Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If I Taught English Lit 101

Each week The Broke and The Bookish provides a topic for a Top Ten List. This week the theme is a syllabus for a 101 of your choice; this is great timing for me because I’m starting my postgraduate degree in English Literature (something which I haven’t studied before) in October.  Because this is now my actual list, please tell me if you have any recommendations for books (they will be greatly received!!!).

The Handbook to Literary Research – de Sousa Correa & W.R. Owens
This is written specifically for my course, so far it has been very helpful
Understanding Literature and Life: Drama, Poetry and Narrative – Prof. Arnold Weinstein (The Great Courses)
This is helpful for two reasons, first it gives me experience of actually studying English Literature and second, it also acts as background reading for most of my course.
Studying Fiction – Roy Johnson
I found an excerpt of this book and it really helped with the finer details of what to look for and how when doing a close reading of the text.
How to Write Better Essays – Dr Greetham
One of the things that let me down in my philosophy degree was my lack of practice essay writing. I know this is a weakness and so I will be working on my essay writing skills.
How to Read a Book – Adler & Van Doren
This will just be a check for additional ‘know-how’ whilst I work on gaining more experience.
The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms – Baldick
I plan on reading little bits every day so hopefully I can quickly gain more experience of the terms used, what to look out for.
Introduction to Literature, Criticism & Theory – Bennett & Royle
The remaining books are intended to help me with secondary literature, ranging in detail from more general to specific. I will probably read out of order according to what is most relevant.
Critical Terms for Literary Study – Lentricchia & McLaughlin
Intertextuality – Graham Allen
Literary Theory – Terry Eagleton

Other possible authors I am looking at are Freud and Machiavelli.  I am also looking at building up my knowledge of syntax and linguistics.  Again, please comment if you have any recommendations.  I’d love to know what is your 101 and syllabus too so please comment :-)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Classics Club Spin #10

The Classics Club are hosting a Spin.  On Monday 25th August, the Classics Club will post a number from 1-20, and the challenge is to read one book by October.  Last time, I ended up with The Handmaid's Tale, this time it is #George Eliot's Middlemarch.

Five you are dreading/hesitant to read:

1. Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim 
2. Heller, Joseph: Catch-22
3.  Golding, William: Lord of the Flies
4. Salinger, J.D.: The Catcher in the Rye
5. Eliot, George: Middlemarch

Five you can’t WAIT to read:

6. Hesse, Hermann: Siddhartha 
7. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: (Hound of the Baskervilles for The Complete Sherlock Holmes)
8. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca 
9. Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth 
10. Proust, Marcel: Swann’s Way

Five you are neutral about:

11. Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd 
12. Dostoevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment  
13. Joyce, James: Dubliners
14. Borges, Jorge Luis: Labyrinths: Selected Stories
15.  Chekhov, Anton: The Major Plays

Five free choice:

16. Steinbeck, John: Grapes of Wrath 
17. Lee, Laurie: Cider With Rosie 
18. Yates, Richard: Revolutionary Road
19. Waugh, Evelyn: Brideshead Revisited
20. Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations

Are you taking part?  Who is on your list?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

TTT: Auto-Buy Authors

Each week The Broke and The Bookish provides a topic for a Top Ten List.  I've missed it for several weeks due to university so I'm very glad to be back with my TTT!  This week is authors you automatically buy; I have divided it up into present, past and potential future auto-buys.

Portraits of authors 1-6

Current auto-buys:

1. Colm Tóibín - I was given a copy of Nora Webster in July and since then I haven't looked back!  I just love his writing, it has a very intimate yet subtle feel.

2. Mikhail Bulgakov - I loved The Master and Margarita and the TV series A Young Doctor's Notebook.  Whenever I see his book which I don't have, it's an instant buy.

3. Vladimir Nobokov - Another beautiful writer; to me, Lolita might as well be an epic poem because it is simply so lyrical.  I can't resist buying his books.

4. Fyodor Dostoevsky - His writing is gritty and fearless; if you thought George R.R. Martin was a ruthless character murderer then "you know nothing (Jon Snow)".  Also, I clearly have a thing for Russian writers.

5. Thomas Hardy - I have a bookshelf just full of Hardy stockpiled and waiting to be read.

6. E.M. Forster - I love his writing it's very subtle with both its themes and plot.

Authors 7-10

Childhood auto-buys

7. Jacqueline Wilson - I loved Jacqueline Wilson, her books provided brilliant escapism whilst at the same time, dealing with difficult topics.

8. J.K. Rowling - Like the majority of children, I adored Harry Potter.  I have read a few of Rowling's adult novels and I wasn't really wowed, so I wouldn't go out of my way to buy her books anymore.

