Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wonders

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

There are certain things, places, people, and feelings every book-lover holds in their heart - from the physical cracking that accompanies starting that hardcover best-seller you've been wanting to read, to the goodbye you give when you finish the last title in a beloved series - and while we talk about all these books we love all the time, maybe it's time to give you a better indicator of how much we care about the practice of reading, too.

Here's my list of top ten favorite bookish wonders that come with being such a fan of reading! 

1. Old Book Smell
It's nearly a guarantee that this item will be on everyone's lists today, so might as well mention it first. There's equally great things to be said about new book smell, too, but there isn't that connotation of mystery and history that comes from smelling an old copy.

2. When Your Favorite Bookstore is Empty
Imagine how boundless my life would be, if everytime I entered a bookstore, it was completely empty? Of course, it would probably denote something terrible in the way of popular literacy, or, you know, a zombie invasion, but at least my search for wanted titles would be unencumbered by those people who just camp out in the middle of shelf aisles.

3. The Classic Combo: A Rainy Afternoon, A Comfy Chair, and a Cup of Tea
Also a general fan favorite, this kind of a sweet setup just can't get more cozy. Thank goodness I live in Seattle.

4. Forgetting What You've Pre-Ordered
It's like a little present in the middle of your week, from you, to you! Thanks, Past Savannah!

5. The Maps Just Inside the Covers of Fantasy Novels
I, for one, suck at spacial visualization, so no matter how many directions or physical landmarks you use in dialogue or description, the charactes might as well be wandering around Australia for all I know. Plus, they're just so pretty!

6. Hidden Designs Under Dust Jackets
Speaking of pretty, I love it when designers leave a little bit of a surprise for those of us who want to get at the book from every angle. I typically keep dust jackets on hardbound copies, because I like the look, but there's always that sense of mystery until you see what's going on under the covers.

7. Hanging Out with Your Bookish Besties
I deeply thank the people in my life who allow me to pepper them with random bookish knowledge in which they have no interest and find no value, just for the sake of letting me talk... but also shout out to the awesome people who know what's the dealio! Callie's always happy to let me ramble (and vice versa!), my Internet friends keep me up to date on the latest news, the women who work the book checkout lines at Barnes and Noble, Powell's, and Amazon are incredibly sweet and knowledgeable,  and that one elderly dude librarian at Kobetich who likes to gossip with me about YA fantasy... you are all gifts.

8. Finding Out You and an Author Have Something in Common
Not to brag or anything, but Frank Herbert (Dune) grew up in my hometown, my Dad has hung out with Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles), and Felicia Day and I have the same dream superpower (the ability to speak all languages)! Authors... they're just like us!

9. When the Book Mentions Food 
I know I'm not the only one who gets a certain way when a character begins describing the spread set out in front of them (here's to you, Hogwarts Great Hall). There are just some books that never cease to inspire me to go grocery shopping!

10. Showing Off Your Perfectly-Arranged Shelves
And, of course, there's no way to get a bookish buddy talking like asking them about their organization system. I dare you to ask the next nerd you encounter how exactly they structure what goes on what shelf, and they will spend the next ten minutes describing it to you minutely.

In fact, tell me how you organize your shelves, in the comments below!
What's in YOUR Top Ten? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Glossy Girl: Why I'll Always Love Magazines

About a week ago, Jamie over at The Broke and the Bookish recently had a post that got me thinking about how my love of reading is reflected in the material I consume, in discussing how her love of magazines has fallen to the wayside since becoming a more dedicated book reader. It made me reflect on my own relationship and past with magazines... and after I posted a nearly post-length comment on her post myself, I decided, why not discuss it on my own blog, too?

I have been a voracious magazine reader for almost my entire life, starting when I was just a kid, and subscribed to American Girl magazine for what was probably an abnormal amount of time. I hit my magazine consuming peak for a little less than two years of high school, during which I had seven concurrently running subscriptions to various magazines (If you must know: Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Lucky, Nylon, National Geographic, Popular Science, and Cooking Light!).

If you noticed that four out of those seven subscriptions were fashion magazines, then you've discovered the passion that reigned for quite a lot of my life. For a long time I thought I was going to grow up to be an editor for a national fashion magazine, with Lucky being my absolute favorite (RIP). This passion for fashion was one of the many reasons I started writing for College Fashion back in my freshman year, and why I stayed there for two full years!

However, while I'm always going to be a sucker for the topics I read about - fashion, culture, science, and food! - I've definitely fallen out of the habit, due to several factors, including how much the habit costs, and just not having the time in my college student schedule.

Additionally, one of the reasons I loved magazines was because they were a portal to another world... and I didn't have a laptop until a little later on in my life, procuring one during the latter half of high school. Now, I can pursue my loves for all of those fave subjects online: you can chart a direct correlation between my growing disinterest in magazines with the growing list of blogs I used to follow, scribbled in the back of a composition notebook. With the development of Pinterest, those alternative options were only more abundant!

