Announcing #CBAM2017: The Classic Book-a-Month Club

cbam2017

Hello, Everyone! 

A couple of months ago, I was browsing through my rather massive list of “read” books, when I began to revisit a list of “favorite books” that I started over a decade ago. One thing I realized while revisiting this list was that some of these books that I call favorites, I have never revisited. I have books marked from 10- or 15-years ago with 5 stars, and yet, I can only vaguely remember their plots and why I responded to the books so well in the first place.

I’m a firm believer that much of one’s reaction to a book is based on who we are, where we are, and what is going on in our lives during the time we read it. Isn’t this kind of like reader-response theory? Well, yes, a bit; but that’s fine because reader-response theory, in my opinion, has a great deal of merit. Reading is a very personal and human activity, and we, most of us, change over time. Now, of course, some books are just incredibly good, and their appeal has as much to do with the talent of the writer as with any individual experiences or perceptions we bring to the reading experience. See: it all matters!

Bearing that in mind, I am determined to revisit some of my favorite pieces of classic literature; those works which I love and have called “favorite” at sometime or other, but which I’ve only read once. But, I also want to continue to read new-to-me material. So, I came up with a plan for myself to read 12 books in 2017, 6 of which will be re-reads and 6 of which will be new to me. To make this even more fun, I thought I would invite anyone and everyone to join me, either for the entire year or for the books which you’re most interested in reading (or re-reading) along with me. 

There are no obligations to stick with this for all 12 months. Come and go as you please. 

My plan at the moment is:

  1. Post an announcement with the #CBAM2017 reading list (below).
  2. Ask those who would like to join me for all/part of this book club to share about it on their blog/site and post a link to the Mister Linky widget below. (spread the word!)
  3. Have an introductory post around the 1st of each month, describing the book and a reading pace (for myself – you can use it or not!) 
  4. Post a check-in each month, around the 15th, to see how people are doing, generate a Q & A, etc. 
  5. Post a wrap-up/review at the end of the month, when I finish the book, and open up the comments for discussion, just like an in-person book club. There might even be wine and chocolates! (on this end at least)

The List:

  • January: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • February: The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
  • March: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • April: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • May: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
  • June: The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville
  • July: Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • August: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • September: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  • October: Angels in America by Tony Kushner 
  • November: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • December: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

So, what do you say? Come along with me for this Classic Book-a-Month Club next year? You can sign-up by posting about it on your blog and then linking to our Mister Linky widget:

Please use #CBAM2017 to share on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. 

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A Librarian Recommends #TheLiteraryOthers

Please welcome Laura Ashlee Graves from That Librarian Lady, who has provided a wonderful list of LGBT YA books that she recommends, as well as a giveaway following the post! Thank you, Ashlee! (I just added a bunch of books to my TBR Pile!)

When I began my first year at my school library, I immediately noticed that there was a huge lack of GLBT representation. I think the previous librarian was hesitant to purchase books with queer characters because my school is in a pretty conservative community. That may seem funny since I live in Alabama, but I grew up pretty progressive in the South and I’ve been lucky enough to live in areas of the state that are more inclusive and culturally diverse. I also noticed quickly that I had quite a few queer students growing up in this conservative community. Now, I would have made it a point to purchase more books with queer characters anyway because I truly believe that diverse collections can help students develop empathy.

Still, knowing I had students who needed these books in their lives made it a really important task. I haven’t read every book in my library (because I’m not a superhero). I also haven’t read every book with queer characters that I’ve bought. Like most librarians, I rely on reviews and recommendations for the bulk of my book buying. I do have several books in my library that I constantly recommend, though. I thought I would share them.

When I originally made my list, there were twenty-six books on it. I’ve managed to choose my favorite twelve from that list. These are books I’ve read and recommend and they’re all pretty recent releases. These are also young adult books, since I purchase A LOT of young adult for my library. I love it when I see students get excited over these books. I buy them because I know my kids need them in their lives and I want them to have easy access to them.

