school reading

Year in Review: Top 10 Books of 2014

Lists are very important to me, so I always get really excited at the end of the year when I can revisit all the reading and TV bingeing I’ve done. That being said, here are my 10 favorite reads of 2014. Considering I hit 90 books and plays for the year just a few days ago, this wasn’t so easy to narrow down.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre was the perfect way to begin my 2014 reading. Not only did I truly love this book, I also find it personally satisfying that such an important novel was the first thing I read in the new year. It makes me feel like a real English student. It’s a lovely, beautifully written book that I highly recommend, particularly to young women.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill

Few plays in American drama are as deeply personal as Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a play based completely on O’Neill’s own family. O’Neill was basically the great savior of American drama in the early-20th century, so he should be at the top of your reading list, and so should this moving, deeply personal play.

Tea and Sympathy, Robert Anderson

I really wish I could explain why I loved this play so much, but I don’t really know why I do. I read Tea and Sympathy for a class, and though I’d never heard of it before, I absolutely loved it (though again, I don’t really have a reason why). It’s a sweet (and slightly scandalous) story of life in a boys boarding school that deals primarily with sexuality and isolation. If nothing else, the fact that it was written in the 1950s and deals with such risqué subject matter should be enough reason to intrigue you.

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

I might be a bit partial toward Of Mice and Men since I saw it on Broadway in May, but I also really, really love the novella. It’s the kind of story that sticks with you, and I think it was a perfect introduction into Steinbeck’s writing. I’m looking forward to expanding my Steinbeck knowledge in 2015.

The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman

The Laramie Project is another story that sticks with you. It’s told in a documentarian style about the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. I really hope people are still aware of the story, especially because it’s an important reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of social justice in just the past decades.

Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare

Though my overall experience in my Shakespeare course this fall was far from fulfilling, I’m certainly happy to have been exposed to some of Shakespeare’s best works (this is my glass-half-full approach toward this unfortunate class). I saw Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe Theatre in 2011, so I was very excited to read it for myself. The story is sweet and funny, and definitely one of my favorites as far as Shakespearean comedies are concerned.

Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham

Despite all the ridiculous (in my opinion) controversy that’s surrounded Dunham’s book since it was released a few months ago, it was still one of my favorite reads this year. As far as I’m concerned, Dunham’s memoir is exactly what I expected it to be, and more than anything, it makes me sad to know that she’s suffered with such anxiety in the past (but I’m also really happy she’s in a better place now).

Yes Please, Amy Poehler

It’s rare for me to read any nonfiction outside of required reading, but 2014’s surge of celebrity memoirs that I was interested in changed that fact. Amy Poehler is one of my favorite people on television, so it was of course important that I read her book. She’s just as charming and funny as you’d expect, so read it if you like her like I do.

Atonement, Ian McEwan

I’ve been generally slow on the Atonement uptake; I only watched the movie in the summer of 2013, so it seemed appropriate that I read the novel this year. I usually find British things very calming, so it was helpful to read Atonement during a busy point in my semester (but spoiler alert: this isn’t exactly a happy story).

Attachments, Rainbow Rowell

Attachments was the last book I read (though I hope to finish at least one more before the end of 2014), so I’m happy I loved it enough to put it on this list. Attachments was the third Rainbow Rowell book I read in 2014, and it’s the perfect kind of light, sweet, romantic story for ending the year on a high note.

Ending 2014 having read over 90 books is something I never expected, but I’m always happy to expand my literary knowledge. Here’s hoping 2015 is equally successful!

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November.

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Though November is pretty much my favorite month of the year, it’s also an undoubtedly busy time. I’m eleven weeks into the semester, which means that things are generally winding down, but also that finals and exams and presentations and papers are all happening. This is really the first time I’ve been behind in any classes, which is a pretty good accomplishment (and probably a reason why I shouldn’t be sitting here writing this instead of reading Hamlet). Sometimes you just need a break.

 

TV  — Thankfully, I’ve still managed to keep up with my pop culture fun to a certain extent. On Monday, I finished my viewing of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” because Netflix was kind enough to add the ninth season just a few days after I finished season 8. I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching thisshow, and I’m very excited FX is already showing a preview for next season.

