Classics

  •  Funny Television

    There are a lot of good reasons to read, and many of them are important reasons: it develops empathy, it encourages creativity, it makes you a more informed and thoughtful citizen, it reduces stress, it builds your critical thinking skills, etc. All of that is wonderful, but there's another, often ignored reason why reading a lot is great - it makes pop culture more fun.

    Once you start watching for them, you'll notice literary references all over the place, and one of my favorite feelings is watching a sitcom and catching a joke I would have missed if I hadn't read a particular book recently. These are just a few of my favorite bookish jokes from recent TV shows.

    NEW GIRL (Episode 1.21 "Kids")

    Referencing: BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA
    By Katherine Paterson
    (1977)

    Jess's day bonding with her boyfriend's daughter is ruined thanks to Nick.

     New Girl 2

     
     

    PARKS AND RECREATION (Episode 6.8 "Flouride")

    Referencing: MOBY DICK
    By Herman Melville
    (1851)

    Chris reads too much into Ron's woodworking lesson.

     
     

    BROOKLYN 99 (Episode 1.15 "Operation: Broken Feather")

    Referencing: OTHELLO
    By William Shakespeare
    (1622)

    Amy reveals that she's considering a job in another precint, and Jake feels betrayed.

    Brooklyn 99

     
     

    HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (Episode 7.3 “Ducky Tie”)

    Referencing: THE MILLENNIUM TRILOGY
    By Stieg Larsson
    (2008 - 2010)

    Ted: Oh, guess who I ran into. A girl from my past. Any guesses?

    Lily: Stella.

    Barney: Zoey

    Marshall: Karen?

    Lily: The girl who beat you up.

    Barney: The girl who ruined a photo with Slash!

    Marshall: The girl who made you get the butterfly tattoo?

    Ted: You make it sound like I've dated a series of Stieg Larsson novels.

     
     

    THE MINDY PROJECT (Episode 1.4 "Halloween)

    Referencing: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
    By John Le Carré
    (1974)

    Hoping to impress her new boyfriend, Mindy dresses in a series of punny Halloween costumes.

    Tinkerbell

    Tinkerbell Tailor Soldier Spy  
     
     

    Referencing: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE
    By J.K. Rowling
    (1997)

    Dirty Harry Potter

    Dirty Harry Potter
      

    Referencing: LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE
    By Laura Ingalls Wilder
    (1935)

    Lil Wayne on the Prairie

     Lil' Wayne on the Prairie 
     

    THE GOOD PLACE (Episode 1.3 "Tahani Al-Jamil")

    Referencing: The works of Plato and Aristotle

    Chidi spends weeks trying to teach Eleanor the history of philosophy, hoping that an understanding of ethics will help her keep her spot in The Good Place. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be sinking in.

    Plato

     

    GILMORE GIRLS (Episode 4.22 "Raincoats and Recipes")

    Referencing: THE LORD OF THE RINGS
    By J.R.R. Tolkien
    (1954)

    Lorelai’s not sure if her “will-they-won’t they” relationship with Luke has actually turned into something after he’s asked her to a movie and to his sister’s wedding.

    Bonus joke: In Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Rory has taken on running the Star's Hollow Gazette only to find the staff aren't especially efficient. When Ethel refuses to answer the phone because she's busy with paperwork, Rory replies: “I don’t want to say you’ve been filing that same piece of paper for a long time, but when you started, Nora Ephron felt good about her neck.”

     
     

    FRIENDS (Episode 3.13 "The One Where Monica and Richard are Just Friends")

    Referencing: LITTLE WOMEN
    By Louisa May Alcott
    (1868)

    Referencing: THE SHINING
    By Stephen King
    (1977)

    After Rachel finds Joey's copy of THE SHINING in the freezer (where he puts it when things get too scary), they agree to swap favorite books. She'll read THE SHINING if he'll read LITTLE WOMEN.

    Scary Little

     
     

    Things are going great until Joey accidentally reveals major spoilers.

    Friends

     
     
    Once again, things get a little too scary.

     

    UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT (Episode 1.11 "Kimmy Rides a Bike!"

    Referencing: THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN
    By Michael Crichton
    (1969)

    "Reverend" Richard Wayne Gary Wayne unexpectedly wins over the jury while on trial for Kimmy's kidnapping.

    Good Book

     
     
  •  Poetry Books

    Are you one of those people who love poetry? Is iambic pentameter your native tongue and do you speak in couplets and sonnets? Splendid.

    But maybe, just maybe, poetry is a little intimidating to you? Or maybe you’ve just never had the time to get into it? If so, now is the time to learn to like or even love poetry and the Provo Library is the place to do it! Check out these awesome resources to start your poetic adventure!

    4.25 Poetry 101POETRY 101: FROM SHAKESPEARE AND RUPI KAUR TO IAMBI PENTAMETER AND BLANK VERSE, EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT POETRY
    By Susan Dalzell
    (2018)

    Do you aspire to like poetry, but just aren’t sure where to start? Well, search no further! This is short guide will give you the 411 on the most celebrated voices in poetic history and clue you in to some of the newest and brightest stars in the poetry universe. Poetry doesn’t have to be boring or intimidating. It is as natural as your heartbeat, as familiar as your footsteps.

     

    4.25 The Red WheelbarrowTHE RED WHEELBARROW AND OTHER POEMS 
    by William Carlos Williams
    (2018)

    This slim volume holds the very best poems of someone who could be seen as the “original” Instagram poet. Writing in the 1940s and 1950s, Williams was a doctor and sometimes only had a prescription pad to write his poetry on. If you are looking for classic poetry that is short, stunning, and delightful, check out this new edition of his poems.

     

    4.25 Fierce FairytalesFIERCE FAIRYTALES: POEMS & STORIES TO STIR YOUR SOUL 
    by Nikita Gill
    (2018)

    These poems aren’t just clever twists on fairytales. They are a celebration of the person reading the book, hopefully that will be you, yes you! The first poem  is an invocation of the importance of learning to love and to hold on to ourselves and to the final poem is a benediction thanking the readers of the world for holding the author when she was in pain, this book is more than just a fairytale gimmick. This is a book about us and what it means to be human.

     

    4.25 The Dark Between the StarsTHE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS: POEMS
    By Atticus
    (2018)

    Atticus began his poetry career on Instagram. After garnering 700K followers he was approached with a book deal. Known for his jaw-dropping one liners and epigraphic style, Atticus is ever relatable, ever real. This is his second collection of poetry where he focuses on the connections between the light and the dark and great happiness and deep sorrow.

     

    4.25 Milk and HoneyMILK AND HONEY
    By Rupi Kaur
    (2015)

    This book is all about the journey from injury to healing. I think one of the reasons Kaur has become so popular is that she is imminently accessible. She writes about things that we all feel in ways that we could never explain by ourselves.  Her poetry is brief, powerful, and beautiful.

     

    Since April is National Poetry Month, it's time to celebrate the richness of the human experience. It’s time to honor those who give words to our most powerful feelings. Whether you are in love with poetry or just trying it out for the first time, this is YOUR month!

  •  Sparklers

    If you’re anything like me, you have a million books that you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t gotten to yet. The New Year is the perfect time to recommit to reading those books that you’ve always meant to get to, and the library is here to help! We’ll have a display all month stocked with various classics, best sellers, and other books that might be outstaying their welcome on your “to read” list. Listed below is just a small sample of our offerings:

    Classics

    1.4 Wuthering HeightsWUTHERING HEIGHTS
    By Emily Brontë
    (1847) 

    Cathy is fascinated with the orphan that her father has taken in. While her brother Hindley despises him, Cathy becomes Heathcliff’s constant companion, and he falls wildly in love with her. Despite their feelings for each other, Cathy will not marry Heathcliff and this proves to be their downfall. 

     

    1.4 The Great GatsbyTHE GREAT GATSBY
    By F Scott Fitzgerald
    (1925) 

    Jay Gatsby is as mysterious as his parties are wild. His Long Island mansion is filled day and night with young people drinking and dancing and discussing their host. Gatsby always seems to be alone, waiting for something—or someone. 

     

    Best Sellers

    1.4 All the Light We Cannot SeeALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE
    By Anthony Doerr
    (2014) 

    Marie-Laure is a blind girl who lives in Paris with her father. Werner Pfennig is an orphan in Germany who is fascinated by the radio. As World War II strikes, both children will have to figure out how best to survive. 

     

    1.4 Go Set a WatchmanGO SET A WATCHMAN
    By Harper Lee
    (2015) 

    Twenty years after the events in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns to her hometown to visit her father. While her town struggles to adjust to the civil rights movement, Scout struggles with her own personal issues as she learns things about her family that she never knew. 

     

    Books-to-Movies

    1.4 Ready Player 1READY PLAYER ONE
    By Ernest Cline
    (2011) 

    The year is 2044 and the entire world pretty much lives in the OASIS, which is a massive online game. When the creator of the OASIS dies, he releases an OASIS-wide scavenger hunt. Whoever can find his easter eggs will inherit the OASIS and all the money that comes with it. When teenager Wade Watts solves the first riddle, he’s thrown into the spotlight—and not necessarily in a good way. 

     

    1.4 Crazy Rich AsiansCRAZY RICH ASIANS
    By Kevin Kwan
    (2013) 

    Meeting your boyfriend’s family is hard enough, but when he didn’t tell you that his family is worth millions if not billions of dollars, it can quickly turn into a disaster. Rachel Chu is about to find out how hard it really is to fit in with people who regularly spend millions of dollars on jewelry. And that’s nothing compared to winning over her boyfriend’s mother.

     
  •  anne fashion

    One of literature’s most beloved heroines, Anne Shirley, can be an inspiration to all of us. Although she’s far from perfect, she can teach us a lot about wanting adventure, having a huge imagination, and loving with your whole heart.

    But wanting to emulate a character sometimes means we want to do more than act like her—we also want to dress like her. Or at the very least, dress in an aesthetic inspired by her stories. Since L.M. Montgomery’s classic tale is set in the late 1800s in Canada, it might be a bit difficult to cull inspiration directly from the books. Instead of wearing the classic 1880s fashion statement—the bustle—you can take inspiration from the style of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES that fits better with modern styles.

    Anne is both strong and romantic. While she loves to be in charge, and see the world, she is prone to loving the girlish and fanciful. Below are three outfits that I think encompass the romantic but adventurous spirit of Anne.

    Some starting points: Anne loves to go out and adventure, so she probably wouldn’t wear heels unless it was a special occasion, since we have so many other options that are better for having fun, but are just as cute. She loves to be girly, and she isn’t afraid to be a little (a lot) dramatic. She loves romance, especially flowers, so she’d probably wear florals even when it isn’t springtime. And never forget Anne’s classic wide-brimmed hat and braids—the girl loves accessories.

    Outfit 1Outfit #1:

    “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”

    Anne’s world always makes me excited for fall—the crunchy leaves, the cups of tea, the curling up with a good book—so I thought Anne herself might wear an outfit that lets her enjoy the crisp air and the promise of a little autumn magic. While the outfit is practical enough to wear out and about, Anne’s romantic side is preserved through the addition of a scarf and a brooch. The field notes are so that Anne can write down all of her wild imaginings.

     
     

    Outfit 2Outfit #2:

    “Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile.”

    Anne is a classic daydreamer—she sometimes lets her imagination run away with her a little bit too much. She sees the romantic everywhere, and conjures up names to match the passion in her heart for all the things around her. An outfit like this will let you curl up with a good book—or a blank notebook—and imagine all the worlds you want to. The comfy sweater and socks allow you to relax, while the locket and embroidered collar infuse it with a little of Anne’s classic romanticism.

     
     

    outfit 3Outfit #3:

    “It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable.”

    The reason Anne wants her name to be spelled with an E and not just plain ANN is that she longs for the fancy and fashionable. Plain Ann isn’t romantic enough—Anne dreams of a world where she has the most beautiful clothes and wishes to surround herself with lovely things. This outfit will let you traipse off to a museum, school, or a bookstore, so you can meet minds with all the best people—while looking your very best. Although this outfit doesn’t have puffed sleeves, a pinafore dress paired with a quirky printed button-down is sort of the modern equivalent.

     

    When trying to dress like Anne, the most important thing to remember is that you can make your life as romantic as you choose—so throw on your fancy hat, wear your grandma’s brooch, and carry a book with you everywhere you go.  

     

  • best boyfriends 01

     

    It’s been a few months since my Worst Boyfriends in Classic Literature list came out, and I’ve been trying to come up with one featuring best boyfriends ever since. The trouble is, there are surprisingly few good men in classic literary relationships. Even the male romantic leads that I like often do deeply troubling things (I’m looking at you and that possible marital rape scene, Rhett Butler). I was also disappointed in myself when I realized that I often find literary good guys super boring (it’s my fault, not yours, Edward Ferrars).

    But never fear, reader dear; there are good men out there, even in the realm of classic literature. Mostly, I have realized, they live in the countryside and children’s novels.

    As with the worst boyfriends list, I’ll warn you there are serious spoilers ahead.

    Honorable Mention: Marius Pontmercy, LES MISERABLES

    Marius

     

    Marius is a good guy, but he’s definitely not my favorite literary romantic lead.

    Bonus points: speaks French, English, and German, courageously holds to his principles, is offended when his friends encourage him to take Cosette as a mistress rather than marry her.

    Deductions: falls in insta-love, has been portrayed by Nick Jonas, does not notice his gal pal is in love with him, loves boring Cosette, initially thinks father-in-law is a murderer, has death wish.