12000020-1-copyAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle, or Ari, is angsty and confused. He’s angry that his parents won’t talk to him about his brother, who’s in prison. He’s also a loner, never feeling like he quite fits in with other boys. Dante is a brilliant boy who tries to look on the brighter side of life. The two seem to have nothing in common, but learn a lot about themselves through their friendship. Ari struggles a lot with what it is that makes him feel different and being friends with Dante helps him with that. Dante is also figuring it out but he is unapologetic about who he is. They’re also figuring out where they fit in as Mexican Americans and that added another layer to the story that I really appreciated. I loved their friendship. It’s not a perfect book, in my opinion, but I think it’s worthy of the praise it’s gotten.

13069935-copyAsk the Passengers by A.S. King

Astrid feels like she has no one to she can talk to. Her mother is overbearing, her father is disinterested, and her little town is too conservative to understand her. She’s been having a secret relationship with her female coworker and the only people she’s telling are the people in the planes that fly over her back yard. This novel is about self-discovery and challenging the boxes society puts us in. This book affected me on a very deep level when I first read it and it remains one of my favorites. It’s the book that turned A.S. King into one of my favorite authors.

13414183-copyBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Nate Foster wants nothing more than to star in a Broadway show, but he feels held back by his small New Jersey town and his disapproving parents. When a casting call goes out for a musical version of E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Nate knows he has to get to New York and audition for the part of Elliot. This book is a little more fun than the previous two. It’s laugh-out-loud funny but still has its serious moments. While Nate’s runaway trip to New York is fun and hilarious, he’s also dealing with his own self-discovery. It’s meant for younger reads (around middle school age), but it’s still a fun read for older readers. To get the full story, you’ll also have to pick up it’s sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate.

17237214Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
This novel centers on two teenage boys who attempt to kiss for 32 hours to set a new Guinness World Record. Their kiss is partly a political statement they’re inspired to perform after their friend, Tariq, is jumped one night. It’s not only about Harry and Craig’s kiss, though. The story also follows several other boys. Peter and Neil have been together for a year, even though Neil’s family never talks about it. Avery and Ryan only met the night before at a gay prom, but immediately hit it off. Cooper feels completely and utterly alone. No one knows that he’s gay until his father reads a chat session with another guy on his laptop. All these stories and perspectives are narrated by a generation of gay men who lived in a different time, when AIDS was a terror that seemed to pick them off one by one. This is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful YA novels I’ve ever read. It was a favorite before I even finished. There’s a nice balance of the historical view of gay men and boys and the contemporary lives of these particular gay boys. This is a very emotional book and it will make you cry, but it’s worth it.

17261129Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Brendan has a great life. He’s popular and has a girlfriend he really loves. So, why does he feel wrong in his own body? Why does he dream of looking like a girl? When the feelings become too much, Brendan puts on some of the clothes he wishes he could wear to feel closer to being the person he wishes he were. When he’s caught by one of his best friends, his life begins to fray. Maybe the girl at the LGBT Youth Center can help him find some answers. This book takes a look at the struggle that come with being on the transgender spectrum with raw truth. Brendan’s friends can’t understand what he’s going through and offer him very little empathy. Angel is almost like a representation of what Brendan’s life could be in the future. She’s in a different place in her own life as a transgender girl and possibly on a different place in the spectrum. The novel is written in beautiful verse and it’s a pretty quick read.

18166920Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out edited by Susan Kuklin

Susan Kuklin compiles the stories of six transgender teens. Most of the book is their own words from interviews and she includes a lot of pictures of the teens throughout. I loved this book because it offers so many perspectives and experiences from real trans teens. Some of the stories these teens share are hard to read, but Kuklin puts them on the page with a “take it or leave it” attitude. I think it’s an important book for every library to own and it also may be great for anyone interested in understanding different gender identities and the experiences of trans teens.

20312458Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Leila feels different enough due to her Persian descent. She doesn’t want people to find out she also likes girls. When Saskia moves to her school, things get complicated. Leila starts developing a crush and it seems like Saskia might return those feelings. I love this book for its simplicity. It’s a sweet book about crushes, bad relationships, and overlooking the person who’s right in front of you. I remember reading it in one sitting and closing it with a good feeling and smile on my face.

