ache for his sad lonely self. Reading about him made me just want to give him a nice hug.

Conclusion: I wish I’d read this book sooner.

You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.

3. the problem of pain by c.s. lewis

clive

Real talk. I freaking love C. S. Lewis. He’s just the best, you know? I’ve always imagined him as my loving and sensible old grandpa. He’s the kind of guy I’d like to have afternoon tea with in a cozy library, discussing life, literature, etc., as we sip our tea and eat our cakes. He pat my head and refill my tea and then tell me a fairytale.

Anyway.

Naturally, I love the Chronicles of Narnia. (Which, come to think, I really need to reread. It’s been a while.) BUT I haven’t read any of Lewis’s other works, save Till We Have Faces, which is a lovely and interesting retelling of the Cupid / Psyche myth—and yet another piece of fiction. Long story short, I want to read his nonfiction religious works.

I’m starting with the Problem of Pain. 

I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve enjoyed it immensely thus far. Lewis has quite an interesting way of discussing religion. It’s rather academic, and I like how complex, and yet simple, he makes these theological issues appear. Mostly, I just love when he gets down to the real heart of things. C. S. Lewis can really cut me down to the core. He aches in such a sincere way.

There is a quote I adore from this book, and I am going to share it, despite its mammoth length. Forgive me, for I am sentimental.

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw – but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of – something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clapclap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

*

So, here are my few and hardly all-encompassing recommendation. I am hoping to read many a good nonfiction book this year and will share my discoveries as they come.

Until then, happy reading.

xx, natalie

Advertisements

favorite films and other pretentious opinions

Hello, gang.

It’s me! I’m back! I’m not dead! Hurrah!

I’ve been away for quite a while, so I thought it was high time for me to dust off this old blog and make it a lovely place for discussion once more. Things are moving. Styles are changing. Posts are happening. It’s gonna be great.

While this is primarily a book blog, I wanted to ease into it with a little something different. Because, you know, I can do what I want.

ron

Real talk time. I am Obsessed™ with films. I love ’em. I love the format and the artistry and the fact that they can tell a good story within a two-hour time frame. I was talking with my parents the other day about our favorite films (because films are a family hobby in the Hopkins household, along with alliteration). And it got me wanting to give IN DEPTH explanations and analyses about my favorite movies because I am, by nature, an English major, and graduating has not changed that.

So here are my TOP FIVE FAVORITE FILMS*

*at the moment**

**and in no particular order

1. amélie (2001)

amelie

This! movie! is! my! life!

I first watched it when I was a senior in high school, taking a college-level Intro to Lit class. I mostly hated that class because the teacher was horrid and literally made me cry one time (a story for another day), but I do have to give her thanks for introducing me to this movie.

Amélie changed my life. Which is funny, because the tagline of the film is she’ll change your life. But Amélie did. For the first time I could remember, I experienced a character who I connected to and related to on a deep personal level. I was AmélieI still am Amélie, in many ways, but to seventeen-year-old, cripplingly shy, uncomfortably introverted Natalie—seeing a character like Amélie navigate life successfully, albeit in her own odd way, made me hopeful that I could, too.

I love her for that.

Aside from that, Amélie is just a lovely film. The style and music are wonderfully Parisian. (I listened to the soundtrack on REPEAT my freshman year of university.) The characters delightful. The romance charming. One of the most beautiful things about the film (and the titular character) is its attention to small details. Nothing in life is too small or insignificant for notice. I think it’s a nice thing to remember.

If you haven’t ever seen Amélie, um, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? Kidding. But really, you should watch it.

Note: it is in French, so if subtitles irk you, maybe don’t watch it? but you still should??

So, my little Amélie, you don’t have bones of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So, go get him, for Pete’s sake!

2. dead poets society (1989)

robin

This is a fairly new love of mine, but a good one.

Like with Amélie, watching Dead Poets Society was kind of a Life Moment™ for me. I felt so much its passion for literature, its yearning to exist fully, its need to love with a love that’s more than love. This movie just felt so BIG in my heart that I wasn’t surprised when I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after.

And there’s a lot to love in this movie. Lovely, inspirational Robin Williams?  New England Prep School aesthetics? Autumn coziness? Soft boys just doing their best?

I can’t take it. I can’t. It’s too much for one heart.