    (photo from the 2012 film, featuring Eddie Redmayne before he decided to become a wizard and go gallavanting after magical creatures)

     10: Joe Willard, BETSY AND JOE

    Joe Willard

    You may not know Joe Willard, but you should. This is especially true if you love the Anne of Green Gables series even a little bit, since this is basically the Minnesotan version. Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, which is loosely based on the author’s own youth in the early 1900s, follows Betsy Ray and her best friends from age 5 to their twenties. Along the way, Betsy meets Joe Willard, who becomes her main school competitor (echoes of Anne and Gilbert, anyone?), her dancing partner, her writing buddy (she’s an aspiring novelist, he’s an aspiring journalist), and ultimately her husband. His succinct agony column apologizing to Betsy is one of my favorite love confessions in literature.

    A Joe Willard line that only a librarian (or possibly only this librarian) would find romantic: “Say, you told me you thought Les Miserables was the greatest novel ever written. I think Vanity Fair is the greatest. Let’s fight.”

    (illustration from the Betsy-Tacy books)

    9: Faramir, THE RETURN OF THE KING

    Faramir

    It seemed appropriate to throw in a little classic fantasy to shake up this list of nineteenth century British and American novels. Faramir is the ultimate good guy. The appendices to THE LORD OF THE RINGS describe him this way:  “He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose.” Add to that the fact that he is never tempted by the ring (unless we’re talking about Peter Jackson’s version), and you’ve got yourself a pretty great man. In The Return of the King, Faramir becomes completely devoted to Eowyn, and I love that they fall in love with each other only gradually.

    Basically, if you like your fellows sweet and sensitive but also able to kick butt when necessary, Faramir’s the guy for you.  

    (photo from the LORD OF THE RINGS films, with Faramir portrayed by David Wenham)

    8: Tom, AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL 

    1870 success OldFashionedGirl byLMAlcott RobertsBros

    AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL is my go-to read when I’m feeling blue. It’s not as well-known as LITTLE WOMEN, but I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re looking for something short, sweet, and lovely.

    For anyone who really wanted Jo to end up with Laurie, I give you Tom. Tom is pretty rambunctious when we first meet him, and he loves nothing better than teasing his sister’s friend Polly. It’s clear that he has a good heart, though, and he and Polly become dear friends and confidantes. In the end, Tom goes West, grows a beard, and works hard to make up for the financial troubles he has caused his family. He never confesses his love for Polly until he feels like he has grown up enough to be her equal.

    Favorite butterfly-inducing moment: Before Tom even recognizes his romantic interest in Polly, he finds himself “idly wondering for a minute if she knew how long and curly her lashes were.”  

    (illustration from the book published by the Roberts Brothers)

    7: Professor Bhaer, LITTLE WOMEN

    Bhaer

    All the Laurie/Jo shippers out there are probably up in arms, but please hear me out on this one. I feel like I should note LITTLE WOMEN is my favorite book, and I’ve reread it at least a dozen times. You can trust that I’ve completely overthought this.  

    I love Laurie. Seriously. I LOVE him. Probably more than it is appropriate for me to feel for an imaginary person. He’s playful, sweet, and fun, and he loves the March women with all his giant heart. BUT, I don’t think he belongs with Jo, and neither did Jo. I must confess that I also wouldn’t mind if Jo had never married anyone at all (though 14-year-old me would vehemently disagree).

    Nevertheless, if Jo must marry, Professor Bhaer is ideal. He might be poor and a little paternalistic, but he’s smart and sweet and an adult. He’s well-read. He’s quiet and humble yet direct. He’s wonderful with children (his interactions with little Tina melt my cynical heart). He darns his own socks. He is fundamentally selfless and kind, and nearly every scene that features him is testament to that. Finally, remember that scene with the ball of yarn and the head bumping? Or the proposal scene under the umbrella? I still get the warm fuzzies thinking of those ones.

    Also, I just realized that the old man character I’ve been picturing isn’t even forty, so now I’m having an existential crisis.  

    (photo: Winona Ryder and Gabriel Byrne as Jo March and Friedrich Bhaer, in LITTLE WOMEN, 1994)

    6: Fitzwilliam Darcy, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 

    The Many Faces of Darcy

    Oh, Darcy. I have mixed feelings about him because he can be moody and aloof, but PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has hands-down my favorite love story of all time. Darcy has his faults to begin with (as does Elizabeth), but he is ultimately humble enough to change. It’s also worth noting that the story progresses largely through Lizzy’s thoughts and dialogue, and, at least initially, she’s not a reliable narrator where he’s concerned. As the story progresses, we learn that Darcy is a kind and loving older brother, a generous employer, and in the end a selfless romantic lead. Best of all, he loves Elizabeth because she is his intellectual and moral equal. That’s my kind of romance.

    In the words of my coworker: “He better be somewhere on there, because he’s my bae.”  

    (photo from so many film versions of Darcy. Seriously. So many.)

    Part Two coming soon! (update: it's here!) While you're waiting, who would you recommend for the top 5 slots? 

  • best boyfriends 01

     

    I’m sure you’ve been waiting impatiently, readers, and the time has finally come. I’m ready to wax eloquent once again on the merits of classic literature’s best men (read part one in this series here). 

    A few warnings: First, this is nearly 1000 words, which is embarrassingly long. Apparently I have very strong opinions about imaginary men. Don’t judge. Second, as always, spoilers abound in my descriptions. 

    And with that, here are my top five literary fellas.

    5. Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie series

    almanzo

    First of all, Almanzo was mighty fine in real life. Like many of the men on this list, he’s the strong but silent type, and he supports Laura in her goals wholeheartedly. When she tells him she doesn’t want to promise to “obey” in her wedding vows, he’s completely onboard. He also saved an entire town by riding through a blizzard to find food, so that’s just a little bit impressive. Bonus points: builds a house with an incredible pantry, makes excellent pancakes, was an actual, nonimaginary person. Deductions: started courting Laura when he was 25 and she was 15, which, by modern standards, is 100% creepy.

    (photo of Almanzo Wilder by unknown photographer; public domain)

    4. Mr. Thornton, NORTH AND SOUTH

    thornton

    Thornton has a temper and can be awkward in one-on-one interactions. Nevertheless, he is a kind and, much like Mr. Darcy, is humble enough to admit faults and change his views. Unlike Darcy, he has pulled himself up in society through sheer grit. His father committed suicide, leaving the family in horrible debt. Through intense hard work, Thornton reestablishes the family financially and insists on paying his father’s debts long after creditors had given up on payment. He cares for his flighty sister, and he loves and respects his mama.

    Also, he apparently has incredible teeth, “a set of teeth so faultless and beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes, changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of a man ready to do and dare anything, to the keen honest enjoyment of the moment.” (I’m now imagining him with one of those little star things they use to show gleaming teeth for cartoon characters.)

    Note: If we’re talking classic literary film adaptations, then Mr. Thornton is without question my favorite male lead. In the 2004 BBC miniseries, Thornton is played by Richard Armitage, a god among men (and dwarves) with the voice to match. “Look back at me…”

    (photo: Richard Armitage. Copyright BBC.) 

    3. Mr. Knightley, EMMA  

    knightley

    Knightley is my favorite Austen hero because he’s Emma’s best friend long before he’s a romantic interest. And he’s a true friend who communicates honestly, even when it might hurt his standing with her. He’s loving and truly a nice guy, but he’s also willing to call Emma out on her crap (and let’s admit it, Emma occasionally makes choices that deserve calling out).

    Although he’s a member of the gentry, he’s not a snob. He respects and befriends farmers and governesses without judgment. He is kind even to awkward Miss Bates, and he continually protects and defends her. He’s also gentle and respectful toward Emma’s father, in spite of his irrational behavior. (Side note, there’s a delightfully zany academic theory that Mr. Woodhouse is the villain of Emma. I swear I’m not making that up.) Knightley even offers to leave his own estate after marriage so that Emma can stay with her father! That’s true love, y’all.

    Favorite warm fuzzies line: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

    (photo: Jeremy Northam in Miramax's version of the classic. Probably don't look at his current IMDB page; just let him live in this regency getup forever). 

    2. Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables series  

    gilbert

    Initially, Gilbert is a little bit smug, but then, so is Anne. He’s misguided in his first flirting attempts (carrots, anyone?), but he more than makes up for it. In spite of all of Anne’s prickliness and resentment, he is always kind to her after their initial interaction. I love that they fall in love through friendly academic rivalry (intellectual equality = my kind of romance); they push each other to be better.

    Other things I love about Gilbert: He loves Anne completely but remains her friend when she doesn’t feel the same. He lets her know how he feels and then waits patiently without pushing her for more. He never tries to change Anne, but loves her for all her quirks and foibles. He encourages her to write and offers great advice. He works hard, eventually becoming a caring doctor. He selflessly gives up his teaching spot in Avonlea so that Anne can stay at Green Gables after Matthew dies (*sob*).

    After Anne and Gilbert marry, “their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid.” Isn’t that just lovely?

    (photo: Jonathan Crombie in CBC Television's masterful miniseries)

    1. Gabriel Oak, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

    gabriel

    Gabriel is kind, humble, loyal, dignified, intelligent, and incredibly hardworking. When the universe hands him an awful situation (via Bathsheba’s rejection and his dog’s excessive enthusiasm for herding sheep) he doesn’t mope. Instead, he goes right back to work and isn’t too proud to start over again. He loves Bathsheba through all of her rejections and bad choices: “I shall do one thing in this life – one thing certain – that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die.” He never demands that she love him in return, though; throughout it all, he respects her right to marry whomever she chooses or not to marry at all. He also believes in her ability to run a farm, which is pretty impressive considering the book was written in 1874. Most importantly, he brings Bathsheba a pet lamb when he proposes, which totally would have worked on me.

    (photo: Matthias Schoenaerts in the Fox Searchlight Pictures adaptation)

    Writing this list has brought about several revelations, some of them unsettling. It appears that I like my (literary) men intelligent, dignified, hardworking, and pro-feminism. Bonus points if they have a farm or country house. Accents are also a plus. More alarmingly, I don’t seem to be bothered by old men or May-December romances. I also appear to have a thing for pining/one-sided love that is ultimately requited. And for imaginary men. Off to see a therapist now.

    psychiatric help

    What do you think? Who did we miss? Disagree with the top pick? Battle it out (nicely) in the comments!

    Wondering about the scoundrels we denounced in the worst boyfriends lists? Revisit parts one and two of that list. 

     

  •  Horror on the Silver Screen

    Looking for a movie to send chills down your spine? While the horror genre has had some great films in recent history—from the Oscar-winning GET OUT, to the John Krasinski breakout, A QUIET PLACE—there have been many classic movies that have scared the pants off audiences. Here are some hits from yesteryear to get you in the mood for Halloween. 

    10.26 The InnocentsTHE INNOCENTS
    Directed by Jack Clayton
    (1961)

    Based on the American novel, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, this British adaptation combines everything you’d want in Victorian horror — haunted estates, women in distress, and creepy children. A woman becomes the governess to a young brother and sister who may be much more than they appear. Are the apparitions she sees real? In this film, you can never really trust what people say—or what they see. If you are a fan of modern gothic films like THE WOMAN IN BLACK or THE OTHERS, check out THE INNOCENTS. 

    Fun Fact: The screenplay for this film was worked on by Truman Capote, who took a break from his true crime classic, IN COLD BLOOD, to finish the movie script. 

     

    10.26 Abbott and CostelloABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN
    Directed by Charles Barton
    (1948)

    If you are looking for some good scares and good laughs, check out Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Made after the heyday of monster movies like DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and THE WOLFMAN, this movie manages to put all of them into one story. The “Avengers” of Universal horror films, the film manages one of the first “crossover” plotlines, pitting each monster against one another or our protagonists.  

    Abbott and Costello both pull off one-liners with their usual skill, poking fun at the monsters while still allowing for some scary moments. The fear factor is helped by the fact that most of the creatures are played by their original actors—who are perfectly happy to howl, bite, and groan amid the jokes. My personal favorite is when Lon Chaney (the Wolfman) attempts to warn Costello over the phone about Dracula’s plot. Instead, Costello quickly becomes more and more irritated with Chaney’s “barking dog.” 

    If you enjoy this film, be sure to check out other Abbott and Costello horror crossovers, such as ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN. 

     

    10.26 Cape FearCAPE FEAR
    Directed by J. Lee Thompson
    (1962)

    This film was initially worked on by Alfred Hitchcock, before he passed it onto his colleague, J. Lee Thompson. One of the best thrillers of the 1950’s, it tells the story of how one ex-con terrorizes the family of the lawyer who sent him to prison. Robert Mitchum pits himself against the upright everyman, Gregory Peck—who was known for playing another famous lawyer in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  

    Mitchum manages to play both cold, calculating villain and out-of-control maniac. It is his personality that truly makes the audience fear for the lawyer’s family. This film would be made again in 1991 by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro in the ex-con role. However, if you are interested in other horror films that showcase Robert Mitchum’s talent, I recommend the beautiful and horrifying THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

     

    10.26 The HauntingTHE HAUNTING
    Directed by Robert Wise
    (1963)

    Based on the 1959 book by Shirley Jackson, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, which is widely considered to be the scariest book ever written. Both the movie and its classic film adaptation tell the story of four people invited to investigate not a house that is “haunted,” but is rather “diseased,” with a mind of its own. We soon realize the disturbing effect it has on each person who stays there, including the poor, lonely Eleanor.  

    This film came out just 4 years after the book’s initial publication and was directed by Robert Wise—who had just come off a successful adaptation of WEST SIDE STORY (and would later go on to direct THE SOUND OF MUSIC). Don’t let the director’s background in musicals fool you, this movie will certainly keep you up at night. This film truly takes to heart the old adage that what you don’t see is scarier than what you do. From great acting, to terrifying sound design, this movie will drag you down into the madness that has enveloped the people staying at Hill House.  

