Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

I’d like to think I’m not particularly fussy when it comes to picking books to read. That I like to read widely and experimentally. And while this is broadly true, it’s also fair to say that I am a judgemental bitch who definitely makes snap decisions about books without sufficient evidence to back up said decisions. So, in the interests of calling me out on this terrible habit of mine, here are my top ten book turn-ons for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: the things that will make me want to read a book straight away, laid bare.  Continue reading

Top Ten Bookish Habits I Want To Quit

ReadingParisWe all have reading and book-related habits we’re proud of. Whether it’s a reading plan of such mind-boggling complexity that it makes government spending plans look like a toddler’s crayon drawings, or a meticulously designed reading room that required years of planning, blueprints, and trips to IKEA to get right, we’ve all got them. But for every reading habit we’re proud of, there’s also those habits we’d rather not have. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is devoted to just that.

Top Ten Bookish Habits I Want To Quit

Continue reading

My Seriously Belated List of 2015 Reading Resolutions; Or, Why I Suck At Making Resolutions

BalloonHey everybody, did you know it’s February already? I certainly didn’t. Sadly, this is not because I spent the entire holiday season sitting on a beach somewhere with an incredibly attractive, shirtless young man, sipping tropical cocktails and wearing an appropriate level of sunblock.

No, once again a lethal combination of personal qualities – laziness, love of food, and a tendency to procrastination – combined with a number of other events – namely an existential crisis brought on by the realisation that I had no idea what to do with my life now that I had finished university – to create an atmosphere of relaxation punctuated by moments of blinding panic as the old year wound to a close and 2015 took over. Also, I really got into Battlestar Galactica. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: My Bookish Bucket List

litt-shirtsTop Ten Tuesday is a regular feature over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is ‘Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List’. I have to preface this by saying that I don’t yet have an ordinary bucket list, mostly because I felt a bit silly making one up after the movie came out. But I couldn’t resist this week’s theme, because there are quite a lot of book-related things that sound too fun (or impossible; see below) to go unmentioned.

So, here goes…

Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List

Continue reading

Back to the Classics

classics2014It’s been a while since I updated here; I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of Istanbul and Athens (more on that later) so I’ve got plenty to tell, but first I thought I’d share the titles for the other challenge I’m attempting this year. The Back to the Classics challenge looks a little less daunting than Classics Club, so I’ve chosen seven categories to tackle, most of which are also on my Classics Club list. So, without further ado…

Back to the Classics Challenge

  1. A 20th Century ClassicBrideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh Completed; review here.
  2. A 19th Century ClassicChilde Harold’s Pilgrimage, by Lord Byron Completed; review here.
  3. A Classic by a Woman AuthorCastle Rackrent, by Maria Edgeworth Completed; review here.
  4. A Classic in TranslationLysistrata, by Aristophanes Completed; review here.
  5. A Classic About WarA Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens Swapped for All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. Completed; review here.
  6. A Classic by an Author Who Is New To YouA Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne Completed; review here.

Optional Categories:

  1.  A Classic That’s Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV Series – Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers Completed; review here.
  2. Extra Fun Category: Write a Review of the Movie or TV Series adapted from Optional Category [Above] – Disney’s Mary Poppins.

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen Mary Poppins, so I thought I’d pick that title for the optional category so that I have an excuse to (finally) watch the movie. Strictly speaking, too, A Tale of Two Cities is not about war; but as the rules say that events like the French Revolution are acceptable for this category, I went ahead and selected Dickens. I’ve already started on two titles on this list, so stay tuned for reviews!

EDIT 10/12/2014: I’ve decided to swap my ‘Classic About War’. Instead of Dickens, I’ll be reading Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, which is a little more appropriate, I think, for the anniversary of World War I.

New Year’s Resolution

A new year has dawned. The time has come for writing resolutions, starting diets, and vowing to drink less. Since this coming year promises to be more than a little challenging on the university front (among other things I have to write an 18 000 word dissertation on a yet-to-be-decided (and has-to-be-chosen-by-the-end-of-February) topic) I’ve decided I won’t be writing resolutions for 2014. Instead of promising to lose weight, take up yoga, or learn a new language (all things at which I do not excel) I’m going to start one teeny, tiny little reading challenge. I’m taking up the Classics Club challenge, where members elect to read at least fifty classics over the course of no more than five years (see, I told you it was tiny). Since you’re invited to set your own goal, I’ve decided to aim to read one hundred classics by the beginning of 2019. This means that even if I fall behind this year I’ll still have time to make it up in the years to come.