Basically, the movie follows a group of boys who reinstate the Dead Poets Society, a society of literature lovers who say things like carpe diem and definitely do things for the #aesthetic. They’re a little pretentious, but, boy, do I love them. Especially Todd Anderson, shy boy and quiet poet (beginning to see a pattern?). The mighty yawp scene never fails to make me cry. Actually, this whole movie makes me cry. I’m crying right now just thinking about it.

It’s lovely. It’s so unbearably lovely. I want my life to feel like Dead Poets Society. I’d at least settle for a John Keating to guide me through these times of trouble and discuss poetry with me.

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

3. good will hunting (1997)

will

I must really love Robin Williams, because he’s in two of my top five movies. And what’s not to love? Nothing, I tell you, nothing.

Good Will Hunting is also a new favorite, though I wonder at how I’ve lived most of my twenty-two years without the movie. It’s similar in a lot of ways to Dead Poets Society, in how it makes you feel and how it makes you cry. I was sobbing buckets the first time I watched this, but thankfully I was alone. (I’m what you call an Ugly Crier.)

The film follows Will Hunting, a young genius working as a janitor at MIT. Unsurprisingly, his genius is discovered, along with a plethora of emotional baggage from his childhood. Enter Sean Maguire, psychologist, and MY FEELINGS.

It can be a hard movie to stomach at times, but I think it makes it all the dearer. It’s such a delightful juxtaposition of really lighthearted moments, like the scene about Sean’s late wife’s farting habit (classic), and much darker themes of abuse and loss. I just love that this movie isn’t afraid to make you hurt. Because hurting is a part of life, and sometimes we need to hurt before we can fully heal.

Watch Good Will Hunting. Love it. Cry about it. (Especially during that scene.)

You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.

4. austenland (2013)

jane

Okay, bit of a change of pace to the previous films. I may be a pretentious person, but I also know how to appreciate a good cheesy, goofy romp. I delight in the absurd and ridiculous and overly romantic. Sue me.

Austenland holds a really dear place in my heart. I watched it in theaters my freshman year of college with my then-roommate who was quickly becoming my best friend. This movie was kind of a monumental moment in our friendship. We laughed at it and loved it and quoted it to each other in daily conversation. It was—is—our best and most hilarious inside joke.

Since then, Austenland has kind of become a hallmark of my best friendships. You don’t like Austenland? With its hilarious characters? Its most quotable quotes? Its flawless satire of regency society and romance? Its perfect casting of JJ Field as Mr Nobley? Sorry, we can’t be friends.

If you like anything to do with Jane Austen, romance, or happiness, please watch this movie. It even makes a Hobbit joke. I know because I can quote tHE ENTIRE MOVIE.

Mr Darcy said to Jane, “Jane, listen! Listen right now! If you were to sleep with me tonight, I would actually speak to you the next day, unlike any man that you would meet a hundred years from now.”

5. pride and prejudice (2005)

lizzie

This film is the epitome of aesthetic. I watch it and my skin is clear, my crops are flourishing, my grades are up. Everything is beautiful while watching Pride and Prejudice. Of all these films, this is the one I’ve loved the longest, from the moment I first watched the opening title sequence as a young girl, Dario Marianelli’s lovely score in the background. It’s a nostalgic film to me, one that reminds me of home and sister love and cozy afternoons with my mom.

And for those concerned, YES this is my favorite adaption of P & P. Obviously. Don’t get me wrong—I like the Jennifer Ehle / Colin Firth version. But this film is an emotional experience. It captures so well the heart of the novel and these characters. Although it’s hard to translate Austen’s satirical and all-seeing voice from the novel, this film, I think, does a wonderful job giving us a bird’s eye view of this community of people, with all its glances around corners and peeks through windows. If I haven’t said it enough, I’ll say it again—it’s a beautiful, beautiful film.

Also, Keira Knightley? Amazing. And Matthew MacFadyen. And everyone else.

I just love this movie. It makes me very happy, and everyone needs a good, lovely, happy movie as a favorite film.

If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.

And there you have it. My favorite movies. Do you have similar ones? Or different one entirely? I’d love to know (especially if any of you have good recommendations).

Till then.

xx, natalie

 

in which i explain things

It’s been an age since I updated this blog, mostly because I was busy with my LAST SEMESTER OF UNIVERSITY. And I am not really updating this blog now, but rather letting you know that I will be posting more regularly on another blog: natalie the vagabond. I recently moved to England to live with my sister and travel the world whilst I am not busy with school or work for the first time in a while. I’ll be writing about my exploits there, if you care to read them.