    In addition to the 1963 film, The Haunting of Hill House has had plenty of adaptations. These include a recent Netflix adaptation, of the same name, and a 1999 film with Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. (Despite the star-studded cast, please do not subject yourself to this film.)

     
  • classics to love 1

     Classic
    /’klasik/

    Adjective
    1. Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstand of its kind            
    Synonyms: definitive, authoritative

    Noun
    1. A work of art of recognized and establish value
    Synonyms: model, epitome, paradigm, exemplar

    Classics: I. Love. Classics. They're not everyone’s cup of tea, but when you find the good ones they can really speak to your soul. I recommend classics to build well-rounded readership but also because they are well written and are something you can sink your teeth into. They are fiction, but not silly fiction that will fade with every new trend. They aren’t necessarily your fun, poolside entertainment kind of books, but you can become just as absorbed if you give them a chance.

    Classics give historical perspectives of the authors and help describe how society and culture is formed. These books can give deeper insights on life—growing up, family dynamics, love, betrayal, school, marriage, work, race, religion, war and so much more. Some of these I first read as a teenager when I’d ask my dad for book suggestions, but I’ve come back to these over the years. At different ages and stages of life these books have held deeper meaning. All of these favorites would be excellent for men and women, at all ages, teenage and above. 

    Here are 20 Classics to love—or at least make you feel something (preferably not disgust): 

    • LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott
    • EMMA by Jane Austen
    • PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
    • CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • COUNTE OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas
    • ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by LM Montgomery
    • THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas
    • LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo
    • NORTH AND SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell
    • FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD by Thomas Hardy
    • DRACULA by Bram Stoker
    • A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith
    • CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by CS Lewis
    • THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Gaston Leroux
    • TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
    • THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • THE LORD OF THE RINGS by JRR Tolkien
    • ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
    • DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank
    • FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

    classics to love 3

  • love languages

     

    In February, our thoughts turn naturally to romantic love.  A great book about keeping romantic love alive for couples of any age is The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman . My husband of 28 years and I read it together last summer and thought it was really worthwhile.  Since then I have been trying to figure out other people’s love languages.  Sometimes it is pretty obvious, and other times it is a bit trickier to figure out. The five love languages are

    • Giving or receiving gifts
    • quality time
    • words of affirmation
    • acts of service
    • and physical touch.

    The other day I was watching the A&E version of Jane Eyre (for the umpteenth time) and I suddenly thought, Wow, Mr. Rochester obviously shows love by giving gifts. He showered Adelle’s mother with expensive gifts, and then the first thing he does after becoming engaged to Jane is to take her shopping. But what is Jane’s love language? She certainly enjoys talking with Mr. Rochester, but isn’t totally hooked until he takes her hand after she saves him from the fire. I think her primary love language is physical touch.  

    Of course, that got me thinking about other literary couples.  What are their love languages?  Here is what I think:

    Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Her primary love language is “words of affirmation.”  She is initially charmed by Wickham’s flattery, and turned off by Mr. Darcy’s first unflattering proposal.  Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, shows love through “acts of service.” He is impressed by Elizabeth’s devotion to her sister, Jane, while she is sick, and ultimately confirms the depth of his love to Elizabeth by performing the service of saving Lydia from disgrace.

    Maryanne Dashwood and Mr. Willoughby from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility both show love through “quality time.”  That is why they hit it off so quickly, and spend so much time together.

    Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell definitely shows love through “acts of service.” It is basically what she does all day.  Mr. Thornton is a little tougher to figure out.  He is offended when Margaret won’t shake his hand, so maybe “physical touch,” but he also keeps finding excuses to hang out at her house, under the guise of taking lessons from her father, so maybe “quality time.”  What do you think?

    5 LOVE LANGUAGES:
    Get the book  
    or on Overdrive

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Get the book
    Get the movie

    SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Get the book 
    Get the movie

    NORTH AND SOUTH
    Get the book 
    Get the movie

    JANE EYRE
    Get the book 
    Get the movie 

     

     

  • classics busy

     

    Reading classic novels is not only enjoyable, but also makes you feel sophisticated. However, some classic novels can be lengthy and heavy. Sometimes we are all a little too busy to sit down and begin a 400 page novel full of complex sentences. Here is a list of my five favorite classics to read when I want to feel sophisticated but I don’t have time for heavy reading.

    jekyll and hyde

     

    THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Not only is Stevenson’s story of the doomed man with dual identities incredibly brief, it reads like an engaging thriller. This book can be finished in one sitting. Way before Bruce Banner, there was Dr. Jekyll.

     

     

     

    scarlet pimpernel

      

    THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
    by Emma Orczy

    This tale of the original masked hero with a secret identity is an exhilarating adventure full of romance and daring escapes. It is not a particularly short book, but the excitement of the story makes this one a quick read.

     

     

    martian chronicles

    THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES
    by Ray Bradbury

    This book is a little lesser known than Bradbury’s other classic, FAHRENHEIT 451 (which is also a quick read), but is a great science fiction classic that recounts various tales of man’s interactions in the new colony on Mars. This quick read is essentially a collection of short stories that each present a unique story with a distinct feel.

     

     

    christmas carol

     

    A CHRISTMAS CAROL
    by Charles Dickens

    Beloved by all, read by too few, the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s change of heart is a short book that is so uplifting and so well-written that it ends altogether too soon. You can’t help but respect anyone who is reading this masterpiece.

     

     

     

    around the world 80

     

    AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
    by Jules Verne

    Verne’s classic story full of memorable characters and nonstop adventure leaves the reader wishing Phileas Fogg was still on his trip around the world. Lighter than some of Verne’s other works, this book’s good natured tone and rapid succession of events makes it a quick read.

     

     

     

  • great musicals

    So anyone who knows me knows that I love most every musical that I have come across. The only one I have seen so far and do not like is Carousel. I love the signature song but hate the plot. Musicals have a lot of different backgrounds for their stories. There are musicals like MAMMA MIA that were written to fit the music, or there are some like SHREK and THE ADDAMS FAMILY that were based off of a movie or a television show, and there are some like THE MUSIC MAN that are a representation of life experiences.  But did you know that there are many musicals that are either loosely or strictly based off of a book? Oh yes! This makes me so happy because it combines two of my most favorite things. So let me share with you some of my favorite book to musical adaptations.

    9.15 Oliver TwistOLIVER TWIST
    By Charles Dickens
    (1838)

    OLIVER!: This is one of the few cases where I loved the musical more than I liked the book. I think that Charles Dickens helped try to start a revolution of change that sadly did not really start rolling until much later, but it is such a sad story with not a particularly happy end. I love how the musical keeps the spirit of how desperate things are and then brings hope for Oliver at the end.

     

     

    9.15 Alexander HamiltonALEXANDER HAMILTON
    By Ron Chernow
    (2004)

    HAMILTON: So weirdly enough I loved this musical. I say weirdly because 99.99% of the time I HATE Rap music. It does absolutely nothing for me and I don’t enjoy it. But I love the story/ tragedy of Alexander Hamilton. Even more than his story I love the story of his wife Eliza. She was the one who really worked to make sure that her husband’s legacy lived on and that he was a name that people would recognize in the history books.

     

     

    9.15 A Little PrincessA LITTLE PRINCESS
    By Francis Hodgson Burnett
    (1905)

    A LITTLE PRINCESS: My favorite song from this Musical is "Good Luck, Bonne Chance." I love how they bring out the storytelling talent that Sarah Crew has in the book paring it with a fun, catchy tune. I love this story so much! I like stories where people are still good and kind even when life kicks them while they are down, then karma comes and bites everyone else, and then good things happen to the main character.

     

    9.15 The Wizard of OzTHE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
    By L. Frank Baum
    (1900)

    THE WIZARD OF OZ: So if you didn’t know The Wizard of Oz is an entire series of books. There are 14 books written by L. Frank Baum which all provide a different facet of the world of Oz. The first book came out almost 40 years before Judy Garland played as Dorothy. I love the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It has always been one of my favorite songs.

     

     

    9.15 The Scarlet PimpernelTHE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
    By Baroness Orczy
    (1905)

    THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL: This is one of my all-time favorite stories in almost every single version I have ever seen. Each version is slightly different, but consistently my favorite part is when Percy finds out that Marguerite loves him and never betrayed him. I love how they adjust that part of the story every time.

     

     

  • classics for kids

    We’ve got a lot of old stuff here in the children’s library, and I’m not talking about the carpet and the computers—I’m talking about old books. Some of which are so burned into our cultural consciousness that they still get a lot of attention, such as LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott, which was first published in 1868; or the BOXCAR CHILDREN books by Gertrude Chandler Warner that started publication in 1924. Unfortunately, from my perspective as a children’s librarian, much of our older stuff doesn’t get enough attention.  

    It’s understandably hard to sift through everything there is to read. There are now ELEVEN Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and Rick Riordan has written THIRTY-FOUR kids’ titles! So I understand that it can be hard to branch out if your kid wants to keep reading familiar stuff. But maybe it’s worth avoiding the next new series for awhile (who wants to wait a year between installments anyway) and pick up something a little more classic. Kids may find they actually like reading “old stuff.” Here are four of my favorite classic children’s novels that withstand the test of time. And if you need more ideas, come in and get one of our “Classics for Kids” booklists.    

    9.29 Doctor DolittleTHE STORY OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE
    Hugh Lofting
    1920 

    The idea that Doctor Dolittle taught himself to speak to animals was beyond amazing to me as a child, and the writing style of this story is just “old-fashioned” enough to make it sound “true.” Kids reading this may come away with a hopeful belief that if they just study hard enough, they can learn to talk to animals too! Doctor Dolittle’s adventures both in England and on the African continent supply all sorts of wild entertainment that will still interest kids in the 21st century. The second installment in the doctor’s adventures, THE VOYAGES OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE, won the Newbery medal in 1923.   

     

    9.29 The Call of the WildTHE CALL OF THE WILD
    Jack London
    1903 

    As a kid I was pretty typical: I loved books about dogs. Buck, this story’s protagonist, is a mix of whatever breeds create a dog big enough and hardy enough to survive both the dog fighting arena and the Alaskan wilderness. This book is a great place to learn about the harms of animal cruelty, as well as the reality of how harsh the Klondike gold rush was on would-be millionaires. The story is told from the dog’s perspective, so readers are bound to fall in love with this gentle canine giant, urging him on through thick and thin. And don’t worry, Buck gets a happy ending.

      

    9.29 Treasure IslandTREASURE ISLAND
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    1882 

    This feels like the pirate story that started them all. I mean, if there’s a muppet show about it, it must be good. And what child doesn’t want to join the intrepid Jim as he takes to the high seas? Trying to navigate the complicated relationship between Jim and the friendly but deadly John Silver can teach a hard but necessary lesson about the problem of attempting to see life in black and white, good and evil. On a lighter note, TREASURE ISLAND has all the fantastical elements, adventure, and daring that any fan of Percy Jackson could hope for.   

    9.29 Black BeautyBLACK BEAUTY
    Anna Sewell
    1877 

    As many 10-year-old girls do, I went through a serious horse phase. In my opinion, horse stories have produced some great classic reads for kids, and BLACK BEAUTY has to take the cake. Like CALL OF THE WILD, this book contrasts animal care with animal cruelty. The overall message is that an animal treated well will be loyal to it’s human, but there’s a deeper message about the importance of friendship in any situation. Readers will cheer on Black Beauty and come out a little bit better for it.

     

     

  •  Graphic Novel Classics

    Classic literature – the bane of high school English students. Like many people, I struggled with the works of classical writers, like Shakespeare and Aristotle, during my education. Luckily, the library owns a variety of these works in graphic novel adaptation, combining word and illustration to tell the story. Here are some of my favorite classic literature adaptations. 

    5.15 Fahrenheit 451FAHRENHEIT 451
    By Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton
    (2009)

    Experience Montag’s awakening to the evil of government-controlled thought and the need for philosophy and literature in striking artwork in this authorized adaptation. 

     

    5.15 The OdysseyTHE ODYSSEY
    By Gareth Hinds 
    (2010)

    Based on Homer’s epic poem, follow the journey of Odysseus as he travels home from the Trojan War. Experience violent storms, sirens, monsters, and sorceresses through word and colorful illustrations in this unique adaptation.  

     

    5.15 Crime and PunishmentCRIME AND PUNISHMENT
    By Fyodor Dostoevsky and David Mairowitz
    (2008)

    Set in present-day Russia, the black and white illustrations create a haunting picture of Raskolnikov’s inner turmoil. After committing a horrible crime, he is driven toward confession as a reprieve from his agony. A basic understanding of the original novel would enhance this adaptation.  

     

    5.15 Pride and PrejudicePRIDE AND PREJUIDUCE
    By Jane Austen and Stacy King
    (2014) 

    Discover the classic love story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in this Manga Classic adaptation. Sometimes pride and first impressions can get in the way of true love. And check out our other Manga Classic titles for lots more adaptations.

     

    5.15 To Kill a MockingbirdTO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
    By Harper Lee and Fred Fordham
    (2018)

    Read the story of one little girl as she experiences the racial hate in an Alabama town as her father defends a black man accused of rape in this new adaptation of the classic novel.

     

    Do you have any favorite graphic novel adaptations of classic literature? Share them in the comments and be sure to look for our favorite nonfiction and current fiction titles in the coming weeks.

