Classic Fridays: School Reading

Classic Fridays is a Friday feature hosted by Brooke at The Cozy Little Book Nook in which a set of questions are given based on the chosen theme for the week. This week’s topic is Back to School.

How many books did you read per month during the school year?

I only really started devouring books when I was 15; prior to that I think I was only reading about 10 or so a year. From age 15 on, I was reading between 30 and 50 books a year, typically reading multiple books at once.

Did you usually enjoy reading books assigned by your school?

Yes, absolutely! I was exposed to many books that I may not have encountered otherwise that way. The beauty of the reading assignments at my high school, though, which was an alternative school in which the students themselves had a huge influence in their own education, was that our English teacher would suggest several possible books centered around a discussion theme and we were each able to choose the one that most interested us, or substitute our own related read with the teacher’s consent. I discovered so many amazing authors that way, like Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Dalton Trumbo, Truman Capote, Tim O’Brien, and Yann Martel; as well as plenty of classics.

What has been your favorite assigned read?

That is a really tough question! I have three favorites: “The Electric Ant” by Philip K. Dick, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. All of them radically changed my perspective on the world and made me realize that I wasn’t alone in the way I felt, a really important thing for every teenager to become aware of!

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Which required read was the hardest to get through and why?

I love studying history — I am a glutton for knowledge — but I found The Iliad too gory. I couldn’t make out the story or the purpose of it through all the corpses and blood on the Trojan battlefield! It was pretty horrific, especially since I was reading it while suffering from a really bad case of mono and tonsillitis that had me out of school for three months. It was not uplifting stuff.

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Were they always classic novels or also recent books?

Up until high school they were all classics, but my high school English teacher Barbara did an excellent job of exposing us to all kinds of literature, both modern and classic! I feel really blessed for that.

Which books do you wish your school would mark as “required reading” and why?

I think Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder should be required reading for all young people. I read it when I was 12 and it helped me to understand so much. It is simultaneously a mind-blowing book-within-a-book and a history of world philosophy delivered in novel form in the most clever way imaginable.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline would also be on my dream school reading list. As we get more and more adept at VR and as we make further and further advances in technology without stopping to take care of our fellow humans along the way, the message of Ready Player One becomes more and more relevant. Teenagers might not get all the ’80s references without quite a few Google searches, but I can’t imagine a young person not enjoying it!

Finally, I’d add Felicia Day’s memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). Today’s teenagers have never known life without the Internet (at least here in the U.S.). They have always been able to talk to anyone in the world with an Internet connection, find data on any topic with just a few keystrokes, and learn how to do whatever interests them. It’s beautiful because it opens the door to being totally yourself and doing whatever it is that you desire to do, while on the other hand it’s unfortunate because you’re simultaneously exposed to all of humanity’s awfulness. Felicia Day, “Queen of the Geeks,” has experienced it all, and describes her experiences — from discovering people who were just like her as a child to getting doxxed (i.e., having your personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, and credit card information, leaked online) as an adult — eloquently and with lots of humor. Between overcoming anxiety, depression, and gaming addiction, surviving #Gamergate, being an extremely successful online entrepreneur and entertainer, and figuring out how to use the Internet to help her be herself, she’s really relevant as a role model.

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Fortunately I’m homeschooling my little one, so I make the reading lists now! 🙂

What is one book that you had to read for school?

6215274This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered — not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives.

This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and gruesome… but so is war.

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo is an absolutely gut-wrenching read about a young man who goes off to war with a girlfriend and all the opportunity of youth only to return with — well, with what you get out of war: nothing. Or less than nothing. I won’t spoil it for those who don’t know what occurs because I can remember the marrow-chilling shock of it as I came to realize what was going on as I read. It’s one of the most important (and brutally, unforgivingly honest) books I’ve ever read and though it was so hard to swallow and gave me an absolute horror of what happened to Johnny happening to me, I’m so glad that I did. It’s an absolute favorite of mine but it is so difficult to absorb that I have only read it once.

What genre was it in? Is it something that you normally read?