Until then, happy reading.

in which i read some books

Hello, world.

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post, so I thought I’d update you on some of my latest reads. And, boy, have there been some good ones.

NATALIE’S READS OF AUGUST 2K16 (THUS FAR)

HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD by J.K. Rowling

Goodreads summary:

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Rating: 2.5/5

*spoiler-free review*

To be honest, I wasn’t at all excited to read the play, which, if you knew me, would be a shock because I am such a devoted lover of Harry Potter. (Like, riddikulusly so.) But I’d heard some of the spoilers beforehand, and they really, really disappointed me. I thought J.K. Rowling (forgive my blaspheme) was off her rocker and that the whole story seemed like a joke. (I still kind of think that.)

I still read it, though, and I will admit–it was better than I thought it would be. I really loved Scorpius (what a little nerd), and I enjoyed the moments between my old favorites, like Ron and Hermione. However, the things that had bothered me before I read it bother me still; even more so, really. I have a lot of issues with the character portrayals, the plot holes, and the overall feeling of the story–it didn’t feel like Harry Potter to me, which was so, so disheartening.

I won’t say too much, for those of you who haven’t read or have read it and enjoyed it. To me, though, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was nothing more than a disappointment. I try not to think about it too much.

*

AS YOU WISH: INCONCEIVABLE TALES FROM THE MAKING OF THE PRINCESS BRIDE by Cary Elwes

Goodreads summary:

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

Rating: 5/5

I adore the Princess Bride. Who doesn’t, really? It’s one of those films that literally anyone can enjoy, and is beloved by all who’ve seen it. It’s 100% quotable, delightful, hilarious, and charming–probably one of the most perfect movies out there.

Here is a thing to know about me: I love trivia, especially movie trivia. There’s an unspoken competition, I think, among my family members to see who can know the most things about movies, pop culture, and pretty much everything else. (I do not win this competition, but I do know a lot of interesting, useless things.)

The point is this: Cary Elwes’s memoir was a joyous, hilarious book filled with funny stories and intriguing facts about the making of the Princess Bride. In other words, it was the perfect book for my family and me. We listened to the audio book as we drove through eastern Canada on vacation, and it was so very delightful. Cary narrated most of it, but pretty much all the other actors and crew members (save those who have passed on) read their quotes and interviews. We all loved it dearly. When the book was over, I almost wanted to cry, as I felt I myself had been a part of the movie, and that a wonderful dream had ended.

I highly encourage those who a) love the Princess Bride, b) enjoy movie trivia, and c) like being happy to read this book–but more specifically to listen to the audio book. It adds that much more joy to the experience.

*

NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro

Goodreads summary:

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

Rating: 5/5

I have wanted to read this book for a long time. I heard about it, really, because I love Carey Mulligan. (She is the ultimate #goals.) When I was perusing her IMDB page one time, I noticed she starred in the movie based on this book. It looked lovely and heartbreaking and important–everything I love in a book.

Still, it took me a long to finally get around to reading this book. But I finally just buckled down and checked it out from the library.

It was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Never Let Me Go is often classified as science fiction, as it is, essentially, about clones. However, it’s not really science fiction–not in the traditional sense. Really, it’s about people and what makes people people. Ishiguro has a lovely, minimalistic, and personal voice, which lent itself well to the narration. By the end of the book, I felt really close to Kathy H., and realized that I related a lot to her.

Mostly, I loved its discussion about humanity and time and unfairness and love and heartbreak. (I loved that it takes place in the English countryside.) It’s a melancholy book and left me with a melancholy heart, which I adore.

(Excuse me while I finally go watch the movie and cry over how beautiful it is.)

*

So there are my recent reads! Have you read any of them? I’d love to discuss!

Also, if any of you have ideas about what sort of content you’d like to see from me in the future, I’d love to hear! (aka I need ideas haha)

yours, Natalie

 

in which things get a little strange

Hello, world.

I can’t believe it’s day thirty of the reading challenge!

I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to stick with it. I may have missed a few days, and this post is a day late (oops), but I always caught up and that’s what counts, right??

And let me tell you, I’m really excited about today’s post as, naturally, I saved the best for last.

DAY 30: MY FAVORITE BOOK

Goodreads summary:

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England–until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

I LOVE THIS BOOK. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

(Most of you reading this are probably thinking, I’ve never even heard of this book.)