I've recently started picking up mags again, at a local newsstand that is pretty iconic up at UW, called Bulldog News (which also boasts a pretty great cafe!). Additionally, I'm also working with magazines in my Capstone class for English - charting the rise of the modernist perspective through the proliferation of periodicals during that time - while I'm considering making magazines the focus for another English class, as well!

Still, whenever I need a little bit of inspiration, a quick gift for a friend, or just something to tear apart for a craft project, magazines are there for me, and we've had a pretty long and involved history together, too. I honestly really like the idea of getting back into my glossy and glorious printed passion. 

Do you read magazines often? Which ones are your favorites? Let me know, in the comments below!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jot it Down: My Personal History of Journaling

Yes, these are about three years worth of journals I dug out of storage containers in my parent's room... and these are only the ones within reach!

I, Savannah, have always been a journal junkie. 

I've been recording everything - from my personal thoughts and feelings, to ideas for stories and songs, precious recipes, dresses I would someday design and wear, and greatest aspirations and goals for the future - in some form of notebook (or even several concurrent ones) since the age of 11, the summer before I began the sixth grade.

Because I started doing it so young - mainly in emulation of many of my favorite written heroines - I never really felt like I had to give a reason for why I was doing it. It was just a pastime I pursued because it seemed fun and I liked to write, and it quickly became yet another habit of my life that provided me with structure and a means of self-reflection.

The first time I stopped keeping a journal regularly came at the end of 2014 (That's about 8 and a half years of composition notebooks!). I vividly recall the reactions of my family members after they recognized this fact in the early days of January of 2015, when I was returning to school from Winter Break. Basically, they ranged from my mom applauding my "letting go" of that old "coping mechanism," to sending my sister, the Ex-Cheerleader, into a panic, saying, "I can go grab my keys right now, and we can run to Barnes and Noble!" My two younger siblings, who had been taken to calling my journals "Savannah's feelings books," were not overly perturbed.

I hadn't had a real break in my regular recording schedule anywhere close to that long before, except in the case of serious personal tragedy (during my senior year of high school).  To give up this pastime for such a lengthy amount of time, carried a lot of emotional significance.

I still think I made the right choice in choosing to stop writing when I did. I was embarking upon an exciting year with the UW Panhellenic Exec Board, I was deep in my junior year, I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo, and to have deliberately kept that habit going would have been detrimental to my focus.

However, I definitely regret having taken this long of a break, for several important reasons.
  • I believe my sense of cognitive organization has suffered. Keeping a journal helps you structure your life into recurring themes and events, and allows you to make sense of your schedule to figure out your priorities. Recording events soon after they occur also just helps you remember them better. 
  • I think that my writing has also, if not suffered, then definitely not benefited from its absence. With my journal, the repetitive elements of such frequent writing helped me grow my vocabulary and advance the style and ability of my voice. It's like adding in practicing different strength moves at the gym to build different sets of muscles... and I've been going almost a year and a half without leg day. 
  • And how about this: It's my senior year in college! Yes, I'm busy, and frantic, but I'm also taking part in experiences that I will likely never have again in my life. Why would I ever want to let go of these details? I should have been preserving them for posterity's sake this whole time! 

It's also just something I've just plain been missing. In a fit of anxiety and emotion during my Fall Quarter this year - marking one official year since I'd stopped writing - I came home from class one day, took out a legal pad, and just kept writing until my hand cramped too severely to do it any more. I did this a couple more times throughout the Fall and Winter, giving the journal a name and a place on my desk, but I had just fallen out of the habit... I wasn't as dedicated to writing in it as regularly as before, and looking at it made me just feel more sad. 

However, that's not going to be the case anymore. Like I've hopefully impressed to you in the above, keeping a journal is important to me... for a long time, I counted it as a defining personality trait! Regardless of the opinions of my parents - who also incorrectly consider my relationship with my planner to be something a little abnormal - being able to record, sort through, define, and explore my daily thoughts is something that helps keep me happy, keep me productive, and keep me sane. And it's something that I'm going to be doing a lot more regularly from this point on, too. 

In writing this post, I decided to take a look at some of my past journals. This is how I defined myself, in my November 23rd, 2013 journal entry... something I found important enough to repeat later on. More than two and a half years later, and I still think it rings true!

Have you ever kept a journal before? Do you want to hear more about my journaling habits? Let me know, in the comments below!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Spring (-ish) Haul, Kind Of

As someone who typically purchases upwards of 4 or 5 books in one outing, let alone an entire season, it's a little weird for me to telling you about books I've purchased in a two-month period and not have them numerated above a total of ten.

However, even though I'm sure I will have more than enough opportunities to buy more books in the rest of April and May - and that those opportunities will definitely be taken advantage of! - I've decided to title this a "Spring Haul," because these purchases did, in fact, occur kind of close to the beginning of Spring. Sort of. Ish.

university bookstore sale

Hastily taken before work,
to inform Instagram of my success
In the last week of Winter Quarter, the University Bookstore had a huge sale, trying to move out some of their old inventory to make room for a new season of releases. That means that a lot of really awesome books were priced between $5 - $10... and I didn't even find out about it until I went in to purchase a blue book for a Final, right before a work shift.