It is historical fiction, which I frequently read, but it is also a novel about war, and I almost never read books on war.

Would you have picked up this book by yourself?

Probably not, or only because it is a classic. If I had known the details of what goes on in the book, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pick it up these days; I prefer books and entertainment that gives me pleasure. As an angsty teenager, though, the opposite was true, of course, haha! So I may have picked it up on my own back then.

What activities did your class do with this book?

We discussed it and wrote essays. Besides being connected to what we’d read in one way or another, the essays we wrote for our readings didn’t have to follow any specific pattern or be on any particular topic so long as they weren’t summaries — we were absolutely forbidden from writing book reports. As Barbara so astutely pointed out, she already knew what the books were about so she didn’t need to read our clunky descriptions of them. (We could even write fiction or make visual — or even edible! — art based on the work if we chose to and Barbara gave us her blessings.) My essay was on severe anxiety and depression, which I suffered from at the time, being very similar to what Johnny experiences.

POSSIBLE (IF VERY VAGUE) SPOILERS AHEADRead More »

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Still Haven’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s prompt is Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven’t Read Yet.

My TBR list is indecently long. There are books on there that I’ve been wanting to read since I was a child! Here are the ten books that have been on my Goodreads TBR shelf the longest.Read More »

The Sunday Post // 21 August 2016

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimberly of Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s an opportunity to share news, recap the week, showcase books and things we have received, talk about what’s coming up next week, and anything else you’d like! In addition, I feature what I’m reading, playing, watching, and/or listening to, showcase new additions to my TBR shelf, and discuss any other general geekery that I want to share.

News

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Nothing like watching your husband and baby play together to give you the feels.

Huge news this week in the baby department: two-month-old Oliver is now picking up his toys (and proudly flailing them around, to my amusement), gently falling asleep without hours of colicky crying (I don’t even know what to do with myself anymore now that I’m not up till 2 am doing a million things to soothe him!), falling back to sleep after waking up before he’s ready (omg), not requiring me to hold him at all times and enjoying time in his Baby Bjorn bouncy chair instead (such a life-saver), having a ball practicing walking, and learning to crawl!! It’s almost unbelievable to me the advancements he’s made in just this past week alone. His sleep schedule has become predictable, he actually falls asleep when he’s tired now (with a little help, of course), he’s constantly happy, and he seems to feel confident that he’s safe here. It felt so strange on Tuesday when he let me cook and eat an entire meal while simply hanging out with his toys in his bouncy chair — it was the least needed I’ve felt since he was born. My little guy is already becoming so independent!

They tell you it’ll get easier, and they tell you you won’t believe them but that it really will get easier, but I didn’t believe them and now it’s gotten so much easier.

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Teaser Tuesday: Dancing Smoke

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Jenn of Books and a Beat. Participating is simple: crack open your current read to a random page, share a few consecutive (spoiler-free) “teaser” sentences to give your readers a taste, and reveal the book so they can add it to their TBR shelf if it piques their interest!

This week’s featured teaser comes from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

‘Bless me! this is a splendid place for smoke-rings!’ Indeed for a long time they could get nothing more out of him, he was so busy sending smoke-rings dodging round the pillars of the hall, changing them into all sorts of different shapes and colours, and setting them at last chasing one another out of the hole in the roof. They must have looked very queer from outside, popping out into the air one after another, green, blue, red, silver-grey, yellow, white; big ones, little ones; little ones dodging through big ones and joining into figure-eights, and going off like a flock of birds into the distance.

Gandalf is one of my all-time favorite characters, and it is always enjoyable to read a scene where he is able to relax a spell from saving the world, savor some good food and good company, and blow some of his famous mystical smoke rings!

Tuesday Talks: Unpopular Opinions

Tuesday Talks is a weekly meme for those who love to discuss all things bookish, with a new question each week to answer. This week’s question is: What is the most controversial opinion you have expressed about a book?