That’s okay. I forgive you.

Like with the Night Circus, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a descriptive, slow-building novel centered around magic and odd characters and setting. It’s careful and precise and so very, very lovely that I can’t even stand it.

I first read this book in high school. I checked it out from the library because I heard Maggie Stiefvater raving about it and I trust her entirely (of course). From the moment I read the first page, I knew this book would always hold a dear place in my heart. Unlike most books I love, I’ve only read this novel once, that one first time. This is entirely because the book is so long–it literally took me a month to read, and not for lack of interest. It’s just a dense book, one that deserves to be savored. Aside from one thousand and six pages, the book is filled with footnotes detailing the history of magic in this alternative reality. To me, though, these anecdotes and asides add such a character and atmosphere to the novel and allow me to further delve into the world.

I read a blurb about the book that described it as a the lovechild of Austen and Tolkien (two of my favorite authors), which is actually really accurate. The myth and magic feel as ancient and mysterious as Tolkien’s, but the style and voice are so reminiscent of Austen’s clever narration–a proper fantasy.

But in the end, I don’t really know how to articulate why I love this book. It’s more than its literary devices and style and prose (even though I love all these things). It’s the myth of magic, it’s the love of England, it’s the strange and delightful characters. All the elements of the book come together so wonderfully, turning it into an odd treasure of a book.

bbcamerica:“Too right, Mr Norrell. ”
me when i read this book
I love it so very much. I hope to read it again soon.

(Also, the miniseries is super super good and is done so well.)

yours, Natalie

My thirty day reading challenge is now complete! If you missed any days, or want to start over, here is day one.

 

 

in which things get problematic

Hello, world.

I struggled deciding what to discuss today, partly because I think it’s kind of a stupid prompt. I don’t like it because

  1. I have rather snobby book tastes, sometimes, as I am a pretentious English Major,
  2. all readers have different opinions, and
  3. I hardcore struggled to think of an answer.

But, here I am, answering the stupid prompt anyway.

DAY 29: A BOOK EVERYONE HATED BUT YOU LIKED

Goodreads summary:

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

This answer may not quite make sense at first. Eleanor & Park is actually a rather well-received book, overall. I mean, any book John Green loved is obvious a good one.

When I first read it, I adored it. (I fell in love with Rainbow’s writing after I read Fangirl, which remains my favorite of her novels.) How could I not adore the precious cinnamon rolls that are Eleanor and Park?

Since reading it though, I’ve heard a lot of negative reviews about the book, specifically its treatment of the Asian and Asian-American characters. And there is a lot of truth and legitimacy in those reviews that I, as a white reader, did not see when I first read it. But I can’t lie–I still kind of love the book.

It’s my problematic fave.

What books do you love that are hated or problematic?

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which i am utterly charmed

Hello, world.

Okay, I’m a sucker for a good title. When I’m perusing a new book to read, I judge it based on three things

  1. its cover,
  2. its title, and
  3. its first line

Titles are very important to me.

DAY 28: MY FAVORITE TITLE

Goodreads summary:

London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Once I read the title of this book, I was sold. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society–does it get any better than that??? No, it doesn’t. (Unless it’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging, but that’s another book for another post.)

The book completely lives up to its title, as well. It’s an epistolary novel, which I felt enhanced the sense of time and setting. The letters and utterly charming, and I loved getting to know Juliet and all the denizens of Guernsey. It’s exactly the sort of story that I love: one that explores people, what makes them tick, how they interact with others. GIVE ME ALL THE CHARACTER STUDIES. The discussions of literature and the history of WWII just make it all the better.

Also, the romance is so, so, so adorable and had me squealing for joy. (Yeah, it’s that cute.)

If you want a delightfully charming read, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the book for you.

yours, Natalie.

in which i’m a little freaked out

Hello, world.

I’m going to be honest–I kind of like being spoiled. I’m definitely the sort of person who reads the last page of a book, just in case I die before I get to finish the book. I like mentally preparing myself for an ending; I get weirdly anxious if I don’t know how things will turn out.

But, even so, book endings often shock me.