  • not original

    Unless you live off-grid, it’s no news to you how sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots seem to dominate the box office, TV schedules, and even bookshelves. According to an article written in June 2015, only 39% of the high-grossing films released between 2005 and 2014 were fully original, non-derivative content. Three years later, it seems like the trend has only grown. But I’m not here to bash remakes, adaptations, spin-offs, etc. because if truth be told, there are plenty of great ones that deserve to be celebrated. 

    I’ll share some of my favorites from the library’s shelves with you in a series of posts, of which this is the first. Today’s list will focus on movies whose plots are actually adapted from/inspired by classic literature - and you may not have even noticed: 

    10.10 10 Things I Hate About You10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
    Directed by Gil Junger
    (1999) 

    Adapted from William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
    Starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt.

    This modern take on Shakespeare is anything but a bland teen rom-com. Along with the mishaps of teenage romance, this film offers much more, exploring coming-of-age themes such as forming identity, evaluating priorities, navigating social and familial expectations, reputation/image, and the importance of self-respect. Oh, and Heath Ledger does a musical number, in case you still needed persuasion. 

    10.10 CluelessCLUELESS
    Directed by Amy Heckerling
    (1995) 

    Adapted from Jane Austen’s EMMA.
    Starring Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, and Paul Rudd. 

    Really! Austen gets a 90’s makeover in this film, where the English countryside society is swapped for the 90210 – Beverly Hills, that is. And for those of you who have a hard time liking the meddling Emma in the original story, her antics are more endearing coming from a pampered 16-year-old. Which of us didn’t think we knew everything at that age, right? Despite the peak 90’s styles, tech, and culture, the movie still holds up; you’ll envy Cher’s closet-organizing software - I sure do! And then there’s the question of how Paul Rudd hasn’t seemed to age since 1995…  

    10.10 O Brother Where Are ThouO BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
    Directed by Joel Coen
    (2001) 

    Adapted from Homer’s THE ODYSSEY.
    Starring George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson (all with honey-sweet southern drawls).

    Mythical adventure gets down-to-earth in this adaptation of Homer’s epic poem. Hilarity ensues as three jailbirds in in 1930’s Mississippi dodge the law, unsavory folk, and more as they seek “The Treasure.” This is one of my all-time favorites for several reasons; you’ve got loveable scamps on a passionate quest, rich historical setting, flawless soundtrack (featuring the stars themselves), and laughs galore. It pulls you in so well you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Homer even gets credited as co-writer! 

    10.10 Shes the ManSHE’S THE MAN
    Directed by Andy Fickman
    (2006) 

    Adapted from William Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT.
    Starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.

    I make no apologies for including another Shakespeare play on this list, particularly when Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum are involved. Bynes is at the top of her game in this hilarious tale of love triangles (seriously there’s about five…five and a half…I tried to chart it out once, it’s a mess) and mistaken identities. While definitely a comedy, there’s also a good dose of warm fuzzies with themes of going after your dreams and being yourself. 

    10.10 The Scarlet PimpernelTHE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
    Directed by Clive Donner
    (1982)

    Adapted from Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and ELDORADO.
    Starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Sir Ian McKellen. 

    I know this may seem like a stretch, but hear me out – this movie totally belongs on this list. The reason I’m including it here is…drumroll please…The Scarlet Pimpernel is not just a book, it’s a series! Okay, that is a bit of a stretch, but I for one had no idea there was a whole series of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s adventures. This film version is based on two books in the expansive series written by the Baroness, mostly drawing from the book Eldorado rather than The Scarlet Pimpernel. Mainly though, this made the list because it is a great flick; it’s just plain fun and ever so quotable. “Sink me,” I love it so!  

    What titles would you have put on this list? Stay tuned for more adaptations and remakes worth your time!

     

  •  Judging a Book By Its cover

    We all know the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but cover art nevertheless can make a huge difference in a book’s success. Think about it. When you’re browsing the shelves of the library or a book store, books with distinctive covers or spines are the ones you notice, right?

    Personally, I’m drawn to gorgeous typography. While cover photos and illustrations are all well and good, beautiful print, especially if it has a feminine, vintage vibe, calls me to a book better than anything short of a glowing Kirkus review.

    You know you’re a librarian when you have not only favorite books and authors, but favorite book covers and cover illustrators. These are a few of my favorites:

    9.28.2 Dorian GrayJESSICA HISCHE

    Jessica Hische's work is what first sucked me into the world of cover art, and she's my favorite cover illustrator to this day. I'm a book hoarde... ahem, collector, but I started off just buying paperbacks, not caring what the covers looked like. In an act of youthful folly, I even bought the movie tie-in paperbacks of the LORD OF THE RINGS series many years ago (*shudders*). There was no looking back once I started buying Hische's gorgeous collection of Barnes and Noble leatherbound classics, though. Her work is all about intricate lettering, and in addition to her Barnes and Noble designs, she's created lovely covers for Penguin's Drop Caps series, Audible, and McSweeney's Publishing. Thanks to her, I began buying books for their beauty as well as their readability, and, eleven copies of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE later, it's been a beautiful and expensive path from there.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    9.28.2 The Fox and the StarCORALIE BICKFORD-SMITH

    First of all, we need to acknowledge that Coralie Bickford-Smith's name is AWESOME. With a name like that, she should be either the protagonist of a novel or the lady of an English manor house. Okay, with that out of the way, let's talk about her cover art. 

    Even if you haven't heard Bickford-Smith's name, you've probably seen her work. Penguin has released a series ofclothbound classics which feature her gorgeous and whimsical art and which you've inevitably come across in one book store or another. I'm also a fan of her F. Scott Fitzgerald covers, which have a decidedly Art Deco flair that fits his Jazz Age themes perfectly. My absolute favorite cover of hers, however, is from her very own book THE FOX AND THE STAR. The silver, the swirls, the sweet little fox - like Mary Poppins, it's practically perfect in every way.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    9.28.2 Wink Poppy Midnight

    LISA PERRIN

    Lisa Perrin's work is a recent discovery for me. WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE by Lana Popovic has been getting a lot of buzz in the YA community lately, and when I first saw the cover, I was immediately curious about both the book and the artist. After researching a bit, I found the cover for WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT, and I loved it even more. Perrin has the same intricate, feminine, and typography-based style that I love from Bickford-Smith and Hische, but she also uses color and weaves in animal and botanical patterns in a way that reminds me of Scandinavian folk art. The result is eye-catching, playful, and absolutely lovely.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • teacup books

    It was my thirteenth birthday. The present from my grandmother was heavy and thick; it felt like a book. My favorite. I knew that it was going to be something important and special. Something that would change my life. I ripped open the wrapping paper. And there it was. LITTLE WOMEN. I opened it immediately and started to read. I have no memory of the rest of the party, or even the day. I just remember being in Concord, Massachusetts with Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.  

    Few other books have molded my childhood like this one did. I immediately saw myself in Jo. I wanted to be a writer like she did. Like Jo, I got frustrated at the unfairness in the world. And also like Jo, I loved my family deeply. If Jo, despite everything, could achieve her dreams,  then so would I. She was the reason I came to love books so much, why I would become an English major. She was why I would teach and eventually become a librarian.  

    And I’m not the only one who has been influenced by Little Women and especially by Jo. Writer and director of SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, YOU'VE GOT MAIL, and JULIE AND JULIA, Nora Ephron and her sister Delia grew up reading the book and taking turns playing Jo. Stephanie Meyer cites it as one of her earliest inspirations to become a writer. And the list goes on of women who were particularly inspired to write because of reading this book: Cynthia Ozik, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, Mary Gordon, Margaret Atwood, and Jhumpa Lahiri are just a few.  

    What is it that makes this book published in 1868-1869, 150 years ago, resonate with girls and women in the 21st century? Maybe it is the strong female characters that each must face her own challenges growing up. Maybe it is portrayal of sisterhood during war and hard economic times that speaks to our modern sensibilities. Whatever it is seems to touch our hearts and makes us long to be better and to be more.  

    Is it time for you to discover or rediscover this classic? For all things Little Women, check out these offerings from our catalog. 

    2.6 Little WomenTHE ANNOTATED LITTLE WOMEN
    By Louisa May Alcott
    Edited by John Matteson
    (2015)

    Pulitzer Prize-winning Alcott biographer John Matteson illuminates the world of Little Women and its author.

     

    2.6 Meg Jo Beth and AmyMEG, JO, BETH, AMY: THE STORY OF LITTLE WOMEN AND WHY IT STILL MATTERS
    By  Anne Boyd Rioux
    (2018)

    In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Rioux recounts how Louisa May Alcott came to write Little Women, drawing inspiration for it from her own life. Rioux also examines why this tale of family and community ties, set while the Civil War tore America apart, has resonated through later wars, the Depression, and times of changing opportunities for women. 

     

    2.6 Little Women DVDLITTLE WOMEN
    Directed by Gillian Armstrong
    (1994)

    A beloved film adaptation starring Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale, and Susan Sarandon.

     

    2.6 Little Women 2018LITTLE WOMEN
    Directed by Clare Niederpruem
    (2018)

    A modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott's novel. The story details to the passage from childhood to womanhood of Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy who are all sisters. Despite hard times, they cling to optimism. As they mature they face blossoming ambitions and relationships, as well as tragedy, while maintaining their unbreakable bond as sisters.   

     
  •  oldies

    "New Release!"

    "Add this new book to your list!"

    "Don't miss these books in 2019!"

    "This year is already turning out to be a great year for books so don’t delay, read today!"

    Have you ever been caught in that trap? I have. In fact as a librarian I often feel like I should only read books that are new and current that way I stay on top of what is new. As a result I neglect to read books that have been around for a while and I know that I miss out on some really amazing books.

    I decided that I needed to broaden my reading realm and add some of the classic older books to my long reading list along with new and current titles. I started thinking about authors who have been writing for a number of years and who have won awards in the past, and one day as I was going through a section in the library I happened to come across a section of books written by the Newbery author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

    As I stopped to look at the shelves of books that she has written, I was surprised. I had not realized she had written so many books. She has written over 135 childrens books as well as Young Adult books.  Her books range from historical fiction to fantasy to humor and everything in between. I decided I needed to read one of her books so I checked out one that I had never read before called BLIZZARD'S WAKE. I loved it. She is such a great storyteller and I found myself drawn into the story very quickly. It wasn’t a long book but it was excellent and I found myself devouring it. I knew Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was a renowned author but it was good to be reminded again that her books shouldn’t be discounted or forgotten just because they were not written in the past year.

    There are many authors like Naylor who have written award winning books but because it has been a few years since they have written a book we tend to forget about them. There are so many great books out there to read so don’t be like me and forget about some of the oldies but goodies. Go and find a book that may have been written a decade ago, or find one that you have been meaning to ready for years and get swept away in a wonderful story. Here are a few of my favorite books written by some time honored authors

    2.4 The WitchesTHE WITCHES
    By Roald Dahl
    (1983)

    This is one of my all-time favorite read-alouds. “This is not a fairytale. This is about REAL WITCHES.” Grandmamma loves to tell stories about witches and shares her knowledge with her grandson. When he comes face to face with the grand high witch herself he learns just how dangerous she can be, but he is clever and plots against the witches. Fun read for all ages.

     

    2.4 The Magicians NephewTHE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW 
    By CS Lewis
    (1955)

    I loved reading all seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia but my favorite was The Magician's Nephew. The creation of the world of Narnia was monumental and I loved the message in the book. The explanation of how the world of Narnia came to be and the role Aslan played in the creation was captivating to me. I have to admit that the explanation of how the wardrobe became tied to Narnia and became a portal to return one to this magical land helped me understand the rest of the stories better.

     

    2.4 The Witch of Blackbird PondTHE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND
    By Elizabeth George Speare
    (1958)

    I have read this book many times, and I’ll admit that I don’t do that very often. I still think my experience reading this book for the first time as a fifth grader was magical. I had just started reading books for pleasure instead of for school work when I read this story. It made the witch trials come alive for me in a very real way. Puritan life in colonial times was difficult, but when Kit befriended the local witch, Hannah, she was able to find a friend to confide in and to help her through the difficult times.

     

    2.4 Where the Red Fern GrowsWHERE THE RED FERN GROWS
    By Wilson Rawls
    (1961)

    Read this book with a box of tissues (I still can’t read it without crying). The author, Wilson Rawls, had a way of creating a world that was so real to me as a young reader. I sat at night listening to this story as my dad read it to me and I was transported into the Ozark mountains. I ran alongside Billy as he taught his dogs how to chase coons and hunt and become some of the finest hunting dogs around. 

     

    2.4 Tale of a Fourth Grade NothingTALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING
    By Judy Blume
    (1972)

    How many of us have experienced the trials of a younger sibling! This humorous book about Peter and his little brother Fudge is a book that many of us can relate to. I remember laughing out loud at some of the funny things Fudge did and said in the book, from throwing mashed potatoes to dumping his food on his head. A quick fun read.

     
  •  Little Women

     It may be a couple of days past Mother’s Day, but every day is a good day for celebrating moms, right? In addition to the wonderful women in my life – my mother, grandmother, sisters, and neighbors – I’ve been raised by a number of literary mothers. These women have taught me the value of courage, kindness, hard work, self-improvement, and having an open heart, and I love them as if they were real. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

    A Wrinkle in TimeKate Murry
    A WRINKLE IN TIME
    by Madaleine L'Engle
    (1962)

    Dr. Murry is a brilliant microbiologist who sets an example of hard work, passion, courage, and love for her four wildly different children. She loves awkward Meg, athletic and level-headed twins Sandy and Dennys, and wise Charles Wallace equally and individually. She treats them as rational thinkers and speaks to them with respect as well as warmth. She also immediately welcomes Calvin O’Keefe into the family, sensing that the popular boy comes from an unstable home. Even with her husband missing, Dr. Murry keeps the family together and provides a loving, stable home. She makes delicious stew over the bunson burner, comforts Meg, and conducts experiments in her home lab all at the same time, and that’s pretty darn impressive.  

    little womenMarmee
    LITTLE WOMEN
    by Louisa May Alcott
    (1868)

    Marmee’s a “tall, motherly lady, with a ‘can-I-help-you’ look about her which was truly delightful.” Is there a more quintessential mother in all of literature? I adore Marmee. It’s not because she’s longsuffering and calm and perfectly good. Instead, I love her for the conversations she has with her daughters when they’ve made mistakes. Her love is unconditional, but she gently helps them understand themselves, to make amends, and to grow. Because she loves them, she guides them to be better than they are. She’s not focused on her daughter’s achievements, but she’s determined to help develop their character.