 

19547856Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

When a classmate finds Simon’s emails with a boy names Blue on the school computers, he decides to blackmail him for some help asking out one of Simon’s friends. Suddenly the budding romance between Simon and Blue is affecting every part of his life, including his friendships. This is another pretty simple YA book that I adore with all my heart. It’s about high school bullshit, friendship drama, and embarrassing families. I’ve read it four times and loved it every time. It’s charming, funny, and so sweet. I just want to melt into my couch from happiness every time I read it.

19542841More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Aaron has been struggling to stay happy since his father committed suicide. His mother and his girlfriend help, but it still feels like something’s missing. When a new boy names Thomas shows up in his life, he can’t help but notice the feelings he’s developing for Thomas. Adam Silvera adds a nice speculative twist to this book that can really throw the reader for a loop. It’s one of those books you can only read for the first time once. Also, if you don’t know who Adam Silvera is, what are you doing with your life? Go follow him on all your social media. Despite his sad books, he’s a hilarious human being.

24612624George by Alex Gino

George may have been born a boy, but she knows she’s really a girl. When she’s told by her teacher that she can’t play Charlotte in their classes play of Charlotte’s Web, George and her friend Kelly devise a plan to get her on stage. This book is written for an elementary audience, but you’re never too old for a fantastic children’s book. Gino did such a good job with George’s voice. I felt all of her disappointments and triumphs. It’s a beautiful, quick read. I recommend to everyone, period.

 

22692740Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Riley knows people don’t know what to think about them. For the most part, Riley manages to fly under the radar and let people wonder. That is, until Riley starts a Tumblr blog about their life as a gender fluid teen. The blog starts to go viral and someone at school knows it’s Riley. With Riley’s father going through a congress reelection, things are getting a little out of hand. This is a bit of a coming out novel, but it’s the first one I know of that’s about a gender fluid teen. I think Garvin did a really great job with it. He also included some awesome music. Riley’s a pretty bad ass, punk rock kid.

26156987If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

After an awful incident, Amanda moves to live with her dad in a small town in Tennessee. She makes friends and starts to find her place in her little town. When she starts falling for sweet, honest Grant, she begins to doubt herself. She wants to tell him everything about herself, but she’s afraid he won’t accept her past. Russo hits on so many issues in this book: secrets, ignorance, friendship, first love, family dynamics. She writes about all this beautifully and sometimes with heartbreaking honesty. Though Russo has spoken about how this isn’t quite the trans book she wants to write, it’s still an important book. It’s a book about a trans girl written by a trans woman with a trans model on the cover. That’s huge and it could pave the way for even more honest trans books with more intersectionality. Also, it’s a really great book.

Note: You might notice there are no books about bisexual characters in my list. The truth is that I have yet to read one I felt was good. I have certainly not read everything, so I know I’ve missed a few and I hope to get to those books soon. However, I do think there’s a big need for YA books about bisexuality.

Thanks again, Laura! These are such wonderful suggestions. I think you’re right that bisexual characters are much less common in literature, YA or otherwise! Two books that come to mind off the top of my head, for those who are interested, include Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block and Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.

GIVEAWAY

Laura is generously giving away TWO ARCS to one lucky winner! The books are The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard. To enter, please leave a comment on this post saying you’d love to win. Giveaway will end October 20th at 11:59PM CT.

Master Post: #TheLiteraryOthers LGBT Reading Event!

4a81c8a7-05ac-47b4-964b-5869f5a8e838_zpsirguiazbWelcome to the Master Post for The Literary Others Reading Event!

This is a one-month event focused on all things LGBT, in honor of LGBT History Month (USA). Reading that will count for this event include any novels, short stories, essays, memoirs, biographies, poetry, plays, audiobooks, graphic novels, etc. written by an author who identifies as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender. Also, any works written by heterosexual authors, but whose primary plot/characters revolve around LGBT issues will count as well. See this post for more information and some suggestions. 