(And, of course, in recapping this, I realize that I forgot to include TWO books in the above picture -drat!)

Crunched for time and overwhelmed with opportunities, I left with a copy of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, an Agatha Christie, and plans for making a reappearance the following day.

It's a good thing I did, too... if I hadn't gone back - and especially with my friend Taylor in tow - then I never would have found out that there was a huge treasure trove of also-bargain books, buried in the shelves beneath the more prominent displays! After weighing out cost-benefit relationships for the armfuls of books I was carrying around the store with me, I ended up leaving with four books to add to those I had purchased the day before.

Total cost: about $55 for six books, four of which are hardcover. 

Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries
Agatha Christie's Mrs. McGinty's Dead
Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Carmela Ciuraru's Nom de Plume: A Secret History of Pseudonyms
Cary Elwes' As You Wish: Inconcievable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
Caitlin Doughty's Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and Other Lessons from the Crematory

amazon bookstore, aka the reason I'm going to book-hell

So, as you might have heard, Amazon's grasping hands have been branching out from their quest for complete Internet retail domination, into actual brick-and-mortar stores. I have a lot of feelings about this, and obviously not a whole lot of them are positive. 

However, there's some good about it, too: they're running a pretty successful - if morally flawed - system of stocking their shelves, which means they have great selections, and they only sell them at the prices they stock them online. That means a hardcover which might be upwards of $25 in title price, could be sold at least $6 cheaper. 

After realizing I had kept my friend's copy of Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies almost a week longer than we had originally agreed upon, without me having finished it yet, I knew I needed to go pick up my own copy. A dinner with my Dad and sister in UVille made for the ideal chance to stop in... which is why I also left with two other books, as well. Darn it. 

Total cost: about $50 for three books, all hardcover.

Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest 
Naomi Novik's Uprooted

amazon kindle

And, of course, what book haul would be complete without me purchasing something dumb for my Kindle, like, say, I don't know... a "hip" self-help guide to happiness! This is what happens when you give someone prone to fits of existential despair wifi and an Amazon account. 

Total cost: like $9 or something. 

Gabrielle Bernstein's Add More -Ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness

So, have you made any new and exciting purchases lately? What kinds of genres do you typically shop for in the Spring? Let me know, in the comments below!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Review: Hark! A Vagrant and Step Aside, Pops!

Reading comics are not exactly considered a highbrow art form. In part, its because they're so accessible: everyone can find something to laugh at in the middle section of the Sunday paper, everyone understands the punchline of a Calvin and Hobbes or a Luann strip.

However, Kate Beaton has found the funny in the seemingly unfunny with Hark! a Vagrant, her long-running comics series, taking key events and players from historical and cultural knowledge, and turning them into sketches  that irreverently displace the academia with audacious humor. From historical Canadian-American tensions, to the relationship between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to the ridiculousness of some of those vintage Nancy Drew covers, Beaton draws from a wide range of subject matter, and manages to make them all downright hilarious.

One of my favorite things about these comics is that they're definitely a product of the Internet age: not only are the comics originally published online, on the author's website, but the kinds of jokes they reflect are arguably a byproduct of web humor. With deliberate irony and inclusion of anachronistic modern slang and perspectives, these comics have sometimes been turned into memes of their own, and can be found circulating on Pinterest and Tumblr.

Another wonderful element of Beaton's comics - and another indication of their inclusion of modern perspective - are their intermixing of the funny with the socially responsible: from her popular and overt "Straw Feminists" strip, to her skewering of female action heroine tropes with "Strong Female Characters," her Hark! a Vagrant series includes commentary and support of real portrayals of women, from the goofy to the glorious. In fact, a lot of the historical figures she portrays in her comics are female... and a lot of them, you've probably never heard of before, either.

I even included one of her comics in a report I did in an English class, my sophomore year of college, on "The Yellow Wallpaper," written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The iconic short story - reflecting themes of a woman's desire to escape the prison-like room her husband has confined her to while she's been ill, and her subsequent madness - is summarized in three panels, titled, "Either the Wallpaper Goes or I Do."

I credit the 4.0 my presentation partner and I earned to this strip, found on Beaton's website here.

To be honest, I've had a long relationship with comics. My grandmother used to take each funnies page out of the newspaper and put them aside for me over the course of the week, and I'd sit at her kitchen table during weekend morning visits and read my favorite strips sequentially, so that I could follow the complete story line. That love has never gone away, and with Hark! a Vagrant and Step Aside, Pops! I'd find myself curled up on the couch, with a mug of tea in the sunshine of a Sunday mornings, taking part in that very same pasttime.

Final word is, if you like comics, Internet humor, history, literature, feminism, or any combination of the above, these collections would be just the way to start your weekend!

Have you heard of Kate Beaton's comics before? What subject would you like to see her tackle? Let me know, in the comments below!