    Tangent: I will forever feel annoyed that someone addresses Marmee as Abigail in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women. Her name is Margaret! Meg is named after her! If the filmmakers had really loved Marmee, they would have known that.

    No, I’m not going to get over it. You can’t make me.  

    RoomMa
    ROOM
    by Emma Donoghue
    (2010)

    I expected Room to be a more disturbing book than it was. After all, it’s narrated by a little boy who has never been outside of the hidden underground room where his mother is held captive by a brutal abuser. Because of Ma’s great love for Jack, however, the boy is happy, and the story is often surprisingly gentle. Ma creates structure for their days, plays with Jack, teaches him, makes sure he receives the exercise and nutrients he needs, and protects him from her captor. When Ma decides it’s time to escape, she helps Jack make the difficult transition to understanding there’s a world outside their room. Her situation is horrifying, but she endures it with incredible courage for the sake of her son.  

    Harry PotterMolly Weasley
    HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE
    by J.K. Rowling
    (1997)

    You knew Molly would be on this list, right? She’s warm, fiery, funny, and kind. As much as I love her relationship with her own children, who she treats with equal amounts adoration and exasperation, I’m even more touched by her love for Harry. The moment where Harry receives his first Christmas sweater and a box of home-made fudge from Molly after a lifetime without a real Christmas present leaves me a little teary. In spite of the Weasley’s financial struggles, she takes the orphaned boy into her family with all her giant heart. She’s also an excellent cook and knitter and hug-giver. And then there’s that famous line when Bellatrix almost kills Ginny…

    Molly’s the best.  

    The Secret Life of BeesAugust Boatright
    THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES
    by Sue Monk Kidd
    (2001)

    August may not have her own biological children, but she unquestionably has a mother’s heart. When heartbroken Lily stumbles into her life, she takes the girl into her home, where she already takes care of her two sisters and a beekeeping business. She knows who Lily is instantly, but waits for the girl to reveal her identity in her own time. A former teacher, August is intelligent and knowledgeable, nurturing without being pushy, and a wonderful combination of independent and community-oriented. She becomes the ballast and mother figure Lily has spent her life longing for, and she beautifully represents the power of female relationships.  

    Anne of Green GablesMarilla Cuthbert
    ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
    by Lucy Maud Montgomery
    (1908)

    Initially, Marilla Cuthbert is gruff and unkind toward sensitive Anne. She intended to adopt a farmboy, so the dreamy, trouble-prone little girl is only a source of frustration. Marilla’s softness and sense of humor gradually appear, however. Her love for her brother is apparent from the beginning, and she relents about keeping Anne at Green Gables for his sake. Though she remains a strict disciplinarian, Marilla and Anne smooth out each other’s rough edges; Anne becomes more practical and disciplined under Marilla’s teaching, and Marilla becomes gentler and happier. After Matthew’s death (which will never stop breaking my heart), Marilla finally opens up in the most beautiful way:

    “We’ve got each other, Anne. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here – if you’d never come. Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe – but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.”

    Don’t you just love Marilla?

    the helpAibileen Clark
    The Help
    by Kathryn Stockett
    (2009)

    "Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning." Having lost her own son, Aibileen Clark is more mother to her charge than the white mother she works for. As THE HELP unfolds, she develops a special relationship with toddler Mae Mobley. After spending three years trying to protect the little girl from her mother's neglect, criticism, and racism, Aibileen decides to counteract all that unkindness with active words of love. We all know her motherly affirmation: "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." 

    Books and the characters within them can profoundly shape the way we view the world. I'm so grateful for the inspiring mothers I've found in a lifetime of reading and for all that they've taught me. So here's to the mothers, both literal and literary!

  • read a romance 1

    When it comes to literary genres, I feel like Romance gets a raw deal.  It can be very stigmatized since a good number of us automatically think of books whose covers feature bare chested men embracing partially dressed women with flowing hair…actually sometimes the men have flowing hair as well. And while that does describe a subset of the genre, there are so many other types of romances.  It isn’t hard to find a romance that would feel at home on anyone’s reading list.

    August is Read-A-Romance Month!  For the next few weeks, we'll share Romance subgenres that you may want to check out. Make room for a little love this month and hopefully you’ll discover a new author or genre you can dive into throughout the year.

    ROMANTIC CLASSICS

    If you are in the mood for something timeless check out one of these classics.  They have withstood the test of time and proved themselves worthy of our attention. 

    8.15 North and SouthNORTH AND SOUTH
    By Elizabeth Gaskell
    (1855)

    Through Margaret Hale, a middle-class English southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skillfully explores issues of class and gender in the conflict between Margaret's ready sympathy with the workers and her growing attraction to the charismatic mill owner, John Thornton.

     

    8.15 Jane EyreJANE EYRE
    By Charlotte Bronte
    (1847)

    In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess and soon finds herself in love with her employer who has a terrible secret.

     

    8.15 Gone with the WindGONE WITH THE WIND
    By Margaret Mitchell
    (1936)

    A spoiled young Southern belle vows to rebuild her family plantation home after the Civil War and is swept off her feet by a man who infuriates her.

     
    Next week we'll be sharing some of our favorite proper romances and historical romances. Which ones do you love?
  • Read to Travel

    Once again I’m back to talk about places I have traveled because of books that I have read—or places that I loved going to visit  because of the literature that was written there. Hannibal, Rome, London, and Concord have all made my list. Today I’m going to talk about my second favorite place(s) to go on vacation due to books I have read. And yes, if you noticed, this place is really two places. It would have been three  dream places if my time hadn’t been so short. 

    Bath & Chawton, England

    I know I already mentioned London earlier—and I still love that choice. But I seriously took two major detours when traveling in England for one author: Jane Austen! So yes, London is amazing; however, Bath & Chawton—specifically Chawton—were places that I went specifically because of reading (and I was not disappointed!). 

    The only reason I went to Bath was because of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION (and if pressed possibly because of Northanger Abbey as well). Without Jane and her novels I probably wouldn’t have been persuaded to go visit Bath. And to be completely honest without this adaptation of the movie PERSUASION, I probably wouldn’t have recognized just how beautiful Bath is and wouldn’t have had such a desire to go and see where Anne Elliot lived and finally got her happily ever after. While in Bath we visited the Roman Baths and the Royal Crescent (yes, that one spot that every movie set in Bath uses because it is that beautiful). I swear Anne Elliot must have been just around the corner while we were there… 

    classic Bath

    Joella at the Roman Baths in Bath

    bath

    I couldn’t travel to Jane Austen country without actually going to Chawton, England—the place where the Jane Austen Museum is. It was here that Jane wrote and/or revised all six of her completed works: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, MANSFIELD PARK, NORTHANGER ABBEY, EMMA, and PERSUASION. Not only that, but at the museum you can see the writing table where Jane wrote everything. The. Desk. Where. All. The. Things. Were. Written! Plus you can see Jane’s ring—the ring that lived on her finger! This is the vacation spot for all of you who wish to geek-out about all things Jane Austen! 

    chawton

    When walking around Bath or in the gardens at the Jane Austen Museum, I truly got a feel for what it might have been like for Jane Austen to live there and write there. These two locations had some of the most fan-girl-like moments to connect one to Jane Austen. It truly felt like I made some sort of pilgrimage to be in my favorite books written by my favorite author (and for a librarian who likes SO MANY books, this is quite the confession)!

     Jane Austen s writing table

    Joella at Jane Austen s House

    The only thing that would have made this literary vacation even better was if I could have gone up to see the Pemberley location from the 1995 movie version of Pride and Prejudice. That would have possibly sent this vacation to the very top of my read to travel list. Alas, with only so much time over the pond it didn’t happen…but there is always next time, eh? 

    Joella reading on a beach while traveling

    So there you have it, my penultimate literary vacation spot. Only one more left. Where do you think it will be? 

  • Read to Travel

    Hopefully you all aren’t tired of these random  vacation  posts yet! I have been talking about some of my favorite places to travel because of the books that are associated with them—or perhaps they have become some of my favorite books because of the places I have traveled…

    Either way, I have talked about Hannibal, Missouri; Rome, Italy; and London, England so far. Today I’m talking about another location that I had planned to visit for years, Concord, Massachusetts.

    3. Concord, Massachusetts, USA

    When I first went to Concord, Massachusetts, it felt like a dream come true! At that point I had just graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in English (note: this means I had read a lot of American literature, and I do mean A LOT). I had studied so many wonderful American authors, and was surprised that so many authors that I loved lived and wrote in Concord—and all at the same time! In fact, one of my final papers for one class was all about how every English major that studied American literature had to eventually go and visit Concord. 

    My absolute favorite place to visit in Concord (and the main reason why I wanted to travel there) was to visit the home of Louisa May Alcott. I loved visiting the place where Alcott wrote LITTLE WOMEN. And now whenever I reread anything about the March sisters, I can’t help but think of Orchard House in Concord. Such a beautiful setting that feels like Jo March must be around the corner writing everything all down. 

    Orchard House

    My second favorite place to visit in Concord is Walden Pond. Yup. That Walden Pond. The one made famous by Henry David Thoreau and his book WALDEN. I loved going and hiking around the pond (not just looking at the little replica cabin that mimics Thoreau’s simple living quarters, though that was fun too). But to actually get away from the parking lot and to just feel the peacefulness of nature—it was a happy moment. 

    Another place that felt like I was stepping into a book was at the Ralph Waldo Emerson House. I studied so many Emerson essays (again, I was an English major) that I felt like going to his home was adding another layer to why Emerson wrote what he wrote. Then there is a trip to The Old Manse (where Emerson wrote his first draft of Nature and where Nathaniel Hawthorne—yes that Nathanial Hawthorne—lived). Plus there is also the idea that The Old Manse looks at the Old North Bridge, the bridge that was mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride." 

    Man—who knew there was so much literature to “visit” when planning a vacation to Concord, Massachusetts? Well, my English professors did, which is why they inspired me to actually plan a trip out to the East Coast—just so I could take in all the settings of so many books I love. 

    I have two more spots left—favorites vacations where I traveled to because of the books I have read. Yup, these two places were solely vacations planned based on beloved books. Keep reading to find out where they are!

  • read to travel

    As far as my favorite literary vacation spots so far I have talked about Hannibal, Missouri and Rome, Italy. This next one has EVEN MORE literary references than the other two destinations (if you can believe it). I mean, how could it not!?! Today I am talking about London, England, number four on my countdown of six favorite literary vacations. 

    4. London, England

    Tower of London

    The first time that I went to this city it was part of a college Literary Tour. And the fact that it was introduced as a major stop in literary history means that every time I go back I can’t help but think of all the great books that are set there. 

    Seriously, this one city has totally spoiled me for literature. One of the first stops my friends and I made was to go to see some signs of SHERLOCK HOLMES around Baker Street. Granted, we didn’t find the famous sleuth (or Benedict Cumberbatch—sigh!), but we did enjoy looking at London from the “perspective” of Holmes and Watson. 

    Also, while traipsing around London I happened to find the home of Charles Dickens. This literary mastermind set a lot of his novels in jolly old England—London in particular. And as I spent hours walking around (potentially getting a little lost once or twice…) I started getting hungry—not only for good spots to remind me of good books, but for actual food. “Please, sir, I want some more.” Thankfully, unlike OLIVER TWIST, I had plenty of options to choose from so I could keep wandering around town. 

    One magical place to go is to Kensington Gardens. There—after quite a bit of meandering—we were able to find the PETER PAN statue. Because this is where James Barrie wrote and perhaps was inspired to write the famous play. And with this fun statue of Peter, of course there is an invitation to celebrate the imagination of this masterpiece that has had such an impact around the world—and I can’t help but imagine that Wendy, John, Michael, or Tinkerbell might appear beside Peter as I walked around the garden. 

    Peter Pan

    And, who can go to London without going to the Globe Theater—the replica of all things William Shakespeare—who may justifiably be considered the master of all things literary! While at the Globe we saw JULIUS CAESAR (which helped me love my literary journey in Rome that I talked about last time). We got the cheap tickets, so we had to stand for the entire play. And we were out in the elements so when it started to drizzle rain/slush on us…it was a little uncomfortable; however, it was an experience that I will never forget! I felt like I could be in the 1600s listening to the Bard. I don’t think my love for Shakespeare has ever been the same. 

    Yowzer! London has so many literary greats! It is no wonder that this one city has hit my list of places I wanted to see and visit because of works I have read. And I haven’t even talked about Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Or HARRY POTTER—which has some scenes in London… Yeah, if you love reading, then you have to visit London on vacation. It is basically a must! 

    Joella Reading a book in a bookshop on vacation 1

    Keep reading to see what other vacations I thought were reading havens!