In early August, I announced sign-ups for the event, and was very happy to see that so many folks were interested and eager to get involved!  Thank you all for your positivity and encouragement, and for spreading the word about this event (please continue to do so! Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, etc: #TheLiteraryOthers)

I have a lot of things planned for this month, including giveaways, guest posts from authors and allies, and of course, my own reading and reviewing of LGBT works. First, let’s talk logistics.

2016hmholderWhenever you review a book or write a post related to the event, please link to it in the comments of this very master post. Please include the title or subject of whatever your post is about so that other participants can scan through to see what looks interesting! I will make sure that the button on my blog will take you to this post. Please make sure to only link-up your posts on this main Master Post so that we can keep everything organized. 

When you leave a qualifying link to one of your posts for this event, you will become eligible to win the giveaways that I will be hosting here throughout the month. The only way to be entered for these prizes is to make sure your posts are linked in the comments on this post (this includes reviews of the books you’ve read, commentary on LGBT topics, or any other posts directly related to this event).

There are also going to be quite a few giveaways hosted by participants of the event (thank you for your generosity!).  Specific details for each of these giveaways may be different, so be sure to read the rules on those giveaway posts carefully and enter if you are interested!  For any of the giveaways, here or at other participants’ blogs, you will need to be pre-registered (by October 5th) for this event in order to win.  

My first read is: Strange Brother (1931) by Blair Niles. What’s yours?!

Books from A to Z (#ArmchairBEA)

For today’s “Anything Goes” Topic, I decided to have a little fun by completing this “A to Z Survey.”  It’s hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner. Hope you enjoy!

AtoZsurvey-1017x1024

 

Author you’ve read the most books from:

William Burroughs, Dennis Cooper, William Shakespeare, and Kurt Vonnegut.

 

Best Sequel Prequel Ever:

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (actually a prequel to Bronte’s Jane Eyre). Also, Jack Maggs by Peter Carey, which is a prequel to Dickens’s Great Expectations.

 

Currently Reading:

Imre: A Memorandum by Edward Prime-Stevenson and Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

 

Drink of Choice While Reading:

I’m usually drinking coffee or tea – but that’s always, not just when reading. 🙂

 

E-reader or Physical Book?

Physical book, always. I only use e-readers when I absolutely have to (for instance, sometimes I teach courses where the text is only available online).

 

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

Well, I actually didn’t date in high school, but if I could return to high school age and date a fictional character from literature, hm, I’d probably fall for the Percy Jackson type, although I’d like to think I’d fall for a character like Joey from Andrew Smith’s Winger.

 

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I put it off for such a long time, but I finally read it just a week or so ago, and it was so good! Interesting, creepy, dark, and rich with history.

 

Hidden Gem Book:

452382

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

Creating my very first book blog. At the time, it was really an “all purpose” kind of blog.  I was in graduate school and desperately needed a place to keep my thoughts on all the reading I was doing (massive amounts) but also a place to use as a creative and emotional outlet. It was such a huge help.

 

Just Finished:

17332968

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

“Won’t” is a dangerous word. I don’t necessarily refuse to read anything. Okay, that’s not true. So far, I’ve refused to read the Twilight series. I also don’t read things like Christian fiction, romance (lower-case “r”), and such. I think these are all more like books/genres that I “don’t” read, though. I might, someday…. if all other books are destroyed?  Nah, I’d just write my own. Nevermind.

Longest Book You’ve Read:

47173The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2,624 pages).  As far as fiction goes, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1,463 pages) and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1,424 pages). Other books I’ve read that are more than 1,000 pages include, Atlas Shrugged, The Stand, and Gone with the Wind. I’ve adored every single one of these books, with the exception of Atlas Shrugged, which is the book I most hate of any, ever.

Major book hangover because of:

The Harry Potter series!