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As for my other TV viewing habits, I’m just trying to keep up with the influx of fall shows. I’ve only added two new shows to my schedule this season: ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and The CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” “How to Get Away with Murder” provides the same melodramatic fun that I love about “Scandal,” and “Jane the Virgin” is adorable and funny and totally worth watching. I’m also keeping up with returning shows like “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” “Scandal,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Reign,” and “America’s Next Top Model.” I’m waiting until Thanksgiving/Christmas break to binge the new season of “Homeland” with my mom. We’ve seen the first two episodes, but decided it would be easier to wait than to try to catch up little by little, so don’t spoil things, please!

Movies — As of yesterday, I’ve completed my goal of watching 125 new movies in 2014! I haven’t seen many in theaters recently, apart from Gone Girlwhich you really all should have seen by now because it’s wonderful. I’m definitely looking forward to the onslaught of awards season movies that are starting to roll out now; I’m specifically excited for Birdman, Nightcrawler, The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, Wild, Into the Woods, and seeing Whiplash again. As for the movies I have seen recently, some favorites have included Obvious Child, In A World…, and Scream 1, 2, and 3. Netflix doesn’t have Scream 4 right now, which is fairly frustrating. I also had the distinct pleasure of watching the notoriously bad Showgirls recently which was certainly an experience.

Books — Most of my reading has been focused on completing my reading assignments for class, which is pretty understandable considering I’m in an English Master’s program. My biggest projects there have been Hamlet (which I’m behind on) and Antony and Cleopatra (which our professor removed from the reading list, but since I’m already three acts in, I want to finish it). I’m also working away at reading lots of Edgar Allan Poe short stories since I have a class specifically dedicated to Poe. For my final class, most of my reading has been from a very helpful book called Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide that goes in-depth on various critical theories used to analyze literature. It’s great for lit nerds, not so great for the casual reader.

For my own funIMG_0667.JPG reading, I’ve only done three noteworthy reading projects of late, but all of them are worth mentioning. Early in October I bought and read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, which I enjoyed (if you’re interested, I’m on Dunham’s side in this “sexual abuse” situation, but I also don’t want to start a debate). Though it wasn’t my favorite read ever, there were many laugh-out-loud moments and I thought it was a very true representation of what Dunham has always claimed to be. I also read Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot in October in my quest to read all the important drama literature. The play is frustrating and sad, like lots of those written in the absurd style. Currently, I’m reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Pleasewhich is of course entertaining and funny. I expect to finish it this weekend, so look out for a post with my review.IMG_0683.JPG

And to cap it all off, Taylor Swift’s newest album, 1989, was released last week, meaning that I won’t really be listening to any other music until at least January. My favorite songs at the moment are “Blank Space,” “Style,” and “I Wish You Would.” But I basically adore the entire album because Taylor is a goddess and I’ve worshiped her for six years.

Now, back to the real world. It’s the weekend and after spending the afternoon at our homecoming football game, I know I should be thinking about completing the homework that’s been accumulating on my to do list. Right now, though, the idea of curling up in a blanket on the couch watching movies for the rest of the night sounds so, so much better. A girl can dream, I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

Homework and pumpkin candles — I guess that means it’s fall

It’s a bit hard to believe we’re already nearing the end of September. Unfortunately, this time of year is when homework and classes always seem to shift into high gear, a truth that is taking shape in my life these days. In fact, writing this is my reward for power reading through a big chunk of Moby-Dick, half of which I have to have read by tomorrow evening. Let’s just say that there are several more hours of reading ahead of me before that’s crossed off my to do list.

My life generally has been pretty good, as of late; for the most part, I’m staying on top of my homework and work load, and I still have some time to do fun things. The first hints of fall are in the air, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been burning fall-scented candles all weekend, and I bought my first Reese’s pumpkins on Friday. Tis the season, and all that jazz.