  • Read to Travel

    So here is the thing, I like to read AND I like to travel. And it is a sweet spot when both things happen at the same time (meaning, sometimes I pick where I travel based on a book I read or sometimes I read books based on places that I have traveled to or will travel to). If you love to read and love to travel, this series of posts is for you. I'll be sharing my top six destinations that hit the sweet spot of good books and great location, where the place has as much personality as the characters in the books. Granted, due to my being a little long-winded, it might take a few posts to get through all my favorites… 

    6. Hannibal, Missouri, USA

    I will confess, the first time that I went to Hannibal .…I didn’t choose to go. I was nine and my mother made the decision for a family vacation. So we went. But I liked it so much that I went two more times - that is saying something, right?

    Basically this is the literary travel spot for all things Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens). Think TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Think of all the cave spelunking and riverboat rides. In Hannibal you can tour the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Properties. I loved looking at the white picket fence and thinking about how Tom tricked everyone else into white-washing it for him. When I was in Hannibal (many years ago) I also toured around other museums and saw where “Becky Thatcher” would have “lived."

    8.6 tom sawyer statue

    There is something to be said for skipping rocks and having a picnic next to the mighty Mississippi River, the very river that Huck Finn and Jim sailed down on a raft. In fact, there are a lot of places in Hannibal where you can just sit and watch that river. And possibly contemplate all of those many big things that Mark Twain leads you to think about when reading Huckleberry Finn. 

    8.6 Mark Twain Cave with Joella

    But the highlight for this area is the Mark Twain Cave Complex. There you can explore where Becky and Tom got lost. And if you happen to have an older brother the way that I do—perhaps you might jump every now and again due to said older brother’s shenanigans. Seriously. There's nothing quite like going inside just after reading the scary chapters about Tom and Becky being lost in that same cave (the very one!) and then having your brother do his best to scare the heebeegeebees out of you. Literature definitely came alive for me in that moment!

    8.6 Mark Twain Cave

    And with festivals and theater performances giving nods to all things Mark Twain, this is a travel destination totally connected to all things literary. 

    Bonus: There is also a movie and a graphic novel adaptation of Tom Sawyer and not one but two different graphic novel adaptations for Huckleberry Finn. 

    8.6 Tom Sawyer TwainTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
    By Mark Twain
    (1876)

     

    Tom Sawyer FilmTOM SAWYER
    (1986) 

     

    8.6 Tom Sawyer HallTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER: A GRAPHIC NOVEL
    By Margaret Hall
    (2014)

     

    Huckleberry Finn TwainADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
    By Mark Twain
    (1884)

     

    8.6 Huckleberry Finn RatliffTHE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
    By Tom Ratliff
    (2008 

     

    8.6 Huckleberry Finn SilvermoonADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
    By Crystal Silvermoon
    (2017)

     
    Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for other literary vacation destinations that I have loved!   
  • Read to Travel

    Perhaps you've read all five blog posts (number 6, number 5, number 4, number 3, number 2) we've already shared that talk about my love of reading to travel or traveling to read—basically literary vacations! I have talked about Hannibal, Rome, London, Concord, and Bath & Chawton. Today you get my ultimate vacation spot based on books I have read: Prince Edward Island (yeah, not just one city, the whole Canadian province)! 

    1. Prince Edward Island, Canada

    So, this is my all-time, most bookish trip that I took. I probably would never have gone to Prince Edward Island if it wasn’t for reading ANNE OF GREEN GABLES as a teenager. True story. However, PEI is not only the location of the beloved Anne books, but also many other L.M. Montgomery novels and short stories (and honestly the location is like a character in the story—you can’t totally understand Anne without understanding the place that she loves and lives in). 

    EMILY OF NEW MOON writes in PEI, PAT OF SILVER BUSH grows up in PEI, AND so many of the short stories that Maud wrote were based on the island.  In fact, one tour guide at one of the many places we visited said that out of Montgomery’s 20 books, 19 of them take place in her home province—even though she only lived there until she got married. (The only book that Maud wrote that doesn’t take place in PEI is THE BLUE CASTLE, though that is a brilliant book as well.)

    On the advice of someone who had been to PEI, when we first went to Cavendish (renamed Avonlea in the books), we went to the Cavendish Homestead and saw the land where L.M. Montgomery lived. Then we took a detour to the Cavendish Post Office; Maud was the assistant postmistress in Cavendish and secretly sent off her books there to be published.

    We then walked through the “Haunted Wood” and came out just under Maud’s uncle’s home, which Green Gables was based on. That was truly the perfect way to see Green Gables for the first time (especially since the other entrance leads you to the visitor’s gates and barns…). Walking through the wood and then suddenly seeing Green Gables on the hill just felt like I was in the books with Anne. There is no other way to describe it! If you want to feel like you are in Montgomery’s work, you must travel to PEI. 

    green gables picture

    Also, there is the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush (which also has the Lake of Shining Waters). This house was the inspiration for Pat of Silver Bush and is where Montgomery got married. Plus there are buggy rides that you can take—almost as if you were in the movie and Matthew was taking you out for the afternoon. Really, when Maud wrote her books, PEI was a main character and I couldn’t do justice to these books that I loved without going to the land where they were set. 

    And there you have it. My ultimate top choice for a vacation based on books. Besides the FANTASTIC seafood, pretty much everything that we did on PEI was because of books—so basically it was a sweet vacation.

    Granted, there are more travel plans ahead and more books with places as characters. So perhaps this list will continue to grow and change with each new passport stamp. I read to travel, I travel to read.

    Where would you go based on books? Or what good books have you read because of somewhere that you have traveled?

  • Read to Travel

    Last timeI talked about the good ol’ literary home of Tom Sawyer on the Mississippi. My number five pick for literary vacations takes us abroad…to Italy! And really, I could have included the WHOLE COUNTRY on this literary smorgasbord. But I was good and I narrowed it down to one city—Rome!

    5. Rome, Italy

    This location is one hotbed of history—and thus literature! Think about it, how many times do people reference JULIUS CAESAR? Or Roman Mythology? Or parts of the Bible that took place in Rome? There was so much that happened here. “Et tu, Brute?” 

    colosseum1

    When I visited Rome, one of my favorite things was going to the Roman Forum. There I saw where Julius Caesar and Mark Antony delivered their famous speeches. I don’t think I would have appreciated this attraction as much if I hadn’t read the great Shakespeare classic Julius Caesar or studied various Roman Mythology in middle school. (Plus there are a plethora of other books like Rick Riordan’s THE MARK OF ATHENA or Jennifer Nielsen’s MARK OF THE THIEF—both of which I better understood because I had traveled to this ancient land and saw the Roman Forum.) 

    For those who are really into art, history, and mysteries, touring around the various churches in Italy brought to mind Dan Brown’s book ANGELS AND DEMONS. I mean, if you are enjoying art work by some of the world’s masters—you might as well think of a suspenseful mystery book… right? 

    For those moments when I wondered about the various people that lived in Roman history—including children—I thought of THE THIEVES OF OSTIA (a kid’s mystery book that takes place in ancient Rome)—because walking on all the cobblestone streets reminded me of passages in the book where kids have to go from place to place to figure out a mystery.   

    Basically, there are a bunch of books that have portions of history that take place in ancient Rome. And having traveled there I feel like I understand the literature just a little bit more. Not to mention there is the famous Colosseum across the street, the great Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon that all have a lot of history—and make their way into various books and movies that take place in Rome. I know it isn’t literature, but I couldn’t help myself—when visiting the Colosseum I pictured all that happened there in BEN HUR. And I smiled at the memories of watching ROMAN HOLIDAY when going to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon. 

    colosseum2

    Thankfully I also had my RICK STEVES’ ITALY tour book so not only could I think of great literary masterpieces as I toured around Rome, I could also find the best place to eat gelato and create my own Roman memories! 

    So there you have it, my #5 literary destination pick (a city with a zillion book and movie references). Keep an eye out for my next pick for a literary destination vacation.  

    Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for other literary vacation destinations that I have loved!   

  • austen ranking

    Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

    I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of incredible authors through our AuthorLink events, but there’s only one I’d completely geek out over. Unfortunately, she’s been dead for nearly 200 years.

    I’m one of those people. Janeite, Austenite, actual crazy person, nerd – whatever you want to call me, I have to confess that when it comes to Jane Austen, I’m more than a casual fan. After reading each of her novels countless times, researching her life extensively, poring over Austen scholarship, and writing a master’s thesis about Austen adaptations, I’ve come to two conclusions:

    1. I’m WAY too invested in the life and writings of a dead person

    2.  Austen 100% lives up to the hype

    If you’ve never read an Austen novel, I’m begging you to do it, even if you’ve seen the film adaptations and think they’re not your thing. The humor, rhythm, and genius of her writing never completely transfer to the screen, and you don’t quite know Austen if you’ve never read her books.

    That being said, Austen adaptations are prolific, ranging from the merely okay to the brilliant, and most of them are worth watching at least once. Fortunately for you, I’ve seen them all, with one notable and a few not so notable exceptions, so I can save you time in choosing where to start.

    Austen nerd that I am, I’ll spend the next few weeks sharing my favorite and not-so-favorite Austen adaptations (except for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and a handful of obscure adaptations from the 50s and 60s that I still haven’t seen. Whoops.) 

    Miniseries, films, and YouTube adaptations are all up for grabs, but there are a few films I won’t be ranking. Here's why:

    4.26 Death Comes to PemberleyDEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY
    Directed by Daniel Percival
    (2013)

    Because it’s a sequel, not an adaptation of the original. It is on Netflix, though, if you like your Regency period drama with a dash of murder.

     

    4.26 Becoming JaneBECOMING JANE
    Directed by Julian Jarrold
    (2008)

    Because it’s a (romantic, but not terribly accurate) biographical film, not an adaptation of an Austen novel.

     

    4.26 Miss Austen RegretsMISS AUSTEN REGRETS
    Directed by Jeremy Lovering
    (2008)

    Because, again, it’s a biopic, not an Austen adaptation. Maybe it's good that it's not on the list, because our library doesn't own it, and neither does the Orem Public Library. I definitely don't own it, so how did I ever watch this in the first place?

    It's a mystery.

     

    4.26 AustenlandAUSTENLAND
    Directed by Jerusha Hess
    (2014)

    Because, though this film is a joy, it's a Shannon Hale Adaptation, not a Jane Austen adaptation. It is, however, a hilarious homage to Austen, Austen fans, and people who think Austen fans are ridiculous. You should watch it.

     

    4.26 The Jane Austen Book ClubTHE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB
    Directed by Robin Swicord
    (2007)

    Because, though it draws on Austen in its plots, it's in that fuzzy territory between Austen-inspired and a full-fledged adaptation. Feel free to disagree.

     

    4.26 EligibleELIGIBLE
    TBA

    Because, regrettably, I am unable to time travel into the future, even for a modernized Austen adaptation. In the meantime, the book is available.

     

    So, with those banned from the competition, now’s the time for guessing. I'll try to be diplomatic in my analysis, but you don't have to be. Which adaptation do you think deserves the number one spot? Which adaptations are an abomination, defiling all that is good and holy and Austenesque? Let us know in the comments.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

    Now that we've covered the not-so-great adaptations of Jane Austen's classic novels, it's time to move on the the merely okay! Ummm... yay?

    Whether it's altered characters, terrible kisses, or unfortunate placement of manholes, each of these adapatations had something about them that was just a little off. They aren't the worst, but they definitely aren't the best. Here's why.

    6.27 Mansfield Park 200720) MANSFIELD PARK
     Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
    (2007)

    Billie Piper's performance is such an odd take on Fanny. She never quite meshes with the historical setting, and the hair and costume choices don't help (why does she keep wearing her hair down?!?!). Though the 1999 adaptation, which we'll get to later, makes serious departures from the book, those alterations at least feel intentional and carefully thought out. The changes to the characters here, particularly in making Fanny lively and playful, just don't make sense. Plot points are also rushed or skipped over entirely. While MANSFIELD PARK is certainly Austen's most serious and difficult novel, this adaptation feels frothy and frivolous.

    To be honest, I probably should have put this on the "Not So Good" list, but I temporarily forgot it existed and have since had to renumber everything in that post. Whoops.

    6.27 I Have Found It19) KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN (I HAVE FOUND IT)
    Directed by Rajiv Menon
    (2000)

    This Tamil film, the first Indian adaptation of an Austen novel (correct me if I’m wrong), is a movie I wish I liked. The tone is uneven, with a jarring mix of war scenes and music video-style montages of dance and song. And then there’s the unintentionally hilarious fact that (spoiler!) instead of falling ill near the end of the story, the Marianne character instead falls into a manhole. Nevertheless, the songs are fun, Aishwarya Rai is lovely as ever, and it’s the film that eventually led to BRIDE AND PREJUDICE, so I can’t complain too much.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice18) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: A LATTER-DAY COMEDY
    Directed by Andrew Black 
    (2003)

    AKA “the Mormon one.” This movie isn’t quite good enough to stand on its own as a film or an Austen adaptation, but if you’ve ever experienced an LDS singles ward, it resonates. The transition of an early 19th century England to early 21st century Provo is surprisingly smooth, given the shared obsession with early marriage. It’s mildly entertaining in a slapstick sort of way, and I’ll never stop thinking the scene with heartbroken Lizzie and Jane in the grocery store is funny: “Triple choc-choc-choc-chocolate chunk? Or Uncle Bubba’s Big Belly Batter Brickle?”

     

    6.27 Bridget Jones17) BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY
    Directed by Sharon Maguire 
    (2001)

    Is it fair to call this an Austen adaptation when it’s already the adaptation of another book? I’m not sure, and I struggled with its placement since it’s so popular but not a personal favorite. It’s funny and satirical and very British, and it makes some clever nods to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (including the casting of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy). I think my main hang-up with this one is Bridget as the main character. Where Elizabeth Bennet was clever, charming, and witty, Bridget is a lovable hot mess. It’s easier for me to like her and the film if I separate it from Pride and Prejudice altogether.

