Month: August 2013

Bookstores Worth Visiting Around the Americas

I’ve written about the bookstore I stopped at in Taipei, Taiwan and I’ve written about libraries around the world I want to steal features from for my future home library, and now I’m going to share my bookstore bucket list with you. It’s no secret that I want to travel around the world and part of what I want to do in other countries is visit bookstores and fill my future library with books around the world.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Ares, Argentina is at the top of my list. The bookstore itself is beautiful, and, as of yet, my travels have not taken me to Latin America. I’m enthusiastic to see what the Shakespeare section of this book store looks like. As of now, I have a tradition of buying a book of Shakespeare’s Sonnets from every country I’ve visited. Right now, my collection is at 3. I’d like for one of my next copies to come from this gorgeous place:

Yes, I want to visit the pretty bookstore and buy all the books. ALL THE BOOKS.

3 Reasons Why Literary People will Enjoy Netflix’s Orange is the New Black

orange_custom-s3-c85If you haven’t yet gotten around to watching the new Netflix Original Series by Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black, you should. Personally, I consumed all thirteen episodes in a matter of days, but resist if you can. You’ll want the show to last as long as possible.

1. What some may not know about the series is that it’s based on the real book Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. Although the book has been knocked for failing to develop the other female characters as well as the main character, Piper, I still plan on giving it a read–only if to compare it to the TV series. What I enjoyed the most about this series is the writing. Unlike its book counterpart, Kohan’s show actually does a good job at developing the characters of many of the other female inmates in prison with Piper. I say actually, because Weeds (also created by Jenji Kohan) was also decent before Season 4, when it got a little bit too far-fetched.

2. The show has several awesome literary references (which can be seen below).

Like when Piper threatens to make a teenage girl in a wheelchair her bitch using Pablo Neruda’s poem “Everyday you play.” Oh, but don’t worry, it was for charity:

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Or, when Taystee quotes from The Help:

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The Hunger Games Get Real

If you don’t live in a cave, then you’ve probably heard of Suzanne Collins’ popular, young adult series The Hunger Games. But what you may not have known is that kids in Largo, Florida, recently had the opportunity to participate in the games, in the form of a weeklong “Hunger Games” day camp (Yes, you read that correctly).

(Credit: Tampa Bay Times)
(Credit: Tampa Bay Times)

Jared D’Alessio, camp director, does recall debates about the theme when the idea was first brought to his attention. However, D’Alessio believed that the camp could cut out the violence. While I am not opposed to getting kids excited about books, even I have to admit that D’Alessio’s comment is a bit hilarious, when you consider that the entire series is based on violence and the fictional government’s ability to wield that violence. Cut that out, and all you’re left with is whose team your on, Team Peeta or Team Gale.

In an effort to cut down on some of this violence, camp counselors have refrained from using the term “killing” and now ask that campers “collect lives” by tugging off the flags that are strapped around each campers’ waist. Whoever has the most flags (lives), wins. Maybe it’s just me, but collecting lives seems almost worse. It’s like collecting limbs, or a serial killer’s job description.

Understanding Hemingway’s Advice to Writers

Ernest Hemingway

I have always found that being familiar with an author’s life and lifestyle makes his or her works more interesting to read. Although my father, an engineer who rarely reads literature, was fascinated by Hemingway enough to have named one of his cats Ernie, I only recently, post-college, came to know Hemingway more intimately. I sort of stumbled into my infatuation with him after reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a book, which my mother gave to me as a gift, about Hemingway’s life during his first marriage, narrated in the voice of his first wife, Hadley Richardson. After reading about him from the perspective of someone he both loved passionately and betrayed immensely, I needed to read more about him. His life and lifestyle are as engrossing to me as his writing, and the following quotes can be considered some of the best, most simple pieces of advice to fellow writers from one of the greatest, Ernest Hemingway.

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

Just think of all those times we’ve felt emotionally hurt or betrayed and we didn’t know who to turn to, so we picked up a book to be distracted from the world as long as necessary. (Or is it just me doing that?). A book will never let me down. Unless I’m reading something extremely uninteresting, I am happy and content whilst reading.

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”

As I said in a previous post about a Robert Frost quote, emotions have to pour out of our hearts through our fingers and into the words we’re writing. Write what you feel without thinking too much about what you are writing. In simpler terms, just write.

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

I think this is important for writers to remember: we’re never going to be happy with anything we’ve written the first time we’ve written it because it is never going to be perfect the first time. That is what revision is for. A first draft is exactly what it means. It is the bare bones, the plan, the blueprint of the story that will be developed into something wonderful over time. Don’t be so hard on yourself; we’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” and writing is not an exception. The only way to be good at writing is to write more.

Every Student Should Have a Kindle

Dear parents of students going back to school,

The one thing your kid needs if they are majoring in a liberal arts or social science field is a Kindle or, maybe, a Nook (I don’t have a Nook so I cannot attest to its features as I can a Kindle) and here is why.