Here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been reading and watching lately. If fall isn’t the best time to cuddle up to watch movies and read, then I don’t know what is (just kidding, I do this all year).

TV — Despite having lots of homework this weekend, I managed to squeeze in some quality TV-aydnwatching time. Friday night, I watched the first season of “A Young Doctor’s Notebook,” a quirky dark comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm as the titular Young Doctor (Radcliffe plays the younger version. Hamm the older) in early 20th century Russia. It’s a very strange little show, but highly entertaining, and sometimes sad. The first season is on Netflix for anyone who’s interested, and it only lasts about 80 minutes in total, so give it a watch! I’m waiting to start season 2 until I can watch it with my mom, but I’m excited to see what the new season brings.

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I’ve also started watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” a show that comes highly recommended from several of my friends. As I write, I’m just starting season 2, so I feel like I’m accomplishing a lot (even though I’m really only on the eighth episode). I’m excited to get into season 2 since Danny Devito joins the cast. My goal is to finish season 2 by the end of this week, so I’m hoping I can find some moments of free time to devote to watching TV, rather than reading about whales.

OutlanderLast on my TV radar is “Outlander,” which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying since it premiered last month. The fact that there’s only one episode left before the midseason hiatus begins is very upsetting to me and I don’t want to talk about it. Last night’s episode (“The Wedding”) provided the long anticipated marriage between Claire and Jamie, and let’s just say that I was more than happy with the outcome. In fact, I don’t really see why Claire is still so conflicted over her time travel problem; as far as I’m concerned, the choice between staying with Jamie or trying to get back to Frank is a no brainer (I mean, have you seen Sam Heughan?). I don’t think many people are watching “Outlander,” but I am happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a new TV project. Plus, I like having people to talk about TV with, so join me!

Books — Like I mentioned, I’m spending lots of time reading Moby-Dick these days. I’ve got about 120 pages to make it through before my class tomorrow night, so hopefully I’ll make a big dent in that before the end of the day. The second half of the book (which thankfully is a slightly shorter reading assignment) is due next week, so I’m planning to be a bit better and not procrastinate all my reading to the day or two before the assignment is due.

My next reading assignment for my Shakespeare class is Much Ado About Nothing, which I (unintentionally) started and finished Friday afternoon. I saw the play at the Globe Theatre while visiting London in 2011, which definitely helped me understand the plot of the play. I’ll be watching Joss Whedon’s recent film adaptation of the play in class Tuesday, so I’m excited to see how it differs from the written play.

As long as I can keep afloat this week (amidst reading, a presentation, a conference, and meetings), life should go back to normal for a week or two. In fact, next week is my fall break, a very welcome opportunity to relax for a day or two. The best news is that by the time I’m on fall break, Gone Girl will be in theaters, and that just might be the highlight of the month of October (at least I hope so).

Now, back to work. Enjoy your Sunday, everyone!

Book #67: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, by Edgar Allan Poe

Like I mentioned in my last post, school reading is (unfortunately) taking over my reading time, but in grad school, you can’t expect much else.

My first longer reading project for my Responses to Poe course was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a short novel that inspired such works as Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (the next book on my reading list). The book tells the story of a group on a large ship that falls victim to all sorts of problems, including mutiny, cannibalism, a shipwreck, shark attacks, and starvation. The book also has some uncomfortably racist overtones and an odd sense of mysticism, so there’s that.

I can’t say I enjoyed this book very much; in fact, I kind of gave up reading in the last 30 pages or so and just skimmed my way to the end.

On the upside, I also had to read a Poe short story called “Hop-Frog” this week that I really enjoyed. I’d never heard of it before, and the style is different from a normal Poe story, but it’s really fun and bizarre. If you’re looking for a weird way to spend 15 minutes, give “Hop-Frog” a read.

The rest of this week and my weekend will be spent with rather rigorous reading, I’m afraid. I’ve already started Moby-Dick, the next assignment for my Poe class, but my progress needs to increase if I’m going to finish the first 70 chapters by Monday. My next assignment for my Shakespeare class is Much Ado About Nothing, also due next week.

I guess this is grad school.