    I know that fidelity is a nebulous, unattainable goal, or whatever, but don’t mess with my favorite characters (I’m looking at you, every LITTLE WOMEN adaptation I've ever seen).

     

    6.27 Persuasion16) PERSUASION
    Directed by Adrian Shergold
    (2007)

    This movie would have been much, much higher up the list but for one thing: MINUS ALL THE POINTS FOR THE WORST KISS IN CINEMATIC HISTORY. Anne’s out of breath from running through the streets of Bath, and she’s left with her mouth gaping open like fish while Wentworth waits an absurdly long time to bend down and meet her kiss. *shudders*  

    I need to watch the final scene from NORTH AND SOUTH as a palate cleanser after even thinking about it.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice 194015) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
    (1940)

    If you’re obsessed with fidelity, this is not the adaptation for you, but as a stand-alone film and piece of cinematic history, it’s charming. Released in 1940, producers worried that the film would make our British allies seem stuffy and prejudiced, so certain characters (*cough* Catherine de Bourgh *cough*) were significantly altered. The time period was also moved forward to capitalize on the popularity of GONE WITH THE WIND in its flamboyant costume design.

    So, the storyline is a far cry from Austen’s original, but Lawrence Olivier was destined, both in appearance and manner, to play Fitzwilliam Darcy. In fact, I think he may actually be Darcy. Can a fictional character be reincarnated as an iconic movie star?

     

    6.27 Emma Approved14) EMMA APPROVED
    Directed by Bernie Su
    (2013-2014)

    Bernie Su’s creative follow-up to THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES is unfortunately not quite as good, though I still enjoyed watching it. The production quality is better (this is a very pretty adaptation) but the setup feels forced. Where Lizzie was a vlogger, Emma is simply recording videos for posterity, and it stretches credibility a little too much. The storytelling isn't as clever and insightful as THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and the characters felt less real, but the series grew on me over time.

    Why? The chemistry between Alex Knightley and Emma is a major redeeming quality. The rest of the plot struggles initially, but the sexual tension is A+.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 5

    Well, my friends, the Austen obsession continues, and this week we move on from the tolerable to the amiable. This adaptations are good, but they just missed being included among the best of the best. Here’s why.

    7.13 2008 Emma12) EMMA
    Directed by Jim O'Hanlan
    (2009)

    I found this adaptation enjoyable, but forgettable. Bonus points for Johnny Lee Miller playing his second Austen hero and bonus, extra, super points for casting Ramola Garai, who is a gift to us from the period drama gods.

     

    7.13 Bride and Prejudice11) BRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Gurinder Chadha
    (2004)

    I think the bland male leads and a slightly disjointed storyline are what hold me back from loving BRIDE AND PREJUDICE completely, but the film is still a whole lot of fun. The best known cross-cultural Austen adaptation, it’s frothy and colorful and a little bit whacky, and it’s hard not to enjoy it. And it’s a MUSICAL, which few other Austen film adaptations can claim. Plus, Aishwarya Rai is a delight.

     

    7.13 Persuasion10) PERSUASION
    Directed by Roger Michell
    (1996)

    We're finally getting to the point where I feel guilty ranking the adaptations, because from here on out, I love them all deeply.

    This is a quiet adaptation that doesn’t get as much fanfare as many of the others, but it’s lovely nonetheless. Amanda Root is absolutely perfect as Anne – her subtle performance manages to capture Anne’s pain, her exasperation with her relatives, and her quiet determination as well as her shyness.

    I do have to confess something, though. As a teenager watching this movie for the first time, I found myself wondering where all the pretty people were. The cast of this film is surprisingly normal looking, which is a refreshing change from typical Hollywood casting and seems particularly appropriate for the time period.

     

    7.13 Mansfield Park9) MANSFIELD PARK
    Directed by Patricia Rozema
    (1999)

    A lot of people hate this adaptation (my mother among them), but I’m a fan. Fans of other Austen adaptations are sometimes thrown by just how dark and gritty this version is, and by, well, the brief nakedness (there’s understandably not much nudity in most Austen adaptations). In addition to showing that Fanny was pulled out of serious poverty by her not-always-kind cousins, this version also addresses MANSFIELD PARK’s elephant in the room: the Bertrams earned their money in the West Indies, which means that slaves earned it for them. It’s not always a pretty adaptation as a result, but that honesty adds a depth and context to the adaptation that I really appreciate.

    I’ll add that Fanny Price is the only Austen heroine I don’t like very much, so I don’t really mind that the film turned her into a completely different character.

     

    7.13 emma8) EMMA 
    Directed by Douglas McGrath
    (1996)

    This adaptation of Emma and the adaptation of Mansfield Park I just wrote about are a study in contrasts, and I love them for completely opposite reasons. Emma holds a special place in my heart for simply being so PRETTY. The costumes, the sets, the hairstyles, the script - they're just so fluffy and beautiful and charming, much like Emma herself. Gwyneth Paltrow annoys me as a human being, which is probably why I adore her as Emma.

    If you enjoy period dramas, it’s hard to hate this one. And the score by Rachel Portman is delightful. All the fluff, very little of the substance.

     

    7.13 Sense and Sensibility7) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by John Alexander
    (2008)

    This adaptation didn’t get as much attention as I think it deserved, and I hope you’ll watch it if you haven’t already, as it's certainly the best of the 2007 and 2008 ITV/BBC Austen reboots. The opening scenes are surprisingly scandalous for an Austen adaptation, but don’t let them scare you away from the miniseries.

    It pains me not to include this as one of the best of the best, since it's a personal favorite. As great as Emma Thompson is, Hattie Morahan is exactly how I pictured Elinor, and Charity Wakefield is lovely as Marianne. It's a full-length miniseries, which allows it time to cover plot points that the 1995 adapation didn't have time for. And it does it so very well.

    Note: For fans of the "Darcy emerges from the pond" scene in in the '96 Pride and Prejudice, this Sense and Sensibility gives you Downton Abbey's Matthew revived from the dead and angstily chopping wood in the rain. Enjoy.

     

    Join us soon for the best of the best!

  •  Austen ranking

    We're finally here, reader. The time has come to declare the best of the best Austen adaptations, and I'm wordier than ever. What can I say? I get a little effusive when talking Jane.

    Missed the earlier posts? You can find them here, here, here, and here.

    These final adaptations aren't necessarily in the order I most enjoy watching them, but I stand by my claim that they're the best. Why? Each of these final six revolutionized Austen adaptations in one way or another, influencing adaptations to come in profound ways. They've defined Austen in our popular imagination more than anything besides the novels themselves.

    8.10 Pride and Prejudice 20056) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Joe Wright
    (2005)

    You either love this adaptation, or you hate it, and I’m mostly on the loving it side. I was wary of Keira Knightley playing Elizabeth Bennet, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, but I am a fan of Matthew McFadyen’s vulnerable take on Darcy. Social anxiety is an interesting and plausible explanation for the character’s behavior. In general I LOVE the casting, especially Rosamund Pike as Jane and Judy Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh (that woman can play uppity old lady like no one else). And it even has a baby Carrey Mulligan!

    This film is in the running against the 1995 Sense and Sensibility for most gorgeous cinematography, and I think it ultimately wins. And that score! The shot of Elizabeth standing on the cliffside, skirts billowing in the wind while "Liz on Top of the World" plays is seared into my memory in the best way possible. I also love that it brings a little bit of the grit back into period dramas – pigs and dirt and a recognition that the obsession with marriage was born out of a legitimate fear of poverty.

    This version does dumb down the language in places and spends a little more time explaining Regency culture than some other adaptations, which the egalitarian in me approves of and my inner snob is annoyed by. BUT for that very reason, if you ask a millennial about Austen films, this is the one they're most likely to have watched. It's accessible for period drama lovers and period drama newbies alike.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to a new generation.

     

    8.10 Love and Friendship5) LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
    Directed by Whit Stillman
    (2016)

    In general, I feel like modernized adaptations have done a better job than period dramas of showing just how funny and biting Austen was, but this one is the exception. It’s a darkly hilarious period piece, and it perfectly captures the social awkwardness and subtle human cruelty that Austen delighted in laughing at. If you enjoy THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and the novels of P.G. Wodehouse, you'll likely enjoy this comedy of manners.

    The novella on which the film is based is Austen at her meanest and also her cleverest, turning the stories of Samuel Richardson on their head by depicting the scheming libertine as both a woman (shocking!) and the most engaging character. LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP glories in that subversion, and Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan is my favorite casting in any Austen adaptation, hands down. 

    Side note: watch this movie and then the Beckinsale version of EMMA and then try to tell me the woman isn’t Benjamin Buttoning the heck out of life. I suspect she actually became a vampire for her role in VAN HELSING. Method acting at its finest.

    Why it earned a top spot: for embracing Austen's satirical side.

     

    8.10 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries4) THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES
    Directed by Bernie Su
    (2012 - 2013)

    I’m a little biased in favor of this series, having spent two years researching it for my master’s thesis, but I’ll stand by my claim that it’s a brilliant modernization. The series breaks with Austen on certain plot points as a way to remain faithful to her feminist themes, social commentary, and humor in a modern setting. It modernizes the characters in compelling ways. It's funny and fresh and revolutionized online, immersive story telling as well as the world of Austen adaptations. If you’d like to hear all my thoughts on the subject (and really, who wouldn’t?), I’d be happy to loan you a copy of my super hard-hitting, very important, not at all frivolous master’s thesis.

    Since it’s a Youtube series, it’s not something you can check out the library, but we do have a novelization by the series creators, THE SECRET DIARY OF LIZZIE BENNET.

    Do yourself a favor and go watch THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES on Youtube. You can return many hours later to thank me.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen into the digital age.

     

    8.10 Clueless3) CLUELESS
    Directed by Amy Heckerling
    (1995)

    Unless you’re a super nerd like me and read articles like “The Surprising Fidelity of Clueless” for fun, this one might surprise you, but hear me out. Austen novels, though often marketed as romances, are first and foremost satires. I’ll say it again, louder for the people in the back – AUSTEN WROTE SATIRE, NOT JUST ROMANCE. She was insightfully commenting on and criticizing the world in which she lived, and it’s freaking hilarious.

    CLUELESS is one of the few adaptations to bring that satire to the forefront, and it brilliantly critiques modern life. It exaggerates human behavior just enough to make us laugh, but not so much that it’s unrecognizable. It pokes holes in the self-importance of the rich and socially elite. It's not just the story of a rich, meddling girl; it's a commentary on consumerism, wealth, teenage culture, and more.

    Why it earned a top spot: for modernizing Austen, wit intact

     

    8.10 Sense and Sensibility2) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by Ang Lee
    (1995)

    For me, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility has the best screenplay of all Austen adaptations, and Emma Thompson (who also starred as Elinor), made excellent calls about what to cut and include in a film-length storyline. Along with a fair amount of humor and romance, she captured Austen’s social commentary about the limitations placed on women by Regency society in a compelling way. And she even won an Oscar for it.

    Beyond that, the film is visually gorgeous, the score is one of my favorites of all time, and the casting is excellent. More than any adaptation before it, Sense and Sensibility goes beyond just repeating Austen's words on camera to instead explore how visuals can tell the story when the script alone can't. That moment when Marianne, Mrs. Dashwood, and Margaret all go sobbing into their rooms and Elinor sits down to calmly drink a cup of tea perfectly encapsulates who the characters are. It gets right to the heart of the plot in a few moments of screentime. It's perfect.

    Premiering just a few months after my number one pick aired on television, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility shares the honor of ushering in an era of excellent Austen adaptations. More than 20 years later, it still doesn't feel dated.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to the big screen, in a big way.

     

    8.10 Pride and Prejudice 19951) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Simon Langton
    (1995)

    Okay, okay, you knew this would be number one, didn’t you? I’m not sure it’s actually my personal favorite, but it takes the cake because it’s the one that started them all. It defined Austen adaptations as a genre, and I really didn’t have a choice but to give it the top spot.

    Though earlier Austen adaptations had been produced for TV and film, this BBC/A&E made-for-TV miniseries launched the “Austen Renaissance” of adaptations that beautifully blended fidelity to the original novel with general viewer appeal. Lovely cinematography, a great score, good acting – it set the standard for every Austen adaptation to follow.

    And it also brought us Colin Firth, so...

    Why it earned the top spot: for showing us how to do Austen right.

     
  • Chains

    One of the hallmarks of African-American literature in the “slave narrative.” These are true biographical accounts of slaves who lived in the American South. Mostly they are written by the slaves themselves (such as NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS or INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL) giving a personal touch to each story. This, along with their experiences, make the storytelling distinctive and recognizable. Following the abolition of slavery, many African Americans have continued to write in this genre, calling it the “neo-slave narrative.” Mostly these new stories are fictional novels, but they take inspiration from real slave accounts, exploring the racial tensions and anxieties of this time period. Here are a few of the best in the genre: 

    3.25 KindredKINDRED 
    By Octavia Butler
    (1979)

    A black woman spontaneously travels back in forth in time: from her apartment in 1970’s Los Angeles to a slave-holding plantation in the early 1800’s. Things do not go well. Despite its fantastic premise, Butler did extensive research to prepare for this novel. From reading personal accounts, to actually visiting the plantations, her writing is based as much as possible on the historical experience of slaves. 

     

    3.25 BelovedBELOVED 
    By Toni Morrison
    (1987)

    This story was initially inspired by an article printed in a 1865, titled "A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child.” Half-poem, half ghost-story, Morrison’s novel includes the hardest-hitting parts of slavery. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was even made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey. 