Number of Bookcases You Own:

I own six bookcases, four of which are full-size and two of which are half-size. Most of my books are in storage, though. No room for all of them. 😦

 

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

22628

Preferred Place To Read:

I usually read in my den/study, in a recliner my parents bought me for Christmas a few years back.  Sometimes I’ll read on the living couch, though.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”     -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reading Regret:

I’m not sure I have any reading regrets. If I did, most of them have been corrected (not pushing myself to finish Pride and Prejudice the first time, for instance, because I thought it was going to be too “girly.”  I’ve read it three times, since, and it’s one of the best – if not the best- novels of all-time.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):

darkboxI’ve only read the first book in this series, but I really do want to finish it. Same goes for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Unapologetic Fanboy For:

Andrew Smith, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Willa Cather, and J.K. Rowling!

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

18705209I’m also looking forward to Hillary Clinton’s new book, Hard Choices.

Worst Bookish Habit:

I have a terrible habit of creating an “up next” pile and then never going to that pile when I finish a book.  To be honest, I currently have SIX “up next” piles stacked on the tops of my bookshelves, but I’ve been choosing my reads from elsewhere.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

430788

Your latest book purchase:

I recently bought the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

19063I couldn’t put it down! One of the best I’ve read.

Authors & Beyond Words (#ArmchairBEA)

Hello, Everyone!

It’s Day 2 of Armchair BEA and I for one am having a blast. I think it’s serendipitous that the event falls on one of the few times of the year when I actually have a bit of a break, so I’m doing my best to really interact.  I joined last night’s Twitter party, which was super fun, and I’ve been visiting new and old blogs alike, commenting like a madman and getting to know some gnarly people.  What a community we have!

Anywhat, onto today’s themes:

Author Interaction 
Let’s talk interacting with authors IRL (in real life) or online.

8130308As someone who has been doing this for quite a few years, now, I’m not ashamed to admit that I still go “fanboy” over author interactions, especially when it involves some of my favorites.  I’ve had the opportunity to chat with and work with some incredible writers who are also incredible people.  These include Andrew Smith (author of Grasshopper Jungle and The Marbury Lens), Catherine Ryan Hyde (author of Jumpstart the World and Pay It Forward) and Kathe Koja (author of Under the Poppy and The Mercury Waltz).  

jumpstartWhat thrills me most about reading their books, now, is that I feel I know a bit about the minds and souls that created them.  These writers’ talent cannot be denied –it’s something that reading their books alone will testify to– but their kindness, thoughtfulness,  generosity, and general grooviness, well, that’s something you can’t get straight from the books, and I feel lucky to have “met” each of them (among many others) through blogging and interactions on Twitter/Facebook.


More Than Just Words 
On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just the words and use other ways to experience a story. Which books stand out to you in these different formats?

8621462To be honest, I read primarily classics and literary fiction, both of which are all about, well, words. I haven’t read many graphic novels (although Blankets by Craig Thompson is fantastic) and while I could look back on my time as a reading teacher to discuss picture books, like King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub and Where the Wild Things Are, etc., I’m not sure that’s what this question is after.  I also do not really listen to audiobooks (except poetry), so that doesn’t work…

image.phpThere are probably plenty of books that I’ve read in the last few years which do use images, and if I scroll back through my log I might find more to add to this discussion, but the one book I can think of now, off the top of my head, is one that has stayed with me for a long time: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd. The story itself is brilliant and touching, but the drawings add so much depth and emotion. It’s a piece of work I think most people will appreciate – beyond beautiful, and very difficult to describe. Go experience it for yourself, yeah?

everyyoueverymeI also really enjoyed the book Every You, Every Me by David Levithan. This one incorporates photographs into the story, in a kind of mysterious way.  It’s a great book with a great story, an the use of photographs to advance the plot and add layers of mystery and intrigue (and emotion) was very clever.

Thanks for visiting!

Introductions & Literature (#ArmchairBEA)

book heart armchairbeaHappy First Day of Armchair BEA 2014!

Today is all about Introductions and about “Literature” in general.  This should be interesting! I’m also a Cheerleader, this year, for the first time… and I’m planning to participate as usual (my third or fourth year?).

Introduction:

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

Okay, well, for those who don’t know me already: My name is Adam. I teach college unnamedliterature and composition and I am the Classic Literature Expert for About.com. I’m about to begin my third year of doctoral studies (Ph.D. English with emphases in American Literature, Literary Theory & Criticism, and LGBT Studies).