I’m not a very controversial person, but unpopular opinions are pretty popular with me. There are many, many well-loved books which I adore, but it’s often the ones which are the most drooled over and described as deeply moving which I tend to give one star. (Ladies, you can keep your John Green.)

52036I try not to be shy about speaking my mind, but there are some instances of my occasionally unpopular tastes which I do keep my mouth shut about most of the time. For instance, Herman Hesse’s classic biography of the Buddha, Siddhartha, was the first book I ever detested. Some might find that ironic, considering I was a Buddhist at the time that I read it. I found it to be an incredibly bland telling of what is actually an incredible story, and Hesse’s writing to be as dry and void of style as a middle-school essay. If you’re curious about Buddhism, I recommend that you read the Heart Sutra or any other actual Buddhist text (there are a million translations, but the point always gets across), or a book on the subject by a non-Westerner, such as Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.

However, I think the most controversial opinion I have ever expressed was my strong dislike of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. When a college friend learned that I hadn’t read it, she was shocked and lent it to me immediately, swearing that I would love it and that it was absolutely imperative that a thoughtful person like myself read it. When I handed it back to her a few days later, the first thing she asked me was, “Didn’t you love it?”

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I hemmed and hawed and made noncommittal little noises and squeaks and ultimately arrived at, “It was interesting,” which she happily accepted as an expression of adoration matching her own. She was so convinced that I would love it and I was so loathe to disappoint her that I waited another few days before giving anyone my honest opinion of it.

865Despite how “powerful,” “potent,” “insightful,” and other groan-worthy adjectives The Alchemist is described to be, it is ultimately just another book claiming to have all the answers to life, the universe, and everything — which is silly, since we already know the answer: 42! The Alchemist‘s “powerful life lessons” (as Paulo Coelho calls them himself — I’m a little embarrassed for him) are so obvious that any non-vegetative human above the age of 12 has thought them before, so why do we need an entire book to express them as if they’re new and profound ideas? Maybe it’s designed for non-vegetative humans under the age of 12?

The most controversial opinion I have ever expressed about a book is that The Alchemist is my least favorite book that I have ever read.

There, I said it! What do you think? Should I be burned at the stake for my heretical ideas? If you loved The Alchemist, I would love to know why! Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, I’m very sincerely curious about your opinions!

The Sunday Post // 14 August 2016

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimberly of Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s an opportunity to share news, recap the week, showcase books and things we have received, talk about what’s coming up next week, and anything else you’d like! This is my first Sunday Post, and to add my own spin on it I will also be including what I’m reading, playing, watching, and/or listening to, showcasing new additions to my TBR shelf, and discussing any other general geekery that I want to share.

News

I launched this blog this week! Yay! After writing book reviews and sharing quotes online since I was 15, and fangirling about books online since I was a preteen, you’d think I would have started a book blog ages ago, but the thought never occurred to me until my mother, Dora Taylor, a prolific blogger well-known in the field of education, gave me a nudge to share my book reviews with a broader readership. It’s only been a few days but I’m already having a blast! I would love to find more bookish blogs, so if you have one, please leave a comment and let me know. 🙂

But, as a geek, that news pales in comparison to the release of No Man’s SkyOh my god!!!

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It’s almost as exciting as the birth of my baby, since I was waiting for this game throughout my entire pregnancy! Just kidding, but I haven’t been more giddy about the release of a game since the release of Elder Scrolls Online two years ago. I’ll share my first impressions below!Read More »

First Lines Fridays // 12 August 2016

First Lines Fridays is a weekly meme for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? To participate, simply choose a book off your shelf, copy the first few lines to hook the reader, and then reveal the book!

This week’s first lines are from a book I’m reading this weekend.

In the court of the fountain the sun of March shone through young leaves of ash and elm, and water leapt and fell through shadow and clear light. About that roofless court stood four high walls of stone. Behind those were rooms and courts, passages, corridors, towers, and at last the heavy outmost walls of the Great House of Roke, which would stand any assault of war or earthquake or the sea itself, being built not only of stone, but of incontestable magic.

Curious in which book this fantastic place exists?Read More »