1) The Kindle has thousands of free books. After 75 years, books lose their copyright but published versions of these books still cost money to publish, and usually a foreword is added or a special editor is brought in to write notes, and suddenly this material that should be free is no longer free and can have a hefty price tag. When I had to take survey lit courses in the past (British Literature, American Literature, etc.) I would generally skip the giant, expensive anthology and go straight for downloading the original stories that were free and using my Kindle in class. The cost of the Kindle was less than one of the multiple anthologies for class, and all the literature was free because it was over 75 years of age.

Kindle versions of these books are often free or priced much lower than their published counterparts:

Of course I used Shakespeare as an example. What other books would I be buying?
Of course I used Shakespeare as an example. What other books would I be buying?

Joking about Literature

Everybody loves to laugh, and book nerds like me (and maybe you, since you read this blog) are not immune to a good joke, especially when it’s about literature and books. Earlier today, I found a video of Nick Offerman (who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation) essentially spoiling a bunch of books kids might have been required to read over the summer and it made me laugh.

WARNING: There are spoilers, so if you don’t like spoilers, don’t watch the video. 

 

Ah Youtube, what a wonderful place to get lost and watch all kinds of strange, strange videos. The next video I’m going to post is an Epic Rap Battle of History between Dr. Seuss and Shakespeare. This is by far my favorite Epic Rap Battle. 

 

The Book in Print vs. The E-Book Conversation

Some years ago during a family gathering, a cousin of mine made a simple statement while discussing e-books and textbooks: “You know, soon enough the paperback will be completely obsolete.”

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NOOOO! Books, I will save you!

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” was the elongated scream that occurred within my imaginative head as if Darth Vader had just announced his paternal relation while burning books and tossing them into the celestial abyss.

In a nervous rebuttal, I started arguing that using physical textbooks and annotating the text enable students to better “digest” material. Also, making a cognitive connection with thoughts that transfer to handwriting [in books] aid students in the ability to formulate ideas and use critical thinking in response to texts.

“Poppycock!” my opponent cousin replied – you can do that on a digital text as well. “Hello, TABLETS!” he simply stated.

Okay, admittedly as a Kindle tablet owner, I enjoy the convenience of having a library of books available at the touch of a finger. It’s great! I can tuck away any tempting thoughts of having to purchase a roller backpack because the tedious load of carrying physical books can be a tremendous, not to mention back-breaking, task. However, at home, I will often find myself opting to read books sitting on my shelf rather than using the Kindle. There is something personal about feeling the texture of a printed book and the sound of sweeping pages that sings to my ears. I suppose some applications can produce a sweeping page sound function on a tablet, but somehow it just isn’t the same. After arguing with my cousin over the existence of physical texts and our evolution into a digital world, I felt utterly defeated.

Why do I fear the extinction of the book in print?

Rewriting Shakespeare

Rewriting and retelling stories is nothing new. Most major themes have been recycled again and again and sometimes, only sometimes, these themes get a new spin that make them feel fresh and original.

Shakespeare is no exception–every play Shakespeare wrote was based on a legend, folktale, history, or some other story that had come before. Shakespeare isn’t known for his original story, but for his original development of plot, inner character, and careful telling of all of these tales on stage.

Shakespeare’s work is so well crafted that it has been replicated and retold again and again in films such as 10 Things I Hate About You (a retelling of the Taming of the Shrew), Warm Bodies (a zombiefied retelling of Romeo and Juliet), and even Disney’s The Lion King (a retelling of Hamlet, only fuzzier and with more fart jokes).

In addition to keeping the balcony scene, Warm Bodies kept the terrible water scene from 1994’s Romeo and Juliet film.

The Book Lover’s Cry

You know you’re a book lover when:

  1. Your favorite character dies, and you are devastated.
  2. You lock yourself away for a day and can’t put your book down because you simply do not want to.
  3. It’s a turn off when someone you like tells you he or she doesn’t enjoy reading.
  4. You walk into a bookstore to buy one book, and leave three hours later with one book, whether it is the book you intended to purchase or not. (Because you had to look around and read the backs and inside covers of way more books than you intended to).
  5. At night, you dream you are a character in the book you are reading.
My happy place
My happy place

As a book lover, I have found that one of the most difficult questions someone might ask me is “What is your favorite book?” I mean, really, how am I supposed to answer that loaded question? It certainly depends on many factors. Like, do you mean what is my favorite book by a particular author, or, perhaps, in a particular genre? Maybe you meant to ask, what is my favorite book to read in private or in a coffee shop or on the bus to work? Or, what is my favorite book I’ve read in the last month? See what I mean? It’s an incredibly loaded and stress-inducing question!

Reading is the Best Way to Fight an Aging Mind

Congratulations bookworms everywhere! Science now says you are smart, not only for reading and the subsequent learning that generally comes from reading (especially when it’s reading for pleasure), but also for helping your brain fight aging.

That’s right–books fight the effects of an aging mind.

According to an article published in Neurology (also published on their website), reading at a younger age helps slow “cognitive decline.” The conclusion of the study was that the more you read across your lifetime, the better your cognitive status will be in your old age.

Don’t be afraid of the brain like Fry is. You probably shouldn’t be like Fry in any way, if possible.