I’ve been blogging here at Roof Beam Reader for 5 years (as of June 1st – and there’s a big celebration to come on that day, so maybe stick around?). But, I’ve been book blogging, and blogging in general, for much longer than that. I believe I started blogging when I was 19, and I’m currently 31, so there’s some math for you all to do! I started blogging as a creative and emotional outlet – mostly journaling, creative writing, etc. I still do that (elsewhere and in private) but in 2006 I started graduate studies in English & American Literature, and I realized that I needed a place to keep my thoughts on all of the reading I was doing. Thus, the book blog was born.

 Currently, I live in a western suburb outside of Chicago, in a little river town that is conveniently located about halfway between the city of Chicago and the University where I teach and study.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — so we can connect more online. 

 My blog is my virtual baby – no joke; I don’t have (and don’t plan to have) kids of my RBR-Buttonown, but I love to read and to write. I buy and read only physical books, because real books are true treasures to me. After all, what will happen when this digital age fails us, eh dystopia fans?

 My blog is where I get to express this love for my little ones, as people do when they share pictures of their cats and kids on Facebook and such. Sound silly? Oh well! And that was more than a sentence, sorry (not sorry). I would love to connect with you all on the social media. Twitter & Facebook are my primary modes:

Facebook: Roof Beam Reader

Twitter: Roof Beam Reader

Instagram: Roof Beam Reader

Tumblr: Roof Beam Reader

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

What I read most often, and what I most enjoy, are the classics. I can’t specify a genre inde3xbecause classic literature transcends genres (I love Sherlock Holmes, does that mean I love detective novels? I love Thomas Hardy, does that mean I love semi-gothic pastorals?) But in terms of contemporary fiction, I suppose I enjoy almost everything: science-fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, etc. I like dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction and gay fiction, too. I’m not a fan of romance or anything too saccharine (Christian fiction, morality fiction, Nicholas Sparks type stuff, etc.).

I do have eclectic taste, and I love to read because I love to get to know the world. All of it, across all time. Literature (hey, there’s that word!) teaches us so much, but most importantly, it teaches us how to empathize with others and how to understand a little bit of what we don’t know or cannot experience. This is a great thing.

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year? 

Oh, boy. What a question. I think if you visit my wrap-up post for 2013 you’ll find a list 46133of my favorites for the year. I don’t usually ever pick one “favorite” book for any list, but for YA readers, I really loved Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan and Winger by Andrew Smith. For adult/classics readers, I enjoyed A Room of One’s Own and Orlando, both by Virginia Woolf.

So far this year, some of my favorites have been The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (yes, I’ve just finally gotten to it!) and Ulysses by James Joyce.

What does your favorite/ideal reading space look like? 

Just someplace quiet, comfortable, and private. I’m pretty easy. I like to read alone, though, so you probably won’t catch me with a book at Starbucks or whatnot (unless I’m on a deadline and trying desperately to multi-task!)

What is your favorite blogging resource? 

Twitter? I’m not sure I have any blogging resources, other than Twitter. If I have questions/issues, etc., I just chat with the folks I’ve friended on Twitter who also have been at this a long time. They’re a wealth of knowledge.

Spread the love by naming your favorite blogs/bloggers (doesn’t necessarily have to be book blogs/bloggers). 

I usually give a few names of favorites, but this year I just want to send out mad props to my team at The Classics Club (which I co-moderate) and to the members of the club in general. It’s such an awesome group and it has faced its challenges, butclassicsclub we continue to go strong. If you love reading the classics or would like a friendly group to help you get into them for the first time, I highly recommend you check us out!

The Classics Club Blog

 The Classics Club Twitter

The Classics Club on Facebook

 Share your favorite book or reading related quote. 

 “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! – When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” -Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 books would you bring? Why? What 3 non-book items would you bring? Why? 

 Book: 1. The Harry Potter series (yes I’m counting the whole thing as one!) Because it imagesalways keeps me entertained and comforted.