I’m hoping that doing this will mean that come the end of January I won’t find myself in a bookshop, offensively colourful new yoga mat in one hand and celery stick in the other, wearily trying to decide between Do-it-Yourself-Italian and Learn-by-Sound-Spanish, either of which will inevitably end up, one month later, covered in dust and shoved under my bed so it doesn’t clutter up the bookshelf. Instead, I will be reading books that have been on my shelves for years, that I have downloaded for free off the internet, or that I have borrowed from the library (which is a wonderful way of saving shelf-space, though if I’m entirely honest there’s been more than one library book that’s ended up in the dark space under my bed – but only by accident, never by design, I swear).

I can’t promise the results will be pretty, but if you want to follow along with the challenge, here are some links:

The full list | All Classics Club Challenge posts | The list at Goodreads

Journalism and Literature: Dublin Day Two and Some Fun Facts

IMG_0315.2“The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.”

-Oscar Wilde

I’ve fallen sadly behind with recounting my trip to Europe. Apparently, after seven hours of wandering around in the chill of pre-Christmas London, the last thing you want to do is sit down and try to catch up on blog posts. I promise you, I always wake up with the best intentions, but no matter what I do, by the time I return home at night I fall straight into bed like I’ve forgotten what pillows feel like. Here is a rough idea of the way our day usually ends up going:

7am: Wake up. Look at the clock. Decide that it is ok to sleep for another ten minutes as am ‘on holiday’. Promptly fall into a deep sleep.

9am: Wake up and begin panicking because have already ‘wasted half the day’.

9:15am: Spend forty-five minutes getting dressed, drying hair, and putting on make-up. Perform complicated choreographed dance with sister as both of us try to use one air-raid-shelter-sized bathroom. Continue to panic and swear all the while for sleeping in so late.

Continue reading

Pride and Prejudice (1813), by Jane Austen

imagesR599V0UM2013 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve arrived a little late to the party, but I decided to re-read Austen’s most famous novel a few weeks ago in order to try and figure out what, exactly, is so engaging about it.

Many people find it strange that a two-hundred-year-old novelist, who wrote primarily about the process of courtship in the early nineteenth century, should still be so popular in the twenty-first. Jane Austen is often dismissed as ‘girly fiction’, as the precursor to ‘chick-lit’ and the modern romantic comedy.

But the idea that the plots of her novels merely appeal to the ‘romantic’ reading tastes of women (the notion that men and women exclusively enjoy certain types of fiction is in itself laughable) is, to me, insufficient to explain why Austen is so popular today. Why does she continue to be read by critics and ordinary readers alike? And why does she, despite all the criticism aimed at her, hold such an important place in the Western canon?

I’ve always felt the need, when speaking about books, to defend my love of Austen’s novels. To say someone is a fan of Austen these days seems shorthand for suggesting that they are romantic, fanciful, and unrealistic. And if you’re involved in any kind of literary studies, admitting to liking Jane Austen often singles you out as an imposter; as someone who likes reading ‘easy’ books for enjoyment rather than ‘hard’ books for deep intellectual examination.

So I admit to liking Jane Austen with a hint of embarrassment, and always accompany the admission with a hurried explanation: “I don’t like her because of her plots, you know, I like her because she’s a brilliant writer technically,” or “People don’t realise how nuanced and intelligent her writing is until they start to dig deeper.” No matter what I say, I inevitably end up sounding either unconvincing or pretentious.

Despite these setbacks, however, I will persist in defending Austen. And in honour of two hundred years’ worth of reading, I’ve compiled a short list of Austen’s achievements in Pride and Prejudice. Most of them, I hope you’ll agree, could just as easily apply to her other novels. Continue reading

Review: A Study in Scarlet (1887), by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is so familiar a figure that it’s hard to imagine a time before the pipe-smoking, violin-playing sleuth was a household name. So it’s always interesting to see where the legend began. In the case of the famous Baker Street detective, the legend begins with A Study in Scarlet.

Like the majority of the Holmes stories, the tale is told through the eyes of Dr Watson. Watson returns to England from Afghanistan, where he has been wounded in battle and struck with fever. His experiences and his ensuing illness have left him languid and depressed. He arrives back in London, the city he himself describes as “… that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained” (Chapter I). Watson, it appears, is the sort of person to look on the bright side of things.

While apartment-hunting Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes by a mutual acquaintance. There is quite a build-up to Holmes’ first appearance, as you might expect. Watson and his friend Stamford discuss the character of the man that Watson will end up sharing lodgings with; we are told he is good with anatomy and “a first-class chemist” (Chapter I). He is also “eccentric … he has amassed a lot of out-of-the-way knowledge which would astonish his professors.” What exactly Holmes does with his time is unclear; he is neither a doctor nor a professional chemist. For the first few chapters, even when Watson has met Holmes and begins living with him, the novel is preoccupied not with solving mysterious murders, but with solving The Mystery of Sherlock Holmes. Continue reading