     

    3.25 Underground RailroadTHE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD 
    By Colson Whitehead
    (2016)

    One of the oddest takes on “historical fiction” that I’ve ever read. In this story, the “Underground Railroad” is just that, literally an underground train riding through the Antebellum South. Another Pulitzer Prize winner, this novel purposefully drifts away from reality, mixing facts with fantastical reimagings. Despite the intentional inaccuracies, the work still rings true, highlighting the terrible atrocities that did occur.

     
  • Graphic Novels

    It’s okay to have a favorite genre. It’s okay to be afraid to branch out. Though a rare event, I know how bitterly disappointing it is to try a new book and hate it. Such travesty I would not wish upon my worst enemy! (Kidding, I would, #slytherin). That said, I wouldn’t be doing due diligence as a librarian if I didn’t give you a helpful nudge out of your reading rut.  

    May I suggest reading graphic novels?

    “Graphic novels aren’t real books.”

    “Those are just for kids, people should grow out of that.”

    “What’s to read? They’re just pictures with blurbs”

    “I’m not into superheroes or that Japanese stuff.”

    If you had any of these thoughts, please allow me to meme at you for a moment.

    2gzi50

    Don’t be afraid. I’m here to guide you.

    Graphic novels are certainly real books, with character development, rich plotlines, exploratory themes, symbols, morals – you name it, they’ve got it. They aren’t just for kids, though there are titles written for all audiences. And there’s plenty of graphic novels written in all styles and genres, not just superhero comics or “that Japanese stuff” - or as it’s actually called, manga. And sure, you’re allowed to read what you already know you love (that’s one of the joys of reading!), but you’re missing out if you wave off this versatile, engaging medium.

    That’s right, graphic novels are a medium of storytelling, not a genre. Understanding this concept breaks many of the misconceptions I mentioned above. The visual component of graphic novels is part of the storytelling. And I don’t mean just the illustrations, but all its facets:  style, color, division of space on the page, panel shapes, panel borders, speech bubbles, captions, and more! Like other novelists write books in verse, prose, letters, journal entries, and more, graphic novel artists use visual elements to best present the story. It’s fascinating to see how different artists employ visual techniques in their story telling!

    Just like traditional novels, graphic novels cross all genres. It’s one of the beauties of the medium! With that said, that can make it hard to know where to start. Here are some suggestions for you:

    Genre: Memoir

    I could really go on and on about graphic memoirs, but I’ll let you explore this past blog post. My first non-manga, non-superhero graphic novel was MAUS, a popular, compelling read that introduces many people to the world of graphic novels. If you want something with a lighter tone, anything by Lucy Knisley (author of RELISH: MY LIFE IN THE KITCHEN) is an excellent choice. Her friendly, relatable tone and use of light, pastel color palette make her books, especially this one, a great choice for the shy newcomer.

    11.2 MausMAUS I
    by Art Spiegelman
    (1980)

     

    11.2 RelishRELISH: MY LIFE IN THE KITCHEN
    by Lucy Knisley
    (2013)

     

    Genre: Classics

    11.2 MetamorphosisMETAMORPHOSIS
    by Kafka 
    (2003)

    Kafka’s tales lend themselves so very well to visual interpretation. Acclaimed graphic artist Peter Kuper presents a kinetic illustrated adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. Kuper's electric drawings--where American cartooning meets German expressionism--bring Kafka's prose to vivid life, reviving the original story's humor and poignancy in a way that will surprise and delight readers of Kafka and graphic novels alike.

     

    Genre: Magical Realism

    11.2 I Kill GiantsI KILL GIANTS
    by Joe Kelly
    (2008)

     

    Genre: Mystery

    11.2 Girl Over ParisGIRL OVER PARIS
    by Kate Leth
    (2016)

     

    Hopefully I’ve shown you how graphic novels would be a great addition to your to-read list! If you’re interested in reading more, check out this blog post that provides some fun fact and additional reading about graphic novels. And if you want a personalized recommendation, please come see us at the Reference Desk!

     
  • bad boyfriends 01

    I’ve been a big classics reader since high school, and over the years I’ve noticed an unsettling trend: men in classic lit often treat women like trash.  Just to be clear, I love these books.  I’d just like to avoid modeling any relationships on them.  And so, for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of the very worst boyfriends in classic literature.  Be aware that my ordering is completely subjective and based solely on how angry the respective characters make me.

    Warning: major spoilers ahead, if you can really consider them spoilers when the books have been around for 80 years or more.

    10) Willoughby, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

    Willoughby is handsome and affectionate, and at first he seems like the perfect fit for Marianne.  I mean, the guy loves poetry.  Everything’s going great until his aunt disinherits him over a scandal (the secret love child – a favorite 19th century plot device).  As soon as that happens, he’s out of Marianne’s life faster than you can say boo. I honestly believe Willoughby loved Marianne, but he loved cash a lot more.  It’s all about the money, money, money.

    9) Romeo, ROMEO AND JULIET

    People view Romeo and Juliet as one of the greatest love stories of all time, but if you think about it, Romeo’s kind of a punk.  He’s impulsive, he’s melodramatic, he’s violent (I don’t know about you, but killing your beloved’s cousin strikes me as a bad idea), and he’s more than a little flaky. At the beginning of the play, he’s busy sulking over breaking up with Rosaline.  Twenty seconds later he’s ready to live and die for Juliet because she’s pretty. Ugh.  

    8) Ashley Wilkes, GONE WITH THE WIND

    In my opinion, Ashley Wilkes = namby pamby foo foo garbage (to borrow a favorite phrase from one of my high school teachers).  Melanie is goodness incarnate, and Ashley doesn’t deserve her.  Scarlett is a terrible human being (but a fascinating one!) and Ashley doesn’t deserve her either.  

    7) George Wickham, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

    Wickham is gorgeous.  He’s charming.  He has a spiffy army uniform.  But he’s also a liar, a gambler, and a terrible flirt.  Even more problematically, he has penchant for seducing naïve teenage girls.  To quote now-disbanded girl group G.R.L.: “It’s such a pity, a boy so pretty with an ugly heart.”  

    6) Edward Rochester, JANE EYRE

    I love Jane Eyre as much as the next girl, but now that I’m not a swooning fourteen year old, I realize that Rochester is objectively pretty awful.  First, he locks up his mentally ill wife in the attic and pretends she doesn’t exist.  Then, he manipulates Jane by acting like he wants to marry Blanche Ingram.  Remember that part where he dresses up like a gypsy so that Jane will confess her love? Not okay.  Finally, he attempts to illegally marry Jane without ever mentioning the whole I-have-a-secret-crazy-wife-who-I-keep-hidden-in-the-attic thing to her.  At the moment of his proposal, lightning nearly strikes him.  Even God thinks Rochester is a bad boyfriend.  

    Next week we'll delve even further into the depths of male-lameness in part 2 of this list! Until then, who do you think I missed? Call out classic lit's worst boyfriends in the comments!

  • bad boyfriends 01

    This week we return with part two of our list of the 10 worst boyfriends in classic literature (missed part one? Read it here!). As I mentioned last week, MAJOR spoilers abound in these descriptions, though the books are all at least 80 years old so you've probably at least seen the movie by now...

    5) Heathcliff, WUTHERING HEIGHTS

    On one level, I feel really bad for Heathcliff, but on another, deeper level, I just think he’s terrible.  He’s moody, obsessive, possessive, violent, and prone to kidnapping people.  To be fair, Catherine is also awful.  That whole, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” line seems fairly accurate, and not in a flattering way.  

    4) Sergeant Troy, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

    Sergeant Troy treats Bathsheba badly, but he absolutely destroys poor Fanny Robbin.  That sad, sweet girl went to marry him, but accidentally went to the wrong chapel.  Does this seem like an innocent accident to you?  Well, not to Sergeant Troy.  Humiliated, he refuses to speak with Fanny, in spite of the fact that she is pregnant with his child.  He then woos and wins Bathsheba, only to gamble away her fortune and criticize her for not being Fanny.  Oh, did I mention that Fanny dies in abject poverty as a result of Troy’s cruelty?  Yep, he’s such a bad boyfriend that it actually kills her.  

    3) Hamlet, HAMLET

    Poor Ophelia.  Your boyfriend takes out all his mommy issues on you.  He claims to love you but then shows up half-dressed at your door, grabs your wrist in a vice-like grip, stares at you for a while, says nothing, and then leaves while still staring at you like a creeper.  When you try to break things off with him, he verbally assaults you and questions your virtue.  That’s when he goes really nutso.  He stabs your dad.  He stabs your brother.  He drives you to suicide.  Not a great track record.  

    2) Angel Clare, TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES  

    I hate Angel Clare.  HATE him.  Maybe I’m not supposed to because Tess loves him so much and because I’m supposed to be busy hating Alec d’Urberville, but my most intense literary hatred is forever reserved for Angel.  It’s not your girlfriend/wife’s fault she was raped, Angel.  Even if she had been gallivanting across the English countryside with every lord and shepherd in sight, it’s not like you’re exactly a paragon of virtue yourself, you hypocrite.  You’re the worst.  

    1) Mr. B, PAMELA; OR, VIRTUE REWARDED

    Except for Mr. B, who is the actual worst.  Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of this book, since it’s essentially the story of a wealthy man repeatedly trying to seduce or rape his maid in ever more creative ways.  She evades him for 500 pages, at which point he repents and they marry.  Mr. B: a terrible reward for Pamela’s virtue.  

    Honorable Mention (not because they’re any less terrible, but because this list was getting way too long): Othello, OTHELLO; Jay Gatsby, THE GREAT GATSBY; Gilbert Markham, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL; Arthur Huntingdon, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL; Edward Casaubon, MIDDLEMARCH; Arthur Dimmesdale, THE SCARLET LETTER; Bill Sikes, OLIVER TWIST; the Phantom, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, St. John Rivers, JANE EYRE;  Edmund Bertram, MANSFIELD PARK; Henry Higgins, PYGMALION; Frank Churchill, EMMA; Fernand Mondego, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. 

    And there we have it! Classic literature's terrible boyfriends! Who did I leave out? 

  • frankenstein 01

     

    The first time I ever read Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS I knew it would always be one of my favorite books. I, of course, found the monster terrifying and was excited by the storyline but more than anything I was fascinated by Dr. Victor Frankenstein – the young, curious, brilliant scientist who accidentally created a monster. It’s a scary thought – trying to do something noble and instead doing something absolutely terrible.

    This January marks the 200th anniversary of the first publishing of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN and in honor, here are some reading recommendations for Dr. Victor Frankenstein:

    01.22.2018 Healing CompanionsHEALING COMPANIONS: ORDINARY DOGS AND THEIR EXTRAORDINARY POWER TO TRANSFORM LIVES
    By Jane Miller
    (2010)

    In the novel, we learn that Dr. Frankenstein spent two years alone at college experimenting before he was able to animate his monster, and one of the main themes of the book is what happens when people get lonely. Dr. Frankenstein definitely needed some companionship, but maybe all he needed was a nice fluffy puppy to focus his attention on. I mean… who would want to spend all night in a spooky laboratory when this guy was waiting at home?

    via GIPHY

     

    01.22.2018 Sewing EssentialsTHE NEW SEWING ESSENTIALS
    By The Singer Company
    (2008)

    So let’s say that you’re Victor, and you’re past the point of no return. You’ve already assembled all the necessary… parts… to create your monster, and you’re in the building stage. You’re certainly going to need some instruction in sewing to make sure that your finished product is the best that he can be. He may still behave like a “wretch,” but he doesn’t need to look like one.

     

    01.22.2018 Explosive ChildTHE EXPLOSIVE CHILD: A NEW APPROACH FOR UNDERSTANDING AND PARENTING EASILY FRUSTRATED, CHRONICALLY INFLEXIBLE CHILDREN
    By Ross W. Greene
    (2014)

    While we’re talking about “the wretch,” I don’t want to imply that the monster is somehow responsible for all of Victor’s problems. (If you’ve read the novel then you know that all the monster wants is to be loved.) But the monster sure does make things hard for his creator. It seems like Victor could use some parenting guides to help him treat his creation with love and compassion – even when the monster is being super angry and threatening to destroy everything Victor holds dear. (I mean – what teenager hasn’t said some version of that to their parents?)

     

    01.22.2018 Hold Me TightHOLD ME TIGHT: SEVEN CONVERSATIONS FOR A LIFETIME OF LOVE
    By Dr. Sue Johnson
    (2008)

    At the climax of Frankenstein’s sad story, he refuses to make a female monster to keep his creation company and “the wretch” promises Victor he’ll be there on his wedding night. This is especially inconvenient because Victor is so ashamed of what he’s created that he doesn’t tell anyone—INCLUDING HIS WIFE—about the monster systematically killing his loved ones and ruining his life. Then, because Victor is certain he can keep everything secret from his bride, he leaves her alone in their wedding bed to confront the monster himself. Not realizing that the monster is after the bride and not the groom – duh. I prescribe some open conversation between Dr. and Mrs. Frankenstein—preferably before a murderous creature intervenes.

     

    01.22.2018 My Man JeevesMY MAN JEEVES
    By P.G. Wodehouse
    (1917)

    Dr. Frankenstein is clearly in need of some self-help books. I also don’t think it helps that he is known to carry around a copy of John Milton’s PARADISE LOST – maybe that’s even where his obsession with creation began. Frankenstein really needs some light reading, and I’dr ecommend the King of the Comic Novel: P.G. Wodehouse. Sure, this book won’t make any of his problems go away, but at least he’ll have something to laugh about.