Book 2: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. To remind me who I am, where I came from, and why I fell in love with reading, friendships, life, and all that – particularly helpful when stranded alone, I think!

Book 3: Something to revisit again and again and find something new in it – and to remind me of the beauty of language. Maybe Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I’m not sure, I’d have to think about this last one.

Other things: An e-reader with permanently charged battery and all the books I could ever want loaded onto it (Haha! Yeah, I’m a cheater). Notebooks & pens to write with. And as for the third thing, hm, I don’t know. Maybe some kind of survival guide?

 What book would you love to see as a movie? 

I think A.S. King’s Reality Boy would make a pretty rad movie.

 On Literature:

Today’s question is “What do you think of when you think of Literature?”

Well, as the Classic Literature Expert for About.com, I know only enough to say this: I cannot define literature. And I don’t think anyone else can, either (if they say they can, they’re liars!). The only way to go about this would be to define it in terms of opposition (what is not literature?) Are Archie Comics? Is the phone book? I’ve spent entire semesters of graduate school trying to answer this question, and the only answer is – well, it is whatever you think it is. Just be prepared to defend your definition.

Guest Post: A Jane Austen Daydream! (#AustenInAugustRBR)

Trying to Find Jane

chawton-house3

I went to England to try and find Jane Austen.

When you read Jane’s books, you can feel her alongside you, laughing with you, leading you down the path, but when you have to define her as an actual person things get complicated. Her heroines have so many different traits; Emma is very different from the Bennet sisters, etc. She is so good at characterization you have to wonder if any of her “real life” experience and traits inhabit any of her characters.

Most scholars will argue that authors grow from book to book, so could an argument be made that she is the most like Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey? No, I can’t imagine a character like Catherine (even with her wild imagination and love of books) creating novels.

Some Austenites would point to Anne Elliot from Persuasion for being the most like her (maybe the book is playing out a fantasy she had about a returning love?), but that would be a much later creation when her skills were at the strongest. With someone with her literary skills it feels like a moment of weakness.

Chawton (home of the Jane Austen’s House Museum) is a small village and not at all easy to find. It is very charming and I can see why fans of her novels love visiting it. It feels like one of her novels could take place on those streets, in those gardens, in those fields… yet, something felt off to me.

Jane’s actual home, which is the museum now, was a modest house even then. While there have been some structural changes to it, it is easy to imagine her wandering those halls, sitting in that garden. Still, my feeling of discomfort was growing. Yes, as I visited each room, the feeling increased until I had to leave and sit in the garden, get a breath of fresh air.

It was then, looking around me, watching other visitors come and go, that the feeling that had been haunting me so prevalently became clear…

 Trapped.

Jane Austen had one of the great minds of her century, easily one of the greatest minds in literature. So how could someone with her capacity be content in a small house, in a small village like this?

That is not to say she didn’t enjoy her family’s company or her friends in the village; I’m sure some days she was happy with the arrangement. Yet my gut was telling me that on many days she felt utterly trapped, stuck in a world she couldn’t escape from. I’m not going to compare it to a prison; but consider what the life of someone with Jane’s ability would be like today, and then think of a person like that living in such a small environment with little resources. And little capability for growth because of her gender…

You see what I mean?

Then add in the fact that her books were anonymous. She had no writing friends, no one she could talk to really about her favorite artform, her passion.

Trapped, lonely, misunderstood.

No wonder Jane did so much writing during her eight years in this home. It was her only escape, her only way to be herself fully.

That visit made Jane real and helped inspire my novel A Jane Austen Daydream.


Giveaway!

Congratulations to Melissa of Avid Reader’s Musings, who was randomly selected as the winner for our final giveaway! She has won a signed copy of A Jane Austen Daydream!


About the Book:

JaneAustin_1All her heroines find love in the end–but is there love waiting for Jane?

Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.

Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years–did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us–to a greater or lesser degree–are head over heels for Jane. You can purchase A Jane Austen Daydream at Amazon.com

About the Author:

author-pic-scott-d-southardScott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.