DAY 27: THE MOST SURPRISING PLOT TWIST OR ENDING

Goodreads summary:

Terse and terrifying, this final book from Cormier will leave a lasting impression. Jason, almost 13, is a shy, ineffectual child, who takes being bullied as a matter of course–but if he sees someone else being pushed around, he may strike back. When the seven-year-old girl who lives next door is murdered, Jason is horrified. He was the last one to see her alive. He wants to do everything he can to help find the killer, so when the police come calling, he tells them all he knows. What he doesn’t know is that Trent, a detective adept at extracting confessions, has been called into the case–and Trent has Jason in his sights as the murderer. Cormier presents a cat-and-mouse game so tense that readers will feel they must escape the pages just as Jason wants to extricate himself from the stuffy, cell-like room where his interrogation is taking place.

THIS BOOK THOUGH.

I read this book when I was a freshman in high school, maybe? I can’t remember. What I do remember, though, was the ending.

I still get chills anytime I think of it.

Maudit nervous yikes kikis delivery service shiver

I don’t want to say too much, in case anyone wants to read this book (WHICH YOU SHOULD). But I will say this: it has haunted me all these years.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which my eyes are fully open

Hello, world.

I believe that books have power. In my small life, I have learned so much from books, so much about people and kindness, about joy and sorrow, about life and death. Books can change our lives, and rightly so.

DAY 26: A BOOK THAT CHANGED MY OPINION ABOUT SOMETHING

Goodreads summary:

Fairy tale and history, wilderness and civilisation collide in this brilliant and magical new novel from the author of Little Exiles.

In the depths of winter in the land of Belarus, where ancient forests straddle modern country borders, an orphaned boy and his grandfather go to scatter his mother’s ashes in the woodlands. Her last request to rest where she grew up will be fulfilled.

Frightening though it is to leave the city, the boy knows he must keep his promise to mama: to stay by and protect his grandfather, whatever happens. Her last potent gifts – a little wooden horse, and hunks of her homemade gingerbread – give him vigour. And grandfather’s magical stories help push the harsh world away.

But the driving snow, which masks the tracks of forest life, also hides a frozen history of long-buried secrets. And as man and boy travel deeper among the trees, grandfather’s tales begin to interweave with the shocking reality of his own past, until soon the boy’s unbreakable promise to mama is tested in unimaginable ways.

I read this book last Christmas because I thought I would love it–and I was right.

It was definitely an odd little book: the relationship between the boy and his grandfather is unusual and wild. But what I loved most was its exploration of myth and history.

Since I was a wee thing, I have been obsessed with all folklore–mythology, fairy tales, and folk stories of all kinds. I loved the fantastic elements and the way the stories took me away from my own life.

me @ folklore

As I’ve grown older, though, I have realized that myth and history are not such different things. They inseparable things, really, always informing and building the other. It’s a lovely, rich, and complex relationship.

One that is not always positive.

This book explores the more negative aspects of the relationship between myth and history, in a way that I had never really thought of before. I tend to idolize stories, but sometimes that is not always a healthy thing.

I think of myth so differently now because of that book, and I am glad for that.

yours, Natalie

*and yes, my title is a reference to gilbert and sullivan.

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which nothing gold can stay

Hello, world.

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, when I was a child, there was a distinct line between books I read for pleasure and books I read for school. I assumed that assigned readings were, by nature, a little more dull than the books I normally read. The classics might have been important, but they weren’t quite as entertaining as, say, the City of Ember.

As all readers do, I soon realized that my assumption was incorrect.

DAY 25: MY FAVORITE BOOK I READ IN SCHOOL

Goodreads summary:

According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

Although the Outsiders might not be the most sophisticated book in all the world, it had a profound effect on me. I read this in seventh grade, just when reading started to become less of a pastime and more like breathing. As we began studying it as a class, I was surprised to find that this assigned reading was rather, well, enjoyable. I was surprised to find that the book touched my heart. I was surprised to find myself relating to the characters, despite how their lives were vastly different from mine.

My English teacher made a smart choice in assigning the Outsiders, I think. Because the main characters are teenagers, it made it so much easier for our class to enjoy and sympathize with the story. It was a smart way to introduce us to “important” books that had before seemed so distant from us. In that class, I realized, for the first time, that those important books were not just important to some grand literary society, but that they could be important to me.

And this book really was so important to me. It was one of the first books to teach me about sorrow and heartache, about how much life can hurt, about how we can make it better.

Plus, Ponyboy is just the sweetest boy. A small part of my heart will always love him.

ponyboy curtis gif - Google Search

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

yours, Natalie