9. Darren Shan - I loved The Saga of Darren Shan and The Demonata series.  I was first introduced to him by my English teacher (who ironically declared J.K. Rowling was just a fad who would amount to nothing).

10. Lemony Snicket - I loved A Series of Unfortunate Events so much, the three children were unique and unlike anything I had ever read.  How I would love to lock Count Olaf in a box somewhere!

Potential future auto-buys: 
Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, George Bernard Shaw, Kurt Vonnegut and Iris Murdoch?

Who are your auto-buy authors? 

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Friday, 14 August 2015

The Novel Cure: an a-z of literary remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

Rating: 2 stars out of 5 (This book was OK, but had major downfalls )

Okay, this wasn't one of the reviews I promised but here it is nevertheless. For those that don't know, the concept behind The Novel Cure is bibliotherapy. Bibliotherapy is where you read books relevant to the problems you have in your current life (e.g. anxiety, grieving, divorce etc.). The reason this is beneficial is because you identify with a character/situation, have a release of emotions and from this catharsis, you are able to have more insight into your own issues. I am going to be clear that this review is more critical than normal, because The Novel Cure is non-fiction.

Positives. The book is pretty comprehensive. It is also well laid-out; it is easy on the eye with a minimalist layout and and easy to navigate if you have a clear issue on your mind. At first glance, the concept of bibliotherapy/The Novel Cure seems to be a good one. I am sure I am not the only person who has deliberately picked a book looking for inspiration about what to do.

However, you shouldn't buy this book thinking that it will solve all your problems. Bibliotherapy isn't a magic panacea (and could even give you a bad idea if you are not following the guidance of a professional counsellor). This book relies on you putting the work in to fix your issues and actively engaging with the recommended reading. I have seen some articles where people have said that bibliotherapy has helped them and then said that they read the recommended 1-3 books after several months or even read it over years. I am somewhat sceptical that, in this case, bibliotherapy has helped; to me, it sounds more like the cliché of time passing.

The other doubt that I have is being able to separate "reading" from "reading 'prescribed' books". We already have strong evidence to suggest that reading helps with MH issues, stress and insomnia (example). It's hard to judge scientifically what bibliotherapy adds to this. Not all recommended books end with a positive resolution/advice and sometimes you can see yourself in characters facing different situations (e.g. you may read/emphasise loneliness into a book whose focus is on emigration and find said book helpful).

My final worry is one that is frequently asked in the show Dragon's Den, where entrepreneurs pitch for a large cash investment. Is there any need for the product? A google search along the lines of "Top ten books about..." or even "books on..." will provide you with a long list for free (e.g.).

Back to the specifics of the book. The structure of the book goes issue (e.g. anxiety) and then moves to an explanation of which book to read. I can only hope that what I didn't like is just personal preference. Firstly, the book recommendation regularly contained a summary of the book, with no warning. For me, there is nothing that puts me off reading a book more than already knowing the basic plot (with the exception of films). Secondly, it is mostly only one book which is recommended. Again, if you consider you can use google, then the attractions of this book are limited. If I was going to improve it, I would have the set out the book like:

issue defined as: ...
- book 1 (look out for character x)
- book 2 (look out for situation y)
- book 3 (autobiography/biography of person who had the same issue at one point)....

Some of the issues I found listed seem a bit trivial like 'buying too many books'. Sure, this may not be a bad thing but the problem is this builds up to a big book. This makes it harder to know whether an issue is listed (and where to look for it because some are added to the end of a section). It also doesn't give much advice on the process engaging with the book (e.g. to write a reflective essay on character x and what you can learn from x). At least that way it would have a USP. Overall, if you are considering this book my advice is to have look before you buy and actively ask yourself, "will I follow the lists?"

What is your opinion on bibliotherapy? Is bibliotherapy something you've tried or will look into for instance?

Book facts
Original Publication: 2013
Pages: 464
Publisher: Canongate books
Feels similar to chinese medicine, very minimal with an emphasis on shapes

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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Upcoming in August

Blogging has been pretty non-existent for the last month. Hopefully things should settle down by Tuesday for me to return to blogging full time. I do have a new NetGalley badge though: Book Advocate! If anyone else is signed up to NetGalley it might be worth checking your emails, it promises to give advice on blogging and exclusive books for review. Here are the reviews I am planning for this month and a few maybes:

Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw (and a review of the play at the National Theatre featuring Ralph Fiennes)
On Writing: A Memoir by Stephen King
The Bell by Iris Murdoch
Between Gods by Alison Pick
Gut, the inside story of our body's most underrated organ by Giulia Enders

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Nora Webster & Brooklyn both by Colm Tóibín
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

What are you reading currently? Are you taking part in #AusteninAugustTBR too? Also, if there is any review you really want to hear let me know and I'll write it up first!  :-)